5.31.2008

THE METS ARE PRICELESS

On Saturday, Maggie and I went to Shea Stadium to watch the New York Mets play Joe Torre's Los Angeles Dodgers.

Maggie showed up on time. For once.

It was kind of a boring game -- at least for the first seven innings -- so we bought a lot of snacks:

Such as:
  1. a hot dog -- $5.00
  2. a large Diet Pepsi in a commemorative cup -- $5.00
  3. a hot pretzel -- $4.50
  4. a slice of pizza -- $5.25
  5. a bottle of Snapple ice tea -- $5.25
  6. a bottle of Aquafina water -- $4.50
  7. another hot dog -- $5.00
  8. another Diet Pepsi in a commemorative cup -- $5.00
  9. a Carvel ice cream in in a commemorative cup -- $5.25
sub-total -- $44.75

I also bought a souveneir program for $5.

That makes the total expenditure, above and beyond the ticket price...

$49.75


Supposedly, when the Mets' new stadium opens next season, there are going to be several "world-class" restaurants for fans to enjoy, both before and after the game.

Who the fuck is going to be able to afford to eat at these restaurants? If the Mets are charging $5.25 for eight cents worth of shitty soft-serve ice cream in a chintzy little plastic baseball cap, what is a steak going to cost?

The way the Mets are playing right now, they should be giving food away to their fans!

Feed me, Mets.

By the way the Mets won 3-2 on a Fernando Tatis run-scoring single in the 8th inning.

Congratulations on not losing.

HARVEY KORMAN (1927-2008)

My friend Nancy Kersey emailed me this morning, telling me of the death of actor Harvey Korman.

Korman was a cast member on CBS's
The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978), arguably the best sketch comedy show of all time. He was often teamed with fellow cast member Tim Conway, and their pairings usually resulted in both men (but particularly Korman) cracking up.

Watching Harvey Korman grimace as he tried to hold back the laughs was one of the signature moments of that show. And, as a kid I thought this was one of the funniest thing I had ever seen.
I still do.

5.30.2008

LOST = GILLIGAN'S ISLAND

Tonight was the season finale of my favorite show -- Lost.

SPOILER ALERT!!

On tonight's two-hour episode, seven castaways got rescued and returned to the mainland. For a variety of reasons, by the end of the show, some of them were miserable and wanted to go back.

The same thing happened on Gilligan's Island.

Gilligan's Island ran for three seasons, from 1964 until 1967. Eleven years later, in the reunion movie Rescue from Gilligan's Island, the seven castaways were rescued, returned to the mainland, hated it and decided they wanted to go back.

The world had changed too much and they yearned for a return to the simplicity of life on their Island. So they all reunited for a cruise and -- you guessed it -- ended up stranded right back on the very same island.


Clearly, the producers of Lost are ripping off Gilligan's Island.

One more thing:

In the next reunion movie, 1979's The Castaways on Gilligan's Island, the former castaways got rescued AGAIN and went back AGAIN. But this time they decided to open a resort hotel on the island, financed with Mr. Howell's money.

Maybe that's what happens next season on Lost.


I know I'd stay at The Lost Hotel.

5.27.2008

MEMORIAL DAY WITH TV STARS OF THE PAST

If you're like most Americans, you spent the long Memorial Day weekend with friends and family, enjoying the warm weather.

But if you're like me, you spent the Memorial Day weekend in a meeting room at the Holiday Inn, getting autographs from long-forgotten TV stars of the 1950s and '60s.

Let's assume for a moment that no one reading this has ever been to a fan convention, memorabilia expo or autograph show. Well, that's too bad for you. Because you are missing some dorkalicious fun.

I've been going to shows like this since I was 10-years-old, when my mom used to escort me to comic book conventions at the Statler Hilton Hotel in New York City. She would sit in the Ladies Lounge reading a book (usually some racy paperback by Erica Jong or Barbara Taylor Bradford) while I would wander the hotel ballrooms with a pocket full of cash and my index card want list of Richie Rich comics.

In my teens I moved on to Star Trek and Dr. Who sci-fi fan events, and later to conventions honoring the 1960s supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows. Then I graduated college, started working and put aside some of the odd hobbies of my unusual childhood.

But that teenage dork is back! Only now he's fat and 40.

In the last few years I've attended a number of events where fans can meet TV and film stars of yesteryear, get autographs and take pictures with their aging idols. Sure, these actors and actresses aren't stars anymore. Some of them never were stars to begin with. But for me, there's something exciting about meeting an actor or actress who brings back fond memories of childhood. It's my opportunity to thank them.

And, as everyone knows, the best way to say thanks is with cold, hard cash.

Here's the way it works: the "celebrity" will sit at a table with a stack of 8x10 glossies and a Sharpie marker. Often a friend or loved will sit next to them, to take care of the ugly business of money changing -- usually $20 for an autograph and a snapshot. They also protect the celebrity from the occasional crazy fan.

I know what you're thinking. Isn't everyone who goes to an event like this a little bit crazy? Sure. But some of us hide it better than others. Like me, for example. I sort of pride myself on being the least weird of the weirdos.

It's not much, but it's all I've got.

Actually that's not true. I've also got Maggie, who often accompanies me to events such as this as my personal photographer. Sometimes she joins in the fun too, like the time we both got autographs from the actor who played Eddie on The Munsters.


On Saturday Maggie and I arrived at the Holiday Inn and made our way to the second floor meeting rooms. There, hidden around a few corners and behind the bathrooms, was a room filled with musty memorabilia, aging fans and elderly actors from TV shows of the '50s and '60s.

The first celebrity I met was Phyllis Coates, the actress who played Lois Lane on the first season of The Adventures of Superman. According to the event promoter, this was her first ever appearance at an autograph show on the East coast. And there was a long queue of fans lined up to meet the 81-year-old actress.

I finally got to the table and gave my name to her handler.

"I'm Will," I said, as I handed him a $20 bill. "That's W-I-L-L" Ms. Coates smiled at me and began autographing my picture. Then I asked if I could take a picture with her.

"Sure," she said. "But you'll have to come down to me. The joints don't work quite like they used to!"

"Tell me about it," I said, as I genuflected beside her. "Did you hear that? That's my knee popping. It makes that sound every time I bend it."

"Have you tried Omega 3?" asked the actress who I had grown up watching in black & white reruns. "I take three a day. One in the morning and two at night. And it works wonders."

We chatted for a few more minutes about supplements like Glucosamine and Chondroitin and then I said my goodbyes.

"It was a great pleasure to meet you," I said.

"Don't forget," she replied. "Omega 3!"

Next was James Hampton, one of the stars of the 1965-67 sitcom F Troop. Hampton played Trooper Hannibal Dobbs, the bungling bugle player.

I introduced myself and we talked about what the
remarkably well-preserved 71-year-old actor has been up to lately. He mentioned that he lived in Dallas and I told him about the movie I worked on there back in 1996.

"So do you like doing shows like this?" I asked.

"I do, when I get to meet people like you," he replied. "Sometimes the people are a little bit..."

Hampton paused, perhaps remembering that some of the people to whom he was referring were within earshot.

"I know," I said. "I know what you mean."

Then I asked him if I could take a picture. Without instruction, Maggie pulled out the camera and took her position as photo journalist.

"Wow," he said. "You guys have got a real system going!"

"Well, the person that you love accepts your quirks," I said. "And one of my quirks is that I enjoy meeting people I grew up watching on TV."

My biggest treat of the day was meeting actor Larry Storch, the comedian and impressionist who played the hapless Corporal Randolph Agarn on F Troop. Now 85, Storch seems to derive a good share of his income from nostalgia events such as this one. He even dresses up for the occasions, wearing a replica of his Civil War-era F Troop hat complete with an arrow shot through it.

"We've actually met once before" I said to Larry, after a handshake. "It was in the dressing room of the 46th Street Theater on New Year's Eve in 1986. You were in Arsenic and Old Lace with my friend Jonathan Frid."

I then went on to explain that I had worked for Jonathan, the actor who played the anti-heroic vampire Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows, when I was in high school and college.


"It was always an adventure working with Jonathan in that show," Larry said with a laugh. "His lines came out different every night. He really kept me on my toes."

Then Larry mentioned that he has visited with Jonathan at the Dark Shadows convention last summer and that he was looking well.

"You look great too," I said. "The last time I saw you you were in your boxers. So I feel like I've seen a side of you that most other fans have not."

Everyone laughed, particularly Larry's decades-younger girlfriend, who was seated beside him. Then he and I took a picture together.

"It's great to see you again," I said. "Particularly with all your clothes on."

And that was it. That was my brief visit with the past.

Later that night I got home and placed each of my new pictures in magnetic frames, and hung them on the refrigerator, along with the others. Each picture is of someone I watched as a child and met as an adult.
And each picture has a story.

When I got to work today a co-worker asked me what I had done over the weekend.

"I spent some time with old friends," I said.

HAPPY DECORATION DAY!

My father called today and left a message on my voicemail.

"Hi son. This is Dad," he said. "It's 7 o'clock on Decoration Day. Give me a call when you get a minute."

I had no idea what he was talking about. So, when I got home, I did some research. Apparently, the holiday that Americans celebrate on the last Monday in May was originally referred to as "Decoration Day." On that day, Americans would decorate the grave sites of fallen soldiers.

But the name was officially changed to Memorial Day -- in 1868.

The only soldiers who were ever honored on Decoration Day were the men who fought in the
Civil War.

I know my father is behind the times, but this is ridiculous.

Daddy and me on Decoration Day in 1868.

5.26.2008

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

The Andrews Sisters perform Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy in the 1941 Abbott and Costello comedy Buck Privates.

5.25.2008

SMOKE GETS IN YOUR PHARMACY

My pharmacist was standing in front of the pharmacy today, smoking a cigarette.

He waved at me with his "smoking hand" when I walked into the store to pick up a prescription. He was smiling and he didn't seem embarrassed or uncomfortable or anything. For a second I thought he might ask me to join him, just to be friendly.

I'm the last person to tell smeone not to smoke. I love smoking too much, even though I am fully aware of the dangers involved with it. But there's something that feels very wrong about a pharmacist smoking in front of the pharmacy.

Can you imagine if you arrived at your doctor's office and saw him outside, smoking a butt?

"Just go on in and grab a seat," your physician might say. "I'll be right with you, as soon as I finish doing permanent damage to my heart, lungs and cardiovascular system. And don't forget about the lung cancer, which runs in my family."

Wouldn't you stop seeing a doctor that behaved in such a patently unhealthy fashiosn? So why not a pharmacist? You rely on both for informed perspectives about medications and diseases. And you expect them to live healthy lifestyles.

In case you haven't heard, smoking is not part of a healthy lifestyle.

But this isn't even the half of it. There are three pharmacists who work at the pharmacy I patronize. And they all smoke. They all stand in the same spot, right in front of the pharmacy, in full view of customers and passers-by.

I've seen one of them finish a cigarette break, only to be relieved by a fellow pharmacist, lighting up on her break. It's like a shift change for smokers.


Admittedly, two of the pharmacists are foreign women around age 30. I'm not sure where they're from, but they both sound like Dracula. So maybe they're from Transylvania.

I know that foreigners smoke in greater numbers than we do. Apparently all countries need to go through that rebellious, teenage, I'm-so-cool phase, just like we did up until the early 1970s.

But once those foreigners come here and get jobs in the healthcare profession, It may be be time to re-asses bad habits.


I really want to tell these three about Chantix, a new smoking cessation medication made by Pfizer. Two people I know from work broke decades-long nicotine addictions after just a few weeks on the medication.

But that feels weird to me -- giving advice to my pharmacist(s). I mean, isn't it supposed to be the other way around?

After all, the commercials don't say "Ask your customer if Chantix is right for you."

5.22.2008

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Someone at work today said, "Let's set up a meeting after the holidays."

She didn't mean next January. She meant next week. How exactly is Memorial Day "the holidays?"

This is all part of a horrible trend toward political correctness in this country where people refuse to say the name of a holiday for fear that it might offend someone. It started with Christmas, extended to Thanksgiving and now it threatens Memorial Day.

Who doesn't celebrate Memorial Day? Who doesn't want to honor the men and women who have served our country? It's unpatriotic!

But it's not even about Memorial Day, per se. It's just this instinct that some idiots in corporate America have developed to avoid mention of holiday names. It's all about this ever-worsening climate of fear in which we live.

You think I'm blowing this out of proportion? I'm not. Political correctness is slowly destroying the level of discourse in this country as surely as I am slowly turning into a fat man.

Stop it.

Just say 'Have a great Memorial Day weekend" and then go home, or to the beach or on vacation or whatever the fuck you do on a three day weekend.


5.21.2008

DO I LOOK FAT IN THIS SECURITY CAMERA?

I stopped by my favorite deli this afternoon to pick up lunch and I noticed something: I was on TV.

The deli has set up a security camera on the salad line -- apparently to make sure that no healthy-eating felons steal the pre-packaged plastic bowls of lettuce.

I think they secretly put it there for another reason -- so that customers can see themselves on the TV monitor, decide they look fat and choose to buy a $6 salad for lunch.

Like me, for example. There I am on the right of the frame, wearing a striped polo shirt and my Mets hat.


Do I look fat to you? Before you answer that question, remember one thing: the security camera adds 10 lbs.

5.20.2008

ALSO CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY

Actor Jimmy Stewart, born 100 years ago today.

Here are some pictures from my favorite Jimmy Stewart movies:

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Harvey (1950)

79 AND COUNTING

Happy birthday to my father, born on this day in 1929.

My sister, my father and me, circa 1978

5.19.2008

MAYBE THEY MISS ME

It's been months since I moved in with my girlfriend, and out of my apartment at 40 Horatio Street.

It's been months since I canceled my phone, cable TV and utilities. But I'm still receiving bills in the mail from Con Edison.


I just got another one on Saturday. When I saw the envelope I was immediately pissed off, convinced that some minimum wage moron had neglected to properly cancel my service. But then I opened the envelope and looked at the bill inside.

Perhaps you can explain to me why, in this economically troubled climate, you would bother to send a bill to someone who doesn't owe you anything. I mean, it costs 42 cents just to send a letter. And it's got to cost a couple cents for all the paper they use for the statement and the envelope.

Con Ed is already down half a buck just to send me this letter.

And for all you environmentalists out there, just think about how many trees died for this! Okay maybe not whole trees, but at least parts of trees. Or sawdust. Or something.

Obviously, Con Ed is not a green company! Shame on you Con Ed.


And yet, I don't owe them anything. If we're going to start sending bills to people who don't owe us anything, I have to get busy. I have like 100 million bills to send out.

Which reminds me, I need your home address and social security number please. And while you're at it, please include your mother's maiden name and that three digit number on the back of your credit card.

But the capper to all of this, the icing on the cake of waste and absurdity, was the message I found on the bottom of the statement.


Please make checks payable to Consolidated Edison? Payable for what?

Am I supposed to mail Con Ed a check for $0.00 just to keep up this elaborate ruse? And what if I don't? Will they send me a late notice? I bet they will -- and that it will include a late payment fee. And then I will actually owe them money again. And then I will start getting more bills
. And then I'll start getting calls from bill collectors. I mean, more calls from bill collectors.

I see how this works. It's some sort of a scam to keep me on the hook.

I see your game Con Ed. And I ain't playing. You may miss me, but I don't miss you. Leave me alone! I don't want to get back together.

5.18.2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRANK CAPRA

Happy birthday to Academy Award winning director Frank Capra, born on this day in 1897.

Capra with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert on the set of "It Happened One Night"

The Sicilian born Capra is best known as the director of the 1946 classic It's A Wonderful Life (which he also wrote), It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) -- all selected by the American Film Institute for inclusion on the list of the top 100 films of all time.

Capra can sometimes be a little corny for my tastes, but when he hits the mark there's nobody better.

I've written about my lifelong affection for It's A Wonderful Life, but I think It Happened One Night is my all-around favorite Capra film. It's sharp in every way, and remarkably hip for a film from the mid-1930s. And unlike a lot of films of that period, it's not dated - at least in any way that is distracting for a modern viewer.

Yes, the fashions, behavior and mores are a product of the era, but the film feels almost modern in its sensibility and tone.

It's the perfect introduction to Capra's work, and it's available for rental viewing through iTunes.

5.16.2008

DEPRESSING POST

I was watching Turner Classic Movies the other night and Nancy Sinatra was on, talking with host Robert Osborne about her father Frank and his relationship with Dean Martin.

"A little piece of Daddy died when Dean died," Nancy said (I'm paraphrasing). "After that, it took him longer to laugh at things."

It was certainly a tragic introduction to a comedic film, 1965's Marriage on the Rocks. But I can completely see Nancy's point.

I do feel like a little piece of me died when my mother died. Even though we weren't extremely close, even though I didn't see her particularly often, I knew that she was there. I felt her presence. And the fact that she is no longer there makes me a feel a bit adrift.

I've never been good with change. That's why I've stayed in relationships, jobs, apartments, etc. long after I stopped being happy in them. But there's something about the change that is brought on by death that is beyond my ability to comprehend. I don't really comprehend it now and I'm not sure I ever will.

I don't understand death. I don't understand what's it like to be here one day and not the next. I don't understand why it happens, or how, or when, or where or any of those things. I Mean, I know why people die. They get sick, or old or murdered, or whatever. And they die. But the cosmic significance of it is hard to get my arms around.

And experiencing it, with someone close to me, has made me a bit gun shy. I'm more conscious of death, of my own death. I'm not fixated on it, but I would concede that my thoughts about death have gotten a bit unhealthy recently.


I wasn't a particularly happy person before my mother died, and I am less happy now. It does take me longer to laugh at things. It is harder to enjoy things, just like Sinatra after Dean died.

My mother's death has made me conscious of my own mortality. I'm running from it. I'm trying to outwit it. And through all of this I am constantly reminded that my other mother is still out there, alive I'm pretty sure, somewhere, just waiting for me to find her. And to be born again.

5.14.2008

I AM UNDER-STIMULATED

I just found out that my economic stimulus payment is only going to be $403!

I thought everybody was supposed to get $600. But no, not me. Apparently I make too much money to receive the full stimulation. On paper, this sounds like a good problem. You make more than a certain amount, you need to be given less than others.

But here's the flaw in that logic: I live in New York City. Cigarettes cost $8 per pack here. Down in Florida you can get three packs for that much. I'm no economist, but that obviously means it's three times as expensive to live here as it is to live in other parts of the country.

And that means I should get three times the stimulation as everyone else -- not $197 less.

Sure, I don't drive. And no I don't have any kids, or a variable rate mortgage, or a car loan or car insurance payments or anything like that. But why should I be penalized for making smart choices in life?

I have managed to avoid the financial traps that most other Americans have fallen into. I should be rewarded for that, not punished.

Somebody suggested recently that I might not be living up to my earning potential. And he or she was probably right. I could make more money than I do right now -- if I took a staff job that I hated, worked long hours, became (more) depressed and generally felt trapped by a life that I didn't want.

Or I could not do that. If you had the choice, which would you pick?

And what if I had decided to do all that, just for the sake of making as much money as I can? I would get an even smaller check from the government than I'm getting now.

You'll pardon me, but I think I'm going to stick with my current plan.

Where my money, bitch?

5.12.2008

SINCE SOME PEOPLE ASKED

A number of people asked me how I felt yesterday, on the occasion of my first Mother's Day without my mother.

I am happy to report that it felt just like any other day.

I took the train out to Connecticut and spent the day with Maggie's parents, her sister-in-law and her four year-old niece and toddler nephew. I brought her mother a bouquet of flowers, as protocol dictates. Of course the flower shop in Grand Central Station charged me about twice as much as the last time I bought flowers there. But you got to make hay while the sun shines, right?

I also called my sister and my aunt and wished them a happy Mother's Day.

But I didn't miss my mother yesterday any more or less than any other day since she died on December 28. In fact I actively endeavored to remain unsentimental. It was my act of protest to the capitalist machine that has bastardized a holiday that was meant to be anything but commercial when it was conceived by Anna Jarvis 103 years ago, following the death of her own mother.

In fact, I hadn't seen my mother on Mother's Day for the last few years, since she and my father moved to Florida back in 2005. And I've never really been a big fan of Mother's Day anyway. It always seemed forced, like a contractual obligation of childhood, rather than an organic celebration of love and appreciation.

One time when I was little I said to my mother, "How come there's Father's Day and Mother's Day but there's no Kid's Day?"

"Because every day is Kid's Day," she shot back.

The more time I spend around other people's children, the more I believe that my mother was right.

5.11.2008

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY

5.08.2008

IT'S ALL OVER FOR ME

I just bought a pair of 36" waist jeans at the Levi's store. Actually two pair.

This is it for me. Remember this day -- May 8, 2008 -- this is the day that it all came to a tragic end, right there on 14th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.

After weeks of struggling to cram my ever-widening midsection into pants that were multiple sizes too small, I finally relented. And in the process I broke a promise to myself: never to go higher than a 34" waist.

For years, 34 was the imaginary line of death for me. It was far in the distance, an ungraspable concept, sort of like Alzheimer's Disease or cataracts. I knew I would get there some day, but that day always seemed far, far off.

And so today, after enduring a particularly uncomfortable welt formed by the top button of my jeans digging into my rolly-polly belly, I decided that the time had come to get real and deal with the truth.

So I walked into the Levi's store on 14th Street and began to browse. There were stacks of jeans piled to the ceiling. I began flipping through the piles and found no 34" waist jeans.

I was relieved. Apparently I wasn't the only one who had hit the big 3-4.

There was a salesclerk standing next to me as I searched, but he was busy dancing to the techno remix of Kung Fu Fighting, which was playing over the PA system. Sadly, I had to interrupt him while he busted his move.

"Do you have this in a 34 waist?" I asked, wincing. "And while you're at in, let me try a 33 too." I was being optimistic.

He handed me a 33 and a 34 and I made my way to the fitting room. I pulled on the 34s and had to struggle to get them buttoned. Not only had I hit 34, I had passed it. The 33 sat there on the bench, mocking me and my hairy gut.

I walked out of the dressing room in my socks, searching for Ricardo, my dancing salesclerk.

"I need these in a 35," I said, looking down at the floor. Eye contact was too difficult at that moment.

"Oh, we don't carry 35s," my svelte helper replied. "That's only special order."

Wait a minute? I am so fat that the store has to special order my pants? How the fuck is this possible? I admit that I've let myself go a bit, but outside of New York and LA I'm considered practically anorexic. It made no sense to me.

"Well, I need the pants now," I said. "What should I do?"

"How about 36 waist?" Richardo asked.

"Shhh!" I said, holding my finger to my lip. "Not so loud! I don't want anyone else knowing about this. Just bring me a couple 36s and let's get this nightmare over with."

Ricardo gave me two pair of 36 waist Levi's jeans, a 559 and a 505. I tried both of them on. They fit comfortably.

"I'll take them, I said to Ricardo, as I walked slowly out of the fitting room. "But I want you to know one thing. This is a temporary situation. I will be back in a couple months, and I'll be asking you for size 33. Mark my words, amigo. Mark my words!"

"Okay dude," Ricardo said. "Cash or credit?"


WHAT'S THE POINT?


Isn't every store 99 cents & Up?

5.07.2008

ALWAYS BET ON BLACK

Before I left work on Tuesday, I asked a co-worker if she was going to watch the coverage of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries when she got home.

"Nope," she said. "I don't vote. They're all liars."

She's right, of course. The system is sadly, depressingly, almost irreperably flawed. But I can't imagine throwing up my hands and abandoning it.

I am obsessed with presidential campaign coverage. I watch MSNBC every night, I listen to tons of podcasts, I read The New York Times. I record all the Sunday morning shows -- This Week, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Reliable Sources and more.

I've been fascinated with the political process ever since the 1980 election, when I supported independent candidate John Anderson against Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter (the only time in the last 28 years I didn't support a Democrat).

The dye was cast that year. In the six campaigns since Reagan's victory in 1980, my candidate has come up on the losing side of the ledger four times. In fact, the first time I cast a vote for president, in 1988, my guy lost badly to Reagan's V.P., the first George Bush.

Oh, Michael Dukakis, I had such high hopes for you!

This is not an interest that reoccurs every four years and is put to rest until the next election. It's a year-round, 24/7 fascination. Even though I am often disgusted by the politicians and their behavior, I choose to remain aware and engaged. I have to. What other choice do I have?

Until I decide to move to Canada -- which I might just consider in the event of a McCain presidency -- this is the only political system that I have. And, while it is imperfect -- and certainly in need of some major repairs -- it is a better than most of the other options out there.

There is so much at stake, so much to do. And that's why I'm watching Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Tim Russert on MSNBC at 1 AM on a Tuesday night. And this year, of all years, how could anyone disengage from the process?

This is a election that will be talked about for generations to come. Fifty years from now, when my (hypothetical) grandchildren ask me what it was like the first time a black man and a woman ran for president, I want to be able to speak from an informed perspective.

And I really want to be able to say, "President Obama changed things in this country, for the better."

I know it's a longshot, but I've been betting on the longshots since the beginning.

5.05.2008

SECOND HAND SNACKING

I saw something at the gym today that I've never seen before.

A rather large man in a football jersey was pedaling away on a stationary bike, watching 60 Minutes on his individual TV monitor. And he was eating snacks.

That's right, he had a plastic Tupperware tub of what looked like Veggie Booty, along with a bottle of blue Powerade, and he was just snacking away during his "workout."


I've seen people eat at the gym before, usually protein bars or shakes, or healthy things like that. But green Cheese Doodles? That's what Veggie Booty is (are?). It's just green-colored Cheese Doodles with some algae, or kelp or seaweed or something added to it so moms will think it's a healthy snack.

Maybe it's better for you than Cheetos, but it's still junk food. Who eats junk food at the gym? Is this guy so malnourished that he can't wait 30 minutes until his workout is over before he busts out the eats?

No wonder half the country is obese.

I blame this situation on the individual video monitors at each cardio machine. Many Americans snack in front of the TV. I do it myself. It's totally understandable. But at the gym? You go to the gym to lose weight, not gain it.

My question is, why doesn't the New York Sports Club outlaw this type of thing? Where do they draw the line? Is it okay to bring in a bag of McDonald's? What about a bucket of KFC? And how about smoking? Can I smoke a cigarette on the treadmill?

If not, why not? Sure, you can say that secondhand smoke has an impact on those around the smoker, those who have not chosen to smoke. But what about secondhand snacking?

I had to watch this guy stuff his face for half an hour while I was running on the treadmill.
And what's the first thing I did when I left the gym? I went to the deli and bought some Veggie Booty, thus negating the positive impact of my workout.

And I blame it all on the fat guy at the gym, chowing down on Veggie Booty while the rest of us were busting our asses.


Shame on you, fat man! Shame on you, New Yorks Sports Club. And shame on me for figuring out a way to gain weight, even when I go the gym.

It is tasty, I have to admit.

5.03.2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BING

Happy 105th birthday to Bing Crosby, born May 3, 1903.

Crosby was a star of movies, radio and records, and one of the most distinctive vocalists of the 20th Century.

He was also, apparently, a dedicated pothead. As if I needed another reason to like him.

What's in the pipe, Bing?

5.02.2008

BACK IN PRINT

I make my triumphant, long-awaited return to print journalism today, with a piece in three different New York City weeklies.

It's a feature story about memoirist Janice Erlbaum, author of the new book Have You Found Her. The piece is the lead arts story is this week's edition of The Villager, Downtown Express and Chelsea Now.

You can read it by clicking here.

Have You Found Her is great read and I highly recommend it. Janice's first book, Girlbomb, is also amazing.

You can learn more about Janice Erlbaum here.



5.01.2008

THE FRATERNITY OF THE SELF-POLLUTERS

There is a pack of smokers who stand outside of the building where I work.

Every time I walk in or out, the same people are standing out there, in the same spot, smoking. And this happens every day, rain or shine.


I think these people are professional smokers. There's no way they're getting much of anything else done at their jobs.

I wonder how you get hired for a job like that. Is there a test? If you fail the physical, do you get the job?
All of the people who smoke in front of my building seem to know each other. At first I thought they all worked together, but that is incorrect.

They all smoke. That's how they know each other. Their relationship with each other is based entirely on smoking. And when they're finished with their cigarettes they go back to work for two hours, and then they're back at it again, talking about whatever it is they talk about.


I wonder if these people ever hang out with each other on the weekends

"So Dave, how do you know Bob?" asks a guest at cocktail party

"Well, I met Bob while smoking," another guest answers. "Actually, we smoke together every day -- multiple times. Bob really enjoys his Newports."

"Newports?" Guest #1 replies. "I don't get it. Bob is white."

Today I saw a guy walk past the smokers and wave his hand in front of his nose, with a judgmental sneer on his face. Do people really think this technique works?

Like, some day you're going to be in the doctor's office:

"Well Mr. Jones, " the doctor will say. "You do not have lung cancer, which is great news. Apparently all that fanning in front of your face with your hand seems to have done the trick. Congratulations."

Honestly, I find all of the judgmental behavior toward smokers to be very hypocritical. Smokers experience the same health risks that fat people face. And nobody's taxing Fatso's Twinkies.

I love smoking. I would do it every day of my life if it didn't fuck up my lung capacity, raise my blood pressure and potentially cause other serious health problems - even death. But 'm not going to judge people who are doing what I would love to be doing.

Frankly, I love being surrounded by all the smokers walking up and down New York City sidewalks, particularly around 1 PM. It's like lunch hour at the Betty Ford Clinic. Everybody's pacing around, smoking and acting otherwise nervous and jittery -- I mean, more nervous and jittery than New Yorkers already are. It gives the city character.

But for all you kids out there, my advice is to stay away from cigarettes. Don't even try them. Because it is so much fun to smoke, and it will give you so much joy. But someday you will have to quit smoking and your life will never be the same after. You'll miss it every day, for the rest of your life.

So take my advice and save yourself a lot of trouble. But if you really want to smoke, just walk up and down 5th Avenue at lunch hour. You'll get enough secondhand smoke to keep you happy for a good while.

These are not the people in front of my building,
but you get the idea.