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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

CODE-NAME: EDDIE HASKELL

Father's Day is a contrived holiday.  I'm confident that greeting card companies created it as an artificial counterpart to the truly worthy Mother's Day, (who can dispute the love, dedication, sacrifice and enduring pain of giving birth?  Not a dad.  He's usually just some guy mom picked up in a bar).

Comedian Chris Rock recognized the secondary nature of Father's Day and said, "The only upside of being daddy is getting the biggest piece if chicken."  Comedian Jim Gaffigan said, "The father is the vice president of the family.  He has the fancy title but has no decision-making authority."  I don't know about other dads but I grew up in a home where my father lost every vote that ended up in a one-to-one tie; and that culture remains true in my house today.


                                                                  *

The other day, I had an especially pleasant dream.  It took place in a small town park in California, (my son Andrew is flying to Hollywood in a couple of weeks). Across the street that surrounded the park was a magnificent, vintage theater called the Aloha.  I tried to read what they were showing but the marquee, even in daylight was obscured by the glare of an incredible neon brilliance that transformed the 1950's movie house into a futuristic aura of visual excitement. 

Beyond the crowded hubbub in front the theater, far down along its exterior wall, there was a scenic overlook of the ocean.  I saw my dad.  He was anxious to show me the sea view.  I told him about the theater and said I wanted to show it to my wife Sue.  

Sue was on a blanket in the park.  I sat with her and told what I had seen.  A bunch of strangers encouraged me to throw a Frisbee with them...and I did.  I was having a lot of fun but decided to get Sue and join my dad.  I woke up.  I felt happy and energized.

The dream coincided with Father's Day, later this week.  Despite being a cheaply concocted holiday, the day helps me recall the best memories with my dad.  At the same time,  it also reminds me to leave a legacy of good times that my Andrew will appreciate after I'm gone.

JULY 1998, OCEAN CITY MARYLAND.  IF YOU HAVE TO MAKE A BUFFOON OUT OF YOURSELF TO MAKE YOUR KID SMILE, IT'S WORTH IT.  EVEN IF YOUR ASS IS NUMB FOR TWO WEEKS.



In today's blog, I will use the imagines from my dream to celebrate Father's Day while bridging the generation gap that connects my son Andrew with his grandfather.



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When I dealt craps at the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas, (1980-1982), the PBX operator announced, "Telephone call for Mr. Haskell, Mr. Eddie Haskell telephone."  The men on my crew laughed because they were all used to colorful names being paged.  But what was even funnier was...the call was for me.

The Stardust prohibited the staff from getting paged.  These were the pre-cell phone days so if someone needed to contact us while on duty, coded nicknames were used to preserve our anonymity.
One of my coworkers' encrypted names was Arthur Itis.  An effective but less humorous version was used by Noel Martinez who spelled his name backwards, Leon Zenitram.  But "Courtesy" Bob Lee had the most elaborate set of secret signals because each name he used such as; Robert Lapper, Duane Million and Dick Marathon each identified a different girlfriend.

I chose Eddie Haskell for two reasons, one was the universal appeal (for my generation) of the Eddie Haskell character portrayed by Ken Osmond from the, "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER," TV show.  The name Eddie Haskell always brought a reaction from people.  So even if I somehow didn't hear the public address announcement, I was almost guaranteed to hear the response to it.
KEN OSMOND (1943-PRESENT),  PLAYED WISE-ASS EDDIE HASKELL.  AROUND PARENTS, HASKELL WAS THE CRAZY POLITE BEST FRIEND OF BEAVER'S OLDER BROTHER WALLY.  BUT WHEN THE ELDER CLEAVERS WEREN'T AROUND, THIS OBNOXIOUS LITTLE SHIT WAS A SHALLOW, ARROGANT AND CONNIVING BAD INFLUENCE ON BOTH SONS.  ADDITIONALLY, OSMOND BECAME A GLENDALE CALIFORNIA POLICE OFFICER (1970-1988) WHILE STILL DOING OCCASIONAL ACTING JOBS. 

The other reason I selected the Eddie Haskell name, was that it was a tribute to my dad.  The "Eddie" part being a knockoff of our last name...and Haskel being my dad's actual first name.

My dad was never comfortable with his first name. My grandmother wanted to name him after a long-gone relative from the old country whose name started with a CH, (the CH had a guttural pronunciation so it's near-impossible to type-out the phonetic sound of Chotskul).  Granny's obvious CH choice would've been Charles but she was afraid he'd be called Charley and that seemed overly common to her.

Somewhere along the line she dropped the "C" and named him Haskel which is amazingly close to Chotskul, (apparently our family tradition of the father being the Vice President extended back to the 1920's because my grandfather never figured into the equation of how my father got stuck being named Haskel).

So grandma was left to her own devices.  Where she went wrong was...her pronunciation of my baby daddy's name.  Despite being born in the USA and NOT having an Eastern European accent, granny maintained the Yiddish Chotskul sound when she called his name or referred to him.

I guess that at a time when it was hip to flaunt that you were American born, "yankee" parents liked to distance themselves from the stigma of being confused with incoming refugees, (refs).  In that regard my grandmother failed because she not only gave dad an uncommon name, but it reeked, due to her own pronunciation, (out of respect to her relative), of being foreign.  Even my grandmother's sister, my Aunt Anne, adamantly opposed calling him Haskel or Chotskul...she dubbed him "Sonny." She was still calling him that in his early forties but beyond her, it never stuck.  Too bad because, Sonny is a cool name...just ask my cousin Sonny.
(CIRCA 1920)  MY DAD'S PARENTS, (BESSIE AND WILLIE) . WHAT COULD BE MORE AMERICAN THAN AN OUTING TO THE BEACH, (IN THE BACKGROUND, THEY'RE PROBABLY AT CONEY ISLAND...BUT NOT NECESSARILY).

Dad, as a result of the way his mom voiced his name was teased a lot as a kid. Beyond the slap in the face of being called a "ref," he also took exception to the much milder taunts, like being called Haskel the Rascal, His situation worsened in elementary school when an unsophisticated teacher experienced gender confusion over the name. She called the roll on the first day and misread his name as Hazel. Dad was mortified and didn't respond. The teacher encouraged the "girl" to speak-up and not be bashful.  The painful charade ended when some kid cheerfully clued-in the teacher.  My poor father was razzed forever. In adulthood dad preferred to be called, "Hy."
LIKE FINE WINE, MY FATHER GOT BETTER LOOKING WITH AGE.  ABOVE, IN HIS MID-60's, THE LUCKY STIFF MIGHT HAVE LOST HIS TEETH BUT KEPT A BEAUTIFUL, FULL HEAD OF HAIR.  THE IRONY WAS, DAD WAS A HAT FREAK AND USUALLY COVERED THOSE GORGEOUS TRESSES WITH AN ASSORTMENT OF STRANGE HATS. AS FOR ME,  I MUST BE DREAMING AGAIN... BECAUSE IN RETROSPECT, I WOULD HAVE TRADED SOME TEETH FOR HAIR...

Unlike dad, I am NOT a hat guy. Other than a baseball cap to mow the lawn or to protect my head on scorching summer days, I almost never wear hats.  The few hats I own were all gifts...except one.  I bought it in honor of my dad because in a genuine long shot, it bears his name.
JUNE 22, 2008.  (above), ON OUR FIRST CRUISE TO BERMUDA, I AM WEARING MY HASKELL INVITATIONAL HORSE RACING HAT, (IT'S A GREAT SHOT OF ME AND ANDREW...BUT THE WORDING ON THE HAT...NOT SO MUCH).


The Haskell is well known among horse racing aficionados throughout the world.
THE HASKELL TAKES PLACE AT MONMOUTH RACE TRACK, IN OCEANPORT NEW JERSEY.  THIS HISTORIC TRACK OPENED IN 1870 AND HAS HOSTED THIS  ANNUAL THOROUGHBRED NINE FURLONG FLAT RACE, SINCE 1968. 


Horse racing might be the sport of kings but I'm neither royalty or a fan.  Beyond wearing my Haskell hat on that cruise seven years ago, my awareness of horse racing and that hat has pretty much been retired, (or indirectly "put out to stud.")
(above) THIS YEAR'S VERSION OF THE HASKELL HAT.  THE BIG EVENT IS COMING UP ON AUGUST 2nd.   I HAVE NO INTENTION OF BUYING THE LATEST EDITION.  INSTEAD, I HAVE RESURRECTED MY OLD ONE.


This past May, my son Andrew toured Israel for ten days. He was provided with a checklist of items to bring. One was a hat.  I was happily surprised when he found my Haskell hat in the furthest abyss of the hall closet and asked to borrow it.  I was thrilled that he was taking a piece of his grampa's memory with him.
I KNOW I DWELL ON IT BUT THE BOND BETWEEN THESE TWO WAS IMMEDIATE.  IT'S STILL HARD FOR ME TO ACCEPT DAD'S SUDDEN AND EARLY PASSING.  BUT THE BIGGER PICTURE IS THAT HE AND ANDREW MISSED OUT ON KNOWING SOMEONE EXTREMELY SPECIAL...EACH OTHER


Below are pictorial highlights of Andrew's trip to the other side of the world.
MAY 28, 2015, ARRIVAL AT TEL AVIV INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.

Talk about adrenaline kicking in, on top of the jet lag associated with a twelve-hour flight, the group got off the airplane and were sightseeing immediately.
IN THE OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM, ANDREW POSES WITH HIS HASKELL HAT AT A WALL MURAL.
For the next ten days, Andrew's diet will be overrun by falafals, schwarma and hummus.
YOU'D THINK McDONALD'S WOULD BE CALLED "MOISHE D's" OVER THERE...BUT NO!  HOWEVER THE MENU ITEM NAMES ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.  THAT'S A "BIG MIAMI" ANDREW'S CHOMPING ON...AND NATURALLY, YOU CAN'T ADD CHEESE OR BACON...AND DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT WASHING IT DOWN WITH A THICK SHAKE!

Regardless of what you choose to believe in, historically, the entire Mid-East is the cradle of modern civilization.  I can't imagine being there and not getting inspired or at least a little misty over the idea that almost all of recorded history to can traced back to that area.  And no area epitomizes that notion more than Jerusalem.
OUTSIDE A TEMPLE, ANDREW ON A PEDESTAL WITH HASKELL HAT. 

Antiquity is everywhere.
THERE WERE THIRTY PEOPLE IN ANDREW'S PARTY.  MOST WERE FROM TEXAS WITH A SPRINKLING OF OTHER STATES BEING REPRESENTED AS WELL AS FRANCE AND BRAZIL.

Jerusalem may be the holiest city on earth.
THE "DOME OF THE ROCK" IS THE HOLIEST PLACE, IN THE HOLIEST CITY.


Outside the Dome of the Rock, at the Temple Mount, is the Wailing Wall.
BUILT BY "HEROD THE GREAT" BETWEEN 19 BCE AND THE MID-FIRST CENTURY, WORSHIPERS AND TOURISTS STILL GATHER AT THE HOLIEST PLACE IN JUDAISM.

It looks like Andrew is clowning around...but there is a method to this madness.
ANDREW'S GROUP IS OVERRUN BY UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS STUDENTS.  HE QUICKLY GOT TIRED OF THEIR "HOOK 'EM HORNS" SYMBOLS AND SLOGANS.  (Above) HE FIGHTS BACK WITH SOME LOVE FOR HIS SCHOOL, THE COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY (TCNJ) AS HE MOUNTS LION STATUES, (AS IN TCNJ LIONS).


One last shot of the ancient city.
TIME TO SAY FAREWELL TO THE OLD AND EXPERIENCE THE REST OF ISRAEL. 

A part of the indoctrination, throughout the trip, male and female Israeli soldiers act as chaperons, tour guides and security officers while accompanying the group.
ANDREW OUT IN THE WILDERNESS WITH FOUR OF THE SOLDIERS .

One of the main tourist sights is Masada.  Way above the desert floor, this holy mountain fortress was the famous last stronghold of the ancient Hebrews as they defended them self from the marauding Romans.
AT DAWN, A NICE SILHOUETTE OF THE HASKELL HAT. AFTER THE GROUP WALKED FORTY MINUTES...UP, TO REACH MASADA'S SUMMIT, ANDREW INCLUDED FOR HIS MOM AND ME, A HUFFING AND PUFFING VIDEO OF HIM STRAINING TO DESCRIBE WHAT HE JUST FINISHED DOING.
More Masada.

WITH A SOLDIER ATOP MASADA.

Near Masada, is the Dead Sea.  The move is to cover your body in mud and take a sulfur bath which apparently acts as an invigorating skin treatment.
ANDREW PARTICIPATED BUT DIDN'T GET ANY COOL PHOTOS.  (Above) FROM SUMMER 2013, MY FRIEND JEREMY TOOK THE PLUNGE IN STYLE.  ALSO, ON ANOTHER DAY,  ANDREW SWAM IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA BUT HAS NO PHOTOS OF THAT DAY EITHER.

At an irrigation station in the desert, the group spent an overnight in a Bedouin tent.
THEY SLEPT AND SPENT A LOT OF TIME, INSIDE THE CADILLAC OF TENTS.


In the God forsaken outpost, the sun was intense.
ANDREW SET ASIDE HIS HASKELL HAT TO BORROW A HEAD SCARF FROM A LOCAL.

The big allure to that part of the journey was chumming with the "ships of the desert"...camels.
AN ANCIENT PARABLE SAYS, "CHOOSE YOUR CAMEL CAREFULLY AND WHILE DOING SO, STAY OUT OF SPITTING RANGE."


While shopping for the perfect ride, Andrew sought a second opinion.
TWO LOCALS RECOMMEND THAT ANDREW RIDE "ED THE CAMEL" WHO, UNBEKNOWNST TO HIM, IS AFFECTIONATELY ALSO KNOWN AS "UNLUCKY-13."


In the end, Andrew made an informed decision on his own...duh!.
ANDREW PICKED "SNOWFLAKE THE CAMEL."  THE PHOTOGRAPHER MUST HAVE BEEN JEALOUS OF HIM AND SPITEFULLY CUT OFF SNOWFLAKE'S HEAD.


The long motor coach ride to their next destination provided a chance to relax.
GREAT CANDID SHOT OF THE HASKELL HAT PROVING ITS WORTH BY PREVENTING THE AIR CONDITIONING FROM HITTING HIS SWEATY HEAD.

Next stop, a lesson on how to live off the desert.
A KIBBUTZ, (COMMUNAL FARM).

A great way to experience how the desert can be cultivated.
ANDREW GETS INTO THE SWING OF THINGS POSING AS A KIBBUTZ-NIK.

A chill-out day, at a nearby oasis.
GOD'S GIFT, A WATERFALL IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.


The trip also served to expose young minds to how other folks live.
HE AND HIS TEXAS BUDDY ATE FRESH GROWN CARROTS, STRAWBERRIES AND OTHER PRODUCE.

Touching all the bases, a somber visit to Mount Herzl, Israel's version of Arlington National Cemetery.
NEAR THE TOMB OF ISRAEL'S UNKNOWN SOLDIER.

This scenic area was near the border of both Lebanon and Syria.
ATOP AN ISRAELI HILL WITH LEBANON, (left) and SYRIA (right), IN BACKGROUND.


The big trip winds down.  Back to the city.
ANDREW WILL NO LONGER TAKE LIFE'S SIMPLER JOYS FOR GRANTED.

One last crack at Tel Aviv.
NEAR AN UP-SCALE MALL, POSING WITH JUDAH AND THE MACCA-BEATS.

The last memory in Israel is of course, psyching one's self up for the anti-climatic long, long flight home.
THE UNIQUE FOUNTAIN RAINING DOWN FROM TEL AVIV AIRPORT'S CEILING.

Andrew's Israeli adventure was wonderful.  He shared his experiences so well that I almost feel that I was with him. And seeing him wear the Haskell hat makes me happy to imagine that the spirit of his grandfather was really with him.  Plus the joy didn't end in Israel, Andrew has adopted the hat as his own which helps preserve his link, through me to his grandfather.

I haven't worked at the Stardust Casino for 33 years.  Yet my appreciation for the code-name Eddie Haskell remains strong.  Sometimes, I use it as my password or user name on the computer.  I hope it doesn't make me an Eddie Haskell-like wise-ass if I don't share which specific accountants they are. Please understand that due to the ridiculous reality of identity theft, I won't be divulging which accounts I used my confidential cleverness on. That means if I gave up such secrets to you, I'd have to kill you.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY !