Monday, August 31, 2009
I sternly believe, the gentleman in question has been left in the most unenviable position. He not only was a 34-year old bachelor but he also gave the impression that he had infrequently enjoyed the company of the fairer sex. My position was not taken strictly by the fact that they met through a dating service...rather it was realized by the sense that the weasel was going to jump through flaming hoops to avoid blowing his love-connection at ALL costs. Trust me, shivers ran up my spine when he let himself get overwhelmed by her every whim.
During their stay, the future Mrs. Humdrum proudly mentioned their three mutual hobbies. I honestly feel that while "opposites attract" the long-term success of a relationship is supported mightily by ACTUAL shared interests. So even though I recognized this man as weak, I had my own ulterior motive to perhaps learn a positive lesson from him. Egad, I was wrong.
The first of their three hobbies...while not interesting to me was still something somewhat tolerable. The second was idiotic and the third was so ridiculous...that twenty years later, I can't help but laugh at the visual. ( Please note: they had major marriage problems within the first year of their matrimonial bliss AND I haven't seen them (by design) in ten-plus years AND I don't know or care if they are together now).
This couple's most mainstream hobby (remember they were both 33-34 at the time) was collecting miniature cups and saucers from different states, National Parks etc. I knew I should have kicked them both out when he asked, "How far are we from the Delaware border?"
In keeping with the miniature theme, their second hobby was a natural off-shoot of the cups and saucers...collecting miniaturized household items. Now I truly understand that in this woman, the guy was possibly getting his first taste of sex, romance or female companionship...EVER! But still to get excited in telling me where and how he found a half-inch lawn jockey or describing how he repaired and shellacked their latest printer's type drawer...made me nauseous.
YAWN ! A PRINTER'S TYPE DRAWER WHEN COVERED BY A GLASS OR PLASTIC WINDOW CAN BE HUNG ON A WALL TO DISPLAY A MINIATURE COLLECTION.
Yes, on paper this pitiful man's life was already over. But we haven't even touched on hobby number three. To "unwind" after a long day of searching, flea markets, yard sales, Goodwill Centers and curio shops for a tiny Heinz ketchup bottle, he liked to sit with her and do macrame. That's KNITTING! Geez, it's mind boggling to what length some people will go for "quality" time with their mate.
To be supportive of the couple's eccentricities, we suggested a visit to nearby Smithville. Smithville is a picturesque, outdoor tourist trap with about 100 specialty shops...many of which cater to collectors (oddballs).
I remained a champ for over an hour despite being dragged through more stores whose name's started with "Ye Olde" than you could ever imagine. They bought-up skeins of yarn, a little SMITHVILLE NJ cup and saucer set and dozens of itsy-bitsy items like; pots, pans, a Tabasco bottle, an old-fashion train conductor's hat, New Jersey state flag, frogs, penguins, a waffle iron, the thimble from an antique Monopoly game and so much more.
At the forty minute mark, I experienced my first taste of bile from the on-set of full-blown boredom. To rescue him and get the awful taste out of my mouth I suggested, "Let's go for a beer." He said with wide-eyed enthusiasm, "Wait till later. If the girls don't mind, we can get drinks at lunch. First, let's see what kinds of minis they have in, Ye Olde Coffee Outlet."
Later, with the salvation of eating a meal at least one more quaint store away, I nudged him as we passed, "Ye Olde Sports Memorabilia Outlet." I knew he was a lost cause when he answered, "What could we POSSIBLY want in there?"
While inside Ye Olde Yarn Outlet, I was actually appreciating the subtle color difference between burnt sienna yarn and regular sienna. Suddenly a bolt of lucidity spasmed through my body as the fear of being lured into a less manly lifestyle occurred to me. Scared straight, I snapped out of my funk when Mr. Desperate's lady held up a spool of beige yarn and said, "Hun, do you think we need more ecru?" I felt like the wolf who eats through its own arm to free itself from a bear trap. I disregarded accountability to the women as well as the physical and mental health hazards associated with them and took the direct path to normalcy. I grabbed this poor unfortunate bastard's elbow and lead him out to the bright shining freedom of the great outdoors. Randomly I said, "C'mon, you gotta check this out."
Fate was accidentally on my side. Just when my bum's rush was losing its momentum, he stopped. Not to go back in, but in reverence to the one thing he cherished for himself. To this day, I'll swear I heard holy music as he seemingly levitated and floated diagonally across the mall. When his feet came back to earth, he urged me through the open door of, Ye Olde Video Store Outlet. Inside, he found a treasure trove of vintage posters, Hollywood photos, replica props and obscure VHS movies for sale.
Somehow he only came out with two items; a porcelain, two-foot Charlie Chaplin figurine and a 1957 movie I never heard of. When we were all re-united, he announced to the girls, "Steve never heard of, "ZERO HOUR!" Looking at his statue, I thought of the song Charlie Chaplin wrote called, "SMILE." That's the one with the lyric; Smile though your heart is breaking. Nat King Cole made it a smash hit in the 50's and Michael Jackson once said that it was his favorite song.
Maybe that figurine was a subliminal cry for help. Once you get beyond that stupid grin on his face, Mr. Whipped, with all his personality flaws must have been really dying on the inside.
When Mr. Hardup saw the girl's empty expressions, he went into damage control and added, "This is the film that 'AIRPLANE!' is a parody of."
A SERIOUS DRAMA, "ZERO HOUR!" IS ABOUT A WORLD WAR II FLIER WHO IS DISGRACED BY AN UNAVOIDABLE WAR-TIME ACCIDENT AND IS HAUNTED SO BAD THAT 12 YEARS LATER HE STILL WON'T FLY, EVEN AS A PASSENGER.
When he mentioned Airplane! I understood, (click on the link below for Zero Hour's original theatrical movie trailer).
I was vaguely familiar with Zero Hour! In it, the pilot and co-pilot are knocked out of commission by eating, tainted fish. I knew I hadn't seen the movie in centuries and despite how hilarious Airplane! was (and still is), I had no interest in investing another unnecessary 90 minutes with this clown by watching his new toy. Maybe he was a nerd after all.
IN ZERO HOUR! NFL HALL-OF-FAMER ELROY "CRAZY-LEGS" HIRSCH (RIGHT) PLAYS THE PILOT. IN AIRPLANE! PETER GRAVES PLAYS THE PARALLEL ROLE.
This past week, I stumbled across "Zero Hour" on TURNER CLASSICS MOVIES (TCM). I bet I haven't seen it in 30 years. A two-two and a half star movie, I thought it was pretty bad and in the middle, fell asleep for thirty minutes. Aside from a lot of silly and dated dialog, the acting was decent and the ending...even though I knew the outcome was exciting.
STERLING HAYDEN AS TRELEAVEN, A NO-NONSENSE CONTROL TOWER LEADER TALKS SHATTERED EX-FIGHTER PILOT (DANA ANDREWS) DOWN.
The real reason I would recommend Zero Hour! is because of the much more famous 1980 spoof movie Airplane! While Airplane! is a take-off of all disaster movies, it concentrated its material from Zero Hour! Usually its best to see the original first. In this case, I think if you see the parody first, then Zero Hour!, the results will be better...because it'll be funny too.
IN AIRPLANE! LLOYD BRIDGES HAS THE STERLING HAYDEN ROLE. IT IS BRIDGES WHO SAYS, "WHAT A WEEK I PICKED TO STOP SNIFFING GLUE." (among other abusive habits)." IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT IN THE ORIGINAL STERLING HAYDEN DOES IN FACT SAY, "WHAT A WEEK I PICKED TO STOP SMOKING CIGARETTES."
More interesting tidbits; the use of an exclamation point at the end of the title (Airplane!) Was taken from Zero Hour! Airplane's title in Germany was; The Incredible Trip in a Crazy Airplane. At first Peter Graves turned down the role because he thought the script was insulting. In Argentina, the title was translated to; And Where's the Pilot? SURELY YOU KNOW LESLIE'S NIELSEN'S CAREER AS A SERIOUS ACTOR WAS AT A STANDSTILL WHEN AIRPLANE! MADE HIM A COMIC SENSATION...YES, I DID KNOW THAT BUT STOP CALLING ME SHIRLEY !
Another funny bit of trivia in Airplane! was when the doctor says, "We have to find someone who can not only fly this plane, but who didn't have fish for dinner!" What makes that more hilarious is that the line is taken...word-for-word from the ultra-serious original.
IN AIRPLANE! ROBERT HAYS IS THE RELUCTANT PILOT...THAT'S RIGHT, THERE WOULDN'T BE MUCH OF A PLOT IF HE DIDN'T EAT THE LAMB CHOPS.
The laughs in Airplane! are fast and furious...even if a gag bombs, there's always another right behind it. So if you still need an extra push to see it, click on the link below. Its the movie trailer. I guarantee it'll make you laugh and want to see the whole movie.
Well, I can't speak for that other couple because every relationship is different. But I think its a good gauge to see how buried you might be...especially if you are considering getting serious with someone new...to at least find out if they think Airplane! is funny. Otherwise you won't get your vector from Victor or clearance from Clarence...do you roger that Roger?
Monday, August 24, 2009
Although far from ideal, my childhood was somewhere in between the two films...however, let me make this perfectly clear, my mother's demeanor was infinitely closer to Irene Dunne. Still she had her momentary flaws like the time I got lost at Jones Beach. Many of you may recall that "MAD MAGAZINE" did an expose on that event in 1959.
Like any normal four year old, something along the shoreline caught my eye. I drifted away from the pack and got lost in the crowd. Several minutes later I turned inland and couldn't find our home-base. In the mean time, panic set-in when mom realized I was gone.
My mother knew calling dad, (he worked a 60-hour week) with the news that I vanished was out of the question. Despite being frantic, she organized a search-party posse. Along with a couple of my aunts, she enlisted other women...and the Stevie scavenger hunt was on.
I wasn't there to witness just how freaked-out this made my mom but the MAD MAGAZINE article portrayed their woman as saying, "Where's my baby...oh god help me...I'll kill anyone who harms a single hair on his head."
A block away, I soothed my disorientation by befriending a bunch of kids. In no time, I was having a grand ol' time, giggling, digging tunnels and eating CHEEZ-DOODLES. Unfortunately, my idyllic five minutes in limbo was interrupted by one of my aunts. Like landing a trophy marlin, she grabbed me hard by the wrist and lifted me in the air. Luckily she didn't pull my arm out of the socket.
Clutched against her ample bosom, I strained to divert my eyes from the cable-wire-like hairs protruding from the mole on her chin. I was still squirming to get free when she wailed, "You're gonna get it." Auntie brusquely wove a path between the beach blankets. When I saw my mother, she was nearly in tears as she ranted to bewildered strangers, "Help me find my baby."
When mom saw me she hugged me. Then she saw the orange cheez-doodle dust on my mouth and hands, and screeched, "What were you having...a party?" Now I'm not saying that my mom invented PMS...however, its widely accepted that she was one of the early research pioneers. So, just as some guy said, "Lady, DON'T hit him..." Wham! I got a stinging open hand across the face...ah yes, home-spun corporal punishment...remember, in those days, smacking your kid in public was highly acceptable.
That same man...my only hope for salvation...became mute and powerless when he saw the passion of mom's infuriated eyes. With his bravado shrunken, all hope of intervention on my behalf disappeared. I guess, he decided against restraining her when he realized that she was a Leo. Instead, to the appreciative nods of the other moms, my mom stepped-up the carnage. Whatever dangers and/or predators I might have been exposed to in the wild, my mom was worse. She delivered her own ten-fold brand of discipline and clobbered me. In a seemingly never-ending, near-lethal dosage of slaps, screams and threats, it was branded into my psyche, to NEVER wander off again. In my adolescence, the profound nature of that lesson surely stunted my puberty by six months.
Another of mom's peccadilloes became clear to me when I got older. She had a gimmick that kept my sister and I from trying to stay (unnecessarily) home from school. In fact, it worked so well, I frequently went to school when marginally sick, to avoid the torture of cleaning my room, closets, and the basement. Even wintertime holidays like, Lincoln's birthday were unappreciated because the work at home was more tedious than anything at school.
Mom might have had other less than golden moments but luckily there weren't many. That's why I prefer to dwell on her overwhelming goodness.
Two days ago, on August 22nd we celebrated mom's 79th birthday. We took her out to the "OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE" and had a little soiree in her honor. (See last year's blog...that party was at "LENNY'S CLAM BAR.")
CAT-FIGHTS? YOU CAN SEE THOSE ANYWHERE. BUT THE DYKER HEIGHTS (BROOKLYN) OUTBACK OFFERS UNIQUE AMBIANCE...FIVE MINUTES AFTER THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN, TWO WAITRESSES HAD A KNIFE FIGHT.
During her party mom was a true lady as we roasted her with petty jokes. She was also gracious when we filled the air with compliments. Certainly when you considered how well-adjusted and successful her children turned-out...assuming I'm staying current with my meds, she deserves a lot of credit for her unconditional love, devotion, leadership qualities and patience.
So please join me in wishing her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY and many more.
Hopefully you'll rent, "THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN." I guarantee, you'll come away from the experience with a deeper appreciation of your mom.
Also, "I REMEMBER MAMA," is frequently aired on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). If you're like me, you'll love the characters and the story, but more importantly you'll reflect on the dedication and sacrifice your mom made to improve the quality of your life. That's why I get misty every time I hear the closing line of the movie, "Most of all, I remember mama."
Monday, August 17, 2009
In this most awkward of "first-day" moments, every other "newbie" I ever was exposed to was overwhelmed, bashful or scared. But not tiny Fidel Gil (in Spanish, his last name is pronounced "heel"). Belying his size, this kid had tons of charisma to the point of star power. When he spoke to the class, despite his high-pitched voice, he displayed poise and intelligence as he described in refined English, the circumstances that led his family's move to Canarsie from Buenos Aires.
The whole class gravitated to vertically challenged Fidel. We loved his cute little Argentine accent, his adorable ever-happy disposition and infectious personality.
Fidel's charm was supported by a thick mop of curly black hair, chubby jowls and small hands that featured baby-like undeveloped knuckles. He became our class mascot and during recess or after school, Fidel loved being handled. The boys...including myself, liked picking him up, pinching his cheeks or mussing his hair. The girls treated him like a lap dog. They pet him and put bows in his hair. Had he not stopped them, they would have dressed him up like a doll.
The next year Fidel was in my class again. It's unclear why, but he decided to abbreviate his name to Del. I doubt it was to maintain his shortness theme...so maybe he was in solidarity with the area's large Cuban population who hated Castro or wanted to come-off as more Americanized. Either way, our friendship blossomed in September and October. He lived on the other end of the school district but I rode my bike and hung-out with him many times.
When football season got into full swing, it became obvious that Del was disinterested in it. He hated the colder weather outside and because he was foreign, he had no idea of the rules or how to play. At first, he tried but it was frustrating and embarrassing that he couldn't compete. Soon, he expressed a specific desire to NOT get involved. Unfortunately for our friendship, sports was an important part of my life. Therefore the luster of Del's novelty began to wear thin. In the heart of the winter, it got dark early and was too cold to bike to his house. We remained close in school but spent nearly no other time together.
When it warmed up, I found out he didn't want to play baseball either. We drifted apart. In sixth grade, we were in different classes and fell out of touch. In the summer before seventh grade, (1967), his family moved. It would be eleven years later when I bumped into him one last time.
In the mid-70's, a few doors down from the infamous Tip-Top Diner and three blocks from Lundy's, my favorite restaurant in the world, was the Davy Jones Bar. Located in Sheepshead Bay, across the street from the picturesque flotilla of party (fishing) boats on Emmons Avenue, Davy Jones was a popular Brooklyn watering-hole when I was in college. On weekend nights, you could count on the place being so packed that you could barely move.
Harry closed each gig with his signature song, "THE ROLLING STONES" smash, "SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL." It was an especially big crowd-pleaser because he trained his audience to replace the doo-ta-doo chorus by singing out "F*** YOU!" Ah yes, you can't put a price-tag on the sophisticated, high-level of entertainment we Brooklynites demand.
In March 1978, during my Jameson chased by Heineken phase, I sat at the bar on a snowy, raw and windy Thursday night. Harry was between sets so it as fairly quiet when I felt a tap on the shoulder and heard a baritone voice say, "Hey Steve." I turned around and some pudgy guy stood there grinning. I didn't recognize him. I'm usually good with faces and I wasn't drunk but still, I drew a complete blank. Before I could say you must have me confused with somebody else...he said, "It's me Del, Fidel Gil."
After we hugged, he sat down and drank with me. He said, "I moved to Miami in seventh grade. I got a bimmie-job at Hialeah race track and quit school. After I while I decided to become a jockey." He was now my height and heavier than me so I said, "Really?" "Well," he sighed, "I sort of filled-out. When I was seventeen, friggin' puberty came out of nowhere and hit me hard. But I stayed in racing and now I work as a groom at Aqueduct." Later when the booze took effect on him he whispered, "On Saturday, the fix is in! And the smart money is on Power Judge in the fourth. He'll probably go-off at ten-to-one. It's the feature race...you can even watch it live on TV."
Early Saturday afternoon, together with my current FACEBOOK friend AK and another long lost buddy, we went into the OFF TRACK BETTING parlor on Rockaway Parkway. Without trying to insult MRDIMES or any other of my horse racing readers, OTB was filthy, smoky and disgusting. In the short time inside, I saw a cockroach vomiting. The only thing that separated OTB from a New York subway station waiting room was that the cloud of intense body odor there was actually worse than the subterranean stink of stale urine. I was so grossed, that to avoid getting the streets dirty, I wiped my feet before leaving.
I COULDN'T FIND AN OTB PICTURE THAT CAME CLOSE TO CAPTURING THE NAUSEATING AMBIANCE AND CHARACTERS THERE IN '78...TO LAS VEGAS' CREDIT, I SAW SIMILAR LOW-LIFES IN SUCH RACE AND SPORTS BOOKS AS: LEROY'S AND CHURCHILL DOWNS...BUT I NEVER FELT THREATENED.
At the betting window I saw our horse was going off at eight-to-one. I handed over a five and five singles and said, "Power Judge! Ten bucks on the nose in the fourth at Aqueduct." In a similar way AK followed suit and my other friend said the same thing but three of his dollars was loose change.
We drove back to AK's ground floor apartment on Ralph Avenue. Although it was cold, it was the first sunny day in a long time. From the car, we hurriedly navigated through the mine-field of melting slush. AK acknowledged a few of the senior citizens who crammed benches along the walkway to the main entrance. To me, most of them seemed to be hoping that we'd slip on the ice.
When Johnson roared, "Down the stretch we come!" The three of us were yelling at the top of our lungs as Power Judge flew into third place. In the last furlong, he roared into second. A few lengths from the finish it was obvious that he was going to overtake the favorite. For an instant, the two magnificent steeds ran neck-and-neck. AK broke the tension by screaming, "I can't believe this is happening." As Power Judge surged ahead, the leader horse mis-stepped into his path. Power Judge was knocked him off stride. After the bump, that stupid interferring horse maintained his speed and cruised to victory.
In anticipation of our victory by technicality, our hearts raced faster than the ponies for the next five minutes. When Johnson finally made the announcement that the winner had been disqualified, we screamed our heads off again. Although Power Judge was indeed impeded from winning, he still finished THIRD not second. After the results were changed, Power Judge "placed" which means he was bumped-up to second place...not first! We bet him to win...so we still lost.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I HAD NO IDEA ABOUT HIM LOSING THE RUBBER CHICKEN...BUT AT LEAST I GAVE HIM A "CHUBBY" THAT HE'LL DEFINITELY HAVE FOREVER.
I wish Frank well. And I hope he remembers that wherever he goes and whatever he does, he'll always have a friend in me.
He drove his Pacer off into the western sunset last night. I would have felt better if he had a spare tire, those donuts aren't designed for the long haul. If he gets in trouble, at least he'll have the warm memories of that old rubber chicken, my party and the chubby I gave him...to carry him through the 3000 miles home.
Monday, August 3, 2009
In New York, this demonstration would be a pick-pocket's paradise. At one point I checked my wallet and surveyed the congregation. I had all my stuff and nobody looked suspicious.
My mind wandered to my dad. He was an artist and would have appreciated this five minute show. Hell, even Van Gogh would have turned over in his grave for a better look at this guy in action.
We loved the one he was working on and were tempted to buy it. Only we didn't want to schlep it around and we knew our hands were already full to get back on the plane.
In a final crescendo filled with theatrics, the artist spun and dabbed and etched in such a feverish pace that our heads spun as much as the lazy-Susan. When he stopped, like magic, the landscape was suddenly finished. You'd think he was Salvador Dali when the gallery erupted in applause and whistling.AT NIGHT, BIGGER CROWDS COME TO SEE THE EXCITING LASER LIGHT SHOW SET TO MUSIC, PROJECTED ONTO THE BOTTOM OF THE CANOPY. THERE ARE ALSO TWO SOUND-STAGES THAT FEATURE ORGANIZED (usually free) CONCERTS. THE BIG NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY THERE HAS BECOME A VEGAS TRADITION.
We stayed four nights downtown and each morning I did my power-walk. You get a false sense of comfort under the canopy because when you get out into the sunshine (at 7AM it was always at least 90 degrees), you want to die. The heat is staggering and with no shade, there's no place to hide.
THE UNBEARABLE HEAT OF PRE-CANOPY FREMONT STREET, (1983). BACK THEN, IN THE STYLE OF "AMERICAN GRAFFITI," IT WAS A BIG DEAL FOR HIGH SCHOOL DRIVERS TO CRUISE "GLITTER GULCH" ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT.
While I was walking east along Charleston Boulevard, I discovered that the slums are still there. Despite the urban renewal adjacent to the hub of downtown, away from the action, homeless people slept in the shade of tattered shrubs, countless drunks wandered around and other poor folks whose Vegas dreams never materialized watched me chug by.
Some desperate people become low-level casino hustlers. They hope for simple freebies like, liquor, cigarettes, food or abandoned slot machine vouchers.
Being a 30-year casino employee, I am sensitive to higher level hustlers. These hucksters/grifters/scam artists etc., look to "earn" a free gambling stake by manipulating the weak or less savvy gamblers. Most use hard luck stories but others sell get-rich systems, are prostitutes, loan sharks etc. Luckily I didn't encounter any of that.
What I did encounter was surprising. Away from the casinos, in mundane places like; stores, parking lots and gas stations, a new form of pan-handling was going on. I guess with the economy in the toilet...unemployment in Las Vegas is at an all-time high...many clean-cut people make up the hordes of a new generation beggars. Very sad.
Later, we went back into the big strip hotels. On our way to the Wynn Casino there was a broad alley between Harrah's and the Flamingo. Similar to the downtown pedestrian mall, this area was crammed with booths selling anything you could imagine. Therefore it was a shock to see another "struggling artist" with the EXACT same set-up, EXACT same prices and EXACT same paintings.
I'm guessing there was some sort of template going on because the painting were NOT similar, they were the same! I'm glad I didn't buy one and I felt dirty for dragging my father's memory into association with that crap. And forget about poor Van Gogh's ear, chances are, he would have cut his head off after seeing that.