Monday, November 26, 2007


We had an excellent Thanksgiving with new friends. Everything from soup to nuts was great...even though they served neither soup nor nuts. The pre-meal spread alone was worthy of a king. Plus, the actual turkey and the various accouterments that went along with it were deliciously gourmet.

Now four days later just when it seemed that our cup of life's bounty had runneth over...our house has been blessed with the unexpected gift of life...a visit from the stork! Albeit a mechanical stork and a computerized baby that I named JUSTPAT!

In our school district, eighth graders as a part of their Life Skills course are presented with a computerized doll. This doll, I nicknamed it JUSTPAT because it came with pink clothes but when we removed its diaper, it had standard (okay maybe a little better than standard) male equipment.

The assignment identifies to middle school kids the harsh realities, responsibility and the consequences of unexpected/unwanted pregnancies.  These lessons are eloquent yet simple because each student is equipped with a non-removable scanner attached to their wrist and that activates their doll.

The student is expected to react to the different cries than the baby is programmed for. By swiping the scanner at the appropriate times, the Life Skill teacher can judge the level of care that the eighth grader alone provides.

In conjunction with the scanner, the student keeps a running log and identifies the time, length and type of aid provided. If necessary (and it's VERY necessary), the student will also identify any snags along the way.

My son Andrew brought Justpat home at 2:30PM yesterday.  By 3, we all were in a tizzy (even our dog Roxy felt the pressure) from the faux baby's incessant crying.

 At first, this was so difficult and time consuming...if you don't hold the bottle right, the baby won't get fed and it will cry or you might have to burp it for twenty minutes before you hit the "sweet-spot." So if the baby is crying to be changed and you feed it, it will continue to cry. If it needs to be burped and you comfort it, it will continue to cry.

The student's receiving the highest grades for this project manage to go about their normal daily routine and make minor adjustments to care for the infant. This was one area that wasn't happening for Andrew. He was so rapt in self doubt and worry that rather than take JUSTPAT with him, he was forced to cancel with friends.

The doll even comes with a tilting neck. So when you coddle it or put it to sleep, the correct angle for comfort must be maintained. Further and most importantly new-born mechanical babies don't sleep through the night. On one hand this a major problem for the student but in the case of my wife Sue who works graveyard shift, the doll's cries during the night cost her valued sleep.

We are half way through this two-day ordeal and the message of practicing safe sex has become abundantly clear to Andrew. Beyond that, a valuable lesson in ALL of life's responsibility is learned and perhaps best of all...for Andrew...just because you aren't good at something...something you may not like doing...with patience, accepting assistance through networking and hard work...things that seem impossible CAN be done.

Yesterday started slow and ended rather well. I didn't see Andrew this morning but I was told that he was bursting with pride. I fully expect today will be a lot easier.

I as I type, Andrew has returned from school. So, here we go again.

I think JUSTPAT will be a lifetime memory for all of us but I'm certain that on Wednesday morning, Andrew will throw the damned thing back at the teacher! Cross your fingers that we get through this last day and hopefully, we'll laugh when its over...

Monday, November 19, 2007


My son, his schoolmates, their administrators and the entire school district have been forced to endure bomb scares at his school both this year and last.. Luckily, they've all been hoaxes. Instigators at that age are overwhelmingly; pranksters, or calling out for attention or desperate to delay a test. Therefore because of situations like Columbine Colorado, each threat is rightfully taken seriously.

So whenever there is a "lock down" or an evacuation at the school, student households are notified by a computer generated phone message. Regardless of how much of an optimist you are, you can't help but worry, will THIS be the time!

This past Tuesday November 13th, there was a bomb scare and hostage situation at the Showboat Casino. For those of us who work next door at the Taj Mahal Casino, the six-hour siege was unnerving.

Overall, we all maintained a business as usual attitude but you couldn't help but think, WHAT IF...!

Like the situation with my son's school, attacks such as bomb scares in casinos are rare. Still, tension grew as "eye-witness" reports were leaked to us. Perhaps its human nature but as the night wore on, these accounts got gorier. But in actuality, no shots were fired and none of the hostages got wounded or killed.

Since the Showboat ordeal, I spoke to several of my co-workers and they were all convinced that nobody has ever blown-up a casino...but its NOT true.

When I lived in Las Vegas, I flew up to Reno on three occasions. One of those times was in May 1980. I visited the friend that I only refer to in my stories with pseudonyms or as Mr. K. because, his ways of making extra cash and meeting women are less than complimentary. Anyway...Mr. K. takes me to Lake Tahoe, specifically Stateline Nevada and we wind up in Harvey's Wagon Wheel Casino.
I remember we were standing in line to cash-out our chips when Mr. K. asked a stranger if he had a green chip ($25.00). This knucklehead hands one over to Mr. K. and Mr. K. proceeds, through sleight-of-hand and the magic words, "Now you see you don't," to make the chip vanish. The man was mildly impressed and asked for his chip back. Mr. K. went through another series of gyrations and produced a white ($1.00) chip seemingly from thin air. The man complimented his act and again asked for his green chip. Mr. K. was giving him some double-talk as the man's turn in line with the cashier came up. At that point, he became angry and demanded satisfaction. When Mr. K. told the guy that he was nuts...that he started with a dollar chip, I had to step between them to protect Mr. K.

Only when the man called-out for security did Mr. K. relent and say, "Man, you can't take a joke, can you."

Well, three months later on August 27th, a disgruntled Harvey's customer named John Birges tried to extort 3 million dollars from the casino by having a 1200-pound bomb delivered to Harvey's; hidden inside a photo-copier.

I'm unclear of the reasoning but the casino and hotel were indeed evacuated and the FBI "safely" detonated the bomb. However, the explosion cut a crater in the building up to the third floor. Harvey's was originally built in 1944 and had a 12-story tower added in 1961. So I'm guessing the 'ol wagon wheel was ready for renovations anyway.

Birges was tried and convicted to life in prison. He was still in jail when he died in 1996.

I sometimes wonder if the man Mr. K. tried to con was this Birges fellow and if perhaps it was Mr. K. who was the proverbial straw that broke the mad-bomber's back.

Monday, November 12, 2007


In observance of Veteran's Day, regardless of your politics, please support our active troops. And while you're at it, give pause to thank all the servicemen and women...past, present and future who have risked their lives for our great country.

Also, as with any holiday, take a minute to remind the youngsters in your household why today is so special.


The American Film Institute (AFI), to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its 100 greatest American movies list, has made revisions. In conjunction with the BRAVO Network, AFI produced a TV special which I enjoyed, that included a montage of each movie that made the 2007 list.

When it comes to movies, we all have our favorites, but because there is such a wide scope of elements that serve as the criteria to what makes art...nobody could possibly agree with all AFI's choices. A perfect example is, "CITIZEN KANE" at #1, I feel the honor of this being the greatest film EVER has been earned but for aesthetic reasons (groundbreaking film-making technology) rather than pure entertainment.

Personally, I liked to be moved. Two of my favorites, "ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE" and "CITY LIGHTS" both brought tears to my eyes just in the two or so minutes that AFI spent on it. They were deservedly placed prominently on the list but only the most avid movie nuts know them.

I'd rather talk about favorites that didn't make the list like the "EXORCIST" which is probably my all-time #1. But again, we are all too familiar with it. That's why I want to enlighten many of you and turn you onto "THE THIRD MAN."
"THE THIRD MAN" (1949) was based on the novel by Graham Greene. It was filmed on location in what was left of bombed-out Vienna Austria. This classic film noir features one of, if not the greatest movie villains of all time Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Lime is an American black-marketeer specializing in medical drugs (penicillin). But in the opening scene we find out that Lime was killed in an auto accident, (or was he).
With 1950 Vienna pulled in many directions due to Cold War tension, an Englishman spear-heads the investigation of Lime's death. At the funeral, we meet Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) who came from the U. S. to accept a job working for Lime. Using liquor to loosen his tongue, the police chat (interrogate) him and are convinced that he knows nothing about Lime's illicit practices. Later, they inform Martins of their suspicions about Harry. Martins, in disbelief begins a crusade to clear his friend's name. His investigation leads to Harry's Russian girlfriend.
Together the two innocents stumble onto a witness (the superintendent of Harry's building) who was afraid to speak with the authorities. This man contradicts Harry's two friends who were apparently the only eye-witnesses by saying..."the dead man had THREE men help him to the curb...the third man then vanished." Could Lime be the third man? Did he fake his own death to throw the police off his trail?

Soon thereafter, the superintendent is murdered and off we go! We are led through the dark rubble piles of the city to the accompaniment of haunting (almost to the point of annoying) zither solos. Towards the end, Harry Lime finally steps out of the shadows and we hear his sentiments from atop a Ferris Wheel, about his greed and the insignificance of the average ant-like people below.

To catch a rat like Harry Lime, it was apropos that the movie ends with a chase scene through the sewers.

This is truly a great movie worthy of being in AFI's top 100. However, another agency, the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) does rate the "THIRD MAN" as #48 in their top 250 movies of all time.
For immediate gratification, you can go to and find the trailer for the "THIRD MAN." When you do, I can guarantee that you'll find the zither music at least interesting. More importantly, I think it'll whet your appetite to see the actual movie.
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) frequently broadcasts it, or you should be able to rent it. Also, remember your local library lends movies...that means FREE! Even if they don't have what you want on the premises, they can computer search the whole country for a library that has the book, music CD or movie you want...FREE!

Monday, November 5, 2007

"SLITHER" THE MOVIE and "XVQJX," is NOT a word !

In the summer of 1974 RBOY12 (a reader of my blog) and I had a working vacation in Florida at DisneyWorld. He worked there the whole time but in early July I quit for a better job, as a waiter at the Kissimmee Red Lobster.

I won't go into specifics because each link in the chain of events that led me there is a story in itself, I will say; I met two guys (Bob and Ronnie) from South Carolina who were also disenchanted with the Disney employment thing.

Sometime after they left Disney, I was on a date with a co-worker. She was going to drop me off but we decided to stop at the Contemporary Hotel just outside Disney. Afterwards, we had a disagreement, I think it was which style of Mambo (dance) was more authentic...the Canarsie or Weehawken...and the next thing I knew, I was being asked (told) to leave the car.

Well, after about an hour of unsuccessful hitch-hiking on a dark country road about 25 miles from I lived, a million to one shot happened. Bob and Ronnie, the South Carolina guys noticed me as they went by and came back to get me.

They told me they were now happy waiters at Red Lobster and said they could help me get a job there...I didn't give their offer much thought A couple of days later, manager served me an oral reprimand at Disney for not smiling enough...Apparently even a mere trash picker-upper like me was expected to live-up to the entertainment standard. I quit on the spot and got hired at Red Lobster the next day. Then a close friendship was spawned between Bob, Ronnie and myself.

Bob and Ronnie were from a rural town called Easley, in Pickens County, in the western part of South Carolina. They were truly country bumpkins and their Mayberry-like upbringing caused us to have several cultural differences.

These differences especially with phraseology stick with me today. Something simple like playing basketball and calling it, "shooting hoops," was as absurd to them as saying "XVQJX" was a word. They also couldn't come to grips with tennis shoes being called sneakers. And me, I still laugh at them for insisting that Cadillac was pronounced Ka-Diddly-AK. However the funniest difference was that they added the word "coke" to the end of whatever soda they were talking about. For example they would say; "Orange-Coke," 7-Up-Coke" or even "Pepsi-Coke."

It may be an insignificant reference, I doubt even RBOY12 would remember that they said that but...down through the years I have repeated that story and it sounds so ridiculous... that people think I'm making it up. Well, for the first time in over 33 years that phrase has resurfaced.

At a recent visit to KURUDAVE's house, PCShmee brought over a movie called "SLITHER" from 2006. It was a clever horror movie that was funny enough to also be a comedy. Presumably it takes place in the south because of all the southern references but the scenery looks more like Minnesota (perhaps that was part of the director's humor).

At one point, the mayor, while his town is being inundated with slug-like aliens and zombied townsfolk, goes into his cooler to find that he doesn't have any soda left and exclaims, "I can't believe I already drank my last Mr. Pibb-Coke."

I was shocked, had the movie paused and told KURU and PC. But the coincidence went over their heads because they didn't know Mr. Pibb was Coca-Cola's version of Dr. Pepper (only available down south). So the fact that the mayor added coke to Mr. Pibb compounded the meaninglessness.

I don't know whatever happened to Bob and Ronnie. But I wonder if they ever lived-up to their big life ambition of switching the "W" with the "A" on the Kissimmee WAFFLE HOUSE sign.