Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rant #1,299: Speechless

I have laryngitis, or swollen vocal chords.

I have no idea how I got it, but I got it.

My voice is as raspy as it can be, and I can barely get the words out of my mouth.

I don't know what brought it on, but when I woke up on Sunday morning--the night after I had my long reunion with my buddy from the old neighborhood--I felt fine, but after about an hour, I noticed that I couldn't speak correctly, was very raspy, and was better off resting my voice rather than using it.

I woke up yesterday, and I had it full blown.

In the morning, it was really bad, but it seemed to settle down as the day went on, and it got better, but still was pretty bad.

Honestly, I haven't tested my swollen vocal chords much today, because there is nobody up at this ungodly hour to talk to.

My son is a little under the weather, too, not having a fever, but not being himself, either.

He wasn't keeping down food through yesterday morning, but seemed to be better as the day went on.

We will both be OK, but I wonder if he caught something from me, or I caught something from him?

About the only good thing about laryngitis is that although you can't talk, you can write, so that is why I am able to do this column today.

I guess I do not have fingeritis or handitis. I made up those terms, but whatever the case, I can write and type and do anything on the keyboard, even with laryngitis.

Honestly, I don't remember the last time I had this, and it must have been eons.

No matter how much I talked, yelled and/or screamed, I never got this, or at least, I haven't had it in a long, long time.

To cure this ailment, I am trying not to talk much, but at work, it is nearly impossible to not talk.

And every time I am on the phone, I have to apologize for the sound of my voice.

In closing, in hopes I don't get fingeritis or handitis, let me end this short Rant by saying that the pen--or in this case, the keyboard--is truly mightier than the sword, because even though I can't talk, I can write to my heart's content.

Speak to you--using my keyboard--tomorrow.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rant #1,298: Old Friends

I am 57 years old, born in 1957, and some days I feel like I was 25 again, other days I feel all of my 57 years, and then some.

But on Saturday night, I felt like I was not 25 again, but 10 years old.

My wife and I met up with an old, old friend, from my Rochdale Village days, and his lovely wife, and well, three hours sped by like five minutes as we talked about our past, our present, and our future.

And my parents were part of the conversation for at least a half hour--they go to bed early at this point in their lives--and it made it all the more momentous of an occasion for both myself and my friend, and yes, the wives too.

My friend David is a very successful allergy doctor in South Carolina now, but way back when, the only allergies that he knew were the ones that I had and our friend Howie had.

We were typical New York City kids in the 1960s and early 1970s, very brash, very able to take care of ourselves, but also very naive on certain areas of life.

All we really cared about was if we had enough kids to play punchball, or stickball, and really, very little else mattered.

So, at this pretty impromptu meeting at my house, we kind of caught up with everything that has been going on for the past nearly 40 years, and where we are headed in the future.

It hasn't always been smooth for David and I in our lives, but right now, we are both pretty much where we want to be after those bumps in the road.

Last year, during that large reunion that I helped organize, I saw David, and we spoke here and there, but it was very hard to really speak to him one on one with so many people there.

Here, we just sat and talked about everything under the sun, and it was fun, fun and more fun.

There is something about childhood friends talking as adults that is very alluring, and well, this was quite that.

And what's more, the wives melded pretty well too, which I thought was fantastic.

I had never met his wife, and she is really a lovely person, and I am so happy that David has found happiness with her.

The pictures I have put up here are poor, but even if they were good, they don't really show how much fun we all had on Saturday night.

We have subsequently asked them to cruise with us in the future, and they have invited us to South Carolina, so the lines of communication are wide open.

I wish we lived closer to each other, but so be it. I guess that the miles, and the years, haven't dampened our spirits one bit, and I can say that without a doubt, David and I will always be friends. We are connected at the hip, and the connection remains strong.

It's really great to have childhood friends, and our 50-year bond remains strong.

How about getting together a game of punchball ... we need about four more players ... I am sure we can find them, even after all these years.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rant #1,297: Rising Sons

I mean, what can you say about yesterday?


And I am not just talking about last night in the Bronx, when the baseball gods were in full force.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the High Holy Days in the Jewish religion, this Jewish boy did what he needed to do, and his own boy did what he needed to do.

Then, in the evening, in the proverbial cherry on top of the cake, another boy, another son, did what he had to do--in front of 50,000 people who were standing at the edge of their seats all night.

As that little kid in the Little Rascals said eons ago, "Re-mark-a bowl!"

In the morning, I was finally able to secure SSI for my son, which means that he will get Medicaid.

It was a long process, but this guy who knew absolutely nothing about this subject (me) learned about it from scratch over the past few months, did his homework, did whatever he needed to do, and yesterday, my son was formally approved.

We don't have the official letter yet, but that is a mere formality.

My son can now get the needed programs to help him proceed with his life, including programs related to job training, which was the goal in the first place.

I was just so happy yesterday. It was like a very heavy monkey was removed from my back.

And just coincidentally, my son applied for another job yesterday, too, so we really had a full circle of a day yesterday.

We got home in early afternoon, and I have to tell you, I put on the Mets-Nationals game, and passed out on the bed.

It was just so much my body could take.

I woke up, finished watching that game, and prepared for what turned out to be an instant Yankees Classic (the YES Network does have a Yankees Classic show, and this game will fit right in)--Derek Jeter's final home game in the pinstripes, and what we now know will be his final game at shortstop.

To make a long story even longer, the weatherman predicted a horrible day yesterday, rain on top of more rain, and it was supposed to rain during the game too, supposedly making the prospects to even play the game quite soggy.

But the baseball gods prevailed, and the rain pretty much ended by game time at 7 p.m.

The game started poorly for the Yankees, very, very poorly.

The first two batters for the Baltimore Orioles hit home runs off Hiroki Kuroda, and the Yankees were quickly down 2-0.

He settled down the rest of the game, but Yankees hitters, who have been pretty horrible this season, came to the rescue, right in the bottom of the first inning.

The Yankees tied the game at 2, and the centerpiece was Jeter, who just missed a home run, settled for a long double, knocking in a run, went to third base on a wild pitch, and later scored to tie the game.

With people roaring his name all night, he later made an inconsequential error--I can only liken this to a game I was actually at in 1967, when Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run on Mother's Day, and proceeded to make, I think, two errors at first base as the crowd chanted his name for several innings after hitting the historic blast--and the Yankees eventually scored three more runs, taking a 5-2 lead into the top of the ninth.

David Robertson, Mariano Rivera's successor as the Yankees' closer, was on the mound in the ninth inning, but with people chanting Jeter's name, he was horrid, allowing two home runs himself, and the game was tied at 5 going into the bottom of the ninth.

What this merely set the stage for was another Derek Jeter moment.

With a runner on second, Jeter--in his final at bat in Yankee Stadium--hit a single to right field and the winning run scored for a walk-off 6-5 victory.

In just a few minutes, the crowd was deflated and then inflated again--and Jeter made the moment real.

Watching this game at home, and recording it from beginning to finish, it will be a game I will always remember.

It is really what sets baseball apart from the other sports, from the depths of despair one moment to the height of ecstasy in the next moment, all encased in a daily grind of 162 games in roughly 180 days.

And tonight, the Jeter caravan will move over to Boston, where he will play out the final games of his career not at shortstop, but as designated hitter.

And then, his career as a baseball player will be over, and his new career--doing pretty much whatever he pleases, and he has said part of that will be marrying and starting a family--will begin.

Yes, yesterday was a finish and a start for Jeter and for my son. I link the two up because both "sons" come from loving parents who believe in their sons greatly.

As any baseball fan know, Jeter's parents and family have been with him every step of the way in his career, often seen at games both at Yankee Stadium and on the road, and my son has myself and his mom backing him in whatever he has done since the moment he was born.

Jeter has done it all, and my son, on a different level, will do it all too.

Other than myself and my wife and a few other family members, nobody will stand up and cheer for my son, but once he fulfills his goals, I am sure he will feel the same way Derek Jeter felt yesterday.

Just another day at the office ... .

Have a great weekend, and I will speak to you again on Monday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rant #1,296: The Jewish New Year

Today's entry is not about sports at all.

It is about the beginning of the Jewish New Year, which begins tonight at sundown with Rosh Hashanah.

Roughly translated, Rosh Hashanah means "head of the year."

The Jewish New Year asks Jews all over the world to look back at the previous year, see what has happened, and try to improve upon those circumstances.

As a kid, I was told that God looks through his book of people at this time, and decides who will stay and who will go.

It is almost like a deified reality show; those who earn another shot stay on for another year, those whose time has come ... well, they won't be here to celebrate another New Year.

Everything leads up to Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, which comes next weekend. We fast on that day, to show God that we mean what we say.

I look back at the past year, and God has already given my family and I a reprieve for whatever bad things we did during the past year.

He allowed us to survive a horrendous car accident with just a few scratches.

We certainly could have done much worse when that happened, but God was watching over us that day.

There have been plenty of other bumps in the road this year for myself and my family, but we have survived.

I hope that God looks at us, and puts a check mark next to our name, meaning that we live on until next year.

Things were mighty grim this year, but we have tried to be good people.

Jews around the world will go to their local synagogues to pray, to "doven," to ask for forgiveness for whatever sins they have committed.

What is interesting this year is that one can actually go online to do this if they so choose to.

What am I doing tomorrow?

I will not be in synagogue.

Once again, I have to go to a meeting related to my son getting Medicaid.

It is, literally, the only time I can do this, with my hand forced by the governmental office where the meeting is being held.

I am hoping that God understands. I have no choice in the matter.

So, in a great way, government is interfering in my handling of the holiday, but what can I do?

I have no say in the matter.

My "dovening" will be done in my local Social Security office.

Wish me luck.

There will be no column tomorrow, but I will be back in full force on Friday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rant #1,295: A Baseball Tragedy

Yes, today is another sports story, but not really.

It is really a tragedy.

Last week, a coach of a youth baseball team died on Long Island doing what he loved to do best.

He was pitching batting practice to his son's team.

He was behind the contraption that is used to ward off balls hit directly through to the pitcher's mound.

It is expansive, but it doesn't protect all parts of the pitcher's body.

Anyway, the pitcher threw a pitch to a young batter, the kid hit a line drive through the box, somehow it got past the protection, and hit the pitcher squarely in the head.

He was knocked down, was out, and numerous adults applied CPR and did what they could to revive the father.

He was literally a dead duck. He pretty much died right on the spot.

The baseballs they use in Little League are a bit spongier than those they use in the major leagues, but they still can pack a punch if you get hit with them, as happened here.

And this happened at a very modern baseball facility out in Yaphank, so they had all the devices--and safety measures--in tow to prevent something like this from happening, but it happened anyway.

There really isn't any more than anyone could have done for the man, and I know it is simplistic to say, but when you play sports, accidents do happen.

This is just a very, very tragic one.

And no, his son did not hit the ball.

The kid who did this will have to live with this the rest of his life, and I feel sorry for the kid, sorry for the son, and sorry for the families involved.

When I was a Little League coach, I, too, sometimes pitched batting practice.

You just don't think of protection when you are doing this, you just are thinking about helping your kids out at the plate.

Some have suggested that it be mandatory that batting practice pitchers where helmets with protective guards when doing this, and that is a good idea.

Major league hitters wear helmets while rounding the bases, and there have been several incidents where pitchers have been hit in the head with batted balls, and there is a slight move to have pitchers wear helmets while pitching.

So far, that hasn't happened.

It has to happen in the youth leagues first.

When I was a coach, I had one kid get hit in the head with a line drive.

He was knocked down, but happily, not out. He had a nasty gash, but otherwise, he was OK.

I don't care what sport you play, injuries are part of the game. Some are minor, some are severe.

This one was a tragedy, period.

I guess you could list it as a freak accident, but whatever it was, it is so sad that this guy, doing what he loved, also died because he was doing what he loved.

Police are investigating, but there really isn't much to investigate.

He got hit by a batted ball in the head, and he died.

That is a real shame, and it could have happened to any one of us, including myself.

As a kid, I know I got hit in the mouth with a ball. I don't exactly remember the circumstance, but I did see stars, but then got up and played.

I guess I was lucky, and I guess I was lucky that as a pitcher to my son's team, I didn't get hurt in any way, shape or form.

These things do happen, but it is a real shame, and I do feel for everyone involved.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Rant #1,294: What Might Have Been

Spoiler Alert ...

If you don't like professional sports, some of the columns I am going to be writing the next week or two are going to turn you off.

It is the end of the baseball season, the playoff teams are shaping up to the finish line, and I am a Yankees fan.

'Nuf said.

The Yankees have had an abysmal year this year.

Everybody got old at once. Nobody hit much. The team's minor league system appears to be barren.

However, there have been some bright spots.

As we approach the end of Derek Jeter's career, he seems to be rejuvenated the past couple of games playing at home.

He is playing like it was 1999, and yes, I can hear that old Prince song in my head when I write about this.

Yesterday, he had his fourth straight multi-hit game. He is the first Yankee of age 40 or over to record four straight multi-hit games, and his hits helped the Yankees win three of the last four games.

It probably won't get them into the playoffs, but Jeter is putting on a nice show for the hometown fans.

Yesterday's winner was Masahiro Tanaka, their mult-million-dollar import from Japan.

I was skeptical at all the hype this guy caused when they signed him.

He is treated as royalty in his home country. He actually married a pop star there, which is akin to Grace Kelly marrying royalty in Monaco all those years ago.

But that skepticism was turned on its head by his pitching.

This guy is the real deal.

He has like seven different pitches that he can use, and he throws strikes.

He was 12-4 at roughly the half-way point in the season, and then he went down with an injury that might require surgery somewhere down the road.

But he worked his way back, and it felt like the beginning of the season yesterday.

Tanaka was terrific in his short stint, helping lead the Yankees to victory.

It just gets you to wondering ... if he hadn't been injured, what would have been?

Of course, one can only speculated, but he probably would be at the 20-win level by now, which means the Yankees might have been eight games better in the standings, give or take a game or two or three, because they have had some success with pitchers pitching in his spot.

So let's just say they were four games better if he hadn't been injured.

The last time I looked, they were 4.5 games out of the last wild card spot.

If they had his four wins, they would only be 1/2 game out now.

Well, one can dream.

Between Jeter and Tanaka, it has gotten to the point that you only wish these guys could have been doing what they are doing the entire season.

As it is, the Yankees are probably going home next week, not making the playoffs for the second year in a row.

But at least the presence of Tanaka and a rejuvenated Jeter makes it a little more fun to watch them go down in flames.

I still have hope, but being a realist, I know what the outcome will be.

Wait 'til next year.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rant #1,293: Fishy Thoughts

One of the things that my doctor told me during my recent examination is to continue to eat fish over beef.

I crave a piece of steak, but I have always liked fish too ... or at least some fish.

I hate salmon, but I do love flounder, tuna fish--yes, the canned variety--and tilapia.

And I like some ethnic fishes, things that are in my Jewish blood, like gefilte fish and smoked white fish.

And it is about white fish that I am going to talk about today.

I have always liked white fish.

Maybe it currently conjurs up in me days of yore, when, as a little kid, my mother would take out the meat from this fish for me, right from the chub, or later, when I would actually have the whole fish in my plate, with the head and eyes still attached, and I did the honors myself, but there is something about white fish--bones and all--that I have always liked.

(And I don't mean the slang expression that uses white fish, "Coney Island Whitefish," which if you don't know what it means, please look it up. That is not what I am talking about here.)

Anyway, way back when, you could get two chubs for like $2, maybe even less, and in areas that I lived in, white fish was plentiful at any appetizing counter in any supermarket.

So literally through my 20s, I occasionally had this delilcacy, which tasted so good but cost so little to enjoy.

Tastes changed, people moved around, and since not as many people were buying white fish, those that carried it pushed the price up, but I still ate it when I could find it.

Now, in my 50s, go look for white fish ... I can't find it anywhere.

I have gone into many supermarkets, both big and small, looking for white fish, but to little or no avail.

I have asked others to look for it for me, and they cannot find it either.

I realize that white fish is really a Jewish thing, much like gefilte fish is.

But it isn't like bagels, a Jewish creation that has become almost as synonomous with American tastes as pizza is.

You can find gefilte fish just about at any supermarket--no, I haven't checked out any bodegas recently--but you can't find white fish.

Then my mother, also a white fish lover, let me know that in the local King Kullen, they are selling white fish salad, and although it is a bit pricey--nearly $7 for a little tub--it might satisfy my cravings.

Try it, you'll like it.

And I did, and yes, while it isn't white fish like I remember it, it is a good enough substitute.

No, the head isn't in there, and it is mixed with some other things, but it is good enough for now.

The last time I bought it, it was reduced 50 cents in price, so I looked at it as a bargain.

It is made by a company named Acme, out of Brooklyn, New York.

No, it is not affiliated with Wiley Coyote and the Road Runner, but they seem to make a good product.

But I am still looking for that elusive white fish, a chub that I really could dig into now as a full-fledged adult.

If anyone knows where you can get white fish--with the head intact--please let me know.

What I have is OK, but I really, really want the real thing.

There's nothing like the real thing, baby, there's nothing like the real thing ...

Speak to you again on Monday.

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