another brick in the fence…

Working on the newest installment of Skateboard Heroes I can’t help but think about the 70s in California when empty pools were one of the things that led to modern skating. It’s pretty cool, really, to think that taller fences or crazy ultra modern electrified pool barriers might have wiped out the movement before it started. It’s a pretty depressing thought, isn’t it? There’d be no half pipes, no Tony Hawk, and no Tech Decks. Man, I love those little boards. I ride so much better with two fingers than I ever did on legs.


You know, it’s funny how some things have very different meanings in different context. For example: tea party. If little girls talk about a tea party it’s cute and charming. If middle aged women from Alaska talk about tea parties you might, like me, panic a little bit about the swift decline in the IQ level of the room. If patriotic colonial men dressed like Native Americans talk about tea parties, well…the harbor may be smelling like Earl Grey for a few days.

Here’s another: Black and Mild is meaningful to anyone who smokes a value cigar. Of course, if the phrase is spoken in passing in the workplace, well, the human resource people will probably have a fit.

You need to think, sometimes long and hard, before saying a lot of things. I’ve been watching The Flash, a show form the early 90s based on the fairly famous comic book character of the same name. When someone on that show says “Wow, you’re the faster man ever,” when the Flash runs up, he’s pretty darned happy. Of course, if she says the same thing during a passionate love scene…


I recently had to travel to Virginia for work, it’s been a few months since my last trip. This time, a whole bunch of coworkers who don’t usually make the trip were down there with me. We did a lot of talking, comparing hotel rooms and airline stories. Airport delays and missing towels were among the standard fare we discussed.

We talked about the glory days of air travel, when people dressed up and actually fit into their seats. There were free playing cards and peanuts aplenty. We talked about three course meals and hot stewardesses who would give you a lap dance with a smile if it made your flight a little more pleasurable.

Now they yell at you for breathing too loud, refuse to give you water, and glare if you don’t yank your earbuds fast enough when the light comes on. One of the few exceptions, according to a coworker, is Virgin. Seems Virgin can offer a slightly more old-school travel experience than most of the few remaining carriers. Semi-psycho billionaire Richard Branson is generally credited with kicking it up. One of my coworkers said he called it getting Branson tickets when he got to travel Virgin.

The Parade

It was a happy Memorial Day, indeed. I hope yours was lovely too. The parade in town was probably the best we’ve attended in the last 5 years or so. It was sunny and warm but not humid, a great start. The baby didn’t fuss once, and the 4 year old picked up a ton of candy. Yeah, these days they throw candy to the kids along the parade route. How’s that for a mega-change from what I grew up with.

Along with the requisite fire trucks and jeeps, we saw karate demonstrations and classic cars, horses and riders sporting fancy equestrian clothing, and even a couple of burros. And of course, along with the vets and active service men and women, we saw the scouts.

That was big fun because our oldest was marching with the Cub Scouts. And he actually wasn’t acting too crazy. In fact, he looked like a proper little gentleman and well prepared scout as he marched by. So cute.

Somehow, though, in spite of his proper appearance at the midpoint of the route where we were positioned, he managed to end the parade with a hat full of candy. I mean it. FULL of candy.

Different times.

Reflecting on Maturity

When I was young, I imagined that when a man grew up and became ‘mature’ he would sit in a wood paneled library surrounded by books and Audubon prints, drinking port from magnificently huge snifters, smoking imported cigars of questionable legality and discussing economics and politics, making pithy statements about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In reality, I have grown up and become cynical, sitting in an unfinished basement on a ‘borrowed’ steel case chair or a tired recumbent exercise bicycle, surrounded by preschooler sketches and Liquor store ads, drinking tap water from a refilled Poland Spring bottle, blogging prosaically about life, traffic and the failure of the news media to adequately inform us without bias.

And then, a simple trip to the mall with my 7 year old this past weekend gave me a sense of superiority that even the finest Cuban Churchill and vintage Dow’s (or Churchill’s for that matter) could never offer.

We were walking past a Finish Line store with all sorts of sneakers displayed in the window. One rack showed multi-colored Nike’s of all colors, vertically arrayed in a rainbow of two-tone swoosh combos. Two men of about my age passed us and I caught their conversation. Let me note in advance that while I am not a person who makes snap judgements about the socio-economic position of individuals based solely on their physical appearance, one thing was abundantly clear about these guys – neither had (as the Catholic School nuns used to say) had a pot to piss in. Anyway…

First Guy: I need to get a pair of those.
Second Guy: Which ones?
First Guy: The black ones with the yellow swoosh.
Second Guy: Why you need those?
First Guy: I just bought a yellow and black hat.
Second Guy: Oh.

Now I am not trying to assume some sort of moral superiority simply because it escapes me why a man of limited financial means would require a pair of shoes sale priced around $150 to match a recently purchase baseball cap. I mean, I know that coordinated fashion is high on the list of many people, but… I mean, was it maybe irresponsible to buy a black and yellow hat in the first place knowing that you do not already own black and yellow sneakers? I mean, that day he was wearing a white cap with a navy bill and it looked fine with his white and red sneakers. Even his white t-shirt, though a little grungy, fit the overall color scheme. Yes, the forest green hoodie threw off the whole red, white and blue – these colors don’t run!!!! –  theme, but still. Maybe if he’d just gone straight for the white and red cap, he wouldn’t need those new coordinating sneakers.

And this leads me to another, even more important point. We all know that most men really don’t care about fashion. Their only real reason for trying to dress cool is to woo a potential lover. Clearly this guy was straight, because no gay man would buy matching yellow and black headgear and footwear, so can someone please tell me where you find the ladies that are impressed by the bumblebee color combo? Seriously, is that the only barrier to this guy getting laid? Not having black and yellow kicks to match his black and yellow ball cap?

Should I just move to Canada now?


And while I’m writing about the ICU waiting room, here’s a comment my mother made that I can’t help but mention…because it bears great truth. It is amazing how many people will use the bathroom and not flush the toilet. And not just number one, but number two.

People. What the hell are you thinking? If you’re doing the deed and then, um, wiping the evidence of the deed, aren’t you going to be washing your hands anyway? I mean, please…PLEASE be washing your hands after making the poops. My 4 year old has known this for, well, ever. And if you’r washing your hands right then, don’t you think you can bend the knob? Seriously, it’ really not that gross. It’s just cold steel.

And contrary to what you might think, it is highly unlikely that the prior user did something really nasty on their hands and then flushed, leaving nasty all over the knob. It just doesn’t really happen all that often.

And seriously, haven’t you figured out that 95% of public bathroom users don’t ever touch the knob? That’s what your feet in nice comfortable rubber-soled shoes are for. I don’t think my mother has touched a public washroom flusher since the 70s. I’ve had to explain to  my kids about using my foot on the knob and both boys eagerly await a height gain of 6 to 12 inches so they too can foot-flush.

I know there are germophobes that won’t shake hands and require steam cleaners to prep any unfamiliar room, but come on. It’s a hospital. The janitors do the rounds more frequently than the doctors and if all else fails, there is a dispenser of hand sanitizer along the wall every 5 feet. It is WAY more unsanitary to leave a toilet full of unflushed schmootzie than to flush and then wash your hands.

Is it laziness? Is it lack of concern for your fellow citizens? Is in germophobia? Is it stupidity?

Is it just me?


In the ICU waiting room at a major trauma center University hospital you see a lot of things. You see, for example, a world class mullet on a middle aged guy in a navy windbreaker, timberline boots and urban camouflage fleece pants. It was impressive. I commented to my brother that it is always nice to see someone visiting their sick loved ones in their “really nice” fuzzy pants. He remarked that he was pretty sure David Lee Roth had the same pants. Maybe in the Panama video?

If not, DLR wishes he had.

There is no better cross section of class struggle, though. Seriously. Get yourself to the ICU Waiting Room some day and you’ll see what I mean.

I was particularly entertained yesterday when a very dark skinned woman in unbelievably straining designer jeans came in. She was massive, in all respects. She was heavy, though not Orca fat (to borrow from The Usual Suspects) but checking out the best fat burners might not be a bad idea. The cornrowed beauty by her side looked like a minor meal for her Mama.

And massive – not to sound mean, but I cannot emphasize her all around hugeness enough chose a seat, from the dozen available, right next to a diminutive lady, frail and tired looking. She’d brought her lunch in a soft-sided lunchbox, a trick many of the old hats seemed to know. It’s a long day with lots of waiting – bring a book and bring your own food.

Anyway, for all my setup, the payoff may seem slim. Let me just say that the fleeting look of abject terror on the little old lady’s face – however short-lived – was just priceless.

Chase Blows

Get this – we opened a Home Equity loan a few years ago to invest in a business. We got out of the business a while back and no longer need the line. But it has remained open since then. This was a good thing since we are thinking about doing a little addition upstairs to make a little more room for the coming little bundle, and the HELOC rate is pretty low, so it is a good time to borrow.

A couple of days ago we got a letter from Chase, the HELOC provider, informing us that because of declining property values they are freezing the line so we can’t draw on it anymore. Someone else (a bank loan officer, actually) told me they are doing the same sort of thing with a lot of their credit card holders. Now we are excellent customers. We always pay on time, we never carry credit card balances, we never miss payments, or anything. Furthermore, banks all over the country are taking our tax money from the government to cover bad loans, while this bank is freezing our good loan.

And they’re doing it right at the moment when we want to spend some cash and – dare I say it – stimulate the damn economy. You know, create a few jobs for a month or two, buy a lot of American made materials, invest in our property and keep the investment local.

Anyway, my response to Chase has been consistent ever since they bought Bank of NY and forced me to be their customer – when they provide ridiculously bad customer service and impose incredible stupidity on our banking relationship, I pick it up and go somewhere else. I’ve closed out all of my personal and business checking and savings accounts, a business line of credit and an auto loan. Now I am getting a new HELOC and will close the Chase one. And next I will open a new non-Chase credit card and stop using the ones I have that they bought out from Bank One and First USA.

The good news is we should have no trouble getting another loan and move ahead with the addition. We got a solid estimate that is pretty reasonable and includes just about everything. All we have to do is decide between wood flooring and carpet. And we have to pick paint colors.

And if we’re really lucky we might actually be able to pull this off before the baby is born in June. Reminds me of when Jake was born and I was finishing up the bathroom renovation in our Ossining house the night before Carol and baby Jake came home from the hospital.

Who doesn’t love a little excitement, right?

Has My Faith Been Restored?

Last night, as the clock rolled past midnight, we came into a new day both literally and figuratively. I saw the labors of thousands bear fruit. I saw the dreams of millions become a reality. It was a remarkable feeling.

There is a lot of talk about the younger generation as a prime driver of this dramatic political and social shift. I remember the last time they described an election in similar terms, driven by the young vote. I am proud to say that I was a part of that happening. It was my first vote, and the change in policy and philosophy resulted in, perhaps, the most significant period of growth in our nation’s history.

This nation was founded by people of vision and courage. They were smart, strong-willed, unbending, and most of them were very young. They wanted something better for themselves and their children. They were full of hope.

But this event, this success, this triumph should not be diminished by statistical nonsense or rhetoric about race or age or gender. This is a victory shared by all Americans, regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation because the system worked. It was a difficult campaign with, much of the time, spite, accusation and invective. Mud was slung. Nasty things were said. But in the end, the people of this nation took advantage of their right, in fact, they embraced their responsibility and made a selection. The system worked.

During the primary race, I wondered if the United States as a whole was ready for what the Democrats had to offer – a black man or a woman. Could we, as a nation do it? Honestly, I wasn’t sure. Over the last few weeks in the campaign, as I saw repeated examples of ignorance and intolerance, I found myself questioning the integrity of the American people. I found myself with very little faith in the American people.

But last night, as a man made his concession speech, and a handful of his supporters embarrassed themselves and disrespected their candidate, I realized something. Perhaps those ignorants and the intolerants, though vocal and loud and adept at making themselves visible, perhaps their numbers are smaller than I feared. Perhaps, even, a lot smaller.

A long time ago I wrote a pretty trite line in a song…Change is good, even when you feel it. It may not be particularly insightful, but it is true. Tom Waits said it even better. If it’s worth the going, it’s worth the ride.

So what does this philosophical wank all really mean? Am I getting warm and fuzzy and Yankee Doodle Dandy in the George M. Cohan style? Not really.

And to answer the titular question, has may faith in the American people been restored?

Truthfully? No. But my hope for the American people has been. And looking at some of the moments in time that brought us to this very new morning – the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Second World War – all predicated on the hopes and dreams of the American people, I will take hope over faith any day.

Slap Happy

Games Explanations - Slap Tag and Sheep

I couldn’t help but share this excerpt from Handbook of Recreational Games by Neva L. Boyd, published by Dover. I love the quirky Dover books you see in craft stores all the time, and got onto their weekly free samples list. That’s how I came across this text which must have been written like 40+ years ago.

Slap Tag is just funny. Dodgeball, a staple of both my grade school Gym classes and afternoon recess, has now been banned at schools across the nation. Can you imagine a modern day Physical Education Instructor explaining the rules? Think of that one kid who used to tell on everybody, the kid you all picked on whenever the teacher snuck out for a smoke. Consider his modern day equivalent in his Golden Fleece polo. Think about just how red his palms would be after third period Gym.

Apologies if you were that kid.

I included Have You Seen My Sheep? because it actually reminds me of a game Jake has created called I Wish I Had a Doggie. Jake’s game (only one of many, many such games he has invented including Wampa Ice Creature from The Empire Strikes Back, Roar, and Mountain Dew the Mountain Dew Soda Machine Transformer.) I Wish I Had a Doggie is not, however, a version of tag. See, Jake is the doggie and I am the kid who wishes I had a doggie. My roll in the game is to fail to notice the puppy right before my eyes as I repeatedly lament, “I’m so lonely. I wish I had a nice Doggie to be my friend.” Jake pads around on all fours whimpering and reminding me when I get distracted by whatever’s on Noggin that I have to keep saying “I wish I had a doggie.”

Eventually I discover this doggie and we embrace. Sometimes I get licked. Then I have to guess his name. His name, of course, is Jake. Unless Noah is also participating, in which case his name is Keek – Noah-speak for Jake.