Friday, August 31, 2012

If I Tweeted - August 2012

I don't.  But I am getting closer.  I actually have an account and I am trying to figure out how to link it to my Facebook account.  But, until I am fully operational, here's what I was thinking this month.

#LenSpeaks  I don't care how much or little Mitt Romney pays in taxes.  If he figured out some loopholes, that's what everybody does.

#LenSpeaks  Hell, that's what my accountant is instructed to do.  Cut my taxes.  It's the American way.

#LenSpeaks  Obama is proud that he's released his own taxes.  He has nothing to hide.  Nor did he ever have a real job.

#LenSpeaks  A real job doesn't consist of the sentence, "okay, we have two empty seats on the bus."

#LenSpeaks  Goodbye, Phyllis Diller.  There are combs in Heaven.

#LenSpeaks  Can you imagine her undertaker?  "Lord, where do I start?!"

#LenSpeaks  RIP Horshack or Ron Palillo.  Tough year for people on that old Kotter series.

#LenSpeaks  I mean, first Robert Hegyes.  Now Palillo.  And John Travolta caught cross-dressing.

#LenSpeaks  If they remade Saturday Night Fever today, would Travolta go up for the Donna Pescow part??

#LenSpeaks  Watching the Dodgers play Atlanta on TV and I still hear that damn tomahawk chop.  Twenty years later and that's all you got??

#LenSpeaks  Meanwhile, they're still doing the wave at Dodger Stadium.  Mostly started by drunk Mexicans who are waiting for Fernando to come out of the bullpen.

#LenSpeaks  Everytime Joe Biden opens his mouth, Dan Quayle feels a little bit better about himself.

#LenSpeaks  Am I the only one who remembers Biden had some crooked campaign finance issues back in the late 80s?

#LenSpeaks  Dummy Joe says the Republicans will put everybody back in chains?  Frankly, the real chain around all our ankles is the current White House.

#LenSpeaks  Meanwhile, a new book traces Michelle Obama back to slave roots.  Uh-huh.  Working all day long in a cotton field and somebody wants me to have a healthy snack??

#LenSpeaks  The good news about Obama being 24/7 on the campaign trail?  That means he's paying even less attention to screwing up the country.

#LenSpeaks  The loudmouth First Lady scolded poor little Olympic winner Gabi Douglas for eating an Egg McMuffin.  If Michelle really wants to wag her finger, try your local post office during lunch hour.

#LenSpeaks  I look at some of those slobs behind the counter at the post office and I realize their pensions are ten times bigger than mine.  That gets you an awful lot of barbecue sauce.

#LenSpeaks  I'm proud to announce that I didn't watch a single second of Olympic competition. 

#LenSpeaks   Anybody who thinks waterboarding is horrible torture didn't watch the closing ceremonies of this year's Olympics.

#LenSpeaks  The closing ceremonies did eventually end, right?

#LenSpeaks  Seven years to the day that Katrina hit, New Orleans got hit with another hurricane.  As the news media kept reminding us over and over and over...

#LenSpeaks  ...and over and over and over. 

#LenSpeaks  You just know that there's a couple of people in New Orleans who heard about Hurricane Issac and thought, "Good.  I need to upgrade the Hi-Def TV I looted during Katrina."

#LenSpeaks  NJ Governor Chris Christie reminds me of Jackie Gleason.  Watching him speak before the Republican Convention, I was waiting for him to yell "and away we go."

#LenSpeaks  If you're going to get your political convention update by watching Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, you are officially an idiot.

#LenSpeaks  And lose your right to vote in any election.

#LenSpeaks  If Ann Romney is a privileged corporate wife, what the hell is Michelle Obama??

#LenSpeaks  After all, she got into Princeton on a grant.

#LenSpeaks  Her one and only job was created by government funds.

#LenSpeaks  She travels with a full time hair stylist.   And goes all over the world on your and my dime.   

#LenSpeaks  If Ann Romney is a corporate wife, Michelle Obama is Imelda Marcos.    

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yes, Virginia, There is a Summer Action Movie

"Premium Rush" is the kind of summer action movie Hollywood used to know how to make and one that I have been clamoring for since the days of the "Die Hard" franchise.  A tale told for sheer exhileration.  A minimum of special effects.  And with a length that isn't excessive and feeding the massive ego of some bloated young director.

Good news.  "Premium Rush" holds your attention.  It is stunt person-heavy, but I didn't see a lot of blue screen nonsense.  And it runs a taut and compact ninety minutes.  Just perfect for a small popcorn and a medium Diet Coke.  Say amen.  And please take note, Christopher Nolan, who gave us the woeful "Dark Knight" films.

Unlike all of the other action junk released this summer, "Premium Rush" doesn't take itself too seriously.  It wants to tell a story and entertain you.  That's it.  It is likely that, if you think about it too long, you will realize a lot of it is implausible and makes little sense.  The plot might have more holes than a hillbilly's t-shirt.   But it is a fun ride with no pretense and thank God for these filmmakers who don't feel this need to keep demonstrating just how creative they mistakenly think they are.

"Premium Rush" takes you into an arena that was completely new to me.  The world of bicycle messenging in Manhattan and everybody has probably almost been mowed down by one of them at some point in our lives.  Most are likely assholes who certainly don't pay an iota of attention to standard traffic regulations.  But, their job is to get something from one point to another in as little time as possible.  Just like a New York City cab driver, except the riders in "Premium Rush" all speak English.

The always dependable and frequently underrated actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, plays our hero, Wiley, like the coyote.   And that's certainly fitting since all of the film unfolds like a Road Runner cartoon.  Wiley is the best and fastest cyclist for the messenger company he works at and he prefers this career path to the pre-law degree he was pursuing at Columbia University.  Of course, he is asked to bring a very important envelope from Point A to Point B within 90 minutes.   Except there are folks who don't want him to make this connection.  And, given that this is set on the streets of New York City, here's a needless spoiler alert.  Yes, there are crooked cops in this movie.

Through a series of carefully constructed flashbacks which really encompass a mere three hours of a late afternoon in rush hour Manhattan, you learn what's in the envelope, who wants it delivered, and who wants it not delivered.  Wiley is unwittingly at the center of it all.  And, as is the motto of his messenger company, once the package is in his bag, he must make sure it reaches its final destination.

"Premium Rush" moves very quickly, but that's because these bike riders are fast.  You don't have time to think because you are quickly onto the next important plot point.  Meanwhile, along the way, you get to experience some of the best chase scenes I've seen on film in years.  And it's all very real.  During the closing credits, you get to see the bloody evidence of an accident that the star had during shooting.  There are stunt cyclists, for sure.  But, the actors were certainly involved and you don't see many computer-generated moments in the film.  Movies like they used to be.

Oh, sure, there are problems.  While the plot really unfolds from 5PM to 7PM one afternoon, the sunlight goes from twilight to bright sunshine and back again constantly.  The continuity of lighting is definitely suspect.  But, I found I didn't really care.  I was having too good a time to quibble.  Suddenly, I was fondly remembering past summers where you could lose yourself mindlessly in some new and exciting air-conditioned world. 

Yep, you don't need a brain to see "Premium Rush."  And, sometimes, that's the reason to go out to a movie.

Dinner last night:  Leftover chicken sausage, rice, and sauteed tomatoes.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This Date in History - August 29

Happy birthday, former White House Press Secretary James Brady.  Despite what everybody said, you're still alive.

708:  COPPER COINS ARE MINTED IN JAPAN FOR THE FIRST TIME. 

Can slot machines be far behind?

1498:  VASCO DA GAMA DECIDES TO DEPART CALICUT AND RETURN TO PORTUGAL.

The name "Vasco" always sounded like a gas station to me.

1521:  THE OTTOMAN TURKS CAPTURE NANDORFEHERVAR, NOW KNOWN AS BELGRADE.

I bet it took them only thirty seconds before they decided to change that name.

1526:  THE OTTOMAN TURKS DEFEAT AND KILL THE KING OF HUNGARY AND BOHEMIA.

But those countries had names that were not hard to spell, so they retained them.

1541:  THE OTTOMAN TURKS CAPTURE BUDA, THE CAPITAL OF HUNGARY.

Damn those Ottoman Turks.  They're like the New York Yankees of the 50s.

1758:  THE FIRST AMERICAN INDIAN RESERVATION IS ESTABLISHED AT INDIAN MILLS, NEW JERSEY.

And, for a second time...can slot machines be far behind?

1778:  DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, BRITISH AND AMERICAN FOCRES BATTLE INDECISIVELY AT THE BATTLE OF RHODE ISLAND.

Just what the hell is an indecisive battle?  Nobody killed anybody??

1786:  SHAYS REBELLION, AN ARMED UPRISING OF MASSACHUSETTS FARMERS, BEGINS IN RESPONSE TO HIGH DEBT AND TAX BURDENS.

#OccupyVillageSquare.

1831:  MICHAEL FARADAY DISCOVERS ELECTROMAGNETIC INDUCTION.

He got a charge out of that.

1833:  THE UNITED KINGDOM LEGISLATES THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY IN ITS EMPIRE.

As always, running ahead of the United States.

1835:  THE CITY OF MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, IS FOUNDED.

And can an Outback Steak House be far behind?

1842:  THE TREATY OF NANKING SIGNING ENDS THE FIRST OPIUM WAR.

Buzzkill.

1885:  GOTTLIEB DAIMLER PATENTS THE WORLD'S FIRST INTERNAL COMBUSTION MOTORCYCLE.

Who cares what gives them power?  They're all nuisances on the road.

1898:  THE GOODYEAR TIRE COMPANY IS FOUNDED.

When the rubber first met the road.

1898:  FILM DIRECTOR PRESTON STURGES IS BORN.

One of the most underrated comedic film directors of all time.  You want proof?   See "Sullivan's Travels," "The Miracle of Morgan Creek," or "The Palm Beach Story."

1907:  THE QUEBEC BRIDGE COLLAPSES DURING CONSTRUCTION, KILLING 75 WORKERS.

Talk about a bridge to nowhere.

1915:  ACTRESS INGRID BERGMAN IS BORN.

Oooh, I've read ahead.  Ingrid's one of those people who.....

1917:  ACTRESS ISABEL SANFORD IS BORN.

Weezie!!

1922:  FASHION CRITIC MR. BLACKWELL IS BORN.

Once met him a party and he died shortly thereafter.   Must have been something I said.

1922:  THE FIRST RADIO ANNOUNCEMENT IS BROADCAST ON WEAF-AM IN NEW YORK CITY.

Which means this is also the first time somebody changed a radio channel.

1926:  ACTRESS BETTY LYNN IS BORN.

Thelma Lou from the Andy Griffith Show!!!

1935:  DIRECTOR WILLIAM FRIEDKIN IS BORN.

The Power of Christ compels you!!

1936:  POLITICIAN JOHN MCCAIN IS BORN.

Loser.

1938:  ACTOR ELLIOTT GOULD IS BORN.

Once married to Streisand so I will go easy on him.  He's suffered enough.

1940:  WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JAMES BRADY IS BORN.

He needed that job like a hole in the head.

1941:  TV HOST ROBIN LEACH IS BORN.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Talentless.

1943:  DURING WORLD WAR II, DENMARK SCUTTLES MOST OF ITS NAVY.

As opposed to waiting for Germany to destroy it.

1965:  THE GEMINI V SPACECRAFT RETURNS TO EARTH.  

Not really noteworthy news, unless they were secretly expecting it not to come back.

1966:  THE BEATLES PERFORM THEIR LAST CONCERT BEFORE FANS AT CANDLESTICK PARK IN SAN FRANCISCO.

And you can bet those fans froze their collective asses off.

1977:  ACTRESS JEAN HAGEN DIES.

Make Grave for Mommy.

1981:  BROADCASTER LOWELL THOMAS DIES.

Making news he would never get to report.

1982:  ACTRESS INGRID BERGMAN DIES.

....died on her birthday.

1985:  ACTRESS EVELYN ANKERS DIES.

Who, you say?   The female ingenue in the great Abbott and Costello film "Hold That Ghost," I say.

1987:  ACTOR LEE MARVIN DIES.

M (as in mortality) Squad.

1996:  VNUKOVO AIRLINES FLIGHT 2801 CRASHES INTO INTO THE ARCTIC ISLAND OF SPITSBERGEN, KILLING ALL 141 ABOARD.

Two points I will make.   I will never visit Spitsbergen.  And I certainly won;t fly there on Vnukovo Airlines.

2005:  HURRICANE KATRINA DEVASTATES MUCH OF THE GOLF COAST.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  We heard.  And I will still say that New Orleans is run by the dumbest politicians this side of the Atlantic Ocean.   They knew those levees were faulty years ago and did nothing to repair them.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch, so just a salad.



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Sweet and Mostly Sour of Baseball Fandom

You're probably looking at this photo and thinking.  Oh, God, this is going to be a baseball post.  Not interested.

Well, not quite.   Yes, America's pastime is at the center of today's bit of whimsy.  But, at the root of it all is, of course, life.

I've often said and written that, if you understand baseball, you can appreciate life.  Because, at so many times and in so many ways, the sport and our sheer existence intertwine.  The simple fact that every baseball season represents a life of sorts.  You start with nothing in the spring.  On Opening Day, you haven't won a game nor have you lost one.  Everyone is tied for both first place and last place.  

Birth.

Then, over the course of a long life or, in this case, a 162-game baseball season, your success and failure is measured not by flashes but extended periods of bliss and/or sadness.  You work hard every day.  Hopefully, you are rewarded at the end.  Most are not and they come back refreshed the following April to begin the sequence all over again.

Death and rebirth.

When you are the fan of a baseball team, you follow a parallel existence.  You watch on TV.  You go to the stadium.  Some, who are nuts like me with season tickets, get so involved that it overruns your world for most of the summer.  I've done this most of my life, since the day when my father took an eight-year-old boy to his first baseball game.  At Yankee Stadium of all places and Mickey Mantle hit a home run.  The adults I was with enjoyed the contest.  As for me, I ate a megaphone filled with popcorn and didn't know any better.

I would not live as comfortably in life without a baseball game at hand.  For me, it is as routine a procedure as inhaling and exhaling repeatedly.   Having been through many years of baseball fandom, I know mostly of the down times.  Watching other teams move into October with reasons to still be on the field.  Except for some isolated, yet divinely euphoric moments, I watch my teams stay on the sidelines when the air gets a little crisper at the end of September.  

Yes, I understand disappointment.  I have been, for most of my life, a New York Met fan.  That mere declaration often will solicit words of sympathy from others.  Now, as my life moved bi-coastal, I added the Los Angeles Dodgers to my world almost in the role of a second wife.  And, almost as if I am always resigned to be the fan of an also-ran, I find myself suffering the same indignities every baseball season.  Close, but no cigar, regardless of whether I smoke or not.  Both my choices of baseball teams are now suspect. 

But, still, these are the moments of my summers.  When nothing pleases me more than to sit in a ballpark with the look and feel of a Dodger Stadium, stuck mystically and gratefully in the retro 60s.   Marking my scorecard.  Guessing the manager's next move and wondering why he doesn't have a left-hander warming in the bullpen during the seventh inning.   Sure, I want my guys to win.  Yet, the outcome is not always as important as how you get there.   And there is nothing better than the promise of a baseball game in progress.

The real glory of baseball fandom with a particular team is watching the future develop before your eyes, just like the way my grandmother's rhubarb plants would get taller and taller each summer.  Here is the promise of a Matt Kemp.  I remember seeing him hit his first major league home run on television back in 2006.  There is the hope of a pitching phenom like Clayton Kershaw.  I was at his first major league start in 2008 and I felt that connection was strong enough for me to buy a jersey with his name and number on it.  I've worn it his starts ever since.   And then there is the disappointment when players we see begin their careers with the same promise and hope, yet it never crystalizes for these guys.  James Loney is one of them.

Yet, being a part of their baseball lives from "birth" is what makes such fandom so special for us.  And I've realized that I've enjoyed more of that than most.  I was at Darryl Strawberry's first major league game for the New York Mets in 1983.  I remember Mookie Wilson's first stolen base.  And Dwight Gooden's first start on an April 1984 night in the Houston Astrodome.  Enjoying it all as if I'm watching a new puppy take its first steps across a slippery kitchen linoleum floor.

In my baseball life, my teams almost never seem to have enough players.  Or the money to go out and get them.  Most notably, in the past six years as a Dodger fan, the ownership was so particularly stingy that I was convinced my parents were controlling the purse strings.  "We're not made of money," my mom and dad would always say.   And it always seemed like the McCourt family was channeling the same words.   

They're gone now.  My parents and the McCourts.  The latter replaced by ownership with pockets as deep as the ocean and a spending passion like pirates who just came onshore and found out that whores were now two dollars for the whole night.  They spend for this one.  They trade for that very expensive one.  They assume other people's debt as if they were a hedge fund on Wall Street.  

Suddenly, this Dodger fan suddenly discovers there has been a nine player trade with the Boston Red Sox.  Coming west is some very pricey junk, but, at the centerpiece of it all is first baseman Adrian Gonzalez who has the potential of doing to this franchise what I watched Keith Hernandez do for the Mets in 1983.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers now assume contracts amounting to over 260 million dollars, which now sounds like one of Barack Obama's stimulus grants to a solar energy company.  So many greenbacks have been spent that one newspaper writer now calls the Dodgers "the Yankees of the West."

Wait a doggone minute.   That's not me.  I'm never a fan of a team that spends money.  What the hell has happened in a parallel universe?  Is the planet now off its axis?  

I don't know how to process this all.  I'm a season ticket holder of a team that wants to win now, not tomorrow.  Do I have it in my fan skill sets to even be a part of this?  I suddenly think of the annual disappointment with the aforementioned James Loney, now headed for Yawkey Way in Boston.  It's as if my son just went off to college and I don't think he prepared enough in high school.

I see all these new and expensive toys coming in.  Josh Beckett, who I hear was the most hated-by-the-fans Red Sox ever, which is quite the accomplishment for a fan base that once regularly watched Manny Ramirez.  Carl Crawford, who I hear is a good guy but just had surgery and won't even play till next May.  Somebody called Nick Punto, who sounds more like a football player to me.  

I think about the fans who went to their first games in the major leagues.  They lost the likes of Beckett, Crawford, and Punto years ago.  Did they have the same sense of loss?  All of a sudden, there is 50 percent of a Dodger team that I have no connection to.  I must build an instant relationship.  Ah, so this is what it's like to be a New York Yankee fan all these decades?  Hey, we need a left fielder who can hit 40 homers.  Bang, there he is.  

I realize that I now miss the promise and hope of watching kids emerge into stars.  Being together.  Fan and player from the very first pitch.  I view this trade.  Commentators call it an earth-shattering one for the Dodger franchise.  I call it just a little bittersweet.  Suddenly, in the arena of baseball haves and have nots, I am now a member of the 1%.

I don't know if I like it.

As in life, money is no guarantee of success.  Gee, the Boston Red Sox this year are total proof of that.  And, even with all this new-found largesse, there is no assurance the Dodgers will be still playing baseball as the leaves are beginning to turn in Massachusetts.  

But, still....

I have great seats in Dodger Stadium.  I think every year of what it would be like to sit in them for the World Series.  

Hmmm.   I guess I do have to learn all about Beckett and Punto.

I am learning to taste the sugar as we speak.  Knowing fully well that sour waits anxiously for me just around the corner.

Dinner last night:  Chicken apple sausage, rice, and chopped spinach.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 27, 2012

Remembering the late Sherman Hemsley with this classic "All in The Family" scene from Lionel's engagement party.  Brilliant writing and acting.

 
Dinner last night:  Orange chicken from Panda Express.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Top 25 Favorite Movies of All Time

In the first year of this blog, I spent about 50 Sundays counting down my Top 25 Favorite Movies of All Time and my Top 25 Favorite TV Shows of All Time.  Heck, back in that day, I was new to this blogging thing and was looking to fill content every week and every day.

Since then, I've referenced some of these movies and TV shows from time to time and folks have asked to see the lists again.  No, I'm not going to rerun them all for the next year.  But, I will give you the listings in one fell swoop.  With a quick thumbnail comment or two on each.

This week, let's see my Top 25 Favorite Movies...in ascending order:

25.  Since You Went Away

The ultimate movie on how a typical American family dealt with life on the World War II homefront.  A wonderful time capsule of the last time this nation was unified in a single cause. 

24.  Pillow Talk

The first Doris Day-Rock Hudson pairing and arguably the best.  Before there were cell phones, there were party lines.  Ridiculously innocent, but who cares?   Thelma Ritter steals every scene she's in as a boozy housekeeper.  And she appears on my list again in a similar role.

23.  White Christmas

It wouldn't be the holiday season without me popping this into the DVD player or, thanks to being in Los Angeles, seeing it on the big screen.  The movie I'm most likely to be watching on December 23 or 24.  Next time you watch it, pay close attention to Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen and see how they virtually steal the film away from old pros Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

22.  Marty

Completely shot in the Bronx and I could recognize locations where my parents would take me shopping when I was a kid.  A marvelous look at a single man and how he deals with perhaps finding the love of his life.  Ernest Borgnine's Oscar win and nobody deserved it more.  It looks, smells, and feel just like New York.

21.  Radio Days

There are three Woody Allen movies I can watch over and over and over.  Annie Hall.  Manhattan.  Hannah and Her Sisters.  But the one that sings to me the most is his paean to growing up in the 30s and 40s when the radio was your family's sole source for nightly entertainment.  Wildly nostalgic and the scene where an aunt takes her small nephew to Radio City Music Hall for the first time makes me misty-eyed on every single viewing.

20.  One, Two, Three

Billy Wilder is my favorite film director and he shows up three times on my list.  But, this movie is one of his lesser known efforts but brilliant nonetheless.  James Cagney plays a Coca-Cola bottler in Berlin just before the Wall goes up.  A performance that is so funny and rapid-fire that it literally forced Cagney to go into retirement immediately thereafter.  He is talking the entire picture, but every line is a gem that's better than the last.

19.  Mildred Pierce

My earliest introduction to bitch slaps.  I first watched this with my mother one rainy Sunday afternoon when it aired on WNEW-TV Metromedia Channel 5.  Joan Crawford's finest moment on screen and Eve Arden sets the standard for the wise cracking girlfriend.  I wish people would slap each other like this in real life.

18.  Giant

As big as all of Texas, this saga of a ranching/oil drilling family could have been the genesis for TV's Dallas.  It's three hours long and doesn't feel it.  Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor are simply marvelous, although the late James Dean is a trifle miscast.  Still, I got to see this on a big screen out in Los Angeles and it's the only way to enjoy this George Stevens masterpiece.

17.  City Lights

Charlie Chaplin's finest.  The tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl.  If that sounds a bit sappy, you're right.  Nobody tugs on the heartstrings better than Chaplin.  As thick as the schmaltz is layered, the final scene is the benchmark for all filmmakers who want their audiences to be bawling their eyes out as they leave the theater.  If you can ever see it in a theater with live orchestration, run, don't walk.

16.  The Band Wagon

Everybody says that Singin' in the Rain is MGM's greatest musical.  And, since it shows up on my list later on, maybe it is.  But The Band Wagon is no sloppy second.  Almost completely devoid of plot, the movie still keeps you riveted through every delightful production number.  Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse's "Dancing in the Park" routine is one of those film moments that I can't turn off when I run into the film on TV.  Watch the dance once with the sound turned down.  Even in silence, it's beautiful.

15.  Ben-Hur

The 1959 edition, folks.  My mom used to take me to all the Biblical epics, but, somehow, I missed this one.   I never saw it until New Year's Eve day, 1987.  I had suffered a hairline fracture of the shoulder the night before so I decided to rent the longest movie I could find at the video store.  Even on a Zenith 19 inch portable TV screen, this film was so deeply powerful, yet amazingly intimate at the same time.  I've since gotten to see it several times on a big screen.  Yes, gang, Charlton Heston can act.  But, Stephen Boyd as Massala does steal the picture.

14.  Yankee Doodle Dandy

My very first movie addiction.  When I was really young, WOR-TV Channel 9 in New York ran the Million Dollar Movie.  The same picture ran every night and all day Saturday and Sunday for a week.   I think I watched every showing of this terrific biography of George M. Cohan.  Jimmy Cagney tapdancing down the stairs of the White House?  Legendary.

13.  It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

When I was a kid, I gravitated to all the comedians that my grandmother used to love on television.  This was my very first exposure to the likes of Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, and Buddy Hackett.  When this finally showed up at the Loews Theater in Mount Vernon, I think I went three times the next week.  And, when it later showed up on television, I watched it with my grandmother on her black and white Philco TV.  Meanwhile, as good as Grandma's favorites were in the movie, keep your eyes on "young" Jonathan Winters as he rules the screen every time the camera's on him.

12.  Bye Bye Birdie

This is the movie that jumpstarted my hormones at a very young age.  Ann-Margret.  Ann-Margret.  Ann-Margret.  Need I say more?  This played at the Loews Mount Vernon theater and I went five times in a single week.  And, in a rather bizarre display of crossed wires, the other main attraction for me in this film was Paul Lynde who I loved to imitate.  Years later, I should have been a lot more worried about myself than I was at the time.  When the movie soundtrack album came out with Ann-Margret on the cover....well, you don't really want to know what I did with that, do you?

11.  The Best Years of Our Lives

Along with the aforementioned Since You Went Away, I was always fascinated by the impact that World War II had on the American homefront.  I have my grandmother and her own Sunday Memory Drawers to thank for that.  This film shows you what happened when those surviving GIs came home.  The scenes with Oscar winner Harold Russell...well, they had me hooked.  Wink wink.

10.  Singin' In The Rain

The gold standard for MGM musicals from the 1950s.  So many moments that you can watch over and over and over.  Donald O'Connor making us laugh.  Debbie Reynolds saying Good Mornin'.  Gene Kelly showing us just how drip dry his pants really were.  I can watch this once a month and not be bored.  The new Blu Ray makes it look like the movie was produced last week.  Meanwhile, despite the star power of those mentioned above, Jean Hagen almost commits a Brinks Truck-like heist of the film with her portrayal of a musical comedy star who can't sing. 

9.  The Music Man

A different day and a different time.  Yes, the setting of this musical is the very innocent Midwest back at the turn of the century.  But, this film also marked a major life event for me.  It was the first time my parents let me go to the movies by myself.  I suppose neither one of them was interested in seeing it.  So, my father dropped me off at the RKO Proctor Theater in Mount Vernon, New York.  He squared it away with the usherette to watch over me and he picked me up exactly three hours later.  Originally, I saw "The Music Man" because my childhood hero was Ronny Howard.  But, this is perhaps the quintessential Broadway musical comedy and the screen adaptation is just as wonderful.

8.  Jaws

I saw it on the day it opened in June of 1975 in what had to be one of the oddest-shaped theaters ever built.  It was this bizarre bandbox on Fordham Road.  The theater was so rectangular that it gave you the illusion of watching a movie in a bowling alley.  Meanwhile, none of us knew where the scares were, so, at the end of two hours, we were scared shitless.  The glory of this movie is that, even if you've seen it over and over, it still works every time.  A few years back, the Aero Theater in Santa Monica ran it on a Saturday night.  The place was packed and parents were exposing their kids to it for the first time.  They didn't know where the scares were, so the screams were real and organic.  By the way, the Blu Ray edition which was just released makes the film look like it was filmed yesterday.

7.  The Bridge on the River Kwai

My father shepherded me to all the really important war films.  He really wanted to give me a sense of the vital moments in recent American history, as he had just lived through them himself.  So, when "Bridge" first ran on network television, I got to stay up to the ungodly hour of Sunday night 11:30PM to watch it.  Perhaps the most intimate of all war movies, I make this required viewing at least once every two years.  Oddly enough, I have never gotten to see it on a big screen and I am waiting anxiously for some classic theater here in Los Angeles to unspool it for me. 

6.  Sons of the Desert

Laurel and Hardy's finest hour.   Well, hour and about fifteen minutes.  Whenever Stan and Ollie were on television, you'd find me and Grandma in front of the tube.  She talked frequently about one of their movies which she claims to have seen in an open air theater somewhere in the Bronx.  In it, they were selling Christmas trees and she said she never laughed harder in her life.  Frankly, I thought she made it all up until I finally saw said short on Turner Classic Movies.  She was right.  It was hilarious.  Meanwhile, "Sons of the Desert" is their finest feature-length movie.  The boys lie to their wives so they can go to a convention.  How simple a plot?  How glorious a movie!  It gave me one of the movie lines I have quoted most in my life.  "Honesty is the best politics."

5.  The Godfather

The last movie I went to see with my dad in an actual theater.  Now, I had read the Mario Puzo book as did all the boys in my neighborhood.  You read Page 27.   Over and over and over.  Sex education courtesy of the Mafia.  So, when the film came out, I couldn't wait to see how they put Page 27 on the big screen.   Imagine my horror when my own father, caught up by the film's frenzy, announced he wanted to take me to see it.  Ummm.  Er.  Ummmm.  Er.  Well, Page 27 came pretty early on in the movie.  It was tame by comparison to the book.  But, still, I sat there stone-faced and never once did I look at my dad throughout the entire sequence.  There are just some things you don't share with a parent.  Meanwhile, the movie itself was then and is now still a masterpiece.

4.  Rear Window

Only Alfred Hitchcock could keep a camera trained on the windows of a New York apartment building and get a riveting two-hour movie.  Sheer magic happens whenever I see it.  The true mark of a successful movie is if you can find something new in it with every successive viewing.  I just saw it again about two weeks ago at the Aero Theater and I found myself looking for little nuances in some of the apartments that Hitch doesn't focus on primarily.  There are gold nuggets all over the place.  Suspense that holds you in its grip no matter how many times you see it.  Thelma Ritter again is the snappy housekeeper you want to hire for your own apartment.  And how cool a villain's name is "Lars Thorwald?"

3.  North by Northwest

Back-to-back Hitchcock in my Top 5 and why the hell not?  Both films are as perfect as they come.  There is not a single wasted shot in all of "North by Northwest."  The perfect blend of comedy and suspense, which never crosses the line into either category.  Cary Grant is the ideal "wrong man at the wrong time and at the wrong place," a device Hitchcock used over and over and over.  As dire as his situation is, he pops off one-liners that have you giggling through the terror.  His best line when he sees Eva Marie Saint working together with villain James Mason:  "You here with her.  That's a picture that even Charles Addams couldn't draw."  Meanwhile, the crop dusting scene is legendary and required repeat viewing for any movie fan.

2.  Some Like It Hot

For years and years, I called this terrific Billy Wilder concoction my absolute favorite movie of all time.  And it's damn good.  The film provided me with my very first occasion of actually hearing people laugh in a movie theater.  My parents took me at a very young age.  I had no clue where the hell I was.  But, it was in the Loews Theater in Mount Vernon, New York.   As was always the case back in the day, you entered a movie theater regardless of where you were in the double feature.  And we walked into "Some Like It Hot" during the last ten minutes, when Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are being chased around the hotel dressed as women.  The theater was enveloped in laughter.  And so were, in a rare moviegoing moment together, my parents.  Don't get me wrong.  This is and always will be a perfect comedy.  But, as I grew older and more experienced in life, there was another film that seemed to fit me even a little comfortably as my #1 Favorite Movie of All Time...

1.  The Apartment

Indeed, this Billy Wilder comedy-drama is most representative of life itself.  With its ups and downs.  Its joyous moments.  Its disappointments.  People connecting and un-connecting and then connecting again.  Sometimes, it makes sense.  Other times, it does not.   As time and I wore on, I realized that "The Apartment" continually says more to me about the world we live in than any other movie.  Wonderfully funny and harrowingly dramatic.  Two diverse reactions that can occur within seconds of each other as the characters of C.C. Baxter, Fran Kubelik, and Mr. Sheldrake play out their lives which could be the same issues confronting you and I.  Meanwhile, there is still a smile on my face throughout.  To enjoy "The Apartment" is to experience life itself.  Jack Lemmon, Shirley McLaine, and Fred MacMurray have never been better.  I've been in screenings of the movie where grown adults hiss at Fred from the audience.  Reactions like that show you that the film, as crafted by Herr Wilder, is working.  The Best Picture Oscar winner of 1960 and my Best Picture winner of my life.  What?  You haven't seen it?  Well, "just shut up and deal."

So there's the list again, gang.  For those of you into weird trivia, you can pay attention to the following:

Billy Wilder has directed three of the movies on this list.

Alfred Hitchcock has directed two of the movies on this list.

William Wyler has directed two of the movies on this list.

Those actors appearing in films more than once on this list:  the aforementioned Thelma Ritter, James Cagney, Buddy Hackett, Cyd Charisse, and Jack Lemmon.

By decade, there are 2 films from the 30s, 4 from the 40s, 11 from the 50s, 5 from the 60s, 2 from the 70s, and 1 from the 80s.

And, speaking to the state of Hollywood today, there is not one movie on this list made after the year 1987. 

Dinner last night:  Bratwurst at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - August 2012

A Radio City Music Hall hit in the summer of 1967.

 
Dinner last night:  Louisiana sausage and garlic fries at the Dodger game.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Big Summer 2012 Sale at Sky Mall

I've been traveling a bit so I have had plenty of time to waste time at 35,000 feet with tours through the latest Sky Mall catalog.  Where junk comes with a hefty price.  For instance...
If you're in need of a protein boost, you could choke down one of these gelatins.  The blurb said one cup contains as much nutritional value as a piece of fruit.  Or, if you really want to get bold...have a freakin' piece of fruit.
This allegedly gives you a hand massage.  In the event you are not in close proximity to a 20-year-old Asian girl...
This is a complete toilet training course for your kitty.  Notice there is a DVD included, in the event your cat knows how to operate the electronic equipment attached to your television set.  Meanwhile, is there anything creepier than the feline in this picture?  Makes you want to fill the bathtub full of water, doesn't it?
Trying to get that teenage girl in your house to brush her teeth regularly?  Well, these electric toothbrushes spit out a Justin Bieber tune as she Colgates away.  Gives totally new meaning to the expression "rinse and spit."

This is the "Magic Derriere" panty.  Guaranteed to add inches to your ass.  Comes in four sizes: Small, Medium, Large, and Post Office Clerk.


If you are really, really, really proud of your college, let everybody know by putting the school logo on your luggage.  By the way, the Penn State edition has been marked down 75%.

This is a spy voice recorder.  Easily hidden when you want to secretly blackmail your co-worker.  Because everybody has a Bernie Madoff in their world.
You could take this supplement or do something a little more radical and buy a damn alarm clock.
If you're worried about the germs you're flying with, simply spray them away.  Meanwhile, does this even make it past TSA Security?
Got a meteorologist in your life?  They'll love this weather station.  Or they could simply look out a fucking window.

Dinner last night:  New york strip steak at Boa.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Yay! I Finished Another Book - "Backstage at the Mets" by Lindsey Nelson and Al Hirshberg

I've written here about my childhood summer nights.  Pressed up against the kitchen fan and reading a good book. 

Sometimes, sensory perception can bring you back to the old days.

A few weeks back, I was in New York and it was muggy.  The type of evening where the moon is almost as hot as the sun.  While my apartment there is equipped with air conditioning, I also have two ceiling fans installed.  As well as a pretty powerful floor fan that is based in my home office.   On this night, I was doing some work on the laptop.  Probably updating this very blog.  And the breeze from the floor fan gave me the kind of feeling I had years ago.   The whirr of the fan motor.  The coolness that caressed me.

I suddenly had this urge to snuggle up to the fan and read a book.  I turned around to the bookcase in my office.  These are offerings that never made the move to Los Angeles.  Things I read perhaps twenty years ago.

Or, in some cases, even longer.

I reached over and pulled down the first thing I could grab.
"Backstage at the Mets" by Lindsey Nelson with Al Hirshberg.   A book that came out in 1966.  And one I probably read in a summer a long, long time ago.  Curled up with the kitchen fan.

I dusted off the top of the binding and cracked the spine of the book.  The glue that once held it together had dried so the pages were beginning to loosen.  Despite its condition, I started to read.

And didn't stop for three hours.  A book devoured in one sitting.

I can remember when it was all new to me.  I was a young baseball fan, suddenly and inexplicably and hopelessly devoted to the New York Mets.  They were still new to baseball.  Only three or four years old.  But they had captured the hearts of New Yorkers with their lovable quirkiness and ineptitude. 

I was one of them.

Lindsey Nelson was one of the Mets announcers back when.  He was a longtime sports announcer.  A thorough professional but one also blessed with a wry wit.  He found the funny in most situations.  And certainly appreciated the wonder of the fledgling Met franchise which seemed to find an infinite number of ways in which you could lose a baseball game.  With the 75-year-old Casey Stengel at the team's helm, Nelson knew there was a great story to tell with the birth of the Mets.  This was captured wonderfully in "Backstage at the Mets."

It all held my attention, but also simultaneously provoked my mind to wander.  To my first trip to Shea Stadium.  To games and losses I had long since forgotten.   To players that were on dog-eared baseball cards in a shoebox under my bed. 

To a day when all these stories were new.  And gobbled up by a young boy simply trying to beat the summer night heat.   One more time.

The feeling was back.  The electric fan spun on in my ear.  The lilting breeze chilled me. 

And, for three hours, I was back home in Mount Vernon, New York.  And I was a new Met fan all over again.

Dinner last night:  Leftover pizza and salad.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

This Date in History - August 22

Happy birthday, Rhoda.  Sorry things didn't work out with Joe.

392:  ARBOGAST HAS EUGENIUS ELECTED WESTERN ROMAN EMPEROR.

So the Roman Empire had divisions like the National League?

476:  ODOACER IS NAMED REX ITALIAE BY HIS TROOPS.

And Lerner and Loewe named Rex Harrison to be Henry Higgins.

565:  ST. COLUMBA REPORTS SEEING A MONSTER IN LOCH NESS, ENGLAND.

And what Loch Ness tavern did St. Columbia stop at on his way home?

851:  DURING THE BATTLE OF JENGLAND, ERISPOE DEFEATS CHARLES THE BALD.

No, that's not a typo.   I wrote it correctly.  Jengland.

1559:  BARTOLOME CARRANZA, SPANISH ARCHBISHOP, IS ARRESTED FOR HERESY.

If he was nabbed in a foreign country, he would be arrested for theresy.

1642:  CHARLES I CALLS THE ENGLISH PARLIAMENT TRAITORS AS THEIR CIVIL WAR BEGINS.

Traitors may not be the worst thing.   It's bad enough they have to wear those goofy white wigs.

1654:  JACOB BARSIMSON ARRIVES IN NEW AMSTERDAM AND IS THE FIRST KNOWN JEWISH IMMIGRANT TO AMERICA.

Of course, in the phone book, he was listed as "Jack Barr."

1717:  SPANISH TROOPS LAND IN SARDINIA.

Home of the canned fish.

1791:  BEGINNING OF THE HAITIAN SLAVE REVOLUTION IN SAINT-DOMINGUE.

And when they were done there, they moved en masse to my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York.

1831:  NAT TURNER'S SLAVE REVOLUTION COMMENCES AT MIDNIGHT IN VIRGINIA.

And the special entertainment that night came from Nat's sister, Tina.

1848:  THE UNITED STATES ANNEXES NEW MEXICO.

Fitting name given the holes in the fence on their southern border.

1862:  COMPOSER CLAUDE DEBUSSY IS BORN.

La Mer!

1864:  THE RED CROSS IS FORMED.

Donuts for everybody!

1893:  WRITER DOROTHY PARKER IS BORN.

Famed for one of my favorite literary lines:  "If you've got nothing good to say about somebody, come sit by me."

1902:  CADILLAC MOTOR COMPANY IS FORMED.

Gas guzzling had to start some time.

1902:  TEDDY ROOSEVELT BECOMES THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE US TO RIDE IN AN AUTOMOBILE.

I bet he was smart enough to keep the top on it.

1920:  WRITER RAY BRADBURY IS BORN.

And he died just last month.

1925:  ACTRESS HONOR BLACKMAN IS BORN.

Pussy Galore!  Enough said.

1926:  GOLD IS DISCOVERED IN SOUTH AFRICA.

In them thar apartheid hills.

1932:  THE BBC FIRST EXPERIMENTS WITH TELEVISION BROADCASTING.

Thank God.   Without this day, we would never have gotten "Downton Abbey."

1939:  ACTRESS VALERIE HARPER IS BORN.

I once saw her get in the head with a roll at a restaurant.   True story.

1939:  BASEBALL STAR CARL YASTRZEMSKI IS BORN.

Ya, bum, ya.

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, BRAZIL DECLARES WAR ON GERMANY AND ITALY.

Oh, I bet that really scared them.

1947:  ACTRESS CINDY WILLIAMS IS BORN.

Schlamiegel, schlamogel.

1950:  ALTHEA GIBSON BECOMES THE FIRST BLACK COMPETITOR IN INTERNATIONAL TENNIS.

Game set match.

1952:  THE PENAL COLONY ON DEVIL'S ISLAND IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED.

So you August vacationers will need to figure out something else for the last week of the month.

1962:  AN ATTEMPT TO ASSASSINATE FRENCH PRESIDENT CHARLES DE GAULLE FAILS.

Must be the same idiot who botched the chance to kill Al Sharpton.

1968:  POPE PAUL VI ARRIVES IN BOGOTA, COLOMBIA.  IT IS THE FIRST VISIT OF A POPE TO LATIN AMERICA.

Viva Le Pope Mobile.

1977:  ACTOR SEBASTIAN CABOT DIES.

Mr. French!

1989:  THE FIRST RING OF NEPTUNE IS DISCOVERED.

Turns out it was only Cubic Zirconium.

1989:  NOLAN RYANS BECOMES THE FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PITCHER TO RECORD 5,000 STRIKEOUTS.

Yeah, nice trade, Mets.

1989:  ACTIVIST HUEY NEWTON DIES.

Good riddance.

1991:  ACTRESS COLEEN DEWHURST DIES.

Once married to George C. Scott.  I would have liked to be a fly on the wall with one of their marital squabbles.

1996:  BILL CLINTON SIGNS WELFARE REFORM INTO LAW.

Yeah, that lasted.   All completely undone by now.

2007:  THE TEXAS RANGERS ROUT THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES, 30-3, THE MOST RUNS SCORED BY A TEAM IN MODERN MLB HISTORY.

My worst nightmare?  They scored 30 runs on all singles.

2011:  SONGWRITER NICK ASHFORD DIES.

Simpson now looking for a new partner.

2011:  SONGWRITER JERRY LEIBER DIES.

Simpson, please say hello to Stoller.

Dinner last night:  Super Dodger Dog at the game.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shoes of the Phisherman

A show of hands, please.

Did you all sign up for that national "Do Not Call" list a few years back?

Uh-huh.

Another show of hands, please.

Are you all still getting as many telemarketing calls as before?

Yeah, I thought so.

And, despite the many ways we can take to protect our privacy and livelihoods, are you still getting scammed as much as ever?

Yeah. me, too.

We can protect ourselves and protect ourselves and protect ourselves.  Yet, the scum out there continues to "phish" in our personal ponds.

I've written before of some trouble that happened to my private banking accounts.  Over one five-year period, both my writing partner and I had our checking accounts compromised a grand combined total of seven times.  That is unimaginable.   Or is it?  Apparently not in this day and age, where people have seemingly gotten more resilient when it comes to being evil. 

More recently, there are e-mail scam versions of the bank account pilfering.  Because we are all now so conscious of having our finances hacked, the shitheads are now using that to create fake e-mail messages that look like they are coming from your bank.

But they are not.

I am getting one every month now.  It looks legit.  The e-mail has a logo of my banking institution and tells me that they think my account has been touched by an unauthorized user.  To ensure that I am who I say I am, the message tells me to click on a link and verify my identity with my Social Security number.

The first time this happened, I was immediately skeptical.  When you look at the wording of the e-mail and read it closely, you'll always find a clue.  Try reading it out loud.  You will discover that the prose sounds like it was written in a foreign country.  This test never fails. 

Of course, I did call my bank the first time and they alerted me that, if there was ever a problem with my account, they contact by phone and not e-mail.  And they have done just that in the past.  Now, whenever I get these e-mails, I simply forward them to the spam abuse contact that my bank gave me.

But, how many people out there get suckered?  Too many, I am thinking. 

Last week, I ran into a new one.

I was sitting quietly one night, watching the Dodger game.   So, when the phone rings, I'm immediately annoyed whether it be a friend or a stranger.

There was a long pause after I picked up.  There usually is when one of these crooks' computer systems random dials your number.  And then the voice, which was unmistakenly foreign.  I am guessing either Arabic or Indian.

"Allo.  This is Microsoft."

Really?  What's your last name, Microsoft?  I knew immediately this was a scam.

"Are you aware that your Windows system is sending us illegal messages?"

Er, if one of the messages is "go fuck yourself," I applaud my Windows system.  Meanwhile, I let the conversation go on a little longer just to play with this asshole's mind. 

"We can help you fix this problem, which is critical for the operation of your computer."

Gee, thanks so much. 

"I can send you a patch for this very critical problem.  $49.95." 

Boy, am I glad you called me.  And that's a reasonable price for such a critical problem.

"First I need your credit card please, thank you very much."

Okay, that will be a Discover card.  (PS, I don't have a Discover card.)  I read him some random numbers.

"And the name as it appears on the card, please, thank you very much."

Gee, it's a hard name, so let me spell it for you.

F-U-C-K....

He hung up.  I never got to the Y-O-U.

It made me feel better, but I then worried about the next call this sleazebag was going to make.  Perhaps to an older person who's already worried about their computer's slow performance.  And susceptible to this type of phone scam.

We can take all the protection we want.  But, somehow, they figure out newer and more horrible ways to get into our lives.  Until the day when none of us will come out from underneath our beds ever again.

Dinner last night:  Bobboli pizza with pepperoni.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 20, 2012

Dan Quayle is getting the last laugh.  This guy is the biggest idiot ever to be in the office.  And I am the only one who remembers he had some crooked money scandals in the late 80s.


 Dinner last night:  Barbecue ribs at Tony Roma's.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Six Flags Over Annoyance

My amusement park memories has apparently sparked a trilogy and this is the third installment. 

Let me go on record right now.  I hate, absolutely detest any Six Flags amusement park.  I was never a big fan when I was in the correct demographic.  Now a bit older, I couldn't fathom ever visiting one of these places again.  The more thrills a ride offers, the less likely I am to go on it.  The funny thing is that I would tackle a roller coaster or something similar at a Disney park.  As long as I'm not suspended upside down in mid-air, I'll do.  At a place with the mouse ears.  But, at a Six Flags dump?  Forget it.

This is not to say that I didn't frequent one back in the day.  Right after college, Great Adventure opened in Jackson, New Jersey.  A schlep certainly from the New York metropolitan area, but you made it if a group was going and perhaps, once again, you were trying to get...ahem...close to somebody.  What better place to forge a romantic and maybe even intimate bond while somebody is throwing up onto your sneakers?  Ah, those are the moments that create wonderful relationships.

Except there was one female friend that I went to Great Adventure with, not once but twice.  Despite the fact that I didn't learn my lesson the first time.  Two incredibly miserable days that have discolored my memories of Six Flags Great Adventure for eternity.

Okay, maybe I was a little dumb back then.   This was somebody that I actually liked.  Maybe even in that way which leads to serious dating and then selecting a fabric for living room curtains.  In retrospect, what the hell was I thinking?  But, concentrating on where I was at the time, she was probably as cute as a button. 

Oh, how the mind...and your vision...can play cruel tricks on you.

Well, anyway, it was a summer day right after college graduation.  A time when I should have been looking for gainful employment and a possibly worthwhile career.  Nah, I took July and August off.  And used my free time to live it up.  Heck, I had the rest of my life to be responsible.  I needed to goof off for a bit.

One of those time wasters was an excursion to Great Adventure.  And this would be one of those rare stellar events where my best friend and college roommate would take in the amusement park with a couple of other friends.  They just happened to be girls.  There was no pairing off here.  Just four folks going on some rides. 

Okay, well, maybe I did have a slight agenda. 

But, as luck and age would have it, my college roommate and I tended to be a little annoying on this day.  Fooling around.  Making fun of some of the other people in the park.  And, for some bizarre reason, constantly trying to step on the back of each other's sneakers.

We were college graduates in diploma only. 

All day long, we were each working hard to trip up the other.  Stupid, I know, but there would be plenty of time for civility when we got jobs.  For now, this was our complete focus.  Getting each other to almost fall down.

So, as we went through those chain link mazes that arranged the lines of people waiting to board a ride, we'd step on each other's sneakers.   At one point, he slammed down so hard on the back of my foot that it propelled me forward with a lurch.  Convinced I was going to fall over and fast, I put my hands out to grab onto anything.  For some reason that I can't explain, my right hand was clenched in a fist.

Innocently, my would-be girlfriend happened to be following the chain link maze in the other direction. 

Her face and my fist had a rendezvous.  The meeting place was her jaw. 

Whack!!

I had accidentally punched her in the face.

Like a good sparring partner, the force of my hand made her wobble, but she never went down.  I hadn't scored a technical knockout, but, regardless, I immediately began to apologize profusely.  It wasn't my fault.  My roommate had tripped me.  Blame him.  Are you okay?  Is there anything I can do?

"No, I'm fine."

Ah, good, she was trying to be a trooper.  Or so I thought.

For the rest of the day, we relived this drama over and over and over and over.  Everytime I looked at her, she was rubbing her jaw.  Moving it from side to side to make sure it still worked.  And reminding me at every single moment that I had socked her in the face.  I was feeling bad enough as it was.  Although she kept reassuring me that she was fine, she couldn't stop talking about the incident.  I was getting to the point where I wanted to belt her jaw again and, this time, do it so she couldn't possibly speak another word.

Effectively, the day at Six Flags Great Adventure had been ruined.

Let's flash forward to a year later and another example of how I never learn my lesson.  Back to Six Flags Great Adventure.  With the same girl.  This time, I'm bopping along with said person's sister and her own boyfriend.  Luckily, he and I did not have the type of relationship where we felt comfortable stepping on each other's sneakers.

Sadly, that might have been the highlight of the day.

This was one of those summer dates where heat and humidity fit over the New York City metropolitan area like a glove that was one size too small.  You touched something and you were instantly glued to it by the moisture.  A perfect day to sample the water rides at an amusement park.  And, with its enormous log flume ride, Great Adventure was beckoning to us.  I couldn't wait to go on this and get as wet as possible.

Apparently, I was the only one.

"Do we really want to go on the log flume?"

Huh?

I was quite nice asking why she was so reticent.  What I really wanted to ask was....

Are you freakin' kidding me???  It's 150 fucking degrees outside and the best way to cool off is to get sprayed with oodles of water.  Why the hell did you come here anyway?   To sit in a hot car and go through the safari land???  We can't do that anyway because my father's Buick has a vinyl top and the baboons like to eat the glue that holds that down.  You stupid pain in the ass!!!

Or something like that. 

I was oddly persistent and I'm not sure why.  Maybe it was just that hot.

I must have been fairly persuasive because she ultimately caved in and went on the log flume.  The big drop at the end of the ride would be just the start of my problems for the rest of the day.

As luck and fate would have it, my friend was the one who got the soaking on the ride.  I mean, Poseidon-Adventure-Shelley-Winters-drowning wet.  On a hot day like this, you'd dry in thirty seconds.

Nope.  She immediately got off the ride and ran into the bathroom sobbing.  Her sister scurried after her.

Uh oh.  I'll go sit in the car.

A few minutes past as I sheepishly waited in a puddle.  Finally, the sister emerged and I was in her crosshairs.

"Nice job.  Now she's drenched and you have no idea what a problem this is causing because she's in the middle of having her period right now and this ride messed everything up and you should be more sensitive and be aware of things like this."

Ummmm......

Now I wish somebody was stepping on the back of my sneakers again so I could fall forever and punch them both in the mouth.

How the heck was I supposed to know any of this?  Is this published information?  Do I look in the New York Daily News every morning for an update?  National League batting averages, Belmont racing results, and, oh yeah, a listing of those women smack in the middle of their menstrual cycles.

Effectively, another day at Six Flags Great Adventure had been ruined.  While I did go back there several other times, I always was on my best behavior.  The bad memories were always lingering. 

And I always made sure to ask the question if I happened to be going there with a female.

How are you feeling today?  Really?

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