Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saturday Song Selection: Sunday Bonus - Mel Torme’s, Sunday in New York

(Clearly, by no sane person's assessment is today Sunday. But, alas, technical and copyright problems have plagued me for days and I've just now been able to successfully post this song/video. Was it worth all the time and labor? I seriously doubt it. So now, friends, pretend your Rod Taylor or James Darren or even Mr. Peabody - enter whatever time travel conveyance you favor, and take a journey back to Sunday, August 29th.)

The response to Bobby Darin’s, Sunday in New York, was so positive that another Special Sunday Edition of the Saturday Song Selection was definitely called for. So today, I hope you enjoy Mel Torme’s rendition of Sunday in New York - now even Sunday-er.

As I was born too late (to quote the Poni-Tails) and he died, so tragically young, I never did get to see Bobby Darin perform. But I did get to see Mel Torme, with some regularity, when he did his yearly gig at Michael’s Pub in New York. Unfortunately, as Michael’s Pub closed quite a few years ago, and Mel has left this earthly plain, those events are now just pleasant memories.

The Velvet Fog’s rendition is a bit mellower and doesn’t swing quite as much as Bobby’s, but perhaps his arrangement befits the lyric even somewhat better. Having just been out - on a Sunday, in New York - I would say that the song depicts the experience pretty well - minus any reference to the oppressive heat and humidity, of course.

Also, August 29th turns out to be a date with a rich cornucopia of worthy birthday acknowledgments, so many happy returns of the day to all of the following: Lea Michele who gleefully turns 24. Head-spinning, Exorcist director, William Friedkin - 71. John (Maverick? Who ever said Maverick?) McCain - 74. And then, there are those who have left us - Isabel (Weezy) Sanford, who has really moved on up and would have been 93 today, and film legend, Ingrid Bergman, 95, whom my family always referred to as Cousin Ingrid, but that’s a story for another day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Song Selection - Sunday in New York

I love this song. This recording. This arrangement. And most of all this artist. Give it a listen, especially if you’re not in the best of moods, and it‘s destined to lighten your load, at least just a little bit. Sunday in New York has been the song on the profile page of this blog since its inception so, basically, it’s always been the theme song for, “… and several butcher’s aprons.” This song is how I “hear” New York. I remember it emanating from the radio in my parent’s kitchen, always tuned to WNEW-AM radio and, even as a kid, it felt cool and sophisticated to me, just the way I see New York. Many hear the city in Gershwins’, Rhapsody in Blue. For some, it’s the Lovin’ Spoonful’s, Summer in the City. And still for others, it’s Lou Reed’s, Take a Walk on the Wild Side - all worthy contenders. But Bobby Darin covers it for me. If you’re unfamiliar with Bobby Darin, he is the person whom Canadian, karaoke crooner, Michael Buble, is a pale imitation of. Darin was also a multiple Grammy winner, supporting actor-Oscar nominee, and a guy with a fascinating and dramatic life story that would make a great Broadway show - someone should really work on that.

Also, today we begin recognizing celebrity birthdays - so happy day, David Soul - 67, Ben Gazzara - 80 and Leo Tolstoy - 182! I certainly hope Leo appreciates these good wishes. And lastly, a great, big, sincere Happy Birthday to my friend, Joan.

Enjoy, Sunday in New York.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sects, Lies & Videotape: The Right vs. Your Rights

“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center” – ethics scandal plagued, disgraced former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich

“The entire Obama agenda is frighteningly close to the national socialism policies of Nazi Germany.” – prescription drug fraud arrestee and Republican Spokesperson, Rush Limbaugh

“I’m a Nazi, he's a Nazi, she's a Nazi, we're a Nazi, wouldn't you like to be a Nazi too?” - der Doktor Pepper

Tactic number one in the far-right Republican playbook, this election year, appears to be - if you disagree with them - you’re either Hitler or some lesser ranking Nazi. It’s actually quite interesting, as an entire grading and point system has been developed based on the very same one used by the NCAA to determine college basketball standings. False, utterly fictional, and slanderous Nazi classification has become quite the elaborate, detailed and protracted science. Unstable people generally have plenty of time on their hands to work on such things. For example, the moderate Muslims, much in the headlines today, who already have a foothold in downtown Manhattan and have been a part of that community for years, would be considered more minor Nazis - maybe somewhat of the Colonel Klink variety, but definitely not, a loveable and innocuous, Sergeant Shultz-type. Barack Hussein Obama, the evil foreigner, on the other hand, takes the coveted top spot in the rankings - he‘s Hitler. In the NCAA analogy he, therefore, would be the Duke Blue Devils of American Nazis. If you’re unclear, just assume that, basically, everyone’s a National Socialist except for those on the right, who, ironically, are the ones who have been attempting to chip away at the Constitution and our guaranteed rights and liberties. But that’s okay because - one, chances are they don’t much get or appreciate irony; and two, they’re taking away those liberties in the name of patriotism. The patriotism of disallowing freedom of religion. The patriotism of denying birth-right citizenship. The patriotism of inequality for homosexuals. Someone save us from this perverted notion of patriotism.

Newt Gingrich - whose history of past transgressions, both personal and professional, might keep a more easily embarrassed man out of the public eye - compares the Muslims in downtown Manhattan to the Nazis. It’s a standard kind of political ploy - guaranteed to get a visceral reaction, and to make numerous appearances on the, 24 hour, cable news networks - but it’s also ignorant, irresponsible and inflammatory. At a time when calm debate and civil discourse seems most appropriate, this kind of rhetoric only serves to heighten tensions. Worst of all, this extremely cavalier application of the label, Nazi, does grave injustice to the memory of the millions of victims who perished at the hands of the actual Nazis, and is an insult to their families and legacies. Welcome to August.

August is generally a slow news month. So, it has become a bit of a tradition that politicians, with much indignation, use this period to gin up phony controversies in order to make you distrust and question their political rivals. A year ago, they informed us about Obama death panels and of his Grandma-terminating public health policies. This year, we are to be alarmed about the prospect of militant Islamics establishing a base of operations, horrifically, on the very ground of the terrorist attacks for which they are responsible. The hope is that the vociferousness of the sound and fury will drown out any actual truths or reality that might cut through the layers of deception and distortion. The truth is that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is such a moderate cleric that he is currently on a diplomatic mission with the U.S. State Department. Much as he had done, previously, with the Bush Administration. The truth is that this is such a temperate Muslim sect, that not only are they not controlled by, or associated with, Al Qaeda, but rather, they too, have suffered at their hands. And the truth is that the mosque is, in reality, just a small part of a much larger cultural center which is being patterned after the YMCA and Jewish Community Center. The Cordoba House Community Center is intended to house a theatre/auditorium, a swimming pool, athletic facilities, classrooms and yes, a prayer center. A prayer center much like the one, not two blocks away from the Pentagon, but in the actual building itself, built over the rubble left behind from it’s terrorist attack. Most people didn’t hear about that prayer center. That prayer center didn’t make the news nor did it rile up the populace, because that prayer center wasn’t constructed in a major election year - one in which the Republicans have hopes of winning back majorities in both Houses.

Personally, when it comes to religions, I don’t really have much use for any of them. They tend to stir up this kind of trouble on a fairly regular basis – “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.” But, I do believe in my country and its Constitution. (cue up, The Battle Hymn of the Republic) What’s supposed to set us apart, what makes for “American Exceptionalism,” are our freedoms, our sense of fairness, our tolerance and our values. If we compromise those values, even in painful or difficult situations, then we’ve handed a small victory to our enemies and to all of those who don‘t share those same values. It’s fairly easy being benevolent and magnanimous during positive circumstances, but when we are being tested, that’s the real opportunity to prove to the world and to ourselves what we truly are as a nation and a people. Freedom is kind of a complicated and tricky thing - just ask Bobby McGee- but would you want to live any other way? The people in this community are American citizens, and in the end, that’s the only relevant issue.

One final thought - “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saturday Song Selection, Sunday Bonus - Out of Sight, Out of Mind

As was the case with last weekend's, Broadway.com poll, the public is demanding more from A Tale of Two Cities - and who am I to keep people wanting? So, in this very special instance, I present a bonus Sunday Song Selection. Now, I guess, I could keep doing this for a couple of more days - Monday Music Madness, Tuesday Tune-day - but then, I've got nothing. As you'll discover, if you haven't already, I'm really quite the simple soul and I can be easily amused by alliteration - but then I must move on to other shiny and colorful distractions. So, for today, enjoy song number two from the wonderful Broadway musical, A Tale of Two Cities. This is Natalie Toro, as Madame Defarge, performing the rousing and emotional, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," recorded, by a fan, at Broadway Live on Bryant Park. For even more, I understand that Amazon would be more than pleased to share the CD and/or DVD with you for an extremely, reasonable remuneration (ah, the first shameless plug on my blog but, by Crom, I will never subtlety suggest anything that I do not truly believe in.) Enjoy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Song Selection - I Can't Recall

This week’s song selection is a very special one for me. For some years now, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to, closely, follow the development of an original musical - A Tale of Two Cities. To see it go from pen to Broadway stage, with all the steps in between, was exciting and unforgettable. The out of town try-out, the Broadway opening night, the opening night party - these are things that I had, previously, only experienced through old Hollywood movies, and yet there I was, finally justifying that tuxedo purchase of many years before.

So, this Saturday, we once again put snarky political commentary aside (and, oh, how it hurts me to do so, can I work in just one Sarah Palin reference?) and, instead, I gift you with a stirring song from a Tale of Two Cities - I Can’t Recall. This one number will give you a taste of the moving melodies and literate and intelligent lyrics that touched audiences and brought them to their feet nightly - and that, just last week, in a Broadway.com poll, led theatre-goers to vote A Tale of Two Cities, the short-lived Broadway musical they would most like to see revived. But, until it does grace a stage near you again, we can at least enjoy Tale through the cast recording CD, and the DVD of the PBS Concert version of the show. I don’t mean to sound like Ron Popeil, but you’ll be glad I informed you once you hear the track.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Baby Ka-Boom: The Rise of the Terror Baby

“They’re coming to get you, Barbara” - Night of the Living Dead

Modern day Republicans spread lies like Elvis spread bacon fat on fried banana sandwiches – with enthusiasm, gusto and pride. And, as with Elvis, while they might enjoy some short term gain, in the long run, there’s bound to be undesirable consequences. They’ve lied to you about the grand malevolence of gay marriage, for instance. Regarding the recent ruling in the Golden State, disgraced and forced to resign former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, had this to say -

“Judge Walker's ruling overturning Prop 8 is an outrageous disrespect for our Constitution and for the majority of people of the United States who believe marriage is the union of husband and wife.”

This is a topic of some expertise for Newt as this thrice married, serial philanderer does know a thing or two about destroying marriages. But unless a straight couple and a gay couple are trying to book the same Saturday in June, or are fighting over the last Lennox gravy boat in stock at Macy’s needed to complete their settings, I just don’t see the problem.

Then there’s Death Panels - a concept that came to Sarah Palin when she nodded off one night, mukluks in place after one too many hot toddies, during a Cinemax showing of Logan’s Run.

But, of course, the vast majority of right-wing political “truth-stretching” involves the legitimately, legally elected, Barack Obama whom, they have taught us, is a Kenyan born, Marxist, Nazi, Islamic terrorist trying to brainwash American school children and traveling the world to espouse the evils of the country he has set out to destroy - the United States. To delve into such a disparate and desperate level of prevarication there is obviously something about him that the right is just not O-KKK with. I wish I could put my finger on it.

And now there’s the latest bit of fear-mongering from the GOP, and by far my personal favorite, scary babies! Apparently thinking that there’s no bridge too far for the Snuggie buying, American public they want you to fear babies - Evil Death Babies! Now, the Evil Death Babies (patent pending - heretofore to be referred to as EDBs) come in two categories depending on which constituency your representative is pandering to at the time. For people who distrust Jimmy Smits, the EDBs are called Anchor Babies. If, instead, you’re suspicious of Christiane Amanpour, then the EDB’s are called Terror Babies - a much more colorful and dramatic moniker. I’m not precisely sure how the Terror Baby plan is supposed to work, as I’m not clinically insane, but I do know that it involves terrorist moms coming here, giving birth to new American citizen EDB’s (curse that 14th Amendment) taking them back home to Terrorkistan, where they then spend the next 30 years teaching them to hate the New York Yankees, TGI-Fridays and relaxed fit jeans with built-in-comfort, elastic waist bands

However, while universally recognized as a crafty, very dangerous and thoroughly fictional foe, there are ways to defend against and disarm the Terror Baby. They can, for example, be easily distracted for long periods of time by the mere jangling of shiny keys in front of their cherubic, yet vile, faces. If you wish to momentarily win over a TB (Terror Baby) it is believed that they utterly enjoy the company of a doggy, particularly a “Mommy, look a big doggy,“ doggy. So be sure to stay well stocked, canine-wise, at all times. But, the most valuable and lethal of all the weapons at your disposal is, of course, the binky. Nothing is more effective than the well-timed placement of a binky into the depraved, little, foul mouth of your cunning adversary. Once lulled by the comforting sensations of said binky, the baby can then be apprehended and brought to justice where the little demon will eventually be placed, without benefit of trial or hearing, in the Terror Baby Wing of Gitmo - Elmo.

If only the far-right weren’t so reckless, mean-spirited and poisonous - and such a danger to our nation, its people and its future - they would be so amusing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor ... Hey You, Not So Fast!

“Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America” - Paul Simon

The immigration conversation in this country has historically, pretty much, always gone this way - once you‘re in, it’s time to start toughening those borders. So it is thus, and thus it has always been. Do you think Betsy Ross had anything nice to say about the Hessians? Please, talk about your Momma Grizzlies. We children of immigrants, and that’s pretty much the vast majority of us, tend to have very short memories. We forget how our forebears arrived here in the first place. Now luckily, this is not the case with me as I’ve spent years being exposed to secret, Marxist, liberal, socialist propaganda - thank you Village Voice. MSNBC and The Nation - and that indoctrination allows me to retain the true nature of my origins. My people came from Bari and Naples, and I’m not saying that I know everything, but I’m pretty sure that those cities are not on the banks of the Mississippi. My grandmother, particularly as she got on in years, would speak this half-English and half-something else language, in a somewhat hard to comprehend, thick accent, while she slow-cooked her tomato sauce and prepared her home-made pasta and zeppoles. And again, I’m not claiming to be any Lou Dobbs when it comes to historical knowledge, wisdom and intellect, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that that second language was not Iroquois. And when I grew up surrounded by the musical strains of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Mario Lanza emanating from the old victrola, I don’t think it was because of their magical shaman healing powers.

Once an ethnic group assimilates there’s a tendency to scapegoat the next wave of immigrants for whatever problems that they, the earlier group, might be experiencing - for crime, for unemployment, for one’s pathetic inability to even begin to satisfy the slightest needs of one’s beloved, yet neglected wife, when it comes to those most intimate of moments in the boudior … but, it’s not actually because those, damn, Rasheeds moved in next door. And really, who’s less of a threat to one’s wealth and status in society than the poorest, least powerful and most under-represented in our culture. So, if you’re a Costello or an O’Flannagan, it might not hurt you to be a little more tolerant and understanding toward the Lopez’s and the Hassans - because, you know what? What they’re dealing with today - you’ve been there, done that. We’re not all that far removed from the days of the “Irish need not apply” signs. We’re even closer to a time when it was thought that JFK couldn’t win because he was, no not a Muslim, but…shudder…a CATHOLIC!! Even today, take a look at the Italian-Americans you’ve got cluttering up your TIVO - The Situation, Theresa Guidice and Tony Soprano.

We are, indeed, a land of liberty, and we are a model of tolerance and acceptance and religious freedom - and we shouldn‘t allow that to change. We can’t let the tiny minds of the right like Mitch McConnell, John “Oompa Loompa” Boehner and Rand Paul, usurp the genius of the minds of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin. It’s like pitting the 2010 Mets against, well, any actual major league baseball team.

“We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation." --Sarah Palin

Well, remember, “real Americans” don’t just look like Sarah Palin, they can also look like Fareed Zakaria, George Takei and Carlos Mencia. They are citizens if they are born here, and if they are citizens, they have the right to worship any God they choose.

It’s in the Constitution - for now.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday Song Selection

Despite Elton John’s forceful proclamation, I don’t believe that Saturday night is necessarily alright for fighting. To me, Saturdays are for fun, recharging and relaxation. So, on Saturdays, I'll be putting politics, and world and social issues aside, and instead, with the help of the fine people at YouTube, I'll be posting music on my blog. Each week's selection will be a personal choice that in some way has relevance to my life. It might reflect family, my youth, my beliefs, or it might just be something fun, unique, historic, nostalgic or just a song that I think, for some reason, needs to be shared. Tonight's choice is about family. This is a song that I heard throughout my youth and at many family gatherings. It's not quite a classic, unless you grew up an Italian-American kid in Staten Island, New York - Lou Monte's, "Pepino the Italian Mouse" (not to be confused with Topo Gigio.) I personally preferred the flip side of this 45, "What did Washington Say When he Crossed the Delaware," which posited the idea that George Washington was an Italian- American who spoke his mother tongue to his troops during times of crisis. But for tonight, as a tribute to the folks at home - "Pepino, the Italian Mouse."

Dressed for Excess

“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy; For the apparel oft proclaims the man.” - William Shakespeare

“What's the matter with the clothes I'm wearing?” - Billy Joel

“It is management’s intent that work attire should complement an environment that reflects an efficient, orderly, and professionally operated organization.” - Corporate Dress Code

Am I finding myself yearning for a corporate dress code in the workplace? How could that possibly be? I’ve always considered myself a 60’s guy. Just look at my Yahoo personal ad, it says it right there, “60’s guy.” I grew up in the 60’s, more toward the end, but still the 60’s. Too young to be drafted but old enough to have been against the war. Too young to go to Woodstock but old enough to love the music. I can probably trace my desire to work in television back to the premiere of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In in 1968. I’d still marry Grace Slick if she’d have me. I used to wear Nehru shirts, medallions and fringe vests to school. And, I can proudly say, I was tied with my friend, Tim, as the first two kids in our third grade to have long hair. Now at that point, and at that age, long hair meant Bobby Goldsboro not Robert Plant, but never the less, everyone else in our class was more Pat Boone. I guess I could go on forever about Tim and I in third grade, but the moving, prophetic and ultimately thrilling saga of our unsuccessful run for Class President and Vice President, must remain a tale for another day. Suffice it to say, there was a sex scandal involved.

Just as Tim and I knew that our, far out, hair and boss and groovy threads, were appropriate for that time and place, I actually do think that there are appropriate clothes for the office setting as well - even if it’s just the bare minimum. Let me propose a few theoretical scenarios to help clarify my point. You’ve got to find a new intake manifold for your priceless ‘67 Mustang, maybe you’ll luck out rummaging through the mountains of trash at the junk yard. Anna Belle, your blue ribbon winning mare, is about to birth her foal, you need to rush out to the stable and help with the delivery. Your septic tank is backing up again and, unfortunately, you’ll spend the entire evening digging up the front yard and dealing with the mess. Can you picture these circumstances? Chances are whatever you might be wearing for any of those three situations, probably would not be appropriate for the office. It’s as simple as that. Proper for Ringling Brothers - improper for office. Proper for nude beach - improper for office. Proper for Eastern-Rite Patriarch College of Cardinals - improper for office.

Two classic clothing items, worthy of specific mention, would be those staples of office warm-weather-wear, formerly thought of as beach wear - shorts and flip flops. Gentleman, I understand it’s hot. I, too feel the heat. I sympathize. So, if you must, just one minor point - If I can easily ascertain your chosen religious affiliation by a quick, unavoidable and unfortunate glance down toward your personal southland, you might want to reconsider the width, breadth and snugness of your Bermudas.

Finally, as for flip flops - Long ago mankind invented a thing called shoes - and they were good. They are made neither of synthetic plastic nor rubber. They don’t make a noise reminiscent of the sound of grandma‘s slippers clacking down the echoing hallway. And best of all, they are closed. They protect your feet from the accumulated, subway station and city street, dirt and grime. Guys, try the shoes.

But then again, I used to wear Nehru shirts, medallions and fringe vests to school - so what do I know?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm Back from Supplement City - Wham Bam Thank You GNC

I lie.

I don’t lie about anything particularly vital or of grave importance. Perhaps, I didn’t really have malaria the night of your really late starting party, 12 blocks from the nearest subway station, on a weeknight, in that other borough. Maybe, I actually did have two dimes to rub together when Eli, the fragrant subway panhandler, inquired about my change situation. And I suppose it’s entirely possible that I wasn’t quite as impressed as I had acted when I praised your performance in that acutely somber and self-important drama in that un-air conditioned, un-ventilated, East Village church basement. That being said, I would never lie about death panels or anchor children or the Obama tax increases. You are aware, by the way, that those are all complete lies? Utterly and completely fabricated. Pulled out of thin air. The problem is that when the lies are repeated on a daily basis by those with power and great access to the media, and when Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and their ilk report those lies as if they were factual bits of news, well people start believing them. Most Americans believe that Obama has raised their taxes, repeatedly, when in truth he’s actually lowered them for 95% of the population. I heard John Boehner, this weekend on Meet the Press, tell me that our taxes have been raised. And I read the same thing on Sarah’s Facebook page today, so I guess it must be true. Still, unlike our right-leaning friends, when I lie to you, I will fess up. So, for the vast throng out there kind enough to follow my tales - all three of you - I will attempt to be true and loyal. Like your dog. Or your grandma. Or hopefully someone a little cooler than that - like Fonzie. Please, let me be your Fonzie…won’t you?

I recently wrote about my lack of fear toward my senior years. I told you that I was, actually somewhat, looking forward to growing older. Then a package arrived at work today and, honestly, this was a little brown box of reminders. For, contained within was protein, creatine, and a vast assortment of amino acids. Because, my friends, in reality, I look forward to growing old like George W looked forward to his SATs, like Cheney looked forward to his 5 (eventually deferred) draft notices, like Sharron Angle looks forward to a competency hearing. In truth, I am desperately trying to maintain my youth. Vitamin A, B, C, D, E - they could shoot Sesame Street in my medicine cabinet. Bilberry Extract, CoQ-10, Hawthorn, CLA, ALA, Fish Oil, L-Theanine, Beta Alanine, Calcium, Enzymes, Probiotics, Hemlock, Heroine and Mydol. I’m the legal Timothy Leary. The Dylan Thomas of minerals. When I walk into my local Vitamin Shoppe it’s like Norm entering Cheers. And can you blame me? Is there any real motivation for growing old naturally and gracefully? Did Catherine Zeta Jones suddenly come calling when my follicles starting deserting me for the warmer climes of the shower drain? Do the monthly playmates ever list as their “turn-ons” saggy jowls, puffy eyes and hirsute ear canals? I think not. Have you ever belonged to AARP? After a year, I tired of daily discount offers for life insurance and eternal resting places. Every issue of the AARP magazine wrote, in great and horribly depressing detail, about how to get along without money, food or any surviving friends or family. Each copy should have come with a complimentary noose. So, listen to me Scooter Store and Medic Alert-people and makers of chairs that climb up the side of my staircase, you will not win this day. You will not defeat me. I have GNC and Vitamin Shoppe and Invite and most importantly, Mastercard and Visa in my corner. So heed this warning Depends and Fix-o-dent and Ensure - like Barbara Eden of old, as both Jeannie and her sister, Jeannie II (I am ancient, aren’t I?) you may tempt me but you will never be the victor. For, indeed, I may have fallen, but I CAN get up.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Praise the Lord and Pass the Metamucil

“Old man take a look at my life,
I'm a lot like you”

Tonight, a confession. My mind is a place where confusion often reigns. In the grand scheme of things, I really know so little. Now, I was one of those good kids who did my homework, got good grades, was in Arista, on the honor roll, went to a good university and all that. But you know what? I don’t really know how anything works, do you? Do you appreciate what an impressive feat and what a sophisticated accomplishment it is when you enter your home, flip a switch and you instantly have light? If you think about it, it’s actually pretty cool. And I won’t even get into really complicated things like my LED TV, or Pop Rocks or this very laptop with which I am wasting your time. And if I’m somewhat puzzled and confused by such things - a well educated, pretty intelligent and successful adult (hold on just a second while I pause to pat myself on the back) what could possibly be going through the minds of the likes of Sarah Palin, Adam Sandler or any of the Bravo Real Housewives from any of the cities? (Yes, yet another Sarah Palin knock, but Chris Matthews gives me a dollar for every cheap shot I take at her whether it organically fits with the topic or not.) With the possible exception of the aforementioned group and the people behind Spike TV and Fox News, we are a thinking and questioning species. We don’t know the answers to many of life’s really important questions so we just make stuff up so as to keep ourselves from going crazy. Heck, that’s why we made up religion and gods of all sorts. Did God make us in His image or did we make Him in ours? (I just wanted to throw in something touchy and controversial to see if I could get anything going.) Today, I’m confused and thinking and asking about aging, and all of its benefits and consequences. Basically I’m wondering, when do I officially become an old man? I already pull my pants up too high and sport the fashionable hair-stylings of Fred Mertz. Is there a ceremony of some sort? Will there be some pre-ordained number of virgins waiting for me? And will they, hopefully, be of the female variety? (Okay, I know that reference has nothing to do with getting old, but a least it shows I’m not old yet.) Will I be handed a pair of Haband slacks with adjustable waist band? Will I begin thinking that, after all, socks and sandals do go pretty well together? When will I find 4:30 to be the perfect time for a hearty dinner? And most importantly, regarding the best thing that I have observed about getting older, when will I be able to do and say anything I want without fear of retaliation, retribution or rebuke. (I’m suddenly feeling particularly polysyllabic and alliterative.) When will behavior normally considered rude or less than thoughtful or even socially unacceptable, suddenly be considered engaging, cute or wise? Yes, I ask you - when can I become Betty White?

As I have just confused myself even more, perhaps some illustrations are in order. I was standing in line at a CVS. Since CVS, apparently, no longer feels it necessary to hire cashiers, it was quite a lengthy queue. The real hold up, however, wasn’t the number of people waiting but rather the fact that the elderly woman in the front of the line, capacious receipt in hand, was slowly going over that receipt, item by item, questioning the price of everything she had just purchased. And then she did it a second time just to be safe. I can see that it seems mean of me to even mention it doesn’t it? But if it was me up there instead, I would, no doubt, have gotten my CVS Gold Emblem Absolutely Divine Chocolate Chip Macadamia Cookies inserted into some part of me that you just can’t eat cookies with. But that was our love-able grandma up there, so what matter that my Ben and Jerry’s never made it home in solid form?

Another example - there’s the lady who regularly stands in front of my apartment building, with her bag of Wonder Bread, feeding all the pigeons of the neighborhood. Sure, it seems like a benign and harmless activity, but please come on up to my apartment and let me show you a few things. See the windows and see how our avian friends use them as a porta-potty. See the nest they build on top of my living room air conditioner and know that there is no finer smelling conditioned air, than that which has been filtered through a birds nest. And, perhaps, worst of all, come and be awakened regularly, at 5am, by the frightful sounds of nasty pigeon sex on my bedroom window sill just inches from my head. And should pigeons really be getting more enjoyment out of my bedroom than I do?

Finally, my favorite example comes from my wonderful father, who I miss so. He was always a kind man, thoughtful and considerate to others, but as he reached his golden years, an occasional, unfiltered comment would escape his lips - never mean-spirited and always in jest. One day at a family gathering we got to see a relative that had moved from our area many years ago and whom we hadn’t seen in a decade or so. When last we saw him he was quite thin. In the intervening years he had gained a significant amount of weight. We were all a little surprised but, of course, it’s not something that one would comment on, or so I thought. I greeted him, told him how nice it was to see him and how well he looked, and so it went with pretty much everyone else. Then he came over to see my father. They hugged and kissed on the cheek, as we Italian men do, stepped back and my Dad, still holding on to his hand firmly, smiled a big smile and heartily and enthusiastically asked, “What the Hell, happened to you?!”

That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I want. Give me that freedom.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Got a New Attitude

“I'm feelin' good from my head to my shoes
Know where I'm goin' and I know what to do
I tidied up my point of view
I got a new attitude”

Friends, be forewarned, for today’s entry will baffle you, perplex you, confuse you - for today, I will be positive. No talk of partisan politics. No hyperbolic allusions to the evils of presidents past. And even...gasp...no shots at Sarah Palin! Today, I am a new man. And no, I do not refer to gender reassignment (all my best to Chaz Bono, by the way) or even little blue pills. I refer, instead, to a change of attitude. Today I send out nothing but good thoughts and positive energy. Today my caricature would resemble the little, round, yellow, smiley-face guy. For today is a day to celebrate and to congratulate.

Congratulations to the people of the Gulf region for, today, the leaking well has been plugged. And all it took was 3 months and the cutting edge technology of mud. But good news is still good news, and although this national nightmare is, in many ways, far from over, this is a gigantic step.

Congratulations to the Senate - that’s right, I said the 18% positive approval rated Senate - for breaking yet another Republican filibuster (uh oh, I’m sensing my goodness and light starting to fade already) and passing a 26 billion dollar state aid package that will save the jobs of teachers, police officers, fire fighters and some 100 thousand other public employees. As our Republican friends always say, jobs are priority one - except when they aren’t, like today, when 38 out of 40 of them voted against this measure. But thumbs up to the Senate majority anyway.

Congratulations to the wise and wonderful, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker for overturning California’s Proposition 8 by declaring the banning of gay marriage to be unconstitutional and a violation of civil rights. You know who loves the constitution, don’t you…our Republican friends again. Now not so much in this case, of course, or in the case of the 14th Amendment, which they’re currently trying to reverse or even the 1st Amendment - all that freedom of religion stuff kind of rubs them the wrong way when it comes to Muslims - but really, they just love the constitution, really. Well, they’re certainly hog-wild about the 2nd Amendment anyway so let’s give them that as this is my glass half full day.

Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez for disproving the old saw, “cheaters never prosper.” And if he’s content to live with shrunken and non-functioning testicles, who am I to judge? (Just so you know, I will really attempt to make that my very last reference to the genitalia of any public figure.)

And finally, congratulations to Barack Obama, on this, his birthday. When first we met him, he was a vibrant, young looking man. Now, after a year and a half in the White House, he’s somewhat starting to resemble Grady from Sanford and Son - the job will surely age you. But thanks for Health Care, thanks for Financial Reform, Student Loan Reform and Credit Card Reform. Thanks for the largest middle-class tax cut in history and thanks for turning steady economic loss into steady economic growth, as slight as it is, when every pundit and economist declared that the next Great Depression was inevitable. So now, on this celebratory occasion, may I ask you to actually give a birthday present or two - nothing major mind you, just a few minor favors? Can we please close Gitmo? Can we finally eliminate the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy from the military? How about really tackling the related problems of climate change, dependence on fossil fuels and the lack of any real development in green and renewable forms of energy. And one last thing, and come on is this really asking so much, can we please bring all our military personnel home from Iraq, Afghanistan and, what the Hell while we’re at it, every other place in the Middle East? I promise, I’ll be your friend forever.