Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rant #1,259: Pan Pizza

As I have told you in past Rants, I just love pizza.

I grew up in New York City, the mecca for American pizza, and there is nothing better than a nice, thick slab of pizza to make any day better.

The problem now is that the current mayor of New York City has no idea how to eat New York style pizza.

Mayor DeBlasio insists that the proper way to eat pizza is with a knife and fork, and he plies his eating habits for photo-ops whenever he eats pizza.

He claims that back in Italy, this is how they eat pizza, so he will eat pizza that way in New York, too.

He and his family recently went on vacation to Italy, and he was seen eating pizza, again, with a knife and fork.

C'mon, mayor, that isn't the way to eat New York style pizza, and you know it!

He is comparing two types of pizza, and sorry, you cannot compare one with the other.

Italy is the ancestral birthplace of pizza, but pizza there is of a slightly different composition than New York style pizza.

It is thinner, and thus less "pickupable" than New York style pizza, so yes, in Italy, pizza IS eaten with a knife and fork.

When pizza came over to the States with Italian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s, its composition morphed over time.

It became thicker over here, maybe because of the water, and it was made to be picked up, folded over, and eaten without silverware.

New York style pizza is thick and gooey, and it is made to be eaten sans knife and fork.

This is not Chicago deep dish pizza, an abomination that DeBlasio would probably be happier with, as it IS made to be eaten with a knife and fork.

Growing up in New York City, I remember that the first time I ever ate pizza was with my uncle, who took me into Greenwich Village for a slice or two in about 1963 or 1964.

You couldn't get pizza anywhere back then, and you had to go into a neighborhood like this to get pizza.

However, a few years later, pizza was everywhere in New York City, and it is everywhere today in New York City and its suburbs.

Seemingly every corner has its own pizza parlor, and most know what they are doing when it comes to making great pizza.

And no, I am not talking about Pizza Hut, or Little Caesar's, or Dominos--that's pizza for people who know nothing about real, honest to goodness pizza or who can't get real, honest to goodness pizza, such as people who live in Montana and Idaho and places where they wouldn't know good pizza if it was pushed into their faces.

We have a great pizza place by us that upholds the tradition of New York style pizza. They make their pies very thick, and the sauce and pizza are just in the right measure.

You pick the pizza slice up, put it in your mouth, and you are in heaven.

And forks and knives are nowhere to be seen, either.

So Mayor DeBlasio, get with it.

This is not Italy, this is the United States, and you are the mayor of New York City, for crying out loud.

Learn how to eat pizza here, OK?

You insult pizza-makers in the five boroughs by eating pizza with a knife and fork.

Don't try to be sly about it, saying it is your heritage which allows you to do so.

Heck, this isn't stop and frisk, but it is causing some commotion in New York City.

You are a big guy in stature, stop eating pizza like you would eat a steak.

Try it, you'll like it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rant #1,258: Lost ... and Found

For me at least, this has certainly been the week of finding lost items.

As I have told you for the past few days, my mother found my first grade class photo.

I am still amazed that she found it, and I am still mesmerized by its beauty as sort of the missing piece of my life that has finally been found.

Yesterday, I found something very different. It wasn't a personal keepsake that had been lost, but heck, it made my day.

Without going into a long story, let's just say that I was looking for something on the dresser in my bedroom.

I was looking and looking for this document, which related to my new car, and I simply could not find it.

Well, I found the document that I was searching for, which was great, but in searching for it, I also uncovered something that I didn't even know that I had.

Let me preface this by saying that this is the first time that something like this has happened to me in probably about 30 years.

I found money. And I won't tell you how much, but heck, it was enough to really, really make me happy.

It was stuffed in an envelope on my dresser that dates back to December of last year.

I don't know why or how I didn't realize that I had this money, but when I saw it, my eyes popped.

Oh, we're not talking about thousands of dollars here, just a couple of bills that would have still been buried had I not been looking for something else.

I remember that about 30 years ago, I was in a florist shop, for whatever reason, and I found a $50 bill on the floor. I quickly pocketed it, and I was happy.

The next time anything like this happened to me was probably about 20 years ago, sort of.

While at work, I found a whole wad of checks wrapped up in a rubber band. I remember that visions of a reward were dancing in my head, as it was probably a payroll drop that somebody dropped.

I contacted the company on the checks, they told me to discard them, they didn't even thank me, and that obviously led to nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The next time was about 10 years ago, also at work.

I found a wad of bills tied up in a rubber band. I remember that I made a broadcast at work at what I had found, and one of my fellow employees came forward, saying that it was money he had made from another job, and it must have fallen out of his pocket.

He worked at a local hotel at night, off the books, so he got paid in cash. I had no reason to doubt him, so I gave him back the money. He said he would take me out to lunch for returning the money.

He never did.

I remember as a kid, walking to school, my friend Howie and I found a wallet, and scattered about it were various identification cards, such as a driver's license, and what they used to call charge plates, which today we know as credit cards.

Based on what we found, we located the person it belonged to. Evidently, the person had been mugged, the crook(s) stole all the money in the wallet, and left everything else strewn about.

Again, visions of a reward danced in my head, and my friend's head.

After school, we both went over to the person's apartment.

We rang the doorbell, and the person barely poked his head out the door after we announced who we were.

We saw the person was pretty banged up, and was probably in his 70s or 80s or perhaps even older.

We gave him back what we had found, and left, not even expecting anything being given back to us because of his age and how he looked.

And that brings me back to the present day, where it was I, myself, who lost this money, only to retrieve it myself.

Again, it would still be sitting there if I hadn't been looking for something else.

What else will I find this week?

Who knows, but it will be hard to top what has been uncovered thus far.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rant #1,257: Class Photos

Yesterday's entry about my mom finding my first grade photo sparked my renewed interest in class photos of mine, and I started digging.

I know that I have all my class photos. Most of them were sent to me by former classmates, because my mother claims that she has nothing of mine or my sister.

Of course, what she found over the weekend kind of says to me that if she has time to dig, she will probably find everything.

But that being said, I have found some class photos of mine from days of yore.

But finding those photos also has allowed me to rediscover myself, to a certain extent.

I feel that I haven't changed at all.

Sure, in those photos I have hair, I am a lot lighter in weight and certainly have a different spirit than I do now.

But I really haven't changed much.

I am really a kid in adult's clothing. Sure, I have grown up in age, but I am still a kid at heart.

I never liked ties, never liked liverwurst, and I still don't.

I loved baseball and music and TV, which I still do.

I believed in family, my country, and although I was never religious, I do believe in God, and always have believed in these things.

But it is nice to have these keepsakes of another time, because they have etched in sort of a permanent memory where I was way back when.

And that is the real beauty of class photos.

They bring you back to another time, perhaps the most important part of your life, when you were growing up and learning about the world around you.

You learned a lot of what was going on not only from the teachers in those photos, but from your peers, the kids who were also in these photos.

Many of them were your friends, some of them were simply classmates of yours, but you learned through them, whether you realized it or not, through osmosis, if nothing more.

And that learning experience, coupled with many others, made you what you became.

Anyway, without getting too metaphysical, I just love these photos, and I also love to see other people's photos too.

They are visual time capsules, and that makes them so much fun.

And if you have kids, don't ever lose these photos. They are really prizes of your kids' childhoods, and when they become adults, these photos will have even more meaning to them.

Put them in a safe place!

And again, a shout out to my mom, who found what I consider to be the mother of all my class photos.

One question--was a class photo taken during kindergarten?

I have no idea, but if one was taken, and I could see it, that would really be extra special.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rant #1,256: Go To the Head of the Class

This weekend was as dry and as boring for me as possible.

My wife worked the entire weekend, so really nothing much happened at all.

I did whatever chores I had to do, went to the eye doctor--I need new lenses, which are going to cost me a pretty penny--and basically watched TV--baseball--the entire weekend.

Yes, I did nothing.

I saw my mother on Saturday, and she gave me something that really brought everything into focus, something that I had not seen for probably 30 years--

My class photo from first grade.

I thought that this thing was forever lost, but searching through various things in her house, she managed to find this photo, buried away for decades.

I put it right up on Facebook, it got a good reaction, and now is preserved for posterity both there and here, as well as on my computer.

Here is what I put up with the photo on Facebook:

"My mother found this photo buried somewhere in her house.

It is my first grade photo from P.S. 165, Flushing, New York, way back in 1963-1964.

This was taken when I lived in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, and I am barely noticeable. That is why my mother said years ago, she drew the arrow on the photo. I am sure it can be removed, but I figured I would leave it on for posterity, I guess.

Anyway, the teacher was Mrs. Gold, but I don't think that is her in the back, leading me to believe this photo was taken in 1964.

I was in an experimental class, where they took kids who had shown that they were a little advanced educationally for their age and put us in a class where we were taught work from not just first grade, but pretty much through third and fourth grade.

Mrs. Gold was an older woman who had never taught grade school before our class. She was a college instructor, and was chosen to be our teacher because of her background in higher education.

She tripped over a wire from a film strip machine one afternoon, and was never seen or heard from again.

The woman in the back must have been her successor, so I am guessing this was taken in March or April of 1964, after Mrs. Gold hurt herself.

This was the class where we all grew up quickly, when we were told that JFK had been assassinated.

I don't remember too many of the kids' names. A boy named Hal was the kid sitting up front, and I believe that another boy named David Kosloff was in the back, five kids from the right.

Another interesting boy I think was the kid standing next to me on my right. His last name was Marx, I think, and he was the son of the doctor who claimed that he could "create" children with genius intellects with the proper learning environment. He proved his point with his children, who both graduated college when they were 16 years old or so. His work created a lot of controversy 50 years ago, but I do know that he was successful with his own kids.

I hadn't seen this photo in literally about 40 years when my mom gave it to me today, and it obviously brought back lots of memories.

Since then, I have had a chance to really look at the photo, and a couple of things came to light.

The kid I called Marx, his last name was actually Marcus. I do not remember his first name. I think his sister actually graduated college when she was 12 or 13, and he graduated when he was about 16. What happened to either one of them since ... I haven't a clue.

The kid I called simply Hal, I believe his last name was Kessler.

And no, I cannot remember a single name of any of the girls in the class.

Heck, I was six or seven years old here, so I guess I still hated girls at this point in time.

Anyway, I do wonder what happened to all of these kids, and even the teacher in back, whose name completely escapes me.

How many are still alive? How many went on to have families, nice careers, and good lives?

The school is still standing, by the way, although it goes under a different name now--I can't remember what that is, either.

So during a dull and boring weekend, this was a highlight, as it would be for any weekend.

I just love class pictures, and this one has risen to the top of the class as my favorite of all time.

I wonder if my mother has any other hidden treasures like this stored away somewhere.

I sure hope she does.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rant #1,255: Wardrobe Malfunction

Yesterday, I had reason to delve back into my personal memory bank and remember something that happened to me way back when.

I can laugh at the incident all these years later, but when it happened, I was not laughing.

I think it was in third grade, in Mrs. Johnson's class, in old P.S. 30, in Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, New York.

I must have been about eight years old

She was a no-nonsense type of teacher, and her rope wasn't very long. Once she had you on that rope, one yank, and you were done.

Anyway, we were studying some poem, I don't remember which one, but it was a long poem, so each one of us was going to have to recite a portion of the poem in front of the class.

(To this day, I have no idea why teachers back then wanted their students to memorize poems, and in particular, passages of poems. I guess they thought you would understand the poem better if you memorized it, but I doubt that that ever happened.)

Anyway, I had memorized my portion of the poem, and was ready to go that day, ready to go up in front of the class and do my duty.

Going in front of the class was enough of a traumatizing thing for me, something that I really didn't like to do to begin with.

Having to recite my passage only was going to make the experience worse, but heck, if this is what Mrs. Johnson wanted, this is what Mrs. Johnson was going to get from me.

There was a girl in the class by the name of Ilene. She a thin, brown haired girl, nice looking, pleasant to speak to. I think I probably had a crush on her.

She sat a row in front of me, if I recall correctly, and I guess I was in my phase of being in between hating girls and liking them.

Anyway, about 10 minutes before I was to go up in front of the class, she very innocently dropped her pen or pencil--I forget which, probably a pencil because we were so young--on the floor.

It rolled over to me, and I bent over to pick it up and hand it to her--a pleasant circumstance, because it gave me an opportunity to talk to her, even briefly.

I bent over to get the writing instrument from a sitting position and RIIIIIIIP!--I could feel my pants just disintegrate on my body.

Not really, but I gave her the writing instrument, felt behind my but, and my fingers went up the back of my pants--they had split from roughly just below the belt buckle all the way through to just below the zipper.

What was I going to do? I couldn't tell Mrs. Johnson, out of embarrassment, that I had split my pants, because I think my fellow classmates would have had a good one with that.

I had to go up to recite my passage, in front of everyone, and they would see that years before people called this a wardrobe malfunction, well, that is what I had.

I had a jacket that I wore that was pretty long in length, so I figured that I would go ahead with everything, and do my part of the poem in front of the class, split or no split.

In the middle of someone else's passage, I got up to put on my jacket.

Mrs. Johnson stopped everything to ask me, "Larry, why are you putting on your jacket?"

I replied, "I think I am coming down with something, maybe I am getting a cold, and I am cold."

It seemed like minutes, but her reply was, "Fine, let's move on."

We moved on, and it was finally my turn to recite the passage.

I got up, with my long jacket on, and walked up to the front in such a way that nothing could be seen. It must have looked like I needed to go to the bathroom, but I wiggled my way up to the front of the class, and started to do my recitation.

And I carried it off without a hitch, did it really well, and then blew a sigh of relief that everyone probably thought was because I got through my passage pretty Spic and Span clean.

Little did they know ... .

Anyway, it was the morning, and a little while later, we were let out for lunch. In those days, you could either eat in school or go home for lunch, and as usual, I walked home, but this time, pretty much ran, as my pants were splitting even more with every stride.

I made it home, took off the split pants, put on new pants, and no one was ever the wiser for it.

I look back at that day and I really have to laugh. I pulled the whole thing off without a hitch.

Yesterday at work, for maybe the third or fourth time in my entire working life, I somehow popped a button on my pants--no, not because I am too fat, but because after going to the bathroom, I kind of did a one-handed closure of my pants, and to my chagrin, the button went flying, hitting the wall and bouncing back at me like a ping pong ball.

And like the three or four other times this has happened, I just sucked it up.

I put on my belt extra tight, made sure the button area was covered--my tie pretty much covered it, too, a good reason to wear a tie, I guess--and worked the rest of the day with unbuttoned pants.

And no one was the wiser.

I remember that the first time this happened, I was working in Manhattan for a printing company as a proofreader/go-fer (don't ask), and I actually told someone what had happened. They gave me a needle and thread and told me to sew it up. I had never done this before, was able to do it, and it lasted until I got home, where it popped again.

The other times, I never told a soul.

I am telling you this now because I will bet that all of us have had similar wardrobe malfunctions at the most inopportune times.

And we can all laugh at it, because looking back, it was actually pretty funny, although at the time, it wasn't.

Our ingenuity allowed us to get through the incident, and we moved on from it.

It's a laugh, as they say.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rant #1,254: Rainout Copout

Just to give you an update, yes, my crown was put in yesterday after work.

Yes, my mouth is still sore. My face was still actually numb some four hours after the procedure was done.

However, to my dismay, about three-quarters through the procedure, the dentist told me that it was a temporary crown he was putting in, and that I had to come back in two weeks to put in the permanent crown.

My question--why go through the procedure twice? Why couldn't I have waited two weeks and had the permanent crown put in, and thus, be done and over with it one time, not twice?

I am sure there is a dental reason for this, but without that reason at hand, common sense tells me I am going through this procedure twice, and I don't think it is warranted.

Anyway, my mouth still feels sore, and I have yet to try to eat on the right side to see if what he did works.

What's the point? It's just a temporary crown.

Anyway, I got home, couldn't really eat or drink much--I did eat around 8:30 p.m. or so--and I sat down to watch Yankees baseball.

This season has thus far been a disaster for my beloved Yankees.

Their starting pitching staff has been depleted by injury, their big guns have not hit at all, they haven't played well at home, and their station-to-station offense is boring.

But because of the ineptitude of the rest of their division, the American League East, they are right in the thick of things for a division title, just a few games out--as is everyone else in the division.

It is literally a five-team horse race to the playoffs, with just sixty-odd games to play for each team.

One team that goes on a hot streak will pretty much back into the playoffs, and then probably get eliminated by a team from either the stronger Central or West divisions.

But as they say, "you gotta be in it to win it," so the Yankees will take what they can get.

And they have been hot lately. Since the All-Star break, even though they haven't played particularly well, they have won five of six games.

Last night, they won 2-1, in a game shortened to just the minimum because of the rain that kept pounding the field. They barely got in the minimum amount of 4 1/2 innings, and since the home team--the Yankees--were winning, the home team got the victory.

It is something of turn about fair play, because the Yankees' last game before the All-Star break, the Bronx Bombers lost to the Orioles in similar fashion, in a game shortened by rain.

These shortened by rain games have been a bugaboo with me for a long time.

I never understood why games like this--where one team is leading after the minimum amount of innings and is granted the victory because the umpires have decided that the game cannot be continued due to potentially hazardous conditions--aren't completed another day.

If last night's game was, let's say, tied at 2-2 yet it was an official game, would they continue the game another time? The game's records go into the book--the at bats, the hits, the earned runs, etc.--so shouldn't they continue such a game, pick it up where they left off when it is safer to play?

I am not talking about games that go an inning or two and then are canceled due to rain. I am talking about games that play out over at least half the normal nine innings.

I always thought that these types of games were baseball's equivalent to ties in other sports, where the players play but the conclusion is a standoff.

And what about the fans at the game? Heck, watching on TV, I could simply go to another channel while the rain hit the field, but the fans in attendance are often asked to wait several hours before a determination is made.

I went to bed at 10 p.m. yesterday, so I have no idea when the umpires actually called the game, but I bet they gave it several hours.

For games like this, many teams will give fans a "rain check" for another game, which is a nice way of them telling those in attendance that they appreciate their business.

That is a nice gesture,and I hope it was used last night.

But not playing games to conclusion is something I hate about the game I love--all games should go nine innings, even if to reach that point, teams might have play on another day.

And yesterday's rain shortened game, by the way, followed a 14-inning contest the night before that went on and on and on and on some more.

Today's game is an afternoon affair, and hopefully, it will go on without a hitch.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rant #1,253: The Tooth of the Matter

Today I have something to write about, something that has been bothering me for several months now.

It's my teeth.

I have good teeth, they have held up pretty well over my lifetime, and certainly as an adult, my teeth have been pretty much terrific.

As a kid, my adult teeth were growing in every which way, I had to wear railroad track braces for several years, but everything worked out fine with my adult teeth.

I went years without a cavity, and while my gums aren't that good--inherited from my father--my teeth have been sturdy as any part of my body.

But lately, that is not the case.

This year, I had two major cavities that had to be filled, and therein lies the problem.

Evidently, due to age, my teeth have shifted, and some teeth--primarily the rear teeth, the teeth I chew with--have shifted to the point where naturally, I have larger spaces between these back teeth than I really should have.

Thus, not only is chewing a chore, but when I do chew, food gets caught in between the teeth to the point where not only can't I clean it out myself, but it inflames the gum, making for a sore mouth, and certainly an even sorer ego.

Heck, I like to eat, like to enjoy my food, but I can't do either if this situation persists.

At first, the dentist told me it was a natural thing, and they really couldn't do anything about it, which really made me quite upset and angry.

Then they came up with a plan.

On the left side, replace the filling that they put in with a larger filling, which would not only fill the cavity but extend far enough over the space where food was getting caught.

On the right side, remove the crown that is already in that area and replace it with a larger one that, again, would extend far enough over the space where food was getting caught on that side of my mouth.

I had the cavity redone several weeks ago. It is OK, I guess I can live with it, but that side of my mouth simply does not feel the same. I can chew there, food gets caught there, I can get it out myself, but that side simply does not feel right.

Then comes the right side ...

We put in for a new crown with the insurance company more than a month ago, and we didn't hear a word from them.

All the while, I could only chew on the left side, which was making my mouth ache, because all the chewing was going on on one side of my mouth.

I even called in the interim, trying to find out what was going on, and there was nothing going on.

Finally, this week, they told me that the crown was "approved" and that I could come in today after work to get it put in.

I can't wait.

It is difficult to use only one side of your mouth to chew your food.

Although you try as much as you can, food still moves over to the other side, and thus, it gets stuck in between the teeth.

And since the left side is bearable at best, it makes my whole mouth ache ... ache for some normalcy, and to wait more than a month until this crown was "approved"--evidently, my plan only allows for one new crown every three years or so, what a joke that is--has been torture.

And then we come to the next torture.

This procedure is going to cost me several hundred dollars, screwing up my bank account for sure.

I guess I will be able to eat, but after the procedure, I can't pay for my groceries, so what's the point?

Well yes, I am overstating things a bit, but frankly, it is killing my bank account to get this done, which I am not too happy about.

Hopefully, by tomorrow, I will know that it is money well spent.

Today, the tooth of the matter is that I just wish this nightmare was over already, no matter what it has cost me in discomfort, pain and dollars.

Keep your fingers crossed for me today. I will need all the help I can get.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rant #1,252: Writing About Nothing

Hello, and welcome back to the Ranting and Raving Blog.

There, I have just used up a line.

It is very difficult to write fresh, new columns every day--or at least five days a week--like I do right here.

It is fun, but difficult.

There are days where I have plenty to say--whether I am talking about Archie Comics, or what is happening in Israel right now, or even if I am talking about my own personal quirks, like hating to wear a tie to work each day.

And then there are days where I have to make up things literally on a whim, because for one reason or another, I don't really have anything in mind to write about.

Nothing out there is really catching my eye--if I can even see out of them, which, today, my allergies are by and large preventing me from doing.

My allergies are really bad today, hitting me in both eyes. I can barely keep my eyes open to focus.

Rain is coming, it is very humid out, and that is certainly the culprit.

But whatever the case, I have found that after 1,200-plus entries here, it is often very, very difficult to come up with something new.

Sometimes, the actual writing process fuels me, and I come up with something interesting, new, fresh, and something I personally can be proud of.

And other times, I come up with a dud.

I am sure the professional columnists, those who do this for a living, probably say the same thing.

I am sure there are days where they can write until their fingers are blue, and on those days, they probably write more than one column--one to use immediately, one to store away and use on days when they just don't have much to say that they can plug into the hole and use any time.

You can't always have diamonds. There are some days where you just write about what you write and then put it away.

I feel like today is one of those days. I have written about every subject under the sun, and today--perhaps because I am in some discomfort--I don't really have anything solid to write about.

It happens, I guess, and today, this is truly a column about nothing, a Rant about nothing, whatever you want to call it.

But, as you know, I only take a weekday off from this column if I have some personal business to attend to, or it is a national holiday, and that isn't set in stone, either.

Sometimes I write about something, even on those days, too.

But today, I guess it really is approaching the dog days of summer, and I just can't pinpoint anything I want to write about.

It is akin to a baseball player having an zero for five day at the plate, or a basketball player putting up his shots but never swishing the basket.

I am swishing today, I am striking out today, and, just stay with me when I come back tomorrow.

I am sure that I will have something much more substantial to write about.

Today, mighty Larry has stuck out.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rant #1,251: Old Friends

You might remember that nearly a year ago, in October 2013, I had the 50th reunion of my old neighborhood of Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, New York. I helped organize the bash, and it was quite successful.

Yesterday, I had a reunion that was much smaller, and revolved around a different time of my life, my dreaded high school years.

Coming in from California was my old high school buddy, Paul, who I last saw about six years ago.

He called me out of the blue on Saturday, said he was in town, and would like to meet with me. We set up a time on Sunday, and he was there right on time.

He had a chance to meet my wife, and he spent about three hours with us, talking about his current life, looking back on the old days, and generally, we caught each other up on our current situations.

It was nice, even though my high school years are the dreaded years of my life.

I had just moved to Long Island right before school started in the summer of 1971. I was new to the area, and coming from the neighborhood I came from, I was in for the shock of my life.

It was more culture shock, going from a wild environment that was my old neighborhood back then to the uncharted, at least for me, Long Island.

The four years of high school were not fun. I pretty much fell off the earth, didn't really have any friends, at least initially, and I felt sorry for myself.

This greatly impacted my education, and for the very first time in my life, I wasn't into education, wasn't into learning, wasn't into much of anything--except my hobbies.

Without those hobbies, I probably would have fallen way down and not been able to pick myself up. But at least I had things to do in my spare time, not waste them like so many kids did during those years with drinking and drugs.

Anyway, around 11th grade, I became good friends with Paul and his brother, fraternal twins as different as night and day. One was skinny, the other a bit stocky, but we were all pretty much outcasts, so somehow, we gravitated toward each other, and we leaned on each other during those years.

We would go to the movies just about every week--sure, we would rather have gone out with girls, but at that point in our lives, we looked, but didn't know what to do with them, way too shy to actually date anyone--we played ball, we just basically hung out with each other.

As high school ended, we basically went our separate ways, and his family moved to California, and that was pretty much the end of that for several years.

Then, every couple of years, the boys would come back to Long Island to visit, and this is about the third or fourth time I have seen at least one of them over the intervening number of years.

We have all had good times, all had bad times during those years, but we are all still here.

Paul is a smart guy, a former Navy member who later joined the Merchant Marines, and both he and his brother are out on disability. Although his brother did not make the trip this time. Paul is still a vibrant guy. He has always been a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, and although he might not ever find that round hole, it is not for lack of trying.

He is a good guy, we had a couple of laughs yesterday, and then he left.

I am glad that he came over, and I am sure when he visits Long Island again in several years, we will have him over again.

Although those years were very difficult for me--I remember so little from those years, because quite frankly, what should have been the best years of my life were very painful for me--but he was part of the good times, so at least I can say that those years weren't all bad.

And again, it is nice to visit with friends. All you need is one good friend, and you are really set.

And he and his brother were good friends, so I doubled with two good friends, so I guess I was "set" during those years, to a certain extent.

Nice seeing you again Paul.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rant #1,250: Bubbling Under

Today, I am going to talk about something so very benign that it probably is completely off most people's radar.

There are hit records. We all know them, we purchase them and listen to them, and well, for many people, music is the melody of their lives.

Then there are tunes that are released with very good intentions--artistic and monetary--that simply fall by the wayside for whatever reason.

Billboard magazine, which has been the home to numerous record and song charts for generations, has been the home to something called the "Bubbling Under" singles chart off and on for generations too.

It is a very short chart of tunes that, well, never had the popularity to be on their Hot 100 chart.

Certainly during the 1950s, the 1960s, and 1970s, these charts included songs that were regional hits, and songs that simply didn't have the strength--sales and airplay--to make the national chart.

And the Bubbling Under chart included music from just about every artists imaginable, everyone from the Beatles to Elvis to acts that never really made much of a music dent, such as the Robbs and Linda Lloyd.

Just as a side note, many tunes that became huge hits also started out on the Bubbling Under chart before becoming legitimate hit records. If I remember correctly, one was "For What It's Worth" by the Buffalo Springfield. Those songs are interesting, too, because it shows how exposure after the release of a song can catapult it to the upper reaches of the chart. In fact, there was also a Bubbling Under album chart, and I do remember that the Monkees' first album started off on there, and in one week, leaped like 100 places once their show debuted and "Last Train to Clarksville" was becoming a national hit.

But those aren't the songs I am talking about.

I am talking about songs like "Bittersweet" by the Robbs, a tune that was very popular in its day in some places, a tune that got lots of exposure on TV via the "Where the Action Is" show, but for some reason, never made it to the Hot 100, which measures sales, airplay and yes, it can be a very political chart too.

At least that is what it measured in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Today, with digital sales and YouTube being what they are, I don't know what Billboard's charts measure anymore, or even if they are relevant in today's world. What's the Number One song in the country now? Who knows? Who cares?

But back then, these things were important, because the music reflected the times we lived in, an extremely turbulent time in our history.

Anyway, why am I talking about the Bubbling Under chart like I am?

It is a strictly personal thing, nothing more.

I have always been fascinated with singles, what becomes a hit and what doesn't.

I love the hits, but I also love the misses.

I love "I'm a Believer," but I also love "Mommy and Daddy." Both are by the Monkees, but one is a classic and the other ... well, it simply wasn't a classic, although I do love the songs almost equally.

I have decided to get together as many of these Bubbling Under songs and put them on as many CD-Rs as possible for my own, personal listening enjoyment. I use a reference book about the Bubbling Under charts, which was compiled by the erstwhile Joel Whitburn, who has become extremely well know in certain circles for his books on the Billboard charts, as a guide.

I have chosen the years 1964-1971 to focus on, simply because to me, personally, those are the best, most exciting years of music that we have ever experienced. Those years mirror the period when the Beatles had their most incredible influence on music in the U.S., so those eight years are a good point to go with, at least for me--the years my ears were opening up to such things, from age seven to age 14, when I entered high school.

It has been fun at the beginning. I have a lot of the stuff on record, CD and MP3 anyway, but this is the first time I am putting everything together on CD-R.

So far, I have found in my collection just about everything I need, but I am sure there are going to be plenty of songs that I don't have, and that is going to be where the fun is, trying to search and find where I can get these songs so that I have a complete collection of those years.

Since I am just at the beginning of this, it is probably going to take some time to get everything together, so I will let you know in the future how it goes--and probably have a list of songs that I don't have.

It should be fun, a nice thing to focus on during my sparse down time.

I will let you know how it goes as I "Bubble Under" myself.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rant #1,249: The World Has Gone Mad

I don't know about you, but I think the world has been off its normal axis for a long, long time.

Things that were once unacceptable are now very acceptable, considered to be very normal, considered to be part of our landscape.

But some things go on and on and on and don't change, because they aren't supposed to.

Take Archie Andrews, the All-American Boy of Riverdale, Anywhere, U.S.A., who has been around for decades and decades.

His life traditionally revolves around home, school, his friends and his girlfriends--basically, a typical American teen's life.

He gravitates between Betty and Veronica, with Reggie thrown into the mix to keep him on his toes, and Jughead to provide comic relief.

But in these politically correct times, Archie's life has become a bit more complicated than who to date--blond or brunette--or how to one-up Reggie.

Yes, in this PC world, where every grain and morsel of our being has been put under a microscope, Archie has become more active in the world as we know it--and now he has paid for it with his life.

In today's installment of the "Life With Archie" daily comic strip, Archie is shot down and murdered, taking a bullet meant for his friend, a politician.

Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you. The politician, his friend, just happens to be gay.

The episode is the last one focusing on the adult adventures of the Archie universe of characters, and he will live on in comic books and other media.

"The way he dies is everything that you would expect of Archie," said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher.

Wait a minute ...

What is he talking about, and why is Archie all of a sudden such a heroic figure?

Archie and his pals were created for very young children, and his comics, and comic strip, are often the very first comics that kids read before they graduate onto Superman, Batman and Spider-Man.

It has been like that since 1941, when the character debuted.

I understand trying to make the character more adult, more with it, more savvy on the world of today.

But, my goodness, you are dealing with readers who, because of their age, probably have no idea what you are talking about.

I do not have statistics in front of me, and I am just using my own experience--and that of my younger sister--to illustrate this point.

I would estimate that the average reader of Archie comics is probably five or six years old, with the daily comic strip drawing in readers who are probably a little bit older.

And I mean a little bit, maybe like seven or eight.

And most of the readers are female, although I am sure that plenty of boys read Archie too.

Whether male or female, they have no comprehension, at this age, about politics, sexuality, etc., so why use Archie to spread an obvious agenda that you have?

When is this PC nonsense going to stop?

Sure, you can say that spreading this agenda to kids at an early age will only help them to understand, to be more open to things, as they get older.

But what happened to childhood? What happened to the joys of being a kid, discovering things on your own?

I don't know about you, but when I was five or six years old, or even seven or eight years old, the furthest thing from my mind was a person's sexuality.

Heck, I didn't even know what that meant.

I read comics for pure enjoyment, nothing more.

And comics were fun, whether you read them in the newspaper or bought them off the newsstand.

There have been attempts in the past to make Archie more relevant.

I remember as a kid, they had a series of comics where Archie and the gang became super heroes.

It did not work, and that series did not last.

I also remember that Archie and the gang started to wear clothes that their generation was wearing in the late 1960s, their hair got a little longer, their skirts got a little shorter on the girls.

Heck, they became so relevant that the Archies even had a number one record as a band, "Sugar Sugar."

But this latest attempt at relevancy is ridiculous, going to the extreme to push several buttons, none of which their average reader can possibly understand.

Whatever happened to innocence?

Must we, as adults, push our agendas onto young kids too?

The world has gone mad. I am convinced of that.

Next, we will probably hear that Popeye is having an affair with a young woman, and Olive Oyl is running for President of the United States.

Oh, um, we have already had that scenario in the White House with the Clintons, so that wouldn't really be original, would it?

OK, let's make Popeye into somebody who came out of the closet, announced that he was having an affair with Wimpy, and he ends up taking a bullet for Blutto, spinach or no spinach.

Don't Mickey Mouse me.

This type of nonsense is what our PC world is about now, and you know what ...

I am truly sick of it, had it up to here, and feel bad for the young kids of this country, who are being indoctrinated into schizoid thinking way before they are ready to handle such things.

And you liberal thinkers out there, please, don't even try to convince me that this is the right way to go.

I will answer you in one way:

Whatever happened to childhood?

Why can't kids be kids anymore?

Enough is enough. Let's stop this nonsense now.

I have a personal matter that I have to take care of tomorrow, so there will not be a Rant tomorrow.

Speak to you again on Friday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rant #1,248: Jeter's Night

Make no mistake about it: tonight, Major League Baseball's All-Star Game is about one person--

Derek Jeter.

Some argue that Jeter shouldn't even be there.

He is having a below-par season after sitting out most of the 2013 season with injury.

His team, the Yankees, in plain English, stink to high heaven (and that is coming from a true Yankees fan).

So why is Jeter not only at the All-Star Game, but a starter, no less?

It has to do with what he represents, which is more than his statistics.

The fans voted him into the game because he is the last of a breed of baseball star, or maybe even sports star.

He comes from a very visible two-parent family who evidently brought him up the right way.

They still attend many of his games, almost as if they were Little League parents.

His parents are both educators, and I will bet when they told him to take out the garbage, he took out the garbage.

One white, one black, he is an everyman for all people.

Jeter has been completely free of scandal during his career, free of talk that he took this or did that.

The only thing he has done, generally, during his long career with the Yankees is win.

He has five World Series championship rings to prove it.

He was the anchor of those great teams. Without him, they wouldn't have won as much as they have.

He is as All-American as Jack Armstrong, even more so because he is real.

He was never the best player on the field, but he was always the smartest, and that counts for a lot.

And that is why he is in the All-Star game, and why fans voted him in as a starter.

He is the All-American dream rolled up into one player, a kid who idolized the Yankees while growing up and then plays for them.

He was born in New Jersey, but lived most of his young life in Michigan, but that did not dampen his Yankees spirit.

He is the last of the Core Four to play the game, and probably the best player of that bunch.

This scenario reminds me of when Mickey Mantle was done as a player in 1968.

He was hitting in the .230s, couldn't really play anymore, but was in the All-Star game anyway.

This is before the fans voted for players, which began again the next year (it had been done earlier, but was abandoned when ballot-stuffing in certain cities was found to be the case).

Anyway, I forget who the manager was, but he was asked why Mantle was on the team at this juncture in his career.

He answered something to the effect, "Because everyone wants to see him one last time in an All-Star Game."

And that was all that had to be said then about Mantle, and all that has to be said now about Jeter.

Play ball!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rant #1,247: Swat-Sticker

I am sure by now that you have heard that a plane flew above Long Island beaches late last week towing behind it a sign that enraged many beachgoers.

Evidently, in the midst of everything else going on in the world, there is an organization that wishes to change the perception of the swatstika ... yes, the very symbol of Nazi hate during World War II, a symbol so notorious that 70 years after the conflict, it still makes people sit up and notice.

This group claims that the swatstika was once a peaceful symbol, and they want to reverse what people think about it, and the plane with the sign is part of their campaign to reverse the symbol's image.

Sorry, I am not buying that, but I have heard this lament before.

The swatstika--sort of a bent out of shape cross--symbolized everything that was wrong with Germany's stance under Adolph Hitler during the second World War.

It also symbolized hatred, mainly against Jews, as well as many others.

As we all know, that hatred continues to exist both here and around the world.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of extremist groups looking to wipe out Jews in this country and worldwide, and look at what is happening in the Middle East right now.

Incidents like the Israeli strikes against Hamas--an organization whose main goal is to wipe Israel off the face of the map--make some people crazy, and their true colors come out against not only Israelis, but Jews in general.

And don't tell me that this pro-swatstika thing isn't a byproduct of this recent hatred, even though the group that supports this stance has been around for probably at least a decade.

I remember in the early 1970s, Donovan came out with a single called "Atlantis," about the mythical land under the sea. It was a big hit, but it also created an incredible amount of controversy, because on its single picture sleeve cover was a reversed swatstika.

The explanation was that this was actually a peaceful symbol, but even though the song was quite a hit, I don't know if I ever bought that--or perhaps Donovan was a little naive on the way things really are in the world.

I remember in the late 1970s and early 1980s, riding the Long Island Railroad to work in Manhattan. One day while we rode in, at one of the stations--as station in a community with a large amount of Jews living in it--was a very prominent swatstika that was drawn on the walls of the one of the stations.

I remember seeing this along with my fellow passengers, and we were outraged, and saddened by it.

In these pre-cell phone days, all one could do was wait until we got off the train to voice our complaints, and by the next day, the swatstika was gone.

This latest incident is simply the newest of the bunch of similar incidents, but this one tries to justify its existence by saying what it believes the swatstika really means, trying to "educate" us on the true meaning of the symbol.

Hogwash! Whatever the "true" meaning of the symbol, it was taken by Hitler's Germany and used to signify out and out hate.

And no matter what anyone says, that is what the symbol represents.

And the bringing out of the "plan" now simply perpetuates anti-Semitism, which is on the rise in this country and around the world.

One part of the banner actually had the nerve to put together the swatstika with a Jewish star.

I mean, what type of world do we live in where we have people who truly and firmly believe this nonsense?

I know that local authorities are trying to ban such "advertising" from happening again, but why did they allow it to happen the first time?

Yes, I do believe in free speech, but when the speech is hurtful like this thing, then it is not only hateful, it is unnecessary.

And if one can't figure out the true direction of this supposed organization, I feel sorry for you ...

And for the world for allowing this type of hate to fester.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rant #1,246: Mercifully, the End of the Week

This has been a very long week for me, and I am glad that it is just about over.

If it is not one thing, it is another.

I seem to be in a tangled web that even though I am doing the right thing, it just seems that I am stuck, because it ends up being the wrong thing.

Work has been a horror show this week.

I don't mind being busy--it makes the day go faster--but being ridiculously busy is another thing.

And I lot of this nonsense could be easily avoided, but I am in a workplace where little bumps in the road are made into cavernous potholes that are difficult to dig out from.

No, it's not me who is creating this situation, but heck, I am just an employee, and I don't have much of a say in how things get done.

Now, the latest wrinkle in the week, which has nothing to do with work ...

The accident that doesn't go away, that keeps on giving me nothing but heartache, is back to rear its ugly head once again.

My own insurance company is going after me for money, claiming that I had some type of agreement with the other insurance company, and that this puts them in a position where money paid to me has to be recouped.

This is obviously a mistake, and I will set them straight today. I have no idea what agreement I made, nor what they are insinuating, but they are not going to get any money out of me ... they are supposed to be representing me in such situations, not accusing me of wrong-doing.

I am sure it is a misunderstanding, but I will get to the bottom of this nonsense bright and early this morning.

My wife told me about this when I got home from work yesterday, and after a hard day at the job, this was certainly the last thing I needed to hear.

I am steamed, didn't sleep well last night, and my eyes are bothering me today.

Need I say more ... this is the accident that keeps giving, and me, the victim, and my family, also victims of somebody who didn't know what he was doing on the road, have had enough.

Heck, my family and I could have been killed in this accident, and the insurance company--my own insurance company--has the gall to go after me for money?

Please ...

And please let this week end already.

I feel like the guy in the movie "Network" who screams, "I have had enough and I can't take it anymore," or whatever he said.

That is the way I feel now, and let's see what happens today.

Enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough ....

(P.S.: By about 11 a.m. est today, the situation with the insurance company was all but resolved, although the other company is sticking with its claim that I was at least partly at fault for the accident. This is truly idiotic, but the main contention they had was found to be completely false, and they have withdrawn that entirely, thank goodness.

And if someone takes their car, goes completely though s Stop sign, doesn't see the other driver, T-Bones that driver, knocks the car over with such force that it turns over, and totals out the car that was hit, how can the other driver have any fault on his part for what happened? Let's see how this thing plays out ... .)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rant #1,245: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

The Beatles have been recognized by just about every musical entity as the No. 1 act during the rock era, from 1954 to the present, even eclipsing Elvis as the most successful act ever.

Every barometer of success points to John, Paul, George and Ringo as the most successful act of all time, and their influence continues to be felt to this day, even though they broke up more than 40 years ago.

I know that the latest barometer of their success is as minor as can be, but it still demonstrates that even on this lesser measurement, the Beatles continue to rule the roost.

I have several Yahoo Group sites that I run, but the most successful has been my Alternative Top 40 site, at

It is a fun site that I have been running for about a dozen years now, where I upload songs and members vote on what songs they like the best. Simple as that.

I generally have between 12 and 20 songs up for review each week, depending on what members vote for. Those that receive the most votes each week stay on for another poll, those that don't get taken off.

And the songs I put up are not necessarily the hits. I put up B sides, album tracks, and stuff you will never hear on regular oldies radio, and probably won't even hear on satellite, or at least won't hear with any regularity.

Songs can remain up for review a maximum five times.

I run "seasons," and the 2013-2014 season recently concluded ... and lo and behold, look who the top act was ... it's the Beatles!

Of the many acts' songs I put up each year--more than 300 or so--the Beatles continue to rule.

The Fab Four placed 10 songs on my top songs list for the season, which means, since each song can last five weeks maximum for review, each of their 10 songs that I put up made the cut. Each lasted the maximum five weeks.

The top song on my chart for the 2013-2014 season was "Not a Second Time" by the Beatles, followed by another Beatles' tune, "Doctor Robert."

And I put up really obscure Beatles tunes too, like stuff from The White Album that never gets the light of day, such as "Cry Baby Cry," which was next on the list.

Beatles songs to follow throughout the top vote getters of the year were "Don't Bother Me," "Flying," You Know My Name, Look Up My Number," "Don't Let Me Down," "Good Night," "Long Long Long," and "Old Brown Shoe."

The next most popular act was a former Beatle, naturally.

George Harrison placed four songs on the top levels of the chart, led by "Bangla Desh."

Others on the upper reaches of the chart include Gerry and the Pacemakers--another Liverpudlian act, like the Beatles--with "It's Gonna Be Alright," the third most popular song of the season; the Mamas and the Papas, with their cover of the Beatles' "I Call Your Name" being the fourth most popular tune; and Harry Nilsson, John Lennon's drinking buddy, with his tribute to the Fab Four, a cover of "You Can't Do That," which came in at No. 5.

So, all told, the Beatles had a major influence on the chart during the last season, whether it was with their own renditions of their own songs, covers of their songs, or association with them.


Fifty years after they appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," they still have a major influence. Yes, I know that my chart means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it is a fun barometer of what continues to be popular--

And as far as the Beatles, their popularity continues completely unabated.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rant #1,244: Getting Older

At 57 years old, I have been around the block a few times, but lately, I am noticing changes in my own personal makeup that have put me to sleep.


I don't think that this is anything out of the normal path for me--since I base this on how my parents have reacted over the years--but I seem to get tired more easily now than I did when I was younger.

I used to laugh at my parents for basically bedding down some nights at 7 p.m., but I am starting to feel the need to rest like this too.

Honestly, I started to notice a difference about two or three years ago.

On lazy weekend days, I would be watching TV, and suddenly, I was asleep for a half hour or 45 minutes or an hour or so.

I never napped before. In fact, my mother says that I was not the greatest napper even as a baby, and if I napped, it was probably in the baby carriage outside of the house. I seemed to like the fresh air.

I was the guy who literally could stay up all night--and often did--with little or no sleep.

Years ago, when I supplemented my income as an adult newspaper deliverer, there were days that I actually did not sleep at all, from one day to another, as I delivered newspapers.

And I can tell you, I didn't really feel it.

Of course, I was in my late 30s then, now I am in my late 50s, and I could never do that anymore.

During the week, I am pooped from work, and I have to tell you, to make 10 p.m. is often a chore.

When I watch wrestling with my son, I am guaranteed to fall asleep, even if it is for only a few minutes.

Usually, on Fridays, I do stay up late. For some reason, the weekend gets me going again, and if I am occupied, either with a TV show or perhaps doing something on the computer, I can stay up to about 1 a.m., so I am literally up on Friday from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. the next day, a good 21-hour day.

Sometimes I feel the effects of doing that on Saturday, sometimes not.

I find that if I am occupied and doing something that I like to do, I don't really feel tired doing that.

But usually, come Saturday night, I rarely do back to backs of that.

On Saturday night, I am basically in bed by 11 p.m. at the latest.

And come Sunday night, preparing for the long work week, I am asleep by 10 p.m. at the latest.

And during the workweek, I have absolutely no trouble getting up by 4 a.m. Monday through Friday. I might deviate by a few minutes either before or after that time, but generally, I am up and about way before the sun comes out.

I know I take after my mother in this regard. She is an early riser, as was her mother, my maternal grandmother.

My father also gets up early when he goes to work, but he is a person who literally can sleep all day, as was his father, my paternal grandfather.

So I think that this sleep thing is simply a natural progression for me, from being a kid with a lot of energy, able to stay up to all hours, to an adult who has put in his time after all these years and needs his sleep.

My wife is basically the same way. She was also an all-night person, but now, if she makes 10 p.m., it is more of an aberration than anything else.

So right now, as I type this entry at 4:37 a.m., I am tired, but I did have a good night's sleep.

By the end of today, I will be pooped, I will go to sleep by 10 p.m., and the whole cycle will start up again.

Yes, I do feel like a hamster in a cage running but getting nowhere, but that is where I stand right now on sleep.

And I hope this Rant hasn't been that big a snore, because I bet many of you have noticed the same changes I have as you have gotten older.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rant #1,243: Satellite Radio

OK, I can change my mind, can't I?

I am referring to satellite radio.

I did not understand what its value was before I had it, but now that I have it, I kind of like it.

Although I generally listen to CD-Rs in my car that I have created myself, you can't keep putting the CD into the radio when you make short stops or go on short trips.

And in those in-between times, I would much rather listen to satellite radio than what is on the over the air radio stations.

Those stations lost me years ago, because they are completely bland, don't play the music I like, and even the oldies radio stations have generally moved on from the music I like--the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s--and look at oldies as the 1980s and beyond.

Not my cup of tea.

Now, with satellite radio in the car, I can listen to the type of music that I want to listen to during those breaks from the CDs.

I have located three stations that I really like, and they are set in the car--yes, I finally found out how to do that, too.

They are the 1950s station, the 1960s station, and Little Steven's Underground Garage Radio, which really is a true mix of the first two stations with some newer stuff mixed in.

I became a disciple of satellite radio when I was listening a few weeks ago, and the Underground Radio  Garage station played three in a row of first, Frank Sinatra, second Elvis Costello, and third, the Monkees.

That type of mix is appealing to me, reminds me of what they used to do on the AM Top 40 stations in the 1960s--namely WABC and WMCA in New York--and right then and there, I decided that I liked what I had.

Now to pay for it ... I am obviously not thrilled about that, but I worked it out in a way that it won't cost me an arm and a leg to do so.

I have a three-month trial subscription, which will end in two months. The other day, I called Sirius, the satellite provider, to try to get a good deal after the trial period is up.

They first offered me a deal at I think $14.99 a month, which I balked at. Too expensive to listen to three stations, I told them.

They knocked it down to $9.99, and I told them that it was still too expensive.

They then asked me what I wanted to pay for the service.

I told them that some people I know are getting it for $4 a month, which is true, I heard some people at work talking about it.

The operator put me on hold for like five minutes, came back, and we had a deal for five months at $4 per month after the initial free period ended.

So I don't have to worry about this until the beginning of next year, and then, I will probably sign up for the same $4 deal.

I think that that price is worth it for what I am listening to. I have sampled the other stations, and they really don't appeal to me and how I am using satellite radio as a fill-in, but the deal I have makes it all worth it.

So I made a mistake early on, not really being impressed with what I heard.

But the more I listened, the more I found that for what I was listening to, the experience was quite different than listening to regular, over the air radio.

So there. I admit that I was wrong.

And for $4 month, who's complaining?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Rant #1,242: Good Time Off

It was really nice to have July 4 off from work, even though the actual day really was horrid.

It rained, and rained, and rained some more, washing out our plans for a family swim and barbecue day.

But we did not let that stop us.

We found what to do this weekend, and it started on July 3.

My work actually gave us a half-day off, so we only worked until 1:30 p.m.

It was very busy at work, so I stayed until near 2 p.m., but when I got out the door, my holiday began.

I went to the allergy doctor, got my monthly shots, and eventually worked my way home.

It was hot as all hell outside, very humid, and let me tell you, I could not wait to take off my shirt and tie.

And that is basically what I did once I got home, stripped down and let the air conditioning pour onto me as I watched "People's Court" and "Judge Judy"--there was nothing else on, and I needed something that wasn't too deep, because I was fried.

The next day was July 4, and it was a disaster, weather-wise.

Hurricane Arthur pummeled us with enough rain to last a month in just a few hours, and whatever plans we had were wiped out.

So we took in a movie, as did many people in our neck of the woods, because the place was packed.

We saw "Maleficent," the Angelina Jolie film about a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty legend. It was OK, not great, and with all the special effects, they made Jolie's skin look like porcelain.

Getting into the theater was the first mishap of the holiday weekend. I told the ticket taker that I wanted three tickets, and when he gave me the tickets, I did not realize that he only gave me two. I even said to my wife that the seats were cheaper than other places we had gone to see movies, and lo and behold, we found out how cheap they were at the door, when we were turned away, missing a ticket.

I went back, bought another ticket, and we were set, but unhappy. It's the first time that ever happened to me in the more than 50 years I have been going to the movies.

Later that day, after the film, we decided to bring in food for dinner, and I went to a fast food place that I won't name right now, because I had another incident there.

I ordered my food, and the person taking the order got it completely wrong. When I set them right, I had to wait for part of the order, and it seemed that the person taking my order forgot about me. I gave them about 10 minutes, and then brought it up to them that I was missing part of my order. They put in for the order, but initially put in for the wrong thing.

It was a disaster, fueled by the fact that the person taking my order did not have good English skills; she had a limited understanding of English ... what else is new?

Yes, I reported the place, and they did get back to me, saying that I was going to get a call from them. I am still waiting for the call.

As for what fast food place it was, let's just say the Red Sox play in the town this restaurant chain is named after. Figures, me being a Yankees fan ...

Anyway, on Saturday we really didn't do anything but watch baseball and finally have our barbecue.

And no, we did not watch soccer. Funny, who is talking about soccer now that the Americans are out of the World Cup? Not too many, not even the phony fans who were sitting at the edge of their seats for this nonsense as it played out.

Yesterday, we watched more baseball, swam in the backyard pool, and enjoyed our last day off.

Now it is back to the workplace, which I am looking forward to like getting the plague.

I have no other days off this summer, less one day I have to take off next week when my son goes through some testing.

Otherwise, I am truly fried this summer, and it isn't going to be pretty.

I hope you had a good time off, and now that it is over, I can say that even with the mishaps, it was fun.

Speak to you tomorrow, if I survive work today.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rant #1,241: Happy July 4

Hey, it's summertime!

Let's all go into the water!

Let's barbecue until we are blue in the face!

Well, we will have that opportunity tomorrow, as it is July 4, Independence Day, and most of us have off from work.

One problem, at least in my neck of the woods.

Tomorrow is literally supposed to be one of the 10 worst days of the year, a very humid, rainy day where the best place for any of us will be indoors.

This is all courtesy of Tropical Storm Arthur, which is drunkenly moving up the East Coast, teetering on becoming a hurricane, and wreaking havoc in its path (get the "drunken" reference, Dudley and Liza?).

Anyway, tomorrow is supposed to be a horror of a day, so what do you do when you are stuck at home with nothing to do?

Well first, cherish the day--I mean, how many paid days off do we get?

Second, there is always the TV, the Internet, the radio ... there will be a lot of special programming tomorrow, a lot of marathons, so take your pick.

Third, cherish being with your family, even if you are doing nothing. At least you are all together, not scattered about like on a normal Friday.

And finally, because of the calendar this year, July 4 is actually the first day of a legitimate holiday three-day weekend ... so you can relax for three days straight.

I don't know about you, but it has been so busy at my work that I am looking at the three days almost like a mini-vacation from the nonsense I have put up with there.

And you can watch fireworks on TV. I have never been a real fireworks person, never really that into all the booms and bangs that these things cause--and the horror they can cause when in the wrong hands--but the safest place to watch these things is from a distance, anyway, and that is what TV is for.

So even if the day is a washout like it probably will be for many people in the northeastern part of the country, enjoy the day.

Funny, the next two days after Friday are supposed to be nice, so if I have to, I will push back the celebration of the holiday a day, and really get into the summer spirit.

So enjoy the holiday, and no, I won't be here tomorrow, either, so I will speak to you again on Monday.

Have a great holiday and a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rant #1,240: Self-Serving, Promotional Rant

Today, I am not ashamed to say that I am going to use this Rant as a vehicle to promote my Facebook page about the 45 RPM record.

My Facebook site, entitled 45s, is possibly the most benign thing I have ever done.

The site address is

There is no controversy, although we have had some problems with a few people who have joined up, and they are pretty much gone.

The site has to do with those old singles, the little seven-inch records that we used to spin when we were kids.

These records were the hits of the day, and some came with picture sleeves.

Most were tied into longer LPs, but even if they were, they were unique to themselves as pieces of art as much as albums were.

We celebrate these seven-inch wonders on 45s.

We have over 200 members now, and many of us put up good representations of our collections.

Many of the photos used are scanned, and I have been told by a member or two that they actually collect the scans, primarily of singles that they do not have, which is interesting unto itself.

I am no expert on 45s, and quite frankly, even though I have thousands in my own personal collection, I certainly do not have everything there is.

Some members seem to, or at least they have things that I have never seen, so it makes it really interesting to see what people have--and more importantly, see what record companies thought would sell way back when.

There actually is a resurgence in interest in vinyl records, fueled by college-age kids, who really dig this format more than many of their predecessors.

Me, the 57-year-old old fogie that I am, well, I will always prefer vinyl over CDs, and over MP3s or any other electronic file.

You have the piece of art in your hands, at the ready. What could be better?

So please visit 45s--you won't regret it.

I am now off the pulpit, and ready for the next thing to really rant against.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rant #1,239: An Eye For An Eye ...

The beauty of this blog is that I can write about anything.

One day, I can write about something so benign that it won't rub anybody the wrong way.

Today, I am going to write about something that could rub some people the wrong way.

Today, I am going to lash out at my own country, and other countries, and people in my own religion, for the way that they have reacted to the situation in the Middle East, where three young men were kidnapped, and then killed, simply because they were Jews.

Over the past few weeks, this story has been building, but funny, I didn't see the international clamor for justice that I saw when those girls in the continent of Africa were kidnapped by rebel leaders.

When that horrible situation became public, seemingly every Tom, Dick and Harry got on their pedestal to lash out at the kidnappers. There was an international lobby so strong against this that every day for a few weeks, you saw plenty of movers, shakers, famous people and average citizens like you and I demand that these young women be let go.

Well, then you had a somewhat similar situation in Israel, where three teenagers, hitchhiking, were kidnapped, allegedly by Hamas, the international terror group, and murdered.

But we didn't know that they were murdered until yesterday.

You saw the mothers of these men basically begging for their release.

But funny, I did not see the international lobby push for action like I did in the other situation.

I did not see our President, nor our First Lady, hold up placards saying, "Free the young men" like I did when they demanded that the young girls be freed.

I did not see Hollywood--which backs every liberal cause imaginable, including gay marriage and immigration reform--clamor to see these young men freed.

The only celebrity I saw who was doing anything related to this was singer Tony Orlando, who urged people to put yellow ribbons on trees to signify the plight of these teens, a la his hit with Dawn, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree."

And I didn't see many American Jews--who are so prolific in backing every cause known to man whether it involves them or not--get together to demand the freedom of this trio.

What makes it all more worse is that one of the young men had dual citizenship--he was from Brooklyn, he was an American.

It wasn't a page one story, and only because that the young men were found to be murdered did it become one.

There is something very wrong here, isn't there?

Like I said before, Jews back every cause imaginable. It is in our blood, in our tapestry, in our upbringing.

We walked hand in hand with those looking for equal rights for minorities and women, and we are leading the cause for equal rights for gays and for immigration reform.

Why did we drop the ball here?

And our leaders are even worse. I mean, one of the kids was an American. If nothing else, we should have been more active in this situation because of that, not because he was Jewish.

But there was nothing doing on this front. Nothing.

I understand the situation entirely.

We, as a country, have recognized the joint Palestinian government, which includes Hamas, an international terror group that has even infiltrated our own country.

We have tried to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, refusing to understand that until the Palestinians recognize Israel as a sovereign country, there can be no peace.

We don't recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel, or its capitol. I bet you didn't know that.

We have politicians who claim to be friends of Israel--our only true friend in the Middle East--but don't act like it.

Take our President. Take Hillary Clinton, supposedly the front-runner in the upcoming Presidential stakes, who claims allegiance with Israel and her own nation's Jews--I remember when she ran a few years ago, she claimed to be "Jewish" because her 890th relation happened to be of that ilk--who has labeled Israel as "an aggressor nation."

And Jews voted for Obama in droves, and they will vote for Clinton that way, too, if she runs.

Jews have put themselves in a terrible position with this most recent episode, and it is almost a reverse "anti-Semitism" corner they have painted themselves into.

We have so homogenized ourselves into society that we are losing our religious identity.

We are "the chosen people," but we ourselves choose to do nothing in situations like this, basically turning our backs on our own.

We allow big-mouths like musicians Elvis Costello and Roger Waters to spew hate about Israel and about the Jews, just because of who they are.

And we allow a fellow Jew, and a fellow American, to die at the hands of one of our enemies who we seem to respect in a weird sort of way.

I don't get it, I really don't.

But in a way I do get it.

Israel's reaction to this entire episode will be condemned by the world, but it is the only thing it can do.

Before it came out that the young men were murdered, Israel did raids on Palestinian outposts, arresting hundreds, and they know who the "masterminds" are who did this latest tragedy.

They are currently bombing these Gaza outposts, showing that no matter what anybody else does, thinks, or says, they will take care of their own.

Hamas says they had nothing to do with the kidnappings and murders, but in the same breath, they say that they are happy that these things were done.

They like kidnappings of Israelis, and Jews, because they can use the kidnapped as bargaining chips for the release of their own who have been imprisoned by Israel for their heinous acts.

Or they can kill them, which is what happened here.

When is the international community, and Jews themselves, going to stand up, clamor for the right thing to be done?

I don't have that answer. I just don't know.

And it pains me to say that. It really does.

Anti-semitism lives, and oftentimes, some Jews even practice it on themselves.

What a tragedy.

And more importantly, what a fiasco.

Israel is never 100 percent correct in what it does, neither is the U.S.

But when Jews need help, need backing, need some thrust when certain situations happen, funny, I don't see it.

Where are the Al Sharptons, where are the Jesse Jacksons?

It almost makes me wish that there was a budding Meir Kahane out there, but I won't go that far.

The bottom line is this: the way the world, and many fellow Jews, reacted to this kidnapping was atrocious.

But, unfortunately, it was expected.

'Nuf said.

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