Jul 272012

As I mentioned a few days ago, this week I’m partaking in one of my favorite wife-approved guilty pleasures—traveling to upstate New York to see the opening of New York Jets training camp.

They say getting there is half the fun, and although I can’t always vouch for that most vacations, on this particular trip, I go out of my way to make it possible—literally, as I make odd stops along the way to break up the long ride a bit. It’s a great way to see a little more than just what’s within view of the highway.

Anyway, this year, there was a major storm a-comin’ while I was a-goin’, so I didn’t make as many stops as usual. Still, it was interesting getting to Cortland, and here are

Five Points of Interest From My Road Trip

1. I Have a New Love in My Life

Yeah, I’ll be just referring to her as “The Six”—hmmm, where I have heard that before? In this case, rather than a cylon, it’s a 2010 Mazda 6, and she’s rides as smooth as she looks. I’ve wanted a “grown-up” car like this for a while now, so now that I have it, I have to make sure it survives. Of course, there’s one problem—

See that—the speedometer goes to 160 m.p.h. Why would they have that number on there if they didn’t want you to drive it that fast …

2. The New Grave of the Old Leather Man

As many of you know, the legend of The Old Leather Man is something I’ve written about for Damned Connecticut (follow the link if you don’t know the story). Anyway, last year, his grave was controversially moved to “a safer place” in the Sparta Cemetery in Ossining, New York. I decided this time to head back to see the new grave and say “hi” to Old Leathery.

I had no idea where the new stone was, and since it’s an old historical cemetery, there’s no real signage or upkeep to help you. The grass is knee-high (ticks much?), and the place is a bit overgrown. As I did start to wander around, I stumbled across this, which I thought was pretty cool and relevant to my interests.

If you click on it and embiggen it, you can see it says, “This stone was pierced by a cannon shot fired from the British sloop-of-war Vulture …” in September 1780. The HMS Vulture was the British ship that had sailed up the Hudson to aid Connecticut jerk Benedict Arnold in his escape after his treachery was exposed. Although you can’t see the river from here because of the trees and houses now, it obviously was a key spot back in the day. A fortuitous find!

Eventually, I got the idea to follow the most tramped-down grass, which led me straight to the cemetery’s most famous resident.

It’s definitely a more impressive monument than his old stone, and farther from the road; the old stone was literally five feet from Route 9, which was very scary. It was interesting that there were all sorts of little trinkets on top of the stone.

Don’t ask about the dog, I have no idea.

Anyway, I paid my respects, left a few items and was on my way.

3. The Students in Ossining May Be Getting Left Behind

I saw these two signs in the men’s room of the Ossining McDonald’s—

They both say the same thing: “NO WORK SORRY.”


4. Eat Where the Locals Eat

Cortland is a college town, the home of a satellite campus of the State University of New York, a.k.a. SUNY. Like many places with college students, there are lots of chain restaurants, which are full of Jets fans this weekend.

I don’t eat at chain restaurants at home, so why should I eat at one out here? One of the best local places is Doug’s Fish Fry (owned by a rabid Jets fan), but I’m not much of a seafood fan—actually I’m happy to see giant underwater bugs staying underwater.

The place in this picture is Bob’s BBQ—a roadside stand that on a rainy night with legitimate threats of tornadoes and severe lightning storms, was packed with regulars getting good. That’s all I need to know—I got the pulled pork and rib combo, and it was awesome!

5. Cortland Loves the New York Jets

Seriously, this little town goes all out for Jets training camp. In addition to a big welcoming event on Thursday, there are signs like this everywhere, banners hanging up in downtown, billboards on the roadsides, all warmly welcoming the team and the fans …

Oh, and their money.

And mine, too!


Jul 252012

Warning: If you’re expecting some amusing turn by the end, it’s not coming. This is admittedly very dark for me. I’m not trying to be an alarmist and I hope this is completely wrong, but I’ve been thinking about it and I need to get it out of my head. Sorry and thanks.

He’s out there.

Right now as I type this and you read it, he’s out there—waiting, watching, planning. He’s absorbing the TV news coverage of it, wading through the endless deluge of stories on the internet, probably even buying a newspaper or two just to clip out the headlines to post on his wall as a reminder. He’s reading all the profiles of the victims, watching the families grieve, looking at all the pictures of the latest guy with his red-and-orange dyed hair on every channel and every news site, and fantasizing about what it’s all going to look like when he has his moment of “revenge” and “glory.” He’s seeing his face going around the globe, wondering if they will use his middle name in all the reports.

Everyone who mocked and teased and ignored him—either in his head or for real—won’t do any of that any longer. That pain, that hurt, is driving him now, and he’s already decided that what perceived injustices befell him are serious enough that there’s no going back. This is the only answer.

He’s waiting and watching and planning. He knows about all of them—this most recent guy, the guy in Toronto, the guy in Norway, the guy in Ft. Hood, the Virginia Tech guy, those two guys in Columbine, the guy in that diner in Texas, a few of the others. He’s studied them all: how many they killed, how they went about it, where they got their weapons, which guns they used, how they planned it, what mistakes they made, how they were able to fly under the radar until they were ready to explode onto the world’s stage with the fury and intensity and carnage and unpredictability and massive loss of life that comes with the eruption of a seemingly dormant volcano. All the information is out there, ridiculously easy to find courtesy of our insatiable need to know every detail of every horror.

The fact that he’s alone so much has given him plenty of time to read up on it all. “If they could do it, why not me?” he’s thinking. “I’m smarter than any of them, and my moment will be even more spectacular.” (For a time, anyway.) He’s carefully assembling his arsenal, surreptitiously buying what he needs from various places so as not to arouse suspicion. He’s tested all his weapons, gotten used to the kick and feel of a hot gun in his cold hand. Right now, he’s probably practicing loading and reloading, figuring out how to carry multiple weapons and extra ammo. He’s already picked out exactly what he’s going to wear.

He’s already got the spot for his moment picked out—most likely a public location where anonymous, vulnerable people go about their lives and will never see him coming until it’s too late. They can’t have any inkling of what’s about to happen or it won’t happen—and after waiting and planning so long, it has to be perfect. It’ll be someplace that makes complete sense to him, one that’s traditionally light on security or anyone who could stop him.

He’s making notes and sketches and contingency plans. He will be incredibly prepared, leaving absolutely no detail to chance. The only surprise will be that of his victims. Once the moment arrives, he’ll realize that he—and he alone—is in control, just as he’s always wanted it. Their fear and hysteria will fuel him. He will not fail, and doesn’t really care if he survives or not.

Maybe the rest of us will get incredibly lucky and someone whom he thought was mean to him will unexpectedly be nice and somehow inadvertently make him change his mind. Maybe a family member or friend will do something to alter his course. Maybe a neighbor will notice that “the nice, quiet guy” who lives across the hall has been coming home with assault rifle-shaped packages and tell someone. Maybe someone will see something and say something before it’s too late. Maybe he’ll just kill himself instead . . .

Maybe—and most likely—not.

But it’s okay to hope that whatever it is that’s broken inside him might somehow find a way to heal itself. That’d be nice, if a tad unrealistic.

But make no mistake. He’s out there. Right now. And the truly terrifying part is that he’s the only one who will ever see it coming.

Jul 232012

Hey kids, are you paying attention? Let’s see—

1. Now that Penn State has taken down the Joe Paterno statue in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the university plans on:
a. melting it down to sell it for scrap to help pay the impending civil lawsuits.
b. burying it, because given how Joe Pa acted when he found out, that seems appropriate.
c. using it as a paper weight because at least then it will have done more than Paterno did.
d. using the statue’s raised finger to do something to Sandusky that may be described by him as “horribly painful and violent,” but for his victims, could be called, “amusing and ironic justice.”

2. Now that Bradley Wiggins has made history as the first Brit to win the Tour de France, expect his countrymen to celebrate by:
a. raising a mug of warm beer and singing Chumbawamba songs.
b. shooting the Queen out of a cannon. Again.
c. exhuming the remains of little Jackie Wright so they could parade through the streets while rapidly patting his skull.
d. learning exactly what sport this involves.

3. Now that the World Wildlife Federation [WWF] has ousted Spanish King Juan Carlos as its honorary president after it came to light that he went hunting while on African safari, they will replace him with:
a. Prince, because he know what it sounds like when doves cry.
b. Prince Charles, because he’s really not doing anything else.
c. Queen Latifah, because it makes sense to have a royal replacement who apparently isn’t interested in meat.
d. King Kong Bundy, because he’s already WWF royalty.

4. The field for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate has been narrowed down to:
a. someone who will not outshine Romney in terms of charisma, which means a middle-aged, married white guy who has spent the last decade as the assistant to the regional accountant for Snore More, Inc.
b. Chuck Norris, because it’s about damn time.
c. [*insert your own name here … because seriously, they have no clue who to pick at this point until the latest poll tells them who, and if that’s how they’re going about it, then we’re all screwed*]
d. anyone not Sarah Palin.

5. The Dark Knight Rises:
a. is not something to joke about.
b. is not something to joke about.
c. is not something to joke about.
d. is something that a comedian like Gilbert Gottfried or Daniel Tosh will eventually joke about, and then after having their career destroyed under an unrelenting barrage of public backlash, will only then learn that it is *NOT* something to joke about.

Jul 202012

Okay, like most parents, I’ve been exposed to more than my share of child-focused television programs, many of which have been unwatchable dreck. I mean, really horrible, even from a kid’s point of view—crap like “Teletubbies” and their even freakier inbred British cousins, “The Boobahs.” (I’d post a picture of them, but they still gives me the shivers!*)

On the plus side, there have been a few absolutely terrific shows that I didn’t mind watching with the boys, things like “Between the Lions,” “Hi-5” (super crush on Jennifer—saw her in person at the mall once, and I’m pretty sure I was more excited than the kids), “The Secret Show,” and of course, one of my all-time favorite shows, “Teen Titans.” (I want to be excited that they’re bringing back “Teen Titans” as a new series, but it’s not the same team doing the new one, so I don’t think it’ll be the same tone-perfect mix of action, drama and comedy—it really was a terrific show.)

Anyway, those shows are either no longer on or my kids have outgrown them. But they still watch TV—and I still watch with them, and now, I have a new batch of

Top Five TV Kids’ Shows That I Sort of Don’t Mind Watching

1. “iCarly – I know this is about to end its run, but it’s on enough in reruns—and my house. This is one of the many shows created by former child actor Dan Schneider (the heavy kid from “Head of the Class” and “Ricky” from Better Off Dead. He’s become a kid’s TV mogul, creating his own mini-empire with shows like “Drake & Josh,” “Zoey 101,” and “The Amanda Show,” and now, “Victorious.” The acting on “iCarly” is pretty decent (there’s plenty of painful, horrible kid actors—Zack and Cody, I’m looking at you) and the show is actually laugh-out loud funny at times. In one interview, Schneider said that he’s been able to make good children’s sitcoms because the reality tv boom has caused a lot of good comedy writers to be unemployed; he’s hired them for his shows, and truthfully, some of the stuff he turns out stands toe-to-toe with many network comedies.

2. “Good Luck Charlie – Another live-action sitcom, this one produced by Disney, but with a cast that’s pretty solid, especially the parents on the show. (How you know you’re an adult, reason # 12,457—realizing you have a crush on the main character’s mother on your kid’s show.) Now, no one is going to get nominated for an Emmy here, but for a kid’s show, it’s remarkably watchable. And funny.

3. “Phineas and Ferb – If you don’t know about this one yet, I’m not going to be able to help you. Probably the most popular Disney show at the moment by far—as I make my way around the web and in life, I’m always struck by how many other parents (and even non-parental adults) all say the same thing: “I really like this show.” It’s produced by two guys, Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh—Povenmire, who also does the voice of the nefarious Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirz, worked on “Family Guy” while Marsh is a veteran of “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.” With such pedigrees, it’s not a shock the show is as good as it is.

Besides, how can you hate a program that has given the world this bit of ear candy:

4. “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – It’s no “Teen Titans,” but it’s pretty good. We started watching it about a year ago in preparation for the movie this summer (yeah, total comic book-super hero nerds), and it actually turns out to be fairly decent. For a kid’s show, it’s impressive how well they weave multiple story lines into the ongoing story arc. Only criticism: Hulk no smash enough!

5. “Gravity Falls – Okay, this is a new one, but it’s growing on me quickly. It might have to do with the fact that each episode is a bit quirky and that there’s some sort of Fortean-like aspect involved, be it a ghost, a sea monster or murderous lawn gnomes. I also like that they hang out at a place called “The Mystery Shack” (and also have Linda Cardellini doing one of the voices, who was Velma in the live-action Scooby-Doo movies), and that they have a crazy uncle who always wears a fez. Plus, there’s a secret message at the end of each episode hidden in the credits—I like puzzles like that!

Enjoy the re-runs!

Jul 182012

All right … it’s exactly two months to Sept. 18, the official publication date for Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Connecticut Historyavailable for pre-order from Amazon, in case you’ve forgotten—you can expect me to try and ratchet up the hype machine!

Of course, those of you who know me know that I am absolutely terrible at promoting myself, but I’m hoping to be better at it by the time this book is actually out. Heck, I may even be able to acknowledge that I am a “published author” by then.

In the meantime, I thought I’d put another little snippet out there for you to try, this time an excerpt from Chapter 9, entitled “P.T. Barnum, Prince of the Humbugs.” (Again, as with the Benedict Arnold chapter, this was not the title I chose, but the one the publisher picked. My original was “P.T. Barnum, Prince of the Jerks,” for what it’s worth.) That’s ol’ P.T. peeking down from the top of the book, by the way—and my name in tiny print by the bottom.

In case you’re wondering, I stretched the definition of jerk a bit so I could include a wider range of stories that I thought people would enjoy reading. Barnum is definitely in the category of lovable jerk, a guy who enthusiastically embraced the huckster and con persona in the pursuit of entertainment—and fantastic wealth! His is one of the most amazing stories in Connecticut history, and one certainly worth including.

I picked this short section in honor of the fact that I’m traveling back to Cortland, New York, for a few days at the end of next week for New York Jets training camp. (I like to say that I’m going as an envoy of thejetsblog.com, but the truth is that I’m big football nerd.) A few years ago when I went, I made a side trip to the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown specifically to see the Cardiff Giant, which was one of the biggest hoaxes of the 19th century.

Here’s Barnum’s part in the story, from an uncorrected proof of the book. Enjoy!


Barnum is credited for saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute” (a jerk-like proclamation if there ever was one), but as it turns out, the great showman may never have said it—although it may have been said about him and his unmatched ability to separate people from their money. In this particular instance, Barnum was actually hoaxing a bunch of hoaxers, and in turn, hoaxing everyone else.

In 1869, a remarkable discovery was made at the farm of William “Stub” Newell in upstate New York, near the small town of Cardiff. While having a well dug on his property, the farmer claimed that workers had unearthed the petrified remains of a human being who measured over ten feet in height! Dubbing the find the “Cardiff Giant,” Newell set up at tent and charged twenty-five cents a head to see the amazing sight. Thousands showed up, and before long, he was able to sell a portion of the rights for $30,000 to a group of investors led by David Hannum, who moved it to Syracuse so even more could witness the wonder.

As soon as Barnum heard about the fantastic artifact, he sent an agent to investigate. The agent reported the details—including the size of the crowds lining up to see it—to Barnum, who then immediately made an offer of $50,000 to Hannum for the rights to display it in his New York City museum. The offer was rejected.

Being a jerk—and recognizing a scam when he saw one—Barnum knew exactly what to do. He had his own ancient behemoth carved and put it on exhibition in his museum. He then told people that he had acquired the real Cardiff Giant, and that the other one up in Syracuse was a fake!

With the full fury of Barnum’s media might behind it, his Cardiff Giant was soon outdrawing the original one, which didn’t sit well with Hannum. Knowing that Barnum’s was phony, he allegedly made the enduring “sucker” comment about those going to see it.

Hannum then sued Barnum for libel for suggesting that his Syracuse Cardiff Giant was a fraud. When the case went before a judge, however, Stub Newell, the farmer who originally discovered it, was forced to admit under oath that he and a partner had created the figure, and then had planted it to be found by the unsuspecting farm hands. It had been a hoax from the start, thus the charges against Barnum were dismissed since he had been accurate in calling the other giant a fake.


Jul 152012

So this week I heard about the Doomsday Faire 2012 in Hartford this October, which sounds like an awesome event.

According to the event’s site: “A Renaissance Fair of a whole different kind! Doomsday Fair 2012 is an apocalypse themed fair and disaster preparedness convention that invites everyone to time travel forward into a New England of the near future.”

On the site, there’s links to apocalart, a zombie fest and more. Sounds like it should be a good time, which got me to thinking: With all the talk about 2012 being the end of the world according the Mayan calendar, why is there so much gloom and doom?

Seriously, talk about the apocalypse always seems to be talk about the glass being half empty. Has Monty Python taught us nothing?!

If anything, Doomsday seems like the perfect time for opportunity. As such—

The Top 14 Benefits to the End of the World

14. No more “Toddlers & Tiaras,” “Dance Moms,” “The Jersey Shore,” “Bad Girls Club” or “The Real Housewives of East Bumblefrack.”

13. End of famine, disease, pestilence and partisan politics, which is especially good, I guess, for those who are not fans of any of that.

12. More days off from work, and no more unpaid overtime.

11. Won’t have to replace the furnace or roof, or take care of all those other pesky home repairs. No more shoveling the driveway in winter!

10. No chance of Sarah Palin, Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump or Chris Christie becoming President of the United States, or my next-door neighbor.

9. Never hear Fran Drescher’s voice again.

8. More chocolate chip muffins available at Koffee in New Haven … you know, at first.

7. The Yankees and Patriots will never win another championship, and Bill Belichick will never be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

6. Shorter lines at DisneyWorld. The DMV, too.

5. Dramatically less demand for and use of fossil fuels, which should positively affect climate change and keep those danged tree huggers quiet.

4. Nancy Grace will be out of a job.

3. No Ghostbusters 3 or Teletubbies reunion tour.

2. Any questions about which god (if any) is the True God should be sorted out.

1. Less traffic and highway congestion as well as fewer idiots on the road, plus lots of spots at the mall during the holidays!

Here’s hoping the Mayans got it right!

Jul 132012

As you read this, please picture me in shorts and high black socks, standing on my front lawn and shaking my fist at the kids sitting in their houses as my mind drifts back to—

Five Things I Used to Do During My Summer Vacations

1. Stay outside – Maybe it was because we didn’t have central air or Xboxes or Nickelodeon or Disney Channel or even Commodore 64s that we were happy to spend our days out-of-doors. Usually I’d be out of the house by 9:30 a.m. and out playing around the neighborhood, come back around noon for a quick lunch, go back out until dinner around 5:30, and then go out until after dark most nights, probably around 9 or 9:30 p.m.

Yeah, that’s almost 11-12 hours outside a day—and because it was the 70s, I never wore sunblock, either! Although, having had a solar-fed precancerous growth sliced off my face, it may not have been a bad thing to have a little lotion from time to time. Ooopsie!

2. Ride my bike – From the time I moved to Connecticut at age 7 until I got my license at 18, a bike was my primary means of transportation. (I did experiment with thrashing on a skateboard a little, but it wasn’t really practical for covering long distances.) My friends and I rode our bikes everywhere—to each other’s houses, to the baseball field, to the Game Room and Milford Amusement (okay, so there were some video games, but we had to go out to play the really cool ones like Zaxxon, Tempest, Asteroids and Journey!), to the ice pavilion (a cool place to hang out in the A/C-challenged 70s, literally), to the beach and even to the legendary Wanda’s Sugar Shack. I used to treat mine like it was the Millennium Falcon—”the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.” (Obviously, an early indicator of my love of speed!)

As you might guess, I wasn’t quite as cool as Han Solo, but it wasn’t from lack of imagination or want.

3. Play ball – Back in the day, we played some variation of baseball every day—if we didn’t trek over to the diamond next to Kennedy School in Milford for real hardball, we would play tennisball baseball (usually in the Tartaglia’s backyard until we hit one too many homeruns into the neighbor’s garden, wrecking his tomato plants and thus shutting down the stadium) or even “off-the-cellar ball,” which consisted of throwing a tennis ball at a dormer and trying to get it to fly over a clothesline for an automatic homer—I’m pretty sure this is what ruined my throwing arm and my potential million-dollar pitching career, not the fact that I was born with a rag arm. (Yeah, that’s the ticket.)

And of course, there was lots of hours dedicated to wiffle ball (the home of which is now about a mile from my house—I’m convinced the factory is manned by Oompa Loompas, but that’s a post for another day)! We used to set up a chair as a strike zone and had different automatic hits—a hit past a fielder on the ground was a single, one on the deck was a double, off the side of the house was a triple and on the roof was a homer. We played wiffle ball well into my college years, and had some marathon games.

I would say that this also ruined my arm, but I was a junkballer and never threw hard. My out pitch was a slow, sweeping curve ball that would look like it was headed for the batter’s head and then dramatically turn in and drop into the middle of the chair. Nothing more embarrassing for my friends than striking out looking at a 2 mile-per-hour pitch that they thought was going to plunk them.

Oh, and if it rained, my buddy Milo and I would play APBA Baseball, which involved cards and dice. We would play out entire seasons and keep stats. Yeah, funny how we struggled to get girls early on …

4. Swim – As I mentioned, home A/C wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, so to cool off, we’d spend hours in pools. We had a great neighborhood for this as there were at least a half dozen pools that we’d rotate through, although the best one belonged to my next-door neighbor Rick, whose parents had installed a full in-ground pool with a diving board!

I remember how we’d try and angle for it: “Wow, my parents are at work,” I’d say, “so we can’t swim at my house.” And everyone would agree. Then Milo would say, “Well, my house is too far away.” And everyone would sort of nod. Then someone would say, “Well, Nicky’s dad just put chlorine in, so we can’t go there.” And everyone would nod again. “Roger’s parents are out, so we can’t swim there, either.” And then we’d all sit there quietly for a few seconds, looking at each and looking to Rick, watching his wheels turn. Finally, he’d say, “Hey, I could ask my mom!” And of course, we’d all agree that was a great idea!!!

Rick, if you’re reading—we also liked you for other things besides your pool … you know, like your cool toys!

5. The beach – This didn’t really become popular until we were older and could get there on bikes, but definitely by high school, Milo and I were spending much of our days at Walnut Beach in Milford, along with our buddy—and Frisbee master—Bobby, and other assorted characters. Occasionally, we’d go over to Silver Sands, although there was no fancy schmancy boardwalk between the two like there is now. Back then, we had to pick our way over rocks, garbage and sewage, and past The Chicken Lady, who was this eccentric squatter who lived in a makeshift trailer on the beach after the city knocked down her beachfront home and, yes, she kept chickens as pets.

Of course we were always interested in meeting girls, which we did on occasion. One summer I thought I had a chance with the girl who ran the ice cream truck, but that …. well, melted away like a popsicle in the sun. There were other ones—maybe a post for another day.

Ultimately, we spent much of the day just hanging out and soaking up the sun. We used to laugh at a sign on the beach that proclaimed in large letters, “NO LOITERING.” As if you did anything else on a sunny beach during a carefree summer.

Jul 122012

The scene: A TV studio with a wide glitzy stage, a live band and a large, enthusiastic audience. To one side is a bank of phones manned by celebrities; on the other is an electronic tote board. In the middle is a lone, almost-desperate figure …

Ray [*wearing a blue ruffled tux and mopping his brow with a white neckerchief*]: Thank you for all again for stopping by Steve-a-thon 2012, our special benefit post where we are all getting together to try to help the beloved spiritual leader of Damned Connecticut—and my close personal friend and literary inspiration—Steve Frank!!!

[*cue “Applause” sign*]

Yes, Steve, who is suffering through a crippling physical ailment. No, he’s not the friend who has cancer that I wrote about recently, but I can assure you that Steve’s malady, although not nearly as life-threatening as cancer or a man cold, is a serious one nonetheless, and one that needs our support. Somehow, for the past few days, he’s been using every extra bit of his energy to e-mail and text me pictures about his brave battle against this physical blight, and how it would’ve utterly destroyed a lesser man. As you may or may not know, Steve, with his iron constitution and even harder musculature, is not a lesser man in any way.

His courageous wife Kate has kept me in the loop as to his struggles—just last night he thought he might possibly be knocking at death’s door, so he had her tweeting some of his transgressions to clear his conscience. How he’s carrying on is … well, just beyond me. I only hope that someday my sons are half the men he is. (You know, as long as it’s the non-afflicted half.)

Anyway, as you know, we’ve been going for the past 72 hours in support of Steve, putting together all-star entertainment and internationally renowned acts to help raise awareness of the situation. Heck, just the last hour saw right here on this stage the startling return of this TV legend …

Just an amazing moment. I’m still wiping away the tears …

So here in our final push, we have a special surprise featuring many of the important people in Steve’s life, all gathered to record a special song—one that I specially composed at Kate’s suggestion, and one that I hope Steve will be able to sing himself some day, but only if that golden voice of his is strong enough. Please, sit back and enjoy, and once you get the chorus, feel free to join in.

Oh, and of course, I am proud to present here, for the first time anywhere, the Steve-a-thon Against Shingles All-Stars!

[*A curious group shuffles on the stage to wild clapping and cheering, and when the audience calms down, a elderly woman with her hair pulled tight in a bun steps up to the mic. The band starts playing and she starts singing*]

Lorraine Warren: “It’s supposed to happen to the other guy,
Some jerk who makes the people cry
Not to a real man, who’s so undeserving
Whose Yankee loyalty is so unswerving—”

[*Lorraine steps back, waves her hand and the apparition of a familiar man appears*]

The ghost of Ed Warren: “At scout camp, he peed in the lotion
At the beach, he drank from the ocean
At a party, he wore invisible fence
But this time, it just makes no sense”

[*Ed dissipates, and two men in RotoRooter jumpsuits step forward—the crowd goes wild as they realize they’re seeing a special reunion. Each man sings alternating lines*]

The Ghosthunters, Jason and Grant: “Like Jeebus, he stands up to the pain
Like Gandhi, he mans up to the strain
Like Colbert, he’s incredibly brave
Like Busey, it’s him we need to saaaave—”

[*They step back and everyone joins in the chorus*]

“So we sing this shingle jingle
Before Steve gets it on his dingle
Let’s all sing this shingle jingle
To stop that uncomfortable tingle
So we sing this shingle jingle
Before Steve gets it on his dingle
Let’s all sing this shingle jingle
Before Kate ends up being single”

[*A large, hulking creature steps to the front, brushes back the hair from his eyes and sings with the voice like Andrea Bocelli*]

Bigfoot: “But a virus doesn’t know what it’s doing
And a virus doesn’t know who it’s screwing
So if it goes after a guy who’s an inspiration
It’s up to us to stop the devastation”

[*Next up is another guy with crazy hair and even crazier eyes, plus a little gray humanoid who signs along like the alien from the end of Close Encounters*]

Giorgio A. Tsoukalos: “It all started with a tiny red dot
But now his skin looks like festering rot
It all started with a tiny red rash
But now his skin looks like bloody hash”

[*Two guys clad all in leather step up together to alternate lines*]

Dan W. DeLuca & Don Johnson: “Like Chestnut, he can eat it all
Like ARod, he likes to ball
Like Mulder, he can believe
Like Bieber, the shingles gots to leeeave—”

[*The whole group hits the chorus again; to the side, Kate and Steve’s children wipe away their tears*]

“So we sing this shingle jingle
Before Steve gets it on his dingle
Let’s all sing this shingle jingle
To stop that uncomfortable tingle
So we sing this shingle jingle
Before Steve gets it on his dingle
Let’s all sing this shingle jingle
Before Kate ends up being single”

[*Three guys with douchey haircuts step forward*]

“Ghost Adventurers” Zak, Nick and Aaron: “SPAM and blisters
More pain than a thousand titty-twisters
Mystery meat and puss
Good thing he never likes to fuss”

[*Finally, another apparition appears, a flowing, haunting vision*]

The White Lady of Union Cemetery: “How can one man stand so much pain?
How can one man stand so much pain?
How can one man stand so much pain?
He is THE man, that’s how”

[*Everyone is back on stage, plus all of Steve’s friends and family, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, Kelly Clarkson and the original Broadway cast of (Fisher) Cats*]

“So we sing this shingle jingle
Before Steve gets it on his dingle
Let’s all sing this shingle jingle
To stop that uncomfortable tingle
So we sing this shingle jingle
Before Steve gets it on his dingle
Let’s all sing this shingle jingle
Before Kate ends up being single”

[*Music fades as the credits roll ….*]


Jul 082012

Okay—the (the imagined) demand has been overwhelming for a sequel to my much beloved (it *almost* went viral!) and original attempt at a children’s book, You Are Not. (Which was totally ripped off—pretty sure this guy stole from my blog, which came first by two months). Unlike the real entertainment world, I wanted to make sure I had a proper subject and story rather than just bang out a You Are Not 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and finally hit upon something that I can address from (lots of) personal experience. Hope you, and your children, enjoy!

(And as always, illustrations by my son Zane.)

The Truth About Bullies

If you’re like most people, you are not special.

Yay, indeed.

However, it also means that at some point, you have been probably minding your own business, either at school or on the playground, when you’ve been accosted by a person, usually bigger, who has been mean to you, tried to take something from you by force, or even beat you up for just existing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Congratulations! You have been bullied.

And it sucks.

If you were lucky, the only hurt to you was physical, as that usually heals pretty quickly. If your bully made you scared or feel really bad about yourself, then it’s going to take you years to get over it, probably with the need of some expensive therapy where you also find out that you suffer from self-esteem issues, you’re borderline OCD or that all the other kids probably don’t fantasize about removing the skin from their dog and wearing it over their head like one of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan ….

Anyway, you’ve most likely already been inundated with info about the steps to take when you’re bullied, so being a good, rule-following student, you first try to ignore it, but when that doesn’t work (and it almost never does in grade school), you go to your teacher to tell her what happened. And she says, “It’s okay, I’ll take care of it!”
Which is code for “Chillax, little dude, I’ll get the bullying to stop.”

But it won’t.

Continue reading »

Jul 062012

Okay, I was inspired this week by Independence Day, but I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it. I thought about my favorite moments in American sports history, but that’s too wide a category, so I then went to my favorite moments in American sports movie history, but there wasn’t quite enough there …

Call this one a mash-up, I guess, as I share

Five of My Favorite Real/Fictional Sports Moments

[*Warning: Spoilers—of old movies—ahead!*]

1. Rocky knocking out Clubber Lang

Let’s start with some fiction!

Being a kid of the ’70s-’80s, I loved the original trilogy of Rocky movies, and saw all three in the theater. So many great and memorable scenes throughout—the “Gonna Fly Now” training sequence in the original film essentially gave birth to the film montage, and inspired thousands of people to run up the 72 stone steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which, yes, I did on one visit).

Although some may say it was the most commercial of the trilogy, Rocky III was one of my all-time favorites, probably because I was an impressionable teenager when it came out—I still remember getting pumped up to exercise by “Eye of the Tiger.” I also remember how that song came on the radio right after I asked my buddy Milo if I should go talk to a girl at the beach—it cinched my decision and provided a soundtrack as I confidently strode across the hot sand. (She said no. “Gonna crash and burn now …”)

Anyway, lots of great moments in the film (“He’s just a man, Rock. Just a man … Be *more* man than him!”), although for any true Rocky fan, the best part is the final fight. I love the whole sequence of the final round; I’ve come to realize the real key to it is around the 1:48 mark of this clip when the orchestral music sort of completely changes, going from high soaring strings to reverberating low woodwinds, which marks Rocky’s final comeback.

I know the franchise has had high and low moments, but that entire last round is a terrific film-making sequence.

2. Do You Believe In Miracles?

Now to real life.

For any of you reading this who were too young to remember this shining moment in American athletic history—heck, American history—I can’t explain what an impact the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team defeating the U.S.S.R. team had on the entire nation. I know it’s hard to believe today, but in the late 1970s, the U.S.A. was in a down spot. Between Richard Nixon’s resignation, high inflation, the energy crisis, the Iran hostage crisis and disco, the eagle was flying slow and the flag was flying low, to paraphrase Charlie Daniels.

The USSR was still together and was still a big, bad empire at this time, and nothing personified that more than their heralded and undefeated national hockey team. The Soviets had exploited a loophole in the Olympic rules that allowed them to put a team of veteran players on the ice—their players “served in the military,” which preserved their amateur status but also allowed them to be paid indirectly. Push come to shove, they were actually excellent, seasoned pros. Team USA, on the other hand, were a bunch of true amateur college kids, and heavy underdogs in the Olympic tournament.

The Olympics were a big deal in 1980 because they were in the U.S. at Lake Placid, New York, and because there wasn’t much else to get excited about. I saw every game (no football or baseball on at that time), and I’ll never forget watching the historic game against the Russians in my bedroom—I was afraid to leave for fear of jinxing them. Clearly, it worked, so you’re welcome, America!

Trivia bonus: Although it certainly felt like it, this game wasn’t for the gold medal, but to get into the gold medal game. It was certainly a bit anticlimactic after this, but the U.S. beat Finland 4-2 to win the gold.

3. Secretariat Winning the Belmont Stakes

This may be the single greatest athletic performance of all time. Period.

I know most people aren’t horse-racing fans, but what Secretariat did in the biggest race of his career—the contest to be the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years—is nothing short of staggering. Not only does he blow away the field by 30-something lengths—which included Sham, a horse that had actually given him close races in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness—but he destroys the records for that race and that distance by more than 2 seconds (a huge amount of time in horse racing), setting marks that still stand today. Actually, he was getting faster as the race went on. Un-fracking-believeable.

It’d be like winning the Super Bowl by the score 100 to 0. It was that dominant.

I especially love that as “Big Red” starts pulling away, you can hear the buzz in the crowd as they realize they are witnessing something for the ages. No matter how many times I watch this, I always get goosebumps at the 2:27 mark when Secretariat passes the American flag and you can hear the absolute shock and awe in announcer Chic Anderson’s voice as he exclaims, “He is moving like a tremendous machine!”


4. Position of the Crane

I remember when I saw The Karate Kid in the theater—how at the end of the final match against Johnny, when Daniel strikes that pose, it was one of those moments when I literally slid to the front of my seat, grabbed the person next to me and was like, “IT’S THE POSITION OF THE CRANE!!”

The thing that really sells it is the little nod by Mr. Miyagi at the :53 mark. And by the way his head snaps back, I’m pretty damn sure William Zabka really gets kicked in the face in that scene.

5. Roy Hobbs’ Game-Winning Home Run

The climax of my all-time favorite movie, The Natural, still gets me choked up, even though I’ve probably seen it about 100 times, and it’s been parodied probably 1,000 times. The home run into the lights, the shower of sparks, the slow-motion rounding of the bases …

Everyone who has every picked up a baseball bat wants to hit the game-winning home run, and after everything that happens to Roy Hobbs, it’s even more poignant. I remember I went to see this with a few of my friends in the theater, and I noticed a few of them were crying like little girls by the end—or I think we were. I couldn’t see them because  … uh, it was dusty in there. Yeah.

Anyway, this movie is so well made and the cast so amazing—Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Darren McGavin, Kim Basinger, Richard Farnsworth, Wilford Brimley. I also love the staggering attention to detail, from the gloves being left on the field (which is what they did in the early part of the 20th century) to the flashbulbs that need to be changed with cloths.

But of course, the real key to this scene is the music—the score was written by Randy Newman, and doesn’t feature any lyrics about short people or having toy friends. It’s been used so many times and in so many ways, it may lose its impact for some. But not for me—it still gives me chills every time I hear it.