Monday, September 15, 2014

HUMMINGBIRDS AND THE CIRCLE LIFE.

In 1996, on a desolate road near my house (in South Jersey), I slammed on my brakes and did a crazy, screeching U-Turn. This wild maneuver contradicted my usual conservative nature…even worse, my two-year old son Andrew was in the back seat.

What would cause me, to do something so desperate and irresponsible? I can tell you in one word, turkey buzzards! Wait, that’s two words.

You should be aware that I am a city boy and grew-up in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. While some people imagine my formative years to be associated with the mean streets of New York, the reality is, I enjoyed a pleasant and naïve childhood, in a safe, suburbia-like pocket of the greatest city on earth. So in terms of animals in the wild, my upbringing was boring.  That means if I saw a squirrel it was rare and spotting a praying mantis made front page news.

Most of my early knowledge about animals came from zoologist Marlin Perkins. He was the moderator for the TV show, “WILD KINGDOM.” The series (for all ages) brought exotic animals into our homes and taught us about conservation.
ON THE RIGHT, MARLIN PERKINS (1905-1986) WAS A ZOOLOLOGIST WHO HOSTED "WILD KINGDOM," FROM 1963-1985.  IT WAS ALWAYS FUNNY TO ME THAT BEFORE CUTTING AWAY TO AN INSURANCE COMMERCIAL, PERKINS WOULD SAY SOMETHING LIKE, "WHILE JIM (FOWLER) IS WRESTLING THE ALLIGATOR, I'LL BE SAFELY DOWNSTREAM WITH SOME WORDS ABOUT WHOLE LIFE POLICIES."

I had Marlin Perkins in mind as I impulsively turned my car around. I couldn't wait to get back for a better look at those ugly, huge vulture-like birds.  I had never witnessed Mother Nature in action like this and was fascinated.  I gaped for nearly five minutes as they tore flesh off fresh road kill (a deer)…it was incredible.

Since then I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the danger flying in the sky.

In 1997, my family and I met vacationing friends (also New Yorkers), for a picnic lunch on the beach in Cape May, (NJ). In addition to being germophobes, this couple shunned the sun. So we rented an umbrella, plus, both of them left on their tee-shirts and covered their legs with towels. Whatever bare skin that was left exposed to the elements was doused in sun-bloc, the way an obese guy would slather maple syrup on an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast.

The wife was overly concerned about the filthy beach sand getting on her hero sandwich. She looked like a kneeling Statue of Liberty with her torch-like lunch held high when a sea gull did a kamikaze dive, swooped down and bit off a chunk, (and nipped her finger too). The "disgusting" scavenger bird did not break her skin.  Still, at the fear of her internal system being tainted, she cursed in fluent profanity while panicking...as if she was hemorrhaging gallons of blood. We dropped everything we were doing and rushed her to an emergency room, (don't worry about me, I managed to finish my Italian sub during the hysteria of our exodus).

We waited almost an hour at the hospital and she still hadn’t been admitted. Rather than keep our three-year old (Andrew) cooped up any longer, we left the imperiled pair behind and drove home, (the woman did not contract any disease and was fine).

That experience furthered my awareness of the dangers flying over head. That’s why when I found out that one of Andrew’s little friends was spooked by a hooting owl outside his bedroom window, I didn’t think it was weird that the boy's family rearranged everyone’s rooms.

Indeed, the woodlands around my house are filled with other birds of prey. The king of the treetops here is the hawk. Within a few years, I recognized them. So when I saw one soar high above searching for food or gliding through the canopy of trees, I marveled at its majesty while fearing its possibilities.

We got Andrew a guinea pig (Zhitnik) when he was four. In addition to being a pet, this rodent was a friend and a toy for my son while also becoming our family mascot.

Andrew’s friends loved to come by and play with Zhitnik, and “the rat” dug the attention. Soon my boy was becoming more sophisticated and wanted to share his pet with the kids at school. Upon the success of taking Zhitnik to “Show and Tell,” my boy started taking the little bugger to a friend’s house. This evolved into him taking the rat for a walk up and down the street.
YOU THOUGHT I WAS KIDDING BUT I WASN'T, ZHITNIK WAS A MAJOR PART OF OUR FAMILY AND NEEDED TO BE PROTECTED.

I knew the reputation hawks had and...they're all over the place. So I didn’t want to be an alarmist.  But when I saw Andrew set Zhitnik free on our lawn for the other kids to play with, I had to spring into action. There was only one diplomatic thing I could do…LIE. I told Andrew that most guinea pigs were allergic to grass, (a kid in his class was allergic to peanuts, so he understood my seriousness).

I took that tact because there was no way I was going to let a dive-bombing hawk snatch-up our pet, carry Zhitnik off and eat him for dinner.  The fib was worth it because if the worst case scenario happened, I didn't want to risk psychologically scarring my kid (or his friends) for life.
ANDREW'S KNOWLEDGE OF HAWKS WAS LIMITED TO HENERY, (above to the right).  THIS LOONEY TOON CARTOON CHARACTER WAS A TOUGH, NEW YORK ACCENTED CHICKEN HAWK.  HE APPEARED IN TWELVE CARTOONS BETWEEN 1942 AND 1961.  THE USUAL THEME WAS HIM ENLISTING THE HELP OF FOGHORN LEGHORN (left), TO FIND CHICKENS TO EAT.  AS A ROOSTER, LEGHORN SAW IT PRUDENT TO MISLEAD THE LITTLE HAWK INTO TRYING TO EAT OTHER ANIMALS...LIKE DOGS.

It's important not to lie to your kids. But this time, I was justified because I wanted to spare my son his impressionable youth and not being forced to explain the reality of bigger animals eating smaller ones. Coincidentally, the movie "LION KING," came out the year Andrew was born (1994).  One of the hit songs from the movie was, "THE CIRCLE OF LIFE."
COMPOSED BY ELTON JOHN, THE LYRICS TO, "THE CIRCLE OF LIFE," POETICALLY EXPLAIN WHY THE FALCON (above) IS EATING ANOTHER BIRD.

Andrew had seen the "LION KING" countless times by the time he was twelve. So my sixth grader was better equipped to understand more mature and complex matters like the struggles for life and death, survival of the fittest etc.  That's why the timing was perfect when his school's 2006 year-end band concert rolled around.  For the program's big finish, my boy (as first flute) was selected to perform a solo during, "THE CIRCLE OF LIFE."
"THE LION KING," IS MY FAVORITE KIDDIE MOVIE OF ALL-TIME. ITS MAIN THEME IS, THE CIRCLE OF LIFE.  THE STORY DELICATELY EXPLAINS HOW THE GRASS AND FLOWERS FEED SMALL ANIMALS AND HOW BIGGER ONES FEED-OFF SMALLER ANIMALS.  THIS SAME CIRCLE OF LIFE DEALS WITH THE UNFOLDING OF GENERATIONS, HOW PARENTS DIE AND BABIES ARE BORN.

Below are lyrics to, "THE CIRCLE OF LIFE."

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun

There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life

It seems like yeaterday but Andrew's "Circle of Life" solo was eight years ago.  I dug out the CD of his performance and a tear still comes to my eye.  They had given him a pan-flute to use but he couldn't master it in the short time. Instead, he was able to create the haunting/whining quality they were looking for, on his own flute.  Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to attach that one cut to this blog.  But if you click on the link below, you'll hear it from a professional.  Just bear in my mind that the flute solo at the end, was what Andrew did.
http://search.mywebsearch.com/mywebsearch/redirect.jhtml?action=pick&qs=&pr=GG&searchfor=circle+of+life+lion+king+youtube&cb=CD&pg=GGmain&p2=%5ECD%5Exdm003%5ES04317%5Eus&n=77fc41c7&qid=fc99bb6fd473469ba3850f4ff04433e6&ss=sub&pn=1&st=bar&ptb=D6B92608-79BD-4909-92A0-160CFD832118&tpr=&si=CKuH4unForUCFQPd4AodLCEADg&redirect=mPWsrdz9heamc8iHEhldEcgdjfjqpMajKYmz288FhTJ5RH%2BPhkZIGeaU%2Bcotya%2FcsW3jj6a8%2BSZwBhNLwKpthA%3D%3D&ord=0&ct=AR&

To be consistent with the circle of life theme, I want to share a beautiful bird experience I recently enjoyed...and have been lucky enough to see it repeat itself many times.

Better than seeing a turkey buzzard tearing the flesh off a deer, I saw my first hummingbird, (December 1995), in San Diego California.
THE HUMMINGBIRD IS THE WORLD'S SMALLEST ANIMAL, (OTHER THAN INSECTS).  THERE ARE OVER 300 SPECIES BUT THE "BEE" HUMMINGBIRD WEIGHS LESS THAN AN AMERICAN PENNY.  THE HUMMINGBIRD NAME COMES FROM FLAPPING ITS WINGS BETWEEN 50 AND 200 TIMES PER SECOND...WHICH CAN SOUND LIKE A HUM TO THE HUMAN EAR. DUE TO ITS HIGH ENERGY,TO MAINTAIN ITS INCREDIBLE METABOLISM, HUMMINGBIRDS MUST CONSUME MORE THAN THEIR BODY WEIGHT DAILY.  THEY VISIT HUNDREDS OF FLOWERS TO FEED OFF NECTAR AND ARE CONTINUOUSLY HOURS AWAY FROM STARVATION, (THEY STORE JUST ENOUGH FUEL TO SURVIVE OVER-NIGHT).

When I saw the hummingbird nineteen years ago, I wanted to watch it forever.  It didn't look real.  It hovered, flew backwards and upside down.  I assumed they were native to Southern California or warm climates and never gave it another thought.  That is until, my wife Sue bought two potted flowers (red) and set them on our deck.

I like reading the newspaper and doing the puzzle page with my morning coffee.  Weather permitting, I take the whole kit and kaboodle outside.  One day, Sue said she saw a hummingbird out there.  It didn't really register until I saw one myself. 

I have seen so many this past month that I position myself five feet from these flowers.  The show put on by these bug-sized eating machines is so enthralling that I stop what I'm doing and watch.  These humming-tweety-birds don't mind me either, (the one time I brought a camera outside, they didn't show up...maybe I should bring it out every day).  They get close enough to touch before a sound or a breeze causes them to make a crazier U-Turn than I could ever muster.  Then I watch in wonderment as they wisp off, in an unworldly way, (like a mechanically controlled drone or an alien organism from outer space).

While the skies are full of dangerous flying predators, it's great to sit back and see the gentle, true splendor of life up above.  Geez, now I can't get the "Circle of Life" tune out of my head, but that's good thing.

Don't worry, when I figure out what kind of flowers our hummingbirds are attracted to, I'll recommend you get some...just so you can see the show too.

Monday, September 8, 2014

WHAT'S SO FUNNY ABOUT HORSEBACK RIDING...PLENTY!

There’s an old joke set in 1910 Brooklyn. A police sergeant walks from his Bedford-Stuyvesant precinct, to check on a first-day, rookie beat-cop. To his utter shock, he sees the fledgling patrolman dragging a huge, dead horse. The sergeant confronts the rookie, “What are you doing?” The beginner says, “This nag died on Kościuszko Street…but I can’t spell Kościuszko for my report…so I’m taking it to Gates Avenue.”
TADEUSZ KOSCIUSZKO (1746-1817) WAS A POLISH MILITARY ENGINEER. AFTER HE BECAME A NATIONAL HERO, IN HIS HOMELAND, HE IMMIGRATED TO AMERICA AND BECAME A KEY MAN IN OUR REVOLUTIONARY WAR AGAINST THE ENGLISH. TODAY IN NEW YORK, HIS NAME APPEARS ON STREETS, BRIDGES, HIGHWAYS, SCHOOLS AND MUCH MORE.

This joke was killer material at the turn of the century. Now, it’s badly dated and unfunny mainly because three generations later, horses are so removed from our culture that they have become irrelevant.

My grandparents might have thought the humor was mirthful but by the 1950’s, their kids, (my parents) were fixated on the budding space age. So when grandma and grandpa bought me a horsey rocking toy, my mom and dad saw it as a less than cute vestige from the ice age.
I HAD AN APPRECIATION FOR HORSES AT AN EARLY AGE.

It’s not funny but by the time I was four, the baby-boomer mentality used the television as a robotic babysitter. In my case it really worked for my folks because I’d idly stare quietly at the screen forever. The one show that I clearly remember getting fired up for and interacting with was, “THE LONE RANGER."
THE LONE RANGER STARTED AS A RADIO PROGRAM IN 1933. IT WAS ON TV FROM 1949-1957, (221 EPISODES). BUOYED BY IT'S "WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE," THEME MUSIC, I WORE MY COWBOY HAT AND SHOT MY CAP GUNS FROM THE HORSE-LIKE ARM OF OUR SOFA. THUS CONTRIBUTING TO A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THAT WOULD LAST A LIFE TIME.

In 1959, it wasn’t funny to me when…for their amusement and posterity, mom and dad set me on a live horse. If they were internally cringing waiting for me to scream bloody murder, they were pleasantly mistaken. Because I was seriously fulfilling my childish, outlaw fighting fantasy…and loved horses.
THE BRONX ZOO 1959. I LOOK PRETTY CONFIDENT. TOO BAD DAD WAS SO MINDFUL OF KEEPING THE HELPER'S FACE OUT OF THE SHOT THAT HE CUT THE PONY'S HEAD OFF.

My paternal grandmother furthered my unfunny experiences with horses while nurturing frustration. On many occasions, she took my sister and me on outings. If these daytrips included either Brooklyn’s Prospect Park or Manhattan’s Central Park, sis and I were treated to a merry-go-round ride. But I guess granny thought I was too young or wild or stupid to ride the bobbing horse statues. As far as she was concerned, Little Stevie wasn’t splitting his head open on her watch so she forced me to sit on the carousel’s bench…next to her. Trust me it wasn’t funny, a seven year-old shouldn’t be subjected to such an immediate and comprehensive understanding of humiliation. I always refused future invitations to ride.

In 1967, this unfunny horse theme continued in the Cherokee Indian Reservation outside Smoky National Park, (near Gatlinburg Tennessee). I thought I’d prove my mettle to the world by posing in the heroic photo below.
FOR A QUARTER, A NATIVE AMERICAN GUY AT A CONCESSION STAND BRINGS OVER A LADDER AND YOU GET TO TAKE YOUR OWN PICTURES.

Unfortunately for me, everyone who I was trying to impress (assuming they had half a brain), could see that buckin’ bronco was friggin’ plastic.

I only have a handful of experiences on a full-sized horse. On March 1, 2010, I wrote a blog called, “THE LAW FIRM OF IMPERIALE, IANUCCI AND IZZO.” In it, three friends and I (1980) rented horses in the Las Vegas desert. It was not at all funny when a snake spooked my friend’s horse. The beast lit out. It galloped with my poor buddy slipping off the saddle and clinging sideways, hanging on for dear life…for about a half mile, (okay, it WAS funny when he was safe. Too bad back then, we didn’t get a video…it would have been priceless).

Also in Las Vegas, (April 1982), I took my wife and her mother to Bonney Springs Ranch. My mother-in-law swore how good she was at horseback riding. So I wasn’t smiling when we got out to the middle of nowhere and she chickened-out.
DESPITE MY BEST SALESMANSHIP, MY MOTHER-IN-LAW WOULDN'T GET ON THE HORSE.  SUE SAID, "YOU GOT TO SHAKE OUT THE NEGATIVITY."  SHE SHOOK HER HEAD, TORSO, ARMS AND LEGS THEN SAID, "NOW, LAUGH."  IT WASN'T FUNNY WATCHING THIS PLAY OUT AND I WAS EMBARRASSED.  HER MOM DID TRY AND NOTHING HAPPENED.  SUE SAID, "TRY AGAIN BUT REALLY LAUGH."  WHILE HER MOM DID SO SUE SAID, "REMEMBER WHEN BILLY (SUE'S BROTHER) SPLIT HIS PANTS IN VAN CORTLANDT PARK."  HER MOM LAUGHED AND MAGICALLY, SECONDS LATER SHE MOUNTED UP.  AS YOU CAN SEE, SHE (WE) HAD THE BEST TIME.
My wife and I were near Cape Hatteras (June 1991). We saw a sign for horseback riding in the town of Buxton. How cool it would have been to ride along the beach. We were thirsting for madcap excitement as we entered the office. But NOOOOOOOOOO! Those lazy bastards thought it was too hot to take the horses out, (take themselves out). That wasn’t funny to us…they were full of horse shit. Our memories of riding horses in the over 100° Nevada desert were still fresh in our minds, (of course out west, it’s a dry heat).
WHERE'S JOHNNY FONTAINE WHEN YOU NEED HIM? SECONDS AFTER THIS PHOTO WAS SHOT, OUR FUNNY MOOD CHANGED BECAUSE THE TAXIDERMY HORSE HEAD MOUNTED ON THE PADDOCK WALL (above) WAS THE ACTUAL HORSE WHO PLAYED "KHARTOUM" IN THE 1972 MOVIE, "THE GODFATHER."
The last time I was on a horse wasn’t funny either. It was strictly business…but fun.
               OCTOBER 1991, MOUNT POCONO PENNSYLVANIA.

Since the birth of my son Andrew, (1994), I have not been on a horse and neither has he.

Sue and I discovered in my boy’s infancy that he had difficulty with motion. Even his baby swing in the living room caused him to scream and cry. So when Andrew was four-months old, I showed a complete lack of intelligence by putting him on a pony ride, at the Absecon (NJ) downtown fair.

To paraphrase Einstein, a definite sign of insanity is, constantly failing and trying the same thing while expecting different results. So it wasn’t funny a year later at the Smithville NJ May Fest, when I tortured my kid again.
MAY-1995. YES, ANDREW LOOKS STUNNED BUT I MADE SURE THE PONY NEVER MOVED...AT LEAST I GOT THE PICTURE.

Sue and I finally realized our folly outside a supermarket. That’s when we set baby Andrew in the mechanical horsey ride. Oh how happy our little bugger was…until I put in a quarter. Over the next few years it was no joke, we saved a fortune by sitting him in the rides and NOT putting money in the machine.

Andrew was one and a half when we went on the carousel in Wildwood, (NJ). Einstein must have looked down from heaven and shook his head in disbelief. At that moment, I should have remembered a quote from another wise man once said; we mock what we are to be. That prophecy came true when, to save the day, I went into grandma-mode and switched to a bench seat...but it still didn’t help.

I really must be insane because when Andrew was two, I bought him a standard rocking horse. Sue did a great job hiding it. Then as I distracted him in the family room, she took it from the garage and set in the dining room. She put a giant sheet of wrapping paper over it and called him in. I remember his exact words as he yelled in happiness, “The greatest!” Again, I wish I had taped this cherished event because he hugged that horse’s neck as if his most fantastic dream had been realized.
DON'T LET HIM FOOL YOU, ANDREW IS JUST SITTING ON, "THE GREATEST."  IF WE HAD AN ODOMETER ON IT, I'M CERTAIN MY BOY LOGGED LESS THAN A SIXTEENTH OF A MILE ON THAT HORSE, (OR SHOULD I SAY, CLOTHES HANGER).
It should be noted here that kids are inconsistent. On Father’s Day 1998, I took Andrew one-on-one to the Philadelphia Zoo. I knew of his motion problem and sarcastically said, “You wanna go on that camel ride with me?” He enthusiastically DID. I even drafted the help of a kindly old-timer to shoot some video with my palm-corder, (someone I could out-run if he decided to steal it). The five-minute film of this accomplishment is one of my prized possessions, (of course it’s on VHS, so it’s not funny because until we transfer it to DVD, it’s like we don’t have it).

In 2002, we went on an extended family getaway weekend to the Massanutten Resort, (near Harrisonburg Virginia). They had hundreds of activities but the one thing I really wanted to do was get Andrew on a horse. Set beautifully against the woods, across several streams and against the majestic mountainside, we made it all the way to stable. My boy looked around. He gave it some serious thought and in a mature way, sincerely expressed no desire to mount-up.

In a last ditch attempt to get him to reconsider, I told him about the one time in my life that riding a horse was indeed funny, (sorry I have no video evidence).

In August 1966, my parents took my sister and I to a dude ranch in Peekskill New York. The highlight of the trip was horseback riding. I looked forward to that day from the second I heard about it.

I guess back then insurance rules were lax by today’s standards because a wrangler (from fifty feet away) gave us, (about thirty men, women and children), a tuturial. I was thrilled to be atop my horse. So with my imagination running wild, I learned next to nothing from the demonstration.

I was so into being on that horse.  My eleven year-old intellect never considered that I could fall off and be trampled by a thousand hooves.  So my cluelessness never stopped me from fantasizing about being the Lone Ranger as the guides led us out, single file onto the trail.

In my excitement, I didn’t notice that I was separated from my family. Even when I did understand that I was alone in the crowd, it didn’t matter because I asserting my independence and out to prove my budding puberty was coming to the right place...plus, I was so wrapped up in the adventure that I didn’t care.

The hour-long ride was a combination of walking the horses through the forest and stopping, (the drill fortified the false image that we were controlling our animals.) The truth was the horses were so well trained that they just followed each other. Of course if you showed weakness, your horse did whatever it wanted.

The lady in front of me was a big mouth craving attention. She couldn’t steer her horse and had less control than me. So when her renegade strayed to sniff a flower, mine followed. I tugged on the reins but my maverick wouldn’t budge. When our horses were ready to get back in line…they got back in line.

The lady was entertaining because she started talking to her horse like it was a puppy. Still, it went off the trail a second time and my genius followed. This time they were both so stubborn that a wrangler had to stop the proceedings to come back and rescue us.

This walk-and-stop formula took up 90% of our tour. Then we were instructed that we will be trotting. The trotting turned out to be under a minute. It killed my back because there’s a way to ride a horse and I didn’t learn it in the coral. Before I could complain, we were walking again. The lady in front of me was jabbering a mile-a-minute. Everyone including me was laughing because she purposely exaggerated the trot and called it a near-death experience. The bigger bonus was she was using terrible language to curse her husband who was ten horses ahead of her, (I loved to hear adults use profanity).

It was even funnier when nobody came to console her. Then holy shit, we broke out into another trot. This time I knew my pain wouldn’t last long so I gutted-it-out as if I were a full-blooded teenager. My plan worked because in no time, we were back to walking. At that point, off in the distance, through the trees, I got my first glimpse of the safe haven, the dude ranch!

Suddenly, the woman in front of me started laughing. It was crazy because soon she started crying. To this day, I’ve never seen anything like because she was sincerely laughing and crying at the same time. She screamed out for everyone to stop and demanded her husband. This time he came and for everyone in earshot to hear, she announced that she had peed in her pants.

It’s almost fifty years later and I still get a chuckle whenever I think of that lady. So I shared it with Andrew at Massanutten…but it didn't get him on a horse. Instead, I should have told him about Kosciuszko Street or told him to gyrate his whole body and laugh? He’ll be twenty-one in a few months and he’s never had the joy of horseback riding.

Monday, September 1, 2014

I'LL TAKE MY MOM'S COMMON SENSE OVER A CELL-PHONE ANY DAY!

My mother’s birthday was last week, (she would have been eighty-four). I wanted to underplay the number factor this time and wait till next year, in order to make a big splash out of her eighty-fifth.  But, the antics of my son Andrew (earlier this week) brought back a great mommy memory of mine that I want to share.
THE DYNAMIC DUO, MAY 1998, IN MY MOTHER'S KITCHEN, (IN CANARSIE).

This past Monday, Andrew returned to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), for his junior year. The ordeal of getting his belongings ready heavily fell on mom, (my wife Sue). Loading my mini-van to the brim with his shit stuff...and toting it both hither and yon...fell on me. While all this was going on, mom and I had no problem with our boy fitting-in one last weekend, (free from scholastic responsibility), with his girlfriend Amanda and friends, on Hall Street, in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, (near the Pratt Institute).
ESTABLISHED IN 1887, THE PRATT INSTITUTE WAS UP THE STREET FROM WHERE ANDREW WAS STAYING. THIS PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITY SPECIALIZES IN ENGINEERING, ARCHITECTURE AND FINE ARTS.  STILL HIGHLY RANKED TODAY, ITS UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM INCLUDES A MODEST STUDENT BODY OF 3000+. MY FRIEND SKIP IS THE ONLY PERSON I KNOW WHO WAS BRIGHT ENOUGH TO CALL THEM SELF, A CANNONEER.

Andrew did not drive into Brooklyn. To avoid thirty dollars in tolls and the hassle of navigating the city, he left his car in a commuter lot in Central Jersey. He took the train to the Port Authority Building on 42nd Street in Manhattan before connecting with the subway.
JUNE 2010, AT THE PORT AUTHORITY BUILDING, (ON THE WAY TO OUR VIRGIN ISLAND CRUISE), ANDREW AND I JUMPED FROM OUR VAN LIKE AN ED WOOD CAMERA-CREW, SO I CAN SCRATCH-OFF POSING WITH THE RALPH KRAMDEN STATUE FROM MY BUCKET LIST.  I WONDER IF ANDREW ASSOCIATES HIS COMMUTER TRAVELS WITH THIS PICTURE.

To help coordinate Andrew's arrival time at TCNJ with ours, the cell-phone proved its value. Ten minutes into our journey from home, we got an unexpected extra call informing us that Andrew was indeed back in Jersey...however, he left his car keys in Brooklyn. So with his sophomoric sophomore year barely in the proverbial rearview mirror, he still needed his mother to nag him about making sure he had every little item.

At first, we were disappointed in him.  But deep down, we knew that forgetting keys can happen to a genius like Albert Einstein or an entertainer like renown memory expert, "The Amazing Kreskin."
KRESKIN, (GEORGE JOSEPH KRESGE 1935-PRESENT) IS A MENTALIST KNOWN FOR TELEPATHY, CLAIRVOYANCE AND PRECOGNITION.  WHEN THIS NEW JERSEY NATIVE COMES INTO THE CASINO WHERE I WORK, HE ALWAYS SHRUGS AT ME, "I FORGOT WHERE I PARKED."

The inconvenience of me making a U-Turn, to return home and get Andrew's spare key was no big deal. The drama only effected Andrew and Amanda, (she also attends TCNJ and was already moved in).  Without the keys, they continued to her house.  She drove Andrew to school. The bigger down-side occured after the stress of moving in because he and Amanda had to kill three hours making the round-trip to retrieve his car and return separately.

I’ve made some incredible screw-ups in my day, especially one involving the strong potential of being separated from my car. Except in my case, instead of the cell-phone safety net, I had my mother and her vast supply of common sense.

Atlantic City used to host an end-of-winter extravaganza called the Kids Fair. In the first week of March, the Convention Center offered a football field-sized event for young children, (2-10). Hundreds of local vendors supported this low-cost event which included, food, game booths, demonstrations, entertainment and other activities.  In addition to the merchants, museums, the fire department, the police, TV stations and professional sports teams were among the organizations represented.

I took Andrew by myself when he was three. We had a blast. The only real expense was parking. The next year, my mother was visiting so I included her in the Kids Fair fun. It was suggested to me that by taking the New Jersey Transit train one stop from Absecon to Atlantic City, (the Convention Center is in the same building as the train station), I can save a few bucks on parking while thrilling Andrew with his first train ride.
THE NJ TRANSIT TRAIN LINKS THE ATLANTIC CITY PENINSULA WITH THE NEW JERSEY MAINLAND.

You really can’t do any better for your child (or yourself) than the Kids Fair, (we attended four times until Andrew outgrew it at nine-years old).

My mom and I had a great time watching Andrew handle lizards and other exotic creatures, make a Home Depot project, dance the Macareña, pose with actors wearing cartoon character costumes, participate in contests, see a knock-off of a Nickelodeon Network sponsored game show and so much more, (Andrew did refuse a ride in the power company’s bucket truck to the lofty ceiling).
ANDREW WITH ICKUS FROM THE TV SHOW, "AHHHHH! REAL MONSTERS."

At the Nickelodeon show, I encouraged my boy to volunteer to be a contestant.
I WAS WILLING TO PARTICIPATE TOO. EVEN THOUGH I KNEW FAT, BALD DADS MAKE THE BEST TARGETS FOR THE GREENISH, GROSS, OPAQUE SLUDGE THEY LIKE TO POUR ON UNSUSPECTING HEADS.

One demonstration booth featured former fourteen-year NBA veteran and all-star, World B. Free.  We was (and still is) The Philadelphia 76er's community ambassador as well as their director of player development. I went to high school with him when he was still called Lloyd Free.
WORLD B. FREE #21, (FYI, THAT'S JULIUS "DR. J." ERVING #6), IS THE MOST FAMOUS OF THE FEW CANARSIE HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES WHO BECAME PROFESSIONAL.  BEYOND SPORTS, AFTER AL ROKER AND A COUPLE OF OTHERS, I MIGHT BE IN CANARSIE'S TOP FIVE...MOST FAMOUS PEOPLE?

The line to World B. Free's basketball clinic was too long and Andrew was too young anyway.  But I name dropped Canarsie and World came by long enough so I could introuce him to my son and mom.  He didn't remember me, even after I told him he used to call me by my football number, "#72." Incidentally, my friend SLW, (currently out in the San Francisco Bay Area), boasted that he once hit a jump shot over Free in gym class.
IRONICALLY, ANDREW POSED WITH ALL THE CHARACTERS EXCEPT ONE.  WHEN HE SAW CAP'N CRUNCH, MY TOUGH-GUY RAN THE OTHER WAY.  SIXTEEN YEARS LATER, IT'S STILL FUN TO TEASE HIM OVER THAT.

In three hours, we snacked on enough free samples and filled several plastic bags with Andrew’s works of art, free school supplies, photos and other giveaways. We looked like three pack mules as we entered the main concourse, on the way back to the train.

Along the way, we met another family. On the train, before our ten-minute ride, Andrew ran around the crowded car with their kids and tons of others. Once the little ones settled down, my mom and I chatted with the other parents. The kiddies looked at the passing scenery out the window. They were fascinated by the remnants of tiny, white capped icebergs that had formed in the marshy back bays as well as the parallel tracks that lead into Atlantic City.

During our adult chitchat, mom and I had no idea that Andrew had taken his winter coat off. At the Absecon station, we said our hasty good-byes and set about gathering all the chintzy chotkes we had accumulated. A conductor directed us out the back of the car. It felt like an eternity slithering trough the mass of people. The next car was even more crowded with Kids Fair attendees. Finally at the threshold to the station’s platform my mother said, “It’s bitter cold outside. Where’s his coat?”

In a knee jerk reaction, I stupidly bolted back the way I came. I blindly plowed through the throng. It was crazy how I shuffled between people until I nearly knocked down an old man. I pushed open the door to the car where we started and was greeted by the father of the kids that Andrew was hanging out with. He jammed my boy’s coat into my arms and yelled, “Better run or they’ll leave with you on the train.”

I pictured my mom and Andrew without a coat on the frigid platform. Everything was automated so there were no employees at the station to help in an emergency. There wasn’t even a waiting room. Far worse, back in 1998, few people had cell phones and my mom and I definitely weren’t among the chosen few. So if I got stuck on the train, there would be no way to communicate with her.

I aggressively pushed through the people as I realized that my mom might not have any money and might not know my home address off the top of her head. Plus it might take an hour before I got off at the next stop (Egg Harbor City) and got a train back.

I was still wading through people (mainly children) when I imagined the train lurching forward and assuring the separation of family. I forged ahead until I saw another conductor at the far exit. I guess he was worried about keeping up his schedule because he wasn’t smiling as he peered down at his watch. Then as I approached, I could see the determined and defiant look on my mother’s face as she and Andrew blocked the doorway to the outside.

Mom saved the day! Her common sense proved to be a far more important weapon against my carelessness than a cell-phone...ANY day.

Our future visits to the Kids Fair were flawless and always included the train.
YEARS LATER, YOU'LL NEVER GUESS HOW OLD ANDREW IS IN THIS SHOT WITH "SAND E. WICH," THE JACK AND JILL ICE CREAM MASCOT?  AFTER MY BRAVE BOY TOOK A BITE OUT OF THIS CHARACTER, HE POSED WITH ALL THE OTHERS. BUT WAS DISAPPOINTED THAT HE COULDN'T REPAIR HIS REPUTATION BECAUSE THAT CRUSTY SAILOR CAP'N CRUNCH WAS A, "NO-SHOW." APPARENTLY, HE WAS ON THE HIGH SEAS ABOARD THE S.S. GUPPY...AND THEREFORE UNAVAILBLE FOR THE KIDS FAIR.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!  You're the greatest!  I just hope dad "remembered" to take you to a big band concert...with a dance floor.

Monday, August 25, 2014

AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS (ALS)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Special events and holidays are overwhelmingly festive occasions...but there are exceptions. When my son Andrew was in second grades, I thought he could understand why some holidays were more like observations or remembrances. So while his contemporaries (and many adults) were quick to wish a “happy” Memorial Day or a “happy” Veterans Day, I thought it was important for him to see the distinction. I said, “Yes, it’s great to have a barbeque on Memorial Day or get off from school on Veteran’s Day but these days are really reserved to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice people risked, to keep our country free and to maintain our American way of life.”

Similarly, I want to clarify the deeper meaning of the trending, “ALS ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE,” fad.  First, I want congratulate the participants because through their use of a fun gimmick on social media, the word about ALS awareness is spreading. Their efforts have generated incredible amounts of money. These funds hopefully will support research to minimize the occurrence of this horrible disease and some day soon, lead to a cure.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is simple. Before turning an ice water bucket over their head, that person through Facebook, will challenge three friends to do the same, or make a contribution to ALS.

IF YOU CAN STAND THE THREAT OF MAJOR "SHRINKAGE" THE ALS ICE WATER CHALLENGE CAN BE BUCKETS O'FUN.

I have watched dozens of ice water videos, starring my family, friends and coworkers. Whoever generated this idea was a genius. I just wish more of the splashees took a step back from the personal entertainment aspect of this activity and demonstrated a better understanding of ALS.

Most importantly, ALS by itself is meaningless and by abbreviating the heinous name, the awful nature of the problem is trivialized. I feel that the seriousness of this devilish illness would be appreciated more if everyone knew, ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Simply stated, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by muscle spasms, rapid and progressive weakness due to muscle atrophy, difficulty speaking, swallowing and breathing. This disease is non-contagious but usually leads to a cruel, debilitating death.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis occurs in one out of 150,000 people. Most victims are between 40 and 60. It is believed that it is caused by a virus, exposure to neurotoxins or heavy metals, heredity, defective immune systems or enzyme abnormalities.

We should consider ourselves lucky if we don’t know anybody who is...or has suffered from this affliction. That’s why I commend my wife Sue for being the only person I heard on all the videos I watched, who put a face on this menace. She did it by including in her ice bucket message that her friend Grace lost a long, hard battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

I’ve seen this disease upclose too. One of my favorite, regular customers (Alí) vanished from the casino for about a year. When he reappeared, he was being pushed in a wheelchair by an attendant. His once strong thirty-five year old body was twisted and shriveled. Ignorantly I asked, “Are you okay?” Through his foreign accent, he struggled to gasp, “I got Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” I was stunned. Far worse, I never saw my friend again.

(1959 PHOTO). ALI AND I FIRST STARTED CHATTING WHEN HE SAW CANARSIE ON MY NAMETAG. HE SAID HE LIVES IN MY OLD NEIGHBORHOOD, IN ONE OF THE APARTMENTS ABOVE THE CANARSIE THEATER.  OUR FRIENDSHIP BLOSSOMED WHEN I TOLD HIM MY PARENTS LIVED IN ONE OF THOSE UNITS TOO, BEFORE I WAS BORN.

Chances are, Alí had no idea who Lou Gehrig was or why he was connected to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Lou Gehrig was one of the all-time greatest major league baseball players. His dazzling accomplishments on the field,(1923-1939), have made his name one the most recognized in all professional sports.
LOU GEHRIG WAS BORN IN 1903, WAS DIAGNOSED WITH AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS IN 1938 AND DIED FROM IT, AT AGE 37, IN 1941.

Lou Gehrig’s prowess as a power hitter and his seemingly limitless durability earned him the nickname, “The Iron Horse.” But it was the unfortunate coincidence that this Herculean, elite Hall-of-Famer, so noted for showing up at the office, (fourteen straight years, covering 2,130 consecutive games) could be disabled, crippled and soon there after killed by a condition that would eventually bear his name.
IT WAS BELIEVED THAT GEHRIG'S LONGEVITY STREAK WOULD NEVER BE BROKEN.  BUT WHEN CAL RIPKEN SURPASSED THE IRON HORSE WITH HIS 2131st CONSECUTIVE GAME ON SEPTEMBER 6, 1995, RIPKEN WAS FOREVER IMMORTALIZED IN BASEBALL HISTORY.

I saw a list of celebrities who died from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Some of the names I recognized were;


• Actor, Dennis Day (1916-1988)

• Chairman, Mao Zedong (1893-1976)

• Musician, Huddie “Lead-Belly” Ledbetter (1888-1949)

• Actor, David Niven (1910-1983)

• Politician, Jacob Javits (1904-1986)

• Baseball Player, Jim “Catfish” Hunter (1946-1999)
WORLD REKNOWN THEORETICAL PHYSICIST STEPHEN HAWKING (1942-PRESENT) AND FOOTBALL'S STEVE GLEASON (1977-PRESENT) ARE THE ONLY ALS VICTIMS ALIVE WHOSE NAME I RECOGNIZE.  
Whether you specifically participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or not...and whether you call it ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease, I hope this wasn't  merely a random, childish stunt for you. The significnce of this challenge is, is to come away from the event with a better idea of this sickness' scope and be inspired to help. 

For those of you who made a cash contribution, I think it's great to get involved and volunteer.  However, your idealism and enthusiasm shouldn't get in the way of the harsh reality that many charities, (even reputable organizations) have poor road records in regard to the percentage of each donation dollar going to the where it was intended.  So please be careful where you donate and be conscious of (easily researched), "administrative costs."

"MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND," is dedicated to NOT telling you how to spend your money.  But please realize that the Internet can provide easy access to charity navigators that will help separate worthy causes like St. Jude Children's Research Hospital from bogus, non-transparent, less accountable ones.

I certainly wouldn't want to sway anyone away from helping the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis cause. If it happened to Lou Gehrig, it could happen to any of us. 
LAST MONTH WE "OBSERVED" THE 75th ANNIVERSARY OF LOU GEHRIG'S GUT-WRENCHING 4th OF JULY 1939 FAREWELL SPEECH. TO HELP "REMEMBER" AND "ACKNOWLEDGE" A REAL LIFE SUPERMAN CUT-DOWN BY THE KRYPTONITE KNOWN AS ALS, CLICK ON THE LINK (below) TO VIEW IT.

http://search.mywebsearch.com/mywebsearch/redirect.jhtml?pn=1&ct=RR&action=click&redirect=GGmain.jhtml&queryTerm=gehrig+farewell+speech+youtube&cb=CD&pg=GGmain&p2=%5ECD%5Exdm003%5ES04317%5Eus&n=77fc41c7&qid=268ef737ba7b4f67b6934ef0e883a91e&ss=sub&st=bar&ptb=D6B92608-79BD-4909-92A0-160CFD832118&si=CKuH4unForUCFQPd4AodLCEADg&searchfor=Lou+Gehrig%27s+Farewell+to+Baseball+Speech&ord=2&&tpr=jrel3&ots=1408823287968

And if you still have a job..."HAPPY" LABOR DAY!

Monday, August 18, 2014

EDELBLUM MYSTERY THEATER; THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOE BUSINESS

Now what? I’ll never like it and I’ll never get used to it, but at my age, I shouldn’t be shocked when something suddenly hurts or stops working. So raise your hand if you want to hear about the mystery that recently terrorized my foot.

At work in 1999, in a lonely, distant alcove of our break room, my friend ABP huffed, “If you don’t take care of your feet, they can’t take care of you.” I nodded. Her tone changed to a groan, “I messed up by wearing stylish shoes my whole life.” She told me how in the 1970's, she hobnobbed through dozens of Philadelphia-areas discotheques in "fuck-me pumps." Then she lamented, “And now with this job, I’m paying the price twenty-five years later…my feet are killing me.” 
WOMEN HAVE HISTORICALLY SACRIFICIED FOOT COMFORT FOR STYLE.  THS POINT WAS JUSTIFIED THE OTHER DAY WHEN ANOTHER FEMALE FRIEND SAID THAT SHE BOUGHT BOOTS ONLINE.  THEY CAME ONE SIZE TOO BIG AND THE EYELIT COLOR WAS COPPER NOT GOLD.  STRANGELY, SHE SAID SHE WOULD HAVE AVOIDED THE HASSLE OF SHIPPING THEM BACK, IF THE EYELIT COLOR WAS RIGHT.

I said, “Sometimes my feet hurt too.” She took off a shoe, massaged her foot and said with a sigh of depression, “No. I have real problems and keep putting off surgery.” I said, “Sorry to hear that.” ABP said, “I have ugly feet with bunions and my gnarled toes are a million times worse.”

ABP was an especially good-looking woman. Even in her forties, if she put her mind to it, I'm certain she could make a decent living as a model. To boost her morale I said, “I’m sure nothing about you could be ugly.” She said, “You’re sweet. But if you saw my hammer toes and clawed toe…you’d barf.”
A HAMMER TOE (MIDDLE TOE) IS A DEFORMITY THAT PERMANENTLY BENDS THE TOE (RESEMBLING A HAMMER), AT A JOINT.  SIMILAR PROBLEMS INCLUDE, CLAW TOES AND MALLET TOES.

My hammer toe curiosity got the better of me. Besides, ABP opened the door with what sounded like an invitation. So I innocently said, “Okay, let’s see.” I guess the poor girl had been hit-on a gazillion times. She growled, “I’m not taking off my pantyhose in front of you!” I knew my friendship was devalued to “coworker” as she stood up and silently hobbled away.

Other than the obvious sexual lesson I learned, I found out the importance of taking care of your feet and legs, (especially in casinos where many of us spend the vast majority of our time on duty, standing up). In my particular case, the risk factors are heightened because for over fifteen years, I have been an avid power-walker.  Yes my calves (only) are so well-chiseled that Michelangelo’s, “Statue of David” is jealous.
I SUGGESTED POWER-WALKING TO BIG DAVE, BUT HE'S BEEN STUCK IN THE SAME RUT AND HASN'T MOVED FOR QUITE SOME TIME.

ABP’s words of warning have remained with me. So, I panic and stress over the new creaks, leaks and squeaks of old age that prey on my lower body. You never know, one of them might signal a debilitating problem that could prematurely end my livelihood or even cripple me.

A perfect example of a sudden new physical problem invading my body, occured two years ago.  That's when my son Andrew started university life. His school, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is near Trenton. At ninety-minutes away by car, he is close enough for visits and far enough that he (and we) feels like he’s away.

On one of my visits during his freshman year, about halfway up, I got a severe, knifing pain, in my right, upper-most thigh. It felt like a cramp, so I tried to flex, within the confines of the car, but I got no relief. Soon the radiating agony expanded down my leg, to the arch in my foot. I pulled over.

I used to get leg cramps when I played high school football, so I did some of our pre-game leg exercises. I got immediate relief. But forty-five minutes of driving later, the intense stabbing pain returned.

The same symptoms afflicted me on the way home…and still do whenever I drive longer than forty-five minutes. I told my doctor. She never heard of such a thing? She said, “If it only affects you on long car rides, you’re lucky…when you need to stretch…stretch.”

Damn, when it rains, it pours. Then, about a year ago, I developed another new, sharp pain, in my right heel. It felt like I had stepped on a rock in bare feet. I’d have good days then it would return. I waited until my twice-a-year check-up to see my doctor. She didn’t hesitate to make a diagnosis, “You have plantar fasciititis!” She recommended some home remedies that included stretching, icing it down and massage. I got a degree of relief, continued power-walking and never missed a day at work.

Incredibly, soon my other foot acted-up. On the outside edge of my left foot, I thought I had a painful wart. It was at an odd angle, so I never actually saw it. A month of wart removal treatment didn’t help. I bought bigger shoes, wore thicker socks and started wearing gel-pads. I felt better but not good. At their worst, both feet were killing me simultaneously.

One of my customers saw the anguish in my face and sympathized for me. During a lull, I told her my situation. She said that she used to be a bank teller and that she got relief by getting clogs that nurses wear.

Four months ago, (April 2014), on my most painful day, I gave in to the torture of my feet and went to a medical supply store. The clerk said their shoes were sold through mail-order only. I didn’t want to wait. She suggested Allen’s Shoes.

The salesman at Allen’s thought I had plantar fasciititis in my right foot and speculated that I had tendonitis in my left foot. He tried to sway me off the clogs. As per my customer’s advice, I tried them on anyway. They were butt-ugly, felt weird to walk in and didn’t make my feet feel any different…plus were twice as expensive as any shoes I ever bought.

I tried on a pair of New Balance shoes. In three strides, it was like a friggin’ miracle. If it had been a cloudy day, the sun would have burst through the overcast to the tune of heavenly harp music. My acute pain (in both feet) turned off like a light switch. I walked through every corner of the store expecting the relapse…that never happened.

Luckily, these shoes don’t have that Frankenstein orthopedic look and immediately felt like ordinary shoes, (yes they were more expensive than the clogs but in exchange for greater support, one can’t have everything…can one)?

I stopped complaining about the cost by the third day. Mainly because after work, I take my shoes off at the front door and throw them in the dark garage, (years ago, I tracked automotive grease from the casino parking lot through our living room…and never heard the end of it from my wife Sue). Of course now Sue gives me a hard time for bitching about the price of my princely shoes and then throwing them willy-nilly like they were shit and upsetting the pristine orderliness of our storage facility).

My new shoes are so good that when I was on vacation, I was reminded how important they were. Five days into my time off, I’d get achy tendonitis twinges. The return of these subtle ouchies meant the problem still exists but once back to work, my great footwear make life livable.

Unfortunately, getting older means, if you manage to defeat some stray physical obstacle, there’s always another to carry the torch of trouble, misery and hurt to another part of your body. That’s why I was so pissed-off coming in to work this past Wednesday (August 13th).

The walk from the employee parking lot to the break room is two city blocks. From the second I got out of my car, I had an intense pain in my left pinkie toe. At first, I imagined that my sock was bunched up…but a blister couldn’t go from “zero-to-sixty,” in mere seconds. Like the stubborn schmuck that I can be, I decided to keep walking (limping).

I dwelled on negativity and I convinced myself that something like a hammer-toe could spring-up from out of nowhere. It was disgusting how I pictured my wee digit being dark purple, swollen and with pus oozing from under the toenail. I was remembering that ABP said that the convalescence from her surgery would have her off her feet for months. That’s when I was thinking that amputation might be necessary if I wanted to avoid time lost from my job.

I headed for the union men’s room. Inside, I sat on a bench so I’d get a good look at the malevolence growing out of my little toe. I took off my wonderful New Balance shoe and carefully set my cherished hero down. I peeled off my unbunched-up sock and was shocked to find my beautiful foot…and suddenly pain-free pinkie...in perfect condition. I shook out my sock…nothing! My golden-boy shoe was next. And aha, I heard something rattling around. I sensed it couldn’t be a pebble because it seemed too light but it had to be somewhat sizeable to get wedged in and cause me such aggravation.

Oh how I felt like an idiot when I discovered a single M and M-sized dog food nugget in my shoe.
I FOUND OUT THE HARD WAY THAT DOG FOOD SHAPED LIKE M AND M's DON'T MELT IN YOUR HAND, MOUTH OR SHOE!

I tried to think back and pictured throwing my shoes in the garage and toppling the forty-pound bag of dog food. One piece found its way into the shoe and like a perfect storm of circumstances, the one nugget got lodged well enough in, to crush my cute and defenseless little toe.  Yay me, another edition of "Edelblum Mystery Theater" has been solved.

Yes it’s true, I gained another little victory…but life is usually reduced to the temporary joy of little victories. It sucks to think about it but we never know when the ugly head of catastrophe is lurking around tomorrow’s corner. I say, what separates the well-adjusted people of world from those who get caught-up, is how we play the bad poker cards of life, we are dealt.  Just remember, there's no business like shoe business...and as Ethel Merman used to say; let's go on with the show.
ETHEL MERMAN (1908-1984) STARRED ON STAGE, MOVIES AND TV.  SHE WAS KNOWN FOR HER BELTING, MEZZO-SOPRANO SINGING VOICE.  THE SONG I ASSOCIATE HER WITH, FROM THE BROADWAY SMASH, "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN," IS, "THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS."  CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO HEAR HER SING IT.
http://search.mywebsearch.com/mywebsearch/redirect.jhtml?action=pick&qs=&pr=GG&searchfor=utube+ethel+merman+no+business+like+show+business&cb=CD&pg=GGmain&p2=%5ECD%5Exdm003%5ES04317%5Eus&n=77fc41c7&qid=e7bd1c087d2e46f29b0e704297c05df9&ss=sub&pn=1&st=bar&ptb=D6B92608-79BD-4909-92A0-160CFD832118&tpr=&si=CKuH4unForUCFQPd4AodLCEADg&redirect=mPWsrdz9heamc8iHEhldEcgdjfjqpMajKYmz288FhTJUUyoGKBtyODnwVgQA9jB9asSRd7HNQ6vo28AS7ocSwQ%3D%3D&ord=2&ct=AR&

So to side-step many of life's miseries, always keep your head, be prepared to bluff and check for dog food in your shoes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

FOUND AND LOST; MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN

I can’t believe it’s the second anniversary of the TV show, “THE FINDER,” getting cancelled. Most people never heard of it but I loyally watched all thirteen installments until it vanished as quickly as it appeared.
"THE FINDER" STARRING GEOFF STULTS (left) AND MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN (right) LASTED ONE SEASON, (JANUARY 12, 2012 TO MAY 11, 2012).

In 2011, the premise was originally wrapped within, “THE FINDER” episode of another personal favorite, “BONES.” The writers and producers came up with a unique, slick and beautiful to look at concept, (filmed in Miami with gorgeous underwater photography). The supporting characters were interesting and the storylines coming from their relationships left me wanting more.
"BONES" NOW IN ITS EIGHTH SEASON, INTRODUCED, "THE FINDER" ON APRIL 21, 2011, (SEASON SIX, EPISODE NINETEEN, SHOW #125 IN THE SERIES).

"THE FINDER'S," star, Geoff Stults as Walter Sherman, is a retired army major.  The gimmick is, he suffered some mysterious level of combat-related brain damage while serving in Iraq. These head injuries left him suspicious and paranoid. But along the way, his “problems” also include a mystical ability to see patterns that nobody else can see. He uses these universal connections to find things. In the case of the episode of, “BONES,” he is subcontracted out by the FBI, to launch an independent investigation, to find a stolen treasure map fragment. Throw in some intelligent quirkiness and you have a program that is exciting and fun to watch.

This, possibly best-ever episode of “BONES” became the pilot for, “THE FINDER.” I thought I got in on the ground floor of something special. I was completely invested in the show and never missed it. Unfortunately that pilot was also the problem because the potential of the first production was never recaptured.

In an obscure bar in the Florida keys, the audience is introduced to the three main characters of, “THE FINDER.” The "MOD SQUAD-like" trio are staring at a chalkboard and having a philosophical debate on which is sadder; a twelve-year old girl smoking or a drowned cat.
TV's, "MOD SQUAD" WAS A HIPPIE, UNDERCOVER POLICE TEAM THAT FEATURED A WHITE MAN, WHITE WOMAN AND A BLACK MAN.  THE SHOW LASTED FIVE SEASONS AND 123 EPISODES FROM 1968-1973.

Ike, is Walter Sherman’s shapely but tough, Scottish accented female sidekick. Apparently, Ike owes her life to, “The Finder.” But instead of being a corny love interest, she was more like his conscious and emotional protector while also serving as his bartender, airplane pilot and a walking encyclopedia. Unfortunately, her character was dumped after the pilot episode in favor of a cardboard detective/love interest, (so much for uniqueness).

Luckily my favorite character was not dropped by the show. Michael Clarke Duncan plays male sidekick Leo Knox, (a likeable, Buddha-spouting widower and former attorney). He also owes his life to Sherman and serves as his confidant, manager, legal advisor and bodyguard. I became transfixed with every baritone word and action he made. I especially liked his use of lawyer-speak when advising Sherman not to do something. Which gave rise to The Finder’s catchphrase; I’ll risk it, (which was cleverly used in the pilot but rarely called upon throughout the show’s short run).

Another character that never appeared after the pilot was the Catholic bishop. Dynamic anti-religious sparks fly when Walter asks the Bishop for historical data about the church's connection with the map piece that might lead to a sunken Spanish gold galleon. Apparently the Bishop owes Walter his faith therefore he is patient with the anthesist's impertinence. To be consistent with the show's demise, the non-religious aspects The Finder’s nature is never mentioned again.

It didn’t take long until I became disillusioned by, “THE FINDER’S”, direction. I only watched in hope that it might rediscover the magic of the pilot, and if it couldn’t, watching Duncan was enough for me.

I first found Michael Clarke Duncan in 1999’s, “THE GREEN MILE.” He gave a memorable performance as John Coffey, a Depression-era, wrongly convicted child murderer, on death row in Louisiana. It’s ironic, that role catapulted his career in film, TV and voice-overs in animated features. But he was lost to me for more than ten years because I was unfamiliar with any of his work until, “THE FINDER” episode of, “BONES.”
MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN (1957-2012), HAD KNOCKED AROUND HOLLYWOOD GETTING ODD JOBS THAT INCLUDED HIGH-PROFILE BODYGUARD WORK.  HE STARTED DOING COMMERCIALS AND BIT ACTING PARTS UNTIL HIS BIG BREAK IN,"THE GREEN MILE."

I may not know which is sadder, a twelve-year old girl smoking or a drowned cat. But I do know I was deeply saddened by Michael Clarke Duncan’s untimely heart attack and death. Which I assume was only a coincidence because it came shortly after the Fox Network announced that “THE FINDER” was cancelled.

Duncan led a clean life, was a vegetarian and lived many of the precepts of Buddhism. The Finder served its calling when it found Duncan for me but alas, now they are both gone...
IN A CRAZY MAN-CRUSH KIND OF WAY, I MISS DUNCAN.  IN THE TWO ROLES I KNOW HIM FROM, HE WAS DEEP, INTELLIGENT AND MADE ME FEEL THAT THE PEOPLE AROUND HIM WERE SAFE.  WHENEVER I THINK ABOUT IT, I CAN'T STAND LOSING HIM. 

Michael Clarke Duncan's passing makes me think of the 1979, chart-topping song by the, "POLICE," "I CAN'T STAND LOSING YOU."  Click on the link below to hear the thought provoking lyrics.
http://search.mywebsearch.com/mywebsearch/redirect.jhtml?action=pick&qs=&pr=GG&searchfor=youtube+the+police+I+can%27t+stand+losing+you&cb=CD&p2=%5ECD%5Exdm003%5ES04317%5Eus&n=77fc41c7&qid=825087a8ef484cbfbe4484f82295acff&ptb=D6B92608-79BD-4909-92A0-160CFD832118&si=CKuH4unForUCFQPd4AodLCEADg&pg=GGmain&ots=1407692347187&pn=1&ss=sub&st=bar&tpr=sc&redirect=mPWsrdz9heamc8iHEhldEcgdjfjqpMajKYmz288FhTLdjzyG8DEAy6s%2BGyLAMdxQJj8lG1xD4KFm32d%2F1k%2BwmQ%3D%3D&ord=0&ct=AR&


I found Michael Clarke Duncan (again) but now he's lost for good.  Unfortunately, the best way to remember him is not through, "THE FINDER." series.  That's why I'm recommending you watch the single “BONES” episode with him.

Monday, August 4, 2014

MY NEW REALITY; SAYING GOOD-BYE TO MIDDLE-AGE

Like the Sword of Damocles, the ugly specter of turning sixty dangles over my head. Over the next nine months, I have to find a way to cope with my next (undesirable) milestone of life because to many, this watermark symbolizes the dilapidated, gray, second to last gate that ushers in old age, (the last gate of course…is pearly).
IN THE 1812 PAINTING (above) BY RICHARD WESTFALL, A GREEK, MORAL ANECTDOTE, "THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES," IS REPRESENTED.  IT REFERS TO THE IMMINENT AND EVER-PRESENT PERIL FACED BY THOSE IN POWER, (OR IN MY CASE, I NEVER KNOW WHEN OLD AGE WILL BEFALL ME).

In 1968, on a handful of occasions, I babysat for the couple next door, (the husband was the cheapest man on the face of the earth…but that’s another story). One time while getting paid, (never more than two bucks), Mr. Miser gravely griped, “I just found out I got arthritis.”

I was thirteen and sophisticated enough to know arthritis was a health problem but because I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, I thought it was a death sentence. So a few days later when I saw him throw his golf clubs and tennis racquets into the back seat of his "beater" convertible, I thought it was odd. Then shockingly, he leapt over the closed door into the driver seat. That’s when I knew he was a lying sack of shit!

Down through the years, I learned the complexities of life. Perhaps the clearest of all my lessons is that the world is infrequently black or white. Certain issues, especially regarding aging and health are layered, and come in far more than fifty shades of gray.

In 1995, I was diagnosed with my own painful arthritis. I was bright enough to correctly assume that it wasn’t life threatening. My doctor directed me to use an over-the-counter remedy. Over the next twenty years, other than a rare flare-up, my problem was been 97% held in check.
GLUCOSAMINE AND CHONDROITIN ARE NATURAL SUBSTANCES FOUND IN AND AROUND CARTILAGE CELLS. IT IS SOLD AS A SUPPLEMENT FOR ARTHRITIS SUFFERERS BECAUSE IT AIDS IN CARTILAGE RETAINING NECESSARY WATER.

Now forty-six years later, even though my thrifty neighbor never gave me a tip, I’ll give him one. If you’re stricken with arthritis, and willing to spring for about fifty dollars a year, Chondroitin and Glucosamine is well worth it.

There is something mystical about hitting forty. We gradually start having new health issues. Each passing year, the number of episodes grows as well as their severity. There’s a gazillion reasons why we shouldn’t complain about our health, but the number one reason is, it doesn’t take long before we bitch to someone who is in far worse shape.

My first surgical procedure was kidney stones about ten years ago. The doctors knew the stone was obstructed but to run up the bill, it was better for them heavily medicate me and wait two days for it to miraculously dislodge itself, (which we all now know…it didn’t).

While it’s true this was my first over-nighter in a hospital since birth, I honestly don’t think I ever went into to panic mode. But apparently I said something to my terminally ill (cancer) roommate that suggested I needed emotional counseling. Despite his plight, this man was so pleasant, confident and reassuring. So the last thing I wanted to do was upset this brave soul…in ANY way.

I woke up feeling nauseous at 3:00AM on my second night, (as instructed I called for the night nurse). There was no response. I rested quietly over the next ten minutes hoping my putrid impulse would subside. It didn’t, so I pressed the signal button...and a minute later, I hit the buzzer again.

During those queasy moments, I rationalized that the floor nurse must have been helping someone else. I braced for the impending emergency. I dreaded the thought of disturbing my kindly roomie so I looked to see what was involved in disconnecting the multitude of feeder tubes and sensors that were attached to me. When my sickness suddenly spiked higher, I imagined the nurse downstairs, in the cafeteria with her face buried in a pint of butter pecan ice cream or hiding in the utility closet, having phone sex. Like a madman, I repeatedly and obnoxiously started wearing out the signal button.

Seconds before the arrival of my “V-Moment,” I realized that I had run out of options. I ripped off all my tubes, jumped out of bed and puked all over the wall…as blood from my arm splattered everywhere. What a great release/relief it was for me…until I heard my roommate’s commentary on the smell and length of the clean-up crew’s stay. Incidentally, embarrassment was added to my awful experience when my saintly roommate, the following morning, sincerely was concerned about my health.

You’d think that nightmare would make me more careful about what I said, (and to who). But seven ago while at work, (dealing craps in a casino), I felt a little pop in my lower back. The radiating twinge of pain varied in intensity as I struggled to find a comfortable position. I was experienced with this recurring problem but this time, no matter what I did, the different levels of agony wouldn’t subside.

LJT, (my supervisor) saw my situation and probably thought I needed to pee. He asked, “You okay?” I whined, “I tweaked my friggin’ back and it’s killing me.” LJT said, “You know I had a heart attack. I almost died. You don’t even know what pain is!” He had someone temporarily replace me. I took extra strength aspirins did some stretching and was much better. Later, I apologized to LJT. He said, “And make sure you never complain about back pain to any woman who gave birth either!”

I never learn from my mistakes. Five years ago, I felt like there was a burning hole in my stomach. These acute symptoms were incapacitating for a couple of hours.  Then they’d mysteriously vanish…only to reappear and tear through my innards in similar way, three weeks later. Like a schmuck, I waited months for my routine check up…it was a hernia.
GENERALLY, A HERNIA IS A PROTRUSION OF AN ORGAN (A BIT OF INTESTINE) THROUGH A HOLE IN THE ABDOMINAL WALL, (NO THE DIAGRAM ABOVE IS NOT ME).

I survived the operation and put it behind me. Well guess what? Last year, the symptoms returned. Lucky me, I had a new hernia. No you don’t get a reduced rate as a repeat customer so I was doubly pissed off in September 2013, when I had to go through the nonsense again.

There’s nothing really funny (or unusual) about two hernias within five years. So when March 2014 rolled around and the symptoms re-re-reappeared, I was triply frustrated. My distress was further heightened because the doctor does not guarantee his work and another procedure would be a completely separate fee, (so much for frequent flier discounts).

Two week ago while at Camp Zimbo, I held my left arm above my head and twisted my hand to the right and said, “It hurts when I do this.” He smacked me in the head and said, “Then DON’T do that!”  That might sound like an old vaudeville routine but what it meant was JZimbo didn't want to hear about petty maladies.

JZimbo is eleven days older than me so unfortunately for both of us, the rigors of middle-age health issues always come up. That’s when he mentioned that he might have a hernia. I never told him I had two hernia operations and need a third so I pretended to NOT be an expert. I let him vent. I didn’t want to fall in the trap of complaining about my trivialities when I fully knew that he had been victimized by a laundry list of decapitating injuries (including a fractured ankle and a knee replacement…plus unsuccessful eye surgery). So after he talked his way down from his potential dilemma, (on his own), I felt good knowing I didn’t play, “can you top this” with someone who really has been punished by life’s little cruelties. My temporary victory didn’t last long.

When I got home, I came to a conclusion about my third hernia. But if you know and love me, you know…once a schmuck, always a schmuck!  Due to my (unappreciated) experience, I now know how to minimize my hernia pain. So, in protest of getting “put up on the lift” again, I have decided to “gut” it out and (for now) live with it.

Hernias are unfortunately common. One of my friends (BBF) is experiencing the joy of his for almost two years. In the beginning, I recommended getting it taken care of. But after what I went through, I can understand anyone's reluctance to go under the knife.  So, I’m in no position to tell him he’s wrong.

Recently while on duty at work, my latest hernia was ravaging my belly. Under the circumstances, the best I could do to minimize the hurt was holding my stomach. DOM, (my supervisor) asked, “I had the stuffed peppers upstairs too and my guts are ready to explode?” A smile covered my grimace as I groaned, “Nah, I would never eat that in our cafeteria. I got a friggin’ hernia.” He said, “Shit, don’t complain to me, I’ve had three hernias.” I said, “Me too, this is my third.” He said, “I got one five years ago and had the surgery. Then last year another one popped opened.” I said, “So you got it taken care of?” He said, “Hell no!” I said, “But you said three.” DOM said, “Yeah, now I got another one that makes three.  I'll wait till they invent a hernia zipper...that way when get my tenth, they can go in and out much easier.” My smile evaporated into a look of concern as I said, “You must be dyin’ inside?” He said, “What are you a wuss? Besides, with insurance being the way it is, I’d be dyin’ worse if I paid for every little ache.”

I said, “BBF has been putting his hernia off for a long time.” DOM said, “You know he was demoted to part-time. He’s not having the surgery because he has shitty insurance, he's not having it done because he has, NO insurance.”

Remember the line in old cowboy movies; there’s always someone else faster on the draw. Well when it comes to complaining about your health, be aware that few people want to hear about it and almost everyone else is or knows someone, who is suffering worse than you.

Age is relative. I truly feel it’s just a number and that you’re as old as you feel. Day to day, I overwhelmingly feel like a king and a kid at heart, (the remaining times, I feel like a specific kid, King Tut…and he’s been dead and...usually...buried for 3300+ years).

So, I accept the challenge of my looming, new reality. I feel if you don’t find a path you can handle, the stressful harshness of an advanced age bracket will eat you alive and cause problems you never imagined.

Through my sixties, I pledge to be dignified and stay the same bundle of joy that you’ve always loved and admired.

And as for my neighbor from 1968, I’m sure his arthritis never stopped him…of course he was only about thirty-five back then, (but he complained as if he was sixty). Still, something tells me, (even though I haven’t seen him since 1984), that he’s still alive and kicking today. I make that assumption because I just saw a life insurance commercial with Alex Trebek.  That ad claimed, the average cost of a funeral was $8,000.00…and my thrifty neighbor would never cough-up that kind of cash.