Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Frankly, Wednesday, I Don't Give a Damn

Here I am in Atlanta and it finally stopped burning.

---I guess the floods last week took care of that.

---Flying in yesterday, I saw lots of dirty rivers and streams. Sort of looked like what can come out of you after eating dinner at a lousy Mexican restaurant.

---As I look around, there is a reason why I don't do the South.

---If I hear any banjo music, I'm out of here.

---The first leg of my journey here was on a flight from LAX to Dallas. And I heard this exchange from the dizzy dame in front of me.

---Dizzy to Flight Attendant: "What's in the egg quesadilla?"

---Flight Attendant to Dizzy: "Egg."

---It is the Midwest, folks.

---Unlike Roman Polanski, I can apparently fly to all sorts of places in a single day without getting arrested.

---I saw a TV commercial that told kids all about the great nutritional value of Froot Loops. The daily requirement of fiber.

---And a two week's worth of sugar intake.

---It is America, folks.

---Obama is flying to Copenhagen for about four hours so he can ramrod in Chicago as the site of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

---Is he President of the United States or the Illinois Chamber of Commerce?

---Given how the Olympics can build up a city, why the hell are we wasting that on Chicago? I can think of another American gotham that could use the boost.

---Detroit, folks.

---But, then again, that's not in Urkel's backyard, is it?

---I am hoping that, in 2016, Obama will have plenty of time to see all the equestrian events he wants.

---Just so you know, it is possible to be funny while typing on a computer in the DFW Admiral's Club, which is where that last joke was fashioned.

---Praise God. Humor is portable.

---Inexplicable headline on the USA Today I saw in the Admiral's Club.

---"And the Oscar goes to The Hangover: Assessing its chances for the big prize."

---You're kidding me, right? I wanted to look twice to make sure it wasn't a copy of the Onion.

---The name of my cab driver in Atlanta was Perterus.

---Sounds like something out of Spartacus.

---"I am Perterus. No, I am Perterus."

---Trust me, Perterus was not from Italy. Unless there is a south side of Rome. Wink, wink.

---On the way to my hotel, we passed all the big attractions.

---The Jimmy Carter Center.

---Keep driving, Perterus.

---Andrew Young Drive.

---Keep moving, Perterus.

---The Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Archives.

---Stop only if there's an exhibit devoted to all his White mistresses.

Dinner last night: Grilled veggies and olive salad on the concierge level of the Westin Hotel in Buckhead.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The F Bomb

This tool is Saturday Night Live's newest addition, Jenny Slate, and that name alone makes me think she was a character on "The Flintstones." Nevertheless, she had an ignoble debut on the show's season premiere by accidentally uttering the "F Bomb." Hand wringing all around one more time. Tsk, tsk. How could this be? But, still, doesn't this seem to happen at least once or twice a season?

Those of us on the West Coast get cheated when these bloopers happen live. They are usually cut out of the tape-delayed West Coast feed. And, frankly, if they occur after the first five minutes of the program, I will contend that nobody sees it because, generally, the last 85 minutes of SNL every week are unwatchable. The show stopped being funny about ten years ago around the last time producer Lorne Michaels had a creative thought. Here's a guy who shepherds this weekly swill and is essentially robbing NBC blind. The program is really nothing more than a playpen for a bunch of young actors who love to do vomit and penis jokes at the Groundlings comedy club. And Lorne reminds me of the schoolteacher who sits back while the kids are torching the school and reminds them not to play with matches.

Oddly enough, during SNL's first five years (of its confounding 35 year run), you'd be surprised to know that the "F Bomb" was never uttered accidentally or intentionally once. Amid all the sex, drugs, and rock n' roll of the Belushi/Aykroyd/Murray crowd, they still managed to toe the FCC line of decency. How? As amazing as it may sound, they were professionals.

And in a different day and time. Because, nowadays, the "F Bomb" is as common as water from your tap.

It's a fascinating word. A verb, a noun, a pronoun, an adjective, and an adverb. It can be interjected into any sentence willy nilly. Heck, in the freestyle mode of writing this blog, I sometimes resort to it myself. I try not to, but, sometimes, it just fits perfectly. The ideal four-letter exclamation point.

But, frankly, it works best when used sparingly. At least in writing and everyday conversation. Unfortunately, like fast food and text messages, it has virtually infiltrated every segment of our lives.

Look no further than Facebook. And especially those on that social network under the age of 25. As much as I despise Facebook, I'm on it and I like to check in once a day to read the so-called walls. I am appalled by what I see. F this, f that, f you, f her, f your mother. And this is the youth of America. Many of them attached to me or other friends in some fashion.

What just happened to us? I'm no prude about foul language, but there is an art to dropping the "F Bomb." Like everything else in our world, even that is now abused.

So, Jenny Slate's faux pas is no shocker to me. It's just another day at the freakin' office of life.

Dinner last night: Bacon wrapped filet mignon and stuffed tomatoes.

Tomorrow: Hopefully from somewhere in the South. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah...my, oh, my, what a wonderful day!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 28, 2009

Actually a little more creepy than it is funny. You've probably seen it already, but it's worth showing again. The teacher of this class should be placed in front of a firing squad immediately. I don't care if the President is Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Abe Lincoln, or Millard Fillmore. This type of stuff should not be done in any classroom.


Dinner last night: Beef with garlic sauce at First Szechwan Wok.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Pork Store and Other Saturday Errands

On one of my recent trips to New York, I was shocked to discover that the pork store my family used to frequent around 223rd Street in the Bronx still exists. In some fashion. The name on the front is Adi and I believe that's the Polish guy who purchased it from the Klemm family. It looks like it's in major lockdown and probably, given the neighborhood denizens around it, specializes now in cold cuts from the Caribbean. But, nevertheless, this photo alone gave me a jolt from the past.

Weekends for my family were pretty much the same each week, right down to the minute. Nobody ever deviated from their routine one iota. Take, for instance, Saturday morning errands. NASA launched men into space with less pinpoint precision. I often went along for these excursions and always marveled at the sameness each and every time.

The journey always began and ended the same way. Dropping my mother off at the beauty parlor and then picking her up at the completion of the errands. God forbid that Mom missed the weekly hair shampoo, the curlers under the dryer, and the infusion of several cans of Caryl Richards Hard-to-Hold hair spray. She was there every Saturday morning at the same time and the whole process lasted about three hours. Plenty of time for Dad and me to do all the other stuff that needed to be done. Keep in mind that supermarket grocery shopping had already been executed on Thursday morning. Why? Because that's when my grandmother always wanted to do it and she never deviated from a routine either.

Our first stop was always One Hour Martinizing. Better known as the dry cleaners. A pick-up and a drop-off. At any given time in our house, there was never a complete wardrobe in the closet. Some garment was always hanging in a plastic bag on one of those carousels that spun around the store.

The second spot was always the same, although we often would rotate between several places. The bakery. And it had to be a German-owned one. Luckily, there were a bunch of them strewn around a five block radius of the Wakefield section in the Bronx. The purchase was always mechnically the same. A bag of about a dozen rolls. Four Kaiser rolls with poppy seeds. Four Kaiser rolls with no seeds at all. Four onion rolls. Done. Somehow, the amount was calculated precisely against our usage for the week, even though most were as hard as quarry rocks by the following Thursday. Then, my father would meticulously select the family's coffee cake for the week. Sometimes, a cheese strudel. Sometimes, a crumb cake. Rarely, anything else. I remember once, years later when I did the errands myself, I brought home an apple pie.

"That's the wrong cake."

Huh?

No one spoke to me for days.

The last stop would be Klemm's Pork Store, which was one block away from John the Barber immortalized here last week. This was a family business and everybody behind the counter sounded like Sargeant Schultz from "Hogan's Heroes." Of course, given that everybody in our family, distant relatives or otherwise, frequented Klemm's for their sliced meat needs, I frequently asked Dad the obvious question. Why does everybody go to Klemm's?

"Because we always did."

Oh.

The weekly order at Klemm's was always the same as my father was also in possession of my grandparent's shopping list as well. Grandpa needed his head cheese, that gross concoction of a pig's entrails. Grandma wanted bologna, which she inexplicably put on a sandwich with grape jelly. My father got his Saturday night kielbasie, which always prompted Sunday morning burping. For me, there would always be some Taylor Ham, a 1/4 pound of olive loaf, and a German salami called Cervelat, which I still get to this day.

Within fifteen minutes, Dad was walking out of there with about ten pounds of processed and nitrate-laden meats. Oddly, despite the fact that Klemm's sold salads, we never bought them there. On the way back to pick up my mother and her new Darth Vader-like hairdo, we always stopped at a German delicatessen to finish off the purchases. That's where we got our German potato salad, cole slaw, and other sides for the week. Of course, I asked the obvious question. Why didn't we just buy the salads at Klemm's?

"Because we never did."

Oh.

After the Klemm family sold to Adi, the Saturday routine was soon rocked to its everloving core and changed forever. I've written about it here before. It was never discussed openly amongst family members, even in whispers. But, it happened and it was a reflection of the day and the times.

I remember the day we stopped going to the pork store.

It all started innocently enough. My dad and I were poised in front of the counter. This was the time before food handlers wore cellophane gloves. My father made his first selection.

"A quarter-pound of Westphalian ham, please."

Out from the back of the store came the clerk designated to slice the cold cut. A Black guy.

My father looked like he had received a bayonnet through his skull.

I never heard the talk at family gatherings, but I am sure such devastating news went around faster than it did on Sunday, December 7, 1941.

As far as we were all concerned, Adi's Pork Store was now completely off-limits.

If only they could see the neighborhood now...

Dinner last night: French dip sandwich at the Arclight.












Saturday, September 26, 2009

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - September 2009

One of my favorite movies to watch on TV when I was a kid.


Dinner last night: BBQ Pork and lo mein from Panda Express.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Your Weekend Movie Guide for September 2009

Here's a vintage photo of the opening of the Whitestone Drive-In Theater in the Bronx. Growing up, if we were going to a drive-in movie, we rarely went to the Whitestone. On warm summer nights, it was very close to some swampy areas which gave off lots of lovely smells. By the time the second feature started, you were convinced there was a skunk in your car.

And, speaking of stench, let's talk about what your film choices are this weekend. It's time for my monthly service to you, Mr. or Ms. Moviegoer. I'll flip through the Los Angeles Times and give you my kneejerk reaction to the crap filling our multiplexes these days. It might be time to roll up your car windows.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell: No clue what this is, but I'm hoping the sentiment is true.

Coco Before Chanel: Speaking of weird smells. I guess we're all wondering how the perfume genius got her start. Okay, we're not. But somebody obviously thinks we are. This is a cinematic double negative: it looks boring and it has subtitles.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: The Weather Channel moves to Italy. One of those 3-D cartoons and those glasses always bother me after fifteen minutes.

Love Happens: And so does shit. After seeing the trailer, shit wins by a landslide.

The Informant: This Steven Soderbergh film with Matt Damon has pretty good buzz. The only problem is that Damon wears a moustache in the newspaper ad and it makes him look like my eleventh grade math teacher. Note to all: I hated my eleventh grade math teacher.

Capitalism, A Love Story: Woo hoo! Michael Moore is back with another contrived, fact-ignoring, staged for dramatic purposes documentary. This guy just pisses me off. In "Sicko," he lectured us all about health care, despite the fact that he's grossly obese and one Dunkin' Donut away from a stroke. With this movie, he lectures us about gross injustices in the financial world, despite the fact that he's grossly rich. Can we just get rid of this ego-maniacal slob once and for all?

Julie and Julia: I saw it. One of my two favorite movies this summer. There's not a single special effect in it. For that reason alone, we should give it an Oscar.

The Blue Tooth Virgin: So now there's another way a person can be violated? Through the ear?

Fame: Needless remake. The original was perfectly fine. But, I guess we need a new version of the movie so they could incorporate rap music. I pledge this to you. If Hollywood ever does a remake of my favorite film of all time, "The Apartment," please look for my lifeless body to be slumped over this computer keyboard.

The Boys Are Back: A widower struggles to raise his two sons. A plot that has been done five hundred times before. I guess there has been downsizing. What happened to Fred MacMurray as a widower struggling to raise his three sons?

Disgrace: A literature professor in South Africa is exiled to live in the country after having an affair with a mixed-race student. Oh, good. Another Obama teachable moment about race relations. It is all disgraceful to me. Hence, the title.

Bright Star: Some dreary tale about young star-crossed lovers. One of the reviews quotes poet John Keats. That's enough for me. That's the equivalent of erecting barbed wire around any theater that's playing this swill.

Whiteout: All about what happened in the last Presidential election.

Jennifer's Body: Megan Fox. Two words that translate to "no way" in any language.

Ponyo: Marco.... I know nothing about the movie, but the joke works.

Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself: And apparently he has. Has not been seen by a single White person.

The Final Destination: Will be in a dumpster.

Inglourious Basterds: Is anybody particularly disturbed by the misspelling? I have well respected friends who saw this and enjoyed it. But, still, how can I? Seeing a Quentin Tarantino movie would be like denying my own intelligence.

All About Steve: Talk about self-indulgence. Who is Steve and why do I need to know all about him? I see that this stars Sandra Bullock. Well, one thing for sure, Steve has a lousy choice of friends.

The Time Traveler's Wife: Let's go back to a day in time when filmmakers were planning this movie. And let's stop them from making it.

Aliens in the Attics: Illegals can be hiding anywhere.

My One and Only: George Hamilton as a boy. Previously reviewed favorably in this blog. Wasn't that enough for you?

Surrogates: Bruce Willis in some dreck about robots. And you thought all of his stiffness was just bad acting?

Pandorum: Make the sci-fi stop, please.

The September Issue: All about getting one of those high fashion magazines out. How freakin' hard is that? It's nothing but pictures.

Extract: The history of vanilla.

Sorority Row: A slasher runs through a girls' dorm. Boy, oh, boy, we sure needed one of those at Spellman Hall when I was at Fordham.

District 9: Moviegoers, 0.

Dinner last night: Chef's salad.




Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's Left of Shea Stadium

An important date in New York Met history. Forty years ago today, at 9:07PM Eastern time, the Mets clinched the Eastern Division of the National League and began their journey to postseason greatness. It also capped the greatest summer of my childhood. And it all happened at Shea Stadium.




I snapped these photos in the adjacent parking lot next to Citi Field. It is amazing how close the new stadium is to where the Shea diamond resided for 45 years.

And tears form in my eyes one more time.

Dinner last night: Chicken piccata and risotto rice cakes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Way Out Wednesday

Let me light your way.

---I think Obama has a movie coming out this Friday. Why else would he be appearing this week on every show on television?

---All the Sunday news shows. Then yakking with Letterman.

---When do we get to see him and Michelle modeling Snuggies on late night TV?

---Oooh, I got lots of other ideas for them.

---"The Real Housewives of The South Side of Chicago."

---"High Stakes Poker." Obama playing Rahm Emanuel in a game of Texas Hold'em.

---"The Amazing Race." And no, I don't mean that as a racist shot. We can have POTUS and FLOTUS running around all these foreign lands.

---No, wait, they already did that.

---By the way, now that the race issue is Topic A on Letterman's comedy show, it is safe to say that this debate is now officially over.

---There is apparently no age limit on incompetence. Exhibit A: Jimmy Carter.

---In our world of revisionist history, he's looked on as this genius of diplomacy.

---In my world of history, the guy is a babbling fool. And the worst President of the 20th Century.

---Not so fast, you naysayers who want to remind me about George W. Bush. He was President during the 21st Century. Got ya!

---When Carter goes off on one of his international peacemaking jaunts, can we simply revoke his passport while he's gone?

---Surprise, Jimmy. You can't come back in. We'll back up your stuff and mail it to you.

---For somebody who wants to keep his daughters' lives private, Obama sure does talk about them a lot.

---Except, on some show, he mispronounced one of their names.

---Teleprompter glitch, I suppose. We really can't expect him to know his kids' name, should we?

---Speaking of children, I got to see the Dodgers beat Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum on Sunday.

---Talk about a creepy guy. He looks like Tim Burton's version of a major league pitcher.

---And he was also voted the male baseball player most likely to be mistaken for a lesbian tennis player.

---Major OCD for that kid. He bent down to tie his shoe on the mound three times every half inning.

---And still gave up five runs in four innings.

---I wanted to yell out to him. "Hey, Tim, you left your front door unlocked. You left the lights on. Her finger nails aren't perfectly shaped."

---Tickets to remaining New York Met home games are available on Stubhub for 89 cents.

---I thought scalping was illegal.

---As for my tickets, they are free to anybody who wants them.

---The woman who created eBay is running for California Governor.

---And that's an interesting way to raise state funds.

---The only trouble is just what does one do after they buy the Golden Gate Bridge? It's not like it will fit into your average garage.

---Maybe this lady can run for President in 2012. Then we can auction off New Orleans once and for all.

---This was ridiculous. The local morning TV news heralded "breaking news." I quickly paid attention, wondering what blew up.

"Rachael Ray's daily show is moving to a new time."

---Thanks for the heads up. I like to be prepared for any unexpected emergency.

Dinner last night: Breakfast for dinner. French toast at the Cafe 50s diner.




Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And The Emmy for Worst Emmy Award Telecast Goes to...

My writing partner and I have this running joke. He says that, in the odd event that we ever find ourselves invited to the Emmys, he will stay home and let me handle it all. He says he can't be bothered.

After watching the Emmy broadcast on Sunday night, neither can I.

It's always amazing to me that the show designed to honor excellence in television is usually the worst produced program of the year. And, over the past several seasons, it's been a downward ski slope headed straight for the tree that stopped Sonny Bono. This is the last year of the Television Academy's contract with the four networks and I am wondering if next season's Emmy telecast might be in jeopardy. They may be parceling it out like a Chabad telethon. And, even then, dancing rabbis won't help.

Okay, there was one improvement to talk about. Last year, the hosting duties were shared by the five schmucks who emcee America's "best" reality programs, so the success bar was set very low. Nevertheless, Neil Patrick Harris, who is quickly becoming the host of everything, was terrific. I may even invite him over to handle my guests on Thanksgiving. The guy is immensely talented and injected whatever life he could into the corpse laying across the stage of the Nokia Theater. Every time he walked to the podium, I expected him to hold paddles and yell "clear." He did similar work a few months ago on the Tony Awards, which might even have less viewers than the Emmys. As long as viewership to award shows doesn't dwindle down to the single digits, Neil will always have a job. I would, however, ditch the white dinner jacket. He reminded me of Ricky Ricardo singing "Cuban Pete" at the Tropicana.

In an effort to streamline the Emmys, the producers separated awards by genre or compartments. First, it was comedy, followed by reality, and so forth. It had the look of a high school senior's day. Chemistry, followed by American History, and then it's off to the cafeteria for lunch. It's tough to make this kind of award stuff go faster. After all, you don't enter a donkey in the Preakness.

All throughout, there was a scroll at the bottom of the screen that overinformed you about what was coming next. "Alec Baldwin coming up in 8 minutes." This gave viewers seven minutes warning that they needed to leave the room. Indeed, there were some actors and actresses heralded to arrive in six minutes and several had careers who had barely lasted even that long.

All along the way, it became chic for nominees, winners, and presenters to remind us that the Emmy Award telecast usually sucks. That word was actually even used by Jon Stewart, who is fast becoming as annoying as yesterday's breakfast dishes. Why do you want to advertise your own mediocrity? If you keep telling viewers they're in for a rotten time, they just may have one. And, Mr. or Miss Celebrity, if the evening is so offensive or dull, why do you even bother to show up? You could easily have your Emmy gratefully accepted by LL Cool J on your behalf.

There were other lapses of intelligence. Early on, the nominees for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy all sported funny eyeglasses when they were shown on screen. Obviously, the entire prop budget for the show was dedicated to a shopping spree at the 99 Cent store. I worried that this would be an idea that carried over for the whole night. A smarter head prevailed and I am thinking there are now a lot of novelty gag items sitting in a dumpster behind the Staples Center.

There were some other loose carpet falls. When they were showing the nominees for Best Actress in a Comedy, some stepladder named Sarah Silverman opted to wear a moustache which made her look like Adolphe Menjou. Ha, ha, funny joke, not. Of course, when she thankfully lost, the camera focused on her again so she could sneer and upstage winner Toni Collette's moment. I was hoping that two things would occur. Toni would bitchslap Sarah on the way to the stage and then use her acceptance speech to explain to me just what show she won for.

They inexplicably used some idiot to do color commentary as winners walked to accept their Emmys. He sounded like one of those tennis announcers who wanted to speak in decibels no louder than Queen Elizabeth. A cute idea, but the factoids they shared were supposed to be funny and, of course, were not.

"This is Jon Cryer's first Emmy win while wearing black Goldtoe socks."

"This is Kristin Chenowith's second Emmy and that surprises us all as she has a voice that is discernible only to small dogs."

"Jessica Lange had a Botox injection yesterday and it held nicely, thank you very much."

When Bruce Gowers won his award for directing "American Idol," he talked about his first television job 58 years ago. This immediately got applause from the crowd. I wondered if the next scroll at the bottom of the screen would read "Bruce Gowers dead in five minutes..." That might have given him enough time to be included in the "In Memoriam" segment which was "coming in ten minutes."

In another inexplicable moment, they showed clips of Obama's inauguration in a montage about TV variety shows. As if the swearing-in of a President could really top an episode of "Saturday Night Live." I'm thinking the inauguration would have locked up the Emmy if they had the Smothers Brothers hold the Bible. Or maybe if Michelle Obama had unveiled her new plate spinning act.

I had precious few nominees that I was rooting for. I'm delighted that Cherry Jones won for playing the President on "24" and I only wish she really had the job. I was sick to death that Jim Parsons didn't score a Best Actor Emmy for "The Big Bang Theory." Parsons lost to that big lummox Alec Baldwin, who won again for "30 Rock." I am guessing he gets Academy votes sheerly on the basis that people are afraid he will punch them in the mouth.

Top show honors went again to "30 Rock" and "Mad Men," two programs that generate even less viewership than a Shamwow infomercial. For me, they should both win "Best Mystery," as I remain completely addled by their critical success. I have tried on countless occasions to get hooked on the shows and I am quickly disengaged. I am not interested in the inner workings of a SNL-like show, so "30 Rock" naturally gets none of my attention. As for "Mad Men," the setting of Madison Avenue during the Sixties should be a grabber for me. But, the show so violently swings between being underwritten and overwritten that the plotlines feel like repeated blows to my head. But, I am apparently in a minority. When "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner grabbed the statue, he talked about his great year. "First, the election and now this." So, obviously, he focuses on mad men in all areas.

Sadly, I was waiting for Kanye West to show up and berate the whole festivities. He apparently chose not to attend.

Just like my writing partner.

Dinner last night: Turkey burger and pasta salad.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 21, 2009

I cannot wait for tonight's third season premiere of "The Big Bang Theory." Take a look at this clip from last season. "Anything Can Happen Thursday."


Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Haircuts

Here I am. Nary a hair out of place under the birthday hat. Even then, I was conscious about how my hair looked. Well, actually, my mother was. But this has carried over into my adult life. Yesterday, I got my hair cut. Excuse me, I meant "styled." I go to one of those ultra chic hair salons in West Hollywood. The lady who does me also lists Felicity Huffman, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Goldie Hawn as clients. I don't think she specifcally lists me on her bio. Nevertheless, the place was recently featured on "America's Top Model." You frequently see a celebrity in the chair next to you. Trying to remain inconspicuous but still hoping you notice.

A far cry from my earlier days in the world of haircutting. When my dad would take me to John the Barber on White Plains Road and 225st Street in the Bronx. The sign in the window said it all.

"Italian Spoken Here."

I always wondered. How would somebody who spoke only Italian be able to read a sign in English? How likely would it be that an Italian could read English but not speak it? And why were my father and I even going there?

In those days, families passed down doctors, dentists, butchers, and barbers. You went to the same store because your third cousin twice removed did. It was truly a family business on both sides of the counter. I once asked my dad why we always went to John the Barber.

"Because Grandpa does."

Oh.

This is not to say that the haircutting procedure was an easy one for me. My first few visits were screams. Literally. As soon as the first click was sounded, I was convinced that parts of my left ear would be dropping on the floor in bloody clumps. It didn't help that he seated me on a high chair shaped like a fire engine and that there were pictures of clowns all about. Nope, there was this guy coming at me with a shiny weapon and he barely spoke English. This is not a comfort zone for a five-year-old. I also was deftly afraid of sneezing mid-cut. The head would jerk back, John would be caught off-guard, and my eyeball is on the end of his scissors like a crudit at your last catered New Year's Eve party.

As I got older, I was able to make the trip to the barber by myself. Hop on the 41 bus and remember to get off at the right street. Eventually, the fire engine high chair wasn't needed. I was even offered a comic book to pass the time between snips. And John the Barber would always try to engage me in a dialogue.

"How's the ooopa doopa and the appa dappa and everything in between?"

Huh. The chat was always one-sided. The man made no sense to me. I tried to focus hard on Archie, Veronica, and Jughead.

Unfortunately, the finishing touch for every haircut was the actual dispensing of "product" onto my head. It was this glop pictured on the right. It had the ability to turn your hair into a plastic toy. And your coiffure wouldn't move for at least two weeks. You could stand on Michigan Avenue in Chicago during the dead of winter and not have a strand go out of place.

To make matters worse, my mother bought into this stuff big time, as if she owned stock in the company. Whenever I went to the barber, I carried the empty bottle which John willingly refilled with this swill. My mother even had her own name for this variation of cement.

"Guck."

And she layered it onto my dome like a mason building a brick shithouse. I became an oddity to my friends who loved to touch the hard rock that was now my hairdo. Several got paper cuts from the jagged split ends. I endured this for several years until I got a reprieve. I was finally allowed more control over my own hair. Why?

John the Barber had dropped dead.

This became a "who moved my cheese" moment for my family's male units, who now found themselves "barberless."

Now, there happened to be a barber shop conveniently around the corner from our house. He was Pat the Barber, but there was a mystery afoot. My mother nixed any thought of him snipping my locks.

"We don't like him."

Oh.

I never knew why. I wound up seeing a barber several blocks away. Another Italian but with less broken English. Louie the Barber. This was at last my choice. When I first entered into Louie's shop, I felt like I had walked into a time warp.

"How's the ooopa doopa and the appa dappa and everything in between?"

Are you fucking kidding me? What is this?? Something they teach you when you go to barber school in Abruzzi, Italy?

Louie got me through the high school years until I discovered that it made a difference if you went to an actual stylist who might even shampoo you in the process.

And I don't scream anymore. I don't want to disturb Goldie.

Dinner last night: Turkey burger at Pig N'Whistle.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Classic TV Theme of the Month - September 2009

Originally the theme from the movie, it is so much better on TV.


Dinner last night: Beef French Dip at Phillippe's---the Friday Dodger pre-game tradition.


Friday, September 18, 2009

It's An Awkward Day Today

And here are some reasons why...

Check out the kid in the back who got a little too close to the jet engine.

All together now...........EEEEEYYYYYYWWWWWWWWW!

It's never too early to start a conga line.

Why Sally always has to bathe in milk.

They're in pajamas. No, they're in prison. No, they're in pajamas. No, they're in prison.

Dinner last night: The Gelson's salad bar.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The New Yankee Stadium - A Photo Essay


How did this happen? What strange forces were at play in the universe? Has the Earth revolved off its axis?

Something needs to explain how I ended up at the new Yankee Stadium last Friday night.

In the middle of a monsoon.

Waiting ninety minutes for the game to start.

And, as a non-Yankee fan, watching a truly historic moment in team history. Derek Jeter passing Lou Gehrig as the alltime Yankee basehit leader.

Yep, I was there. God, are you listening? My steely resolve has rusted. And, given how much rain I endured, I'm not surprised.

The previous night, I had been to see the Mets play out the string at Citi Field. There were more hot dog wrappers blowing over the outfield than there were fans in the seats. They have tried to expand the evidence of team history, but it is still paltry. I even saw coach Howard Johnson aimlessly walking around the field level as if he was looking for any speck of nostalgia for the Mets of old. Meanwhile, in the team stores, I found the same Brooklyn Dodger shirts that are on sale at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. And the Jackie Robinson lovefest in the rotunda continues ad nauseum. I am guessing all those big screen clips of Jackie stealing home will be old hat by next season. Correction: they are old hat now.

Meanwhile, over at the new edifice on 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx, Yankee history is not only embraced but it's fondled almost inappropriately. Even though the team's story still sits across the street at the urine-laden cathedral that is now being torn down brick-by-brick, you still get the same celebration in the new home. And since there is a lot more room, you find it emblazoned from wall to wall.



Take, for instance, the Great Hall. This is sort of like the main airport terminal for your flight to Yankeeland. Your personal Yankee is leaving from Gate #4. You are virtually enveloped in pinstripes. And you can also do it in actuality by stopping at one of the five hundred team stores. You, too, could wear an exact replica of Mickey Mantle's jock. And, for an extra fifty bucks, you can wear the real thing. Washed just once.

There are lots of posters all over the place. You can have your picture photographed in front of the "luckiest man on the face of the earth." And this would make you perhaps the second luckiest.

This artifact actually adorned the main entrance to the old Yankee Stadium. Nothing was obviously thrown into a dumpster. They have hung it in the new place and you can also be photographed with it, although my grandmother had odder looking stuff hanging in her own living room.

More and more and more photos pop up. Here's one of Steinbrenner before he started to drool with former Mayor Rudy Guiliani showing, as usual, little bi-partisanship, and then Yankee Manager Joe Torre apparently auditioning for the role of Tom Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath."

They've copied the original facade which was copied by the old place when they redid the stadium in 1976. So, it's been reproduced a third time. And, somehow, even with this lack of originality, it still works. And it produced what little protection we had from the elements.

The only historical misstep was the placement of the famed Monument Park. It used to be situated in what was a major tourist stop in the old Yankee Stadium. Here, it's shoved into a corner behind the centerfield wall and it has the appearance that planners forgot to include it in their blueprints. I can hear the architect now. "Holy shit, the monuments! We forgot all about them."

There is a high definition video screen that literally dominates the whole playing field. Those seated in the bleachers right underneath need to be tested for excessive radiation immediately. While it's great for baseball shots, they also use it for countless moments of sheer nonsense between innings. Trivia quizzes, seat upgrades, and subway races. Enough is enough. The camera also took many candid pictures of the other areas of the ballpark. There might have been a shot of me peeing in the bathroom. I was very conscious about overshooting the eco-friendly waterless urinal.

Of course, the big deal about the game was Derek Jeter's need for one basehit to scoot past Lou Gehrig for the alltime hit record. With each pitch of his first at-bat, the ubiquitous flash bulbs went off all over the place. Crack dealers in the apartments two blocks away probably thought all the flashing was a signal for a FBI sting operation. Derek didn't get the record on his first time to the plate. But, on his second stroll to the dish, I clicked along in an attempt to capture the historic moment on digital film. And here it is. Jeter's hit. As seen through the hat of the guy in front of me.

At least, he didn't block my shot of the video screen. But, then again, that video screen can be seen as far as Dumont, New Jersey.

Naturally, Jeter was surrounded by congratulating teammates, who, despite the rain, stayed for the rest of the game. Most of the fans around me, however, started for the exits as soon as he made the second tip of the cap.

As for me, I was content to hang around here a little while longer. I was digging a stadium that truly celebrated its team, its storied history, and its fans. Besides, I had purchased a hat that protected me from the elements.

And that's another picture that I am going to get lots of shit about.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nobody Puts Wednesday in a Corner

From Los Angeles to New York to Los Angeles and absolutely no points in between.

---Adios Patrick Swayze. He sounded like a decent guy.

---Now everybody is waiting for him to talk to us again through Whoopi Goldberg.

---You would think that, if he could survive lifting up Jennifer Grey in the air, nothing could beat this guy.

---Barbara Walters buries one more celebrity. Anybody got a good explanation for this???

---If she had met Moses, Barbara would be cougar material.

---Now we all know what the next three months of Larry King Live will be devoted to.

---"Tonight, we find out all about his root canals. We talk to Patrick Swayze's dentist. Was he still flossing throughout his fatal illness?"

---Eight years after 9/11, enhanced airport security is apparently a new thing to Black women. How else can you explain the reaction I saw at JFK Airport on Monday?

---There were three oversized smart mouths who rebelled at every single direction.

---"I ain't got no picture ID. You see my face right here."

---"I gotta take my shoes off? You just wanna get off looking at my bare feet."

---"You ain't gonna find nothing in that bag that's worth shit."

---Obviously their first day here after living for the past few years on Planet Queen Latifah.

---I watched to see where these three slobs were headed.

---A flight to New Orleans.

---Your Honor, the prosecution rests.

---I'm guessing they were all carrying business cards from ACORN.

---The only thing that might have been worse is if I was standing on line behind Serena Williams.

---No woman should be snarky if she sweats that much.

---They supposedly fined her $10,000 for that outburst at the US Open. Yeah, that's a big dent for some chick pulling in 25 million a year.

---Kanye West acted like an idiot at some video award show. And the big surprise is what???

---Meanwhile, in an off-the-record moment, Obama said Kanye was a jackass.

---It takes one to know...yada yada yada.

---Let's go back to the airport. As folks are hurried through security, I wonder just how many personal articles are left behind. Some guy picked up my laptop by mistake.

---I think.

---Homeland Security just might be Pickpockets Delight.

---It happens every flight. The sign over the toilet says "please don't throw paper in the toilet." What's in the toilet?

---Two points off if you answered incorrectly.

---But you can get the two points back if you made it through the Jay Leno Show without snoring.

---If NBC puts this on five nights a week, they have obviously bankrupted one of the greatest broadcast institutions ever.

---And you probably thought that happened when they put on "Hello Larry" with McLean Stevenson.

Dinner last night: Pepperoni pizza at the Dodger game.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Whatever You Say...


This is a bumper sticker that I have been seeing more and more. A reminder for all of us to be tolerant. Honk if you love Jesus or Allah or Moses or Nobody. It's okay. We're all in this together. Let's sit on the grass Indian-style and sing along to Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Screw you.

I love the ongoing notion in this land of the free and home of the Atlanta Braves that persecution is rampant in America. Can we all just get along? What's our problem?

I got a better question.

Why can't you all just leave us alone?

I'll start on a granular level at my own church. One based loosely on the Lutheran faith. Yet, my nutjob of a pastor has a multi-faith tick in her head and insists on teaching us about the Jewish and Muslim religions. Thanks for the knowledge. I don't really care. I come every Sunday to learn about my spirituality, not everybody else's. Yes, I understand that I live in a metropolis and there's often a Jewish delicatessen right next door to a tailor shop run by a bunch of Muslims. I'll get my pastrami sandwich, pick up my clean shirts, and smile at all the proprietors involved. Whether they believe in the Old Testament or the Koran is immaterial. And, amazingly, I'm getting along with all of them just fine.

.Of course, the same multi-faith "aren't we all just dandy" bullshit is exploited far and wide. Look at our fearless leader running around the sand dunes of the Mideast a few months back, as he tries to channel the spirit of Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia." He reminds all those folks assembled at his feet that Muslims are always welcome in America. After all, it was a Muslim that built our tallest building. I would add also that there were 19 Muslims who brought two of our tallest buildings down, but I digress. You can't say such things because they're mean and it's no longer terrorism. Yep, man-made disasters.

If you're Muslim or Catholic or Jewish or Buddhist or Agnostic or Protestant, have yourself a time. The large majority of you all are decent folks who leave each other alone. Mazel Tov, Godspeed, and Namaste. I got no issue with you. We are all co-existing just fine.

Nope, it's the screwballs who put "Coexist" on their bumper stickers and cram the philosophy down our throats like castor oil. They're the ones who need the major mental overhaul. Because they're seeing persecution which there is none. They're finding bias where it is non-existent. Indeed, they are probably the most intolerant of all.

Find me somebody with a "Coexist" bumper sticker and I will show you a driver who probably would trash somebody who follows a Fundamentalist stance for a religion. My screwball pastor is one such kook. She is of the notion that Fundamentalism is destroying churches and organized religion. Meanwhile, she has driven more people out of our house of worship than a skunk at a picnic. We are supposed to despise the born-again Christians in the middle of the country, most likely in a so-called Red State. While I don't get behind all the beliefs of that group of Christians, I acknowledge the right for them to worship as they will. From time to time, they, too, try to spread their nets too far. But, for the most part, they leave me alone. And I leave them alone. If that's what floats their boat across the Sea of Galilee, they can row themselves past me any day. If you want to truly coexist, hugs can go all around. To the Muslim and the Baptist.

But that's too easy. Because if everybody coexists and lives in perfect harmony, there is nothing for the bitchers to bitch about.

And the guy who printed the bumper sticker in the first place has a collapsing business model.

Dinner last night: Back in LA and finally no sausage and peppers. The salad bar from Gelson's





Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 14, 2009

You'll need to watch till the end and turn up the volume, but this is delicious. A great way to end a dispute with your minister. I need to take notes.


Dinner last night: What else? Leftover sausage and peppers.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Who's the Chick?

Another sterling example of my father at work with his old Technicolor camera. And my face now is as red as my jacket in this picture. Embarrassment and mortification as only can be supplied by a parentally staged photo. And, to make matters worse...

I have no fucking clue who the girl is.

I have no recollection of any of this. Conveniently, her face is away from the camera and she remains a mystery just like that woman in a veil who showed up at Rudolph Valentino's crypt once a year. I am probably six or seven years old, way too young to be wearing an outfit that makes me look like Allen Ludden on Password. We are obviously in the middle of some dance move and I look incredibly uncomfortable being jerked around by some chick. Alas, a harbinger of many more jerks to come.

We've discussed this here before and I still can't come to definitive grips with these photos that my parents loved to stage. And I am finding more and more of them, so, apparently, my childhood was even worse than what I can remember. You've already seen me in the tutu and in the short pants while holding a machine gun. But, there are countless others.

It was one thing to be posed badly at a family gathering. But, my folks branched out considerably. There would be the many times they would get together with non-relatives. Friends from their workplaces and/or school. The mothers and the fathers gab in the kitchen, while you are thrown into an afternoon or evening of play with another kid or two. Somebody you saw maybe once or twice a year, but were immediately forced to get totally intimate with it over some Colorforms. Personally, I could easily have spent the day alone, dressing Willie the Weatherman for a blustery Monday morning. But, no, you had to go play...and share toys...with a relative stranger.

One such kid that keeps popping up in the old photos is Joanne. The daughter of one of my dad's workbuddies. Before I was born, the two couples would travel all over together. Then, the mom on the other side contracted cerebral palsy and was bound to a wheelchair forever. Nevertheless, they still got together. And virtually threw me and Joanne together for some merriment. Frequently photographed and staged as if Joanne and I were destined to spend life together as a couple with slippers under the bed and total agreement over the color of drapes for the living room.

I look at all these pictures today and I wonder what the fuck was going through our parents' heads at the time. Because Joanne and I were forced to pose in the oddest and most inappropriate ways. Arms around each other's waists. Cheek to cheek. Child pornography in its and my infancy. Don't get excited, folks. I'm not posting them here. I will have to be doing a blog entry completely liquored up before that will happen. Trust me. They are bad.

One photo comes from the summer of perhaps my fifth or sixth year. Joanne and I are sitting in a backyard pool. Our legs are straddling one another. And, in those days, little girls often wore bathing suits without tops. So, there we sat. With my arms around her breasts. I can hear my dad now.

"Say.....cheese!"

Those folks disappeared from our lives after the handicapped mom passed on. Of course now, everybody has passed on. But I wonder what the hell happened to Joanne. Does she have a copy of these photos and is she equally appalled? Is she married? Does she have kids? How many guys have felt up her breasts since then?

And has her husband seen the pool picture? Because he would then know.

I was there first.

Dinner last night: In an odd quirk of fate, I have for the third night in a row...sausage and peppers. Went to my favorite Italian restaurant in Yonkers---Carlo's. And they make it the best of anybody.




Saturday, September 12, 2009

Classic Newsreel of the Month - September 2009

Before Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, there was the real thing.


Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers sandwich as I make my first trip to a very soggy and new Yankee Stadium. And I get to see Derek Jeter's recordbreaking base hit in the process.


Friday, September 11, 2009

My One and Only


Forget about the health care debate or the fight over cap and trade. To me, there is nothing more polarizing in America than actress Renee Zellweger. If you're a movie fan, you don't sit on the fence when it comes to her. Either you love her or you hate her. You never hear somebody saying, "Renee Zellweger? She's okay. I can take her or leave her." Nope, for some bizarre reason, Renee provokes very wild swings of devotion and disdain.

As for me, I like her. I've always thought she had a fresh quality as was first evidenced when she played Tom Cruise's assistant in "Jerry Maguire." And this is one of the reasons why I wanted to see her in the newly released "My One and Only."

Oh, that, and the subject matter of the film. Because I was dying to know how George Hamilton came to be an actor. And, for those of you who might dispute that notion, yes, he did become an actor. Or some semblance of one. And this movie explains it all.

Produced by Hamilton and bankrolled by Merv Griffin's production company, "My One and Only" is indeed the tale of George's mom and the two boys she was raising. George and his gay half-brother Robbie have different dads as their mom, Ann Devereaux, is chronically unlucky in love and money. She never seems to hold onto either. George's dad is a shifty bandleader played by Kevin Bacon, and this movie offers a whole bunch of new actors an opportunity to be added to his six degrees.

Robbie wants to be an actor, so Mom and the boys set out on a crosscountry journey from New York to Hollywood. Along the way, she keeps trying to find a new bankroll, AKA husband, but never succeeds. She meets one guy who immediately wants to borrow $75,000 for the afternoon. Another beau is a military officer and starts to go Full Metal Jacket on the kids before she goes after him with a fireplace poker. After being stood up by a date in a hotel bar, Ann strikes up an innocent chat with the guy on the next bar stool. Except he's the house detective who immediately arrests her for prostitution.

I don't know how much of this story is real or fabricated, but it's always quirky enough to feel authentic. There are more than a few references and winks to what George ultimately becomes as he is always referred to as being pale and desperately in need of a tan. Naturally, through a twist of fate, George, and not Robbie, is the one ultimately discovered for an acting career and the rest is "Where The Boys Are" history.

Renee Zellweger pulls it all off with ease. She is totally believable as the constantly downtrodden mother who manages to shake off one bad curveball of life after another. Her acting seems effortless and that's what it should be. The actors who play her various suitors are prominently displayed in the movie poster and are a Love Boat-like who's who of television. None have more than three scenes and their lines barely cover the back of a napkin at the commissary. But that's no surprise as the movie is all about her and the boys, as well it should be. I probably know more now than I ever expected to know about George Hamilton, but it was well worth the money and the time. It's trivial, but clever enough. And, for that matter, I guess you can say the film pretty much mirrors George Hamilton himself.

"My One and Only" has been open in Los Angeles for a while, but branches out to the rest of the country this week. If you're in the mood for something light and airy, you might want to try it.

Light and airy? There I am again, describing George Hamilton to a tee.

Dinner last night: Grilled sausage at the Met game in soggy Citi Field.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The 2 Hour Aerial Tour of the East Coast

I have flown to the East Coast enough to recognize the telltale signs.

You are zooming to New York. You can tell that you've got a great headwind and then the pilot announces that you might be landing earlier than the expected 330PM arrival at JFK Airport. All is sweetness.

But, then, you can make a careful observation. The sun, which had been at the rear of the plane, was now facing the aircraft. A few minutes later, the sun is on the right side of the plane. Then the left. Then back to the rear. The front again. And over and over. I know what this means.

You're going in circles.

And that also means you're in some sort of airport hold.

This all happened yesterday, but, now with the glory of in-the-air WiFi, I don't need to wait for Captain Squeamish to make this apology. I fired off some e-mails to NY friends on the ground. Is it weather? Nope, all is dry and clear. Is it an impending storm? Nope, none due till Thursday night. Answers from the Len camp were not helpful. And then we heard from the Captain.

"Er, folks, we're in a holding pattern."

I figured that out already, Skippy.

"Um, the airport is not letting anybody land or take off. There is some sort of VIP aircraft that needs the airspace."

Realizing my friends were not helpful, I quickly accessed WINS 1010's website.

"President Obama Attends Cronkite Memorial."

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Obviously, he needed to get back to Washington DC so he could wax philosophical on the health care woes of our nation. I wondered if the stress and heart palpitations being inflicted on several thousand air passengers hovering over NY would be considered a pre-existing condition.

News spread all over the cabin and people pretty much figured out what was what. A VIP aircraft with such power usually doesn't involve the likes of Paula Abdul. With all the grimacing around me, I started to count the votes he's lost in 2012. The guy next to me was Italian and undoubtedly trying to catch a flight back to Rome. He was talking to himself in Italian. I grew up in an Italian neighborhood. I knew all the words he was saying. They were not nice.

After almost 90 minutes, we were finally cleared to land. As we coasted down to the tarmac, I noticed the queue of planes lined up to take off. I stopped counting at 50. When the plane doors opened, I saw a terminal that reminded me of Wacky Races. People frantically trying to figure out how to make that appointment or flight that they were now two hours late for.

I assume the Obama speech started on time.

Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to School Wednesday

Kids who can figure out how to maneuver through this grid deserve a cash reward when they're done.

---Of course, at the end of the road, there will be nothing for them but higher taxes.

---There are probably some states in this union where the kindergarten block above is a lot bigger.

---Here's a useful barometer for those kids: when you start to grow facial hair, it's time to move on to the first grade. And your class valedictorian is Jethro Bodine.

---These are my teachable moments.

---The speech that Obama gave to school children was nice. And not exactly what it was supposed to be.

---Because, originally, the White House had asked that kids would also send along letters about what could be improved in the country.

---And you should also know that those letters would be used in tonight's speech on health care.

---"Dear Mr. President, my father's foot fell off. I wish we had better health care."

---Hello? Anyone?

---I made the mistake of commenting on Facebook that Urkel shouldn't talk to school children and I was lambasted by friends.

---I have no issue with a President talking to children. For Pete's sake, on 9/11, George Bush was reading a schoolbook to third graders about some goat.

---And just to show you that I can make jokes on both sides of the aisle...

---I wonder which kid had to sound the story out phonetically for Bush.

---See! I rarely do hate all politicians. But, I digress...

---If any President wants to discuss history or the Pledge of Allegience or barnyard animals to school children, that's fine. If he wants to use them as political pawns to advance any issue, that's not fine.

---Meanwhile, if the President refers to an HMO in a classroom, most of the kids will think he's talking about a breakfast oatmeal.

---Hello??? Anyone???

---Meanwhile, back on Planet Facebook again, there was a virtual town hall last week of folks posting the following:

---"Such and such thinks no one should die because they cannot afford health care and no one should go broke because they got sick. (If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day)."

---This thing took off like a Cabbage Patch Kid on the day before Christmas.

---My question is: who doesn't?

---I love the fact that everybody is yakking up all the positives of the health care bill, even though they know about as much of what is in there as I do.

---Jeez Marie, even the President doesn't know what's in there.

---But the same folks who posted this on Facebook might be the same people who raise holy Hell when they have to pay 50 cents more for a BandAid.

---Because, whatever is in there, it will cost more money. Period. End of sentence.

---You want to solve health care in this country? Figure out who's clogging up the emergency rooms of any hospital on any given day.

---I have. When you spend as much time in ERs as I did with both my parents, you get a very clear picture.

---I'm also bemused about all the alleged "uninsured" folks in this country.

---Uh huh. I remember several years back when my company raised health premiums by twenty bucks.

---Most of the folks under 30 dropped coverage on their own because they didn't want to pay the increase.

These are the same kids who spend twenty bucks a paycheck on tall vanilla lattes and cigarettes.

---And last I looked, neither Starbucks or Phillip Morris were having price rollbacks.

---Hello???? Anybody????

---I guess it's time to get lighter.

Hello??? Anybody???

Dinner last night: Spaghetti and meatballs.

And tomorrow from the city that never sleeps. Unless, of course, if you're watching the Mets at Citi Field.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bowl No More

For me living in California, the new barometer for the passage of time is the end of my Hollywood Bowl season. A baton exchange between summer and fall and ultimately another winter. And so it went on schedule last weekend. Oh, the Bowl is open for a few more weeks, but the final offerings are not my glass of Zinfandel. There is an evening of sitar music called "India Calling" and I can easily skip this tribute to telemarketing. There is a disco night and a Brazilian evening, so you can now understand why I have already packed away my seat cushions for 2009.

This summer at the Bowl was highly uneven. Almost bipolar as if it were programmed alternately by Democrats and Republicans. You had the great Henry Mancini evening and the marvelous staging of "Guys and Dolls." On the flip side, you had the ear-piercing knockoff bands of Abba and Neil Diamond, which could have provoked a class action suit for all those in attendance. There was even a jarring swing of the pendulum in one evening when Michael Feinstein delivered his usual class and sophistication in the first act and an incoherent Jewel whined through some alleged tunes in the second act.

So, going to the Bowl this past Saturday and Sunday night, it was fitting that a similar confused duality would take place one more time. Because Saturday and Sunday's programs looked like they had been developed on two completely different planets.

Saturday's fiasco was a shock to me. It was the annual concert of movie music as conducted by legendary Hollywood composer John Williams. This has always been a homerun in past years. The other night, it was a weak ground ball to second base. Maestro Williams might be having some bladder issues these days. How else can we explain the angry treatment the audience received at his baton waving hands?

When you go to see John Williams, you expect to hear some of the traditional scores he has composed. Just like Andy Williams singing "Moon River" or Tony Bennett singing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." But, on Saturday night, John Williams didn't follow suit. I imagined him backstage bellowing, "I'm going to play what I Goddamn want to play, so fuck 'em if they don't like it." And that's exactly what he did. It was as if the four Beatles had reunited for the first time ever and spent the night playing the hits of the Partridge Family.

Act One was nothing but forty five minutes of underscoring from Harry Potter films. Actress Lynn Redgrave did the narration throughout, and every time she stood up at the podium, I felt that Christmas had been cancelled all over again. Now, I'm not a Harry Potter fan so this was all lost on me like all the seemingly misspelled words that show up in those books. But, I could have endured about ten minutes of this by closing my eyes and thinking of the Dodgers' upcoming postseason. But, Williams' baton and Harry's broom flew around endlessly and I now will avoid Miss Redgrave as if she was a carrier for swine flu. When it finally ended, I wanted to call my doctor and book my next colonoscopy since I had just gone through the musical equivalent of an enema. I was not alone. My companions for the evening were equally addled. And the men in the bathroom at intermission were so dazed that some missed the urinals all together.

The first chords of Act Two offered us some daylight under the full moon. Quick clips and music from the likes of "Casablanca," "Gone with the Wind," "Psycho," and "The Magnificent Seven." But, ultimately, it was as if Williams was showing the picture of a cheesecake to people in a fat farm. It was a tease, because the sadistic and now borderline satanic conductor quickly journeyed back into more musical score obscurity. What followed was twenty minutes of jazzy dreck from "Catch Me if You Can," a movie its own director Steven Spielberg could only sit through once. We also got to hear some crap from "The Witches of Eastwick" and "Dracula," two movies that are on no one's queues at Netflix. The crowd around me grew restless and I had a feeling that a health care town hall meeting was about to erupt.

Finally, Williams heard us all say "uncle" and went into Star Wars mode. At the first intergalactical chord, the itchy fingers in the audience finally flicked on their light sabres and the lovefest had blasted off. Several sabres battled each other in the crowd and I noted that virtually all of the sabre wielders were over 35. All kept careful time with the music. Those who were sabreless waved their Black Berrys as weapons instead.

At the end, Maestro John Williams finally came through with the goods, but, in a final finger to all, he ignored our pleas for an Indiana Jones moment. And, ultimately, the force may have been with us but it really fucked us over badly.

As offputting as Saturday night was, the Turner Classic Films-sponsored "Night at the Movies with Rodgers and Hammerstein" may have been the most enjoyable event of the summer. Once a year, the Hollywood Bowl hoists a big movie screen and the LA Philharmonic will play along with the clips being shown. Live scoring just as if you're watching it done at the Warner Brothers sound mixing department. It's always my favorite night and this year, particularly in light of the swill that had preceded it all, it stood out even brighter.

TCM host Robert Osborne was aboard to intro the clips and music from the likes of "Oklahoma," "State Fair," "Carousel," "The King and I," "South Pacific," "Flower Drum Song," and "The Sound of Music." All along the way, he brought along the same factoids that he presents on television and it was ultra-fascinating. For instance, Elizabeth Taylor was considered for the role of Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific," but essentially got scared and ran away. Christopher Plummer, the Captain of the Von Trapps, hated the movie and frequently referred to it as "The Sound of Mucus." I was entertained and educated and it felt so good. My most teachable moment of the year. As he made one comment after another, we noted that Osborne was doing so without the aid of paper or cue cards. It was all off the top of his head and not a teleprompter was needed, Mr. President.

After the show, I ambled down the hill one last 2009 time and was exhilerated by the old show biz adage at play. The best was saved for last. Ultimate redemption had been secured. I couldn't wait to be back at the Bowl again next summer.

And now if you will kindly excuse me. The $25,000 Pyramid is on the Game Show Network and I need to change the channel. One of the celebrity guests is Lynn Redgrave.

Dinner last night: Crispy spicy beef at the Cheesecake Factory

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 7, 2009

If Met owner Jeff Wilpon and Hitler were one in the same....



Dinner last night: Pepperoni and provolone sandwich at the Bowl.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Freshman Orientation

It's that special time of year. You've shuffled off your kid to college, perhaps for the first time. You worry about losing touch and knowing just what the youngster is going to be doing on those long campus weekends. Of course, in these tech happy days, everybody is equipped with cell phones and both parents and children probably check in with each other on an hourly basis with Facebook and Tweeter.

"Dad, I just tied the sneaker on my right foot."

"Okay, let us know when you leave the dorm and start walking down the hall."

"Mom, they're serving asparagus for dinner in the cafeteria. I don't eat that."

Overkill.

It wasn't long ago when it was a harrowing process for me. Freshman Orientation. Or, in my case,...

Disorientation.

I had wandered around Mount Vernon High School for several years, fatally shy, quiet beyond imagination, and self conscious about every blackhead and every closed pore. Now I was going to make matters worse. I was going to start attending college. In the Bronx, to boot, and that was scary in itself. I had made about six friends in high school and now I was facing another four years where I might be hard pressed to make six more.

Kids today get the cushiest entrance into higher education. Most visit multiple colleges to find the right fit. Weekends of subliminal marketing where every element of campus life is carefully tested and analyzed.

As for me, I applied to Fordham University and got accepted. Period. End of sentence. Did I ever set foot on the campus prior to my first day there? Nah. That would have been too easy. The closest I came to any pre-screening was my father showing me the different bus and train routes to school. That was it.

So, the dislocation and lack of advance preparation made my Freshman Orientation on the Rose Hill campus an even more frightening prospect. I sort of looked up the courses I wanted to register for, but even that was a crap shoot. I knew that I was going to major in communications, but I had no clue on what else I needed to sign up for, curriculum-wise. To make matters worse, this former public school student was suddenly faced with having to take five different theology classes over the course of four years. This was not only upsetting to me, but my grandmother.

"You're going to come home a Catholic."

With all the other trauma I was going through, I had Grandma's proverbial cross to bear as well. Upholding the Protestant standard while taking classes taught by Jesuit priests. I began to wonder if Fordham University had a trap door that I could use. Immediately. It would have made things so much simpler, especially since I was invariably on the wrong line at registration.

"No, you want the L line."

"Who sent you here? You belong on the Q-R line."

"Nope, sorry, you should be over there!"

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, I had a friend from high school who was also entering Fordham at the same time. At least, my misery had company. The only problem was that my buddy fancied himself as the second coming of sports announcer Marv Albert, as if the first coming wasn't enough. His sole purpose in coming to Fordham was to work at WFUV. If a class or two got in the way, so be it. But, for at least this day, he was my one and only comfort zone, so his companionship for the time being was vital.

Naturally, there were others sprinkled about with the same WFUV aspirations. We met another guy on one of the multiple wrong lines at registration. This dude fancied himself as the second coming of disc jockey Don Imus, as if the first coming wasn't enough. Well, Marv and Don hit it off famously and sucked the air out of the entire campus. Trying to get in a word edgewise, I felt like I was living in a vacuum packed bag of green beans. High school angst was morphing into college angst and I felt smaller than Mickey Rooney praying at midnight mass.

These two great radio personalities of the future decided that they wanted to get a leg up on all the other talentless freshmen who wanted to work at WFUV. They decided to march up to the radio station and introduce themselves to the general manager. With no other recourse, I followed them. I was a male concubine who had his ankles tied together like a geisha. I had deep down hopes to work at the station myself, but my desires and my self esteem often took years to get on the same page. And they certainly weren't even in the same book on that day.

When we got up to the radio station, my chums looked at their potential meeting with the GM as if they were going to audition for Flo Ziegfeld. My high school pal noticed me standing next to them and was immediately perturbed.

"Stand behind us. You're going to make it look bad for us."

Suddenly, I was gum on the curb. A fly at your picnic. The dog shit in the grooves of your sneaker. If this was what college was going to be like, I wanted to take the civil service exam to be a postal worker ASAP.

But that singular sensation was the lowest point of my college career. Because, somehow, I ratcheted up enough self-confidence to forge my own way at WFUV. Doing the news. Interviewing TV stars. Running the public relations department in my senior year. Serving on the station's board of directors.

And creating my own show. A radio situation comedy which ran for three years.

I didn't know it on that horrible day. But, eventually, I wouldn't be standing behind anybody.

Dinner last night: Pork tenderloin and sauerkraut at the Rooftop Grill of the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Classic TV Commercial of the Month - September 2009

Let's all join hands and sing. Afterwards, we check out the cavities with the dentist.


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


Friday, September 4, 2009

Before I Close the Lid on Teddy.....

One last shot and then the worms can have their fun.


Dinner last night: BLT from Clementine's.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Julie & Julia & Len

It took a few weeks but I finally caught up to "Julie & Julia." Along with "(500) Days of Summer," these are the best movies of the summer, hands down. Written by somebody over 25 and with a brain. Comedy that is genuine and not resorting to profanity and/or vomit emissions. And the only thing that blows up might be Julie's first attempt at making Beef Bourginon.

For my money, Meryl Streep passes "go," collects $ 200 and the Oscar for Best Actress right now. After seeing the film, I came upon a Julia Child documentary on PBS. It is incredible how well Streep captured every nuance and tic of the French Chef. While Amy Adams is almost as good with the more shaded and less showy role of Julie Powell, any serious moviegoers need to see Meryl do this at least twice. She is that formidable.

Beyond the sheer entertainment provided, "Julie & Julia" provided me with an interesting and rather introspective subtext. That has everything to do with this ole blog of mine. As you may know, the Julie in the title is a writer who, in 2002, blogged daily as she made her way through every single recipe available in Julia Child's famed cookbook. Julie's goal was to complete said task and blog about it all in 365 days. I didn't realize that blogging was already being done in 2002. But, as I viewed the movie, I gave some thought to Len Speaks.

Julie's blog had a purpose and an end date. It was something she was doing for herself, but ultimately, it was done for many others. A distinct design. A definite purpose.

And me? Well, I began this daily triviality in March of 2007 for sheer selfish purposes. I needed to give myself some discipline with regard to my writing. I needed to re-focus on my creativity. The idea that others might read it and enjoy it was a distant, but ultimately welcome by-product. My objective was to see if I could meet the daily deadline of putting something relatively readable on this site.

Oh, sure, I have cheated by including videos on certain days and cartoons on others. But, by and large, this is all about my writing and I certainly do a lot of it here. The Sunday Memory Drawer postings have been particularly therapeutic for me. By posting some rather embarrassing photos of my youth, I have been called brave and perhaps, by writing about those moments in life, I am coming to grips with some feelings that were previously buried deep inside.

So, basically, Len Speaks is about me. When I started this, I had no idea that I would still be doing in September of 2009 and closing in on 1000 posts sometime around Thanksgiving of this year. Along the way, I have developed fans, some friends and some not. Thanks to the Site Meter metrics, I can quantify them on a daily basis and even see where in the world they are. They read from New York and Florida and California and Texas and Pennsylvania. Canada has recently chimed in regularly. There were hits from Holland and Australia. I've just expanded to Great Britain. I know who those folks are and I welcome them here to the regular nonsense offered by this "ugly American."

I love accessing Site Meter to see some East Coasters checking to see if the daily post is up. For them, I try to accommodate them by pre-loading the entry and scheduling it in advance. I can tell that Saturdays are the lightest days and Tuesdays are the heaviest days for readership. I work hard to maintain a consistent tone, which is why certain elements are posted on regular days.

Frankly, I've been doing this blog in the dark, as there are few comments. Several of you prefer to add your two cents via private e-mail and that's fine. But, I know what you like. The Sunday pieces are a hit. The monthly movie guide is popular. You want a lot more photo essays. And a few of you have submitted cartoons or even "awkward" photos you have discovered on your own. All suggestions are welcome. I'd even turn over a day's authorship to anybody who wanted to contribute some thoughts on anything, with the only pre-requisite being that I have final approval on content.

Not surprisingly, the most polarizing post every week is the Wednesday rant, which is really nothing more than a uncensored Jay Leno monologue. I call them as I see them and, unlike anything else in the media, I am not afraid of saying anything about anybody.

Recently, I had a friend tell me that he stopped reading this blog, specifically because of Wednesdays and the politics that are always embedded within. I tried to reason that the content and tone would be no different if it had been written six years earlier in the middle of another Presidential administration. With regard to politicians, I am an equal opportunity despiser. I have enough pins to prick the balloons of every bombastic leader or office holder, regardless of which side of the aisle they sit on. But, I doubt that made a difference with this person. It's hateful to call a President "Nazi" or "Socialist" if it's the President you voted for. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable when tables are reversed, as if we have seen and heard time and time again. A complete microcosm of what's wrong with our media today and it is wonderfully defined with this argument about my blog.

Yep, there will be things you like and things you don't like. There will be things you love and things you absolutely hate. My advice is don't read the things you might hate and definitely read the things you know you will like. Because, at the end of the day, this is not about you. It is all about me.

But, to what means and what result? My good friend Lorraine just started her own blog and, like Julie Powell, it's about something specific. Lorraine and a friend are taking you on a journey up and down the coast of Manhattan Island. It is well written, educational, and darn interesting. The link is at the side of mine (We'll Walk for Food) and it's definitely worth your time and effort.

But, it ultimately is finite. Len Speaks is not. Lorraine's blog has a goal. Len Speaks does not. So, is that enough reason for its existence?

Again, I remind myself. This is my daily writing exercise. Almost a personal journal. For me.

But, if it's for you, too, I am pleased. And, for some strange reason, I think you and I will be together here for a while longer.

Dinner last night: Chicken wrap at Islands.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Floating Wednesday

Recalling the National Lampoon at the time. "If Teddy Kennedy had driven a Volkswagen, he'd be President today."

---And also not a liar and a murderer.

---The festivities around Fat Teddy's funeral last week were delicious to watch. For all the hypocracy.

---Only in America will you find both Democrats and Republicans fawning over the life of somebody so utterly despicable.

---He is finally in the ground and that's a positive thing, because shit is good for the soil.

---It was fun watching all these frauds burying another family member.

---There was Ethel who still looks like she packs a mean punch. And spikes one, too.

---And then there was her son, Joseph Kennedy, who's still trying to work the Vatican red tape to get his first marriage annuled.

---Because he was not mentally capable to enter into a marital union at the time.

---The equivalent of shaking an Etch-a-Sketch over your head so you can draw a new picture whenever you want.

---For the Kennedys, Catholicism is great because it apparently comes with a reset button.

---I hadn't seen his kids in a while. I got re-acquainted with Pegleg Kennedy. And, of the course, the youngest son just got out of rehab.

---He, of course, is the one who went into politics.

---They probably blame his problems on his mother, Joan, who wasn't bright enough not to fall down drunk in the gutter.

---Daddy was smarter. He did his guzzling at the wet bar of his house.

---While his nephew was upstairs raping some chick.

---Good old Uncle Teddy.

---Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi ran amuck last week trying to get the health care bill passed in Teddy's honor.

---Kennedycare.

---I think they missed the boat. His name should have been attached to that other legislation.

---Kennedy Kash for Klunkers. Because the guy sure did know how to get rid of a car.

---There are actually readers to this blog who are offended at the moment.

---So I will continue.

---Teddy's widow was 15 years old when he drove over that bridge in 1969. Talk about robbing the cradle.

---Twice.

---Obama had nice things to say about Teddy Kennedy at the funeral mass. I didn't realize his teleprompter knew the guy.

---Okay, I'll stop now.

---Comic book nuts must be frenzied at the thought that Disney just bought out Marvel Comics.

---Now we get to see what Mickey Mouse is like with superhuman powers.

---And wait till you see how Bambi gets revenge on those hunters.

---So, now I'm wondering if Marvel will get some play at the theme parks. Maybe the Incredible Hulk goes into "It's A Small World" and annihilates some little girls from Holland.

---It's late summer. LA is on fire.

---I love the folks who stay in their homes and think they stop the inferno by hosing down their roof.

---That's like expecting Adam Sandler to make a decent movie.

---Of course, there are probably some folks who are upside down in their mortgages and inviting the fire in. Lining their front walks with some Kingsford.

---And these always start because somebody flicked a cigarette. Shitheads.

---The fires might be another reason to delay Michael Jackson's burial. At this point, let's just stuff him and put him on display.

---At a Rite-Aid.

Dinner last night: Sausage and pepper pizza at the Dodger game.