Saturday, June 30, 2012

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - June 2012

What else on this pre-July 4th weekend?


Dinner last night:  French dip ham sandwich at Philippe's---the Friday night pre-Dodger game meal.

Friday, June 29, 2012

If I Tweeted - June 2012

I don't.  But, if I did, here's what was on my mind this past month.

#LenSpeaks  Yay for the Los Angeles Kings.  Stanley Cup Champions.  Kudos to the 400 or so people in Los Angeles who actually watch hockey.

#LenSpeaks  Police prepared for riots outside the Staples Center after their win.  Ummm.  Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.  The 400 or so hockey fans in Los Angeles are all White.

#LenSpeaks  All those guys kissing the Stanley Cup.  That can't be very sanitary.

#LenSpeaks  In his first start after the no-hitter, the Mets' Johan Santana was pummeled by the Yankees.  "No-Han" t-shirts immediately marked down in the Clubhouse store from $32 to $10.

#LenSpeaks  Maybe it's me but the Angels' young phenom Mike Trout comes off as a bit of a hot dog.  Somebody is going to ring him up and good.

#LenSpeaks  Went to Dodger Stadium on Father's Day and my dad was with me in spirit.  Asking the question...."what the hell are we doing in Los Angeles?"

#LenSpeaks  Obama went ahead and signed a law to legalize almost 1.4 million illegal aliens.  Actually the children of illegal aliens.

#LenSpeaks  I agree.  These kids can stay.  Their parents?  Kick them over the fence now!

#LenSpeaks  Meanwhile, what's with the President making up laws on his own???  That's not how our government is supposed to work.

#LenSpeaks  Maybe you think it's okay for this President to act like this.  But you won't like it when it happens again and again with some other guy.  That's why they call it "precedent setting."

#LenSpeaks  Just curious.  Is Las Vegas betting on the day that our democracy finally ends??

#LenSpeaks  You can't write this stuff.  My church has to kick out a AA group that's been renting our hall.  It seems that the neighbors have been complaining that there's too much drinking at their meetings.

#LenSpeaks  Wait till Jerry Sandusky sees what happens in a shower when the other guy is a little bit older.

#LenSpeaks  When they convicted Sandusky, CNN kept showing the same footage of him getting into the police car over and over and over.  What were they expecting to see?  Jack Ruby jumping out of the bushes with a gun?

#LenSpeaks  I'm looking at photos of that Supreme Court hag Ruth Bader Ginsburg and I'm wondering if there is a minimum weight requirement to be a Justice.

#LenSpeaks  Meanwhile, Elena Kagen is nothing more than Ginsburg with a stocked refrigerator. 

#LenSpeaks  So, the Supreme Court is made up of six men, two women, and Elena Kagen.

#LenSpeaks  Sarah Jessica Parker hosted a fundraising dinner party for Obama at her house.  As if "Sex and the City 2" wasn't enough of an injustice...

#LenSpeaks  Here's a great way to save the economy.  Fire the White House kitchen staff.  Seriously.  The Obamas never eat at home.

#LenSpeaks  Answer: "9-1-1."  Question: "Who got called when Alex Trebek had his heart attack?"

#LenSpeaks  I'm always amused by baseball fans wearing replica jerseys from the Yankees or Dodgers with the names "Mantle" or "Koufax" on the back.  Hello???  Neither one of them ever wore a uniform like that.

#LenSpeaks  Got off the plane at JFK to see a NYC taxicab engulfed in flames outside the terminal.  Umm, that will be no tip.

#LenSpeaks  You now can't racially profile in Arizona.  Cross another destination state off my list, please.

#LenSpeaks  I see where Glen Campbell kicked off this farewell tour at the Hollywood Bowl.  "By the time I get to.......er, where was I going again?"

#LenSpeaks  "I am the lineman for....for......for..."

#LenSpeaks   "Like a......umm, blank, blank...cowboy..."

#LenSpeaks   Well, the Supreme Court yokels affirmed Obamacare.  That's okay.  I said goodbye to my doctor earlier this year.  The earliest I can probably get an appointment now is 2017.

#LenSpeaks  I wonder what my father would say if I told him I was going to sponge off his health insurance until I was 26.

#LenSpeaks  He would have said.......CENSORED.

 Dinner last night:  Rotisserie chicken and broccoli pasta salad from California Chicken Cafe.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!!



I remember the day the movie "Newsies" came out.  Because Ann-Margret was in it, my writing partner and I ran over to the east side of Manhattan to see the 12 Noon show on opening day. 

We were the only ones there.

And, because the projectionist had yet to run his test on the actual film, we had to wait a half-hour before they let the only two patrons in.  This was all rather prophetic since the movie bombed at the box office.

Allegedly, it picked up some sort of a cult following when it was released on video.  Myself?  I had not been re-exposed to the story since that fateful Friday when the 12 Noon showing started at 12:30 PM at the Sutton Theater in New York.

So, now Disney looks to recoup, or maybe that's regroup, on "Newsies" one more time.  Anything that even remotely includes some sort of music is now a candidate for a Disney-ified Broadway musical.  Me?  I'm patiently waiting for "Flubber - The Musical."  If Spiderman can fly all over a Broadway theater, so should a vintage Model-T Ford.  In the meantime, we get "Newsies" on Broadway.  And the hype has been astounding.

Warranted?

Yes.

And no.

Yep, the headline on the Len Herald Tribune would read as follows:

"NEWSIES JUST OKAY."

I can tell you that my opinion of the show might be just a bit tarnished by the theater experience itself.  "Newsies" is playing in the Nederlander Theater which might have been built just as Nero stopped fiddling.  It's ironic that a Disney production is currently playing there.  The seating is best equipped to handle the Seven Dwarfs.  If you're over five-foot-six, this is not a place for you to enjoy any kind of show.

Of course, I'm even more conflicted with a still-recovering left knee that was forced to bend at all the places that I can't bend it at the moment.  As a result, the first act felt very, very, very long.  It was my personal Long Day's Journey into Night.  I wound up watching the second act from a standing room only spot in the back of the orchestra.  And, not surprisingly, I enjoyed the second act on stage better as well.  This perch also allowed me to watch the choral conductor and the kid running the sound board. 

Now, "Newsies" is one of those shows that has kicked into the new Broadway marketing ploy. 

"Let's get some screaming teenage girls here and give them a reason to go wild."

So, producers stack their show with good looking young men gyrating like crazy on stage and the teenage screaming mimis are sitting far enough to not be able to tell that 75% of them are gay.  But they don't care.  For them, it's like a studio audience taping of "Saved by the Bell."  The only thing the producers have missed out on is forgetting to stock Oxy-10 cream at the concession stands for some act break touch-ups.

Most of these kids have likely never seen a Broadway show before, so I guess it's a good thing for them to be exposed to something other than their iPhones.  They went absolutely ballistic with each and every dance number, which was really nothing more than standard choreography and the type of gymnastics you used to watch a Hungarian family of acrobats do on "The Ed Sullivan Show."  This stuff would pale in comparison to such dance-heavy shows like "West Side Story" and "A Chorus Line." 

But, for these little Gidgets, this was the best damn thing they ever saw.  They probably think this is the pinnacle of dance musicals.  The girls went nuts with one number where the newsies dance with newspapers underneath their feet.  Uh huh.   Damn clever.  And I thought so the first time I saw this bit done by Gene Kelly in the 1950 MGM musical "Summer Stock."

Oh, don't get me wrong.  "Newsies" is entertaining.  But no more so than the rerun of a particularly good episode of "The Jeffersons."  This is musical comedy theater straight from your local Chinese take-out place.  It tastes good going down, but, an hour later, you wish you had about four more fried pork dumplings.

I'd issue a spoiler alert here as I start to talk about the show itself, but you can easily figure out the major plot turns at dinner before the performance.  This is pretty much the movie synopsis with some energetic dancing thrown in to rattle a thirteen-year-old's hormones.  Eventually, show writer Harvey Feinstein needs to stop watching the chorus boys himself and pen some dialogue.  That's when the night really starts to drag and "Newsies" turns into "snoozies" and you just know that I've been waiting several paragraphs to use that line.

These kids are all newspaper sellers back at the turn of the century when New York City had about ten or twelve daily papers and people actually bought the damn things.  They're screwed over by publisher Joseph Pulitzer who is the enemy of the piece and no prize----another line I've been dying to use since I saw the show.  The newsies go on strike and it gets violent.  Reading the Playbill before the performance, I noted that one kid was named "Crutchie."  So, I immediately knew that he was handicapped, would fall victim to the skirmish, but make a miraculous comeback at the end.  Duh.  None of this was hard to figure out.  Meanwhile, the boys all method act with a lot of "dems" and "does" as if this was the senior class year-end extravaganza at the Huntz Hall School of Acting.

As the lead newsie Jack Kelly, Jeremy Jordan is serviceable and hunky, the latter being the only thing that mattered to the audience which may have been the recent sophomore class at Hohokus High.  Jordan does his solos as if he is a rock star with these little Justin Bieber-like twinges at the end of each song, which is about as Broadway as Branson, Missouri is.  The kiddies behind me went crazy.  I could feel legendary musical comedy star Larry Kert rolling over in his coffin.

There is, of course, some romance for Jack and it's delivered by Kara Lindsay, who is...serviceable.  You know there will be a big kiss and then the girls in the mezzanine will swoon just like the bobbysoxers did in the 40s whenever a Frank Sinatra record came on the radio.  Meanwhile, all of the ingenue's numbers sound like deleted songs from "Beauty and the Beast."  Given that Alan Menken did that music as well as the tunes for "Newsies," there may be more truth than humor in that last line.

In the lamented movie original, Ann-Margret played the saloon hall proprietor.  On Broadway, we get a complete switcheroo and the role is now filled by that heavyset, Black, and sassy character which must be included in every musical comedy produced after 1990.  This politically correct stipulation is ludicrous, given that it is completely implausible that a Black woman, regardless of size, would be a saloon hall owner back in the summer of 1899.

And, of course, given the Disney brand, we also get a wise-cracking seven-year-old moppet in the cast.  You know he's going to whip off smart one-liners with Gary Coleman-like precision.  And, frankly, while the villains were beating up the crippled kid, I was secretly hoping that one of them would take a stick to the little brat we had to endure the other night.  Where is Kevin "Moochie" Corcoran when you really need him?

Once again, since this is Disney, you will get a happy ending that could easily be part of the Main Street parade in Anaheim.  Teddy Roosevelt inexplicably roughrides in to help tie up the plot and I'm happy that the producers didn't overextend historical literary license and have a Barack Obama lookalike  swoop in and save the day for the youngsters.

There's a wild curtain call straight out of Riverdance and, just when you thought the calisthenics were done for the evening, there's more jumping and leaping by the boys on stage as the girls in the balcony vicariously plan their first sexual experiences with the cast member of their choice.  The subsequent standing ovation goes on endlessly but I had already been standing for the whole second act, so the process had become redundant for yours truly.

At the end of the night, I can say that "Newsies" is...wait for the word one last time...serviceable.  You certainly won't have a bad time, unless, of course, you had arthroscopic surgery on March 27 and need more than eleven inches leg room to sit down.  But, if you're a fan of true Broadway musical comedy, you won't have that good a time either.  You will be longing for some entertainment that can truly warrant that standing ovation at its conclusion.

Of course, my knee would likely still be bothering me then as well.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just some Japanese vegetables and noodles.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This Date in History - June 27

Happy birthday to Captain Kangaroo.  Well, it would have been if you hadn't died in 2004.

1358:  REPUBLIC OF DUBROVNIK IS FOUNDED.

I'm not seeing a lot of ads to vacation in Dubrovnik.  Obviously, their Chamber of Commerce is asleep at the switch.

1497:  CORNISH REBELS MICHAEL AN GOF AND THOMAS FLAMANK ARE EXECUTED.

And you thought the Cornish were only famous for their game hens??

1709:  PETER THE GREAT DEFEATS CHARLES XII OF SWEDEN AT THE BATTLE OF POLTAVA.

I guess that's what makes him great.

1759:  GENERAL JAMES WOLFE BEGINS THE SIEGE OF QUEBEC.

And Canada thought hockey was violent.

1806:  BRITISH FORCES TAKE BUENOS AIRES DURING THE FIRST BRITISH INVASIONS OF THE RIO DE LA PLATA.

Well, that's smart.  Conquer some nifty vacation spots.

1844:  JOSEPH SMITH JR., FOUNDER OF THE LATTER DAY SAINT MOVEMENT, AND HIS BROTHER HYRUM SMITH ARE MURDERED BY A MOB.

A really latter day saint now.

1880:  HELEN KELLER IS BORN.

Everybody wave and sing "Happy Birthday."  Oh, yeah, right.  Never mind.

1888:  THEATER DIRECTOR ANTOINETTE PERRY IS BORN.

The Tonys are named after her.  The theater award, not the home permanent.

1895:  THE INAUGURAL RUN OF THE BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILROAD'S ROYAL BLUE FROM WASHINGTON DC TO NEW YORK, THE FIRST US PASSENGER TRAIN TO USE ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVES.

That has to be one long extension cord.

1899:  A.E.J. COLLINS SCORES 628 RUNS NOT OUT, THE HIGHEST-EVER RECORDED SCORE IN CRICKET.

Ster-oids!  Ster-oids!!  Ster-oids!!!

1905:  SAILORS START A MUTINY ABOARD THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, DENOUNCING THE CRIMES OF AUTOCRACY, DEMANDING LIBERTY, AND AN END TO WAR.

Potemkin?  Isn't that a Cadillac car dealership in NY?

1913:  BILLIARDS PLAYER WILLIE MOSCONI IS BORN.

Eight ball, side pocket.

1927:  TV HOST BOB KEESHAN IS BORN.

And a Fordham University graduate to boot.  He was honored during my graduation ceremony.

1930:  POLITICIAN ROSS PEROT IS BORN.

I'd say he was one of the biggest lunatics ever in politics, but my list has gotten a lot longer of late.

1941:  GERMAN TROOPS CAPTURE THE CITY OF BIALYSTOK.

Two days later, they captured the city of Bloom.

1949:  FASHION DESIGNER VERA WANG IS BORN.

If you go to an awards ceremony in Hollywood, you must wear her.

1950:  THE UNITED STATES DECIDES TO SEND TROOPS TO FIGHT IN THE KOREAN WAR.

Had this not happened, we never would have seen Alan Alda star in M*A*S*H.

1967:  THE WORLD'S FIRST ATM IS INSTALLED IN ENFIELD TOWN, ENGLAND.

And who was the first idiot to forget their PIN number???

1971:  AFTER ONLY THREE YEARS IN BUSINESS, ROCK PROMOTER BILL GRAHAM CLOSES THE FILLMORE EAST IN NEW YORK.

Fillmore Least, apparently.

1974:  US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON VISITS THE SOVIET UNION.

Hmmm.  June 1974?  He probably should have stayed there.

1975:  ACTOR TOBEY MAGUIRE IS BORN.

Spidey!!

1977:  FRANCE GRANTS INDEPENDENCE TO DJIBOUTI.

Doesn't exactly trip off the tongue like Dubrovnik.

1988:  IN PARIS, A TRAIN COLLIDES WITH A STATIONARY TRAIN KILLING 56 PEOPLE.

Stationary?  We probably lost some pens and envelopes, too.

1996:  PRODUCER ALBERT BROCCOLI DIES.

Producer of James Bond flicks.  His nickname was Cubby.  Just like the Mouseketeer.

2001:  ACTOR JACK LEMMON DIES.

Some like it cold.

2002:  MUSICIAN JOHN ENTWISTLE DIES.

Who? 

2009:  ACTRESS GALE STORM DIES.

My Dead Margie.

Dinner last night:  Beef skewers and Japanese vegetables at Inakaya.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Food Fight!

This post is going to have a very provocative declaration at the end.  But you will wait for it.  No scrolling down.

Yours truly, the happy denizen of two Major League Baseball parks, will face his usual twice-a-season dilemma when the Mets visit Dodger Stadium next weekend.  I like to say that these are the games which find me "clapping with one hand."

Regardless of what happens on the field of play, I am now watching another battle unfold before me.  The one which circulates around which of the two arenas offers the better food choice. 

This used to be an easy one.  When the Mets were playing in my beloved, but sadly dilapidated Shea Stadium, there was no doubt.  Dodger Stadium won hands down.  Back in those days when Shea's hot dogs could be dressed with condiments only if you had teeth strong enough to rip apart the packaged relish and onion bits. 

Meanwhile, when I first started to frequent Dodger Stadium, I was pleasantly surprised by the bill of fare.  There is a very unique taste to the famed Dodger Dog, as long as it is grilled.  Fresh condiments like relish and onions are on tables and you can dish them out to your heart's content.  You also don't need to worry about fractured front teeth if you want them. 

Most of the other menu items at Chavez Ravine were standard but decent enough for a ballpark meal.  When I became a season ticket holder, I got the added bonus of being able to partake in the pre-game buffet at the Stadium Club, which offers some of the finest dinner items in all of Los Angeles. 

So, yeah, when it was Shea Stadium vs. Dodger Stadium, it was no contest.

Now, there's the Mets' new facility, Citi Field.  And, ummm, well, er...........

Four years into its short life, Citi Field has grown on me.  For esthetic baseball viewing features, there is still no place like Dodger Stadium.  At Citi, I can't see the left field corner from my seats.  The view of Flushing and its many car chop shops is light years behind the spectacular mountain vista you see anywhere in Dodger Stadium. 

But, if you want to eat.  Well, Citi Field is a magnificent food court, which just happens to have a major league baseball game going on in the middle of it.

It wasn't until this year that I started to explore the menus.

First of all, welcome to the new millenium, New York Mets.  Fresh condiments are available on "toppings" stations.  And not just fresh onions and relish.  Sweet roasted onions.  Sauerkraut.  Peppers. 

But you don't have to stick to hot dogs.  We have grilled sausage sandwiches, which are oh, so, New York.  And a host of other ethnic and high class cuisines.  The lines can be long, but your palate will be rewarded for its patience. 

There is the Shake Shack for all sorts of burgers, chicken, etc..  Blue Smoke offers barbecue fare.  Last weekend, I inexplicably ordered from them a fried bologna sandwich.  It was phenomenal.  Who knew?  Well, Elvis did.  I might wind up dead on the bathroom floor like he did, but the taste was indescribible.

More and more, I see new and interesting baseball food choices at Citi Field.  Meanwhile, back on the left coast....

Dodger Dogs.

Pizza.

Nachos.

The same stuff.

Oh, they have expanded a little bit into healthy choices, but who the hell wants that?  Unless, of course, you're stuck going to a game with America's chief dietician, Michelle Obama.

It's time to upgrade, new Los Angeles Dodgers owners.

They may be inching that way.  As soon as the Guggenheims took over the team, season ticket holders got an elaborate on-line survey, which required a half-hour for me to fill out.  It was all about the Dodger Stadium experience and food was a major portion of the questioning. 

Of course, Citi Field was just built and it was set up to feed its patrons in the 21st Century.  There are seven or eight fancy schmancy restaurants there which slobs like me can't get into.  But, there's plenty of options for those of us real people. 

Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 and was designed as a place, heavens to Betsy, to watch a baseball game.  Gluttony was only a secondary consideration.  But, still, they need to step it up.  They have the wherewithal inside the park to get it done.  The Stadium Club chef is terrific.  So is the guy who runs the press box cafeteria, which I've gotten to sample from time to time.  It can be done.

The challenge might be to really change up the food offerings in what is probably a very limited facility.  Dodger Stadium, fifty years old, likely cannot cook up what Citi Field does.

Which begs the rather daring notion that I alluded to at the top of this post.

"Is it time for the Dodgers to consider building a new ballpark?"

Ouch, my fingers actually hurt as I typed that.

Here's hoping they can figure out some expanded food choices in the stately venue of Chavez Ravine.  Looking at those amazing mountains, I don't want to move a single inch away from this location.

Yet, that view.  Would it be tastier with a Dodger Dog.....or a pulled pork sandwich?

Hmmmm again.

We'll see what develops with the new Dodger ownership.  And, once they hopefully tackle the food, let's hope they move onto the bathrooms, which, from the loge level on up, can use a total overhaul.

Dinner last night:  Turkey burger.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - June 25, 2012

Thrown off a TV show!!!


Dinner last night:  Sandwich, potato salad, and cole slaw.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Cool Sounds for a Hot Summer Day

No, I don't know the two oldtimers in this picture.  But, regardless of the age of these geezers, they are doing something we can all identify with.

Listening to a radio on a summer day. 

Who doesn't have a memory or two when a certain song is played on an oldies channel?  The first notes of the ditty might send you back to a hammock in the yard, a boat ride on the Long Island Sound, or a scolding from your mother because you went into the water too soon after finishing your ham sandwich.

You have your own songs to recall fondly.  Here are some more of mine.


The Stripper by David Rose:  This was a big hit one very young summer for me.  In our house, my mother listened to all the hits of the day and even ran out to buy the 45 rpm platters.  This song made me uncomfortable.  It felt dirty.  The distress was felt even more when I saw my own mother dancing to this while drying the dishes.  Yikes.



Theme from Dr. Kildare by Richard Chamberlain:  When I was really small, there were two doctor TV shows that were all the rage.  And you liked either one or the other.  Either you sided with Ben Casey or you were on the Doctor Kildare bandwagon.  Our home was the latter.  And, so Mom ran out to buy this hit when it came out.  With the star, Richard Chamberlain, singing it himself.  She even had a bit of a crush on the guy.

"He's so cute."

Years later, I'd like to tell my mother.  Um, he'd have zero interest in you.

Palisades Park by Freddie Cannon:  When this tune was a big summer hit, I had no clue that it was about an amusement park we could have easily gone to.  It was only on the other side of the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey.  Heck, it didn't look that far on the map.  And they had a big salt water pool!

Unfortunately, my father controlled our itinerary.

"It's too far."

No, it's not.  The radio commercial said it's "easily accessible from all parts of the New York metropolitan area."  I didn't really know what "accessible" meant, but I could parrot with the best of them.

"You don't want to be in that pool with a lot of strangers."

But it's the same as going to the beach. 

"No, it's different."

How?

Dad?

No answer.  We never went.

They're Coming To Take Me Away by Napoleon XIV:  The kids in my neighborhood were absolutely annoying the summer this song became a huge hit.  We sang it over and over and over.  Remember the lyrics?

Remember when you ran away and I got on my knees and begged you not to leave because I'd go berzerk?

Well, you left me anyhow and the days got worse and worse and now you see I've gone completely out of my mind.

And They're coming to take me away Ha Ha

They're coming to take me away ho ho he he ha ha to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time, and I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're coming to take me away ha ha

You thought it was joke and so you laughed, you laughed when I had said that losing you would make me flip my lid, right? You know you laughed, I heard you laugh, you laughed, you laughed and laughed and then you left, but now you know I'm utterly mad.

And they're coming to take me away Ha Ha  They're coming to take me away ho ho he he ha haTo the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds and basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes

They're coming to take me away ha ha...

I cooked your food, I cleaned your house, and this is how you paid me back for all my kind unselfish loving deeds. Huh? Well you just wait they'll find you yet, and when they do they'll put you in the ASPCA you mangy mutt.

And They're coming to take me away Ha Ha

They're coming to take me away ho ho he he ha ha  To the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be happy to see those nice men in their clean white coatsThey're coming to take me away Ha HaTo the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds and basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle thier thumbs and toes

They're coming to take me away Ha Ha Ha

Your home the one the bank foreclosed, You cried to me Monogamy is the way we both must live or you'll feel hurt. But, I see, I see there's someone new, your anxious poly-pure-bred coat was even gone at our place while I paid the rent, thanks!

And They're coming to take me away Ha Ha

They're coming to take me away ho ho he he ha haTo the loony bin with all you can eat perscription drugs like torizine, and lithium, and electric shock and insulin

They're coming to take me away Ha Ha

You can imagine how obnoxious we were.  Except I had one huge dissenter when it came to my endless rendition of this song.

My aunt.  My mother's sister.

Every summer for a few years, I would spend a week with her family out in Suffolk County.  I was floating around their pool on a raft and mindlessly regurgitating again the lyrics.

An ominous voice came from the kitchen window.  My aunt.

"That's not funny, Lenny."

Uh oh.

"I work as a nurse in a mental institution.  That's not funny, Lenny."

I, er, heard you the first time. 

And the tune was forever removed from my repertoire.


Something Stupid by Frank and Nancy Sinatra:  Listening to the lyrics of this big summer hit, I was always a little conflicted.

I know I stand in line, until you think you have the time
To spend an evening with me
And if we go someplace to dance, I know that there's a chance
You won't be leaving with me

And afterwards we drop into a quiet little place
And have a drink or two
And then I go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid
Like: "I love you"


Okay, this is being sung jointly by a father and a daughter.  There goes my creepy meter.

Meanwhile, this song takes me back to my own weird-o memory.  The song was playing while my father and I were sitting in our car at Woodlawn Cemetery.  We were watching my grandmother hard at work over my grandfather's grave. 

You see, a giant sinkhole had formed in his still fresh grave.  So, as Frank and Nancy sang away, I saw Grandma shoveling dirt herself into the sinkhole.  Grandpa was essentially being buried a second time.

Now that was really something stupid.

What's New Pussycat by Tom Jones:  This infectious tune was all the rage one summer.  I remember Tom's warbling of it on the "Ed Sullivan Show.  I was watching with Grandma.

"His pants are so tight you can see his business."

Enough said.

Help! by the Beatles:  The focus of this special summer was the opening of the Beatles' second movie.  None of us on 15th Avenue in Mount Vernon could wait.  We trooped down to the Loews Theater for the first show on opening day.  And ran home in the manic and frenzied style that the Beatles adopted in the movie. 

Except none of us could sing.



Mr. Big Stuff by Jean Knight:  This was going to the summer where this White teenager was going to get diverse in a hurry.  It was my first really important summer job.  I was going to be a playground supervisor for the Mount Vernon, New York Department of Recreation.  I was assigned to the Purdy Tot Lot on Ninth Avenue.  My area was in a completely Black neighborhood.  And, as it turned out, this was the easiest gig I would ever have in my life. 

These were the nicest kids in the world.  And they really needed no supervision.  Games?  Not interested.  Crafts?  Forget it. 

All they wanted to do was sit all day and play 500 rummy.  And sing along to the radio.  This song was a particular favorite.  I remember one day where a bunch of them stood up and organized a dance number around it.

"Hey, Mr. Len, Playground Teacher, you want to dance with us."

Um, no.  Diversity for me would have to come in very small doses.

Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet:  If there were any girls hanging around your neighborhood, they annoyed the shit out of you the summer this movie and record came out.  That album cover was a real eye opener.  Eewwwww!  They're naked.  And having sex.  Gross.  What the hell did you want from some 13-year-olds back then?  These days, some of the same kids are already pregnant.

Dinner last night:  A surprisingly delicious BBQ fried bologna sandwich from Blue Smoke at Citi Field.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Classic Musical Comedy Production Number of the Month - June 2012

It's a five Saturday month, so you know what that means.  We post a classic number from a great musical comedy film. 

Okay, the clip of Gene Kelly splashing around in "Singin' in the Rain" is shown all the time.  But, please don't forget there were other great musical moments in that movie.  Take, for instance, "Good Morning."


Dinner last night:  A wonderful BBQ at the home of my good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Bibster. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's That Awkward Time of Month

It's Happy Hump Day for Mommy.
Pick which one will be the serial killer.  Actually, multiple choices are allowed.

The Bob Vila family Christmas card photo.
It's also Happy Hump Day for these turtles as well.

Leif Garrett lives.
I hope that second kid looks nothing like the first one.
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.....
The police have been called to help him down.
What a surprise she's going to get when she really gets to know young Elton John.
Pee Wee tried the same thing in that porno theater years ago.

Dinner last night:  In steamy New York.  A cold plate of eye round beef, potato salad, and cole slaw.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

They're Playing Our Peacocks

There's a scene in the movie and musical "The Music Man" where, one summer evening, everybody in River City, Iowa gathers in a park for a night of music and socializing.

My night with the Pasadena Pops was sort of like that.  Except I hadn't sunk a lot of dough into purchasing a band uniform.  And, oh, yeah, Professor Harold Hill didn't have to contend with a bunch of peacocks.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Peacocks.

Hang in there.  I will explain.

Okay, first things first, regular visitors here know that I frequent the Hollywood Bowl, which is the great grand daddy of outdoor musical entertainment.  But, in its vastness, the Bowl certainly never invokes a small town feel.  Especially when the slob in front of you is smoking a joint or has gulped down a bottle of Trader Joe's Chardonnay.  Yeah, that never was a scenario presented to Marian the Librarian or Winthrop Paroo. 

The Hollywood Bowl is just plain too freakin' big.

Now I've heard about the Pasadena Pops before.  And I noted about one year ago that they had named the legendary composer Marvin Hamlisch as its conductor this season.

Hmmmm.

When I read that their opening performance this summer would be a reunion of Hamlisch with the stars of my beloved musical "They're Playing Our Song," Lucie Arnaz and Robert Klein, I was immediately hitting Google Maps.  I had already seen this particular concert several years ago in San Diego.  For me, that was a straight line down the 405 Freeway.  This time around, I needed to know.

Just where the hell does the Pasadena Pops play?

Oddly enough, as I would discover, it ain't Pasadena.  I guess that city can't stage anything unless it's New Year's Day and they can glue a petunia to it.  Instead, they have grabbed a venue several towns away in Arcadia.  Conveniently located near the Santa Anita Racetrack.  And the town mall, which is exactly where slobs like us had to park our cars for the performance.

The Pasadena Pops plays at the Los Angeles County Arboretum on a big lawn that reaches across about four zip codes.  There is a smallish band shell and a couple of video screens purchased at Best Buy.  If you're one of the idiots who bought general admission tickets, your view was so far away that Stevie Wonder had a better chance of seeing the show. 

Being the big "They're Playing Our Song" fan that I am, I spared no expense.  We got a table up close and you see our vantage point in the photo above.  We got to sit at a table with some linen and you actually could experience a rather homey feel about the evening. 

Forget the fact that getting to the place is about as easy to solve as the aforementioned Stevie Wonder trying to do a Sudoku puzzle in the morning paper.  If you're not a Pops subscriber, you have to park a mile off-site at a shopping mall and hop aboard a shuttle bus. 

This was a completely unique experience for most of the crowd, which was generally aged 50 to death.  I would say that a lot of them hadn't been on a bus since they were in school, but I'd correct myself when I realized that there were no buses when these people were going to school.  Nevertheless, we all piled onto shuttle vehicles driven by Mexican gardeners looking for some extra pay on this Saturday night.

Once at the Arboretum, you see a lot of signs with the word "peacock" on it.  The Peacock Cafe.  The Peacock Pond.  The Peacock water fountain.  There's a reason for this.

The Arboretum is overloaded with the things.  None of them looking as pleasant and staid as that logo which used to herald all the "in living color" shows on NBC.  They make noise and I didn't see one unfurl its feathers into a rainbow.  

Yep, these peacocks were not only annoying but lazy as well.

We had to walk a distance across some grassy stretches to get to our close-to-the-front table.  I kept looking down at my shoes because I suddenly realized I didn't have some critical information.

Just where and how do peacocks shit?

I didn't want to know.  But I watched every step I made all night.

The Arboretum is quite the nice setting and it did prompt feelings for that intimate summer night in River City, Iowa.  Even though half the crowd was so far away that they might as well have been in Gary, Indiana.  And you got that sense of small town community before the show started.

Some local high school musicians did the pre-show entertainment with some classical pieces.  This is, of course, California, so every single kid was Asian.  A couple of the local politicians then had their moment in the sun, or, in this case, twilight.  The Mayor.  The town Justice of the Peace.  A cashier from Von's Supermarket.  It was their night to sparkle.  A local glee club led us all in the National Anthem, singing the lyrics from their books.  This is, of course, California, so most of the singers were Mexican and that explains why they needed the lyrics printed out for them.

Marvin Hamlisch made his first appearance and appeared humbled to be leading this orchestra.  Or perhaps he was understanding now fully just how far his career has fallen.  From the stages at the Oscars to a field in Arcadia which may or may not feature some patches of peacock crap. 

Meanwhile, Marvin looks to have lost about 100 pounds since I last saw him in San Diego.   Being at the Arboretum would certainly assist with his food control.  The only venues we had for snacks were some food trucks.  Located across a field which may or may not have featured some piles of peacock poo.
All snarkiness aside, the show was terrific.  Hamlisch led the Pops in a medley of 50s television show themes which ended fittingly with a lush rendition of "I Love Lucy."  Robert Klein told some jokes and, as usual, sang all about his last colonoscopy.  Lucie Arnaz slinked and warbled deliciously and concluded with a Spanish tune dedicated to her dad.  The second act was devoted to selections from "They're Playing Our Song" and I was in heaven as always. 

Since this was small town Arcadia, the show wrapped up much earlier than at the Hollywood Bowl.  Lights came on around 10AM and I'm thinking the town's assisted living homes don't like their tenants wandering around out so late on a Saturday night.  We queued up in some lines for the shuttle buses that did stop.  Or sometimes not.  Once the show was over, the volunteer guides hightailed it out of there to make last call at In-N-Out Burger.  The rest of us were left to our devices on how to get back to our cars. 

But, we all did.  And, as I return back to the grandeur of the Hollywood Bowl in a few weeks, I will look back fondly on how my summer entertainment season began.  With intimacy, class, and a little bit of, albeit multi-cultural, Americana.

And I did it all without stepping in any peacock shit.

Dinner last night:  Leftover sausage, beans, and potato salad.


Tomorrow:  From Sultry New York City.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This Date in History - June 20

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, it's your birthday.

451:  DURING THE BATTLE OF CHALONS, FLAVIUS AETIUS BATTLES ATTILA THE HUN, WHO ULTIMATELY RETREATS.

Who knew that Attila was such a freakin' wimp?

1605:  AFTER ONLY THREE MONTHS AS TSAR, 16-YEAR-OLD FEODOR II OF RUSSIA IS ASSASSINATED.

Well, that means there's some girl in Russia without a prom date.

1685:  JAMES SCOTT, IST DUKE OF MONMOUTH, DECLARES HIMSELF KING OF ENGLAND.

Later to be outdone by the Prince of Aqueduct and the Earl of Hialeah.

1756:  A BRITISH GARRISON IS IMPRISONED IN THE BLACK HOLE OF CALCUTTA.

But, isn't Calcutta a black hole all by itself?

1782:  THE US CONGRESS ADOPTS THE GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES.

The seal was later on display at Sea World.

1787:  OLIVER ELLSWORTH MOVES AT THE FEDERAL CONVENTION TO CALL THE GOVERNMENT THE UNITED STATES.

Remember when we had a Constitution that people actually respected?

1819:  THE US VESSEL, SS SAVANNAH, ARRIVES AT LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND.  SHE IS THE FIRST STEAM-PROPELLED VESSEL TO CROSS THE ATLANTIC, ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE JOURNEY IS MADE UNDER SAIL.

Sounds like a scam to me.  How do we know how much distance was done via steam and how much was done with the sails?

1837:  QUEEN VICTORIA SUCCEEDS TO THE BRITISH THRONE.

Later on, she made a nifty gas guzzler of a car.

1840:  SAMUEL MORSE RECEIVES THE PATENT FOR THE TELEGRAPH.

Dot dot dash dash dot dash dot.

1863:  WEST VIRGINIA IS ADMITTED AS THE 35TH US STATE.

Effectively lowering the national IQ by 50 points.

1877:  ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL INSTALLS THE WORLD'S FIRST COMMERCIAL TELEPHONE SERVICE IN CANADA.

In Canada???  Who knew???  Nobody called to tell me.

1893:  LIZZIE BORDEN IS ACQUITTED OF THE MURDERS OF HER FATHER AND STEPMOTHER.

If the axe doesn't fit, you must acquit.

1900:  DURING THE BOXER REBELLION, THE IMPERIAL CHINESE ARMY BEGINS A 55-DAY SIEGE IN BEIJING, CHINA.

I knew boxers would rebel if the briefs got too uppity.

1909:  ACTOR ERROL FLYNN IS BORN.

Just what the hell is a swashbuckler anyway?

1920:  MY FATHER IS BORN.

Had this not happened, you would not be reading about it in this blog.

1924:  ACTOR AUDIE MURPHY IS BORN.

Somebody please tell me what Audie is short for.

1928:  ACTOR MARTIN LANDAU IS BORN.

Mission conceivable.

1931:  ACTRESS OLYMPIA DUKAKIS IS BORN.

She won an Oscar and is related to an inept Presidential candidate.   The two most extreme ends of the spectrum.

1942:  KAZIMIERZ PIECHOWSKI AND THREE OTHERS, DRESSED AS MEMBERS OF THE SS-TOTENKOPFVERBANDE, STEAL AN SS STAFF CAR AND ESCAPE FROM AUSCHWITZ.

It actually hurt my fingers to type the word "Totenkopfverbande."

1942:  BEACH BOY BRIAN WILSON IS BORN.

Okay, this one was easier to type.

1943:  THE DETROIT RACE RIOT BREAKS OUT AND CONTINUES FOR THREE MORE DAYS.

Merely a dress rehearsal for the big one twenty or so years later.

1946:  TV HOST BOB VILA IS BORN.

Mr. Fix-it.  I know people who have worked with him.  The guy doesn't know how to use a hammer.  You can't make this shit up.

1947:  GANGSTER BUGSY SIEGEL DIES.

On somebody's windshield.

1948:  TOAST OF THE TOWN, LATER THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, MAKES ITS TELEVISION DEBUT. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Wayne and Shuster.

1949:  MUSICIAN LIONEL RICHIE IS BORN.

Say you?  No, say me.

1952:  ITALIAN RACE CAR DRIVER LUIGI FAGIOLI DIES.

I loved his pasta.

1959:  A RARE JUNE HURRICANE STRIKES CANADA, KILLED 35.

But, thanks to Alexander Graham Bell's phone system up there, we were able to alert people.

1963:  THE SO-CALLED RED TELEPHONE IS ESTABLISHED BETWEEN THE SOVIET UNION AND THE UNITED STATES FOLLOWING THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS.

Hello, Nikita, whatcha doin'?

1972:  BUSINESSMAN HOWARD JOHNSON DIES.

He ran out of flavors.

1972:  AN 18 1/2-MINUTE GAP APPEARS IN THE TAPE RECORDING OF THE CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON AND HIS ADVISORS REGARDING THE RECENT ARRESTS OF HIS OPERATIVES WHILE BREAKING INTO WATERGATE.

"I am                                        crook."

1978:  DIRECTOR MARK ROBSON DIES.

He did Peyton Place among some tawdry others.

1990:  ASTEROID EUREKA IS DISCOVERED.

Eureka, it's Eureka!

2003:  THE WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION IS FOUNDED IN ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA.

And I wouldn't know this except for Wikipedia.

Dinner last night:  Roast beef sandwich and salad.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yee-Ha!

No mystery here.  You're talking to somebody who had a dinner party the night we found out who shot J.R.

As soon as I heard that TNT was going to do an updated version of one of my favorite TV series, "Dallas," I was a bit skeptical.  As a rule, I'm dead set against remaking anything that shined so brightly the first time around.  Just what is the point than to simply make some quick dollars using as little creativity as possible?

Several years back, there was some serious talk about turning "Dallas" into a theatrical movie and even casting the bloated John Travolta as the legendary villain J.R. Ewing as if a gay and overweight Scientologist could give justice to the role.  Luckily, that consideration morphed into the TV reboot that premiered last week.

You know I had to tune in. 

And, after the first few episodes, I can make an announcement.

I'm in.  Big time.  And it had me as soon as the opening theme music came booming out of the back speakers in my living room.

Show runner Cynthia Cidre has done a marvelous job mixing the old with the new and suddenly, it's simultaneously both 1982 and 2012.  The young generation Ewings of thirty years ago are now the old codgers shuffling around the Southfork Ranch.  The updating is incredibly organic.  And, so far, the historical references to the first version are spot on accurate.  Somebody has been doing their homework in the writers' room.  I certainly would have.  It's heartening to know they did as well.

Now the big battle is between John Ross Ewing and his cousin Christopher.  The son of J.R. versus the adopted son of Bobby and I'm also glad they didn't forget whose Christopher's original parents were.  Embedded in their conflict is an argument right off the front pages of your morning paper.  John Ross wants to drill for oil.  Christopher is all about green energy.  Even Mitt Romney and Barry Obama have somebody to root for on this show.

Both young men have girlfriends and/or new wives and there are already indications that this foursome may have been connected in past decades and an e-mail or two may have been secretly used to break up one or more previous couples.  It wouldn't be "Dallas" without that.

Meanwhile, the AARP edition of the Ewing clan is well represented.  Of course, Jock and Miss Ellie are dead and they have gone to where all dead Ewings go.  They are in a portrait together on the living room wall.  Longtime good guy Bobby is now nothing but a rancher and owns Southfork.   Since Victoria Principal was apparently too busy getting Botox injections, his wife is now named Ann and played by Brenda Strong, who spent the last eight years as the dead body/narrator on "Desperate Housewives."  It's great to see her get a gig where we can actually see her for more two minutes in an entire television season.

Right from the get go, Bobby is secretly gripping his stomach in pain as he has cancer that will conveniently go into remission until the time where Patrick Duffy chooses to leave the series.  Because of his impending doom, he wants to sell Southfork to country club developers while his nephew wants to drill for oil in the backyard.  Doesn't everybody?

J.R. Ewing is clinically depressed and living in a catatonic state somewhere in an assisted living home.  But is he?  That's the first of about two dozen twists in the first few episodes so far.  Given the size of the eyebrows on Larry Hagman, I would really challenge the nursing staff of this facility.  Are they even taking the time to groom and clean their patients?  Apparently not.

The beleaguered Sue Ellen?  Linda Gray is still slinking around with the most moisturized lips in town.  She might run for the Governorship of the State of Texas.  I'm thinking of the number of car crashes she had while in a drunken stupor during the first series.  Surely, that would negate a political career, but I suppose that, if Obama could become President, anything is now possible in politics.

The plot, of course, is silly and there's some nonsense about Christopher's methane concoction provoking a Japanese earthquake.  It's probably all implausible, but I'm guessing that the science espoused in "Dallas" is more accurate than the dribble that was featured in Al Snore's "An Inconvenient Truth" documentary.

It's heartening to hear both generations still talking about the back story from thirty years ago.  Even the younger Ewings are still referring to their family's former nemesis as "that idiot Cliff Barnes," who actually shows up in Episode 3.  Meanwhile, we've heard seen the likes of dumb ranch hand Ray Krebbs and slutty niece Lucy, played by a Charlene Tilton who has obviously been spending a lot of time at an all-you-can-eat buffet in Chatsworth.

The new "Dallas" is just like the old "Dallas."  It's dumb as hell, but more fun than anything else on television right now.  Duffy, Hagman, and Gray are pros who know they're not doing Shakespeare and are totally contented with their lots in their acting lives.  As a result, they're having fun on the screen because they know you're having fun at home.

The youngsters are not as polished as actors.  Indeed, both of the male leads are alumni of "Desperate Housewives," but clearly the Triple A minor league division of that team.  But they all look good and do trim their eyebrows.  That's how you can tell them apart from their parents on the show.

But, who watches a show like this for the acting?  You tune in for the trash, the glitz, and the fun.  The new "Dallas" delivers on all three.  And I'm already guessing that the public agrees.   The premiere episodes grabbed big ratings and I suspect TNT's already figuring how to expand beyond its initial ten-episode order.

I was even more delighted in the first episodes to see how well they used the Texas locations.  This time around, the show is completed filmed in the Lone Star State.  Even better, they've shot in places I've actually visited myself.  Of course, regular readers know that I've been to Southfork myself.  But there was more.  A crucial scene unfolded in Cowboys Stadium at the exact spot where I once stood myself.  And John Ross met with an informer in some condola flying over the Texas State Fair.  A ride I myself took two years ago.  

Given the almost certain long term success of the new "Dallas," I am now hoping that somebody looks to revive my even more beloved "Knots Landing."  If they can't get original creator David Jacobs to sign on, please call me.  I have lots of ideas.  And, if you drag your feet, I'll just pitch them to Michele Lee when I inevitably see her this summer out at the Hollywood Bowl.

In the meanwhile, welcome back "Dallas."  You're right back where we want you. 

Dinner last night:   Beef sausage and baked beans.



Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - June 18, 2012

Summer arrives this week.  Get out those video cameras.


Dinner last night:  Turkey sandwich and salad.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Dad Dwindles Down

Don't scratch your head.  Yes, I have used this photo of my dad before.  But it is Father's Day and, once again, my thoughts ping pong around the rec hall that is in my brain. 

You see, this particular week was always a double hit for me.  Not only do we contend with the annual patriarchal holiday but my father's birthday was June 20.  A double whammy.  Some years, it all happened on the same day.  What's a son to do?

When I was younger, the commemoration was an easy one.  I simply tried to stay out of his hair.  I would avoid getting into trouble and sit quietly at our family gathering, perhaps listening to a Met doubleheader on a transistor radio.

When I was an adult, the celebration was different.  I now had the wherewithal to pay for a meal.  So I would troop Dad out to a restaurant dinner and that's a big deal for somebody who rarely liked to eat out in his later years.  But I'd scope out an eatery with that one special requirement my dad always had.

A salad bar. 

This was a new phenomenon to him.  All the lettuce, beets, cole slaw, hot peppers, olives, potato salad, and onions you could eat.    I remember the first time he experienced this at a place called the Victoria Station on Tuckahoe Road in Yonkers. 

"I can go up for a second plate?"

Yes.  And the sense of wonderment on my father's face stayed with me to this day.  You can actually get unlimited food.  Perhaps a difficult notion to swallow for a child of the Depression Years.

On those outings in the later stages of our life together, the routine would be the same.  Whether it be for a Met game, a meal, or a doctor's visit.  I would drive.  And pick him up.  A simple act.  Just like he had done for me so many years ago when I needed to go someplace.  But, now the situation was reversed.  And so was the relationship.

And this happens for all of us at some point in our lives.

The child becomes the parent.  And, wistfully, the parent becomes the child.

And so, too, did my father and I bow to the inevitable circle of life. 

I think today of my dad's later years cut short at the age of 70.  Indeed, when he was forced into retirement by his long term employer, the Mount Vernon Die Casting Company, at the age of 62, he should have immediately enjoyed the freedom.  But, unfortunately, he never got that initial opportunity.  The end of his work days coincided with my grandmother's broken hip and what would be the last year of her life.  Because she wanted nothing to do with having any sort of caretaker in the house, my dad became the 24/7 lifeline.  And lost one year of his life to this task.

Again...

The child becomes the parent.  And, wistfully, the parents becomes the child.

Grandma's death led to more uncertainty with her house (and Dad's home) being sold.  Packing up the remains of a household and an existence.  Because he and my mom had amicably split due to that old bugaboo of the "empty nest syndrome," my father relocated to a Bronx apartment.  All the boxes from the house went there.  And sat in the corner, waiting to be unpacked for the next eight years.

I first noticed that Dad was having a health issue on September 17, 1986.  How can I be that precise with a date years later?  Well, we were both at Shea Stadium.  The New York Mets' clinching of the Eastern Division that night.  In the Loge, Section 6 seats of my pal, the Bibster.  Amid all the joyful hysteria, I couldn't help but notice that my father had to go down to the bathroom every half inning. 

Hmmmm.

I mentioned it several times in passing over the next month or so.  My father belittled it all.  To give it any level of consideration, he would have had to go to a doctor.  And, yes, he did not go there.

By Christmas, his prostate problems were so pronounced that his kidneys and bladder were completely shutting down.

Son morphs into Dad overnight.  I called the paramedics when he didn't answer the phone.  And so began my father's soon-to-be-ongoing relationship with the nursing staff of Mount Vernon Hospital.

He was not happy.

"You put me in here!"

As if I just sentenced him to Attica State Prison.

The next few years were devoted to his recovery and the realization that he actually had an illness.  As he would refer to it...

"I've got the C."

Not to be confused with the B or the P or the V.

The next few years were probably indicative of what he should have enjoyed in his retirement.  He was never home.  Hanging out with his cronies.  Working in this one's yard or that one's basement.  I'd call him twice a day, once in the afternoon and then again around 8PM every night.  And I would do so regardless of whether I was out or not.

One Christmas week, I was visiting good friends on a snowy night all the way up in Rockland County.  When I made the nightly check-in, there was no answer.  At 8PM. Or 9PM.  Or 10PM.  My thoughts traveled to the usual dark side.

"I better go see what's wrong."

My friend drove me all the way down to the Bronx.  I practiced in my mind how to dial the phone digits.

9-1-1.  9-1-1. 

Surely, I would be calling.

As the apartment building elevator inched ever so slowly to the sixth floor, all we could hear was the theme song from M*A*S*H.  The reruns played every night on WNEW Channel 5 at 11PM. 

"Suicide is painless...."

Who the hell was playing their TV so freakin' loud?

When the elevator door opened in front of my dad's apartment, I knew.

"What the hell are you doing here?  I'm watching M*A*S*H."

So we know.   So does everybody in the tri-state area.  Er, how come you didn't answer the phone, Dad?

"It never rang."

Oh, yes, it did.  Except you couldn't hear it because your TV volume can be heard all the way to Fort Fucking Lee in New Jersey.

And so the familial circle had been completed.  The slippery slope had begun.

Soon thereafter, Dad started to have problems walking.  Did he check with a doctor about this?  Of course not.  He had fashioned his own diagnosis for the pain in his leg.   He blamed it on some poor radiation technician who obviously had screwed up.

"When I was going for that machine, the guy messed up.  The thing moved and burned a hole in my leg."

Yeah, whatever.  The distress led to the leg breaking in two.  Metastasized tumors as a result of a returning prostate cancer will tend to do that.  He wound up in the hospital for three weeks after a metal rod was inserted.  The healing process in Mount Vernon Hospital was a painful one.  When you get off the elevator and can recognize a familiar screen from several halls away, you don't lose that memory easily.

My father lived with a walker for the rest of his time.  Plus, since he insisted on living on his own, the insurance company requested that he get daily help in the apartment.  They sent him a young Black kid who dutifully showed up every weekday.  He was there to help out Dad, who wanted no help.

"What am I supposed to do with this colored guy?"

Maybe he could clean the kitchen?  Make your lunch?  How about unpacking some of those boxes still strewn all over your living room?

My father would have nothing of it.  The two of them sat all day together watching television.

I did what I could do to help.  Luckily, he had friends who "aired him out" several days a week.  There was always somebody at the ready to take him to the super market or for his chemo treatments at the doctor.

I've written before about one excursion that I did adopt for myself.  A lasting and final good memory of my dad...

It was the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend and I was off. I decided to give Dad's buddies the week off. I'd do the honors of acting as driver for the day. It was the least I could do for his pals who had so diligently helped him over the years.

As I helped him out of the doctor's office and into the car, I wondered what was next in the weekly routine. Even when he was ill, my father was always all about a consistent schedule of events. I asked him what happens next.


"Well, we usually go get something to eat."

Where?

"White Castle."

I was perplexed. There wasn't one nearby in Mount Vernon.

"No, we go to the one down on Allerton. Where we used to go."

Oh. All the way down there, I thought.

Yes, all the way down. And I shouldn't have questioned it for a single moment.

My father and I sat one more time in that parking lot. The car hops were gone, but I brought the food out of the restaurant. And we chomped down on five or six sliders as if the years had morphed all together into a single second.
I didn't know it that day, but it would be the very last meal I would share with my father. 

Eventually, he wound up back in the hospital and his doctor discretely shared with me the ultimate and sad prognosis.  His final days would have to be spent in a Mount Vernon nursing home.  Dad thought it was a rehab place and that he would be back in his apartment before he knew it.

One Saturday, my mother and I were visiting him.  The Black orderly asked us to leave the room so Dad could be bathed.  The curtains were drawn and, since the slightest movement gave him waves of intense pain, my father screamed again.  And took out his anger on the orderly.

With multiple doses of racism as if it was an extreme sport telecast on ESPN.  The "N" word was used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective.  I cringed with every syllable.

When the orderly was done and came out into the hall, I felt the need to apologize.  

"Um, he's not really like that."

Well, he was a bit.  But not to the, no pun intended, "Nth degree."  The orderly was incredibly gracious.

"Hey, no big deal.  He's a nice guy.  He told me to do a good job dressing him because he had a funeral to go to."

I looked at my mother with a bit of foreboding.  I know the funeral he's talking about.

Dad died the very next week.

Despite this blog entry, I don't really dwell on the sad moments that coincided with the final years of my father's life.  I tend to look back on him with humor and will not remember something without laughing.  Much in the same vein as the M*A*S*H incident I recalled above.

Or the time when his back seat driving on a trip home from Shea Stadium made me so angry that I demanded he get out of the car.  On the top of the Whitestone Bridge!  Danny, my best friend from high school, was there as a witness and still talks about that evening.

Or the way he rigged his walker so it could be used as a shopping cart with a special receptacle to hold the New York Daily News and his racing form.

Or the final really big chortle he gave me when I was the one forced to clean out his apartment.  Getting rid of those freakin' boxes he had never unpacked from my grandmother's house.

On this day, Danny was helping me with the project.  In a closet, I found an old suitcase which I recognized from the days when we would have our annual summer family vacation at Atlantic City.

Except the valise was locked shut.

Hmmm?  Why?   Was there something special in here that Dad wanted me to find?  Maybe there was a sign?  Or some hidden treasure?  Or just maybe I had watched too many movies?

Nevertheless, I wanted that suitcase opened and I wanted it open now.  Danny and I did our best to wreck that carry-all's lock.  We finally jimmyed it open with a screwdriver, a butter knife, and, ultimately, my own two feet when they stepped down hard on it.

The suitcase opened.

Inside was....

A brown paper bag full of Japanese money.  Left over from his days there during World War II.

And....

A dozen light bulbs.

This was obviously my dad's survival kit.  If he ever was stuck in a dark Tokyo apartment.

I couldn't help but laugh that day. 

And every single Father's Day ever since.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger at the Pasadena Pops.