Friday, June 28, 2013

Rant #993: Big Deal?



This past week was pretty consequential for some people.

Gays got the right to marry, the voting rights act was thrown out the window ...

And my son started his summer job.

But there is one story that really rubs me the wrong way, creating a media circus that proves that in this age of the Internet, we as a civilization have really gone off the deep end.

Can someone please tell me what all the fuss is about revolving around the life, and death, of actor James Gandolfini?

The star of the the popular show "The Sopranos" died last week of a heart attack. He was just 51 years old.

That should have been the end of the story, but the media has made his passing almost akin to that of the death of a head of state.

At least in my neck of the woods, they have covered every nuance of his passing. Why he died, when, what he ate before he died, and, of course, his wake, funeral and burial.

Heck, New Jersey, the state that had flags lowered when Whitney Houston drugged herself to death, did the same for Gandolfini, who, according to reports, ate himself to death.

I swear that I watched this one incident that truly demonstrates how we have gone off the deep end with his death.

One local news outlet covered some nuance of his death in a piece that probably lasted about three minutes, then went right into the current state of Nelson Mandela's health, a report which lasted maybe 30 seconds.

Don't you think that should have been, at the very least, the other way around?

Heck, there were actual funeral groupies who met across the street from the funeral home where his wake was held.

They couldn't get in, because it was an "invitation only" wake, which I have never heard of.

Heck, if I could get a hold of a ticket, think of what it could have gone for on eBay.

These poor fools met across the street from the wake, and wept together over his death.

I mean, was he Rudolph Valentino or what?

Sorry, I don't get this.

Anyway, the weekend is almost here, thank goodness, and maybe this coverage will just fade away, like it should.

I need time to cool off. Speak to you on Monday.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rant #992: Big Day



Today is just another day for you and I.

We get up, take a shower, get ready for work, proceed during the work day, end the work day, come home, eat dinner, watch some TV, and then go to sleep.

And we are like guinea pigs in a cage, because tomorrow, we are going to do it all over again.

Well, that is 100 percent true for me, at least, but for my son, today is an incredible day.

Today, he begins his first real, honest to goodness paying job of his entire life.

After three years of trying, he finally got a summer job at his old day camp.

He actually has two jobs there: as a video game expert, working the video game room, and as a bus monitor.

My son went to that camp for 10 years as a camper. He has very fond memories of those years.

But the past two years, he had hoped to work there in some capacity.

Each time, he got shot down.

He has some learning disabilities, has ADHD, and is very quiet by nature.

We often wondered if this was holding him back at the camp.

So for the past two years, he was a volunteer counselor at the camp run by the school district we live in.

He paid his dues the past two years.

It was if he had to work two years in the minor leagues before he could make it to "The Show," as they say.

He put in his time, and VOILA!, now he has a summer job at the camp that he loved to go to as a camper.

He has a lot of responsibility, especially as a bus counselor.

He must make sure that all the kids who are supposed to be on the bus are actually on the bus.

He must make sure that they are all accounted for when they leave the bus, too.

It is more responsibility than he has ever had in his life, and we think he can do a super job at it.

As a video game expert, he will man the video game room. He has a supervisor, and we told him to listen to what the supervisor says and follow his lead.

Yes, my wife and I are a bit nervous about the whole thing, but we are confident that our son can do a good job.

Look, he will be a senior in high school next year, which will be his final year in the education system, at least for the foreseeable future. He has learning difficulties, so college is not in the offing, at least not right now.

So after high school, he will go directly into the workforce. We feel with his volunteer work and this camp job, his resume is actually a pretty good one.

With the proper direction, he should be able to start his career right after high school.

And this is the first step of the long path he is going to take.

In New York State, kids like our son get a certificate that signifies that they graduated high school, not a diploma.

This is a heinous situation, because many people don't understand that the certificate is equal to a diploma. Congratulations to the state education department, which has messed up on this one big time.

Anyway, we feel that with his background, certificate or diploma, he will succeed in life after high school.

And today is the first day of the rest of his life, or at least the first day of his working life.

So we wish him well ... with our fingers crossed, of course.

Good luck, son, we know you will do well!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rant #991: Pit Cruise



My family and I have been on two cruises over the past three years, and we hope to go on another cruise maybe in 2015.

We really have enjoyed these cruises.

As people told us for years prior to us ever going on a ship for a vacation, it really is the ultimate vacation.

Everything is done for you to make you feel like a king or a queen for a week, or however long you take the cruise for.

And, of course, you go to places you probably wouldn't go to if you weren't on a cruise.

It is very, very relaxing.

And yes, we took Carnival ships both times.

Carnival has been under the microscope because they have had a number of horrible incidents which have led to passengers being very, very unhappy.

During the past year or so, there have been several major malfunctions on board several of the ships, and it has come out into the open that Carnival hasn't been keeping up on the maintenance of many of its ships.

Now, a report has come out that bookings are way, way down this year, directly because Carnival has gotten a really, really bad name in the industry.

They have gotten not only a bad name because of maintenance issues, but word is also out--whether true or not--that their workers are not paid well, meaning not the "star" people, but the cleanup people, the maintenance people, the lower-echelon workers on these ships.

Some claim that they are almost slave labor, or at the best, indentured servants.

Look, no matter what your feelings on Carnival--and their pretty vapid damage control--they are not going out of business.

They control a large percentage of the ships that cruise around the world, under a variety of different names, not just Carnival.

Second, most people taking Carnival cruises, like my family, have never had the least bit of a problem with them.

I think the only thing that didn't work the last time we cruised with them was one, single elevator.

We did notice some differences between our first cruise and our latest cruise.

We thought that we were nickel and dimed for just about everything, and there were one or two incidents where, quite frankly, we did have to ask some questions that we didn't have to ask on the first cruise.

But, nonetheless, we had a good time the second time around, and we look forward to our third go-around.

Look, cruise ships have been under scrutiny since the days of the Titanic.

Notice that none of these ships fly under the flag of the United States; it's always some other country.

I am not going to directly say that other countries don't have as high standards as we do here, but I guess that is true, so when you are sailing under a different flag, different rules apply.

Knowing little about this industry as I do, I have always wondered why an American ship line doesn't exist.

But on the other hand, I think the all-around standards would be so high that such a line would not be feasible--and it would probably cost passengers an arm and a leg to cruise with such a line, which is not the message the industry wants to put out.

Anyway, my family has never had any huge problems with Carnival, so we will cruise again, although we are looking into other cruise lines this time around.

So, my advice to you is if you plan to cruise, do it with confidence, but shop around.

You want to make this cruise your "cruise of a lifetime," and now, with the industry under incredible scrutiny, you can probably get some amazing deals.

Take advantage now, because you don't know how long this is going to last.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rant #990: Fortune Tellers



Do you read your horoscope each and every day?

Do you hang on what it says, reading every word as if it was the word from God?

I don't, never have, never will, but I do find them to be somewhat amusing.

The words used often have expanded meanings, especially in describing your own personal day.

Like the words "you will find wealth on this day" could apply if you found a lone penny on the floor.

With heads turned up, of course.

Some people go to those who draw up their own personal horoscopes, and spend good money to have them done.

But most people at least glance at their horoscope daily, once only in their local newspapers, but now, with the Internet, they look at their horoscopes while surfing the Web.

Here is my horoscope for today, courtesy of Yahoo:

"You need to police someone who is out of line -- though it may take all your energy to keep them from causing any serious problems. Things are still okay, but you can make them better."

I have no idea at all what this actually means.

Is someone going to cross the line at work, where I will be for nearly 11 hours today?

Is someone going to act stupid on the road, and they will have to be put in their place?

Is someone in my own family going to go belligerent on me, and I will have to knock them down a notch?

How are these horoscopes drawn up anyway?

And how can it only apply to me, because I am sure there a millions of people getting the same exact horoscope because they were born in my general age and date vicinity (April 28, 1957)?

Maybe it is because I am a Taurus, but I am also a Doubting Thomas.

I never trusted these things at all, and still don't.

I glance at them on occasion, like I did today, but I don't put too much credence in them.

On a parallel topic, one time at a street fair I actually went to a fortune teller--or someone who was advertising that she was a fortune teller--to see what my future was.

She said I would have some bad times and good times, and she looked at the palm of my hand and said that my life line was quite long, actually going from my palm to my arm, so I would have a long, long life.

Very convenient to say, and very easy to say.

I gave her my five dollars and split.

All of this is nonsense, but if it puts people at ease, then I guess it is harmless fun.

Unless you run your lives by these things. Then, quite frankly, I think you need medical attention.

Let's see how my horoscope works out today.

But you can bet that it will somehow work into my day today in strange and mysterious ways.

If it's anything out of the ordinary, I promise, I will report back to you.

But I am not expecting anything crazy, I'm really not.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rant #989: Stand-Up Comics



As a kid in my fabled Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, New York, I was a collector from the get-go.

As most boys my age did, I collected baseball cards with a fervor that really was incredible.

With packs priced a a nickel apiece, even someone who didn't have too much money (me) could buy lots and lots of baseball cards.

And get gum with it, too, which I always gave to my sister (hence, the bad teeth that she had).

But somewhere down the line, I got rid of my cards for a woeful price.

I was stupid, I really was.

The other collection I had, and which I still have, is my comic book collection.

I have about 2,000 comics in my collection. I actually started collecting comic books prior to my family's move to Rochdale Village.

I think I actually taught myself to read via comic books, as I have some dated from the very early 1960s, like 1960 and 1961.

And like baseball cards, they were very economical. When I first started to collect them, they were a dime apiece, then they moved up to 12 cents, then moving up to the ungodly sum of 15 cents and then 20 cents, and so on.

I loved comic books. Reading these took me to fantasy places that I would never visit, nor would anyone else.

It put me in the shoes of the heroes. I was a DC guy, not much of a Marvel person, so my comic book heroes were Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, etc.

I did enjoy Daredevil, for whatever reason.

Anyway, I collected through my college years, so my collection--or at least the bulk of it--stretches really from the late 1950s--somehow, I have comics that are older than I am--through the mid-1970s.

But then, during the mid-1970s, I gave up collecting, and moved "full-time" into collecting my third passion, phonograph records.

Talking about that collection is for another column. I have brought up that collection on numerous occasions here, so let's focus on the comic books this time.

After I stopped collecting comic books, they were put in my old room's closet, and they have basically sat there for the past nearly 40 years or so.

I have tried to sell them, here and there, to little avail.

A few years ago, I actually sold a couple of issues to a collector for a few hundred dollars.

Yes, I do have some gems in my collection, but they are well read gems, and collectors are always looking for near mint copies, of which I don't have many.

When I bought comic books, I did not buy them as an investment. I bought them to read, and I did just that.

That certainly has turned off some potential buyers, but that is a fact.

Anyway, once again, I am going to try to sell my collection. I have decided that perhaps now is the time to sell these comics, and I think I have a good idea to do just that.

Later this summer, I think I am going to have a garage sale--comic books only. I can advertise the sale locally and perhaps on something like Craiglist, so my costs will be next to nil.

I hesitate bringing these comics out into the sun, because they have been holed up in that closet since the 1970s. Bringing them outside might damage them further.

But it has to be done, and I think now is a good time.

I have been reading that the superhero movie craze is starting to push up comic book prices, and for anyone who collected comics in the 1960s, as I did, my collection might be somewhat valuable.

No, I don't have The Amazing Spider-Man No. 1 or anything like that, but I have enough lesser issues from the time to interest both serious and casual collectors.

At least I think I do.

And since in today's world, adults collect comics--kids don't really buy into these things anymore, probably because of their cost, which is a couple of dollars per issue now--I think they can be priced right to move.

Pricing should be good, but you can never go directly by the book. I think that book is--or at least was, years ago--called the Overstreet Price Guide, and they always overprice comics.

But if I keep prices fair, maybe I can get a good financial haul from this garage sale.

And yes, I would prefer to sell the whole lot, but that probably won't happen.

Anyway, this is the first announcement of this garage sales, so stay tuned for more.

If you are interested, please contact me through this column.

If not, thanks for bearing with me while I got this all off my chest.

Two thousand comic books. That's a pretty heavy amount, and I hope to get them off my chest this summer.

Heck, I doubt even Superman could bear the brunt of all of these issues I have.

And now it is time to unload them, and I hope I can do just that.

No Kryptonite, just my childhood right there in my collection.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rant #988: Catch of a Lifetime



Continuing along the baseball theme this week, yes, the Yankees ended up playing the Dodgers yesterday, and they played them twice.

Due to the rainout on Tuesday, they had a day/night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium yesterday.

The Yankees won the first game, 6-4, and lost the nightcap, 6-0.

The winning team in each game had to get the required 27 outs to secure their victory, and yes, there were numerous fly ball outs that had to be made.

But no catch was as important as the one made yesterday out of Yankee Stadium in Brooklyn by the child of one of baseball's greatest figures.

Cristina Torre, a Montessori teacher from Brooklyn and one of the elder children of Joe Torre, former Cardinal and Brave great and ultra-successful Yankees manager who now works in the baseball commissioner's office, caught a young child who fell out of the window of an apartment yesterday.

Evidently, the teacher had been having coffee in a donut shop and was alerted, with everyone else in shouting distance, that a young child was dangling from a window nearby.

She ran out of the shop like others did to see what all the commotion was about.

Evidently, the child somehow got loose and crawled through an open window while her parents were sleeping.

Finally, the child could not hold on anymore, and fell--

Into Torre's arms.

The parents have been charged with child endangerment, and the family's pastor has had window guards installed after the incident.

But the story with Torre is pretty incredible. What a coincidence, wouldn't you say?

Anybody could have been there and caught this child, but it just so happened that the child of the former All-Star has as good hands, or even better, than her very proud papa.

How the child could have gotten loose like that is another story, which I am sure will be investigated by Child Protective Services, but the basic story, of Torre catching the falling kid, really is a story of serendipity, isn't it?

And it is pretty sure that you can say that nobody in that family--and remember, Joe Torre's brother Frank also played in the major leagues--ever made a better catch.

This is my final column for the week, as I have to go for my dreaded eye exam tomorrow, so I am taking the day off from work and from here.

Speak to you on Monday.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rant #987: The Baseball Gods Speak ...



In yesterday's Rant, I talked about the Los Angeles Dodgers playing the New York Yankees for the first time during the regular season at Yankee Stadium.

It would be the first time these foes from long ago--from the days of the Brooklyn Dodgers--were going to play in the House That Ruth Built.

But you know what? Things have a way of working out the way that they should work out.

The rainy weather forced the Dodgers and Yankees to take a seat yesterday. The game was postponed, and today, weather permitting, they will play a doubleheader--a day/night doubleheader--in the Bronx.

Funny, it was as if the baseball gods were looking down at the situation and saying, "No, not yet, as long as we have a say in it."

The baseball gods being purists, they are not into interleague play, where a National League team plays an American League team during the regular season.

These contests were only supposed to be held during the World Series, making that best of seven game series extra special, but in the modern age, it isn't as special anymore.

And no, the Dodgers and the Yankees were not going to play at the House That Ruth Built, but the one that George Steinbrenner constructed.

The House that George built, if you will.

And you know, I am something of a purist when it comes to baseball, so I say, so be it.

Interleague play really isn't my cup of tea either, but now it is not only here, it is being forced by each league having 15 teams.

If all the teams are playing on a given day, at least two teams have to play interleague.

It waters down what already is a watered down schedule, and it is so diluted that it makes these games somewhat ho-hum.

Sure, you have the Yankees and Dodgers, which ties together a lot of history, but at the same time, you have the Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres, which ties together virtually nothing.

I liked it the old way, where American League teams played American League teams and National League teams played National League teams during the regular season.

The only times the two leagues met were during the All-Star Game, where the best of each league faced off against each other, and during the World Series, to determine who was the best team in Major League Baseball.

That is the way I liked it, but in this watered-down age, it was only a matter of time before that system went to the dogs, and it has, and at this point, it doesn't generate the interest that many of these contests once did.

So, at least last night, the baseball gods basically said, "One more day."

I kind of like that thinking, but you can't put it off forever.

Like Ernie Banks used to say, "Let's play two today."

And weather permitting, they will do just that.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rant #986: Bronx Cheer



Tonight, the Los Angeles Dodgers make their first regular season appearance at Yankee Stadium to begin a short series with the Yankees.

The wonders of interleague play, eh?

With all the post-season history the two teams have against each other, it is really hard to believe that the two teams haven't played in the Bronx during the regular season up until tonight.



I mean, who can forget Don Larsen's perfect game, the only one thrown in the World Series?

Reggie Jackson's titanic three home runs in one game to beat the Dodgers?

Heck, even the one time the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Yankees in the World Series?

The roots run deep for both teams, and the roots will even run deeper tonight.

With the cast of no names that the Yankees have had to put on the field this season due to injuries, the person who probably will receive the loudest cheer from those fans in attendance will be a Dodger.

The Dodger manager, no less.

Don Mattingly comes back to the Bronx, and he was probably one of the greatest players the Yankees have had in their storied history not to ever get to a World Series.

He played for them in the 1980s and early 1990s, right before the Derek Jeter era, when the Yankees were mediocre at best.

He got into one playoff series, the memorable 1995 series against the Seattle Mariners where he played like he was the second incarnation of Babe Ruth.

The Yankees lost that series, and he was done--and from 1996 on, the rest, as they say, is history.

So "Donnie Baseball," as he has been called, will be coming back to the Bronx tonight.

It should be an interesting series.

Both teams are broken down, not playing well at this point in the season, but I am sure that they will be on the top of their respective games tonight, if for history's sake only.

Sure, you can bet the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle will be watching closely, as will the ghosts of Hodges, Reese, Maglie and Robinson on the other side.

The Dodgers are in Los Angeles now, as far removed from their Brooklyn roots as I am from my roots in the borough.

The Yankees don't even play in the "real" Yankee Stadium anymore, only a nice facsimile of the original.

But it's the Yankees versus the Dodgers, so it IS important.

The Bums versus the Bronx Bombers.

And during the regular season yet.

Who woulda thunk it 60 years ago?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rant #985: Young 'Uns



Remember how on "The Andy Griffith Show" they used to call little kids young 'uns?

I assume it was a contraction, of sorts, of the term "young ones," but it was so connected to that show, as I had never heard the term used anywhere else.

Of course, this show featured a character named Opie, so yes, "The Andy Griffith Show" was really in a world of its own in Mayberry.

Anyway, I have my own two young 'uns, and both were in attendance yesterday during my family's Father's Day celebration at my sister's house.

I wanted to get a picture of the two of them together, as I don't have any very recent photos of them together in one picture.

But alas, I forgot my camera.



My wife came to the rescue with her iPhone, and the two photos you see here are the most recent photos of my son and my daughter together.

My own, personal young 'uns.

My son wasn't feeling that well. He gets clogged ears, due to excess wax buildup. My father and I have had the same problem over the years, and it has been passed down to my son.

My daughter was sick earlier in the week, but it appeared she had what I call a "24-hour virus," and she looked and felt a whole lot better yesterday.

So I finally got the photo I wanted, and it really was the best present I could get on Father's Day.

It was a good day all around for me.

I did get some nice gifts from my family, and later on, the Yankees actually won a game.

They led 6-0 going into the ninth inning against the Angels, and held on for a 6-5 win.

No, nothing is easy in this life, is it?

Well, not really.

I am easy to please, and on the rare occasions that I can get my son and my daughter in the same room, I am very pleased.

I am very proud of both of them, and the world really is their "oyster," another term I didn't make up but suits them perfectly.

Maybe one day they will have their own kids, and they will have their own young 'uns to contend with.

And that would make me a "zaydee," the Yiddish term for grandfather, another term I did not make up.

Let me "come to terms" about that another time.

But for now, yes, I am a proud papa, I really am.

Sheriff Andy Taylor, "eat your heart out."

And that goes for Aunt Bea, too.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rant #984: The Holiest Day of the Year



This Sunday is Father's Day, and in my family, we call this the holiest day of the year.

Or at least the men in the family call it that.

It is the day to celebrate fathers and all they do for our society.

Fathers often get knocked for not doing the right thing, but fathers are important to the very framework of the family.

In the old days, it was the father who "brought home the bacon" to the rest of the family.

Today, in two-salary households, it is less so than it was a generation ago, but fathers continue to work hard and provide for their families.

I was lucky, because my father is and was solid as a rock.

He worked hard, did what he had to do with his kids, and earned the right to call Father's Day the holiest day of the year.

I have tried to follow in my father's footsteps. I work hard, do what I have to do with my kids, and I think I have earned the right to call the day the holiest day of the year too.

But my path was different than my dad's was.

I went through a divorce, and that disrupts how much influence I had on my daughter.

I have been a father since 1988, and I cherish the moment my daughter was born on the morning of May 15.

But it is really hard to parent over the phone when your child is not living with you and you are only seeing her every other week.

But that is what I went through with my daughter, and although we are on friendly terms, I don't think our bond is as strong as other fathers have with their daughters.

And that bothers me to no end.

When I remarried and my son was born in 1995, it was like I was given a second chance at being a father, and I have run with it since that day, on August 23, when he was born.

I have been his Little League coach, have gone to school meetings, have helped him with his homework, and I think I have done everything possible to being a good dad.

I hope he sees it that way.

So happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.

Even though we are often drubbed as not being around, and when we are around, clueless about what is going on, there may be nothing more important than the bond between a child and his parents.

And that includes fathers.

So have a nice barbecue, have a nice dinner or brunch, and relax on Sunday.

It is our day to do whatever we want to do.

And we deserve it, we really do.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rant #983: In Dreams



I don't know what it is with me.

I go through spurts where every time I go to sleep, I seem to have a dream, and then there are other times where I don't have a dream--or at least, don't remember having a dream--for months at a time.

I am in the "dream mode" right now, and as I described in yesterday's Rant, I had one involving my car on Tuesday night.

Last night, I had another kind of weird dream.

I am not a dream interpreter, so I have no idea what it all means.

Evidently, my brother-in-law (my sister's husband) went to a unnamed planet to retrieve two children for me.

There was some type of experiment going on where children were being concocted here, but being retrieved in outer space.

So, he went to some planet to get my two kids, one a boy, one a girl.

But scientists up there found that my kids would be diseased unless the aging process was sped up, so they came to earth as young adults in their 20s.

The boy was very close to me, but very immature.

The girl was not close to me at all, very aloof, and did her own thing.

The only other thing I remember is that my son in the dream had to be taken off a subway platform because he was not dressed correctly for riding the rails.

I don't get it either.

In my present situation, yes, I am very close to my son. He has lived with myself and my wife his whole life, and he turns 18 in a few weeks.

My daughter is a child of divorce, I see her occasionally, and I wish our relationship was better than it is.

Other than that, I really can't figure this dream out at all.

I remember as a kid, I would have spurts of dreams where I was falling, whether it was off a building or into the ocean. Of course, I always woke up before I crashed.

I seemingly went years without dreams that I could remember. I used to tell people that I never dreamed, although that probably was not true, I just didn't have any dreams that I could remember.

I am in a dream spurt now, but the dreams aren't recurring, so I have no idea what the next dream will be.

It is kind of eerie, I admit, but do the dreams mean anything?

I don't know.

I would love to know what my last two dreams meant, but so be it.

Maybe I am better off not knowing what the dreams mean.

One can dream, can't we?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rant #982: Here In My Car



I have finally paid off my car.

After five years, it is one less bill that I have to worry about.

And that makes me happy.

I love my car, I really do.

A couple of years ago, I was driving a 13-year old car. It was a good vehicle for what it was, but after 13 years, it was giving me nothing but trouble.

It had way more than 100,000 miles on it, and it was falling apart at the seams.

I held onto it for as long as I did because I didn't want a car payment.

I figured the maintenance on the car, even though it needed lots of work each year, equaled out to less than I would have to pay for a new car.

And for a while, that thinking worked out just fine.

But the last few years of that car were something else.

Not only did it need lots of work done to it to pass inspection and to drive it, but even its outside was falling apart ... or falling off.

One Saturday, with my family in the car, something was dumped--or fell from the sky--onto the car. It was some type of waste material, and it hit the car--as well as the car ahead of us and the car behind us--while we were waiting at a light.

This mess got us more than the other cars, and I swear, it peeled the paint right off my car.

I used to joke that my car was unique, as it was the only one on the road that when you drove it, the paint blew in the wind.

But it did--you could peal it right off the surface of the car.

Anyway, now a little more than five years ago, the car broke down for good while my son played one of his last Little League games.

I went to the car dealer the next day, and within a few hours, I was the proud owner of a brand new 2008 Kia Spectra.

I was very happy with the car at the outset, although the radio was nothing to write home about.

This was right before all the gadgets on the dashboard became pretty much standard, so it really is a basic car.

And I really enjoy riding in it.

My family and I have taken the car back and forth to Florida several times since then, we use it all the time, and it has nearly 68,000 miles on it.

I hope to have this car for at least another five years. I keep up the maintenance, and I really have never had much of a problem with it.

I think it can make it.

In fact, since the line was discontinued by Kia, I have had calls about selling the car. Evidently, this make and model of the car is highly valued, and since it isn't made anymore, people want it, especially as starter cars for their children.

No deal. I love my car.

Although the car pictured here is not mine, you can basically see what it is all about.

Nothing flashy, just something reliable.

What more can you ask from your car?

But I have to tell you, the only reason I am writing this Rant is that I had a dream last night that made me shudder, and it had to do with my beloved car.

I was driving the car, and my mother, of all people, was in the car with me.

I backed up, and the car would not stop.

It roared in reverse, weaving in and out of a busy parking lot, but it didn't hit a single car.

It made its way up and down the lot, in and out of parking spaces, but it never hit a thing.

I even used the emergency brake to try to get the car to stop, but the brake, and obviously the regular brake, did not work.

Finally, I got it to go on a patch of grass that was on one side of the lot, and the thing stopped. I turned the car off and breathed a sigh of relief.

The car was towed away ... and that is when I woke up at about 3 a.m. in the morning, never really able to fall back to sleep again.

Kind of weird, and if you know anything about dreams, please let me know what it all meant.

The dream notwithstanding, I love my car, I really do.

And I love it even more now, when I have finally paid it off and can call the car mine.

It is a good feeling, it really is, and even though the radio really isn't that great, I can live with it.

The only negative thing about the car is that today, I have to drive it to work.

When will the week end? I feel like this week has amounted to three weeks of work already, and we are only on Wednesday.

But that is another story for another time.

I love my car!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rant #981: Super Curse?

This has been something of a strange morning already.

Woke up, got ready for work, and found that the Internet was down and our phone didn't work.

But after a while, everything came back to normal.

It must be those rains I was talking about yesterday.



Anyway, have you ever heard of the Superman "curse?"

The "curse" that every actor who has played Superman has been cursed, died early, never progressed with his career?

It's sort of like the Little Rascals "curse"--so many young kids in that series died early, it belies the fact that several of the kids, including Jackie Cooper and Spanky McFarland, lived long, productive lives.

Yes, the Superman "curse" is a bit of balderdash, just like the Little Rascals "curse" is.

Let's see ...



Kirk Allyn, the original Superman in the movie serials, didn't have a long movie career, but he lived to a ripe old age.

The "curse," if there is one, actually was fermented with George Reeves. The actor, who as a young man was in "Gone With the Wind," was very typecast in the Superman role, couldn't get much of anything else to do, and killed himself in the process.

Of course, there is much, much more to that story than I can talk about here.

He had become a B actor way before Superman, he was a carouser, an adulterer, a heavy drinker, and fraternized with wives of mob members.

Did he kill himself or was he rubbed out? The question remains more than 50 years after his death.

I remember his death very well. It is one of the first memories I have as a human being. I could not understand, as a two year old, how Superman could be dead, but he was.

He remains as my favorite Superman, and the template from which all succeeding Superman actors were drawn from.



Now we move to the case of Christopher Reeve. He helped to create the Superman movie franchise, and he was probably the best actor ever to play the role. His series of movies was like printing money, and he was so talented that he didn't allow himself to be typecast, taking on a variety of roles during his brief career.

But he had a penchant for riding horses, which led to the "curse," if there is one, being extended.

He fell off a horse, became paralyzed, and later passed away. His wife passed away soon after.

Again, there is much more to the story than I am going to speak about here. But Reeve was one of the most courageous people around, and he is well remembered.

The movie franchise died itself until Brandon Rouse took over the role in "Superman Returns," and well, he returned all right, but Rouse's career never took off at all.

And there have been others in the interim, including Dean Cain, who played the character on television. His career never really took off, either, although his co-star, Teri Hatcher, became something of a TV phenomenon later on "Desperate Housewives."



Now we have the rebooted "Man of Steel," which in early previews, has gotten mixed reviews. This movie hopes to do with Superman what the recent reboots did with Batman: make him a more sincere, believable, and "human" character, even though this son of Krypton isn't really human at all.

Will there be any residual effect of this "curse?"

I doubt it, because you have to ask yourself if this "curse" actually exists.

I don't think it does. The previous actors were victims of various, unrelated circumstances, joined at the hip by them all being Superman sometime in their careers.

Henry Cavill, the new Superman, will do fine. Will he have a long career, will he by typecast, will his name be part of nothing more than a trivia question?

Who knows?

So, no matter how Superman does at the box office, there is no "curse," much like there is no Little Rascals "curse."

Maybe Alfalfa would disagree, but people make things of circumstances that they don't know anything about, and this "curse" thing, well, it does not exist.

Or at least I keep telling myself that it doesn't exist.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rant #980: Super Soaker



I often talk about the weather at this blog, because the weather impacts so many things that are part of our lives.

This weekend, in my neck of the woods, the weather was pretty much picture perfect.

It was warm without being absolutely sweat inducing, the sun was shining, and it was shorts weather outside.

But getting to that point was another matter altogether.

On Friday, we got soaked with rain, the likes of which I hadn't seen in years.

Brought on by the last remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea, this storm was the fiercest one I have seen in these parts maybe ever.

After leaving work, I drove home to buckets and buckets of rain coming down from the sky.

It wasn't only cats and dogs, it was probably a variety of animals not seen since Noah's Ark that pummeled us.

It was very hard to see, and there were not only puddles, but mini-lakes, on the roadways that you had to be aware of.

I drive on the highway much of my destination home, a two-lane highway that was originally built with a lesser volume of traffic in mind.

Now, with so many people taking their cars to work during the week, the roadway is normally bumper to bumper at this hour anyway, but with all the rain pelting us, this was like each car was still bumper to bumper, but separated not by space, but by raindrops.

When I exited the highway, I got onto the major road leading to where I live, and it, too,was bumper to bumper, but traffic was moving as the raindrops continued to fall rapidly.

I thought everything was clear sailing, but boy, was I wrong.

I was about a half mile away from where I live, and traffic pretty much stopped dead in its tracks.

I couldn't see what was up ahead, but being so close to home, it was getting very frustrating to me that I was seemingly so close, yet so far from my destination.

I saw numerous cars making U-turns off the road I was on, and then it pretty much hit me: there must be some newly created rivers up ahead, and people don't want to take a chance of driving their cars through this mess.

And that is exactly what it was.

By the park that we live opposite of, there was a river formed on the road that must have been at least two to three feet deep, which means that if you drove through it, it would be up to at least the middle of the doors on your car.

We received such an amount of rain in such a short period of time--some places got more than five inches on Friday--that even though there was drainage at this part of the road, it could not withstand such a load of rain, so a mini-ocean formed.

I decided to wing it, figuring two things: one, that I was so close to home that I didn't want to veer off elsewhere and have it take me even longer to get to my destination, and two, that my car performed well in other weather conditions, including snow, so I believed it could do well here, too.

So I drove my car through the ocean, all the while holding my breath, and lo and behold, it worked!

Once past there, I was able to get home pretty easily, since so many cars turned around before getting to this mess.

I parked my car, and I saw that our little street was being used as a through street by numerous cars. Evidently, on the other side of the park, another mini-ocean had formed, and it was the safest way for these drivers to get from point A to point B.

But it was just rain, and in a few hours, pretty much everything was back to normal.

I don't remember seeing rain like this where I live ever, and I have been living in this area for more than 40 years.

I have driven in worse, though.

On one of our vacations to Florida, actually coming home from the vacation, I remember that two or three years ago we hit the most massive rainstorm I had ever seen, before or since. It was in the Carolinas on I-95--I think it was South Carolina but I really don't remember for sure--and it lasted for hours.

You could not see in front of you pretty much at all, and I remember that the guy ahead of us for miles and miles also had a New York license plate, and we pretty much followed him through it, at a distance of course.

That was the worst I have ever seen, but this thing on Friday was pretty close to it.

And the forecast today? More rain, but not of the super-soaker type, I am happy to say.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rant #979: Awards Week

This was a pretty big week for my family.

Not only did my wife and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, but our son received two sports-related awards over the past two days.



On Wednesday, he received an award for participating in the Police Boys Club Saturday Afternoon Bowling League.

This is not just any bowling league. This league is specifically geared to those who have learning disabilities, and physical and emotional problems.

It provides an opportunity for those kids who normally shunned athletics to get into sports as much as anybody else, to be themselves, and to act like typical teenagers ... which they are, through and through.

My son enjoyed this league. He is very quiet, doesn't show his emotions that well, but he knew that every Saturday, at least for an hour or two, he had a chance to show his athletic side.

His team was sort of a middle of the road team, not the league champion, but he and his team did well.

He averaged slightly over 100, which is fine.



The next night, on Thursday, he won an award for participating in the Challenger Basketball League.

I have written about this before in this blog.

Again, it is a basketball league for those kids in participating school districts who usually fall by the wayside athletically.

If you can get on the court, in any way possible, you can play in this league.

My son really enjoyed this competition. He would talk about it continually while it was on, and honestly, I wish more schools participated in this program.

I was able to go to one game, and the enthusiasm shown by the kids and the crowd was electrifying.

Nobody is looking for the next Lebron James here, but the kids really get into it.

My wife and I are quite proud of our son. In spite of his learning disability, he really is your average teenager. What kid doesn't like to show off his athletic prowess every now and again?

So, all told, this was a pretty great week for myself and my family.

I don't know if next week can duplicate this one, but we're going to try.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rant #978: 20 Years



Today is my wife and my 20th wedding anniversary.

I have to say that I am pretty lucky. I am married to the best, greatest and most beautiful woman in the world.

I met her at a very low point in my life, she stuck with me through that, and all these years later, we are as strong as ever.

We believe in the same things, have the same values, and while we don't see eye to eye on everything, we make a perfect match.

We share a son, and my daughter respects her for what she is to her and to me.

Looking back, the evening leading up to my wedding 20 years ago is something that I can now laugh at, but at the time, it really wasn't funny at all.

My best man, Drew, was taking me out for dinner the night before.

He lived in Queens at the time, on a street that ran parallel to the Van Wyck Expressway.

I drove there from Long Island, parked my car in front of the building next door to his, and went on my merry way.

We went to a very good Tex Mex restaurant in Manhattan. I didn't want to stay out too late that night since I had to get up early the next morning, so when we returned to Queens, I bid my friend adieu and walked to my car.

The problem was, my car was not where I parked it.

I looked all around for that car. I thought, perhaps, that I had parked it somewhere else, I thought I was losing my mind.

But no, I parked the car where I parked the car and that was that.

I asked the doorman of the building that I had parked in front of if he had seen my car, and of course, he said that he hadn't.

He was a liar. My car was stolen right in front of his eyes, and he was probably part of the group that took it, or at least he acted as a lookout for them.

Anyway, I went back to my friend's apartment, we called the police, and what we got back was the NYPD version of Abbott and Costello.

One was short and fat, the other tall and skinny. These two cops didn't know up from down, were completely incompetent, and really, I should have reported both of them.

One cop had a very bad cold, blowing his nose repeatedly when speaking with me. The other seemingly didn't take down the facts correctly.

They promised me that I would get back my Olds Cutlass Supreme very quickly.

Well, I am still waiting for that car to return to me.

My friend drove me back home, and I had to push that problem aside, because I had to prepare for one of the happiest days of my life.

And I did just that.

The next day was windy as I have ever seen it, and we had an outdoor ceremony. Everything was blowing over, but when I saw my soon-to-be-wife in her gown and everything else, I was literally blown over by how beautiful she really was.

And still is. Like I said, I am a very lucky man.

We honeymooned in New Orleans, and then moved on with our lives together.

Twenty years. I really can't believe it, but it's true.

I love my wife and I always will.

And like someone else once said for a far different reason, "I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rant #977: WWEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!



About once or twice a year, my son and I take in a live wrestling show at our local venue, the Nassau Coliseum.

We did exactly that last night, being live and in person for a taping of the weekly "Smackdown" show that is presented every Friday on the SyFy Network.

As an extra bonus, we also saw a taping of the weekly Wednesday night "Main Event" show on the Ion network too.

And as an extra extra bonus, we saw a taping of a match that will be part of the new WWE Divas show that premiers on A and E next month.

We saw all the current stars of the world of WWE wrestling, from Ryback and Daniel Bryan to Kane and (not Abel) to Sheamus.



It was a fun show, nothing that we haven't seen before, but the WWE puts on a fine show, in the best tradition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey's Circus.

Let's be honest about it, a WWE show is really the equivalent of a modern-day circus, but with one ring.

They have invented their own universe, and people buy into it in droves.

And in plenty of cash too.

They have their conflicts, and that is where the fun sets in.



There are a lot of high-flying, dazzling moves--just about all choreographed--and yes, wrestlers do get hurt.

But the athleticism is there, let there be no doubt about that.

When I was a kid, I used to go with my friends to Madison Square Garden to witness that generation's biggest stars, like Bruno Sammartino and Chief Jay Strongbow.

But it was different, on a much smaller scale, but just as exciting.

Today, wrestling is on a mammoth, worldwide scale, and it is very, very popular.

You just look around, and you see numerous families taking their kids--and I mean, very young kids--to these shows. Probably two-thirds of the audience at these shows are kids from the ages of five or six to about 12.

And there are a lot of girls and women who attend these shows, which is greatly different than when I went as a kid, when the audience was about 90 percent male.

Today, it is probably 60 percent males and 40 percent females.

And yes, we had fun last night.

As usual, our seats weren't the top of the line, but we had a clear path to everything that was going on in the ring.



If the action spilled (literally) outside the ring, there was a giant screen that we could see the action from.

We were too high up to be on television, but the rows directly below us got lots of TV coverage.

All in all, it was a fun night, and the best thing was that getting home was a breeze.

It took us about 20 minutes to get back home, and we were in bed in no time.

And that may have been the best part of it all.

video

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rant #976: Fit To Be Tied



Since yesterday's Rant about shorts got such a rousing amount of support (not really), I figured that today I would write about the bane of my existence, and that is wearing a tie to work.

I have written about ties before in this blog, but it bears worth repeating, I'm afraid.

I hate to wear a tie, I have always hated to wear a tie, and I always will hate to wear a tie, no matter what the occasion.

I hate to put it on, to knot it, and to have it lay flat on my shirt.

I feel it is like a modern noose, ready to strangle me at a moment's notice.

It is a pain.

The only thing that a tie is good for is to wipe off my glasses when they get dirty.

Otherwise, it is truly useless.

I have to wear a tie four days a week to work, Monday through Thursday.

On Friday, we get a reprieve. We have a dress down day, and we can wear basically whatever we want as long as it is business casual.

That is fine with me, and I get to wear sneakers that day.

But on the other four days of the week, for whatever purpose or reason, I have to wear a tie, and I hate it.

And I especially hate it during this time of year, when the weather is starting to get nice.

It strangles me during this time of year, and makes we feel warmer that I actually am.

Of course, I am speaking from the male perspective here.

I know that women love to see men in ties. They find it more professional, more business-like, and they find that their men are more handsome with a tie on.

I don't know if there is a female equivalent to a tie, but I guess there probably is (women, chime in now).

But I just hate ties. I have a whole load of them, maybe rotate between four or five of them each week, and that is about it.

So, although this column is something of a rerun, it isn't bad to kind of repeat something on a somewhat slow news day.

Would you rather I have written about Pia Zadora's battery charge against her husband?

So there ... maybe writing about ties isn't all that bad.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rant #975: "Shorts" Story



This was a very nice weekend, a very nice weekend in the Northeast and in my neck of the woods.

Other places were suffering this weekend. Certainly, Oklahomans have had to put up with some incredible weather, and it isn't even officially summer.

The devastation over there has been incredible, to say the least. And to get hit twice within literally a few days with tornadoes that obliterated towns is something that really is astonishing, showing the full foce of Mother Nature.

But here where I am, we had a pre-summer heat wave the past few days, ending today, and for the first time this year--other than when my family went on a cruise in February--we were able to wear shorts.

With the temperatures in the high 80s and early 90s, I couldn't wait to break out my cutoffs. I certainly couldn't do it at work, in the early stages of the heat wave--but once Saturday came, it was shorts, and nothing but shorts.

I have found that the style today among many people is to break out the shorts in March, and pretty much wear them until October or November.

Why this phenomena has occurred is anyone's guess, but I swear, I see people wearing winter jackets and shorts in March.

Crazy, yes!

Shorts are made for the hot weather, perfect to cool you off in situations where you can't go swimming. And this was one of those weekends.

We had two barbecues to go to: one at my wife's brother's house, the other at my sister's house. And with weather as pleasant as it was, the long pants stayed in the drawer and the shorts came out.

I generally wear dungaree shorts. I kind of prefer them. Yes, they are a little bit heavier in fabric, but they provide a snugger fit, for some reason.

We had a good time at the two barbecues, but I remember one time when wearing shorts didn't benefit me at all.



I was a real little kid, probably about four or five years old. We lived in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, New York at this time in my life.

I went outside with my shorts on, and no one was around. My friends for whatever reason weren't outside, so it must have been pretty early in the day.

In the backyard of our apartment building was a small playground, with the usual slide, hopscotch, swings ... a typical backyard.

But there was also a see-saw. You remember those, one kid sits on one side and another kid sits on the other side, and you go up and down, up and down.

Anyway, for whatever reason, I wanted to see if I could get the seesaw going myself.

I hopped on, little me with my shorts on, and I don't exactly remember what happened, but I somehow got on, started the motion, and fell right off while I was in the air.

I had a bruise on my knee that was bleeding all over the place. I ran upstairs, crying my eyes out, my mother was horrified, she put something on it, and that bruise became a scab that was so thick that it probably took a good month to go away, if not more than that.

It was an ugly blackish scab. I will never forget that scab. It was thick and must have been the size of a half dollar coin. Perhaps if I was wearing long pants, it wouldn't have been so bad, or maybe I would have just torn away the pants, and nothing would have happened.

Miraculously, I don't have a scar from that bruise, but suffice it to say, I didn't go on a see-saw for years afterward, and certainly not alone.

I learned my lesson.

But this weekend, I was very happy to wear shorts, and I stayed away from see-saws.

The barbecues were great, we had nice times at both, and now it is the beginning of work week ... and it is raining cats and dogs.

And no more shorts--long pants are "in" this week, and what's more, the weather is supposed to be 15 to 20 degrees cooler this week than it was at the end of last week into yesterday.

So the shorts go back in the drawer, but hopefully not for long.

To me, wearing shorts equates to the summer being here, and even though it is early for the summer right now, the sustained warmer weather is clearly on its way.

And summer means fun, vacations and more barbecues.

And the ladies look grand in short shorts, don't they?

I can't wait, and that is the long and "shorts" of it.

 

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