The password is....."numbskull."
Dinner last night: Chicken parmagiana, polenta, and salad.
This is the majestic Keating Hall on the Fordham University campus. Home of WFUV where I spent a lot of time during my college years. Location of some classrooms where I spent a little time during my college years. The centerpiece of the Bronx campus is old, austere, and historic.
And it was between the second and third floors of this building where I had two pretty scary experiences.
Let's talk first about the only elevator in the place. For college students too lazy to walk up and down three flights, it provided the lift needed after a long WFUV session or a short Theology dissertation. The elevator itself might have been even older than the building. It was a large size wooden crate that resembled a vertical coffin. I never felt completely safe in there. Not for the queasy or the claustrophobic. But, take it nevertheless we did.
One day, I was scheduled to be the co-anchor on the WFUV Evening Report which aired at 530PM every afternoon during those halycon days at the station when students actually got to do things. It was a big deal for me as I had never done this co-anchor bit before. We did our usual preparation. Rip the news items off the Associated Press ticker. Maybe try to rewrite one or two, so it sounded like you weren't reading them verbatim. Around 445PM, I wanted a snack from the soda and candy machines down on the first floor. I was hungry. And, after several hours of reading AP recounts of Congressional votes, I was exhausted, too. Too spent to walk down and up three flights of stairs for my Coke and Hershey bar.
I boarded the elevator to Hell.
The trip down was a no brainer. Armed with soft drink and candy, I boarded the wooden crate for the return trip. Just past the second floor, it happened.
Clunk, crash, sputter, phhhhbbbbttt.
My journey, for the time being, had ended.
I generally don't panic in a stuck elevator. Because there's always an emergency button with someone very helpful on the end of the transmission. I pressed it. It took five minutes for somebody to answer the call.
I explained the predicament to him.
"No habla Anglaise."
The chocolate bar started to melt and so did I. Luckily, my magnetic personality is always missed and my WFUV cohorts noticed my absence pretty quickly. And it didn't take them long to figure out where I was. Because the broken elevator was now requiring them all to use the ungodly method of climbing stairs. And my new location between the second and third floor of Keating Hall became a novelty as they took turns calling down taunts.
"What are you doing down there?"
Well, I was really looking for some quiet time before the newscast and I really thought that an elevator shaft provided the best venue.
I pressed the emergency button again.
Ugh. I was losing patience and planning to lose most of my friends who were up getting their jollies out of my plight.
When the laughs started to die down, somebody actually went to seek out the non-English speaking man on the other end of my lifeline. But, that didn't result in an immediate solution. I was stuck in that coffin for almost two hours.
And, of course, missed the newscast. I understand that the anchorperson that day signed off by saying good night to Len "whereever he may be in this building."
My other "between floors" experience in Keating Hall was a bit more harrowing. Darn right frightening. And, surprisingly, this time it was on the stairway between the second and third floor.
It was early in my junior year and I had just moved on campus. This was your traditional Fall college day. There was a football game scheduled that night. I was working on something at WFUV and realized that a host of my chums were headed to the campus center for some food. I wanted to catch up to them. So, I ran. And I decided that I could get down the stairs a lot quicker than with my own nemesis, the elevator.
As I started to fly down the first flight of steps, I tripped on my sneaker laces which were untied. I missed the last half of the flight, emulating Mary Martin as Peter Pan. To cushion the upcoming blow on the landing, I extended my hands. And my right one went right through the window.
It was one of those slow motion moments that happen in life. I didn't really feel anything as the hand went through the glass. There was no pain. It seemed all pretty routine. Until I noticed my wrist. With the big gash right on the vein.
And the blood shooting out like Old Faithful.
Hmmmm. This is not good.
I immediately put my left thumb over the gusher and slowly walked down the rest of the stairs. Now it wasn't lunch that I wanted to share with my friends. I needed help to get to a hospital.
My roommate and other cronies weren't that far ahead. After asking me whether it could wait till after they had lunch, I was chaperoned to the campus nurse's office. Where I probably passed out. My next memory was a whiff of smelling salts. Pressure was applied to stop the bleeding, but it was clear that I needed stitches. At nearby Fordham Hospital. Where people went in and usually did not come out.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. A hospital emergency room in the Bronx is automatically a scary prospect. Several gurneys were rushed in with people missing a body part or two. After a while, I realized that my six little sutures would be minor in the great medical scope of things.
The bandage on my wrist was the big hit in the football stands that night. I explained that I was simply trying to perfect my impersonation of Judy Garland.
The scar shows to this day. And I always used a different staircase after that. And never the elevator.
Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.
Apparently just like this...
Talk about brown nosers.
"Spiderman: The High School Musical."
What happens when the neighborhood gang gets into Mrs. Jenkins' blackberry brandy.
Aren't there less violent ways to hunt for watermelon?"
Everybody knows that it's not a fiesta until somebody cracks open the red licorice.
Dinner last night: Grilled chicken teriyaki and salad.
These days in cinema Hell, I am much more likely to venture out to see a classic film or a documentary before I will see the latest swill offered up by the likes of Judd Apotow or Quentin Tarantino. That way, I know that I will be entertained and/or educated as opposed to be optically raped.
Such was the case the other night when I was tempted to go see a screening of "Gotta Dance." Not only was I entertained and educated, there was also another delicious by-product. I was self-revitalized. Now I want to go out and dance.
This documentary is the story of the Netsational dance team, a group of senior citizens hired to perform hip hop routines during New York Nets basketball games. This is American Idol AARP style. You go through the auditions and then become fast friends with the twelve seniors who ultimately get the gig. One Asian lady is in her 80s and she has more energy than some of my friends. There's just one guy in the group and I wondered what his wife must have thought as he popped off every day for rehearsals with eleven women.
Dori Berinstein is the film's crafty director and she got the idea for the movie by spotting an open audition call listed in the sports pages of the New York Post. For six months, she follows these twelve dancers through the trials and tribulations of putting on several dance performances. Some of them are quite intricate and prove challenging for the oldtimers. But you watch as they persevere through hard work and aching knees. After all, as the opening title card says, "age only matters if you're a cheese."
The director showed up at the screening I saw and she brought along three of the dancers who are still part of the Nets dance team. It's remarkable to see them in person after meeting them for the first time on screen. The transformation from their appearance at the first audition to now is astounding. There is a bounce in their step and a glow in their cheeks. This whole project has been their fountain of youth. They looked twenty years young.
After the Q and A, I got up to leave. After sitting for almost two hours, the arthritic knee creaked. The back was a little stiff. I looked at these ladies who are older than me, but certainly eons livelier. What the hell have I been doing with myself? Not dancing apparently. And I began to think how I sign up for this elixir.
"Gotta Dance" is a movie you need to find. It won't be easy. Word of mouth is needed. It starts with this blog, as I promised the director on my way out.
As for my goofy knee, that won't be easy either. But, "Gotta Dance" got me motivated to do something.
Left, right, right, left, right, left, right, left, left.
Dinner last night: Evelyn's Favorite Pasta at the Cheesecake Factory.
If somebody's gonna put their hand up my back, they better mean it. And here's an additional warning for today. If you're a Teddy Kennedy fan, you might want to stop reading right here.
---I was almost tempted to not post today. After all, the Obamas are on vacation and that means the country is closed, right?
---Urkel and his urchins are running around Martha's Vineyard and want to be left alone.
---Right back at you. So do a lot of Americans.
---While on vacation, they thought POTUS would stop in to see the increasingly scrambled Teddy Kennedy. I would like to be a fly on the rice pudding for that meeting.
---But, alas, alack. The bellboy finally brought Teddy's bags down to the lobby.
---Teddy wouldn't have even recognized Obama. He probably would have thought it's 1962 all over again and Obama is the hired help.
---"How come you're not wearing your white jacket? And where's my tapioca????"
---Because when it was all about giving Blacks a fair shake, the Kennedys were always on board.
---By giving them jobs in their pantry.
---Civil rights is great as long as it's not on their block in Hyannis Port.
---If there's any symmetry in this world, Teddy should be buried at sea.
---In a 1967 Oldsmobile.
---I hope the dry cleaners in Hyannis Port work fast. I'm guessing the Kennedy women didn't even get their black dresses back after they planted sister Eunice two weeks ago.
---So there's one Kennedy sibling left. That sister Jean is the winner. Please accept your prize at the window.
---If you're keeping score, all the rest are gone. Including that rascally sister who acted up and got a frontal lobotomy for her sins.
---Teddy had sort of the same thing. He always had "a bottle in front of me."
---From the Polar Opposite Department: Mother Rose got buried with a couple of cigars in a Dutch Masters box. The bloated Teddy will get buried in a piano crate. And there'll still be a foot sticking out.
---And the people of Massachusetts are so stupid that they'll still re-elect him to another term.
---Okay, I'll stop kicking the dead horse's ass. My "death panel" is closed for today.
---Speaking of being left alone, how about those performers who use their concerts as a platform to wax political? Take, for instance, Diana Krall last Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl.
---We were sitting very nicely and enjoyed her wonderful jazzy renditions of some great old standards.
---And, then, cue the Jaws music. She decided to tell us about playing the White House.
---Okay, it's a free country and Diana Krall is entitled to her opinion. But she talked about getting a big hug from the Obamas. And "how different" that was compared to the past eight years.
---George W. Bush never hugged anybody? At least once????
---If Diana's barometer on the state of the country is based soled on public displays of affection, she should have visited the Kennedy White House.
---If you got only a hug, you were lucky.
---Most women walked out with knee abrasions.
---A note to all people in show business: please do your thing and nothing else. Sing your songs, play your piano, act your part, and that's it.
---Nobody cares how you told your assistant to pull the lever last Election Day.
---Like those two idiots, Brad Pitt and Ashton Kutcher, who were talking about the world condition with that other numbskull Bill Maher last week on HBO.
---The three of them together couldn't generate enough brainpower to light one of Al Gore's 50 watt explosive lightbulbs.
---Even these two morons are so smart, how come they wound up married to two of the biggest bitches in the world?
---Reminds me of seeing Barbra Streisand in concert with the recently elected Nancy Pelosi in the front row. Madame Hooknose serenaded the future Speaker of the House with "Happy Days Are Here Again."
---Days are very happy when you live in a Malibu beachhouse with armed guards all over the place.
---But, then again, all the security guards come in handy. James Brolin needs somebody to play with all day while the wife is off screaming at personal assistants.
Dinner last night: Cocoanut shrimp and teriyaki sirloin steak at Duke's in Malibu.
As bad as the Mets are this year and as far away from being a Met fan as I am right now, I really wish I had been able to use my Saturday tickets last weekend. Because they were saluting the fortieth anniversary of the greatest team that I have rooted for in my life.
The 1969 World Champion New York Mets.
I watched the ceremonies instead on the TV in my bedroom 3000 miles away. Laying across the bed on my stomach like an eight-year-old watching cartoons. And, as one 1969 Met after another was brought out, I cried. And cried some more. And remembered the days of old. I wished that this very classy gathering had been held actually in the now-parking-lotted Shea Stadium, where it all played out like the most improbable plotline ever created.
This was perhaps the most fabulous season of my life and it set a standard for summers that has yet to be topped. I was a young baseball fan and my choice for favorite team was being vindicated for at least this year. There are tons of memories and I will need to devote at least one or two of my Sunday Memory Drawers to waxing more eloquently on the likes of Seaver, Koosman, Hodges, and Agee. But, for now, 1969 brings me to some other more immediate thoughts.
As I scoped the usual blogs to read stories on the team reunion, I noticed more than a little indifference from the writers. Because most of these articles are done by younger people, the 1969 Met championship is only a sidebar in their lives. For most of them, the real bell ringer is the 1986 World Championship New York Mets. To them, players like Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, and Ron Darling trump all others in Met lore.
Hey, I was there, too, in 1986. And I shared in the exhileration of a long day's journey into Ray Knight and a ball behind the bag that get by Buckner. For the first time as an adult, I was vindicated as a baseball fan. But, as great as that was, it didn't hold a candle to 1969. The first time for the Mets. The first time for me.
So, the question bears asking. Do you have to be alive to appreciate history? If I had been born ten or fifteen years later, would I appreciate 1969 as much?
So, I think about it. I wasn't alive for Babe Ruth, but I can still recognize that he was one of the greatest players of all time. I never saw Jackie Robinson, but I can appreciate every thing he did for the game. I didn't live through Pearl Harbor, but I can understand how devastating that event was in the annals of our nation's history.
I know some young adults who clearly get it. They can reel off the wonders of Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and other players who had retired long before their birth dates in 1983 or 1984. But, there are others who have no concept.
Several years back, when the Mets had fans vote on the greatest moments in the team's history, catcher Todd Pratt's playoff homerun in 1969 outscored several earlier but more important days in Flushing. Huh? A terrific game, but better than Agee's two catches in Game 3 of the 69 World Series? More memorable than Ron Hodges' ball off the wall during the September pennant race of 1973? More exciting than Lenny Dykstra's game-winning homerun (I refuse to say the ESPN-conjured expression "walk off") in Game 3 of the 1986 NLCS? If you're under 20, I guess the answer is...probably.
Ultimately, it's okay to respect something you yourself didn't feel or touch. So, young baseball fans, open up the books and experience some of the past days of your favorite team. Because it counts just as much as what you saw happen last week.
As for me and 1969, I am lucky. I did feel. I did touch. And it was so good.
Dinner last night: Garden medley salad with chicken at BJs.
There are Sundays in this memory drawer where the contents make me smile and laugh and feel warm all over.
And there are times where a picture like this rears its ugly Technicolor head. I start to wonder about deep seeded issues and resentments.
This is one of those times. A black day in my life. Folks, we're serving up big bowls of bitterness today. Bring your biggest spoon.
I was the odd kid out back when. Still in the single digits of my life, I was surrounded by a couple of cousins who were a bit older. Teenagers with brand new hormones that were getting plenty of mileage. So, at family gatherings, I had nobody to play with. While the folks and the aunts and uncles smoked and drank and smoked a little more, my semi-contemporaries did what they liked to do. And I had no other resource than to try and fit in.
I was barely tolerated. I became nothing more than a prop. Or a dress-up doll as you can see above. I was suddenly that weird character in our family sitcom. The one you ignore until it's time for a cheap laugh and you dress him up in some bizarre get-up. Enter. Big laugh. Exit.
Now, the two cousins who read this blog regularly are not the culprits here. One was even younger than me and I probably can feel a little of her pain. Nope, it was the other two who treated me like I was barely there. Or mistreated me the times I was there. Whenever they wanted to have some fun at my expense.
When they got a little older, the teenagers were free to take over the second floor of any house that was having a party. Adults, downstairs. Gidget and Moondoggie, upstairs. And, for lack of any other place, I was sent upstairs. Much to their dismay and anger.
Once, I wandered upstairs to find more groping than in a Buick back seat at the Elmsford Drive-In. Hands and mouths flying every which way. This is nothing I learned from watching Popeye cartoons on WPIX. When my presence was noted, I was summarily dismissed. With a TV Guide thrown at my head.
I landed in party purgatory. Usually on the staircase between the two floors. Reading a comic book and trying to understand what all that groaning was about.
These two cousins (male and female) were around a little more than usual because their dad (my father's brother) had died at a very young age and my father became sort of a surrogate. He took the boy out for driving lessons and dinner and even bailed the kid out of jail. I watched from the sidelines.
The girl cousin was no better. Frequently, she signed on to "babysit" me. Usually bringing along some boyfriend of hers, which meant I might as well have been on the southern coast of Australia. And often resulted in her usual command to me.
"Go over there and watch television."
As we all got older, there was less and less of a need for socialization. They headed off to marriages and divorces. I did my thing. And literally went almost twenty years without seeing either one of them. Until my dad passed away.
Per his wishes, the goal was to keep everything small. A single graveside service. By invitation only. And, family wise, the list was even smaller. But, somehow, these two found out.
The day before the service, they both called me at separate times. Both sobbed uncontrollably. They didn't know my father was even sick.
"Well, he was the past two years. The other eighteen years you didn't bother to call him, he was fine."
I couldn't think quick enough when they asked what time the service was. I turned into Ralph Kramden trying to explain to Alice why he was bowling until one in the morning. Somehow, I ended both conversations by extending an invitation to them.
Both showed up like professional mourners. The right inflections of sympathy, sadness, and tears. I showed some class. I invited them along to the luncheon we were hosting at a nearby restaurant. My steely resolve was melting onto all the bronze plaques that adorn the graves at Ferncliff Cemetery.
At the lunch, the aforementioned girl cousin couldn't be nicer to me. She insisted on sitting next to me. A model relative.
She ordered her entree and then promptly excused herself for an eye doctor appointment.
In a flash, I was five all over again and she was laughing her ass off at the petticoat she had just slipped around my waist. Fooled once and now fooled twice. But a third time?
I haven't seen either one of them since.
And I have survived.
Dinner last night: Hollywood Bowl hot dog.
This is one of the last remaining drive-in theaters in Southern California. I actually went to it a few summers back and it reminded me so much of the days when I hopped into my pajamas and the back seat of my dad's Buick. Got to watch the first picture and had to hit the hay as soon as the hot dog stopped jumping into the bun.
While there may not be a similar experience in your world this weekend, it still might be a great time to see a movie. Or maybe not. Let my conscience be your guide. I'll give you the scoop. Thumbing through the movie pages of the Los Angeles Times, I'll give you my knee jerk reaction to what's polluting the screens these days. Just remember to unplug the speaker before you drive off.
Inglourious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt. The world's most overrated director and the world's most overrated actor. The trailer looks like a high school production of Stalag 17. Tarantino is the type of guy who would laugh after putting a lit firecracker up a dog's ass. And Brad Pitt doing a German actress sounds like Marlene Dietrich after inhaling helium. I hope this movie dies quickly. By the way, everybody should know this is a remake of a movie nobody saw years ago. Did anybody run the title through Spellcheck? Regardless, I will avoid this movie like a Clorox enema.
The Time Traveler's Wife: It's tough to maintain a healthy marriage when your husband might be cheating on you a whole century earlier. It looks so dreary that I might send a mass card to anybody who sees it.
Ponyo: Disney tries Chinese animation. Say hello to Mickey's dog, Pruto.
Gotta Dance: I saw the trailer of this documentary and I'm intrigued. I had no idea that the New Jersey Nets had a hip hop dance group of senior citizens. With particular emphasis on the "hip."
Shorts: A magical rainbow-colored rock grants a boy's every wish. Skip the money and try the LSD.
District 9: Aliens roam the country. Some of them illegal. Is this a drama or the nightly news?
Julie and Julia: On my list. Now we get to find out what Julia Child was drinking all those years. My mother used to tune in just to see how drunk she seemed each week. Of course, Mom paid no attention to any of the cooking tips that were shared. Unless, of course, it was "roll back the tin foil and place in a pre-heated oven set for 350 degrees."
GI Joe, The Rise of Cobra: Stark confession. I had a GI Joe once. I don't care what anybody says. It was not an action figure. The damn thing did nothing. Meanwhile, you dressed it up in little costumes. It was a doll. A freakin' doll. Barbie's Ken with a NRA membership card. I am ashamed that I played with one. So, I guess that means I won't see the movie.
Funny People: Judd Apotow directs, while Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan are in it. So I suppose that means the title is ironic. I have been told that this movie is about five hours long and is dreadful. And that's from folks who are fans of these three numbskulls.
Earth Days: How ecology started in this country. Intertwining the birth of Al Gore and the invention of the garbage bag. Which really is the same thing.
The Hurt Locker: A terrific film about three guys who defuse bombs in Iraq. Maybe they can move their operation stateside and start work on films like "Funny People."
Whatever Works: Woody Allen directs Larry David in a comedy. As ominous a thought as that sounds, the movie is decent. One of the Woodman's more clever comedies in the past five years.
The Ugly Truth: Katherine Heigl is well known in Hollywood as being the biggest bitch on two legs. That is the real ugly truth.
Bandslam: I've heard good things about this realistic snapshot of a high school musical. In this one, the kids are actually musicians. Perish the thought.
X-Games 3D: Crappy television easily transistioning to crappy cinema. Except you get to wear glasses that give you a headache. My One and Only: Renee Zellweger in what is described as a madcap family comedy. I'm always confused by the extreme polarizing effect she has on movie audiences. Some people love, love, love her. Others hate, hate, hate her. She's nothing more than a walking, talking Universal Health Care proposal. Casi Divas: The Real Housewives of Mexico City. How to look elegant while living in a mudhut. The Goods: Ads tell me this is "from the guys behind Talladega Nights and Step Brothers." Thank you for the warning. I'll stay home. G-Force: Disney's computerized rodents. Virtual vermin. A movie whose audience is restricted solely to 5 year-old children and/or slumlords. Post Grad: It's Alexis Bledel's latest comedy! Again, I thank you for the warning. (500) Days of Summer: I told you weeks ago that this was the best film of the summer. Which, by the way, is only 123 days long. Highly recommended by moi and you know that doesn't happen often. Adam: Some guy with mental problems gets a girlfriend. So, what's wrong with me???? House of Numbers: A documentary that debunks the myths of HIV/AIDS. So, can I assume that the liberals will now stop telling us that this disease was brought in the United States by Barbara Bush? Cold Souls: It's Paul Giamatti's latest comedy! Now, if we can only get him to team up with Alexis Bledel and/or the guys behind Talladega Nights and Step Brothers. Beeswax: A movie all about teen angst. Which essentially turns into adult angst. I speak from experience. Paper Heart: A pseudo-documentary about teen angst. Which essentially turns into pseudo-adult angst. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Still hanging around and it's now official. I have successfully missed another installment in this series. Does it end eventually? Or will we seeing "Harry Potter and the Blue-Haired Canasta Princess of the Nursing Home Down the Lane?"
My One and Only: Renee Zellweger in what is described as a madcap family comedy. I'm always confused by the extreme polarizing effect she has on movie audiences. Some people love, love, love her. Others hate, hate, hate her. She's nothing more than a walking, talking Universal Health Care proposal.
Casi Divas: The Real Housewives of Mexico City. How to look elegant while living in a mudhut.
The Goods: Ads tell me this is "from the guys behind Talladega Nights and Step Brothers." Thank you for the warning. I'll stay home.
G-Force: Disney's computerized rodents. Virtual vermin. A movie whose audience is restricted solely to 5 year-old children and/or slumlords.
Post Grad: It's Alexis Bledel's latest comedy! Again, I thank you for the warning.
(500) Days of Summer: I told you weeks ago that this was the best film of the summer. Which, by the way, is only 123 days long. Highly recommended by moi and you know that doesn't happen often.
Adam: Some guy with mental problems gets a girlfriend. So, what's wrong with me????
House of Numbers: A documentary that debunks the myths of HIV/AIDS. So, can I assume that the liberals will now stop telling us that this disease was brought in the United States by Barbara Bush?
Cold Souls: It's Paul Giamatti's latest comedy! Now, if we can only get him to team up with Alexis Bledel and/or the guys behind Talladega Nights and Step Brothers.
Beeswax: A movie all about teen angst. Which essentially turns into adult angst. I speak from experience.
Paper Heart: A pseudo-documentary about teen angst. Which essentially turns into pseudo-adult angst.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Still hanging around and it's now official. I have successfully missed another installment in this series. Does it end eventually? Or will we seeing "Harry Potter and the Blue-Haired Canasta Princess of the Nursing Home Down the Lane?"
Dinner last night: Hawaiian turkey burger at Islands.
And if not God, surely it will be the federal government. Especially with the new leader that was most recently found in the manger.
Maybe you've heard of this little dilemma. If you haven't yet, you will soon. Because the light bulb in the above picture is now the official light bulb of the United States. Yep, this is what we need to be using and the notion is being crammed down our throats. I already had several left at the door of my apartment and they have been neatly tucked away into a closet where I won't find them. Because when I'm reading a book or magazine in the privacy of my own living room or bedroom, I want to be able to read the freakin' print. Unless, of course, there's another hidden agenda down the road from Uncle Sam. Federally approved and recommended eyewear??
We can blame this all on Al Gore who has singlehandedly turned ecology and the environment into a cottage industry. Forget the fact that this bloated moron has made hundreds of millions of dollars for essentially nothing more than a Powerpoint presentation. Forget the fact that most of the "scientific" facts he presented have already been debunked by scientists. Also please neglect the knowledge that Gore's Tennessee mansion is the single biggest user of energy in the entire state. As a matter of fact, after officials went to his house to demonstrate some ways to conserve energy, the next month's usage actually went up 15%. Forget all that. Al Gore has set our agenda for the betterment of the planet Earth. We bow to him and his six chins.
This light bulb is supposed to be the standard for all of America. The purchase and use of more traditional light bulbs will be discouraged. And, at what point does the government dictate when we can turn them on and for how long?
This is how dictatorships start and now I'm wondering if Hitler was also planning on mandated filaments. I know people who are so incensed by this that they are actually hoarding regular light bulbs before they go off the market. Why? Because not only are the new bulbs supposedly kinder to our carbon footprints, they are also freakin' dangerous. Loaded with mercury which needs a disposal process just several watts short of a HAZMAT unit. If they somehow break in front of you, there will be a toxic emission that could turn you into a permanent night light. What happens during a major LA earthquake and bulbs drop like flies? The entire Southern California landscape will be so full of mercury poisoning that we'll all look like Jeremy Piven after eating too much sushi.
I am officially rebelling at all this nonsense. My new car lease was another SUV. Regrettably, a Hybrid, but that was all they had. I'll still be proud to gas up. I'm also amping up the AC this summer. And I will run my shower as long as I want. And I will do it all in bright lights of 150 watts or more.
My monthly electric bill will still be lower than Al Gore's.
Dinner last night: Sausage and pepper pizza at the Dodger game.
"I never miss a Wednesday edition of Len Speaks."
---I love the ears on this guy. He almost reminds me of...
---Oh, never mind.
---I doubt that the Lincoln bedroom has an alarm clock with a pussycat on it.
---Meanwhile, President Urkel's health care plan is so sick that it doesn't even qualify for medical assistance.
---Probably because of a lot of pre-existing conditions.
---I am not in favor of Universal health care. Or Twentieth Century Fox health care. Or Paramount health care.
---So I guess that makes me a Nazi.
---Out in California, we vote on all those propositions. So, why doesn't the Federal Government do the same thing? Let us vote on major bills like this?
---Because that would mean the general public might actually read up on it. And know all the details, both good and bad.
---Which would put them about ten steps ahead of any senator or House representative.
---And, apparently, if you don't like the President of our country, liberals think you immediately want him assassinated.
---Excuse me. Even though I don't like Urkel, I want him to live a long, full life.
----As a Cub Scout troop leader on the south side of Chicago. May there be many White Sox games in his future.
---Starting with the 2013 baseball season.
---Speaking of morons, let's talk about the fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Obviously, some weird ass folks who have been in the Southwestern sun way too long.
---Exactly one batter after Dodger pitcher Hiroki Kuroda gets smacked in the head with a line drive and is carted off to the hospital on a stretcher, the dumbbells in the stands start their tired old chant.
---"Beat LA, beat LA!"
---Did they not give a shit about somebody's potential brain swelling?? Hello???
---Meanwhile, earlier that same day, the Mets' David Wright gets beaned in the head and winds up with a concussion.
---Let's hope that David gets a better doctor than Ryan Church got last year when he busted his noggin. Church is still answering a telephone that is not ringing.
---Looking at how the Mets medical staff has mismanaged that team's health, I can only assume the doctors on duty were Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, and Dr. Howard.
---Bad news for the waiting rooms of most dentists: Reader's Digest is going through cutbacks.
---Their stories are already condensed. How much smaller can they get?
---It no longer pays to increase your word power.
---Millions of folks were salivating for last weekend's third season premiere of "Mad Men."
---I tried to watch again. It is like watching paint dry in high definition. And extremely overwritten. Sort of like what would happen if F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "Laverne and Shirley."
---I don't get the attraction of this show. It's nothing but a soap opera and not even done as well as the Lorimar ones of the 80s.
---The same people who watch 'Mad Men" used to scoff at the likes of "Dallas" and "Falcon Crest." But those shows were better.
---Let's face it. "Mad Men" is nothing more than "Knots Landing" using the wardrobe left over from "Bye Bye Birdie."
---I got a look at that old codger Robert Morse who's on "Mad Men." Man, oh, man. What a blimp.
---"How to Succeed in Eating Without Really Chewing."
---Hey, that Allstate Insurance spokesman, Ed Reimers, finally cashed in his policy.
---Now he's in the best hands of all.
Dinner last night: Grilled shrimp and bacon club sandwich at the Cheesecake Factory.
Those of you clowns who crave movie comedies might want to read this. Because the funniest movie playing in a cinema last weekend had absolutely nothing to do with Judd Apatow or Seth Rogan or Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell or even Steve Carrell.
Nope, the flick was over thirty years old and playing at Hollywood's famed Egyptian Theater as part of their "So Bad It's Good" film festival. And the film certainly met the criterion. It was bad. And it was so good. Hilarious indeed.
Ladies and germs, I give you "Mahogany." Starring that musical great Diana Ross. And that acting disaster Diana Ross.
This is a film that was produced and released in all seriousness by Paramount Pictures, which is still in business despite it all. Perhaps, coming off Miss Ross' Oscar-nominated performance as the drug-infused Billie Holiday in "Lady Sings the Blues," the studio thought that another Diana drama would be cinematic nirvana. In a perfect storm of misguided creative choices, they concocted "Mahogany" and the resulting laughter is all ours.
At the Egyptian, the screening last Saturday sucked in a bunch of folks (mostly gay men, natch) to revel in this swill. Not since pigs and mud have two things gone together so well. From the very first frame, the giddiness was electric. As soon as "Mahogany" started, you were treated to the first notes of the song that made the movie famous.
"Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you...do you know?"
I hope you like that ditty, because it plays constantly throughout the movie. Essentially, "Mahogany" is a two hour music video. Because when the bad dialogue and hideous acting needs a break, Diana sticks her head out of an Italian taxicab window, surveys the ruins, and sings...
"Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you...do you know?
I have a theory that, if this song was played on a loudspeaker all over America, membership to the National Rifle Association would soar. Every once in a while, the mind numbing lyrics stop to advance what little plot there is. Diana plays Tracy, some would-be Chicago dress designer, who's been dating a community organizer played by Billy Dee Williams. I couldn't miss how, in 1975, the filmmakers so successfully imagined Barack Obama and ACORN with the only difference being that Billy Dee's ears are smaller. Eventually, for reasons only known by the screenwriter, Tracy is discovered by this impotent fashion photographer, played by Anthony Perkins, who clearly has reached back into his Norman Bates bag of acting tics. It is Perkins who renames Tracy "Mahogany" partly because of her skin color but mostly because of Miss Ross' wooden acting talents.
Perkins whisks her away to Rome so that she can look at the Coliseum and the Trevi fountain and...
"Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Do you know...?"
Eventually, Mahogany becomes a well known fashion model and a complete bitch to boot. She barks at everybody and I start to wonder if some of the backstage footage of Miss Ross ripping her personal assistant a new one might have made it onto the reels. Along the way, she has sex with Billy Dee, tries to have sex with Perkins, and avoids having sex with well known French actor Jean Pierre Aumont, who clearly got fucked anyway by accepting the role in this sewer back-up.
Diana Ross allegedly designed the same clothes that her character Tracy/Mahogany designs and all two or three of them should be ashamed. Every day must be Halloween at the Ross household. She sports one hairdo that is basically a funnel cake covered with rainbow sprinkles. High fashions and very low results. I began to think that the luckiest people in the world were former Supremes Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, who got ditched by this screwball years before.
At key points in the story, Diana is forced to act and this is not pretty. She grits her teeth like a horse, pulls her hair out, and flails her nostrils. This is an acting choice that I don't believe gets the complete endorsement of Uta Hagen or the Actor's Studio. When Miss Ross does all those things at once, she suddenly becomes another character in another movie. Sort of like "Buckwheat Goes to Rome."
After one of these amazing acting stretches that just might have caused a hiatal hernia, Tracy/Mahogany/Diana thinks about what just happened and, of course, the music swells one more time.
"Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Do you know...?"
Finally, even Diana gets tired of thinking and/or singing. She heads home to Billy Dee and a life as Michelle Obama. Journey complete, we get to see closing credits and all the names on the production side so that we can specify which folks that should be served with a class action suit. But, whereas this was an unlaughable disaster thirty four years ago, "Mahogany" works quite well with a movie audience in 2009. Starved for any way to laugh in these troubled times, the movie's sheer horror is nothing but our giggly diversion. Because Hollywood today, in making its weekly bad films, can't even get ineptitude right. When I see some shit made by Adam Sandler or Sandra Bullock, I feel like I have wasted money and time.
With "Mahogany" last weekend, every minute and dollar was well spent. I have not laughed that hard in years. And, from the looks of the folks around me, I was not alone. And I had no idea that was how delicious my Saturday night was going to be. Because, after all...
"Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things the life is showing you? Do you know...?"
Dinner last night: Bacon wrapped filet with spinach and mushrooms.
New Yorkers will remember this chatterbox well. I grew up on his constantly cracking voice, spinning the hits on 77WABC. When they shitcanned the music on that radio station, Cousin Bruce Morrow went off to the oldies-laden WCBS-FM, where his Saturday night dance party thrived for decades. The problem always was that it's tough to dance when the DJ doesn't shut up and spin the platters.
I've rediscovered Cousin Brucie one more time now that I have Sirius Radio in the car. His Saturday night soiree is on the Sixties Channel and it is weird to drive around LA and listen to this quintessential New Yorker. Still, whenever I tune in, I am taken back to days of my youth.
And an infamous day in my young adulthood. When I got into an argument with Cousin Brucie.
It was early in my own radio career and back in New York. In those days, local radio stations actually had money to promote themselves. And, once a year, there was a big event where they each participated in a carnival at some hotel ballroom. They'd set up booths and you're join in on the spinning wheels, games of chance, dunk tanks, etc.. It was a lot of fun.
One year, Brucie was promoting this group of NY suburban stations that he owned. Naturally, it was ideal for him to set up a booth which he himself manned. With a simple enough game. On the wall was a big map of New York State with big red dots on those towns where Brucie owned a station. You had to take a dart and throw. If you landed on one of the red dots, Brucie would present you with a new Sony Walkman.
As I ambled by, Brucie beckoned me over like a gypsy in a rundown storefront.
"Come on, Cousin, let's see what you can do."
Given I'm not either Irish or English and given that I rarely frequent pubs in the countryside, I'm not a dart thrower. But, back then, a new Sony Walkman was a beautiful thing. I walked to the counter and grabbed a dart.
It landed not directly on the red dot, but the dart was certainly touching the little decal. Even the folks I was with acknowledged that I was a winner. Brucie, however, begged to differ.
"Sorry, Cousin, thanks for trying."
I suggested that I could do little to improve what I had achieved. A dart touching the red dot.
"Not close enough, Cousin. Maybe later."
I realized that Brucie had brought along ten Walkman devices for the day and was intending to go home with just as many. Cheap bastard. I asked him how much closer I needed to be to get that Walkman.
"Cousin, you've got to be better than that."
Huh? The dart was resting on the red dot in a better fit than that toupee had on his head. We went back and forth and it got a little louder. He kept calling me "Cousin." I had to wound him.
"Brucie, I've got six cousins and you're not one of them."
The man looked destroyed. He could not respond. I walked away, Walkman-less. With a smile on my face. I had finally achieved the impossible.
Cousin Brucie was speechless.
Dinner last night: Eggplant parmagiana at Miceli's.
Some textbook cases of horrible photographs.
Nobody likes to sit near Grandma after she's had one of her little "accidents."
Proof positive that size isn't everything.
Rhetorical question: what's worse, a firecracker on your foot or the cellulite on Mom's legs.
Little Bobby can sleep anywhere after 10 CCs of Demerol.Isn't it always like this? You're sitting for your school picture and, bang, you have a lifestyle change.
Dinner last night: Mushroom turkey burger at Islands.
Regular readers of this nonsense know that my meal the previous night is always mentioned at the end of every daily entry. Some of you even make comments from time to time.
"How often do you eat at the Cheesecake Factory."
"Crap, you really like sausage and peppers."
"What the fuck is cervelat?"
Well, hang on to those questions for now, folks. Because last night's repast gets a blog post all to its own.
Backtracking to earlier in the day, I had a very healthy Chinese chicken salad at lunch. So, dinner wasn't destined to be huge. I was on my own and noticed in the kitchen coupon basket a voucher that had gone unused. Earlier in the season, the Dodgers held a promotion for Jack In The Box. You got to the game, they win by three runs, and you get three free mini sirloin burgers. That's the franchise's new big seller. A couple of quick sirloin sliders. I took the coupon, figuring I would never use it.
Until last night, when I figured why not.
Why not? Hours later, I have over two dozen reasons.
Mind you, it is a rare day when I set foot in a fast food place. I don't remember the last time I went into a McDonald's. I think I had a Burger King Whopper Junior at some point in the past decade. But, I am definitely not a "drive-up, grab a tray, and clog your artery" kind of guy.
There's a Jack In The Box right down the road, so, at least, the ravaging of my heart would be convenient. As I walked into the place, I felt that I was in a foreign land. What is this strange phenomenon? A fast food restaurant? Hmmmm.
The first thing I saw was about a dozen obese slobs scattered around the joint. They were all eating French Fries in unison as if choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Behind the counter, there wasn't a single server with a high school diploma. One chick, whose hair net was falling off, was in charge of French Fry salting. She took the shaker and didn't stop for about fifteen seconds. Good evening, Lot's Wife. The other customers being rewarded with full trays of cholesterol picked up their meals one-by-one and waddled off to die. Everything was supersized, including the puddle of water seeping out from under the men's room door.
I handed in my coupon for the three mini sirloin burgers. The clerk took about ten minutes to attempt reading it. Did I want fries? No. Did I want onion rings? No. Did I want an apple pie? No. Did I want the name of a good cardiologist? Probably.
I felt totally out-of-place picking up my tray of so little food. In a little box, I found three burgers from Munchkinland. The meat on each was probably no bigger than the diameter of two quarters. But I must confess they were tasty. Indeed, they hit the spot.
For about ten minutes.
The pain started in the car when I was not two blocks away. Not the signal of a heart attack, because my cholesterol is okay and I have virtually no plaque anywhere except perhaps on my back molars. The distress was indescribable. Part indigestion, part acid reflux, and part anvil to the chest. By the time I got home, it was gone.
I thought about where I had gone and what I had done and who I had seen. And engraved all the images in my mind.
Because I will never ever go there and do that and see them again.
Dinner last night: See above, Stupid.
---Since when did the Hudson River in New York become the hot place to crash a plane?
---The best real estate value is any apartment that overlooks the Hudson. Great entertainment could be heading your way at any time. Grab a bucket of popcorn, head to the terrace, and wait for those midair mistakes.
---Meanwhile, helicopters should be used for traffic reports and transporting Michael Jackson's carcass all over Los Angeles, not for tourists who are not content to simply hop on the Circle Line.
---August is National "Make Out Your Will" Month. I looked on Hallmark.com and there is no card to commemorate the occasion.
---I hope you have your will made out and you have left me everything.
---Also, please make out your will if you're planning to tour Manhattan by whirlybird.
---I saw Jermaine Jackson catch a foul ball at Dodger Stadium and that was an amazing feat.
---After all, it's tough to focus on a line drive while you're grieving, sobbing, and trying to figure out how much money you're going to get from a malpractice suit.
---It's a good thing that Michael didn't wait till August to make out his will.
---Not that it would have made a big diff, since the family, one-by-one, is contesting it.
---Any truth to the rumor that Bubbles the Chimp is getting more than Latoya?
---And can you tell those two apart?
---Those of you who might have fathered one of those Jackson kids, please form a line on the right please.
---Cheez, it sounds like Debbie Rowe gets more traffic than the Garden State Parkway on Labor Day weekend.
---I can't stop looking at that photo of Clinton sitting alongsider that North Korean asshole. It looked like one of those family portraits where no one is speaking.
---On the other hand, I knew that Clinton was going to be successful in getting those journalists. After all, that's Bill's speciality. Flying someplace and picking up a couple of women.
---I realize now that there are a whole bunch of popular TV shows that I have never watched. I am out of touch.
---I have no idea who the Real Housewives are.
---I have no idea who Jon and Kate are.
---I have never seen a single frame of anything featuring Rachel Maddow.
---I have never seen a single frame of any numerical version of Big Brother.
---But as soon as they booked the 10th Anniversary edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, I was on board.
---What needs more black polish---my shoes or Regis Philbin's hair?
---The guy looks younger than he did the first time the show was on.
---Now that it's back on the air, I realize that their major source of questions is last week's People Magazine. As if that's now the benchmark of American intelligence.
---For instance, a question on the first episode was what movie President Urkel took his wife to on their first date.
---My question back is not a multiple choice.
---Who the fuck cares???
---By the way, the answer is Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing.
---Can they all finalize stop blaming the past administration for everything wrong in the country today? At some point, the buck stops.
---Bulletin: there's no longer a disgusting Bush in the White House.
---Unless, of course, you want to consider what's on the other side of the President's bed.
---Hey, we should be happy that there's finally a President who probably has a healthy sex life.
---With his own wife, that is.
---So Eunice Shriver died. Is Teddy going to be the big winner on Survivor - Hyannis Port?
---Meanwhile, Sargent Shriver, the hubby, is still kicking. One of those people that I thought was dead ten years ago.
---San Francisco Giant fans went out of their minds, booing Manny Ramirez the past two nights.
---Which means that each one of them suffers from long term memory lapses.
Dinner last night: A big buffet dinner at Simon LA.
I'm now taking the time to smell the roses. Remembering the simpler things in life. Realizing that I haven't taken the time to appreciate those small moments that I usually ignore. You don't know how important they are till they are gone.
Have I got your attention now? Are you surmising that I got some nasty results from my recent blood test?
My toilet is broken.
I came home Sunday night and walked into my bathroom. I immediately felt the super sogginess underneath my sneakers. Had Hurricane Katrina suddenly returned and zeroed in on Beverly Glen Boulevard in Century City. The damn thing hadn't been used all day. How does water come out of a toilet when it hasn't been touched in hours.
I picked up all the throw rugs which were now soaked more than Teddy Kennedy on St. Patrick's Day. It looked like there was a leak from the point where the bowl itself rested on the floor. The caulking and sealant appeared to be corroded. I put towels around and hope for an overnight miracle.
On Monday morning, it was still bone dry. I was a genius and wondered out loud whether it had been that hard to clean up New Orleans. After all, it was just water.
Coming home at the end of Monday, it was another wet story. Five Great Lakes had formed around the toilet bowl once again. No one had used it the entire day. Gremlins at work. Or perhaps a home intruder with a bad case of diarrhea.
Now, in my rented condo, the process of getting repairs done is as intricate as the Paris Peace Talks designed to end the Vietnam War. The owner of my unit has a friend who is a handyman and uses him exclusively. But, I cannot call the infamous Tom the Handyman (previously discussed in this blog) directly. First, I have to clear it through the owner. A simple procedure that requires multiple steps. It's sort of like having to call the Mayor for clearance when you want to open that strawberry yogurt in your refrigerator.
Complicating matters is the piping in our building, which was constructed in 1981 with plumbing from 1881. There are frequently notes in the elevator about the building water being turned off so individual units can solve their most recent plumbing issues. It's like the condo board has Shemp Howard on retainer. Our biggest issue happened a few years ago when raw sewage popped up like Old Faithful through our kitchen sink. Apparently, our unit's piping was directly tied to the street and somebody had tried to flush a diaper which created our blockage. Way too much information, I agree. Suffice to say, the water works on our block should not be your next purchase on Monopoly.
Back to Monday. As I sopped up the most recent delta that had formed in my bathroom, I noticed a steady mist coming from the pipe connecting the toilet bowl to the wall. A ha. Problem isolated and solved.
Except it wasn't so isolated and solved. When we headed out for a bite to eat, I noticed a puddle forming in the garage. Right underneath our unit. I counted the minutes until we got the dreaded call.
From the Condo Nazi.
"You've got a leak someplace."
Long story short, I connected all the appropriate telephone dots and got Tom the Handyman out of his sick bed to make a 9PM call. He quickly surveyed all the things that needed something old, something new, something borrowed, and something Vanish Blue.
The only rub was that he would not be able to collect it all for about a week. Is that a problem for me?
We have two bathrooms in our two master suites. But, my roommate and I have varying schedules and can go several days without bumping into one another. Sharing the one bathroom is not an option.
Not an issue per Tom the Handyman. He counseled me on how to turn off and on the water fill valve for the toilet. Essentially, I'm allowed two flushes a day.
I now live for this. The swirling water. That final loud gurgle. The refreshing return of clear and clean liquid. Twice a day.
I'm on a schedule now and it's working, as long as I don't get food poisoning at any point in the next five days. Oddly, I'm now a conservationist and conscious of water intake. Because I have to economize for those two flushes a day.
I wonder how this worked years ago. When people had to go into a shed. Or dig a hole in the ground. I'm suddenly thankful that I don't have a backyard. And I remember the words of a good friend who used to have a summer cabin in New Mexico and had to follow similar rules because of a limited sewer system.
If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down.
Dinner last night: Bratwurst and sweet potato fries at the Angel game.
It was annual clockwork. My dad would take his two weeks of vacation every year at the same time. The last week of July and the first week of August. Smack in the middle of the summer. And, very early on in my kid years, this would be the time we would pack ourselves into a car and travel someplace. Loaded down with juice and lots of plums and peaches for the road. And usually Colorforms to keep me occupied. I couldn't bring comic books along to read in the car. I did that once. The decoration I upchucked onto the side of Dad's green Buick wasn't exactly Jackson Pollock.
We only went as far as a one-day drive could take us. Perhaps a long one-day drive, but one day nevertheless. So, essentially, our radius was about 300 to 400 miles. No more. No less. As a matter of fact, I never flew on an airplane until I got to college. I think about this everytime I see some five-year-old throwing Cheerios around on one of my crosscountry flights.
Ideally, my folks and I would travel with another family. Another mom and dad to give my parents somebody to yak with and perhaps another kid or two that I could hang with. There were a few times where we went solo and those trips tended to drag. After 50 weeks together as a family unit, we needed a break from each other as well. Invariably, though, there would be some point in the vacation with another family that something would happen. A sour word exchanged. A nasty look shared. And then the edict would come from Mom.
"Stay away from THEM."
I remember a bunch of these destinations. Lake George, New York, was popular. They had a couple of Disney-like theme parks. Storyland where you walked around some nursery rhyme settings and then fed the wandering animals, as in the photo above. There was another gimmick called the North Pole and it was always odd to visit there in the sweltering July humidity. You got to meet elves and the complete Santa Claus clan. I was always curious why Mrs. Claus never had any kids. My mom would tell me that all the little workers were all the children they needed. I guess I was too young for the real explanation, which was readily apparent when you toured their house. Santa and the missus were sleeping in separate rooms.
The longest trip we ever made was to Niagara Falls, New York. All day in the car. Extra peaches and plums. Sheer boredom. But the view of the falls was worth it, especially when a wave knocked me clear across the Maid of the Mist. In those days, my father was an amateur photographer and loved taking slides with his Argus Technicolor camera. I remember when these particular slides came back from the developer. Somehow, two got superimposed over each other and the Maid of the Mist was poised right on top of the Horseshoe Falls. Was the Fotomat guy fooling around or was it an accident? We'll never know.
I'll always remember Niagara Falls for the huge case of food poisoning I must have got. All I can recall is lying on a hotel bed with alcohol soaked washcloths all over me. There was a visit from a doctor. I think I was there for about two days. At one point, I was visited by Vivian Vance in a nurse's outfit. Sheer delirium without a drop of liquor.
One summer after I had become a baseball fan, our familial trip trooped up to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. A great, great excursion for me. But, the little hamlet in upstate New York features few hotels and even fewer with air conditioning. One of my mom's pre-requisites for summer fun was the ability to go someplace and sleep in an air conditioned room. Without the cooling at night, my mom was even less impressed with Mickey Mantle's uniform pants displayed during the day.
Atlantic City, in its pre-casino days, was another popular destination over a few summers. The Boardwalk. The Million Dollar Pier. Salt water taffy. The Steel Pier where the Diving Horse worked and where I shook hands with Paul Anka after a performance. I was probably seven years old and already taller than he was. Another year, we saw the Lennon Sisters. Anything connected to the Lawrence Welk Show bored me shitless. I fell sound asleep in the aisle of the theater.
No trip to Atlantic City was complete without a visit to Zaberer's Restaurant. This place was such a big deal that you kept seeing the signs all along the road to Atlantic City.
"Ten miles to Zaberer's."
"Five miles to Zaberer's."
"Zaberer's right around the bend!"
This was a total dress-up eating event and probably the biggest meal we had all year. You made reservations several days in advance and still waited an hour in the lounge for your table and the ultimate heart-stopping slab of prime rib. The big draw in the waiting room was a color TV, back in the days when nobody had one that worked correctly. At Zaberer's, Mitch Miller's beard was not purple.
On one Atlantic City trip, there was such a rift with THEM that my folks and I hightailed it out of there. Up the road to Asbury Park. Where there was nothing to do. And we stared at each other for what seemed to be an eternity. I ran to a bench and buried myself in the library books I had packed for the trip.
It was the last time we ever traveled anywhere as a family.
Dinner last night: Sausage pizza at CPK.
More photos designed to make you laugh and cringe simultaneously.
Talk about the little voice that lives inside your head...
These two are definitely old school. From the days when "timeouts" were known as "punishment."
For those who find that latent stupidity is an upgrade.
Becky would like to introduce you to her prom date. Josh and Sally.
Little Jimmy is in no mood for clowning around when it comes time for vacation photos.
Dinner last night: Ravioli and sausage.
I noted all the frenzy around the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. It took America about eight or nine years to achieve this goal.
It almost took me as long to get a goddamn satellite hook-up in my car.
I've lamented here before about the woes surrounding my latest car lease. I wound up with a new Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which was not my first choice for a vehicle. The whole process was fraught with more problems than Doans has back pills. But, one of the saving graces of my latest transport vehicle was going to be the inclusion of satellite radio for the first time. A little sweet amid a whole lot of sour.
Or so I thought. Keep in mind that, while my car lease began on May 12, I still didn't have the satellite installed by the Fourth of July.
My first red flag should have been the fact that Longo Toyota in El Monte didn't have the right equipment to activate my satellite radio on the day I got the car. Nope, there were the ubiquitous "parts that needed to be ordered." The technological equivalent of "the check is in the mail." I was summoned back at the end of the week.
I dropped the car off at the service bay and settled into my Starbucks in the Longo Toyota lounge. An hour later, I was paged. Rather ominously, I might add.
It seems that, once they got into my car, they discovered that the Highlander radio is not compatible for a satellite hook-up. For Pete's sake, the damn thing is equipped with the most complex of hybrid engines. Yet, they can't figure out how to expand me past a future of crappy AM/FM radio.
Since my sales rep had told me the car was satellite-friendly, I naturally sought him out. But, he had been told this by some schmuck in the service department. He was called. Within five minutes, there were more people conversing on this issue than there were in the planning of the Normandy Beach invasion. They kept me out of earshot and were very careful to not let me hear their discussion. Yet, their sheepish looks revealed a lot.
They had fucked up and knew it.
Essentially, I probably had a case for ditching the lease right then and there. It was positioned to me as satellite-ready and clearly was not. But, I had already transferred about 25 dollars worth of parking meter change into the car and I was not looking to switch out the vehicle all over again. But, via several stern looks worthy of your meanest third grade teacher, I let them know that I was pissed. And then their faces got even more sheepish. And downright ashen as they resumed their confidential huddle.
Ultimately, they pledged to make this all work for me. They would install a top-of-the-line mobile device free of charge. They would do this for me at my own home. And they would comp me for several months of Sirius Radio.
Okay, if you insist...
"We have to order it and this might take a few days."
A few days and nights and weeks later, the equipment had yet to arrive. Meanwhile, I'm receiving multiple automated calls from the dealer asking me to take a survey on how great my experience was at Longo Toyota. I told them that I would let them know how great it was when it was finally over.
Weeks later, I was called and told that the device had finally arrived for wherever it had been ordered, either Torrance or Tokyo or Uranus. We made a date for the home installation.
The tech guy showed up on the right day and the right time. With the wrong part. I wonder to myself how I've been even managing to get from one point to another with this car. Now I was to the point where I didn't even give a shit about the satellite radio. But, I was already knee deep and, like an Amtrak train wreck, I wanted to see just how many railcars were involved in the derailment. And the very apologetic tech guy had a great idea.
Write to the president of Longo Toyota.
I explained that my horrific leasing tale had already been shared with little acknowledgement. But, I had not e-mailed the biggest kahuna on Toyota Beach. The tech guy gave me the CEO's direct line and personal e-mail address. Within 45 minutes, he had my well-crafted note.
Within 90 minutes, my note had spread around Longo Toyota like swine flu. I had written the mover and shaker who was now indeed making things move and shake. By the end of the day, I had a commitment that all the correct parts and gismos needed would be secured and that my car would be satellite capable by the end of the following day.
And it was. Exactly 57 days after this all started, I was finally a Sirius Radio subscriber.
Oh, there are still issues. It was tough getting a signal at first. And it took me about a week to figure out how to program the mobile device. I ultimately weeded 200 channels down into 30, as I decided that 24 hour traffic and weather reports from Seoul, Korea, were useless to me. And I also discerned how to use the mobile connection in my house as it can work off the wi-fi on my computer.
The programming is neat. Ironically, I have not listened much to Sirius' biggest draw, Howard Stern. But, I love to regularly drift between music of various decades, including the Sixties which still uses the 150-year-old voice of Cousin Brucie Morrow. The Broadway channel is wonderful, even though they find the gayest hosts in the world. And there's something oddly decadent listening to New York City weather and traffic when I'm stuck on the 10 Freeway on my way to Dodger Stadium.
Amid all this, my love for Sirius is pretty much concentrated on one channel. The portal devoted to old time radio, especially the Jack Benny Program. The most hilarious scripts ever written.
From an era when funny was funny. When all you got was AM radio. And car dealers probably had all the necessary parts already in their stock rooms.
Dinner last night: Antipasto salad.
Just follow the crumbs of nastiness and I'm right there.
---I loved all those photos of the big beer summit. Especially with that moron Biden chowing down on the peanuts.
---He and President Urkel looked like Squiggy and Lenny on a lunch break down at the Shotz Brewery.
---Meanwhile, Officer Crowley and that bastard Henry Louis Gates looked like deer in headlights. They pledged to stay in touch and go to games together.
---Yeah, right. Like these two will really become friends. What the hell does this cop have in common with that over-educated racist blowhard?
---I would have loved for that shithead to start shooting off his mouth right there in the White House garden and get cuffed in front of the POTUS and the VPOTUS.
---Now there's a guy who could stand to spend a few nights in the pokey. With Big Ernie and his magic broomstick.
---And why do I have this bizarre feeling that this was not Gates' first arrest?
---Meanwhile, the votes are in. We finally have a Vice President who is dumber than Dan Quayle.
---Biden said that the way we avoid bankruptcy is to spend money.
---That's logic straight from the days when Lucy Ricardo was trying to manage her household allowance and still buy that snazzy new hat.
---And Obama is now achieving the impossible. He's making George W. Bush look competent.
---Still fighting over the health care bill, Obama was taped several times in the past saying that he wants to put private health insurance companies out of business.
---Now he says that he never said such a thing.
---Yeah, but you're on tape, Urkel. And you all know what happens to Presidents who are caught saying stuff on tape.
---By the way, in the Obama care bill, senior citizens will simply be told to take a pain pill if they have a terminal illness.
---So, does that include Teddy Kennedy?
---Gee, the doctors who operated on his head must have felt like they were hallowing out the pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern.
---I still contend that the dumbest state in the union is Massachusetts, who have kept re-electing this drunken lardass for the past 40 or so years.
---They sent Bill Clinton to North Korea in efforts to get those two American journalists released. And you knew he would be successful.
---After all, the reporters are both female and Asian, as if the ex-President needed any more motivation.
---I'm sure Bill worked hard to ensure that he got a "happy ending."
---Because the reporters worked for him, that gasbag Al Gore went along for the ride. Just to make sure North Korea was using the appropriate trash liners.
---Paula Abdul has quit "American Idol" and will be returning to the third grade.
---Which means we actually might hear a coherent sentence on that show next season.
---Ryan O'Neal allegedly hit on his own "daughter" at Farrah's funeral. For Pete's sake, was he also tweeting from the cemetary as they planted her?
---Just what kind of line do you use when you're trying to pick up your own daughter? And I don't mean at school.
---Only in Hollywood can you get yourself a date while at a mortuary. I've now waiting for somebody to die in Valerie Bertinelli's family.
---I read this on Ken Levine's blog. Morgan Freeman has been having an affair with his step granddaughter.
---For the past ten years!
---Not only did it break up his marriage but it also ended the longterm affair he was having with his mistress.
---Who knew that liver spots were such a turn on for women? And how did he find the time for all this, given he makes at least two crappy movies every week?
---Talk about clicking off items on your bucket list.
And I can now check off one more Wednesday for this blog.
Dinner last night: Dodger Stadium sausage pizza.
In the immortal style of the old baseball tidbits in the New York Daily News, there's some of my mental sprinkles swept up during some games I have watched over the past few weeks.
...You've heard of Bat Day and Cap Night and Oldtimers Day. As the photo above illustrates, welcome to Yoga Day. Yep, that's Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier leading a bunch of fans in some mind-altering stretches. Trying to bring the peace and serenity into your ballpark experience. As for me, I want to yell and scream and tell that first base umpire to get his head out of his ass. Namaste.
...Well, the baseball trading deadline has come and gone with coverage that rivaled 9/11 after the second plane hit. What team was a winner? What team was a loser? Is anybody dumb enough to listen to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal? It is insane. All the focus on the "one player" that can guarantee a World Series. Here's the reminder for all. Baseball is a team sport. No one player guarantees anything.
...The Dodgers, despite having the best record in baseball thus far this season, are viewed as a flawed post season team. They don't have that one dominant pitching ace teams fear with shock and awe. That might be the case, but, once again, here's the reminder for all. Every baseball team has a pitching STAFF. No one pitcher guarantees anything.
...At the same time, I still wish the Dodgers had Roy Halladay.
...But they do have Clayton Kershaw, who has grown up overnight, and Chad Billingsley. The latter has just gone through a rough month, and Dodger fans are lighting brooms and ready to put his head on a stick. Hello? The ERA is still under 4.00. Everybody has a bad month now and then. The biggest problem the kid has is that he might think too much on the mound. On the flip side, he didn't think enough during the offseason when he broke his leg after walking in the Pennsylvania snow and ice wearing flip flops.
...Vin Scully has announced his retirement from the broadcast booth after the 2010 season, so next year will be a virtual farewell victory tour for him. It will be sad days indeed.
...And even sadder for the poor schmuck who will be asked to replace him. I can tell you that it's not their current road TV announcer, Eric Collins. He's been hit in the head incredibly hard with the "Complete Book of Cliches." Every batter is "grabbing a bat" and "heading to the dish." Every pitcher is on "the bump." Every viewer wants to grab a knife.
...It could be a lot worse. We could be getting ESPN's announcers on a steady diet. Jon Miller, whose stomach is only third in size to his head and his ego, is unlistenable. Joe Morgan spends fifteen minutes trying to rationalize why the bases are white. And now, they have former Met GM mess Steve Phillips who could make things a whole lot more interesting if he gave some commentary about fucking that secretary who used to work for him.
...Everytime you see a national telecast from St. Louis, the announcers beat you over the head over how great the Cardinal fans are. They are so smart, appreciate baseball, and never boo. Well, last week, they booed Manny Ramirez every time up. Okay, perhaps, they were reacting to the steroid allegations.
...Hmm, this super intelligent bunch of fans has a damn lousy memory. It was only 11 years ago when they were cheering their own lab rat, that big lummox Mark McGwire, who was drinking steroid smoothies. And, how about the double standard of the spaghetti bending Cardinal manager Tony LoRussa, who has tons of coverups on his own? As the drunken Mel Allen would say, 'Cardinal fans, how about that? Hiccup."
...Speaking more on ESPN, are there great hordes of people waiting with anticipation for every week's Sunday Night Baseball? I will give them a hint. No. Meanwhile, this week's primetime nonsense required two major league teams to fly overnight from the East Coast to the West Coast for a Monday night game. Let's shitcan the whole concept and put an apple in Jon Miller's mouth. There must be a Hawaiian barbecue in his future.
...I have experienced a paradigm switch in my baseball life. I no longer hate the Yankees. I do, however, now hate the Red Sox. Their bloated lineup and the incredibly unuctuous fans of Red Sox Abomination have gotten annoying to the Nth degree.
...Is it me or do all the broadcasts from the Mets' Citi Field sound like Marcel Marceau in concert? No noise whatsoever. Part of it might be the team. The other part might be that it's tough to cheer loudly when your mouth is full of pulled pork sandwiches, nachos, lobster, and all the other junk they're now selling at the new Flushing food court.
...Why don't they just open up a multiplex movie theater at Citi Field and call it a defunct franchise of a baseball team?
...So, a few more names have leaked out from that list of 103 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003. That was six years ago. At this rate, will the full roster be out before I die? Get it over with. Put it out there. And there is no name that would surprise me, except maybe Derek Jeter and Barack Obama. But, now that I think about it, he had an amazing rise to prominence in 2004. From virtual obscurity. Time to pee in a cup, Urkel.
...I can't believe that Braves fans are still doing that annoying chop-chop. In the past twenty years, you couldn't come up with anything new? And, speaking of which, manager Bobby Cox is now about 90 years old. A manager who does well in the regular season, but hasn't got a clue about the postseason. Time to put this jerk out to pasture. In the past twenty years, they couldn't come up with anybody new?
Dinner last night: Hawaiian Turkey Burger at Islands.
Here's Grandma and company seated at a family summer barbecue. I have other photos from the same event and we're all in shorts, t-shirts, etc.. Yet, these two are wearing their winter coats. Just in case the nighttime air chills and the temperature dips below 80.
The other lady in the photo is Tante (German for "aunt") Emma and my grandmother's sister-in-law. She was always around, especially when both were widows and craving somebody to talk German to. I'd listen in to their conversations and, despite the fact that I didn't understand a single word, I'd be laughing at the exchange.
Tante Emma and Grandma had a pretty set routine. On Sunday afternoon, after Grandma's dinner dishes had been cleared, the front door bell would ring. Our dog would bark. We would look at the clock. It was erxactly 1PM. This could only mean one thing.
Tante Emma had come to call. Back in the day this is what people did. They went to visit each other on Sunday afternoons. And the opening dialogue between the two would always be the same. Like Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" routine, the lines were repeated.
"How are you feeling?"
"With my fingers."
"What's new with you?"
"New York and New Jersey."
"You still kicking?"
"Yeah, bend over. I'll show you."
There were weeks where Tante Emma got the punchline and other weeks where Grandma got to button the joke. But, the lines never varied.
Tante Emma would come to us on the bus from her basement apartment on Burke Avenue in the Bronx. She and Grandma would yak it up in German for a couple of hours and then eat a supper of sandwiches and pickles. Then, my dad would drive Tante Emma home. I frequently came along for the ride and was forced to endure a rather loud conversation with her.
Yep, Tante Emma was hard of hearing.
"WHAT GRADE ARE YOU IN NOW, SWEETHEART?"
Fourth, I'd scream back. My father didn't flinch. It was okay to yell whenever Tante Emma was in the car.
Tante Emma never missed my birthday or Christmas. I'd get the card in the mail. There was always five dollars in the envelope. Never a dollar more. Never a cent less. And never adjusted for cost of living increases.
Of course, the regular gifts had a downside. My mother was very keen on courtesy.
"Call Tante Emma and thank her."
Groan. I knew the drill all too well.
"Thank you for the card and the money, Tante Emma."
"WHO IS THIS?????"
I would repeat the sentiment in a louder voice. My mother didn't flinch. It was okay to yell whenever you were on the telephone with Tante Emma.
"YOU'RE VERY WELCOME, SWEETHEART. BUY YOURSELF SOMETHING NICE."
Then there were the Sunday afternoons when Grandma would go to visit Tante Emma. And, for some inexplicable reason, I would go along. After five minutes, I'd need a break from all the gossiping in German. Tante Emma would bring me into her living room and get the TV warmed up.
"OKAY, YOU'RE ALL SET, SWEETHEART. YOU CAN WATCH MEET THE PRESS."
To this day, I have no idea why Tante Emma thought that I, at the age of ten, had any interest in watching political talk shows. But, I'd sit there and do so, because my mother had always told me never to change the TV channel in somebody else's house. One of those weird rules from my childhood. So, I'd sit there dumbfounded, listening to Senator Everett Dirksen talk about the Vietnam War.
Ultimately, Tante Emma skipped a few gears, as my father would say. She wound up in "one of those places." But, I think she buried most of the people from her generation and, despite not hearing a single word, lasted a long, long time.
And, in my own mind, I envision this dialogue of us telling her that my grandmother had passed on.
"Tante Emma, sorry to tell you that Tante Adele died."
"OH, REALLY? WHAT COLOR?"
Dinner last night: