Monday, August 31, 2015

LITTLE MURDERERS

"MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND," is not a forum to show how smart I perceive myself to be.  I stay clear of religion and politics while sparing my readership the drudgery of commercialism. However, in a rare blog, (like today's), my glibness temporarily takes a giant step...backward.



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IMPOSSIBLE!  Impossible but true.  In 1971, a futuristic movie set and filmed on location in New York City did not include its single most significant (new) landmark, in any of the establishing shots or panoramic skyline views.

Somehow or for some odd reason, the filmmakers managed to keep the much ballyhooed World Trade Center out of their dark comedy, "LITTLE MURDERS."  If my guess is right, they were the most prophetic bastards since Nostradamus.
"LITTLE MURDERS" WAS ADAPTED FROM A JULES FEIFFER PLAY. THE SCREEN VERSION STARRED ELLIOTT GOULD AS THE BOYFRIEND WHO EARNED A GOOD LIVING PHOTOGRAPHING DOG SHIT.  THE SUPPORTING CAST INCLUDED, VINCENT GARDENIA, ALAN ARKIN, DONALD SUTHERLAND, DORIS ROBERTS AND LOU JACOBI.


I saw Little Murders in the theater when it came out.  I not only never saw it again (till last week) or saw that it was shown on TV...BUT nobody I ever mentioned it to, heard of it.  This obscure movie left a deep impression in me but after so many decades, my fuzzy memory caused me to slightly mess-up the title by calling it, "LITTLE MURDERERS."  (Which I now think is a better title).
 (above) VINCENT GARDENIA (1920-1992) PLAYS THE FATHER OF ELLIOTT GOULD'S GIRLFRIEND.  I HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN MY HEART FOR GARDENIA. NOT BECAUSE HE RESEMBLES MY UNCLE GEORGIE BUT BECAUSE THIS LIFE-LONG RESIDENT OF BROOKLYN WAS A REGULAR CUSTOMER IN MY *DAD'S GREETING CARD STORE, (LATE 70's TO EARLY 90's).  PLEASE NOTE THAT AS A TRIBUTE, A SECTION OF 16th AVENUE IN BENSONHURST HONORARILY BEARS HIS NAME. GARDENIA'S THEATRICAL CREDITS FROM 1945-1991 INCLUDE: A TONY AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR, TWICE NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR AS BEST SUPPORTING FILM ACTOR AND IS BEST REMEMBERED ON TV, (1973-1974), AS ARCHIE BUNKER'S HENPECKED NEIGHBOR, (FRANK LORENZO) ON, "ALL IN THE FAMILY."

* I never had the privilege of meeting Vincent Gardenia but my dad held this pleasant, down-to-earth gentleman in the highest esteem.


When Little Murders came out, the absurdity of humor was far-fetched.  To the credit of my sixteen year-old mind, I got the sardonic, dark wittiness featuring the impending collapse of social mores that would result in functional society as we know it, to go haywire.

The theme of the movie is people getting beaten-down. Elliott Gould's character typifies the notion of "you can't fight City Hall."  So when he gets swallowed up by progress, he gives up.  This is proven when he allows himself to be repeatedly beaten by street toughs who think he's weird, (for taking pictures of dog crap).

He's so accustomed to being accosted that as long as they don't break his cameras, he doesn't resist. In one instant, a girl is awoken by the scuffling below her wide open, high-rise apartment building window. She phones 9-1-1, (wow, they already had 9-1-1 back then).  She has trouble getting through...and is finally put on hold. With the blind optimism that would epitomize her character, she risks her well-being, confronts the attackers and saves the man.  She and Gould start dating. The ever-spunky girl sees his acceptance to negativity and tries to retrieve his long-lost sense of feeling.

While her crusade to change her man gains momentum, we see the decaying world around them worsening. People are now getting regularly and arbitrarily gunned-down in the street...yet passersby can't be bothered by these atrocities.

The apathy becomes rampant and soon the citizens no longer have faith in their elected officials.  We also find out that the cops who are sworn to protect, are just as psychopathic as the out-of-control crazies who are responsible for the ever-rising 457 unsolved murders, (457 unsolved murders by today's standards hardly seems exaggerated).

In a society so beaten-down, the formerly desensitized Gould, through the tutelage of his girlfriend and her family, fight back. Unfortunately, soon they get married,.whatever faith in the goodness of mankind he regained was abruptly lost when he received the ultimate slap in the face.

The rest of Little Murders plot uses a similar formula, as a good adventure story.  The climax comes when the hero is backed into a corner and with all odds against him, he finds a logical, last second conduit to safety.  The pleased audience relaxes until an unexpected obstacle blocks any hope for "happily ever after" finish.  After the new dilemma gets ironed out, some obscure danger, bigger than anything else rises up.  A tremendous fight to the death ends in a crescendo victory and the satisfied movie-goers, to upbeat exit music, are all smiles as they file out of the theater.

The formula used by Little Murders has a subtle difference.  Through a thin veneer of humor, it's apparent climax splatters the viewers' face with intensely depressing visions.  We are led to believe that the movie has come to an acutely sad conclusion because Gould or even the bravest super-hero...could not possibly save the day or reverse the nervousness, paranoia and rising masochistic tendencies of an entire culture. Instead, we find that the situation CAN get worse when average, otherwise innocent and insignificant people own and irrationally use guns.
BEHIND VINCENT GARDENIA, IRON SHUTTERS (WHICH TO THE PLEASURE OF HIS WIFE WERE AVAILABLE IN BLACK, WHITE AND THE FAR MORE DECORATIVE BATTLESHIP GRAY), HAVE BEEN INSTALLED TO KEEP RANDOM SNIPER SHOTS OUT OF THE APARTMENT.  PLEASE NOTE, FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF THE CONSUMER, NARROW SLIDERS ARE INCLUDED IF THE USER WISHES TO CHANCE GETTING KILLED BY LETTING SOME SUNSHINE IN.


Eventually,we arrive at the ultimate finale.  The reality of the permanent doom and gloom of their imminent destiny is solidified when Gould uses role reversal to maneuver away from the most incredible trouble.  This results in him leading the family on a fantastic, heavy-hearted,  "if you can't beat them, join them," counter-attack.

Today, I  (we) frequently feel beaten-down.  I (we), live and work next to people with dangerous emotional problems that are so plentiful that the logistics and cost for their appropriate care are astronomically impractical...so, they are free to roam the streets, unsupervised and/or improperly medicated

The system is so overwhelmed that we have to be careful with the police too.  Many of them aren't fully trained so when a routine questioning turns out to be a pissing contest, we all too often find out, (despite the presence of body cameras and social media) that a great many of our protectors, are sociopaths too.

By the time we look for intelligent government leadership, we are guaranteed to unhappily realize that the cavalry isn't coming over the hill to rescue us.
AT A TIME WHEN THE USA NEEDS TRANSPARENCY AND NON-PARTISAN COMMON SENSE TO LIFT US FROM ECONOMIC DOLDRUMS, VARIOUS FORMS OF SOCIAL UPHEAVAL, THE PROJECTILE VOMIT KNOWN AS "AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE, " TAXATION GONE WILD, FEAR OF TERRORISM AND  BEING THE HATED GLOBAL POLICE, WE GET, BUSINESS AS USUAL CANDIDATES, (OR HEADLINE SEEKING AMATEURS).  WHO, MORE THAN EVER, WANT TO LINE THEIR POCKETS WITH THE BLOOD, GUTS AND HARD WORK OF THE COMMON MAN.

Yes, it seems IMPOSSIBLE but Little Murders was unfortunately way head of its time.  In a quirky, terrible way, it should also be congratulated for envisioning the not-too-distant future New York City without the iconic World Trade Center.
IN LOWER MANHATTAN, GROUND WAS BROKEN FOR THE WORLD TRADE CENTER, AUGUST 1966.  THE FIRST TOWER WAS COMPLETED IN DECEMBER 1970 WITH THE SECOND RIGHT BEHIND IT.  SO WHEN LITTLE MURDERS DEBUTED IN FEBRUARY 1971, THE TWIN TOWERS SHOULD HAVE BEEN AN ABSOLUTE MUST FOR OUTDOOR SHOTS OF THE CITY.  UNLESS THE MOVIE MAKERS KNEW THE BUILDINGS COULDN'T SURVIVE WHAT OUR WORLD HAS BECOME...


Little Murders or as I have come to call it, "Little Murderers," despite fine performances is not a dark comedy.  It's an all too real upper-cut to the jaw reminder that nothing matters.  That whoever you are, unless you have infinite resources or are well-connected with someone, life is merely a struggle to survive. Therefore, considering how our beaten-down society has deteriorated, the movie is too depressing to recommend., (I managed to avoid spoiling the plot, I won't whet your appetite or waste your time by providing the amusing youtube movie trailer here).

Monday, August 17, 2015

THE PERFECT CASINO STORM

To quote an extremely bright and articulate person, "Only a thirty-year veteran homicide detective has seen more shit than a decent craps dealer with five years experience."

"THE PERFECT STORM," from 2000 was a fact-based movie about the high-risk, high reward nature of commercial fishing.
THE VICTIMS OF THE PERFECT STORM WERE A CREW OF UNLUCKY FISHERMEN WHO UNEXPECTEDLY SAILED INTO THE CROSS-HAIRS OF THREE CONVERGING STORMS...RESULTING IN BEING CAUGHT IN THE FIERCEST, GRANDDADDY OF LETHAL STORMS IN MODERN HISTORY.


From the movie, the term "perfect" has become chic to add to a wide assortment of acutely bad situations.  Today, I have the perfect casino story to attach this "perfect" moniker.



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From late 1984 to mid-1986, I dealt craps, in the perfect toilet of Atlantic City casinos, (the Atlantis),
THE ILL-FATED ATLANTIS (far left) WAS IN A GREAT LOCATION NEXT TO THE ATLANTIC CITY CONVENTION HALL (center) AND TRUMP PLAZA, (far right).  IT HAD ITS HEY-DAY JUST BEFORE I STARTED THERE AS THE PLAYBOY CASINO, (1981-1984).  DURING MY TIME, THE CASINO (NICKNAMED, "THE DUMP NEXT TO TRUMP)," QUICKLY SPIRALED DOWNWARD.  AFTER I LEFT, IT HIT ROCK BOTTOM AND LOST ITS GAMING LICENSE IN 1989. 


While I worked at the Atlantis, the financial value of dealing at any casino in town was about the same. However, two joints stood out as slightly better...and one (mine) was a distant worse. For this blog, it's not relevant why our tip income was inferior...what is important is, the low-class clientele.

The Atlantis' casino space was separated on three gaming levels.  The top floor had the high-roller games. Overwhelming, the folks who were attracted to these tables played close to the minimum ($25.00).  So these self-proclaimed big-shots...who would have been complete nobodies anywhere else...made themselves out to be aristocrats.

On weekends, many regular customers treated the old dump next to Trump as a private social club. They gambled, had meals, saw shows and hung out with casino friends, (strangers, whose schedule regularly coincided).  Some extended families did the same.  Once these clans learned the ropes, they played the system to maximize their freebies.  But far worse, they abused the privilege and treated the place (and employees) like they owned it.

Sometimes, we (the workers) felt like we were witnessing them playing pinochle on their kitchen table. They were so at home that it wasn't uncommon to hear embarrassing details of their lives or "too much information" when grievances turned into family arguments and dirty laundry was aired.
"SCARY MARY" WAS AN ESPECIALLY CLASSLESS, ABUSIVE, BIG-MOUTHED, CHAIN-SMOKING PHYLLIS DILLER-LIKE HAG WHO'D TORTURE THE STAFF ALL NIGHT.  IT WAS A RELIEF WHEN SHE WENT TO BED.  BUT WHEN HER *HUSBAND FELL ASLEEP, SHE'D EMERGE FROM THE ELEVATOR IN CURLERS LIKE A CHARGING RHINOCEROS, SLOVENLY DRESSED IN A SCHMATEH (RAGGEDY HOUSECOAT THAT ANY WOMAN WOULDN'T BE CAUGHT DEAD IN), AND FUZZY BUNNY SLIPPERS.  AT HALLOWEEN WHEN THE STAFF WAS PERMITTED TO WEAR COSTUMES, THEY USUALLY INCLUDED A THEME. ONE YEAR, THE FEMALE EMPLOYEES, (AND ONE GUY),  HAD A PRIVATE CONTEST TO RECREATE THE SCARY MARY LOOK, (I'M PRETTY SURE THE GUY WON).  

*  Scary Mary's milquetoast husband was nicknamed "Bullet-Head."  He had a golf ball-sized divot in his forehead which among my Atlantis craps brethren resulted from a failed gunshot suicide attempt.  After all, why would someone married to Scary Mary die so young...because he wanted to.


Matriarchal Scary Mary and her kin (sometimes as much as twenty people), became weekend fixtures. As "big fish" in a "small pond," they cut themselves a large chunk of influence and convinced management that the casino couldn't survive without them.

By using an iron-fisted personality, Scary Mary's three generations of low, high roller minions were forced to follow her lead.  Soon, in a family dominated by weak males, they all knew how to use their sense of entitlement.  With complete disregard to a craps employee's reputation and job security, this ploy was especially efficient to bolster their odds by making false claims, (lying and cheating).

These people wielded so much clout that well-adjusted employees wouldn't dream of correcting them.  They saw how Scary Mary treated her own family, so most of us got out of their way and hardly a brave soul reprimanded them.  So if there was a dispute on a craps game, any attempt by the staff to defend the house's best interest was guaranteed to result in a severe and demeaning tongue lashing.  If the situation erupted into a federal case, someone (100% in the right)...could lose their job.



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I have done a good job in forgetting nightmare customers. Unfortunately those harsh thirty-year old memories were rekindled last week at my present job.

 "B," my supervisor that night as well as being a former Atlantis coworker, pointed out a player and whispered, "There's Calvin Park."

This skinny, sickly man looked like he was over seventy.  I imagined him to be an old biker who led a tough life.  His companion was an equally mature woman with a bad blond dye job.  This lady took on a curious position behind him at another craps table.  She seemed to be his watchdog as she alternated watching him play ten dollars at a time and protecting his blindside from would-be rail thieves (chip robbers) and/or knife wielding enemies.  I don't use the term "broad" to describe women but that's what came to mind. This hard woman made me think what gun moll Bonnie Parker (Clyde's Barrow's Bonnie) might have looked like if she lived to be a senior citizen.
IN 17th CENTURY ENGLAND THE TERM "MOLL" OR "MOLLY" WAS SLANG FOR PROSTITUTE. DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION, (above) EVELYN "BILLIE" FRECHETTE (1907-1969) WAS DILLINGER'S GUN MOLL FOR SIX MONTHS. AFTERWARDS, SHE MADE A CAREER MAKING GUEST APPEARANCES AND DISCUSSING HER EXPERIENCES.


Despite my talent for remembering people, I told "B", "Who's Calvin Park?"  Within seconds of his description, I not only recalled the Calvin Park legend but I also remembered going out of my way (thirty years ago), to catch a mere glimpse of his incredible skyrocket to notoriety. To prove Park's rapid ascension was so unique... when I stole my tiny glance at him playing craps at Atlantis' top level...the last thing I was looking at...was his face.
THE "BOXMAN" IS THE SUPERVISOR SITTING BETWEEN THE TWO CRAPS DEALERS.  TIPS WERE SO BAD AT THE ATLANTIS THAT IT WAS A CUT-THROAT PROCESS FOR DEALERS TO ENTER LOWER MANAGEMENT.  THE ONLY CRAPS DEALERS CONSIDERED FOR THIS PROMOTION DEALT ON THE UPPER LEVEL.  I DIDN'T CARE ABOUT UPWARD MOBILITY  BECAUSE I WAS BIDING MY TIME, WAITING FOR MY DEALER TRAINING ACADEMY LICENSE TO BE APPROVED.  THAT MEANT, UNLESS THERE WAS AN EMERGENCY, I NEVER WORKED UPSTAIRS.


"B" was the boxman when Calvin Park had the defining moment of his life.  So he had first-hand knowledge of the backstory he shared with me.  Most notably, Park was a small business owner who had enough disposable income to burn $1,000.00 playing craps at the Atlantis high-roller pit, a couple of weekends each month.

Unlike the families and faux-social clubs that also met up there, Park was a withdrawn man.  While the others (that everyone hated) whooped it up, Park (who was equally loathsome in his own way), was a loner, playing a different style... quietly.
THE GREAT MAJORITY OF CRAPS PLAYERS WANT THE DICE SHOOTER TO WIN. THEIR BETS ARE PLACED ON THE "PASS LINE" OR THE "COME."  HOWEVER SOME FOLKS PLAY THE "DON'T PASS" OR THE "DON'T COME" AND HOPE THE SHOOTER WILL LOSE.  WHILE THESE APPROACHES SEEM OPPOSITE, THE BUILT-IN HOUSE EDGE USUALLY RESULTS, OVER TIME,  IN EVERYONE LOSING.


Park was a "don't" player.  Despite being razzed by the low-class masses on the pass line, he never wavered.  On several occasions"B" referred to him on that historic night, as golden.  He might have had temporary set-backs but overwhelmingly, he couldn't lose.

At first, the family took harmless verbal swipes at Park.  But soon Scary Mary led her entourage into an escalation of childish insults that morphed into a deluge of obscenities.  One by one, someone from the family exceeded what they were willing to lose and quit. But Scary Mary forged on. Between prolonged episodes of intense coughing, in her harsh, shrill voice, the black-hearted witch used language that would make a longshoreman blush, to profane Park every time he won.

Scary Mary didn't take her losing streak laying down.  Through vicious insistence, she demanded that the casino change the dice.  Even though it was against their policy, they accepted being manipulated, (they secretly rooted against her in general but in this rare case, they were superstitious and willing to do anything to stop the casino from hemorrhaging big money to Park).

To rationalize the switch and to eliminate the idea of a conspiracy, the casino manager showed Calvin Park an insignificant flaw in one die.  Park was in his rights to protest and stop the bullshit but he was so focused on winning that if a black cat was thrown on the table, he couldn't have been bothered.

When the game resumed with an aura of invincibility, he remained stoic and ignored Scary Mary's renewed verbal attacks.  Instead of being distracted, to spite her and the big bosses, Park rode the crest of this perfect casino storm and multiplied his bets to $1,000.00 each..

Scary Mary remained stubborn but over time, the intensity of her sarcastic MF-ing foul mouth weakened. Her barbs became infrequent as the new dice remained cold.  Soon, Park's most stubborn adversary raised the white flag of defeat as she pissed and moaned about her worse loss, EVER!

A large throng of spectators remained as Park played alone.  The area was as quiet as a cathedral until Scary Mary reminded everyone how evil she was even when she wasn't playing by yelling at a waitress, "I said six fucking sugars in my coffee not five...you think I can't taste the fucking difference!"

Park was in the zone.  Within a couple of hours, he was betting the $5,000.00 table maximum and making additional side bets to further support his cause.

That night I was dealing on the middle level.  Like a telethon, the news filtering down to us from upstairs reminded me of the giant tote board with spinning numbers always getting higher.
I REMEMBER AS A KID BEING ENTRANCED BY TOTE BOARD NUMBERS SPINNING HIGHER.  NOW THAT THEY ARE DIGITIZED, I THINK IT LOSES SOME OF ITS FASCINATION.


Some of my middle level cohorts went upstairs to see the action with their own eyes.

Each new report of Park's luck sounded like an exaggeration.  When I broke down to sneak my own peak, his rail included a gazillion gray chips, (each $5,000.00).  Which explains why I said I never saw his face.

"B" reminded me that late that night Park broke his silence and made one announcement, "I have $800,000.00 and I ain't stoppin' till I have a million."

To keep Park (and his booty), in the casino, the well-trained Atlantis management team used psychology and persuasiveness to arrange for Mrs. Park (in her pre-gun moll days?) and other family members helicoptered in.  Over the course of a marathon gambling session, (twenty hours a day for five days), the winds of Park's perfect casino storm simmered down to doldrums and finally stopped.

When a new storm brewed, the gale came from the opposite direction. So while he and his family were lavished with every amenity the casino could throw his way, Park lost every single dime back...plus some fresh, out of pocket cash.

"B" sighed, "The best casino stories involve greed, stupidity and a lust for power...that's why so few have happy endings.  You'd think that Park would have known...the freight train doesn't come through town every day. Just look at that burnt-out degenerate, he's still chasing the fantasy of another one-in-a-million perfect storm ."  I looked at the seemingly vigilant Mrs. Park and said, "So his misses isn't watching his back, she's just being polite and trying to hide her boredom."  "B" scoffed, "That dude could've had the world by the balls...and now look at him...thirty years after his ten minutes of fame, he's just a punchline, playing for peanuts and cursing the world every time he loses."

Monday, August 3, 2015

THE "THURSDAY" JOKE

In the late 1980's, I spent an afternoon with my parents in Manhattan.  At the South Street Seaport, the (then fledgling) Lifetime TV Network had a interviewer and a camera crew flagging down passersby and asking about their awareness of the new cable station.  
HEADQUARTERED IN NEW YORK CITY, THIS CABLE AND SATELLITE TV CHANNEL WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1984.  THEIR PROGRAMMING IS GEARED TO WOMEN'S ISSUES OR FEATURE WOMEN IN LEAD ROLES.  IN FEBRUARY 2015, IT WAS ESTIMATED THAT THE LIFETIME NETWORK WAS AVAILABLE IN 82.4% OF AMERICAN HOMES.

Lucky me, out of the flock of tourists, the microphone was shoved in my face.  Before asking me what I knew about their network, a lady asked some preliminary questions.  I got on a roll and had my folks, others in the crowd, the crew and even the interviewer, chuckling.  

One of those questions was, "What's your favorite day of the week?"  Without hesitation I said, "Thursday!"  The interviewer said, "Thursday?  I've asked that to a hundred people and you're the first to say Thursday."  I said, "It's simple. What day is today?"  She said, "Thursday."  I said with a twinge of sarcasm, "That's right!  And...Thursday is my favorite day of the week because...I'm off on Thursdays."

That became the original, "Thursday" joke.  But the joke was on me because the cameraman screwed-up and needed me to redo my little repartee.  I laughed, "Comedy is all timing, I could never recreate that moment."  I grabbed mom and dad and led them inside to the clam bar.



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Before casinos went national and opened on every street corner, I had a legion of loyal roulette followers.  On any day, I could count on a familiar face shoehorning onto my table to play...or at least waving as they went by.  Many of my people...whether they played or not were likely to make the hand signal associated with the new and improved, completely different "Thursday" joke.
UNFORTUNATELY, THIS SECOND "THURSDAY" JOKE IS VISUAL.  SO TYPING IT OUT WON'T SERVE THE ESSENCE OF THE HUMOR.  SO TO PUT A SMILE ON THE FACE OF THOSE WHO KNOW IT,  I PRESENT THE SIGNATURE HAND GESTURE (above).   IF YOU NEVER HEARD THIS JOKE, ASK ME TO TELL YOU THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME.


From the outside looking in, you'd think casino workers would use some level of schtick.   Of course not everyone has the enthusiasm, energy or willingness to be a cheerleader.  But overwhelming my coworkers lose sight of the fact that we are in the hospitality business.  They make no attempt to show an interest in their players or show a touch of sympathy to the losers.  So entertaining or even chatting with the customers is out of the question.

It's crazy to think but in that regard, many of my contemporaries view me as an oddball.  So while they suffer through the self-imposed drudgery of being there, I cultivate my customers in search of the right audience.  Therefore, whenever I can, I have fun on the job which helps pass the time.

Today's blog concerns itself with another one of the lines I like to use.

At times, a roulette dealer is swamped with work. Sometimes an impatient or less savvy player will ask another player to place bets they can't reach.  My answer to that is, "He's playing, I'm working. Give me sec and I'll professionally set-up whatever you need.  Besides, if an amateur screws up, you can scream at them until your head falls off...but you won't get satisfaction.  If I mess-up, you can still yell AND you might get what you wanted."

The bigger problem is, outside the casino, I have a long history of not heeding my own, "letting a professional do my work" advice.  This is especially true when it comes to me making home repairs.

In regard to my fix-it prowess, I am famous for trying to replace a light bulb and turning it into a "mature audience only" TV special. I have a talent for making insignificant inconveniences into a mess and messes into an epic problems and epic problems into catastrophes. A big part of my dilemma is, I am at times cheap, lazy and stupid, (or all three at the same time).

Far worse, because I have a poor road record, I keep trying to prove, (to myself...and family), that I'm not a bumbling idiot.

The latest installment of my ineptitude started six months ago on my day off, (a Thursday).  That's when we realized our dishwater wasn't draining.  I suggested running another cycle...and like magic, I found the cure.

My heroic status lasted a couple of months until after a big Thursday meal, we discovered that the bottom of washer was again flooded with stagnant water.

Here was my chance to prove that I am willing to go the extra mile, have common sense and that I'm not clumsy.  I referred my difficulties to the Google search engine.
GOOGLE IS A TECHNOLOGY COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN INTERNET-RELATED SERVICES AND PRODUCTS.  THEIR CORPORATE OFFICES ARE IN MOUNTAINVIEW CALIFORNIA.

Search engines were developed by Google (and their competitors) to allow users to receive a wealth of answers to virtually any question.  That's why the budding Internet called itself the, "information super highway?" So to  get to the source of my problem, I typed in, "dishwasher not draining."

I found out that most drainage problems were caused by: a clogged filter, drain or pipe or a drain motor failure.  I visited the Frigidaire web-page and found the dishwasher trouble-shooting page.
THE DIRECTION IMPLIED THAT A FOUR-YEAR OLD WITH AVERAGE INTELLIGENCE COULD FIND THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM. TOO BAD I DIDN'T HAVE A LITTLE KID AROUND TO ASK FOR HELP.


I was self-assured as I followed the directions to siphon-out the still water.  But I lost all my momentum when I reached the "self-cleaning" filter.  It was as clean as a whistle and there weren't gobs of greasiness blocking the drain.  One last idea was to remove the propeller-like sprayer arm at the bottom, to check for a blockage in the pipe underneath.  I didn't see any screws and it wouldn't lift up so I gave up.

Lucky for me, I have a friend (neighbor) who is a handyman.  While its true the last thing he wants to do when he's not doing handy work...is do handy work, but for me, he'd do it.

It took a couple of weeks to coordinate a common time for both of us.  In that time, I figured out that the propeller arm twists off.  For a split second, I was so proud of myself.  But I also discovered that the problem couldn't be unearthed by looking under it.  In the mean time, I reconnected the propeller.

On a Thursday in early July, my buddy came over.  He detached the actual motor and tested it.  It worked.  He had experience with various dishwashers but he suggested calling a professional because he couldn't see what was wrong.

We made a Thursday appointment with an appliance service.  From the time that man set foot in the house until he identified and fixed this Mickey Mouse problem was three minutes, (a clogged water line).  BUT,  he also said, "Whoever removed the motor...broke it!  And it has to be replaced."

I was in no position to point a finger at my friend.  Even though he was out of his league, he was doing me a favor.  I can only blame my thriftiness, laziness and stupidity for trusting the job to a non-expert.  I ate $160.00 worth of humble pie.  The new motor had to be ordered so it wasn't until the following Thursday that the repairman returned to install it.  Unfortunately, he gave us a three-hour window, (3:PM-6:PM) and arrived (on time?) at 5:45 which killed my whole day off.

On his way out, he suggested that we run washer immediately, to eliminate the stench of the old dirty, still water. In the morning, (Friday) I emptied the washer.  To my surprise...the propeller arm that I had snapped (improperly) back on, before my friend looked at the dishwasher, had fallen off.  It was laying on the floor of the dishwasher atop the coil that heats the water.

Upon closer examination, the plastic arm had melted halfway through the coil and was fused to it. Ugh, I called the repairman back.  He gave me another three-hour window that now ruined both my days off.
IN THE 1960's, JESSE WHITE WAS THE TV COMMERCIAL SPOKESPERSON FOR MAYTAG APPLIANCES.  THEIR CATCHPHRASE, PRIOR TO THE ADVENT OF "TRUTH IN ADVERTISING," IMPLIED THAT THEIR PRODUCTS WERE SO RELIABLE THAT THEIR REPAIRMEN WERE THE LONELIEST GUYS IN TOWN.


My dishwasher repairman certainly can never complain about being lonely, I'm seeing him way too often. Maybe my schtick with him helped forge a bond between us. To prove how effective the second "Thursday" joke was, he used the hand gesture when he greeted me the last time.  It's like we're pals. So much so, he gave me a break and will install a new sprayer arm, (no service call charge), next Thursday for the price of the part, fifty bucks.

I'm already dreading the possibility of losing another day off.  This epidemic is rapidly becoming a third version of my Thursday joke...except this one isn't funny.

Monday, July 27, 2015

MY LUCKY RAT-HAT

EVELPEETY must love seeing his name in print. He voiced his disappointment that my last blog, "NEXT GEN, FREE HAT," wasn't about a different free hat I was given back in the Stone Age. Thus implying that the hat he was referring to, needs to be addressed.

EVELPEETY  reminded me how much he hates that hat from so long ago.  I will, paraphrase his comment from last week;  I hope you're not trying to convince Andrew (your son) to use a hat like the one I'm thinking of as a freebie to attract interest in his work.  I know this hat.  I do not like this hat.  

As a tribute to EVELPEETY, I will share the history of my "Rat-Hat"...aka, my "Lucky Hat."  I hope this homage satisfies EVELPEETY because I know him and his jibber-jab might just be a clever ruse for the rare privilege of seeing his photo in consecutive MGTP stories.

                                                                  

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I moved to New Jersey in 1984.  I got a craps dealing job at the Atlantis Casino for two years while my dealer training academy was being developed.
THE ILL-FATED ATLANTIS OPENED AS THE PLAYBOY CASINO IN 1981.  IT WAS PURCHASED BY THE ELSINORE CORPORATION IN 1984. ITS NEW NAME COINCIDED WITH THE MYTHICAL "LOST" CONTINENT.  SITUATED NEXT TO THE TRUMP PLAZA, OUR STAFF NICKNAMED THIS DUD, "THE DUMP NEXT TO TRUMP." THE PROPERTY LOST ITS CASINO LICENSE IN 1989 AND NEVER RE-OPENED AS A GAMBLING HALL.


During my time at the Atlantis, my wife Sue had a series of non-casino jobs.  One was as a secretary, for an electrical contractor.

To welcome new employees to their firm, Sue received a treasure trove of chintzy novelty gifts with the company name and logo emblazoned on them.  Among other nonsense, this shit included a water bottle, key chain, memo pad, pen, pencil and baseball cap.

Sue gave me that white with orange lettering ball cap.  I'm not a hat guy so it was worn infrequently, (mostly in the rain or on the hottest sunny days, especially at the beach).  Despite being rarely used, the cheap fabric faded and the filth and sweat stains were easy to see.

At that time, we were living in an apartment complex with a pool. The hat embarrassed Sue and she was mortified when neighbors would see me in my disgusting "Rat-Hat."
MY WIFE NEVER BOUGHT-IN TO THIS RATIONALE FOR WEARING THAT MESSED-UP HAT, "YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN A DISEASE SPREADING MENACE MIGHT JUMP ON YOUR HEAD...SO IT'S GOOD TO HAVE PROTECTION."


Sue started a campaign to buy me a new hat.  I refused. She pointed out that the plastic sizing strap in the back of the hat was broken off.  I had grow accustomed to its unique features and said, "I don't mind.  Besides, it adds character."  Soon Sue stopped badgering me about it.

Once my parents came to visit.  We spent time at the pool and returned to our apartment.  My mom didn't say anything and slipped outside.  Ten minutes later, she returned with the Rat-Hat which I had accidentally left behind. Sue wasn't joking when she said, "I saw it too...but I was hoping he would have forgotten about it."

In 1989, Sue and I bought a house.  In addition to its regular uses, I wore that raggedy hat when I did yard and automotive work.  The already nasty hat became smudged with grass and dark grease stains.  Whatever level of hatred Sue might have had in the hat's early years, it was intensified a thousand-fold, five years later.  I could only imagine the diabolic plans she laid out to rid the free world of it.
IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A CONSPIRACY ORCHESTRATED BY MY WIFE BUT IN 1990, LESLIE AND GARY BOUGHT ME A PITTSBURGH PIRATE HAT.  I REFUSED TO WEAR IT ON THE GROUNDS THAT IT HAD GOLDEN PEE ON IT.  THEREFORE IT REMAINED (UNUSED) IN MY HALL CLOSET FOR TWENTY YEARS.  IN 2010, I TOOK IT OUT OF MOTHBALLS AND NOW IT'S MY "NEW" RAT-HAT.  THANKS L AND G.


During my time at the Atlantis Casino, I became friendly with Willie Potato, (see my, "THE NINE LIVES OF WILLIE POTATO," blog from October 17, 2011).  When he got married, Sue and I attended their wedding.  Soon, the four of us socialized a great many times.

Willie had several close calls with death.  But when he and his wife encouraged Sue and I to join them on a canoeing trip on the Bass River, it was Sue and I who were lucky to survive.
THE CANOE RENTAL ADVERTISEMENT READ, "YOU HAVEN'T SEEN NEW JERSEY UNTIL YOU PADDLE THROUGH THE PINELANDS."  TO GET YOUR JUICES FLOWING MORE, THEY LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT PRIOR TO THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY MOVING TO THE LEFT COAST, THE SILENT "TARZAN" MOVIES WERE FILMED ON LOCATION, ON THE RIVER NEAR CHATSWORTH.

The Potato's were veteran canoeists.  Sue and I were not into water sports, (get your mind out of the gutter...we weren't into any kind of water sports...).  For our three-hour river tour, she and I over-prepared like the cast of, "GILLIGAN'S ISLAND."
"GILLIGAN'S ISLAND" CENTERED ON SEVEN CASTAWAYS ON AN UNCHARTED ISLAND WHO SEEMED TO HAVE DIFFERENT CLOTHING ENSEMBLES FOR EVERY OCCASION, BAGS OF MONEY, JEWELRY AND ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU WOULD NEVER BRING ON SUCH AN EXCURSION. DESPITE BEING THE STUPIDEST, MOST FAR-FETCHED SIT-COM EVER,  IT WAS POPULAR, LASTING THREE SEASONS AND 98 EPISODES, (1964-1967) .

Much like Lovey Howell's maid, Sue carefully packed us a picnic lunch, a change of clothes, a blanket, towels, bug spray, suntan lotion and a camera.  Just before blasting off,  (I mean launching), Sue and I felt confident in what we were doing so the Potato's didn't pester us or look over our shoulder.

Please note, during the next three hours, the Potato's never capsized.  It should also be noted that Sue and I capsized in the first six feet of our journey.  I'm not pointing a finger at my better half because it was a team effort...we would overturn the boat five more times.  Of course it didn't matter after the first time because our lunch, insect repellent, suntan lotion, camera and other personal items were lost during our impersonation of the Titanic, (we saved the things that remained afloat; blanket, towels and most of our formerly dry clothes).

Throughout the morning, dozens of other canoes and carefree individuals floating in inner-tubes successfully navigated the Bass River.  I was jealous how relaxed the day could have been as I watched them happily glide by, (we never saw a single other overturned boat, even the one with two stoic nuns and another with three screaming nine-year old brats).

It's crazy but my Rat-Hat remained with me until the third time we were involuntarily forced to abandoned ship. As victims of circumstance, I was so glad we didn't get hurt.  Therefore losing the hat was the least of my worries. We were so numb from our mutual tumult that the embarrassment factor faded into obscurity long before we parked (landed) and took a halftime break.

The Potato's were gracious enough to share their lunch with us.  While chillin' long after the fact, we were shown how everything they brought was 100% dry because they were stored in plastic trash bags and secured to the inside of their canoe).  Sue and I didn't complain about not getting enough to eat as we sat on our sloshing wet, (soon to be muddy on one side) towels.  Nor did we mention that we getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and getting sun-burnt.  We just gutted it out and still had fun, (sorry, no camera means, no photos to share).

We never really got the hang of canoeing.  After the break, we overturned the boat a couple of more times. We were close to the end as I became preoccupied, wondering about water damage to the credentials in my wallet.  We drifted into some overhanging tree limbs.  Sue pulled a branch away from her face, but it snapped ala the "THREE STOOGES," into mine.  I panicked, we started listing side-to-side and our boat flipped one last time.
IN THE, "THREE STOOGES" CANOEING EPISODE I'M THINKING OF, NEAR THE SHORE, MOE HOLDS A BRANCH AWAY FROM HIS FACE AND HANDS IT SAFELY OFF TO LARRY.  LARRY TRIES TO DO THE SAME FOR DAYDREAMING CURLY BUT HE'S NOT PAYING ATTENTION...THE BRANCH SNAPS INTO CURLY'S FACE. 


I was floundering in neck-deep water when I looked behind us and saw a funny sight.  It was an enormously overweight man in an inner tube, drinking a Budweiser and smoking a cigar.  To add to the comic picture, he had a second tube tethered to his, towing a small ice chest full of beer.
LOSE THE GIRL AND ADD A MORBIDLY OBESE GUY SMOKING A STOGIE. THIS STOCK PHOTO DOESN'T QUITE CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF THE HUMOR.  I WOULD HAVE TAKEN THAT PRICELESS PICTURE EXCEPT THE CAMERA FELL TO DAVY JONES' LOCKER, SIX FEET INTO OUR ADVENTURE.


To complete this hilarious moment, the dude was wearing my long lost Rat-Hat.  I yelled out to everyone, "Look, here comes my hat!"

Nothing about the trip pissed Sue off...until I was reunited with my suddenly renamed, "Lucky Hat."

Of course she also hated going to the parking lot, (a company shuttle returns customers downstream to their cars).  This grim walking experience was exasperated by being forced, in the one flip-flop she had left, to cross forty feet from the canoe to the bus, on hot gravel, covered with broken glass, twigs and creepy crawly insects. I was tempted to tell her: Hey, I'm friggin' barefoot...but I knew it was better to keep quiet.

I lost touch with Willie Potato after I gave up the school.  While back doing casino work, I made many new, valued and lasting friends.  When Sue and I bought our house, some of my posse helped me ready the land in my backyard, for some major projects.
OCTOBER 1993.   KURUDAVE (right) AND EVELPEETY (center), THIS MIGHT BE THE ONLY PICTURE OF MY "LUCKY" RAT-HAT.  FROM THIS DISTANCE, THE HAT DOESN'T LOOK SO REVOLTING...BUT THE SMELL WAS STRONG ENOUGH TO KEEP SKUNKS AND OTHER VERMIN FAR AWAY.

My friends (above) lived a mile away.  I nicknamed their place the "G-Spot" because they were both single and their last names start with a "G."  During this stage of our friendship, I was meeting them three times a week and working out with their Solar-Flex equipment.
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO KNOW ME, IT PROBABLY SEEMS LAUGHABLE TO VISUALIZE ME WORKING OUT...BUT I DID.  IF YOU THINK I SUCK AT CANOEING, YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN ME LIFTING WEIGHTS, (FOR ME THE FAD DIDN'T LAST TOO LONG).  HOWEVER, YESTERDAY I SHOCKED SUE AND MY SON ANDREW BY DOING FIVE PUSH-UPS (WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS).


These pumping iron (stretching giant rubber bands), sessions took place in EVELPEETY'S bedroom.  At one point, I ignorantly placed my not-so-lucky "Rat-Hat" on his pillow while exercising.  This discovery did not please EVELPEETY.  Now, twenty-two years later, that memory still causes a sudden blast of bile to erupt into his mouth...as you can tell from the comment he left on last week's, "NEXT GEN, FREE HAT," blog.

EVELPEETY was surprised that I conveniently allowed myself to forget that little incident.  But he might feel better knowing that he'll always be a hero to Sue because the tongue lashing he gave me convinced me to cremate the Lucky Hat.  Maybe the next time he's on Cos Cob Street, he can go by his old homestead, look at the rhododendron bushes below his former bedroom and see if he can catch a whiff of the lucky hat remains. Remember EVELPEETY, the stink of the hat is FOREVER and wasn't improved by the noxious odor of burnt plastic.

Monday, July 20, 2015

NEXT GEN, FREE HAT

For the sake of clarity, I define the term "NEXT GEN" as the demographic generation of children born in the last few years and going forward, (similar to past classifications like; "BABY BOOMERS,"  "MILLENNIALS" and "GENERATION X."

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What a naive schmuck Charles Goodyear (1800-1860) was.  The "SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL"  has a informative yet cool show called, "MY MILLION DOLLAR INVENTION."  Overwhelmingly, the featured geniuses profit from their creation.  Such was not the case for Goodyear, a self-taught, chemist and manufacturing engineer.
 I'M CATCHING UP WITH RE-RUNS BUT EACH SEGMENT I'VE SEEN HAS BEEN A WINNER. THE LURE OF THE SHOW IS, IT MAKES THE VIEWER FEEL THAT THEIR FAME-FILLED DESTINY IS AN MERE INSPIRATION AWAY.  LIKE THE EPIPHANY THAT LED A WWII BOMBER DESIGNER TO MAKE A FORTUNE BY INVENTING THE COLLAPSIBLE BABY STROLLER, 25 YEARS AFTER THE WAR. 

The Charles Goodyear piece takes us back to the late 1830's when rubber products were first introduced.  Unfortunately, these consumer items couldn't handle extreme temperatures, (losing its elasticity and/or melting in hot weather or becoming brittle in cold temperatures).

The use of rubber lost its momentum.  Behind the scenes, Goodyear remained steadfast and dedicated his life to perfecting the process that would make rubber a valued commodity.  He was so gung-ho about his million-dollar vision that he risked all his money on raw rubber and chemicals...and lost.  He even found economic backers and pissed through their money too.  His blind devotion cost him his family and endangered his health.

Through it all, Goodyear succeeded by heating the raw rubber. He called his process, Vulcanization, (after the Roman fire God, Vulcan).
VULCAN IS FREQUENTLY DEPICTED WITH A HAMMER AS A METAL WORKER AT A FORGE.  HIS GREEK COUNTERPART WAS, HEPHAESTUS.

The reason why Goodyear was a schmuck was...while struggling to find the right formula, he publicized his secret process.  Others capitalized on his work by beating him to the patent office in 1844. Due to poor finances he died penniless.  Four decades later, (1898) The Goodyear Tire and Rubber took their name as a tribute him.
I'M SURE CHARLES GOODYEAR DOESN'T GET MUCH SOLACE FROM HIS NAME BEING AN ICONIC OF SUCCESS.

The bigger picture is, where do million-dollar ideas come from?  A great example would be, (Trey Parker and Matt Stone), the creators of the cartoon series, "SOUTH PARK." 
PRIOR TO "SOUTH PARK" BECOMING A GIANT ON BASIC CABLE-TV, (1997-PRESENT), IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST INTERNET VIDEOS TO GO VIRAL.   THIS "NOT FOR KIDS" SERIES IS BASED ON THE EXPLOITS OF FOUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL FRIENDS, (above).  THE PLOTS CENTER AROUND SOCIAL SATIRE...BAD TASTE...AND A REDEEMING CONCLUSION.

One of my favorite episodes is called, "FREE HAT."  The boys start a movement to end movie studios from editing and re-releasing classic films that are more family-friendly and politically correct.  To attract more folks to their cause, the boys include on their advertising poster, "FREE HAT."  They do this thinking that freebies would attract more people.  They succeed in filling the auditorium but the crowd mistakenly think it's a rally to free convicted murderer, Hat McCullough.
THE PREMISE IS SO FUNNY THAT WHENEVER I SEE PROTESTERS, I WANT TO JOIN IN AND SHOUT OUT, "FREE HAT, FREE HAT, FREE HAT!"

I appreciate Parker and Stone's million-dollar idea because they started out as modest film students at the University of Colorado  Then unlike Charles Goodyear, they used their connections with a Fox Network executive, (and friend) to get them started in Hollywood...or at least Burbank.

Coincidentally, my son Andrew now has a chance to make his own Hollywood connections.  Who knows maybe he can parlay one of his ideas into a million-dollar creation. Although he's not a film student, earlier this year, he entered a five-minute film called, "OKAY, CUPID" to the Campus Movie Festival, (CMF).

This film fest is an annual, national event.  Now in its nineteenth year, CMF features collegiate movie-makers. First, universities encourage students to make submissions.  Like a contest, a select few are chosen to participate in a five-day film festival in Hollywood.  At the end of the rainbow, valuable cash prizes are awarded.

The final step is, winners from colleges from all over the country converge on Los Angeles.  The days are filled with film workshops and seminars that serve to hone different aspects of their cinematic craft.  Plus, the individuals get to network with show biz insiders as well as their fellow contestants.  One day is dedicated to screening everyone's work, (followed by questions and answers).  The event ends with a red carpet awards ceremony.

Originally, Andrew's goal wasn't to make big bucks, he was glad to just participate.  In the preliminaries at his school, THE COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY (TCNJ),  he was pleasantly surprised to be in the top sixteen.  That honor earned him the opportunity to have his work shown to a full Kendall Hall auditorium.

Click on this link to see Andrew's CMF submission, "OKAY, CUPID." 

Andrew basked in the glory of its reception and the recognition he received from strangers.  But he was more stoked to later find out that he qualified as one of the four TCNJ finalists who were eligible to attend the Campus Movie Festival, in Hollywood.
ANDREW'S CO-STAR WAS MATT H. (above) AS CUPID.  HE WAS JOINED IN HOLLYWOOD WITH HEINER F. HIS PHOTOGRAPHER AND ANOTHER ACTOR ANTHONY R.

The excitement of this adventure built-up for weeks until all the arrangements were made and the TCNJ trio were finally, in the air.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!  WELL, NOT EXACTLY, FIRST THERE'S THE ANTI-CLIMATIC FIVE-HOUR FLIGHT COMPLETE WITH A $4.95 PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH...DAMN, DIDN'T VIRGIN AMERICAN AIRLINES KNOW MY JET-SETTING BOY WAS HEADING TO HOLLYWOOD?

Luckily for Andrew and his crew, my friends EVELPETEY and MRS-PETEY put them up at their palatial estate in beautiful downtown Burbank, (unlike the airline, the Petey's treated them royally).  

While on their own, they visited the Universal City Walk.
NO PLACE EPITOMIZES COMMERCIALISM MORE THAN L.A. AND NOTHING WITHIN L.A. TYPIFIES THAT NOTION MORE THAN THE UNIVERSAL CITY WALK.

The reality was, Andrew and his team came for business...SHOW BUSINESS!  So after some basic tourist destinations, they were anxious to get started.
MR. DeMILLE, THEY ARE READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UPS!

The boys attended different workshops to sharpen their skills, (editing, lighting, sound etc).  During a down-time photo-op, they clowned around.
THE PERFECT KODAK MOMENT, A CAMPUS MOVIE FEST BACKDROP AND PROPS.

While away from the fest, EVELPETEY was kind enough to show them the sights.  Like Hollywood and Vine ,the Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theater.
TO EXEMPLIFY HIS ECSTASY AND AS A HOMAGE TO ME, ANDREW SHOT JIMMY "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" STEWART'S HAND AND FOOT PRINTS.


For Andrew, his big moment was seeing, "OKAY, CUPID" on the silver screen.  He then adeptly fielded questions from the audience.

On the last day, the award ceremony was a red carpet affair.
THE AWARD CEREMONY WAS INCREDIBLE AND EXCITING.  ALTHOUGH ANDREW WASN'T ONE OF THE WINNERS, THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE WAS A COLOSSAL PERSONAL VICTORY.

To add Hollywood legitimacy to the award ceremony, TV personality J. B. Smoove (a favorite of mine), added comic relief to the proceedings.
JERRY ANGELO BROOKS, BETTER KNOWN AS J.B. SMOOVE (1965-PRESENT), WAS A WRITER FOR "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE." HE IS NOW A COMIC ACTOR, BEST KNOWN FOR HIS RECURRING ROLE AS LEON ON, "CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM."  HIS CREDITS INCLUDE OTHER TV SHOWS, OVER TEN MOVIES AS WELL AS MANY COMMERCIALS.

The time on the west coast went by like a flash for Andrew.  He learned a lot, was encouraged to continue making videos and a lusts to improve his product.
BACK ON THE GROUND IN NEW JERSEY, BEFORE NAVIGATING OUT OF NEWARK AIRPORT, THE REALITY THAT THE CMF PARTY WAS OVER, SET IN.  AFTER A QUICK BREATHER, IT'LL BE BACK TO CHASING DOWN A NEW MILLION DOLLAR DREAM.

Andrew regretted not having more sightseeing time.  He was also disappointed, because unlike the full auditorium at TCNJ's Kendall Hall, his Hollywood screening of, "OKAY CUPID" drew a sparse crowd.  

I said, "You'll have plenty of chances to see more of California.  And if you want to assure that future auditoriums will be full for your screenings, you should come up with a next gen version, of a free hat promotion."

Speaking of million dollar inventions, Andrew's hosts EVELPETEY and MRS-PETEY have come up with their own special creation.  So with their bundle of joy in mind, I wish my great friends all the love and happiness imaginable.
WE ALL THANK YOU PETEY'S FOR YOUR HOSPITALITY AND LOVE YOU!  

For the Petey's happy occasion, only they can read between the lines of the nickname I have chosen for their cherished prize...NEXT GEN !

Monday, July 13, 2015

MOUNTING MT. WASHINGTON

My friend, crime novelist Charlie Stella has joined me on several power-walks.  While it might not be his thing, he hangs in.  Today's blog concerns itself with the shock of a lifetime, Charlie inviting me to do a marathon power-walk with him and some of his author goombas.

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I was disappointed by yesterday's storm.  I had prepared for the worst because the National Weather Service warned of possible tornadoes, thunder, lightning and ugly conditions.  That tumult meant, I had to cancel my power-walk. I don't like having my schedule thrown off so it takes a good deal of awfulness to give-up exercising and the valued mental masturbation this private time provides.

These power-walks are so cherished that down through the years, I have persevered through every harsh element that Mother Nature could throw my way. I have walked in temperatures between 18 and 95 degrees, wind storms and pelting rain.  So, I wasn't going to be dissuaded by the Weather Channel's "sophisticated" (usually 50% accurate), computer system.

Some might say my hearty nature is a result of a tough Brooklyn upbringing.  I won't speculate whether that's true but in my neck of the woods, it was a crime to waste a dime on a telephone weather report. Our custom simply involves sticking your head out the friggin' window, (if you're the out-going type, you could even be neighborly and announce, ala Ralph Kramden, "It certainly looks like rain today)."
THE EPITOME OF A BROOKLYNITE, IF RALPH KRAMDEN STUCK HIS HEAD OUT THE WINDOW AND GAVE THE WEATHER A THUMBS UP, IT MEANT SOMETHING...AFTER ALL, STICKING YOUR HEAD OUT THE WINDOW WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR HIS GRANDMOTHER...

Yesterday, it was cloudy but dry when I stuck my head out the window. In the distant southern horizon, I could see the lines of heavy rain.  Normally, I would take the chance and do a quickie walk but beyond those thick bands of rain was an eclipse-like black sky.  Far scarier, in the near-ground, the sky was painted with ominous splotches of crazy colors like mauve, puce and taupe.  You know you're in for a nasty storm when the sky is a kaleidoscope of colors that didn't make the Crayola Crayons top 120.  So if you aren't sure about the weather and see blotches of normal crayon colors like burnt sienna, ocher and ruddy brown in the heavens, I say, you'll be okay.
I MIGHT BE COLOR BLIND BUT SINCE WE TOOK MY SON ANDREW TO THE CRAYOLA CRAYON FACTORY TOUR (1998) IN EASTON PENNSYLVANIA, I NOW APPRECIATE THE COOL NAMES THEY HAVE FOR COLORS.  PLUS, THE TOUR IS A GREAT HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE FOR KIDS AND ADULTS.

Within minutes, my decision to not power-walk paid off.  The wind picked up. The morning sky darkened.  Then as if a switch was flipped on, a slashing rain...that would continue into the evening ripped through my town.

Missing my scheduled power-walk threw my routine off. To fill the time, I took some coffee into my Florida room and watched the storm in my backyard.  I marveled at small tree limbs going airborne and the formation of rivulets that swelled into mini-lakes that flooded areas of my property.

While viewing the turbulence, my mind wandered to author Bill Bryson.
BILL BRYSON (1951-PRESENT) IS A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF HUMOROUS BOOKS ON TRAVEL AND THE HUMAN CONDITION. 

My friend SLW turned me onto Bryson and I read two of his novels.  I liked them both but appreciated, "THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID," more.  This page-turner is an account of Bryson's formative years.  It reads like a mixture of two of my favorites, the 1983 classic movie, "A CHRISTMAS STORY" and the TV show, "THE WONDER YEARS."
THE WONDER YEARS (1988-1993) WAS SET IN THE LATE 1960's AND EARLY 1970's.  THIS COMING OF AGE SHOW STARRED FRED SAVAGE (above) AS KEVIN ARNOLD, A TEENAGER WRESTLING WITH THE COMPLEXITIES OF FRIENDSHIP, THE DIFFICULTIES OF FINDING HIS WAY, THE HARDSHIPS OF SCHOOLWORK AND AN EVER-UNATTAINABLE LOVE LIFE.

I saw a list of Bryson's top sixteen novels.  "The Thunderbolt Kid," ranked fifth but I liked it more than the other book I read, (the number one on the list), "A WALK IN THE WOODS."

"A Walk In the Woods" was still enjoyable.  So SLW was right when he recommended it.
"A WALK IN THE WOODS" (1998) IS BILL BRYSON'S ACCOUNT OF HIS UNPREPARED, FIVE-MONTH TRY TO HIKE THE 2,168-MILE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, (WITH A FRIEND WHO WAS FAR LESS PREPARED).  STRETCHING FROM SPRINGER MOUNTAIN GEORGIA TO KATAHDAN MOUNTAIN MAINE, THE TRAIL IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S LONGEST CONTINUOUSLY MARKED FOOT PATHS.

SLW and I (separately) went cross country. So he knew I could relate to the absurdity of Bill Bryson solving his mid-life crisis with a colossal hike. SLW and I had our share of wild adventures so he wanted to share how Bryson and his buddy dealt with mental and physical exhaustion of severe cold and hot weather, dangerous terrain, insects, four-legged beasts and two-footed weirdos.

Towards the end of his odyssey, Bryson took on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  His description made this mountain seem like America's Everest. Prior to reading, "A Walk in the Woods," I had heard of it only because of bumper stickers that read; THIS CAR SURVIVED CLIMBING MT. WASHINGTON. 
MT. WASHINGTON IS THE USA's MOST PROMINENT PEAK EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. IT'S FAMOUS  FOR ERRATIC AND UNSAFE WEATHER.  ON APRIL 12, 1934, THE WORLD'S FASTEST WIND GUST 231 MPH WAS RECORDED, (IT WAS FINALLY BESTED IN 1996).  THE MOUNT ALSO HAS CLAIMED A HIGH NUMBER OF FATALITIES.

This grisly wilderness was the last place I'd ever guess Charlie Stella would ever pick to "exercise" his long-dormant outdoors-man bravado. I rationalized my guess because Charlie is overweight and only recently gave up unfiltered Camel cigarettes for a pipe. Therefore, he struggled to stroll the intensely less strenuous boardwalks at Seaside Heights and Atlantic City with me.
OCTOBER 10, 1983.  CHARLIE WINS THE SPAGHETTI EATING CONTEST (SIX POUNDS, ONE OUNCE) DURING THE COLUMBUS NIGHT FESTIVITIES AT YONKERS RACEWAY.  HE GOT STIFFED BY RONZONI WHICH CAUSED HIM TO FOREVER BOYCOTT THEIR PRODUCTS.  UNFORTUNATELY, HE DIDN'T BOYCOTT ANYONE ELSE'S FOOD PRODUCTS...AND HAS BEEN BATTLING HIS WEIGHT FOR A LONG TIME.

I teased Charlie about going from zero-to-sixty in the aerobic exercise department. I know Charlie can handle silly jokes at his expense because he and I have similar personalities.

  • 10% - Overly serious, hyper-sensitive and won't take anyone's shit.
  • 80% - Perfectly well-adjusted and a wonderful, fun-loving person.
  • 10% - Buffoon! Accepting of shortcomings.  Able to have verbal sparring matches with friends.
Despite my stunned, knee-jerk reaction to Charlie's strange challenge, I wanted in too, (not only for the experience but also for a chance to hobnob with other writers).

His friends are experienced in such endeavors.  They know about Charlie's physical issues and aren't going to let this tenderfoot fall down a ravine, get eaten by a bear, die of thirst or get lost. So with all their expertise, I figured, maybe his buddies could find a way to to "carry" a second inexperienced mountain climber. Charlie spoke for the group and welcomed me with open arms.

I was relying on our mutual talent for buffoonery when I harassed Charlie by comparing his outing with the movie, "DELIVERANCE."  The truth is, I was teasing myself because I saw the movie once and it's memory (forty plus years later), is still so unsettling that I have no need to see this top-notch thriller again. 
1972's, "DELIVERANCE" WAS A SURVIVAL MOVIE FEATURING FOUR CITY DWELLERS ON A CANOEING VACATION IN RURAL GEORGIA WHO ARE AMBUSHED BY CRAZY BACKWOODS LOCALS.  IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO RETURN TO CIVILIZATION, THEY MUST BATTLE THEIR ATTACKERS, NATURE AND THEIR OWN MORALITY, (go to the YOUTUBE link below, to hear the memorable theme song). 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uzae_SqbmDE

My plan to go unraveled when I realized that Mt. Washington was in New Hampshire and that this walk in the woods was for an extended weekend.  Due to the nature of casino work, it'll be impossible for me to get a summer weekend off. Charlie understood.

I'm unclear why but suddenly their whole mounting Mt. Washington expedition was pushed back six weeks, to the end of August. Despite the postponement, I still can't go.

I have also noticed Charlie hasn't been talking the trip up any more.  Maybe he'll regain his momentum as the big day nears, but in the back of my mind, I'm worried that my bowing out and taunting has dampened the ol' boy's enthusiasm and influenced him to change his mind.

In a true rarity, I telephoned Charlie.  After hemming and hawing I finally got to the point, "Are you still going to hike Mt. Washington?"  Charlie is an outspoken man.  I have never heard him waffle on even the most controversial topic.  But in this case he did by saying, "I'm, er...umm, still going..."  He didn't finish his thought so I took the dangling bait, "You'don't sound so certain?"  "I want to go but that hike will kill me."  I said, "It could be 70 degrees at the bottom and 30 at the summit."

Charlie agreed and rattled off some scary stats about the disproportionate fatality rate associated with Mt. Washington compared to similar venues so I said, "So you're NOT going?"  "Oh no," he said, "I'm going.  If I back out, those mooks will bust my balls forever...the humiliation factor of getting called fugazy is enough to risk my goddamned life."

I acknowledged his dicey damned if you do...damned if you don't situation.  Then commended his sticktuitiveness for at least "wanting" to go.  He cut me off, "Of course, they'll have no idea that I'm chicken if I go up all gung-ho and shit and then pretend to turn ankle in the first fifteen minutes.  Hell, I'll go find a pizza place, take a nap and then sing that old Don Imus song as I drive up to the top."

Charlie might not have the right stuff to conquer Mt. Washington on foot but he proved he was tone deaf with zero talent for singing when he started wailing.

"I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I got my plastic Jesus riding on the dashboard of my car,
I can go a thousand miles per hour, long as I got that mystical power riding on the dashboard of my car..."

Luckily he only knew the first two lines, my ears were getting devastated.  I said, "If you sing like that up there, you'll cause an avalanche."  He said, "Go shit in your hat." I said, "Forget going all the way up to New Hampshire just to save face.  Come to Somers Point with me and walk across the new bridge to Ocean City."
MY WIFE SUE AND I WALKED THE THREE MILES (IN EACH DIRECTION) YESTERDAY.  THIS TWO-YEAR OLD SERIES OF HIGH LEVEL SPANS REPLACED THE ORIGINAL ROUTE 52 CAUSEWAY THAT WAS BUILT DURING THE DEPRESSION. THE PEDESTRIAN WALKWAY IS WIDE WITH A NICE VIEW OF BOTH TOWNS AND THE GREAT EGG HARBOR BAY BELOW.  AFTER THIS ENERGIZED POWER-WALK, WE REWARDED OURSELVES AT SMITTY'S CLAM BAR.  SORRY CHARLIE...BUT TRYING TO FIND FRESH, RAW CHERRYSTONES IN FREAKIN' NEW HAMPSHIRE MIGHT BE ITS OWN HERCULEAN TASK.

Charlie said, "I handle it!  I went to college in Minot North Dakota and had to help shovel off the football field after every blizzard ...starting in October.  I can bench press YOU!  And I'm a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)."  There is no denying that what Charlie does, he does in a big way. So I didn't want to piss him off by reminding him that SNHU was an online college and that if ever was indeed set foot in that state, I doubt he ever hiked further than the parking to a supermarket.  Instead I said, "Maybe you'd be better off walking the bridge with me first, it'll be like taking baby steps."
AERIAL VIEW OF THE BRIDGE WITH SOMERS POINT IN FOREGROUND AND OCEAN CITY IN THE BACKGROUND. CHARLIE DIDN'T TAKE THE BAIT EVEN WHEN I SAID, "ON THE BOARDWALK THERE'S A PLACE THAT SERVES THAT NEAPOLITAN KNOCKWURST THAT YOU LIKE SO WELL."

Charlie remained steadfast.  He says he's ready to brave Mt. Washington. I believe him.  But I still needed to needle him a little more by saying, "Please do yourself a favor and see "DELIVERANCE" before you go."  He said, "Screw you!"  I laughed, "Well, at least google 'A WALK IN THE WOODS.'  Because the movie is coming out in September and you can see the trailer online."  Charlie didn't care but it's true.  Interestingly Bill Bryson made sure his character was properly cast...with Robert Redford, (page up to the photo of Bryson holding a globe, to refresh your memory of what he looks like.  Oh yeah, and don't forget, his burnt-out sidekick is played by Nick Nolte."

It looks like Charlie is going through with his mounting Mt. Washington trip.  But something tells me, if he gets the blessing of the National Weather Service, there's still a 50-50 chance the weather will be dangerous. So forget about being disappointed, my boy Charloots will celebrate when they get all the way up to New Hampshire and the sun disappears, there are high winds and weird Crayola crayon colors blotch the darkening sky.