Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How The Yuppies Spoiled Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time when we, like the Pilgrims who started this holiday in 1621, take time out to thank God for all we have been given. Somehow, what with all the parades, football games, and eating as if we were going to the electric chair at dawn, the "thanking" part tends to get overlooked. Oh sure, we're thankful for our families and friends, good health, living in a great country like the United States...all the big blessings that come to mind, but what about the small things? They deserve our gratitude too. And so, hoping to set a good example and maybe start a trend, I decided to list the top ten small things in life that I'm thankful for:

10. That Rosie O'Donnell is a lesbian so that no poor guy has to sleep with her.

9. Living in a country where anyone can grow up to be President, even if they shouldn't.

8. Being named "Sexiest Man Alive" by Geezer Magazine.

7. Thanks to organ transplants, we can now have someone else's heart attack.

6. The market's down, but I can still watch Law and Order reruns three times a day.

5. Finally, all Adam Sandler movies are available on DVD.

4. There was no "Godfather IV".

3. Our sacred American tradition that allows any idiot to vote.

2. That Barbra Streisand never had a "wardrobe malfunction."

1. As proven by reading the Darwin Awards, at least some idiots are eventually weeded out of the gene pool.

I am also thankful for all those Macy's parades we took the kids to back in the day. We must have gone for twenty straight years. Standing huddled against the cold waiting to see such b-list celebrities as the lip-sinching Osmond Family, Eartha Kitt at age 85 on a respirator, and the guy who does Bette Midler's dry cleaning. It was worth getting up at 5 am for this. The real parade attraction was the balloons. I don't know how they maneuvered those mammoth things down Central Park West, with the swirling crosswinds on every corner, but it was always a treat to see. The crowd would start buzzing when a particular favorite was still blocks away: "Here comes Snoopy, here comes Snoopy."

The parade was fun when we first started going. People were reasonably polite and respected the fact that those in front had got there early to have a good view. In later years, the Yuppie scum showed up, arriving late with their Starbucks coffee and spoiled-rotten kids. They would push their kids to the curb with no regard for who was in front of them. One year we saw a bunch of them standing on the hood and roof of some poor shlub's car to get a better view. When we hollered at them to get off, they looked at us like we were crazy. To paraphrase an old joke: "What's the tragedy when a bus load of Yuppies goes off the cliff." Answer: Two empty seats.

Holidays are a special time. They remind us that being with family and celebrating our traditions are what make the day so uniquely American.

In that spirit, I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where's My Shawl, Mother?

As I get older, I'm finding that slowing down can be a good thing. It's not like we have a choice; while you certainly should do all you can to keep physically and mentally fit as the birthdays pile up, nature will usually throw up some speed bumps that tell you to take it down a notch. The funny thing is how different life can be when you switch the dial from "fast forward" to "play." It's like driving out to eastern Long Island on the local roads instead of using the Expressway; it may take you longer but you get to see a lot more along the way. This is a gradual process. You don't go from being a hyper, type A maniac to Captain Calm overnight, but you do start to see changes in your behavior.

One thing I observe is that you start paying more attention to your family. Not that you didn't before, but when you're working full time, the job produces a lot of stress. When you get home you want to decompress, and that's only natural. This need to restore your own equilibrium may cause you to not fully appreciate the fact that your family deals with stress too. The clues they may drop about needing your help or advice can easily get overlooked. It can also cause you to not share fully the joys and successes they experience. Old age may diminish some capabilities but I think it actually enhances your capacity for empathy.

Another change is the need to focus on your health. Again, not to say you didn't before; that's partly what helped you come this far. But now it seems like no week is complete without a visit to this or that doctor. It's like the old joke: "Guys still have their little black books, but all the names now have M.D. after them." I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, and I freely admit it. I smiled knowingly at the Seinfeld episode when George Costanza, after being examined by the doctor for a white spot on his face blurted out: "Is it Lupus!" The point here is better safe than sorry. Physical ills that you used to shake off need more attention now.

Diet becomes a big deal for seniors. I was blessed with an iron stomach and a very healthy appetite. Food has always been, and still is, one of my passions. Besides being married to an excellent cook, we also go out a lot more now that those fat social security checks are rolling in. If you watch it, there's no reason you have to survive on wheat grass and tofu. Eat what you enjoy, just less of it. Restaurant portions are ridiculous; eat half and take the rest home. Stop punishing yourself with sorbet and have the damn cannoli, but only as an occasional special treat. And for crying out loud, have a drink. A cocktail or glass or two of wine a day is actually good for you, and makes you much more pleasant to be around.

This next change has been hard for me, but I'm working on it. The guy who cuts you off without signaling; the store clerk with the attention span of a moth who asked you three times if you wanted sugar in your coffee; the garage mechanic with the dirty boots who left you a special memento of his presence on beige carpet in your car.... just let it go. I have this problem (tell us about it Jim) where I expect people to act in a certain way, like intelligent humans. I set up unrealistic expectations for my daily encounters with the public, and because of this, I am invariably disappointed and annoyed when they don't measure up. Start by expecting less of people and you will never be disappointed.

People wonder why I play golf in the winter. Why endure the cold when any idiot knows that golf is meant to be played in warmer weather? Well I'm not just any idiot. Most of us are city-dwellers and don't often get to spend a lot of time in the woods. With my golf game, I'm always in the woods, but while there I feel a closeness to nature that is almost indescribable. If you are able, you should always walk the golf course. Using a cart is like taking the Long Island Expressway.

As you walk over the crest of a hill on a fairway carpeted in green, and see the sun rising through the Autumn trees, with bright orange, red and yellow leaves crunching under your feet, you just know there is a higher power ordering the universe. The feeling you get easily compensates for being out in the cold, but more important, helps you forget about your golf score, a good thing in my case.

And finally, you start taking pleasure in little things that never mattered as much before. Sitting down with the newspaper and a good cup of coffee; rediscovering the books they tortured you with in high school; walking in the park and going out of your way to say "Good Morning" to the people you pass; making your grandchild laugh by putting Play Doh on your head; looking through your wedding album and being reminded how lucky you are that such a beautiful bride picked a guy like you... it's all good. Sure the aches and pains will be there in the morning, but the good news is so are you.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stupid is Forever

Comedian Bill Engvall does a funny bit about how stupid people should have to wear signs that say, "I'm Stupid." That way you wouldn't rely on them or waste time asking them anything. It would be like, "Excuse me, can you tell me... oops... never mind, didn't see your sign." Like a lot of humor, it's funny because it's so true. Sometimes I hear things out of people's mouths that just make me shake my head. Engvall points out some good ones on his CD entitled (what else) "Here's Your Sign", but you can hear your own examples like these every day:

We like "bring your own wine" restaurants. It's a considerable savings on the cost of the meal when you don't have to pay the restaurant's ridiculous mark-up on wine. So I set the bottle we brought on the table and the waiter says: "Would you like me to open this for you?" "No, I'm bringing my wine collection down here one bottle at a time to show you, and this is the first installment." Here's your sign.

At the bakery , I take a number and wait to be served. (OK, so I nibbled at the free samples they put out to tempt you.) After ten minutes or so, my number comes up and the sweet young girl behind the counter asks: "Can I help you?" "Nope, I'm just wrapping up my "stand around and smell the cake" tour at all Staten Island bakeries, and you're my last stop." Here's your sign.

While having breakfast in the diner this morning, I hear from the booth next to ours: "So I bunked into him the other day..." and my idiot detector went off immediately. Sure enough, this moron is talking to his buddy and goes on a sexist rant about some woman he knows who is sleeping around (he used a different word) with every guy in town, and all she needs is a good man to make her happy. Here's the sentence that got him into this blog: "Hey, when I don't know nuttin', I keep my mouth shut." Ding-ding-ding...we have a winner. Here's your sign.

How about when your dentist is working on you, and your mouth is stuffed with cotton and enough and hardware to set off a metal detector. Your head is tilted back farther than it was ever meant to go, and your jaw is practically unhinged from complying with the "open wide" command. Your dentist then says something like: "What do you think of the Jets chances with Farve this year." You reply: "Gui rhoset deg irheg ah 'wroith." Hey doc, Here's your sign.

I don't recall the store I was in, but I was paying with a credit card. The clerk noticed that I hadn't signed the back of the card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed. So I signed the credit card in front of her. She then compared that signature to the one I signed on the receipt. They matched. (Let's hope she chooses not to reproduce.) All together now: Here's your sign.

As someone wisely said: "Dumb can be temporary but stupid is forever." Anybody you know need a sign today?


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where Have You Gone Thomas Edison?

Men like Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, John Jacob Astor, and Cornelius Vanderbuilt helped build America's economy to be the strongest in the world. They may not have been the nicest guys, and some of their methods were harsh, but bottom line, they knew their business and how to grow it. Even modern American executives like Jack Welch at G.E., Thomas Watson at I.B.M., Bill Gates at Microsoft and Warren Buffet at Berkshire Hathaway took their enterprises to stellar heights and pulled our economy right along with it. In looking at the events of the past year, I can only ask: "What the f**k happened!!!"

We find ourselves in one of the worst recessions in the country's history, in large measure because of greedy CEOs like Ken Lay (Enron); Bernie Ebbers (Worldcom); Robert Willumstad (AIG); and Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers) . These men presided over some of the biggest corporate collapses ever, with more to come. Thanks to the ineptitude of the people who were supposed to be experts in their fields, American workers will have to watch as their nest eggs evaporate, people will lose their jobs, and entire industries that have bolstered our economy since World War II may go under.

The latest debacle is the auto industry, where for the past forty years a combination of management arrogance, union greed, and just plain cluelessness as to what the automobile buyer was demanding helped to bury the big three car makers and the city of Detroit. These morons stood by while Toyota and Honda just ate their lunch! Remember "planned obsolescence" where Detroit purposely made cars that would not last so people would buy new ones! Henry Ford would have gagged at the very idea. And now they have the audacity to fly into Washington in their private corporate jets with their dirty hands out. What magical "competence car wash" can we run them through that will transform them into visionary, thinking leaders, and guarantee success where only failure existed before? Bailouts for Detroit are a bad idea.

Maybe instead of giving them the $25 billion, and run the risk of them failing in spite of it, we should use the money to fund significant tax credits for U.S. consumers who buy American cars. That would move more private money into the industry, stimulate car sales, and give us poor taxpayers a break in the bargain. Hopefully this artificial stimulus will give Detroit enough time to get their act together and compete in the marketplace without the economic "training wheels".

It's not just bad business leaders that dragged America down. Some other factors include:

The "dumbing down of America" started in the 1970s. Public school and college curricula got horribly watered down so that students could be passed through the system without really knowing anything.

The Internet is a great tool, but it's not a substitute for serious study. While our young people spend their time watching American Idol and incessantly texting each other, Russians, Chinese, and Indian students study math and science.

People stopped reading. Televised news broadcasts turned from intelligent newscasters delivering serious news to "giggle hours" where bubble-headed anchors gushed about "Brangelina" to brain-dead- audiences.

Business Ethics became a popular topic for corporate board rooms, and lots of consultants got rich delivering "ethics seminars", only problem is that many corporate leaders had the morals of a (insert your favorite derogatory metaphor here).

Corporate Boards became rubber stamps. As long as earnings were up, nobody asked why or how. Memo to corporate board members: You don't attend the meetings just to eat the free f*****g donuts, ask a question!

The regulators who were supposed to look over the shoulders of big business were out to lunch. We're great at passing laws to limit questionable business practices, but never provide the funding to enforce them. The "watchers" were on auto-pilot.

And finally, there is America's sick addiction to credit. Nobody can wait any more until they can afford something before they buy it. That includes the ridiculous mortgages people willingly took out. You're entitled to the American dream of home ownership, even if you don't have a pot. (This last little item is what finally brought the house of cards crashing down.)

And there it is my friends, instead of enjoying the fruits of forty years hard work, I'm sitting home wondering how much below 8,000 the Dow Jones averages will fall. Whose fault is it? Everybody's. And now we have to deal with the consequences, including a liberal President and Congress who think the solution to all our problems is to tax the "rich". Think that doesn't include you? Well get ready pal, because HERE IT COMES!


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Email: The Seven Deadly Sins

I'm on email a lot. I have a work account and a home account, and I check each at least once a day. Having zero patience causes me to twitch when I get certain kinds of emails. I know the people who send them are well meaning, nevertheless, I twitch. As a public service, I thought I would share these email faux pas to help improve the quality of In boxes everywhere, or at least for the two people who read this blog. Please don't be offended if you see any of your email behaviors described here. Just stop engaging in them.

The Email Imperative - The subject of these is usually something like "MUST READ" or "Best Email I Ever Got". I delete these without reading them. I never used to, but after opening and reading hundreds, I discovered that I didn't want to read any of them. What they are is important to whoever is sending them, but not to me.

Lengthy Attachments - Eight single-spaced pages about the fight to save the Red-Crested Leaf Muncher is just too much to read. I get a headache just scanning these attachments. If they can't convince me that the Red-Crested Leaf Muncher is worth saving in three sentences or less, then all I can say is "Sayonara". Probably craps on my car anyway.

Must Forward - Similar to the MUST READS, but now they want you to annoy 20 of your friends with whatever petition has them excited at the moment. I especially like the ones with the veiled threats that something bad will happen to you if you break the chain. Please don't think me a terrible person, but guess what, I'm breakin' it.

Got It Already - Often I get an email from someone who never bothered to notice that whoever sent it to them sent it to me too. Now I have to delete two crappy emails. Before you hit that SEND button, do me a favor...check the addressees on the email you are forwarding to make sure you're not gonna make me twitch twice.

The "Middle Man" - I have email correspondents who faithfully forward stuff to me with never a single word of greeting or personal comment. As little as: "How are you, thought you'd enjoy this" would be nice once in a while. There was an email making the rounds a while back that attempted to explain this behavior. The gist of it was..."even though I may not write anything, my sending you these emails means I'm thinking of you". The way I read that is: You're not worth 30 seconds of my time for a short note, but I'll keep sending you these lame jokes in case I ever have to borrow money.

The Sob Stories - Little Timmy has an incurable disease, but before he moves on, it would make him soooo happy to see this email sent to at least 100,000 people around the world". This is like the "MUST FORWARDS", but with a maudlin twist: How could you let little Timmy down by not forwarding this. One in a thousand of these (if that) is legit. Usually it's some shut-in trying to relieve the boredom in his or her tedious life. (Timmy, if you're really out there, I'm sorry, but the chain be broken.)

Funniest Joke Ever - I get some funny jokes and cartoons in my In box, but not one of them ever followed the subject line: "Funniest Joke Ever". Humor is a subjective thing; if your sense of what's funny is similar to mine, then it's likely we'll laugh at the same things. If you're sending me emails titled "Funniest Joke Ever", trust me, your sense of humor is nothing like mine.

Have you got it or shall we review? I love hearing from you, and will always reply promptly and enthusiastically to your emails unless you commit one of the seven deadly email sins. No, no, don't thank me. It's what I do.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where's My Tissues?

In my Welcome message for this blog, I promised to inject some "positive" posts to offset my tendency to bitch. I am really not a negative person at heart, its just that I have very little patience; I don't suffer fools at all any more. The ironic thing is that I am far from an unfeeling person. I am easily moved to tears by the smallest kindness. I blubber unabashedly at schmaltzy movies; sometimes in church a well-sung hymn will get me sobbing; and when the media run a story about some of the incredibly giving people we are lucky to have on this earth, I weep like a willow. Here are some stories that sent me running for my tissues:

A Rockwall, Texas woman named Marilyn Mock, recently joined hundreds of others bidding on foreclosed properties in Dallas when she noticed Tracy (no last name reported) crying. Mock asked Tracy what was wrong and the woman explained that she had come to the event to say goodbye to her family's Pottsboro home. When the lot came up, Mock started bidding on the property, eventually buying it for just under $30,000. She then told Tracy that he had bought the home and was giving it back her. While the two still have to work out the details, Tracy and her family get to move back into their home soon. (With all the depressing stories coming out of our current economic crisis, this one gave me a real lift.)

On September 11, 2001 both Engine 202 and Ladder 101 (my son Mike's first company) responded to the call at the World Trade Center. The seven men from Ladder 101 never returned. Both the engine and ladder trucks were destroyed. Upon hearing of the losses, students of the White Knoll Middle School of Columbia, South Carolina raised more than $500,000 to buy a new truck for the firehouse. On June 1, 2002, the leaders of the Columbia, South Carolina Ladder 101 Firetruck fundraising drive traveled to Red Hook in Brooklyn and dedicated the new truck. (You won't find two communities more different than Red Hook and Columbia. What drew them together was the terrible tragedy suffered by all of us that day, and a simple desire to help their fellow Americans.)

It took 14 years of medical school for Dr. Anya Kishinevsky of Darien, CT to become a plastic surgeon — a profession that appealed most to her creative side and her desire to improve her patients’ lives. Last year, she and six other surgeons traveled to the Petchaburri Province in Thailand to perform free reconstructive surgery on children with congenital deformities who would otherwise not have access to such procedures. “Handing these children back to their mothers looking beautiful and repaired was a wonderful experience, really touching,” Kishinevsky said. (There are many doctors who similarly donate their services for kids in need. Next time you want to complain about their new Mercedes, don't.)

John and Jeanette Murphy of Morrow, GA. have four birth children. When they adopted one severely brain damaged child more than 20 years ago, they never realized she would be the first of more than 20. It started when John and Jeanette were working in a group home for the mentally disabled. “Altogether, we’ve adopted twenty-three,” says Jeanette. “They just kept coming,” explains John. “For us, it just isn’t that hard and it’s not that special. Everyone has a different gift and does different things and this just happens to be what we’re doing,” says Jeanette. They get help from Social Security and the kids' Medicaid, and from donations. Local lawyer and children’s rights advocate, Don Keenan, is trying to raise money to get them a larger house. (Any comment of mine would be gratuitous; this speaks for itself.)

Over the years, our family has benefited from acts of kindness from so many people. I won't get into detail because truly kind people do what they do, not for recognition, but literally out of the goodness of their hearts. Some are no longer with us, but happily, many are. We can never adequately thank them, except maybe by paying forward some of that goodness when we get the chance. It's so easy to get discouraged by the emphasis on the negative we constantly see in the media; they live for bad news. The truth is that there is a lot of good news out there, good people who quietly help one another every day. (I really believe that quote from the movie Gladiator: "What We Do in Life Echoes in Eternity".)

Are you looking for a tissue? Good, that should hold you for a while. I will now resume my bitching.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Friday, November 14, 2008

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas

Christmas is speeding toward us. When you're a kid, it seems like an eternity between Christmas holidays; when you get older, it's a blink. Anyhow, this post is about Christmas shopping. Every year we get a ton of catalogs with gift suggestions. Some gifts are practical, some are plain ridiculous, and some are so outrageously expensive that I wonder who gives them? Is there a group of super-wealthy people sitting home with their noses pressed to the window waiting for the mailman to deliver the Nieman Marcus and Tiffany's catalogs? To show you how much free time I have, I thought I would play "Warren Buffet for a day" and look for the most expensive gift items I could find.

Let's start with something small like a man's hat. Tired of your man wearing that raggedy baseball cap that says: "Here's the Beef"? Well this little number will help class up the boy. It's a Russian sable hat that will have the guys down at the Piggly Wiggly saying: "Now where can a fella get a hat like 'at one." It will also make your man a shoo-in for the Raccoon Lodge's "Grand Exalted Mystic Ruler" when that post becomes vacant.
Nieman Marcus: $1875.00

How about a nice sweater to go with the hat. I know it won't be easy to replace that reindeer sweater his grandma knitted him when he was 12, the one he spilled nacho sauce all over, but once he sees this little beauty, that reindeer monstrosity will become his new oil rag. Picture his face Christmas morning when he opens this classic Italian-made cashmere cardigan. Better yet, picture the look of pure envy on the face of the guy behind the shoe-rental counter when he waltzes into the bowling alley's annual "Chug-a-lug for Prickly Heat" fundraiser.
Brunello Cucinelli: $1550.00

Let's not forget the little woman. She has to carry around a lot of stuff, so how about something nice to put it all in. Our friends at Gucci have the answer... the 'babouska' bag with double handles, zip-top closure, heart-shaped Gucci crest, studs, tassels, bottom feet, and inside zip and cell phone pockets. Nicely done in brown leather with brown suede trim and antique brass hardware. It may sound a little pricey, but don't forget those cell phone pockets.
Gucci: $2750.00

Boys, you want your lady to smell nice, now don't you. Not that her "Jean Nate" don't still fire up your loins, but this here's a real fancy fragrance. Tell her not to splash on too much 'cause its mighty pricey. If my math is right, just opening the bottle on this stuff will cost you about $860 due to evaporation. Just have her dab a drop on here and there (if you get my meanin") and you'll be leapin' like a whitetail buck during the Autumn rut.
Harrod's: Imperial Majesty: $215,000 a bottle

Let's take it up a notch. Here's a gift that will help you guys say "I'm sorry" after your wife has to bail you out for urinating in public. This is a big "faux pas" that dinner at Applebee's just won't make right. When you're in deep s**t, you need to pull out all the stops. How about (hold on to your hats) a new car. This little baby ought to wipe the slate clean going all the way back to prom night when that condom fell out of your wallet in her parents' living room. I give you the 2008 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. Beauty ain't she. Don't forget to negotiate with the dealer so you get the low end of the manufacturer's MSRP.
Ferrari Auto - MSRP: $302,584 - $312,395

How about a nice family getaway for Christmas? Things get kinda dull around the trailer park in December. Even your neighbor's "All You Can Eat Corn Dog Christmas" doesn't have the same cachet it used to. Well have we got a trip for you! How would you like to go down to the dock at Hickey's Bait and Tackle and find this floating Red Roof Inn waiting for you. Well grab your flip flops Bubba, round up the missus and the young 'uns and get ready to set sail. Imagine your fishing buddies' faces peering over the rail as you cruise by the live bait barge on the deck of the luxury motor yacht "Excellence III". You'll 'bout pee in your overalls when you give 'em a blast on the fog horn as you glide by.
Mediterranean & Caribbean Charter Motor Yacht: Lease for $365,000 a week.

Now if this economy's pinchin' your pocket, and they laid you off down at the Walmart, don't despair. You can still put something under that Christmas tree that's fun for the whole family and won't cost an arm and a leg. I'm talkin' about "Redneck Horseshoes", the game that's spreading like wildfire from Fayetteville to Tuscaloosa. Like it says on the box, "Tossin' Shoes and Drinkin' Brews", now that's what I'm talkin' about. Even if you can't afford to buy the game, it's easy to make your own. Just go down to Denny's for a Grand Slam breakfast, and while you're in the bathroom (and trust me, you will be in the bathroom) unscrew all the toilet seats and viola, horseshoes.

I want to close by wishing all of you a holly, jolly Christmas. One final holiday tip: when you set up the outdoor decorations on the lawn this year, take some inspiration from last years first, second and third place contest winners:


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association