Monday, December 27, 2010

I CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT HYPERTHYMESIA MEANS

Don't you hate walking into a room and having no idea why you went in. Earlier today, it happened to me. I went into my garage and stared at my pantry like a deer, frozen by oncoming headlights. In the hope of finding sudden inspiration, I scratched my head and hoped for a clue but it never came. Even a second glance at cling peaches in heavy syrup, Ikea brand light bulbs and a rusty can of WD-40 didn't help. Ten minutes later, I got little consolation when I was busy upstairs and remembered that I went into the garage for a screwdriver.

Don't be alarmed, little episodes like this are common. They don't represent the onset of senility or the early stages of dementia. They are normal brain spasms that can happen to anyone. In any case, these lost moments of bewilderment might be annoying to you but they really piss me off. You see, I have developed an image for having a great memory.
Down through the years, I have amazed my family, friends and acquaintances with this talent. Because of it, I have been honored with several nicknames. RBOY has dubbed me, "Instant Recall Edelblum." RW coined the moniker, "The Incredible Edelsteen" and "The Argument Ender"was presented to me by M "The Refrigerator" P. And let's not forget my original memory-driven nickname which goes back so far, even I can't recall who first called me, "The Storehouse of Useless Information."

My uber memory never rests. Recently, I even impressed myself by pulling the names of three forgotten people out of thin air. The first happened when I saw a man walking by at my job. Without hesitation, I called out his name. We exchanged pleasantries and old times. He then said, "I haven't been here in five years, how did you remember my name?" I told him the truth, "In this racket, its easy to remember the very good and the very bad...and you my friend, are very good."

Last week, another man came by and when we caught eye-contact, we shared an immediate, mutual regard. In a short time, I had a clear picture of who he was. I didn't remember his name but remembered his wife's name. After I recounted some details from our shared history, he told me that he hasn't seen me since his family moved to Arizona, seven years ago. I used that statement as a foot in the door to refer to his wife by her first name and ask if she was there. It's funny because when he brought her by, I wouldn't have recognized her in a million years.

A few days ago, a third man came to my roulette game. I was looking right at him and he didn't look familiar. So I stuck to the standard casino greeting during a buy-in. I said, "What can I get for you?" "Five dollar chips." "Yes sir, two hundred in nickels. Good luck." "Thanks." "Would you like to be rated?" "Nah."

Something about the way he said, "Nah," struck me. Every chance I got, I studied his face. But I was getting nothing. When he lost and bought in again, I concentrated on his voice. I wondered, was he a player I hadn't seen for a while, a relative of my son's friends, a long lost student or a someone from the neighborhood? I went forward with the notion that he was a long-lost coworker and engaged him in a more personal conversation. In no time, I had my answer because I recognized his voice.

I asked, "Does your last name start with an M?" He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Yes." Does your last name have four letters?" He said, "Yes." I said, "You're Chris, you used to come here a lot..." Before I could finish my sentence he said, "I haven't been here for ten years."

He appreciated that I remembered him, his hometown and one of our old conversations, (the Cowtown Rodeo). Geez, maybe I could have made a better living as a memory expert. Of course, somebody who does that like The Amazing Kreskin, rely on parlor tricks but are still highly regarded as entertainers.
GEORGE KRESGE WAS BORN IN MONTCLAIR NEW JERSEY ON JANUARY 12, 1935. FOR PROFESSIONAL REASONS, HE LEGALLY CHANGED HIS NAME TO THE AMAZING KRESKIN, (T. A. KRESKIN IN CASINOS). BILLED AS A MENTALIST, THE HEIGHT OF HIS NOTORIETY WAS IN THE 1970's WHEN HE HAD HIS OWN TV SHOW AND APPEARED ON JOHNNY CARSON 61 TIMES.

Regardless of Kreskin's schtick, he made me laugh all three times he spoke to me in the casino. Every time he was walking fast past my table. I waved and said, "Hi Mr. K." With a big smile and a shrug he always said, "I can't remember where I parked?"

What if I was to tell you that there is something similar to a photographic memory called hyperthymesia. And unlike Kreskin, this phenomena is no gimmick. It's an ability for people to have nearly total recall to the significant moments in their lives...as well as tons of trivialities. Hyperthymesia is more widely referred to as, superior autobiographical memory and has only recently gained clinical acceptance.

Last Sunday, the TV show, "60 MINUTES, " did a fascinating expose on hyperthymesia.
"60 MINUTES," HAS BEEN A STALWART TV NEWS MAGAZINE ON CBS SINCE 1968. DURING THAT TIME IT HAS EARNED 75+ EMMYS AND TODAY, IS AS POPULAR AS EVER.

The show's producers found six individuals who fit the superior autobiographical memory criteria. These people were subjected to a battery of memory tests. These tests included specifics about random dates, categorizing events from the same date but from different years and even included what was worn, eaten, said, etc. One of the subjects was actress, author Marilu Henner.MARILU HENNER WAS BORN, MARY LUCY DENISE PUDLOWSKI, IN CHICAGO, ON APRIL 6, 1952. SHE IS BEST KNOWN FOR PLAYING ELAINE NARDO ON THE TV SIT-COM, "TAXI," FROM 1978-1982.

The 60 Minutes segment on Henner included her stating names, dates and complete dialogs of obscure TV commercials she appeared in. She also was asked to describe her thought process to mentally organize her memory data. She finished by taking a camera crew into her bedroom closet. She then rattled off the date she bought shoes and the date she first wore them.

Another subject was a Pittsburgh Steeler fan. He was asked to identify the last two times his team lost to the Redskins. After he succeeded, he was then asked to recall the score of their previous eighteen meetings...which he did within seconds. He even accurately recalled a 1979 player injury from a CBS broadcast. The network had archive footage of that game and ran it for the home viewers as he strolled down Memory Lane describing the most minute details.

This is a small sample of what these folks can do. To fully appreciate this talent/affliction you really need to see this piece for yourself. All I can say is, I came away convinced that they were not frauds. Even a scientist acting as an independent arbiter believed that when the subjects told him something that they were 99% right. He then hesitated and said, "No 100% right."

So if you were ever astounded by my memory or truly amazed by Kreskin, you'll be completely blown-away by this "60 Minutes" episode. Beyond the entertainment factor, researchers hope that perhaps someday, the roles will be reversed and those who don't have superior autobiographical memory will be considered the freaks of nature. On a grander scale, their true goal will be to discover a way to unlock this brain potential, to minimize or perhaps eliminate Alzheimer's Disease.

The next time you go to the grocery store for five items be sure to make a list, because you'll probably forget at least one thing if you don't write it down. Then when you get home, click on the two links below to check-out, "60 MINUTES," the "ENDLESS MEMORY," segment from December 19, 2010.

Please note that there are 2 parts, each about 14 minutes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zTkBgHNsWM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1th1fVIc8Vo

Just in case you already forgot, you can also find it on YOUTUBE.

Monday, December 20, 2010

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN COOTIES ON THE WALL AT MY HOUSE

The greatest dilemma of our generation is, what gift do you get somebody who has NOTHING and wants NOTHING?

Every holiday season this mystery crops up at my house and goes unsolved. I know this to be true because I am that somebody who has nothing and wants nothing. Family members and friends have sincerely tried to crack this case. Despite these failures, each year I still get inundated with different versions of their perception of my needs while my attic overflows with a plethora of uselessnesses.

To avoid being called an ingrate, I'm forced to humbly accept a multitude of tripe which are; upgrades of things I'm already satisfied with, clothes I won't wear and do-dads that I have absolutely no interest in, such as the mushroom brush fiasco of 2002.

A kind person close to my heart thought my love of mushrooms was going to explode into a thousand gastric orgasms when I was presented with a cleansing implement for my favorite edible fungi. Unfortunately, I recognized this kitchen gadget's lack of practicality and blurted my opinion. I was then vilified for coining the phrase, "I'd rather have the $2.99." Five years later however, I was proven to be right, we sold that bad boy at a yard sale...unopened in its original package, for a quarter.

If we trace back its roots, you'll see that I was not born with a trait for being difficult, it was learned, from my environment.

When I was five, TV commercials for a toy space station saturated kiddie programming. I coveted this baby and made sure I got the word out to Santa. Mr. Claus debated the worthiness of this contraption with his North Pole research team. When it was proven to fit down a standard chimney and discovered to be non-toxic...this Everest of playthings was left with one major hurdle; could a kindergartner poke his eye out with it? The argument raged well into the eleventh hour until Santa deemed it safe. So I got hooked-up.

Problems arose when the space station was attacked by the infamous Pencil-Necked Pin-Heads from the third moon of planet Xenon. Which means, I bashed this chintzy piece of plastic crap to smithereens within an hour of setting eyes on it. Despite my explanation of, "I saw it fly on TV," Kris Kringle made it clear that you don't throw big ticket items down the basement steps.

He then started a bland "lack of appreciation" themed lecture. He continued with only a trace sternness, "I had a lot of trouble getting that for you. Even me, good old St. Nick won't have access to a GPS for another forty years." Then as his emotion finally set in he closed with, "Me, Rudolph, Blitzen and Prancer were burnt-out early while taking the (expletive deleted), sleigh through a complex path to the last (expletive deleted) space station left in the (expletive deleted) universe. Moreover, he made it clear that in addition to needing thirty-two, 8-volt batteries, it took an inordinate amount of elf-hours to assemble...at a time when the brethren at the elf union were getting, double time and a half.

After I shrugged off the speech, I continued playing with the space station's splintered carcass. When Mrs. Claus saw how much fun I was having, she realized that laying the guilt-trip was not Santa's forte. She stepped in and as always, her expert use of this gimmick was deft, direct, seamless and everlasting. Like getting hit with a slushy snowball between the eyes, the effectiveness of her loud, embittered sarcasm was breath-taking. I suffered through her seemingly eternal verbal onslaught until my last iota of holiday spirit eroded away. But she did not stop. Mrs. C. would not be satisfied with me serving mere penance...she needed me to be scarred for life.

To protect my sensitivities and to avoid the possibility of future humiliation, I found it easier to NEVER want trendy items like; Mr. Machine, Mighty Matilda or the Combat board game, ever again.
IN 1960, IDEAL TOYS INTRODUCED THIS HI-TECH MARVEL. IN ADDITION TO SEEING MR. MACHINE'S INNER WORKINGS, HE COULD WALK AND MADE RINGING SOUNDS. DUE TO MRS. CLAUS' TONGUE LASHING, I NEVER INCLUDED THIS MUST-HAVE TOY ON MY WISH LIST. THESE DAYS, YOU CAN BUY AN ORIGINAL ON THE INTERNET FOR ABOUT $135.00.

My friend HJ had REMCO's aircraft carrier, "MIGHTY MATILDA." I can still recall its cool jingle set to, "WALTZING MATILDA." I was so jealous that when I went to his house that was all I wanted to play with. I even fantasized about it when I wasn't there. At about the same time, a moronic kid on my street intentionally swallowed a dime, nickel and a penny, (I told you he was a moron). Mrs. Claus made a big deal over this genius's hospitalization and tracheotomy. So when I considered all of Matilda's small pieces, it became a double no-brainer, to not ask for one of my own.
IN RETROSPECT, I COULD HAVE LIVED WITHOUT THIS ONE. THE PHOTO DOESN'T NEARLY MATCH THE 50-YEAR GRAND PICTURE OF IT IN MY MIND.

When I got a little older I really wanted the, "COMBAT," game. While playing it at another friend's house, my imagination ran wild as I invisioned my chest full of medals after heroically rescuing my buddies, single-handedly, from German Stalags.
THE GAME WAS BASED ON THE 1962-1967 TV SERIES, "COMBAT." I WISH THEY WOULD SHOW RERUNS BECAUSE I RARELY SAW HOW THEY ENDED...IT AIRED FROM 7:30 TILL 8:30, AT A TIME WHEN I WENT TO BED AT 8:00.

I wasn't the only kid who learned the hard way, not to expect much at the holidays. Apparently comedian Redd Foxx did too. He had a routine that included this line, "We were so poor that every year on Christmas Eve, my father would go outside. Then he'd loudly rattle and crash the garbage cans in the alley for my brothers and sisters to hear. Then he come in and and say that Santa was mugged and all our toys were stolen. After a few years of that, you just knew you weren't getting SHIT!"

So if you're struggling to find just the right present for me...forget it. I know that gift giving is a road paved with good intentions but please, don't bother. Do us both a favor and never confuse my love for cashews with a need for a cashew dispenser. And that cable-knit sweater imported from Scotland with the picture of the Loch Ness Monster...I can live without it. And most definitely, that two-year subscription to the Chia Pet of the Month Club would be wasted on someone with a limited acumen...such as my self.

What I really want is, peace on earth, an end to world hunger and a lifetime pass when they open a HOOTERS on my street. While such lofty desires might be out of your reach, I'll gladly settle for your continued readership of, "MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND." And if you want to get fancy, you can sprinkle on more criticisms, insights and/or encouragement.

BUT WAIT ! If you are ever in a retro-toy store...there was one other toy I dared not ask for because Mrs. Claus said it would mark-up her walls. I don't remember its name but it was from the early 60's. I did some computer research and checked vintage toys on the computer and EBAY. But I was armed with only a vague description and came up empty.

The outer shell of this hallow, plastic toy was the size of a baseball. It looked like a bug and had a pull-string mechanism attached to a series of suction cups hidden underneath. The idea was, you would hold it on a wall, pull the string and the bug would walk up.

So there, now you have something tangible that I don't have...and actually want. Don't worry, if you can't come up with the goods, I promise not to yell at you and make you feel so inadequate that you 'll require years of intense therapy.

Okay, I'll compromise with you, I'll settle for this toy's name, (HINT- I THOUGHT IT WAS A COOTIE...BUT I WAS WRONG).

Monday, December 13, 2010

IF AN E.T. LANDED ON AVENUE N, IT'D STILL HAVE TO WALK TWO BLOCKS TO P.

Did you ever notice that UFO's are never reported in Brooklyn? Its obvious to me why...those folks can't be bothered. My fellow Brooklynites know that if a weird civilization with inter-galactic capabilities from beyond Pluto had the technology to come that far, they would have already annihilated us for our resources. Or on the up side, they would've shared their profound knowledge with us to make this the ultimate party planet.

Whether you outsiders like it or not, what makes Brooklyn people tick is realism. We have too much going on and so much more on our mind to worry about mother earth being colonized and enslaved by the malevolent tulip people from planet Xenon.

This concept of realism is supported by Brooklyn's rigid perpendicular grids of numbered streets, (1 to 108) and lettered avenues, (A to Z) that dominate the borough. This system makes even more sense because as an example, house numbers off Avenue D...the fourth letter of the alphabet are in the 400's and houses numbers on avenues start with the previous cross street's prefix, like 9822 coming after 98th Street.

I grew up in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, on 103rd Street at Avenue N. Our address was in the 1300's because the preceding avenue, M, is the thirteenth letter. On the adjacent avenue, those address prefixes started with 102. Therefore, the straightforward approach to addresses is an important for a Brooklynites need for realism. So no matter what kind of wackiness I hear involving the Bermuda Triangle, Big Foot, Killer Crabs of the Canary Islands or some such nonsense, you should never be surprised by my, "seeing is believing," attitude. Plus, these convictions are consistent with tangible things as well as ethereal matters.

Some people might consider me boring when I shrug off their spacemen theories. When they scoff at me, my response always is; maybe you're right, but some things I have to see for myself. Besides that my mother taught me; its okay to be the only one out of a hundred to disagree with something. And if you truly think you are right, you should stick to your guns at all cost. However, you should realize that in a situation like that you are probably wrong. And when you are proven to be wrong, stand up, be a man and admit you were wrong. I try to be fair and look at most lopsided arguments from both points of view. I also try to pass-on that independent mindset to my son Andrew...so far, he, (not being a Brooklynite), has achieved less than stellar results.

I was using that sticking to your guns idea before entering my adolescence. While my peers were influenced by 1950's science-fiction movies, I never ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. Because these films weren't a threat, they were nothing more more than spooky or silly entertainment.

WHEN I WAS EIGHT, A FRIEND HAD A COMIC BOOK WITH A GIANT HYBRID DINOSAUR EAGLE RIPPING THE EARTH IN TWO ON THE COVER. IT WAS A REALLY COOL PICTURE BUT I COULDN'T FIND IN ON THE INTERNET.

In my teens, most of my Brooklyn friends and I were at peace with the notion that we weren't getting invaded from space. There were no marauding Martians attacking any time soon, intelligent extraterrestrials were non-existent and UFO's were nothing more than typos. Nevertheless, even a cynic like me can look up at an endless tapestry of stars and be inspired by its beauty and infinite possibilities.
WE TOOK MY SON TO THE AEROSPACE MUSEUM AT THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE WHEN HE WAS THREE. HE LOVED SEEING THE COLORFUL PLANET DISPLAY. WHEN HE WAS SEVEN, WE TOOK HIM TO THE STOCKTON COLLEGE OBSERVATORY WHERE HE SAW SATURN THROUGH A TELESCOPE. IT DIDN'T THRILL HIM BECAUSE THE REAL THING WAS AN ODD-SHAPED WHITE DOT. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE REALITY THRILLED ME.

I may not think there are Saturnites coming to eat our flesh but I have a deep appreciation for celestial bodies, our solar system and all of outer space. So much so that I couldn't wait for the 1973 arrival of the comet Kohoutek. Ballyhooed in the press as the, "comet of the century," it was commercialized, merchandised and advertised to be the greatest show "over" earth since Halley's comet.
VISIBLE FROM EARTH WITH THE NAKED EYE, HALLEY'S COMET IS THE MOST FAMOUS OF ITS KIND. THIS ONCE IN A LIFETIME SPECTACLE WON'T REAPPEAR UNTIL IN 2061. IT CAME AND WENT IN 1986...I DON'T RECALL HOW I MISSED IT?
Comet Kohoutek preceded Halley's big 1986 show by 13 years. It was reported that in New York City, the best night to see it would be March 7th. So my friends and I chose the top of the Kings Plaza Mall's parking garage to see it. THE KINGS PLAZA MALL OPENED IN 1970. IT WAS THE FIRST OVER SIZED, INDOOR SHOPPING MALL IN THE METROPOLITAN AREA.
We decided to make it an all night affair. We met in Sheepshead Bay, at the Pizza Bowl Restaurant on Avenue X for dinner. Afterwards, it was a short drive through Marine Park to Kings Plaza on Avenue U. It was with great expectation we reached the roof. However, the colossal building's bright lights hindered the show but far worse, even if it was pitch black, the thick cloud cover made the comet's humongous event, a dud.

To dull our senses after the big Kohoutek disappointment, we drove to the Chesterfield Lounge on Avenue H, in Flatbush. Over cocktails, our conversation switched from the comet to aliens. I was the only one who didn't believe that little green magma-spitting humanoids with oblong heads would strafe our planet in the immediate future.
Later, we split up. A bunch of people went home but me and three others ended the night at the Copper Penny (a Denny's type restaurant) on Avenue R in East Flatbush. Over cinnamon Danish and coffee, I continued my argument that red midget ramrod-shaped robots from Uranus weren't preparing to do a drive-by shooting of earth. "Yes," I added, "the cosmos is beautiful to look at and to ponder its possibilities...I'll even concede that there maybe something, or somebody out there...but I guarantee they won't be causing mayhem or melting the earth and drinking its nectar anytime soon.
One friend said, "C'mon, you never thought, even for one second..." I interrupted, "Well, yes I did." I told them in 1970, I had a girlfriend from Bensonhurst. One moonless night, we saw a movie on Kings Highway. After a snack at the Chock-Full o'Nuts lunch counter restaurant, we took a walk along the less congested Avenue P. Through the trees, she pointed out an unusual object in the sky. We ran out into the street for a clear view. She called it a flying saucer. I was thinking; no way, because these things don't really happen but I was too enamored to call her crazy. My opinion was getting swayed her way fast because this was NOTHING that I ever saw or could explain. With a silent gulp, I wondered if the fate of our world might depend on a couple of fifteen-year olds sounding an alert.
We became transfixed on the distant, high sky. The craft had an irregular strip of lights flashing along its bottom. In the blackness, we couldn't discern where this monstrous ship started or ended. We looked for help but at that hour there was nobody to share our discovery. So we just stared up at it in awe as the potential armada of lethal androids crept closer.
A lady walking her beagle puppy came up from East 13th Street. We stopped her and showed her our finding. She was equally puzzled at first but when the dog started barking and pulling her along, she shrugged, "I gotta go to work in the morning, so you two astro-nuts oughta get over it. Besides, kids your age should be home at this hour."
BEFORE SHE LEFT, THE WOMAN KNELT DOWN AND STROKED HER PET'S HEAD AND SAID, "IF ANY OUTER SPACE BASTARD MESSED WITH MY SLUGGO, THERE WOULD BE NO PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE THEY COULD HIDE...I'D KILL 'EM !"
A few minutes later, the menacing juggernaut became more defined when it was almost over head. It was a cigar-shape and the flashing red lights were running across the width of the narrow underbelly. That's when my girl turned around and said, "Those are letters...upside down!" I turned and read along with her, "C-O-M-I-N-G S-O-O-N G-R-A-N-D O-P-E-N-I-N-G K-I-N-G-S P-L-A-Z-A M-A-L-L."
I've never encountered anything stranger than that advertising blimp, so I rest my case...we're safe. But if you really want to be laughed at, tell someone from Brooklyn you didn't show up for their party because you were abducted by aliens.IF YOU FORGET YOUR HUSBAND'S BIRTHDAY, DON'T TELL HIM VENUSIANS IMPLANTED AN INTER-DIMENSIONAL TRANSPORTING DEVICE INTO YOUR SKULL...YOU'LL NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT.

All that really matters is, in Brooklyn, if aliens land on Avenue N and survive the street toughs, the aggressive drivers and the high volume of sarcasm, they'll still have to walk two blocks to P.

Monday, December 6, 2010

NATIVITY vs NEGATIVITY

We are bombarded with bad news every day. Even during the holidays, we are constantly reminded that the economy is tanking, unemployment is soaring, the future of health care is unsettled, the fabric of America's way of life is challenged by threats of domestic terrorism, tensions in the Mid-East seem like they'll never end, plus our military is being picked-off one by one in far off outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan...and if that wasn't enough...North Korea is now flexing its bullying muscles too. But somehow, this past Friday, just five miles away, I received an unexpected moment of calm that translated into the greatest gift of all, hope. This nice surprise happened at the Shoppes of Historic Smithville, (New Jersey)...when I "high-fived" Santa Claus.

Santa's early December arrival has been a Galloway Township tradition for years. Recently, the historic Towne of Smithville has been the honored host. But what is Smithville and what makes it historic?

Its earliest prominence relates to the Revolutionary War. At a time when Philadelphia, (60 miles west) was occupied by the British, colonial privateers/smugglers used Smithville's nearby Little Egg Harbor River to sneak in goods.

After the war in 1787, the Smithville Inn opened as a single-room stagecoach stop. Over the years it expanded several times and in 1952, it and seven adjacent acres were bought by a local couple and converted into a restaurant. Soon, houses and other buildings of the Revolutionary period were bought elsewhere and transplanted on their property. These visionaries then restored the antique buildings for commerce and historic Smithville was born.
MY PARENTS LIKED TO TAKE US TO THE SMITHVILLE INN, ON OUR WAY TO ATLANTIC CITY IN THE MID-60's.
In the early 1990's, the town was going through a down turn. While the Smithville Inn remained the anchor, nearly all the other shops closed. Luckily, the village was bought by a progressive party and slowly but surely, dilapidated Smithville was resurrected. This success story combined an aggressive marketing strategy, a contemporary flavor to its early-Americana theme and a sizable expansion.
A RELAXING STROLL THROUGH ITS 60+ SHOPS ISN'T COMPLETE WITHOUT CHECKING OUT THE SWANS, GEESE AND DUCKS IN AND AROUND THE LAKE.

Today, distant visitors and locals are lured to town by the brick sidewalks and cobblestone lined streets that are packed with specialty shops, restaurants, bars, theaters, a bed and breakfast and so much more. For kids, a boardwalk surrounds the revitalized waterfront of Lake Meone that has a carousel, arcades, paddle boats and the famous Smithville Railroad.

WHEN SMITHVILLE WAS GETTING RESTORED, I REMEMBER "TRACY THE CONDUCTOR," AGONIZING FOR MONTHS OVER HARD TO FIND LOCOMOTIVE PARTS. IN THE MEAN TIME, MY THREE-YEAR OLD ANDREW OPTED TO LIVE THE LIFE OF HIS "THOMAS THE TRAIN," FRIENDS BY WALKING... MANY, MANY TIMES, EVERY INCH OF ITS VACANT RAILROAD TRACKS.

In addition to Smithville being an important destination for travelers on their way to the shore, golfing or the casinos, it has maintained its greatness by attracting huge year-round crowds to special events. The Irish Festival, Haunted Halloween, Independence Day Parade, Oktoberfest, May Fest and this past Friday's arrival of Santa are some of those highlights. TO WELCOME SANTA AND SPICE-UP THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT, THE LAKE AND ITS WHARF ARE LIT UP.

We took Andrew to see Santa come to Smithville, twelve years ago. And while the deeper significance of the occasion might be lost on four-year olds, the special experience of coming out after dark, freezing and seeing the spectacle, can last a lifetime.

This week, my son recreated this joy by being a part of the festivities. He appeared as Batman with a group of other characters employed by, "FAIRYTALE ENTERTAINMENT," to fluff-up the crowd before Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived.

IN OCTOBER AT A FAIR IN ABSECON, BATMAN SITED THE SLOPPINESS FACTOR AND ADVISED A RANDOM YOUTH TO THE ADVANTAGES OF ICE CREAM IN A CUP OVER A CONE.

Santa's arrival is aimed at younger kids however it is popular with children of all ages. On Friday night, many families, to assure easier parking, came early and had dinner somewhere in Smithville first. In preparation for the extravaganza, one of the parking lots had been cordoned-off. About an hour before hand, a semi-circle of people began to form outside the partitioned area. Then to entertain the waiting crowd, teenagers such as my son came into the circle, in character costumes. They all braved the 30 degree elements but Cinderella had it worst because she wore a sleeveless dress and open toed shoes.

IF YOU SQUINT, THAT'S SUE AND I REVELING IN THE RAUCOUS FUN FEST.

The characters were given a rock star reception as they created a party atmosphere by interacting with their adoring fans. In addition to Batman; Cinderella, Woody from, "TOY STORY" and Belle from, "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST," appeared. Other characters such as; Mickey Mouse, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were provided by another talent agency.

To the delight and relief of the masses, the ever-punctual Santa arrived exactly at 6:30. First, the scene was cleverly set-up as a distance siren alerted everyone that something special was about to happen. The blaring calling card turned everyone's attention through the barren trees to an intense, bright light. The alarm pierced the cold night air as it neared while baritone car horns added to the excitement. Silhouetted through the woods, a hook and ladder slowly came into view. The hordes were now primed and nearly delirious with anticipation. Just when you thought the noise level couldn't get louder, the crowd gave out an emphatic cheer as the fire truck turned into the lot.

Parents pointed skyward to the top of the fire engine's extended ladder. And there he was, the symbol of endless possibilities, lit by a spot-light, three stories up. To see that jolly soul perched so high together with Mrs. Claus, it was easy to get choked up by happiness as they waved to the thrilled mob below. The illusion of flight was completed when fire truck did a victory lap around the parking lot. It stopped at the far end. The crow's nest bucket was slowly lowered to street level. I was directly in front of them as a firefighter opened the safety gate and allowed Mrs. Claus out first then Santa. The frenzy got better as the Claus's meet-n-greet included shaking the multitude of multi-cultural mini-hands.

SANTA THEN EARNED HIS GLOBAL ICON STATUS BY LISTENING TO KIDS EXPRESS THEIR INNER MOST NEEDS AND THEN HE RESPONDED WITH MESSAGES OF POSITIVISM.

The climax of the evening came when the Claus's led the other characters into the mosh-pit-like crush of the audience. I got to watch my scion mingle with the kids, answer questions and pose for pictures.

THE CAPED CRUSADER POSED FOR COUNTLESS PICTURES AND MADE A GAZILLION NEW FRIENDS.

I was especially proud when a dad finished snapping some photos and whispered to his wife, "Batman is the nicest one (character)." I was already on cloud-nine with the worries of the world a million mind-miles away when I turned and came face to face with Mr. Kris Kringle himself. In a reflex action, I offered him a high-five and to my pleasant surprise, he responded enthusiastically. So whenever you compare the nativity to negativity, the holiday season, however you celebrate it, will always win out. Trust me, I had a smile the rest of the night and a real feeling of hope and optimism that should not wear thin for a long time.

The next morning, Andrew and the Fairytale Entertainment players got a related gig when they again joined forces with Santa and Mrs. Claus for the Smithville Inn's character breakfast.
TO ADD TO THEIR NOTORIETY, ANDREW'S CREW WAS INTERVIEWED BY A COUPLE OF NEWSPAPERS INCLUDING THE GOTHAM CITY PEE-POTTERS PRESS.

This sold-out breakfast included two seatings of 300 people. Santa's opened the proceedings with his usual announcement that he's having trouble getting down some chimneys. He reminded all the kids to limit the cookies they leave for him, to three. And always, please, please, please, NO OATMEAL!

When I saw Andrew's satisfaction at the end I said, "If Karl Marx ever entertained kids as a character, nobody would have ever heard of Communism." Then I added, "Hopefully, this success will spark additional work for you and your comrades." When Santa hears those pearls of wisdom, maybe he'll want to high-five me again.

Monday, November 29, 2010

JE PARLE FRANCAIS...NOT !!!

What's with the French? They can't seem to get out of their own arrogant way and because of that they have become an international punchline.

In the past I have chronicled with amusement, their current "no fly zone" policy towards the United States and other allies as well as the lyric in their national anthem: we will water our furrows (crops) with the blood of our enemy. Beyond that, I avoid being swallowed up by the court of public opinion, so when I pick on the French, it's with good cause. The first of my negatives experiences with them happened when I was thirteen.
IN 1794, THE FRENCH ADOPTED, THE TRICOLOR FLAG, (above). THE FOLLOWING YEAR, "LA MARSEILLAISE," BECAME THEIR NATIONAL ANTHEM. CALL ME CRAZY BUT DOESN'T IT SEEM LIKE IT'S BEEN QUITE SOME TIME SINCE THEY WATERED CROPS WITH ENEMY BLOOD?

In July 1968, London was the first stop in the epic, Edelblum Family, European Vacation. An hour flight away, the second leg of our seven-countries in twenty-two days took us to Paris. We were glad to put the Brits language barrier and their confusing exchange rate behind us. But, au contraire, mon ami. In the short time it took to check into our hotel and get a snack, it got worse in the, "City of Lights." A quaint cafe took advantage of our naivete to the complexities of their money system...and robbed us.
THE EIFFEL TOWER WAS COMPLETED IN 1889. THIS GLOBAL ICON REMAINED THE WORLD'S TALLEST STRUCTURE UNTIL 1930. WHEN MY SISTER AND I WENT UP, OUR SARCASTIC TOUR GUIDE SAID, "BEING ON THE TOWER IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE IN PARIS...BECAUSE, ITS THE ONLY PLACE WHERE YOU CAN'T SEE THE TOWER!"

For the sake of math, our check at the restaurant that hoodwinked us was for 22 francs. My dad paid with a French 50 franc banknote. Instead of giving us 28 francs change, they bamboozled us by giving us 28 centimes change, (cents instead of dollars).
THE FRENCH WERE USING DEVALUED WORLD WAR II-ERA "FRANC" COINS AS CENTIMES. SO MY DAD'S CHANGE WAS, A TWENTY "FRANC" COIN, A FIVE AND THREE ONES.

Later at a gift shop, dad tried to pay for some items with the 20 franc coin. The shopkeeper refused it and said it was a common error among foreigners because the coin was actually 20 centimes. When we went back to the hotel, Dad returned to the restaurant. He told them the situation through an interpreter and was told that he was mistaken. When the Brooklyn in Dad exploded, he was informed that such a false charge was both embarrassing and slanderous...and if he persisted, the proprietor would call the police. Rather than risk an international incident over a few dollars, dad set aside his pride and principles.

For the next eight years my dad would recount that story many times. So it was justly ingrained in my mind at an early age that the French were weasels. When I was twenty-one, I embarked on my cross-country odyssey which included Mexico and Canada and ended in Le Belle Province...Quebec.

Among my fellow travelers, I heard that the French Canadians were smug just like the French and unkind to Americans and English speaking Canadians. I thought it was untrue because, I found Montreal to be a normal big city. I was never profiled as an American or treated poorly because I didn't speak French. At no point did I ever equate the people of this part of the Great White North with their uppity ancestral cousins in France...that opinion changed when I arrived in Quebec City.

Montreal might be the provincial commerce center but Quebec City is the capitol and political hub. It should be noted that for decades, the militant separatist movement to make Quebec its own country originated in Quebec City and is still maintained there. Therefore even the ordinary French speaking locals have a edginess, especially towards Americans and non-French speaking Canadians.

I stayed at a youth hostel in Quebec City. During a conversation with a group of Americans, we compared notes and agreed that on a limited budget you could survive there on such delicacies as French onion soup and Caesar salad. When we became more serious, the subject of all the public signs being in French was discussed. Then others complained about the rotten treatment and general pissy attitude being laid on them.

The next morning, we toured the city together. In the afternoon, we decided to picnic overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, on the grassy promenade next to the Chateau Frontenac.BUILT IN 1893, THE CHATEAU FRONTENAC WAS THE BACKDROP FOR THE 1953 MOVIE, "I CONFESS," STARRING MONTGOMERY CLIFT. ACCORDING TO THE GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS, IT IS THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED HOTEL IN THE WORLD.

To get our luncheon together, we split into committees. One group bought meat, another got cheese, others found a wine shop and me and some guy from Delaware went to a bakery. My buddy was too bashful so I wound up having to order the bread. For a few minutes before going in, I rehearsed saying, "Pan Francais, pan Francais, pan Francais."
The little bake shop was cluttered with customers but the robust baker at the cash register signaled us forward. I held up two fingers and muttered, "Pan Francais." The man's face lost its rosy cheeriness. He cocked his chef's hat back as if he were doing something distasteful and swiped the money from my hand. He splattered the change on the counter and literally threw the loaves at us. Then in a tone that would remind, "SEINFELD," fans of the Soup Nazi, he bellowed in English, "If you don't speak French, DON'T SPEAK FRENCH!" As we slunk out, I flashed back to the guillotine scene at the end of, "A TALE OF TWO CITIES." That's when he blithered, what I assumed were French insults, to the delight of the equally vengeful customers.

In November 1991, my wife Sue and I drove up to French Canada. It was in the mid-60's when we left Jersey but as soon as we got north of Glens Falls New York, we were in blizzard conditions. The three-lane highway was reduced to one and the 80 miles to the border at Plattsburgh, New York took forever. We cleared customs and suddenly the years of ignoring the Metric system in school slapped us in the face. We couldn't calculate the Celsius temperature but we knew it was freezing and the kilometer signs to Montreal left us estimating the 65 mile distance. But at least it stopped snowing.

It took ninety minutes to get there. Luckily, the city only had gotten a few inches of snow and they had a full day to clear it away. The streets were dry and we were able to get around. It warmed up a little so the next two days of sight-seeing were tolerable. Nothing really strange happened there except, we went into a souvenir store and the only clerk didn't speak English. What was really funny was...she greeted us by saying she didn't speak French, in French...so we spoke in English; well, she didn't speak English either. We did all our communication in Spanish.

THE MONTREAL BIOSPHERE IS A MUSEUM DEDICATED TO WATER AND THE ENVIRONMENT. IT WAS BUILT AS PART OF THE UNITED STATES PAVILION FOR THE WORLD'S FAIR (EXPO 67). THE CITY IS NOTED FOR ITS RESTAURANTS, SO WE ATE WELL. WE ALSO MARVELLED AT HOW UN-NEW YORK THEIR METRO (SUBWAY) WAS AND ACTUALLY SPENT A LOT OF TIME IN THEIR WARMER, LABYRINTH OF SUBTERRANEAN SHOPPING.

On our way to our actual destination, a bed and breakfast in Quebec City, we stopped about halfway in the town of Drummondville. We gassed-up and got lunch. The Frenchies spotted us a mile away and ignored us. I had to get up and get us menus and then had to summon an aloof waitress. The food was okay but almost twenty years later, I still wonder about that lumpy thing in my last swallow of coffee...

Quebec City lived up to my romantic build-up, but there was still a lot of ice, snow and slush all about. Our first stop was a shopping mall because we were wearing sneakers. At the shoe department of The Bay, (a huge Macy's-like store) no one admitted that they spoke English. The staff was so callous that at the risk of missing a sale, they offered no help. We had to survey the patrons ourselves until we found a willing translator.

The walled portion of the city has narrow, cobblestone streets that are reminiscent of nineteenth century Paris. A tourist bonanza, arty boutiques, intimate bars, cafes and vintage hotels were everywhere. We tried to stay on the sunny side of the street but that strategy almost proved lethal. It's hard to believe but true, ignorant bastards were shoveling snow, willy-nilly off three-story rooftops. Judging from the heavy splatter on the street and sidewalk, someone could really get hurt. Their liability insurance laws must be awfully lenient or maybe there's a bounty on Americans? Either way, how can they tell if the innocent pedestrians below (like us) spoke French? So I'm guessing the locals knew better and stayed away.

In the evening we got a late start for dinner. We scurried like Eskimos through the icy streets until we arrived at the huge, gourmet restaurant a half-block from the Chateau Frontenac. We were shivering as we entered the bar area that separated two identical, over-sized dining rooms. A gazillion employees met us as we came in. Among this gang were; a maitre d, some waiters, bus boys, a bartender, bar porter, hat check girl, a female harpist and the manager.

The maitre d greeted us by saying something in French. I said, "We don't speak French." In an obnoxious tone he said, "Do you have reservations?" It was mid-week, out of season, freezing, nearly 9:00PM and only one of the hundred tables was occupied. I looked into the cavernous empty dining room and said, No, we don't have reservations." His response was a snippy, "Then you'll have to wait in the bar." "Here we go again," I whispered to Sue. She said, "I can use a drink anyway and this is no time to start window shopping for another restaurant."

I was annoyed the whole ten minutes until our table was "ready." We were led through the elegant room to a primo table, in the furthest corner, overlooking the street. The maitre d pulled out Sue's chair as the waiter handed us menus. These morons must have had a good laugh in the kitchen because they spitefully left us alone with French-only menus. I called for the maitre d and asked him for English menus. He looked at me as if I had three heads and said, "I will translate." At our expense, he rambled through the bill of fair as if he was double parked. We were still clueless when he called over the waiter. On a wing and a prayer, we mutely ordered by pointing.

The first disappointment was the lobster bisque. I knew from my vast experience with Campbell's that I was eating generic tomato soup, albeit with a scant sliver of fruits de mer mixed in. Mr. Personality looked like he needed another laugh, so I summoned the maitre d. I politely told him, "I don't like the soup." He said, "For an additional $7.50, you can have onion soup." I was getting madder and madder and wasn't forking-over that much more for an inferior choice. I snarled, "What else you got?" He said, "For no additional charge you can have consomme." Rather than create a scene, I pushed the soup aside and said, "Forget it."

The rest of the dinner, the harp music as well as the service was excellent. The short-lived love-fest bubble abruptly ended when a busboy was using a small whisk broom to remove crumbs from the table cloth. The maitre d was wheeling over the dessert cart and stopped to rush over. He grabbed the broom and bitterly scoffed, "No Claude!" Then he humiliated the poor man with a French, sermon-like reprimand. I whispered to Sue, "What an ass-hole." She shushed me as the maitre d pushed the cart closer and the waiter poured coffee.

The pastries looked like individual works of art that belonged in the Louvre. What caught my eye was the colossal concoction that occupied the entire top rung of the cart...a circular, two-tiered cake that looked like a million eclairs glued together. Maybe they were closing and would have thrown the rest away but he cut me a slice that covered a dinner plate. When he set it in front of me, I nudged the dish aside to get a sweet-n-low for my coffee. This jerk bent down, got in my face hissed, "What's the matter, you don't like the cake either?"

I embrace other cultures and would love to say of the French, "vive la difference," but I just can't! This decision is more difficult because my son Andrew took that language and did so well. My tendency would have been to take him to Quebec City, but in that regard, he's going to have to find out for himself why the French and their ancestral cousins are an international punchline.

Monday, November 22, 2010

THE JUNIOR SHERLOCK HOLMES CLUB

So you want to be a detective? Figure this out! Because I can't.

Today, November 22, 2010, is the 47th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Like many others, I remember the exact spot I was standing in when I found out. DESPITE HIS SHORT TIME IN OFFICE, KENNEDY WILL BE FOREVER REMEMBERED AS ONE OF OUR GREATEST PRESIDENTS.

Two days later, as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on TV, I remember sitting on our couch with my sister and my Grandma Edelblum shrieking, "What's this country coming to!"

RUBY SHOOTING OSWALD WAS THE FIRST MURDER EVER SEEN LIVE, ON TV. FAR WORSE, IT SPAWNED AND PROTECTED THE GREATEST MYSTERY OF MY GENERATION.

A couple of more days later, I was watching JFK's funeral procession on my parents' bedroom TV and the sight of John Jr's good-bye salute to his dad became forever etched in my psyche. THIS POWERFUL IMAGE STILL LEAVES A LUMP IN MY THROAT.

Sadly, the debate of a lone gunman theory versus a colossal conspiracy remains unresolved. I hate to admit it but I can't stop waffling between the two notions. This is especially strange because I've been behind the fence, atop the grassy knoll at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Based solely on my instinct and an unscientific standpoint, I can't imagine the "kill-shot" coming from anywhere else, let alone one man (Oswald) so high up in the Texas Book Depository.
JULY 1976, I TOOK THIS PICTURE FROM THE BEHIND THE FENCE, ABOVE THE GRASSY KNOLL. THIS SPOT IS NINETY FEET FROM WHERE THE LIMOUSINE DRIVER CAME TO A COMPLETE STOP AFTER THE FIRST SHOTS RANG OUT. THAT SHORT PAUSE EITHER PURPOSELY OR ACCIDENTALLY SET-UP WHAT THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS BELIEVE TO BE KENNEDY'S "KILL SHOT."

Lone gunman? Major conspiracy? Like I said, we need a detective.
It just seems to me that whatever Kennedy explanation I hear last, is the one I agree with. This is especially true when noted psychologists assert that the public is in denial over the idea of such an insignificant person exterminating someone so important. Or that after all this time, not a single reliable source has stepped forward to identify other shooters or the master plan.

I am also guilty of allowing myself to be mesmerised by Oliver Stone's great 1991 movie, "JFK." This film was so spellbinding that it was easy for me forget it was fiction.

OLIVER STONE BORROWED WINSTON CHURCHILL'S QUOTE ON THE RUSSIANS WHEN HE HAD JOE PESCI'S CHARACTER, DAVID FERRIE SAY OF THE JFK ASSASSINATION, "ITS A MYSTERY. IT'S A MYSTERY WRAPPED IN A RIDDLE, INSIDE AN ENIGMA."

To further cloud the picture, the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) both came to the same, lone assassin conclusion, (but the HSCA did speculate that based on disputed, acoustic evidence that there was the probability of a conspiracy).

Deep down, I doubt that today's government has anything to gain by failing to disclose vital JFK assassination data. That's why it is both annoying and embarrassing that a country with so many resources can't provide closure to the greatest puzzle of my generation. Even with all my wisdom, for the sake of my serenity, I no longer try to absorb the information, misinformation and fear that other facts are being withheld. So before my head spins off, I feel it is necessary to stop dwelling on who killed John Kennedy.

To redirect my general, inner need to know, I have become a detective and concentrate on unraveling my own, less challenging mysteries. When I succeed, I take a bow and crow, "I am a charter member of the, 'JUNIOR SHERLOCK HOLMES CLUB.'"

My latest case wasn't as elementary as most. It started six weeks ago, at a luncheon date with FLOWGLO, at the Red Oak Diner in Hazlet New Jersey. During our lengthy conversation, my wife Sue reminded me to, NOT forget my glasses. I assured her that I had the situation under control. Forty minutes later, I was standing in the vestibule getting ready to leave when the kindly waitress burst through the door and handed me my glasses.

The middle leg of our journey was to Sue's old neighborhood, in the Rockaway Beach section of Queens. It was shocking how many things have changed. Like the Gil Hodges Bridge that links the Brooklyn mainland to the her old stomping ground. In the 70's, that toll was ten cents. Back then, it was not uncommon for someone in the passenger seat to try to make a hook-shot basket from the other side of the car with a dime. Hard to believe but true, thirty something years later, they took the sport out it and now charge $2.75. Sue gave a shot to the ribs when I said, "If it was that much back then, I probably would never have pursued you."

Our final destination was Angelina's, an Italian restaurant in Lynbrook, on Long Island. Through FACEBOOK, Sue got invited to a dinner with her childhood BFF's. Together with husbands, children and one mom, we were a party of thirteen. Lucky for me, at the bar, I discovered that every single person there was a joy to be with.

Angelina's menu featured small calligraphy. It was a good thing that the waitress from the diner returned my glasses because the fancy lettering would have been impossible for me to decipher.

Long after the dinner was finished, everyone moved to different seats and formed intimate conversation circles. I spoke to everyone and learned that one couple flew in from Torrance California, a family was visiting from Israel and the rest were Long Islanders.

AFTER DINNER, 11,000 PICTURES WERE TAKEN. SOMEHOW, I ONLY GOT INTO ONE...WITH STEVE (left) AND FRANK (center).

Sue hadn't seen a couple of these friends in 30 years. So the good-bye process was as long as the meal. Coincidentally, everyone had parked in the same municipal lot so we continued gabbing by the cars for another half hour.

During our three-hour drive home, Sue and I basked in the warm afterglow of the dinner, afternoon visit to Rockaway and chumming with FLOWGLO.

The next morning, I got back into my routine by taking a cup of Emeril's, "BIG EASY BOLD," coffee out onto our deck to do my Sudoku puzzle. Sometimes I forget to bring something from my arsenal but I remembered my pen, newspaper and coffee (with sweet-n-low and half-n-half). I settled in and came to a startling revelation...I didn't have my glasses.

I did a quick sweep of the kitchen, family room, all the bathrooms and the bedroom...nothing! The only place left was Sue's car. I was confident when I went outside because I deceived myself into definitely picturing them there. Duh! They weren't on the floor, in the glove box or the console between the seats. Now with my tail between my legs, I had to face the inevitable; I told you so...after telling my wife that I left my glasses at the restaurant.

It angered me that nobody from Angelina's staff was clever enough to give me a heads up. After all, we lingered there forever.

Six weeks pass. A couple of days ago, it was time for me to take Sue's car for a lube job. Before heading over there, I tidied up for her. I pulled used tissues out from under the seats as well as a five-month old newspaper and four quarter-pounder wrappers. I vacuumed last summer's lingering beach sand and tons of dog hair. Then to my surprise, wedged between the seats was a shiny maroon cylinder. Being a member of the Junior Sherlock Holmes Club, I thought; wow, that looks like my old glasses case. Genius! It was and you'll never guess what was inside.

THERE IS NO STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON FINDING YOUR OWN GLASSES...UNLESS YOU BUY REPLACEMENT ONES FIRST. SINCE I DIDN'T STOOP TO THAT, BASIL RATHBONE, (THE DEFINITIVE HOLMES), STOOD UP IN HIS GRAVE AND SALUTED ME.

Of course the real Holmes would have deducted that I only used my glasses to read Angelina's menu. Then he would have noticed that I properly secured them after dinner, (see picture above with the other Steve and Frank, the glasses are in my breast pocket). Plus, Sherlock would have stated; if you really knew you had them in the car going home, you should have stuck to your guns and searched more thoroughly the next morning.

I bet the real Holmes would have questioned Professor Moriarty and the Hound of the Baskervilles back in 1963 and solved the Kennedy case in less than ninety minutes.

Now you know why I'm only in the Junior Sherlock Holmes Club...and I better be careful, my next slip-up might put me on double-secret probation which could lead to being demoted to the dreaded Watson Auxiliary...or dropped from the club all together.

Monday, November 15, 2010

GETTING HOOKED-UP BY NEW YORK'S FINEST

In observance of Veteran's Day, I would like to thank all those in the military, past, present and future, for their great sacrifice and selflessness.


YOU ARE ALL HEROES AND I SALUTE YOU FOR STANDING IN HARM'S WAY TO HELP PRESERVE OUR FREEDOM, AMERICAN VALUES AND WAY OF LIFE.


I would like to also give kudos to domestic agencies whose people risk their lives every day but aren't acknowledged with a specific national holiday, (police, firefighters, emergency personnel and postal workers...even if their threat is from friendly fire).


Today, I will concentrate with the police because we have the most contact and highest reliance on them. Plus, because its easy to focus on the negative press they get and the resulting sensationalism, I believe its important for us to understand that overwhelmingly the cops, under stressful conditions, do a great job and deserve tons more credit than they get. To maintain this support, I have instilled this appreciation into my son Andrew.






While on his learner's permit, (Andrew will be getting his driver's license in three months), I have accepted both the bulk and "joy" of teaching him the rules of the road. In so doing, I have drilled into his head these two beliefs. First, whenever you see the police, take your foot off the accelerator and check your speed. Second, if you are stopped, to minimize the officer's possible anxiety, keep both hands in plain sight atop the steering wheel, (at night, flick on the dome light too).


In using these suggestions, I have reduced my contact with the police. Then on the rare occasion that I am in contact with them, the respect and sensitivity I have exhibited, has resulted in me being treated fairly. I have also received leniency even when I didn't expect it. I still feel that way even though a gun was once pointed at my head during a routine traffic stop in Las Vegas (October 1980) and more recently, I'm certain that I was being profiled as an out-of-state driver when I was served a $187.00 nonsense/nuisance ticket for using a "Car Pool Only" exit (in no traffic) in Fairfax Virginia (June 2010).


I will now share with you two of my favorite "kind-cop" stories that I've heard and one of my own.


The Western Casino was the worst job of my gaming career. I might have made less money at Slots-A-Fun but the Western was a toilet and attracted such grungy clientele that during weekday afternoons, our craps table struggled to get $100.00 in drop, (cash buy-ins). This meant that most of the time, we were open for business with no customers. That translated into hours of idle conversation, playing games like "20 Questions" and my favorite, staring off into space.
THE WESTERN, 899 FREMONT STREET, AS I REMEMBERED IT DURING MY SIX-WEEK STINT, (SPRING 1979). TWO SUMMERS AGO WHILE IN VEGAS, I VISITED THE WESTERN. LIKE PUTTING A BAND-AID ON CANCER, THEIR COMPLETE REMODELING EFFORT WAS WASTED, BECAUSE IT WAS STILL THE ULTIMATE, FILTHY DIVE. TO PROVE IT, EVERYONE WAS REQUIRED TO WIPE THEIR FEET BEFORE GOING BACK ON THE STREET.


One of my fellow craps dealers at the Western was Terry. He was in his thirties and unlike the rest of us break-ins, Terry was a retread. We newbies were struggling to make our way up but Terry had already fallen from the top. He worked several years at the Frontier Casino and made tons of money. So being reduced to the penny-ante Western, left him jaded, cynical and rude. The other bubbly dealers couldn't relate to his indifference to the job but on dead games, he was admired for his wealth of colorful casino and non-casino stories.


He once said about his rural Northeastern Pennsylvania upbringing, "Where I lived, a man either grew up to become a coal miner, priest or criminal. I thought there had to be more to life so I hit the road." Terry settled in San Francisco in the early sixties and prefaced all those stories by proclaiming, "I was the world's first hippie." He lived in an apartment in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and used to say, "I didn't need a TV, if I wanted to see action, all I had to do was look out the window and see around the clock sex, violence and rock n roll."


The one story he told that brought a smile to his withered face and brightened his bloodshot eyes was going to the Fillmore Auditorium on December 10, 1965. That night he saw, "The Grateful Dead," in their first concert after changing their name from the "Warlocks." (Among other groups, the "Jefferson Airplane" also appeared). "THE FILLMORE," WAS THE FOCAL POINT FOR PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC AND ITS COUNTERCULTURE. LOCATED AT FILLMORE AND GEARY, IT'S WHERE THE PACIFIC HEIGHTS, JAPANTOWN AND WESTERN ADDITION SECTIONS MEET.


Before the concert, Terry picked up some friends in Marin County. On the way back to San Francisco, everyone in his crowded VW bus was already tripping on LSD as he got to the Golden Gate Bridge. THE VOLKSWAGEN TYPE 2, T1, HAS BEEN IN PRODUCTION SINCE 1950. IT IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS A VW BUS, VW TRANSPORTER OR KOMBI. WHEN CUSTOM DESIGNED IN THE PSYCHEDELIC DAYS , IT WAS CALLED A HIPPIE BUS, HIPPIE VAN OR HIPPIEMOBILE.

At the crest of the bridge, the piercing sound of a police siren got Terry's attention. In the rear view mirror, he saw a patrol car zooming up from behind. He stopped in the left lane. The gruff officer chose to ignore the billowing marijuana aroma and said in a southern accent, "Son. Do you realize how fast you were going?" Terry tried to come off as innocently as possible without insulting the man's intelligence and shrugged, "I dunno, 65 maybe 70?" The officer said, "Son, you were going eleven miles per hour. Now tell me, are you too drunk to drive this vehicle safely off the bridge?" Terry smiled internally and said, "Yes, I'm too drunk." The officer told Terry to squeeze into the back. The squad car was temporarily abandoned as the policeman got into the VW's driver seat. He lectured Terry on his responsibility to other motorists and his own passengers as he drove them off the bridge. After issuing a warning, he made Terry promise not to drive until he sobered up.


Another "kind-cop" story happened when I worked at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget, (1982-1984). My friend Mateo was going through the divorce wringer and came out with only the clothes on his back. A year later, in a move that he described as; mental masturbation, he scrounged up every cent he could and bought a used Corvette. This selfish pleasure helped him achieve his life-long dream of owning a sports car and zooming it through the desert after work, (5:AM).

DECEMBER 1982, MATEO PULLS UP AT MY CONDO WEARING NOTHING BUT HIS NEW 'VETTE AND A SMILE.



Mateo had weekend custody of his two sons, (three and five). The boys were fascinated by daddy's new toy especially because of the enthusiasm their father had for it at a time when he was riddled with depression. One afternoon, the kids talked him into a joy ride. On the way back from the wilderness, Mateo slowed down to 95MPH. At the city limits, two motorcycle cops chased him down. Mateo pulled over and waited. The officers strode up to the car. Then the boys poked their head through the T-Roof and the older son said, "Look Jimmie, its Ponch and Jon.""CHiPs" WAS A POPULAR TV "DRAMEDY" FROM 1977-1983. THE SHOW STARRED ERIK ESTRADA AS PONCH AND LARRY WILCOX AS JON. IT FEATURED OVER-THE-TOP FREEWAY COLLISIONS, NO ACTUAL VIOLENCE AND PLENTY OF HUMOR.

The approaching officers couldn't hold back their smiles. After all the paperwork checked-out, Mateo was told he was lucky he had cute kids. But if he was ever caught going that fast again, nothing would help him.


Last week I had a "kind-cop" experience of my own. My wife and I took Andrew and two of his friends to play tourist, in Manhattan. We started with window shopping in Greenwich Village. After lunch, we took the subway to Rockefeller Center. Along Fifth Avenue we made several stops including the Nintendo and Apple Stores.THE ALLURE OF RIDING THE SUBWAY HASN'T CHANGED IN 30+ YEARS. GUYS ARE STILL EATING OUT OF TRASHCANS, THERE'S NO SHORTAGE OF FOLKS TALKING TO THEM SELF, MEN IN TRENCH COATS ON SUNNY DAYS WILL ALWAYS LOOK SUSPICIOUS AND VARIOUS RELIGIOUS CULTS AND BEGGARS ARE EVERYWHERE. ON THE POSITIVE SIDE, WE SAW NO RATS, MICE, ROACHES OR OTHER PESTILENCE.


Rush hour was over when we re-traced our steps back to the car. We decided to swing by Ground Zero on our way to Little Italy. After we paid our respects, we were going north on the Westside Drive. I ran through a yellow light, side by side with a taxi on my left. A half-block up, there was an unexpected traffic light and two policemen. I found myself in a right turn only lane and blocked by the cab. I was forced to make the right. While turning, I read the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel sign. I saw a third cop, a sergeant and pulled over. I called out ti him, "I don't want to go to Brooklyn." The sergeant smirked, "Nobody does." The other two policemen came over and one said, "If you didn't want to go in the tunnel, you should have gone straight." I said, "I was in a right turn only lane." He said, "We wouldn't have stopped you." The other cop said, "Well, you can't stay here." I joked, "Could you help me back out?" And they did. One went back onto the Westside Drive and held up traffic. The other officer guided me from the back and the sergeant remained at my side and orchestrated the whole move...very cool.


So whether its Veteran's Day or not...regardless of your politics, never forget there are dedicated individuals serving us around the world and around the corner. They are doing a job that few of us could ever imagine our self doing...so please appreciate their work and remember that they are people too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

BOOK 'EM DANNO !

Oopsies! I did it again. I put the whammy on innocent bystander James MacArthur and he died.

A few weeks ago I was trashing the resurrected version of classic TV's , "HAWAII FIVE-O." Along the way, I strolled down memory lane and recalled my early teenage years and watching the original with my mom.

"HAWAII FIVE-O," AIRED 279 EPISODES FROM 1968-1980, ON CBS.

The iconic opening theme psyched us up. To hear it, check on the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LnK8b_jk8w

MY HIGH SCHOOL OFFERED A SEDENTARY BAND. THEY REMAINED SEATED BECAUSE THEY WERE SO BAD THAT MARCHING ONLY WOULD HAVE MADE THEIR RENDITIONS WORSE. IT WAS COMMONLY BELIEVED THAT THE, "STAR SPANGLED BANNER" AND THE, "HAWAII FIVE-O THEME," WERE THE ONLY DISCERNIBLE PIECES THEY PLAYED. THIS PERCENTAGE WAS VASTLY AIDED BY THE IDEA THAT BEFORE SPORTING EVENTS, THE AUDIENCE KNEW, THE "NATIONAL ANTHEM," WAS COMING.

Mom and I were engrossed by the semi-complicated plots. We loved to watch the action unfold in exotic locales as we speculated how the case would be solved. Unfortunately, we were usually wrong because the scripts were weak, and depended on an obscure clue or circumstance to crack the seemingly impossible dilemma. Along the way, I was put off by the acting...primarily by second banana, James MacArthur who portrayed, subservient Danny Williams.

While bashing 5-O, I switched gears and concentrated my lambasting energies on Mr. MacArthur. My rant was spurred by my memories of him as a child actor, playing, "Boy," in "TARZAN," movies. I was absolutely raving by the time I concluded that MacArthur's mother, Helen Hayes had big influence in Tinseltown and that her juice was the only reason MacArthur achieved any stardom.

HELEN HAYES, (1900-1993). HER ACTING CAREER SPANNED OVER 70 YEARS. SHE EXCELLED ON STAGE, IN MOVIES AND TV. THIS SUCCESS EARNED HER THE NICKNAME, "THE FIRST LADY OF AMERICAN THEATER." IN HER PRIVATE LIFE, SHE HOBNOBBED WITH THE ARISTOCRACY AND WAS KNOWN FOR HER GENEROUS PHILANTHROPY.

While researching this blog I was surprised to discover that I was making a common mistake about James MacArthur playing, "Boy." Actually, that role was played by a look-a-like, actor Johnny Sheffield. I was proved to be wrong again because MacArthur came up the hard way. He struggled as a young actor and earned his way into movies and TV on his own merit. Nevertheless, I still feel he was a sub-standard actor...so much so that when I watched him, I could tell he was acting.

My first evidence of an unconvincing MacArthur was his lead role in 1957's, "THE YOUNG STRANGER." While playing a good kid unjustly labeled as a delinquent, he (and the whole movie), looked like an alternate cast of, "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER." He was a cardboard cut-out of a clean-cut kid and laughable as a tough guy.

MacArthur seemed to be typecast as a submissive underling. In 1965's cold-war thriller the "BEDFORD INCIDENT," he (of all people) is in charge of deploying nuclear weapons on a destroyer. To make matters worse, the ship's captain, (Richard Widmark), is constantly criticizing him for minor errors. Later, the ship encounters a Russian submarine. In the style of Captain Ahab, Widmark's character relentlessly chases it. His quest exhausts the crew. At a tense moment, MacArthur who's already been proven to be shaky, misinterprets an innocent comment by the Captain as an order. Accidentally, he launches a deadly salvo at the Soviets...that in turns sparks an equally lethal counter-attack...oopsies. Did I forget to include a "spoiler alert?" I think I just gave away the end of the movie.

In the WWII epic film, "THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE, "MacArthur plays an inadvertent hero. Based on a true story, German tiger tanks are annihilating the Americans. But the Germans have an Achilles heel standing in the way of a certain victory...they don't have the resources, primarily gasoline for the battle's long haul.

James MacArthur plays an inexperienced lieutenant. He gets captured with a large group of our troops. They are herded together like lemmings and mercilessly exterminated by the enemy. However, MacArthur survives and sneaks away. I'm okay with that, its perfectly plausible to see anyone in that situation, do what they have to do and run away. But where they lost me is that after floundering beyond enemy lines, MacArthur accidentally re-unites with a rag-tag squad of leaderless Americans at a fuel depot. In the style of John Wayne, Rambo, Steven Seagal and Superman, MacArthur turns the course of the mighty battle by making a split-second decision. In a combination of Einstein and the Amazing Kreskin, he rallies his new, rudderless rag-tag squad into machine gunning down apparent GI's. Because in one in a million shot, he realizes that they are Germans in disguise, stealing truckloads of fuel.

The plot becomes more of an idiotic fantasy as MacArthur has the wherewithal to destroy the entire gasoline dump in the face of advancing hordes of Huns. That is so incredible that you might need two barf-bags because even the Hulk couldn't have handled that job!

I appreciate the high praise MacArthur's acting career has received but it is my belief that his, "HAWAII FIVE-O," character was consistent with my negative spin on his talent. It seemed that the entire cast was over-shadowed by Jack Lord's, Steve McGarrett. He was an imposing character but MacArthur (as second in command) was a rigid, do-nothing in the background and when called upon, he was never more than a milquetoast even when addressing his underlings or the public.

The bottom line is, his career was a long and prosperous one. He was looked upon by his peers as a reliable actor with a good range. So whatever my opinion might be, it is secondary to the fact that so many people in my generation associate him with being a polished man of action because of the famous McGarrett catchphrase, "Book 'em Danno."

REST IN PEACE JAMES MacARTHUR, (December 8, 1937-October 28, 2010).

Monday, November 1, 2010

NEXT STOP WILLOUGHBY...I MEAN, HURLEYVILLE

My weird dream this past Saturday night was so vivid that I told my son Andrew immediately. Halfway through my recital he told me, "How many times have I told you not to eat Vienna sausages, yellow onions and sauerkraut right before bed?" When I continued, his arched eyebrow suggested that he thought I was crazy. Afterwards, he meshed some industrial-strength sarcasm with some constructive insights and theorized what it all might mean. Now, all you amateur dream interpreters, its your turn to give me feedback ...or at least a bunch of snide and snappy remarks.
I BET IF SIGMUND FREUD, (1856-1939), WAS MY ANALYST, AFTER HEARING ABOUT THIS DREAM, HE WOULD HAVE TURNED HIS BACK ON PSYCHOANALYSIS FOR THE MENTAL STABILITY OF A JOB AT THE CAR WASH .

My dream reminded me of the, "A STOP IN WILLOUGHBY," episode from the original, "TWILIGHT ZONE." It was the thirtieth show of the first season, (premiering May 6, 1960). The main character was a successful advertising executive who was burnt-out at work and had a miserable home life.
THE MASTER OF MACABRE, ROD SERLING, (1924-1975), IS MOST FAMOUS FOR THIS AWARD WINNING SCIENCE FICTION ANTHOLOGY SERIES. DURING ITS FIVE SEASONS, HE WROTE 92 OF THE 156 EPISODES AND APPEARED AS THE HOST/NARRATOR, IN ALL OF THEM.

Serling's opening narration in the, "A STOP IN WILLOUGHBY," episode was:

This is Gart Williams, age thirty-eight, a man protected by a suit of armor all held together with one bolt. Just a moment ago, someone removed that bolt. Mr. Williams' protection fell away and left him a naked target. He's been cannonaded this afternoon by all the enemies of his life. His insecurity has straddled him with humiliation and deep rooted disquiet about his own worth has zeroed in him and blown him apart. Mr. Gart Williams ad agency exec, who in just a moment will move into the Twilight Zone--in a desperate search for survival.

On Mr. Williams' sleepy, commuter train ride home, he dreams of being back in 1888. His dream then comes alive as the train and its riders are transformed to that period. The old-fashioned conductor then calls out, "Next stop Willoughby." At the depot, Williams sees a quiet, idyllic community. He hesitates and is sorry that he missed his opportunity to get off. The next day Williams dreams again and this time, he gets the courage to check-out the town. However, in his depressed stupor, he is actually jumping to his death from his speeding commuter train.

BEFORE HIS FATEFUL ARRIVAL IN WILLOUGHBY, WILLIAMS HAS MANY QUESTIONS FOR THE CONDUCTOR.

Serling closed that episode with this narration:

Willoughby? Maybe its wishful thinking nestled into a hidden part of a man's mind, or maybe its the last stop in the vast design of things or perhaps for a man like Gart Williams who climbed on a world that went too fast, its a place around the bend where he could jump off. Willoughby? Whatever it is, it comes with sunlight and serenity and is part of the Twilight Zone.

The opening scene of my Twilight Zone-like dream is a beautiful, sunny day in my old neighborhood's, Canarsie Park. I am playing stickball with my son Andrew. The two-prong significance is, my boy almost never participates in sports and I played stickball with my dad there once when I was about twelve...and it was a great moment in my life.

Andrew and I interrupt our game to look for a restroom. Suddenly, we're standing in front of one of the men's rooms where I work. I recognize MARKT, a kid of little significance, from my childhood. While making introductions, I tell my son that this adult had moved away in 1967 after sixth grade. I then whisper to Andrew, "I wonder if he remembers this." Then I tell MARKT, the time in 4th grade after lunch when he raised his hand and said, "I smell doody."

Our wicked-witch teacher was deranged and extremely mean. She snarled, "Everyone, check your shoes." My seat was last in the first row and MARKT was last in the sixth row. So across the nearly empty back of the room, I got a clear view of the bottom of his left shoe. Caked into the arch of his Oxford, was a moist wad of presumably dog poo. Then other students noticed that with every step MARKT had taken, he left a trail of dog dirt dollops. Rather than call the custodian, our shrewish teacher disgraced him. She demanded that he get in his hands and knees with paper towels and wipe the floor throughout the classroom, out the door and down the hall. Forty-six years later, my sympathy for him is still acute because she doled-out plenty of other abuse, my way too.

In the dream, MARKT didn't recall the incident. But he wanted to play stickball with us. I said, "Okay." He said, "I gotta tell my wife." When MARKT went into the ladies room, I told Andrew that MARKT was a lefty and never swung until he had two strikes. I said, "I'll throw him two fastballs down the middle and finish him with a slow screwball...and I guarantee, he never swings the bat.

MARKT never returns. Andrew disappeared when we went outside to the valet parking area. An attendant brought me a tired, old horse. I mounted up. The ride was a slow process but I wound up in the countryside. In the middle of stinky cow pastures and wide open spaces, I saw a, WELCOME TO HURLEYVILLE, billboard, (there is no such town in New Jersey and I doubt I've been any place with that name). Everything is pleasant like Willoughby until cars start whizzing by me. A few drivers stick their head out the window and tell me to get off the road. I caught eye-contact with one and he gave me the middle finger.
I was wishing that Andrew (currently a driver's license permit holder), was with me to appreciate this lack of roadway etiquette. Further along as this rural, two-lane thoroughfare became more residential, my butt became saddle sore. While getting off the horse, I make a mental note to write a blog about these experiences, (remembering that mental note might be the only reason I recall this dream). When I dismount, I notice I'm barefoot and horse crap is everywhere...I cautiously tip-toe along.

When I turned onto a busy city street, the horse vanished. I am now on the promenade, between state office buildings, in Trenton New Jersey, (it should be noted that we are beginning the process of shopping for Andrew's college and The College of New Jersey, formerly Trenton State is an early, serious contender).
THE TRENTON STATEHOUSE AND CAPITOL BUILDING...OF COURSE, SOMETIMES, IN REGARD TO SYMBOLISM, A DOME IS JUST A DOME.

Along the walkway, there is a crush of pedestrians coming and going in every direction. I see a friend/coworker (JOEMAC). We're going the same way and chat as we sift through the crowd. When I look up, a three-headed man crosses our path. I whisper to JOEMAC, "You see that!" He said, "Yeah, but don't look back." Of course, I look back and the center head turns to face me. He looks like an angry/fierce version of TV pitchman Billy Mays. He gives me a dirty look...and I wake up, (Andrew was a big fan of Mays and in my boy's own way, he mourned the spokes person's untimely passing).
ANDREW'S TRIBUTE TO HIS FALLEN HERO, BILLY MAYS, HALLOWEEN 2009.

Now picture my dream as if it were the, "A STOP IN HURLEYVILLE," episode of the Twilight Zone. I would imagine that Rod Serling's closing narrative might've sounded like this:

Hurleyville? Maybe its wistful thinking nestled into a part of a man's mind. Or maybe its the last stop in the vast design that links generations. Or perhaps its a place or a temptation for a man like Edelblum who clings to the memories and monsters of the past to preserve and keep safe, from fear, dissatisfaction and evil, the worrisome vision of his legacy. Hurleyville. Whatever it is, like everything else in the Twilight Zone, it comes with sunlight and serenity packaged together with pain, grotesque beasts and plenty of feces.

Its obvious to me that I possess the mind of a sick man. So, before Freud comes back and minimizes my dream to a fantasy about having sex with an aardvark, please help me repair my, "Abbie Normal," brain. WAIT A SECOND, MAYBE THESE AARDVARKS ARE "ONTO" SOMETHING?

More importantly Igor, here's your challenge. Pick apart the mosaic of my skewed private world and let me know what you think!

Monday, October 25, 2010

TRIANGULATION OF THE HEART

Lynette and Lu-Ann were nice looking blonds from Northern Virginia. Lynette was serious and easy to talk to but Lu-Ann was cute and laughed at everything I said.

I met them on July 2, 1976 at a KOA outside Nashville Tennessee. This campground was nestled between The Opryland Amusement Park and a Jimmy Dean Sausage slaughtering house. This bucolic spot was my first stop on my sixty-eight day, "Celebrate America, On Its Bicentennial Road Trip."
KAMPGROUNDS OF AMERICA (KOA) WAS FOUNDED IN 1962 BY BILLINGS MONTANA BUSINESSMAN, DAVE DRUM. TODAY THE CHAIN BOASTS 470 FRANCHISES THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA.

While playing volleyball next to the lake, I leered at Lu-Ann in her dungarees and yellow bikini top every chance I got. And I melted every time Lynette smiled and addressed me in her intoxicating Southern drawl. This was a great time...even with the constant screams of the amusement park's roller coaster riders and the incredible stink of the Jimmy Dean abattoir.AT LEAST THE AMUSEMENT PARK CLOSED AT NIGHT. HOWEVER, THE 24/7 SLAUGHTERHOUSE STENCH WAS AT THE WHIMSY OF A CONSISTENT WIND, IN OUR DIRECTION.

During a break in the volleyball action, the girls mentioned that they were on their way to Arkansas, (to a hippie commune). But they went out of their way to see the Grand Ole Opry. I injected my superficial knowledge of the old TV show, "HEE HAW." They were impressed when I rattled off the names of performers and quoted from comedy segments.  I guess it was a surprise that a foreigner (from Brooklyn) appreciated Southern culture.
IN 1976, THE ORIGINAL OPRY HOUSE WAS A MUSEUM. IT HAD ALREADY BEEN REPLACED BY A LARGER, CONTEMPORARY THEATER.


When volleyball broke-up, I tried splitting the girls up so I could make my move on the one who stayed but nothing was working. Two guys came by and hit on them.  The girls warded them off. I knew I was still in the running. I suggested that we make a barbecue together for dinner.  Lynette said, "That's such a good idea but we arranged to meet people in town." I said, "Oh. How about the three of us going to the amusement park tomorrow?" Lu-Ann pointed to their badly dented and rusted VW Microbus and said, "Can you see it? One of the back windows fell out yesterday." Lynette said, " And there's something wrong with the air-conditioning. We need to replace the glass and bring it to a mechanic. Hopefully it only needs freon but between the two problems, it could be an all day affair."

Later, at the community campfire, I had gravitated to the two guys who unsuccessfully tried to pick-up the girls. They were from Connecticut. One of them said, he was sure that the girls liked me. I told him I wasn't so sure because they refused my offer to go the amusement park. He said, "You should still try."

An old-timer who was an employee of the campground extinguished the bonfire early and said that there was lightning in the near distance. The wind picked up and changed direction. I gave a sniff and for the first time all day, I couldn't smell the odor of dead pigs.

I said good-night and took the long way back, to see if the girls had returned. They hadn't so I went back to my tent. By flashlight, I scribbled some entries into my journal. Seconds after closing my eyes for the first time away from home, the calm pitter-patter of rain hitting my plastic shelter eased me to sleep.

I woke up from a nightmare that involved falling into a deep, black abyss. I was startled and sprang up in my sleeping bag. I didn't realize that the cold, damp object rubbing the side of my head was the roof of my sagging tent. Plus, I had the eerie sensation that the earth below me had slightly moved. Any notion that I might still be dreaming ended when a blend of thunder cracks, sheets of pelting rain and far off distressed voices got my attention. I blindly groped for my flashlight but all I found in the darkness was soggy earth. Suddenly the whole kit and kaboodle beneath me moved again...causing the tent to collapse on me.

I re-united myself with my flashlight only to see some of my stuff floating around in a quarter-inch of water. I crawled out into the storm and found my tent in a rivulet. I had to grab it or the current would have taken my belongings downstream towards the lake. I put everything onto higher ground and headed to the administration office. Forty-plus soaked and freezing campers had beaten to that tiny slice of heaven. The toothless old man who put out the campfire made a reference to Nashville's great flood of 1927 and handed me a dry blanket. Soon he returned with coffee and a doughnut. Moments later, Lynette and Lu-Ann came running in. They said rain water was flooding into their microbus.

My doughnut was already gone but I gave Lynette my coffee and Lu-Ann my blanket. I liked the way Lu-Ann was looking at me. At the precise moment that I advanced on her for a hug of mutual warmth someone said, "It's letting up." Lynette snarled, "We have to go Steve. C'mon Lu we got to get back and clean up the van."

I trudged through the mud and dragged my things to the office's porch. I draped my tent and sleeping bag over the wooden railing. Inside, I found a partitioned alcove that housed an arcade. I curled up on the floor, used my backpack as a pillow and closed my eyes. Through chattering teeth, I got two hours of semi-private, bad sleep.

The morning was bright and warm.  After tending to my wet stuff, I waited in line at the laundromat. While my clothes were in the washer, I ventured out to find Lu-Ann. It was 8:30 but she and Lynette were already gone.

At the office I bumped into the Connecticut boys. Their trailer was unaffected by the storm. They invited me to join them for breakfast and Opryland. At the same time, the owners of the campground came in. The man who gave me the blanket whispered to them. The taller owner handed me a $4.50 refund, told me the next night was free and asked me if there was anything else they could do for me. When the shock of his hospitality wore off, I explained my situation. He offered to have an attendant watch my things while I was out for the day and have my tent and sleeping bag re-packed when they dried.

Everything was going my way. I had a blast with these guys and the day got better when we bumped into Lynette and Lu-Ann at the Log Flume ride. Lynette didn't look too thrilled but Lu-Ann took my arm and said, "You boys won't mind if I steal Steve away." The Connecticut boys smiled and left me in good hands. Lynette seemed jealous and didn't take well to the "third-wheel" concept. She never left us and even sat between us on some rides. A couple of times, Lu-Ann and I locked pinkies for a second or two behind Lynette's back but that was as amorous as we got.

It was twilight time when I said to Lu-Ann, "How about me and you going on the Ferris Wheel?" It was obvious that Lynette would never make it as a wing-man when she blurted, "We have to leave!" Lu-Ann looked at her watch and said, "We can't leave him here." Lynette said, "The back seat is musty from all the rain...and besides if we take him back, we'll miss the beginning of the show." Lu-Ann said, "We're going to see Roy Clark at the Grand Ole Opry..." I said, "I love when he sings, 'Ghost Riders in the Sky.' Can I tag along?" Lynette snapped, "No, we got two tickets and its sold out!" She grabbed Lu-Ann and led her away. But Lu-Ann twisted out of her girlfriend's grasp and came back to kiss me and say, "We're leaving for Arkansas in the morning. I'll never see you again." I said, "I'm heading west too. Can I get a ride with you to Memphis?"

It was the 4th of July, the exact 200th birthday of our country. I climbed into the back of the girl's van and began a three and a half hour period of nearly dead silence. I was still hoping to get a bang out of the holiday but Lynette assigned all the driving to Lu-Ann. Lu-Ann seemed to be an inexperienced driver and Lynette made certain all her concentration was in the interstate.

The back of their bus had no seats. So I positioned myself behind the passenger seat. That way, I had a constant diagonal view of Lu-Ann's profile. But she wasn't talking much. I tried to tolerate the situation but between the quiet and the stale, moldiness, I was both physically and emotionally uncomfortable.

At a pit-stop, my eyes locked onto the chest of Lu-Ann's tight, white tee-shirt. She was unencumbered by a brassiere so I fixed on her perky chili bean-like indentations as I told them of Memphis' huge bicentennial party. Lu-Ann seemed resigned to not getting further involved with me. I added. "There's gonna be fireworks over the Mississippi River. Its a once in a lifetime..." Lynette cut me off, "We're not stopping." I continued, "Even if you didn't want to see that...Beale Street is the 'Blues Capital' of the world. It'll be so cool. We can get some drinks and listen..." Lynette blared, "Stop it! We were supposed to be at the commune yesterday."THE THREE-SPAN SYSTEM THAT CROSSES THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER INTO ARKANSAS ARE, THE HARAHAN, FRISCO AND MEMPHIS-ARKANSAS MEMORIAL BRIDGES.

We got to Memphis and soon, the bridge to Arkansas was in sight. Lu-Ann pulled off onto the shoulder before the Front Street exit. Lynette said, "Get out!" I could see Lu-Ann was purposely avoiding eye-contact. I said,"Maybe I can come to the commune with you." Lynette leaned across the gap between the bucket seats and lifted Lu-Ann's shirt. Lu-Ann did not protest as Lynette suckled her boobs. Lynette stopped and began passionately kissing Lu-Ann. When Lynette stopped she said, "Where we are going, men are not welcome." She waited for my response but none came. She said, "What are you dense? We're lesbians you idiot. Haven't you figured that out yet?" I fought off the urge to say, "I don't care if she's a lesbian, she can go to her church and I'll go to mine." But I didn't. I just grabbed my things and slithered out of the van. Then dumbfounded, I stood and watched them vanish over the Harahan Bridge's crest.


# # #


A scant 100 editions of, "MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND," ago, I celebrated my 100th blog. That can only mean one thing, that with the bit of hilarity above, I have reached the rarefied air of my 200th column. Yay me, and of course, yay you.

A special thanks to RBOY who kept a journal during our 1974 working vacation in Disney World. That idea spurred me to chronicle the events of my bicentennial road trip. Then twenty years later, my itch to write was permanently ignited by my friend, crime novelist Charlie Stella, (a.k.a. CHARLIEOPERA). He heard some of my life experiences and told me that I was a natural story teller. From that compliment, I began to write. Along the way, in 2006, RFOURACRE encouraged me to start this blog.

The result is, I have parlayed all three of those influences into 200, "MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND," blogs, 20 short stories set in Las Vegas, two horror screenplays, a novel and an incalculable amount of personal satisfaction.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, THANK YOU MY READERS, FOR YOUR CONTINUOUS SUPPORT!