Apr 292012

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that later this week Marvel’s long-anticipated The Avengers  finally hits movie screens across the nation. Featuring comic book heroes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk (as well as Hawkeye, Nick Fury and the Black Widow), it promises to be an action-packed big-screen event.

If the movie is decent—and the early reviews indicate that it is—then this should be an absolute blockbuster, making a bajillion dollars and, of course, spawning a sequel (or two).

Since Marvel and Disney *apparently* have all the rights locked up on this franchise and its characters, I thought in order to cash in, I am working on a variation of the theme that might make for “corporate synergy” (if I can throw a term out that I would never use in real life but big studio suits seem to eat up like Kobayashi visiting Nathan’s on the 4th of July). Plus, it also uses established well-known names—which studios love because name recognition = easier marketing = more $$$ in their pockets to spend on cocaine, Porsches and cat jugglers—and makes for easier cross-branding.

So, taking Marvel’s Avengers franchise and mixing it with Disney’s Hall of Presidents, I am proposing to create a new super hero team—and lucrative film franchise!—called:


(You know, like “The Commanders-In-Chief” … fer crying out loud, do I have to explain everything here?)

Okay, so to ease the transition, I thought I’d move existing presidents into roles that already exist in The Avengers, both the movie and the comics. So, starting at the start for both groups:

Capt. America, First Avenger meet George Washington, First Commander!

Yeah, this one’s a gimme. Both are true American icons, both are military men, both are unquestioned leaders, and I’m pretty sure Captain America’s shield and Washington’s dentures were made of the same material. Or they will be in the movie—when Washington gets in trouble, he’ll pull out his teeth and fling them like ninja stars at enemies! Maybe groom that wig into little wings like Cap has … come on, this stuff writes itself!

Next …

Teddy Roosevelt is Iron Man!

At first, it seems that the old Bull Moose and Rough Rider might make a better Hulk, but Teddy Roosevelt is Iron man because like Tony Stark, he carried unwanted metal in his chest: Before a campaign speech in 1912, he took a bullet to the chest during an assassination attempt, and not only proceeded to give his entire speech before going to the hospital, but wound up leaving the bullet in rather than having it removed. Also like Tony Stark, Roosevelt was a charismatic maverick. Bully!

Okay, speaking of bullies …

William Howard Taft as The Incredible Bulk ... er, Hulk!

Sorry, but when you are known as “the fattest president ever,” (335 pounds!) that makes you the prime candidate to take on the role of The Hulk. And really, who wouldn’t want to see this former commander-in-chief turn green with rage, rip his shirt off and shout, “TAFT SMASH!!!”

Going (slightly) more sophisticated …

Abraham Lincoln: God of Thunder!

Yes, the beard is an important part of this, and although U.S. Grant had an equally impressive set of whiskers, the ol’ Rail Splitter gets the nod because he could handle an ax like Thor wields the mighty Mjölnir. In addition to towering over rivals, Honest Abe was also a bit of a badass, and allegedly had freakish strength from all those years chopping logs. Also like Thor, Lincoln had an affinity for distinctive headgear—can wings be added to a stovepipe hat?

Next up …

Andrew Jackson takes dead aim at the bad guys!

These two are a perfect pair in that both are usually overshadowed by more flamboyant members of the group, but to overlook either would be a mistake. Both lost their parents at fairly young ages and used those events to become something better than normal men. Jackson was a legitimate tough guy with a chip on his shoulder, fighting in the American Revolution as a 14-year-old and subsequent other scraps (including leading ragtag American forces to victory in the decisive Battle of New Orleans), earning the nickname Old Hickory in the process. He also may or may not have shot an apple off a goat’s head at 300 paces, except no one outside of my own imagination can seem to verify it.

Okay, reaching outside of the movies—

Thomas Jefferson understands the genius that is Ant Man

One of my issues with the new Avengers movies is that that have discarded a few of the characters that have traditionally been part of the team in the comics and the animated TV show (which I watch with my kids). First is Ant Man/Giant Man, a.k.a. Dr. Hank Pym, who is a sometimes aloof scientific genius that can shrink and grow to various sizes in order to fight crime. Jefferson is known as genius for his vast intellect and wide-ranging abilities—of all of the presidents, it seems as though Jefferson would be most likely to tinker in a lab and accidentally discover a formula that could shrink or grow him as necessary. Both characters also had issues with women; Dr. Pym was often busy slaving away in the lab and was abusive to his wife while Jefferson often got busy with the slaves rather than his wife.

Speaking of infidelity—

Bill Clinton takes to action as the Black Panther

It only makes sense: the nation’s first “black” president dons the cowl as the Black Panther, one of the first mainstream black superheroes. Similar to T’Challa (the Black Panther’s alter ego), Clinton’s father died when he was very young; also like T’Challa, who is the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, Clinton seemed predestined to rule. In terms of super hero skills, Clinton has unusually strong powers of persuasion, although I haven’t quite figured out how getting trailer park mamas to disrobe in the back of an El Camino for a quickie can be used to fight evil. I’m sure it probably doesn’t hurt, although there are some who might disagree.

Speaking of (again)—

Hillary Clinton as The Black Widow

After everything he put her through, there’s no doubt that the wife of the “first black president” wishes she really was a Black Widow. [*insert rimshot*] Okay, Hillary is nowhere as sleek, sexy or mysterious as the comic or movie version of the Black Widow, nor is she a former Soviet spy (or so she claims) but let’s be honest: Is there anyone who has been in the White House in the past half century who you would fear more in an actual street fight than our current Secretary of State? Seriously, she scares me—I can picture her tearing my beating heart out of my chest and taking a bite of it, then standing there laughing while I expire. And does anyone else out there think she really hasn’t killed a mate or two after she was done with them?


Barack Obama: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I can make all sorts of comparisons between Nick Fury (the hardcore leader of the comic-book team and Avengers support unit, S.H.I.E.L.D.) and the current President of the United States, but let’s be honest: Obama is the coolest president we’ve had since Teddy Roosevelt, and if you’re going to step into a role being personified by Samuel L. Jackson, you better bring a little swagger with you. Plus, they both look good in black.

All right … time to start working on that script. COMMANDERS, ASSEMBLE!

Apr 272012

Okay, trying out something new here, a weekly post to brighten up the end of the week.

Ideally, each time, it’ll be something fast and fun and five—you know, because I love lists and alliteration. Videos, songs, comments, thoughts … with “five” being the only real theme.

I thought about “Monday OneDay” “TWOsday” “Three for Thursday” and “Wednesday Marmoset Madness,” but ultimately, this won out. (The marmoset madness isn’t off the table, by the way.)

So to start things off, here are:

The Friday Five: Fun Songs

Okay, these are far from “hits,” but they are some pretty amusing music videos.

1. Garfunkel & Oates: This Party Took a Turn for the Douche [NSFW language]
Warning: If you never heard of Riki “Garfunkel” Lindhome and Kate “Oates” Micucci, after watching this, not only will you fall in love with them, you will start seeking out all their other clever, snarky songs and videos like “Sex with Ducks,” “Pregnant Women are Smug” and of course, “Hand Job, Bland Job, I Don’t Understand Job.” [All NSFW language]

2. Storm Large: “8 Miles Wide” [Again, NSFW langauge]
How this song isn’t some sort of American anthem is beyond me.

3. Golf Boys: “Oh Oh Oh”
Simply, the greatest golf music video ever, mainly because it’s the only golf music video ever. Plus, all the proceeds from the song go to charity … and yes, that’s your 2012 Masters winner and major champion in the blue overalls with no shirt or shoes. Ooh lolly lolly!

4. The Lonely Island: “Dick in a Box” [All right, the NSFW language has been bleeped out in this one, so other than guys singing about dicks in boxes, it’s okay.]
Yeah, this still cracks me up, you know, because I’m juvenile.

And of course, the Greatest. Video. Ever!

5. The Hoff: “Hooked on a Feeling.”

Enjoy your Friday!

Apr 262012

So one of my all-time favorite events occurs this week: The NFL Draft!

I’ve been watching it live every year for decades (with the exception of last year, when I boycotted it in protest of the NFL lockout). I’m such a draftnik that I even went to New York City to see it in person back in 2008, when the New York Jets had the sixth pick overall and took pass-rushing linebacker Vernon Gholston out of the Ohio State University … who turned out to be an absolute bust. A workout warrior and not much of an actual football player, he is now already out of the NFL—you know, after getting paid $17 MILLION in three years because of his high draft position.

Nice almost-work if you can get it, right?

Okay, I know some—if not all—of you may be saying, “What’s so great about watching the grown-up version of picking teams in gym class?” I have no real answer for you. In addition to marking halfway from last season to this upcoming season, I guess part of the allure is sort of like Christmas in that you know your favorite team is going to get new presents/players, but you don’t know what/who they’re getting until the moment the name is called out over the public address system in Radio City Music Hall.

For me, the draft is also appealing because there are no real losers because every team will walk away with new players full of potential and hope. Like in the old Super Bowl commercial, the old season is over, it’s a new season again and very team is undefeated! Even the J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!

The NFL Draft is also a lot like fantasy football, you know, except real humans are involved, and then they actually play football after they make teams. But the picking is the same. Sort of …

Anyway, I thought it might be nice to have my own draft, you know, to build my own fantasy blog team. Of course, there is no actual competition or opposing teams or even real logic behind this, now that I think about it …

Okay, let’s go with this: Since the NFL Draft has 7 rounds, here are 7 people from the intrawebz that I’d like to have here as part of team rayality,

1. Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) – In all sincerity, The Bloggess may be the most entertaining person on the world wide web (after me, of course), and now that her first book is finally out and already in Amazon.com’s top 25 (and rising), she’s about to break through to the mainstream. Got to get her before she blows up, as the kids say. (Well, not *my* kids, but someone’s kids, somewhere. You know, cool kids.) She’s also my idol by turning her blogging into full-time independent success, and even managed to get random celebrities to take pictures of themselves hold twine, spatulas and more along the way. Now that’s true power.

Oh and while I was typing this, Jenny’s book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened just went to the #1 on The New York Times bestseller list. Talk about a top pick paying off quickly!

2. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) – Every great enterprise needs seed money to start, so who better to fund my virtual empire than the guy who launched the billion-dollar social network that currently rules the cyber world? Even without the Winklevoss twins, “Zuck” (that’s what his non-Facebook friends call him, I imagine) should bring something to the table.

And yes, I know you’re thinking that given his habit of possibly pilfering great ideas for his own, I think he might have a hard time trying to convince a jury that he randomly came up with something called “rayality.”

One a side note: I’m not sure if it’s come up, but I can’t claim credit for coming up with the term “rayality.” Back a century ago when I was working in financial aid, I was working with a woman named Denise. One morning after I went off on one of my patented “imaginative” tangents—I can’t recall what it was about, other than it must’ve been a doozy of some sort—she looked at me, shook her and loudly announced, “Dude, you’re brain is not right. It’s like you’re off in your own RAYality.”

It was literally like this in my head—

You know, without the god part.

3. Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com) – As you may have noticed, my “brand” isn’t very strong at the moment, and my “retail,” is, well, non-existent. With my CT Jerks book coming out in September, who better to have on my team to help promote it than the guy who runs the biggest bookstore in the world?

4. Josh Fruhlinger (The Comics Curmudgeon) – I like the funny, and like The Bloggess, Josh provides classic snark in heaping doses, although he brings it on a daily basis, which is no easy feat. Inspiration + Funny + Stamina = Exxxcellent.

5. Bent (The Jets Blog) – In addition to being one of the best and brightest football analysts anywhere, let alone in his native England, he’s also incredibly snarky and well-versed in subjects I often reference, including Mets beisbol and pro wrestling. And like The Bloggess, he’s also released his first book, although to slightly less fanfare (so far).

To let you know how much appeal and power Bent has: He has 144 Twitter followers despite never having tweeted. (Yes, that sound you heard is me grinding my teeth in jealousy.)

The additional irony of including him here in my first draft is that on The Jets Blog, there’s an annual contest where everyone is invited to try and guess who the Jets will draft. Every year, I put together a list of people that in the past has included the likes of The Honky Tonk Man (smacking people over the head with a guitar always has a place in the NFL), Jose Reyes (every team needs a speedster, even if it’s from another pro sport), Justin Timberlake (always a playah) and Lindsay Lohan (a wide receiver, from what we’ve seen). For some reason, I’ve never won—hard to believe, right?—but more importantly, Bent has sworn that he will never let me beat him. It only seems right that I have him here in my draft!

6. K8 & Steve (Damned Connecticut) – Gotta *officially* have my web master and my mentor on my team, right? K8’s also a great photographer and Steve sings like … well, like no one else I’ve ever heard. If you’re not following the two of them on Twitter, you’re missing out. If this writing thing doesn’t work out, I am getting a video camera and just recording them all day—they are that amusing.

This also makes it easier for me to “ghostwrite” for Steve … and by “ghostwrite” I mean that I come up with all the ideas and do all the work, but only because he lets me. That’s why he’s such a great inspiration and partner!

7. Senior Smoke (rayality) – It wouldn’t be rayality without my biggest critic to keep me honest, right? I’m sure he’s already pissed that he wasn’t #1. Maybe next time!

All right, not exactly The Avengers, but quite a team I’ve assembled … now if I only had some actual competition.


Apr 222012

So if you haven’t quite picked up on it yet, my mad parenting skillz are always “in development.” Many nights as I lay awake staring at the ceiling, I ruminate upon all the ways I’ve undoubtedly screwed up my sons, impaired their journeys to manhood, utterly failed as a father and all the hours of therapy they’ll have to endure to remedy my paternal incompetence.

And then I have a day like Saturday.

My wife and older son were off to a day-long bicycling event in New Haven, which meant it was only me and my younger son for the day. He’s a bit of an introvert and not the easiest to communicate with at times, but once you get to know him and “unlock his code,” so to speak, you discover that he’s terrific company. A day with him is always well spent.

Anyway, like any Saturday with kids, there’s always an activity going on, and for my son, Saturday is karate day. He loves it and has been doing it for years, even picked it over soccer, which he didn’t suck at. He has worked his way up to red belt, and has even presented forms and sparred competitively in a few tournaments. (And no, he hasn’t had to sweep the leg.)

Another tournament is coming and the class has been preparing for it. Last week, my son had an off presentation of his form, and because he’s a Rain Man-like math whiz and had kept track of everyone’s scores, was very upset because he got the lowest for the day. We went over it all week, including one more time on Saturday. It seems better, but that may be wishful thinking on my part.

Usually, Saturday morning is also the time when I really step up on the “man” front and we practice sparring. By “practice sparring,” I mean I sort of stand there with no pads throwing occasional slap punches and half-kicks in his direction while he uncorks on me with all of his might. Even though he’s “only” 11 and wearing boxing gloves and footpads, he punches *hard* and kicks *even harder*—that soccer leg is still in there. A few months ago he caught me clean in the gut with a kick so strong that it dropped me to one knee; since then, like any kid who got the better of a parent, he’s been trying to duplicate it, which means I’ve been battered like Glass Joe.

Despite his success in kicking my butt in the basement, in the past few weeks, he’s been struggling in class. He twice had the wind knocked out of him by kicks from older black belts—they were going easy, but sometimes accidents happen—and then he had a series of poor matches against other kids his size, including one very good student named Gabe, who is a little dynamo. Consequently, his confidence has been at zero. He has constantly been backing away from opponents, almost to a comical point one time where he was literally running in circles to avoid getting hit.

Fortunately, his sensei has gotten him through the worst of it and his confidence has been slowly ebbing back, but it’s not to the level where it used to be. He’s still been a bit combat shy, and it doesn’t help that he’s among the smallest kids in the group. Still, he always wants to go to class, which is good. I think.

On Saturday, after he finishes beating me like a rented mule, I try to pump him up. I remind him how he’s scored against everyone in class, and that the kid who regularly pummels me in our basement is in there and needs to come out and pummel others. He looks at me and says, “No offense Dad, but you’re not a black belt hitting me back.” Grrrr!

We go to class, and his sensei announces that both sparring and forms are on the agenda. A small knot forms at the base of my stomach. No escape this week.

Like any father, I want to see my kid enjoy success for his own psyche, but like many of those dads who scream mercilessly at their kids on baseball, soccer and football fields, I guess I’m also living vicariously through him. I could deny it here, but the truth is that on some level that’s probably higher than I want to admit, I see his struggles and failures as mine, as self-absorbed as that sounds. Of course, I like to think that I differ from those Great Santini-type dads in that rather than scream and abuse, I’m trying to guide my sons to manhood through positive reinforcement. You know, to a point.

So forms are first. Except while waiting his turn, my son is called out by his sensei to do 20 pushups for fidgeting too much. Not a good start, I think as I watch him count them off. Fortunately, his turn comes quickly, and he goes out there and presents his form. Maybe it’s me or the pushups, but he’s more focused and it’s much better than the prior week.

The sensei and older students agree, giving him higher scores. As he goes to sit back down, he glances over with an almost smile on his face. Nice!

After everyone is done with forms, it’s sparring time, and as my son gets on his equipment, I lean in close. “Just like we practice,” I whisper. He nods and scrambles back out onto the floor. The sparring starts, and as the sensei starts pairing the kids, a new knot forms in my gut as I see my son is going to have to square off against the dynamo Gabe.

The match starts, and as Gabe goes forward throwing wild punches, my son starts backing away. Aww crap, not again, I think as my heart sinks. But it’s only for a moment—as I have been telling him, his feet are dangerous, and if he can connect with a kick or two, it will stop anyone’s attack. Sure enough, he’s backing away to bait Gabe, and is able to connect with a solid kick to slow the assault and score a point. From there, he stands tall and battles Gabe hard. The three-minute time limit expires and the one point stands. Winner, winner chicken dinner!

After sparring, he comes over and gives me a fist bump before taking off his equipment. On the way home, he says, “That was a good class.”

I nod, and suddenly feeling a Mike Brady-like zen and that I should strike while his confidence is high, announce that we’re going to the old gravel track to work on him learning to ride his two-wheeler.

For a number of reasons (maybe I spent too much time playing games while on my butt?) he has never really been interested in riding a bike. Not wanting to make a big deal over it, I never pushed the issue until last summer. After having spent hours running alongside him helping him with his balance, he was getting close to riding on his own but wasn’t quite there yet when we ran out of decent weather.

Now, when he hears my suggestion, he makes a faint protest, but agrees. We get to the track and no one’s there but us. We roll out his bike, and I briefly mention how close he was last year. He gets on and grabs the handlebars, and I get ready to put one hand on the seat to steady him but … he just rides off!

I stand there stunned for a second, and then run after him.

But he really doesn’t need me—for whatever reason, something apparently has just clicked and he can suddenly do it on his own. He asks me stay near, but it’s all good. Before he thinks about it too much, he’s gone one, two, three quarter-mile laps without incident. Near the start of the fourth lap, however, he wobbles and crashes hard, ripping up his knee.

“It’s okay,” I say, splashing some water on the cuts. “Let’s do one more lap.” He reluctantly agrees, but gets right back on and puts in another strong lap. Suddenly, my son can ride a bike on his own!

We get home, and feeling the fatherly testosterone now flowing strongly, ask my son if he wants to help me take apart an old dresser … with a sledgehammer.

“Ohhhh yeahhhhh!” he says. “Let’s smash stuff!”

As he’s breaking apart the drawers, I quietly wipe away a tear and grunt once or twice in approval. As I see it, there’s only one last requirement for the day to earn a full punch on our man cards:

My wife and other son join us for this, but my younger son is sitting next to me during the film. Halfway through it, while laughing like every real guy does at The Three Stooges, he reaches over and puts his arm around me. “This is great,” he says.

Yes. Yes it is.


Apr 192012

So after NOT winning a Pulitzer Prize (yet again), I’ve begun to question my “career” choice. As some of you may have seen on Twitter/Facebook, I was toying with the idea that I might be better suited to being a human cannonball, although I was pleasantly surprised that no one really suggested that the idea of shooting me out of a cannon was an excellent place to start.

Anyway, I realize that writing is probably what I should be doing, but I figured that re-training might be in order, which would mean going back to school. Of course, the idea of me heading back to campus at my advanced age is laughable on many levels—heck, as my son likes to point out, I was there when they first came up with the idea of counting.

Me: “How many fire we need to cook mammoth?”
Thag: “More fire than we have, like fire plus more fire.”
Me: “Fire plus more fire? How that?
Thag: “We could … count number of fire needed to cook mammoth by using fingers. One fire finger, two fire finger, five fire finger …”
Me: “Oww, head hurt thinking this … let’s just have sushi again.”

I thought it might make more sense for me to look into online courses. I went to my alma mater’s website to see what they offered via the intrawebz … Business administration? Computer science? Education? Nursing? Really??!!

What type of practical areas of studies are these in this Internet Age? Really, what needs to be offered by any school truly interested in becoming online learning relevant are courses that would be better in tune with how people are living nowadays, which is pretty much online.

As always, I’m here to help, you know, because I continue to be a giver.

In that spirit, here are—

The Top 14 Online Courses That Should Be Offered in An Increasingly Intrawebz-Centered World

1. The Psychology of Vaguebooking
2. Winning on eBay Isn’t Always Winning
3. (Very) Basic Punctuation and Grammar for Message Boards
4. Anatomy and Dissection of LOLCats
5. FARK Memes and Impact on Post-Modernist Thought
6. Self Help Independent Study: Resisting the Urge to Tweet About Every Bodily Function
7. Internet Porn: Why Pay for the Cow When You Can Get the Milk for Free
8. The Gentleman’s Survival Guide: Feigning Interest in Pinterest
9. Dealing with the Stress and Reality of Fantasy Sports
10. Learning What NSFW Stands For Before A Visit with Human Resources
11. There’s No Cure for Going Viral: How To YouTube Your Own Groin Shots
12. The Art of Google Fu
13. Conspiracy Theory 101: There’s Really No Such Thing as Too Crazy
14. Rule 34: Learning How to Unsee Things

Courses are filling up now …


Apr 152012

As most of you know already, Damned Connecticut was recently voted “Top Travel Blog” in Connecticut as part of the inaugural Websters, sponsored by the Hartford Courant. That now *officially* make me an “award-winning” blogger. As such, it’s time to start acting like a “winner,” which means taking my cues from my formative years (when I watched a lot of pro wrasslin’) and referring to myself from now on in the third person.

So first off, Ray would again like to thank all of you possibly unbalanced people who took the time to vote for Kate, Steve and Ray’s blog, Damned Connecticut. Ray would also like to especially thank the anonymous person out there (again, possibly unbalanced) who nominated us in the first place. Ray is just amazed that something partially from Ray’s brain could reach so many people—in the last year, Damned Connecticut has had over 250,000 visitors—and that so many of them actually liked it enough that they felt compelled to vote for it. Just crayzy, so to speak.

Anyway, to commemorate The Websters, the online staff of the Courant held a small happy hour party at Firebox in Hartford, and invited all the winners. Steve and Ray attended the event (Kate was home with her and Steve’s newborn son Daniel—pronounced “ray,” I think), which was like The Oscars, you know, minus the glitz, red carpet, paparazzi, throngs of adoring fans and Billy Crystal. (Pretty sure even James Franco was too busy for this one.) Still it was great of the Courant to do anything for Ray and the rest of us.

When Ray and Steve arrived—not “early bird” first, since Ray (a.k.a. “Mr. Compass Head”) actually underestimated the time it takes to get from New Haven to Hartford—a few of the other winners were already there. When Ray and Steve walked in, Ray is pretty sure the mental reaction around the room was like this …

Of course, this was coming from a room full of geeks. And when Ray says “geeks,” Ray does so lovingly, and in an effort to be honest. Everyone there was being honored for having “really cool” websites that they built and operate themselves, Ray, Steve and Kate included. If that’s not in the vein of true geekery—even if it’s actual respected journalism, as in the case of CT News Junkie—then Ray is not sure what is.

Upon arriving, they asked Ray and Steve to put on name tags, which Ray normally dreads and was exacerbated by having “Damned Connecticut” under Ray’s name—not that Ray isn’t proud of Ray’s website, but for the rest of the event, when someone came up to Ray and Steve, you could see them sneak a peek or two at the name tags, which was invariably followed by a sort of a “Oh, crazy ghost hunters” look and polite nodding.

For the record: Although there are plenty of haunted places mentioned in Damned Connecticut, Ray, Kate and Steve are not ghost hunters or paranormal investigators. Although Ray, Kate and Steve have visited many allegedly haunted places, Ray, Kate and Steve don’t have infrared video cameras or special microphones to record EVPs, nor have Ray, Kate or Steve personally reached across the spirit void to make contact with departed souls in psychic ways. As the website says, Ray, Kate and Steve are into “all that’s weird, unexplained or unusual in Connecticut,” from giant jack-in-the-boxes to mountain lions to UFOs that fall from the sky.

Of course, by the time Ray can explain this in conversation, people had usually already moved on to the sliders or sliced salmon that had been put out. (Great food at Firebox, by the way, although Ray is disappointed that Steve didn’t take Ray up on one of Ray’s patented $5 American challenges: To take one of the giant platters of bacon cheese fries off the buffet table, go sit in a corner of the bar and eat the entire thing by himself.)

Chatting it up with complete—or even incomplete—strangers at a cocktail party is (by far!) not one of Ray’s strong suits, so it’s good that Steve went along. He’s much better at going up to people and breaking the ice—if Ray had been alone, chances are Ray would’ve stood in the corner sipping his bar-brand cola trying not to make eye contact with anyone in fear of someone realizing that Ray (and his “award-winning” blog) didn’t really belong there.

The good news is that Steve doesn’t have these kind of hang ups, and he and Ray were able to mix, mingle and make a few new BFFs including Michelle and her posse from CT Working Moms, the crew from Local Band Review and Ian from Sox and Dawgs—you know, because Steve is a huge Yankees fans and nothing is more exciting for him than talking Red Sox baseball. (And yes, Ray did take great pleasure in eventually sneaking away from the two of them so Steve could bask alone in Ian’s Red Sox diatribes.)

Oddly enough, at no point during the evening did anyone ask Ray and Steve for their autographs. Probably too intimidated, Ray imagines.

They also may have been intimidated by being in the presence of a soon-to-be-published-again author. Steve, again demonstrating his promotional abilities, repeatedly tried to kindly pimp our upcoming book. (Ray says “our book” because very few people realize that Ray and Steve have an agreement where Ray so completely ghostwrites for Steve that it *almost* seems like Ray does absolutely everything to the untrained—and even trained—eye.) Despite Steve’s enthusiasm for our project, more than one person he mentioned it to sort of gave it that nod parents give their children when they tell them about something that happened on this week’s episode of “Pokemon.” “Oh Pikachu beat Raichu and you wrote a book about jerks? That’s nice, dear.”

Eventually the time came for The Websters to be presented, and Ray, being the brayve soul that Ray is, pushed Steve toward the presenter when Damned Connecticut’s name was called.

That's *pride* on Steve's face, not confusion over not seeing his name on the certificate.

Although Steve had planned a lengthy acceptance speech (and interpretive dance), and Ray had encouraged him to tebow when the time came, Steve opted for the low-key approach and just said, “Thanks.” Whatev.

Following the presentation, Steve asked if he should take the award home or if there was a way how Ray, Kate and Steve might share it. Ray told Steve to take it for three reasons: 1. They deserve it because no one would know about Damned Connecticut if Steve hadn’t been spiritually guiding it and writing nearly Pulitzer Prize-winning pieces, or if Kate hadn’t designed it so brilliantly; 2. Ray would probably toss it in the drawer of his old desk with his journalism awards, where it might see the light of day once every six or seven years; and 3. Ray knew if Steve brought it home, Kate would completely freak out, which is a pretty entertaining thought if you know Kate.

Sure enough, Ray hadn’t even gotten to North Haven on his drive home when Ray got a text from Steve: “First thing out of her mouth—u didn’t take the only award I hope.”

Who knows—maybe by next year Ray will have his own certificate for a top blog! (Yeah, and maybe Ray will stop referring to himself in the third person by then.) In the meantime—

Again, Ray says thanks to everyone.


Apr 112012

This past week, my son was off from school, so I took a personal day to stay home with him. As we hung out, played video games and watched TV, I found myself drifting to the days when he and his brother were much younger and every Wednesday was Daddy Day ….

[*insert “Wayne’s World”-like hand-waving flashback motion*]

Yeah, wanting to be a good parent and not quite understanding what I was getting myself into, I decided after the birth of my first son that I would change my work schedule so that I could be home with him one day a week. In theory, it covered a few bases: I could be part of his (and eventually, his brother’s) life, we could save some $$$ on daycare and I had a four-day work week—sure, they were 10-hour work days, but there was still only four of them, which meant I had 52 more whole days off than I had the year prior! Win all around, right?

Of course, once I actually started staying home with the kids, I learned what generations of stay-at-home parents already knew: That actually working at a desk on any given day is about 100 times easier than being home with two young kids!

I used to joke with my wife that her father’s mother died young because she’d birthed 10 kids and her uterus fell out. I realize now she probably keeled over from pure exhaustion.

Now don’t get me wrong—it has nothing to do with how much I love my kids; it has everything to do with the physical demand of keeping up with them. If you’re thinking I’m whining because I only had to do it one day a week on my own (my wife and I were both home on weekends), well … you’d be absolutely right. But this is my blog and I get to whine here!

So although I would now never trade that time I got to spend with my two sons, there were days where I was so tired all I wanted was for Mary Poppins to magically appear to take charge so that I could lay down and sleep. Even though they were—and still are—terrific kids (shhh!), being solely in charge of them for nine straight hours came close to breaking me once or twice.

In order to get through, I found myself dividing the day up into shorter segments and telling myself, “If can just get through *this* segment …”

Here’s how my day generally went—

8 a.m. – 9 a.m. The first hour of the day was usually play time, and as my wife liked to tease me, I invented dozens of games and activities that I could do while sitting on my butt … you know, to conserve energy.

One of our (my) favorite games was “Bury Daddy!” (In retrospect, the kids shouldn’t have been so excited about this concept; I think my wife liked the idea of it, too. Hmm …) In this activity, I would lay on the floor and they would get all the blankets, pillows and sheets they could find and pile them on top of me. I would rest under the pile, somewhat cushioned, and they would have fun hopping on pop until I rose up out of the “grave,” made some monster noises and let them bury me again. Simple zombie fun, right?

This game finally had to end when one time I was under the pile, nearly napping, and I was jolted by an impact akin to a sledgehammer crashing into my back. When I was done coughing up blood and got my head out from under the pile, I realized that one of my sons had gone Superfly Snuka on me, launching himself from the top of the couch and directly into my kidneys.

After that, I went to board games, books and other activities where the risk of being maimed was reduced.

9 a.m. -10:30 a.m. This was usually the time I let the TV take over for a little while—we didn’t (and still don’t) have it on all the time, in the dream of fostering imagination and other creative play. (I guess that worked to some extent.) When it was TV time, however, I did watch with the kids, and often tried to steer them toward more intelligent programs that I could stand like “Between the Lions,” “Zoboomafoo” and of course, “Hi-5.”

Yes, let’s get this party started! I remember Hi-5 came to the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford and my buddy Bob and I brought our kids to see them. I don’t know who was more excited, the kids or me and Bob—we both sort of had a creepy-old-man crush on Jenn, who was even more attractive in person. … (Hint: It was me and Bob.)

Anyway, as the kids got older, their tastes in TV (as molded by me) got better. I still say that “Teen Titans” was the Best. Animated show. Ever.

10:30 a.m. – noon Outside time! Although I tried to teach them games like baseball and soccer, I also was not afraid to delve into the “sit in one place” playbook, which included old favorites such as “Red Light, Green Light” and “Hey, why don’t you take this shovel and dig up the backyard for a while.”

In the winter and snow, we’d all bundle ourselves and go sledding. The hill on the side of our house may not be impressive to most, but for young kids and their dad who didn’t want to repeatedly trudge up a large incline, it made for a good sledding experience.

Of all my Daddy Day time with the kids, getting out in the snow and on the sled probably brought me back to my own childhood most because once I started lurching down the hill, it was the same exact experience—I didn’t care how many of us were on the sled, I just wanted to go down the hill faster and farther than the run before. If we could hit the fence at the back of the yard with some serious impact, then it was a good ride! And then there were the visceral elements—snow eventually getting under your clothes, your nose running like a frozen faucet and the numbness setting in your extremities when we stayed out too long. Ah, the simple joy (and pain) of frostbite!

This was also the period of the day when they got older where we would venture out into the world for adventure. At first, I’d take them to the mall—free, air-conditioned, plenty of bathrooms—and then when they were more mobile, we hit places like museums or the beach. I tried a few hikes and walks, except they involved hiking and walking. I never got around to teaching the proper way to make a sweet, sweet fire and properly burn things, although this would’ve been the ideal time.

Noon – 12:30 Peanut butter jelly time!

12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. This stretch was “No Man’s Land” when they were young, as it seemed like it should be closer to the end of the day, but it was only barely halfway through. Every minute during this stretch could seem like an eternity.

It really made this segment the toughest part of the day sometimes. We did all sorts of activities during this time but they were all fraught with the danger of extreme meltdown because crankiness—and the all the joy that comes with that state of being—was in play so close to nap time.

When the kids outgrew their naps, this time became the computer and video game zone—half an hour each, or one total hour of what should’ve been a semi-break for me but often was spent either helping in the conquering of electronic challenges or calming frustrated nerves from the inability to conquer electronic challenges.

More than once video game time was ended early. I blame that whore Princess Peach—if she didn’t tart it up so much, she wouldn’t be kidnapped all the time. Oh, speaking of kidnapping …

2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Nap time, glorious nap time!

For a year or two, both kids would sleep at the same time, so wanting to … uh, set a good example, I would snuggle down for a quick power nap myself.

I remember when my older son grew out of his nap, I’d occasionally give him “secret bonus TV time”—i.e., sit him in front of the better babysitter with a sippy cup while I’d continue to try and set a good example for my younger son. I’m a giver like that.

[On a side note: The Spanish have it right—there’s nothing more rejuvenating that a 20-minute siesta. Why doesn’t every “civilized” nation do this? I think it’s time to start a movement—I’m going to set up a cot in my new cubicle … warning to co-workers: I snore. Loudly.]

Anyway, to this day, in honor of this tradition, I pop open a can of Coke at 2 p.m.—or “a nap in a can” as my wife calls it.

3 p.m – 4 p.m. TV time redux. On the plus side, I kept it to only an hour in the afternoon (not counting secret bonus TV time—again, shhh!), and often I’d multitask—my younger son wasn’t as content to just sit in front of the boob tube, so I’d have to actually interact with him. Go figure.

4 p.m. – 5 p.m. The final period of free play. We’d head outside when possible, and knowing that the finish line was in sight, I’d have that final burst and kick to get through, so this was usually a spirited segment.

Again, as much as I love my kids, sometimes nothing was as sweet as seeing my wife’s car coming up the street at the end of the day. Not that I ever dumped the kids on her and ran off when she came through the door—seriously, I never did—it was just good to see a face that wasn’t covered with snot or drool and to have someone else in the house who was (mostly) potty trained.

The good news is that those days are gone, but my kids are still here. And it’s sooo much easier to hang out with them when they don’t have to bury me to pass the time.


Apr 092012

Not sure where I ‘m going with this, but it’s been weighing heavy on my mind … and by “heavy,” I mean it’s a slightly larger tangent of the billion or so bouncing around my skull.

Kim Kardashian has 14 million Twitter followers.

14,000,000, 14 thousand thousand or 14 x ×106 for you mathletes.

Like many of the other of millions who don’t follow her, I ask: “Why?”

I get that she’s a “celebrity,” although I truly, honestly and thoroughly don’t understand why that even is. Yes, this is ground that Joel McHale used to cover on “The Soup” years ago—that this woman seems to have found fame and fortune by doing nothing other than being the daughter of someone quasi-famous and then “accidentally” releasing a sex tape.

Hey, I’ve had sex and my dad is a legend in the Boy Scout community, yet I only have 50 Twitter followers …

Okay, let’s quickly mentally bleach away those thoughts…

Regardless, Ms. Kardashian has no discernible talent other than being an incredible media whore. She doesn’t sing, act, dance, paint, hit a baseball, compose sonnets, juggle chainsaws or have any other worthwhile skill. She claims to be “a business woman,” but does anyone think for a second she’s ever studied economics, can explain the fallacy of consumption or can even put together her own PowerPoint presentation? She’s claims to be a fashion and style maven, but can you picture her actually cutting out clothing patterns or sewing together her own garment prototypes? Would she even know how to work a pair of scissors? She’s certainly not the worst-looking woman out there, I’ll give her that, but she’s no Ava Gardner….

I mean, come on.

Ms. Kardashian isn’t amusing or funny (intentionally), nor does she even seem to be a particularly kind, charming or interesting person. She’s not a role model to whom any rational or sensible parent would want their child to aspire. She doesn’t contribute much to culture or society, other than when she’s caught in a lie, say like her sham wedding.

In other words, she’s famous for just … being.

That sound you heard coming from the far side of the Atlantic is Rene Descartes spinning like an existential top in his grave(s—his remains are kept in one place while his brain is the Musée de l’Homme in Paris).

Yet Ms. Kardashian profits greatly from sucking the attention and energy from the rest of us. She allegedly banked $20 million from her orchestrated “marriage,” and I seem to remember seeing recently that she was worth about $35 million.

In the well-chosen words of “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm, “stupidity” and being a “f–king idiot” have proven to be quite the valuable commodities in this day and age.

I wish that after her phony televised union, the sheeple were beginning to catch on to her vapid, self-absorbed machinations, but like a bad penny, she keeps finding her way into the headlines. Last week she got powder-bombed, and then there were rumors that she was now canoodling with Kanye West (also known for his media whoring abilities). And then she wasn’t. And then they were caught out together.

Now, you may be saying, “Gosh, for someone you seem to detest, you seem to know a lot about her.”

The funny thing is that I’ve made a conscious effort to NEVER click on a story about her. All the stuff you’ve read above has been gleaned from “The Soup,” other media outlets or simply taking notice of headlines. You really can’t avoid her, even here in rayality.

So why am I wasting my valuable time on this subject? In a grass-roots effort to stop it.

My solution for collapsing the black hole of attention that is Kim Kardashian is derived—like so many other of life’s answers—from an episode of “The Simpsons.” (I would’ve embedded the clip but apparently FOX’s copyright gestapo has eradicated all the “The Simpsons” clips from YouTube.)  In the iconic “Treehouse of Horror VI: Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores,” an ionic storm brings the giant advertising figures (such as Lard Boy) around Springfield to life. As usual, Lisa saves the day by figuring out that they are being sustained by pure attention, and quickly enlists the aid of songwriter Paul Anka to defeat the media monsters with a catchy little ditty.

The scene—

Lisa: [speaking] Hey, Springfield! Are you suffering from the heartbreak of … monster-itis? Then take a tip from Mr. Paul Anka!

Paul Anka: [singing and playing electronic keyboard]
To stop those monsters, one-two-three,
Here’s a fresh new way that’s trouble-free,
It’s got Paul Anka’s guarantee … [winks]

Lisa: Guarantee void in Tennessee.

Paul Anka and Lisa:
Just don’t look! Just don’t look!

Just don’t look! Just don’t look!
Just don’t look! Just don’t look!
Just don’t look! Just don’t look!

As the denizens of Springfield start ignoring the attention-starved creatures, they quickly die.

So that’s my plan when it comes to Kim Kardashian: Just don’t look! I won’t watch TV shows about her, click on stories about her, re-tweet any of her inane tweets or even joke or write about her again. (In case you didn’t notice, none of the links in this post go to any Kardashian-related stories.) From here on out, rayality will be a Kardashian-free zone.

I know one person going against 14 million are not good odds, but hey, I’ve got to try. Please feel free to join me in my boycott. I’m not saying we have to hate on Kim (although you’re welcome to), I’m just saying let’s ignore her.

Today, we stop paying attention to Kim Kardashian. Tomorrow, we find something worthwhile to do instead. Me, I’m starting with re-arranging my sock drawer.


Apr 052012

So chances are that, like me and mostly everyone else, you missed the opening day of the Major League Baseball season last week when the Oakland Athletics squared off against the Seattle Mariners ….

…. in Tokyo, Japan.

Yeah, that’s right. For reasons known only to MLB, rather than embrace the pageantry and notoriety that comes with an official celebratory Opening Day game (traditionally played in Cincinnati or Washington), it was decided to start this season of America’s past time with a whimper on the other side of the planet with two teams that have absolutely no national following and both of whom had losing seasons and finished more than 22 games out of first place in their division.

[*yawn *]

And they wonder why baseball is losing fans. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, from 2000 to 2009, participation in youth baseball has dropped from 15.6 million to 11.5 million, a drop of better than 25%. The TV ratings also continue to decline—the 2001 World Series averaged 24 million viewers a game; a decade later, less than 16 million per game tuned in to watch the Fall Classic.

For me personally, baseball flops are nothing new. Although I played for years, my moments of shining on the little league diamond were few and far between, to be generous. I remember one time swinging at a pitch that was so close, the ball actually hit my thumb and split it open, and although I was bleeding, I had struck out. (On a side note, the umpire, after seeing me bleeding, actually took my thumb, sucked off the blood and said, “Okay kid, you’re still out, no go back to your bench.” The pre-AIDS 70s were a very different world.)

I can also vividly recall one of my cheapest hits (in a “career” that was littered with them). I was standing in the batters box when the pitch came in directly at my head. I ducked down to avoid getting beaned, but in my haste to save my skull, I left my bat aloft, which the ball struck and bounced off … directly into the short infield. The pitcher, catcher and I were all momentarily stunned before I realized by the umpire’s reaction that the ball was in play! I threw down my bat and scampered down to first, easily beating the throw. I’m pretty sure Babe Ruth used to swat ’em like that …

Anyway, growing up, I was also a passionate New York Mets fan, which meant plenty of baseball heartache, especially during my formative years of the late 70s and the early 80s. Living only an hour or so from Shea Stadium, my friends (particularly my buddy Milo) and I were able to attend games, and those excursions were often quite entertaining independent of the on-the-field action.

So many Metsie Metsie Metsie memories at Shea—like going on the field on Banner Day with an Ellis Valentine banner and then waiting after the game at the player’s exit to see his reaction as we waved it wildly as he sped past in his Porsche. Or the time Milo’s father and his uncle took us to a game; they imbibed their share of beer and even bought a few for us although we were underage. Milo’s uncle also had a few too many and got lost, and it took us forever to find him after the game, like the Seinfeld episode in the parking garage. (Also like in that clip, there was a “creative” substitute for a real highway rest stop.)

Another time we went to a game with our best friend Higgy, who decided on that evening that it was his mission to make life (more) miserable for Mets left fielder Darryl Strawberry—unfortunately for Straw, the stadium was practically empty so he (as well as the rest of the evening’s patrons) could hear Higgy’s taunts loud and clear as they carried through August night. Funny to us, but I’m pretty sure I saw Darryl shed a tear.

As mentioned, after games we would go back to where the players exited the stadium, and would often ogle their cars as they departed—my boyhood favorite Rusty Staub drove an expensive foreign auto with a steering wheel on the right side!

Ah, Rusty!

If you don’t know of “Le Grande Orange”—so dubbed by his fans in Montreal because of his bright red hair—he was a very good (not great) player who made his name in dramatically leading the Mets to their surprise appearance in the 1973 World Series.

Of course, I had his baseball cards and even named our cat after him. I was heartbroken when he was inexplicably traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1976. Fortunately, he came back to the Mets in 1981, and it was awesome to be able to root for him again. It was later in his career, and he had settled into the role of pinch hitter extraordinaire. By then, he was also a bit more “husky” than he had been in his younger years, so we affectionately would chant “Roast beef! Roast beef!” instead of “Rusty! Rusty!” when he came up to bat.

Despite being a big fan, I never got a chance to meet Rusty as a kid, but an opportunity came later in life. I’m sure many of you have forgotten, but for a short stretch in the late 1990s, the New Haven Ravens used to play at Yale Field, and one night, Rusty was scheduled to appear at a game for a fan meet-and-greet.

I went to the game and brought with me an old picture of his that I had taken out of a yearbook with the dream of having him autograph it. To the picture I had taped a newspaper clipping from a game that Rusty had won with a bottom of the 9th pinch-hit walk-off home run—it had stuck out in my head because I was home sick and had watched the whole thing, even keeping score, and then to have my favorite player win it had made it special. His signing it would be icing on my memory cake.

So when I got into the stadium, I went straight to where Rusty was. His appearance was sponsored by a TV sports channel, so he was stationed behind a table festooned with the channel’s logos, signing autographs for fans.

My shyness and the possibility of actually meeting my childhood baseball idol instantly turned my knees to jelly, but I eventually was able to talk myself into getting into the line with the other fans.

Eventually, I got to the front of the line, and there, live in the flesh, was Rusty Staub—looking right into my eyes and saying, “Hello!”

Trying to not be too starstruck, I pulled out my old picture and clipping (drenched with nervous sweat by this point) and began to explain to how I was a fan and the relevance of my keepsake. Before I got too far, however, he said, “I’m sorry, but I can only sign this,” and he slid across the desk a photo emblazoned with an obnoxious logo from the TV sports channel.

Remember from “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie finally makes it to Santa? Rusty didn’t tell me that I was going to shoot my eye out and kick me down the slide, but it was that same sort of crushing feeling. I took the photo, mumbled “Thanks” and sullenly started to walk away but stopped.

I turned around, half caught Rusty’s eye and said, “For what it’s worth, I never forgave the Mets for trading you for a washed-up Mickey Lolich.”

Rusty stopped, turned directly to me, smiled and said, “Me, neither! Worst trade ever, right?”

And although he never did sign my picture (oh well!), he did chat with me for the next five minutes while still signing for other people. Not exactly Mean Joe Greene throwing his jersey to a kid, but still a good memory for a kid who used to spend his afternoons playing baseball on what’s now a soccer field next to John F. Kennedy Elementary School.


Apr 012012

On Saturday night, we went to see Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman—the “MythBusters” guys—on their live “Behind the Myths” show tour, which stopped at The Bushnell in Hartford.

Not bad seats, right? Plus, it was a very entertaining evening, and the entire family really enjoyed the show. Heck, we may have even (accidentally) learned something.

Of course, it being a public event, there was another terrific opportunity for me to make a fool of myself, and I (being me) took full advantage.

Just before the show started, I decide to make a final run to the bathroom. I’ve only been to The Bushnell a handful of times, so when I get to the entrance/exit door of the orchestra section, I turn to the usher stationed there and ask, “Where’s the closest men’s room?”

She looks around suspiciously for a second—had she thought I asked, “Where’s the closest meth lab?”—before she leans in close and says, “There’s a secret bathroom right here behind the door, but don’t tell anyone. Go ahead.”

I didn’t expect to be so well accommodated (although I wasn’t wearing the ribbon, maybe she recognizes me as the John F. Kennedy Elementary School Class of 1979 long jump champ?), but I am grateful and duck behind the door, where there is, indeed, a “secret” bathroom. You know, if by “secret” you mean “handicapped.”

It’s not exactly a storm, but it’s a port and I have an “aye-aye” from the usher, so I go in, close the door and … “weigh anchor”? “Empty the bilge pumps”? Insert your own nautical metaphor to finish the thought, although there is no need to “clear the poopdeck,” as it were. It’s nice as far as public bathroom go—a fairly clean, accessible space with a bit of privacy. I am in and out in probably about a minute or so. Smooth sailing! Or so I think.

When I open the door, standing there waiting is a man … on crutches. And not the “I twisted my ankle” temporary type of walking aids, but the “I am permanently disabled and need these to get around so I can try to cope in a world not always welcoming to those with true physical challenges” serious type. Of course, the usher is nowhere to be seen.

I immediately want to blurt out, “But the usher told me it was okay and ushed me in here!!!” except by the look of mild disgust on his face as I walk past him, I don’t think it would matter. To him, I am just another healthy, two-legged jackass who has used a facility specifically designed for those who can’t just scurry back to their seats in shame.

Anyway, I’ve been making a fool of myself for decades—here’s a good trio of examples from my college days (from the “other stuff” tab on the navigation menu)—so none of this comes as a surprise to any of you who know me well. Hey, consider how much of my time I spend laughing at others, I damn well better be able to laugh at myself, right? Conveniently, I’m great at giving myself opportunities to do it.

Okay, here’s another good example of my own foolishness and ignorance.

Unbeknownst to some of you, the guy who has made a living writing about Connecticut (and its curiosities, jerks and more) was actually born in Brooklyn, New York. We moved to Milford, Connecticut when I was 7, but we would often go back and forth between the two when I was young. Since there was no such thing as personal electronic devices or hand-held video games or portable DVD players, I did what all kids back in the day did during long drives—look out the window at the actual world around me as we drove past.

I’ve always been a bit of a geography fan, so I read all the signs and tried to take note of the all the different locales we would pass along the route—I still call Mamaroneck “Mama Roneck” in my head every time we pass. In the warehouse of the useless knowledge that doubles as my brain, they are all logged in there, from Coney Island to Devon.

On Long Island’s Belt Parkway, there was a town that always stood out in my head, and I remember the sign for it clearly—”Shore Points, This Exit.” I assumed it was a place like “Five Points” in Manhattan (thanks “Bowery Boys“), and always imagined it to be a charming little coastal town. I never really thought about it much until years later …

When I was in high school and finally got my license and all the freedom that came with it, my buddy Milo and I drove everywhere in the greater New Haven area. One day, we were cruising along I-95 when I noticed a somewhat familiar sign.

“Hey, that’s funny,” I said to Milo, nodding to the sign on the side of the highway. “There’s also a town named Shore Points in New York.”

He looked dubiously over at me for a second. “What are you talking about?”

“Shore Points. That town’s name. It’s funny there’s one here in Connecticut. There’s a Shore Points in New York, too.”

He looked at me for a long second and when he saw that I wasn’t joking, burst out laughing, “It’s not a town. It’s shore points … you know, like points along the shore….”

Oh sure, it might be better to keep my mouth shut and be thought a fool rather then open it and remove all doubt … but what would I blog about?