Oct 282012

Time counts and keeps countin’, and we knows now finding the trick of what’s been and lost ain’t no easy ride. But that’s our trek, we gotta’ travel it. And there ain’t nobody knows where it’s gonna’ lead. Still in all, every night we does the tell, so that we ‘member who we was and where we came from… but most of all we ‘members the man that finded us, him that came the salvage. And we lights the city, not just for him, but for all of them that are still out there. ‘Cause we knows there come a night, when they sees the distant light, and they’ll be comin’ home . . .

To you future archaeologists who now have uncovered the northeastern part of the United States that was wiped from the map and most of history by the mighty storm known as “Hurricane Sandy” (or by your era simply as “Frankenstorm” or “The Big One Back in ’12”), and have now stumbled upon this blog, I say greetings!

While others around me scrambled to stockpile survival supplies such as durable goods, bottled water, batteries and the blu-ray release of Magic Mike, I decided that given my skill set, it would be more productive to preserve a record of my beloved state of Connecticut so you can know more about it as I assume Frankenstorm undoubtedly altered the events of humankind as we know (or knew) it. Or so we’ve been told—as I type this, it’s still a good day or so before the rain has even started.

For the record, Connecticut used to look like this:

But now post-Frankenstorm probably looks like this, as you’re well aware:

Chances are that you there in the future may only have fragments and scraps of our history culled from the memories of survivors and the pieces of detritus you salvaged from the high storm tides and fierce gales that obliterated our way of life. You may have read about our fair land from one of those old flat things made of paper that contained words and pictures—we call them “books,” you probably call them “the senseless murder of trees for crass entertainment purposes”—or you may have learned about us from whatever electronic records managed to withstand the wrath of Frankenstorm.

As the colossal weather system bears down on us, I have precious little time to share everything Connecticut was, but I thought I might at least record some of the key things you should know that may not be obvious.

• We didn’t come up with the name “Connecticut”—it was here when we got here. And by “we,” I mean the European explorers who first arrived in the 1600s and then systemically took it away from the Native Americans (don’t worry, they take back their wealth via roulette wheels, poker and slot machines). “Quinnehtukqut” (various spellings are available) means “by the long tidal river” and referred to the lands on either side of the large waterway that bisected the state from north to south. In conjunction with the old Puritan spirit that long inhabited parts of the region, we never really came up with anything catchier or shorter, or even a decent nickname—sometimes we were called “the Nutmeg state,” but it wasn’t exactly a compliment.

• Connecticut was also referred to as “The Land of Steady Habits,” except that had nothing to do with nuns who wouldn’t change their clothes and everything to do with early settlers having very strict moral codes. In 2012, however, we now allow progressive social ideas such as gay marriage, women’s suffrage, the use of medical marijuana and—only after 200 years of quibbling and handwringing—the devils’s fire water (aka “alcohol”) to be sold on Sundays.

• Speaking of the Puritans, Connecticut was known for its infamous “Blue Laws,” a strict code that included such infractions such as:
– Men-stealers shall suffer death.
– Married persons must live together, or be imprisoned.
– Every male shall have his hair cut round according to a cap.
– Fornication shall be punished by compelling the marriage, or as the Court may think proper.
As it turns out, these were all complete fabrications, whipped up by the vengeful Rev. Samuel A. Peters, a British loyalist during the (first?) American Revolution. Peters, angry that he was essentially run out of his country of birth by those who wanted to tar-and-feather him for spreading his pro-British views when the young nation was in the process of declaring its independence, wrote A General History of Connecticut, a satire mocking the colony that many people subsequently have mistaken as truth. It was not, although there were plenty of bad haircuts and fornicators who were punished by marriage.

• Although you may have uncovered numerous dinosaur-themed attractions in the state, we did not actually exist at the same time as these giant thunder lizards. We did have plenty of lounge lizards (see the aforementioned Native American gaming establishments).

• Despite being located in New England, not all residents here were fans of the New England Patriots professional football team. In fact, most of the people absolutely hated them. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

• Ironically, when it came to baseball, we embraced the area team—the Boston Red Sox—and despised the New York Yankees. Weird how things worked out like that.

• Professional wrestling was not invented in Connecticut, although the biggest “sports entertainment” organization in the world was based here. And even though the owner of the company twice ran for U.S. Senate, believe me, it was not because everyone thought it was a good idea—in fact, if the state hadn’t been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, it may have been buried under campaign literature from Linda McMahon.

• The southern stretch of the state was called “The Gold Coast” due to the high concentration of extraordinarily wealthy people who lived there. First off, there was no actual gold there, although if there was, those people living there would’ve made sure that they got it and everyone else was “disposed of.” Second, it was not representative of the entire state as there were many low-income and impoverished people throughout the state who never even tasted Grey Poupon. Finally, if anything came out of the destruction of the East Coast, at least the rich were smited along with the poor. I hope.

• Yale University in New Haven was one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the entire United States. Unfortunately, by 2012, very few people from the United States—and almost no one from Connecticut—actually attended it.

• The state was home to a number of influential writers over the years—Noah Webster, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Philip Roth, Wally Lamb, Suzanne Collins, Stephene Meyer, Ray Bendici, Maurice Sendak, Arthur Miller … you get the idea. Mostly all geniuses, from I what remember.

• Finally, autumn in Connecticut was an idyllic time in the state—terrific foliage, wonderful weather and tons of fall activities. At least if we went out in October, it was at the top of our game.

Okay, the storm is bearing down on me, so I have to go. I hope this gives you a better picture of what you’ve lost . . . .

Here’s part of a song from the play Camelo …. er, Connecticut, that was written by … uh, me! (Sure!) Gives you an idea of how wonderful life was here.

A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there’s a legal limit to the snow here
In Connecticut.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Connecticut.
Connecticut! Connecticut!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Connecticut, Connecticut
That’s how conditions are.
The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Connecticut.


Oct 262012

As you may have guessed, I’m all about the funny, and as such, there are certain people—actors, comedians, commentators, athletes, even a few friends—who I think are absolutely hysterical.

For example, I’ve told everyone I know that I think Colin Mochrie is the funniest person on the planet. Period. I mean, just look at him!

He’s just a mischievous little imp, that Colin!

And if you have any question as to his ability to be humorous, I suggest you watch this, which is STILL the funniest clip I’ve ever seen on TV, and my friends, I’ve watched lots of TV.

At the end, Greg Proops (the guy with glasses who was not in the skit) sums it up perfectly: “Oh, I’m just so happy.”

So anyway, we were watching “30 Rock” last week, and one of the many subplots involved that old myth “women are not funny,” which of course, is ridiculous. From Lucille Ball to Carol Burnett to Tina Fey, there has been  …. uh … at least three women . . .. on TV … . who are funny . . .

No, seriously, we are in a wonderful time in history where television, movies and the interwebz are jam-packed with ladies who can make you laugh.

As a matter of fact, here are


1. Kaitlin Olson – I will be the first to admit that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” may not be as funny in Season 8 as it was in the first couple of seasons, but that in no way is a reflection of the effort put forth by Kaitlin, who plays “Sweet Dee.”

I would post entire episodes to demonstrate that she will do anything and everything to get a laugh, but that seems a bit excessive. Here’s a little tease …

Seriously, how this woman doesn’t have a shelf full of Emmys, I don’t know. As soon as I see Sophie Vergara clean up her own puke with her own hands, I’ll say she’s funnier. Until then …

2. Kerri Kenney – Connecticut’s own—born and bred in Westport—and the daughter of famed TV voice actor Larry Kenney (“Lion-O” from “Thunder Cats,” “Sonny” from Cocoa Puffs, “Imus in the Morning”), you probably recognize her—

—she’s been on “The State,” “Viva Variety” and “Reno 911,” where she played Deputy Trudy Wiegel. Lately, she’s been on “Chelsea Lately,” and has done guest shots on various shows. A terrific improviser who will do anything for a laugh, no matter how unflattering it may be.

The aforementioned Emmy Award winner Sophia Vergara’s character is pregnant on her show—call me when she does a scene like this, which Kenney did while actually pregnant!

3. & 4. Garfunkel & Oates
– Riki “Garfunkel” Lindhome and Kate “Oates” Miucci (who you might recognize from “Scrubs” and other TV shows) are a musical comedy duo who are smart, funny and write incredibly catchy little ditties geared for adult audiences. A few examples [with lots of NSFW lyrics]: “Sex with Ducks,” “Pregnant Women are Smug,” “I Don’t Understand Job,” and “Gay Boyfriend.”

And my favorite [NSFW lyrics!!!]

“This Party Took a Turn for the Douche”

5. The Bloggess
– Okay, now that she has a New York Times #1 best-selling memoir (and is working on a sequel, yay!), Jenny “The Bloggess” Lawson may not be quite as obscure as she once was, but I’m betting that lots of people probably never heard of her because they don’t read. And really, if you’re not checking out her blog or following her on Twitter, you’re missing out. That girl ain’t right, and that makes her incredibly amusing.


Oct 232012

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This one is worth a thousand nightmares, and then some.

This week’s


Martin L. “Vlad” Evanick

Really, words fail me. Maybe tonight when I awaken in a cold sweat and screaming, clawing at my own eyeballs, something will come to me.

In the meantime, here’s the meat of the story cut-and-pasted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (because I can’t get away from my own blog post fast enough):

A Collinsville man who dresses as an evil clown as a member of a band has been accused of engaging in sexual activity with a minor and photographing it, prosecutors said this week.

Martin L. “Vlad” Evanick, 31, was indicted Oct. 17 on one federal felony charge of producing child porn and arrested Friday.

Prosecutors and the one-page indictment accuse Evanick of convincing a minor to engage in sexual activity sometime in April in Madison County and then photographing the minor’s genitals and himself engaging in a sex act with the minor.

Evanick plays drums and is the lead vocalist for the “thrash, death metal” band called The Core of Your Nightmares, according to Facebook pages for Evanick and the band.

Well, this jerk will certainly be at the core of my nightmares, and now I’m betting yours.

A special “thanks” to my “friend” Ian who posted the original link on my FB page.

Oct 212012

Any of you who know me are undoubtedly well acquainted with my various medical maladies—diverticulitis, kidney stones, squamous cells, pinched nerves, jittery endocrine reflux kinetics (better known as j.e.r.k. syndrome). If you’re keeping track, you can now add gallbladder polyps to your scorecard with an asterisk; if it continues at its current pace, you can look forward to reading about my gallbladder removal surgery. . . .

Yay. for. me.

Some of the readers of my old blog may recall that I bravely documented my first colonoscopy; the “good news” is that I recently received a postcard from my gastroenterologist’s office informing me that I should contact them because it’s time to go back for my second colonoscopy. Again, yay.

I call the office and am told by the secretary that my regular gastroenterologist, who is a highly regarded, award-winning physician, is now pretty much just teaching at a certain local Ivy League medical school, and not really seeing patients any more. As such, he’s recommended that I be turned over to one of his associates. Fine, I say, figuring if he is recommending an associate who he’s in practice with, that’s good enough for me. I make an appointment to see my new gastroenterologist.

A short time later, it occurs to me to check the practice’s website to see if I can find anything out about the person who will now be shoving medical equipment—and who knows what else—up my rectum. I mean, we all accept that doctors are allowed to examine our bodies, but objectively, there’s something innately odd about letting a complete (or even an incomplete) stranger poke and probe your orifices. I don’t think it’s crazy to want to know something before I show up at the office.

I start looking through the practice website and quickly realize that I’ve made some very narrow-minded assumptions about my new doctor, including sex, appearance and age.

Yes, my new gastroenterologist is an attractive young woman.

I guess I didn’t think much about her name when it was mentioned—it’s an Indian name, and shame on me, I’m not familiar enough with that culture to immediately recognize what apparently is a common girl’s name. After years of being in and out of medical facilities, I’m also not used to seeing a doctor who is . . . well, pretty. And finally, in her picture on the website, she looks younger than I’m used to a doctor being—I suppose I always think that after the years of college, medical school, residencies, fellowships and other programs, most doctors are well into their 30s before they are in a regular practice.

So yeah, I’m a little surprised at all this, but it really shouldn’t matter—all I care about is getting good treatment, and if she’s recommended by my old doctor, then that’s still good enough for me. Granted, I’ve never really had a female doctor before, especially one who is going to be delving into areas I’m not real comfortable with a male doctor (or anyone, for that matter) exploring. I know that many of you ladies out there are very used to having physicians of the opposite sex examine you, but for me, it’s a bit of a new experience. Yes, I’ve had a few from time to time, and I’ve certainly had woman do everything from working on my teeth to draining my veins to stitching up my cuts, so it’s not like I’ve never been handled medically by a female. Just not my butt, I guess.

I quickly put away my ignorance and prejudices, and don’t think much about it until my pre-colonoscopy consultation comes around. I go to the office, fill out the necessary paperwork—there’s always paperwork, isn’t there?—and wait to meet my new doctor.

After a few minutes, a 15-year-old girl appears in the office, holding a chart and calling my name. She introduces herself as my gastroenterologist …

Okay, let me say right here, I get the fact that I’m old and thus, pretty much everyone else out there looks younger than me. I really and truly get that. But in the flesh, this physician really and truly looks like only about a few years older than my 13-year-old son—she’s certainly not any bigger than him, maybe at best 98 pounds dripping wet—7 stone, if you’re following along in the British imperial system. For the record, I’ve shown a picture of my new doctor to my wife, who says that she looks “about 25,” so you know I’m not overly exaggerating here.

It also doesn’t help that throughout my visit, she keeps referring to me as “Sir,” with a light Indian accent that already has wisps of formality to it. Again, I get that I’m old, but this is not helping any. She really appears as if she could be in high school—Doogie Gupta, anyone?

Anyway, all that aside, it becomes apparent very quickly that she is a more-than-competent physician, the one part of the equation that I actually expected, and is the bottom line, after all. We go through my medical history, she asks lots of pertinent questions and all my internal immaturity and ignorance is put aside … until she asks me to get on the examination table.

I have a quick flash to the time my general practitioner “examined” me during my first bout of diverticulitis, making me scream out in pain while he rammed his sausage fingers up inside my body cavity, and quickly think, “Well, at least she’s got little girl hands, so if anything, it won’t be too uncomfortable …” Fortunately though, she only wants me to pull up my shirt so she can examine my abdomen.

I pull up my shirt, and as she puts her hands all over my stomach, I immediately expect Chris Hansen and the FBI to kick the door open in some sort of underage-pedo sting. It doesn’t help that I’m a bit ticklish, and I giggle at one point when she grazes a vulnerable spot. Awk-ward!

But of course, she’s a total professional and all business, and the exam is over quickly. She thanks me, and escorts me to her secretary, who sets up an appointment for the colonoscopy.

My doctor—and now, she is officially my doctor—then says, “I’ll see you at the procedure!” And although I think, “Well, if  you skip fourth period and can get a ride to the medical center, you will see more of me than most care to see,” I simply say, “Yes, yes you will”—I figure we both might as well be grown up.

Oct 192012

Fact: I have not watched any of the 2012 presidential debates.

And I have no intention of tuning in now.

See, the problem is that I really am not a fan of politics, and I’ve become convinced now more than ever that pretty much every candidate running for office—from the two presidential hopefuls right on down to those aspiring to be your local dog catcher—is more interested in what public office can do for them rather than what they can do for the public while in office. You know, the polar opposite of that gloriously idealistic JFK inauguration speech. Sad how far we’ve fallen in half a century.

Consider: At last check, an estimated $1 billion will be spent on this presidential election, most of it invested by Very Wealthy People (on all sides). These people are usually very rich for a reason, mainly because they tend not to back causes that don’t have a potentially high return for them. In other words, they are investing an colossal amount of money in this election because they know that winning the White House is important for their bottom lines and how much more money they can possibly make. It has nothing—and I repeat, NOTHING—to do with helping the American people. You’ve been hanging out too long in Plato’s cave if you believe otherwise.

As far as the debates themselves go, I’ve also come to the conclusion that both candidates (any candidate, really) will say absolutely anything to be elected, and then will somehow get a pass later if they go back on their campaign promises. Really, it’s a silly dance that’s been going on for decades when you think of it—they tell us what we want to hear to get elected, then when they don’t fulfill those pledges, we sort of say, “Well, that’s okay—it was a campaign promise, so we never really expected you to do it anyway.”

Oh sure, some presidents to try to keep certain promises, but more times than not, they fall by the wayside when the reality of taking office sets in.

As such, I propose

Five Ways to Make the Presidential Debates More (Interesting to Me, Anyway)

1. Allow weapons – I’m not talking about guns or knives or anything that will cause permanent damage, but I’d like if they used fencing foils, pugilsticks or nunchuks, or if they went the pro wrestling route and allowed flaming steel chair or two. Even if it was a normal debate, and then at some point, Obama reached into his jacket pocket for “a foreign object” and used it on Romney (or vice versa), that would be must-see TV!

2. Debate girls – You know, to hold up the score cards between matches. (Hey, it works in Vegas to “class up” boxing matches.) Sex sells, right? And of course, since I’m all about equality, if they want to throw in a few beefcake ring guys for the ladies to enjoy, so be it.

3. Karaoke – This would only work if they had Simon Cowell as a judge. “Mitt, that rendition of ‘My Boo’ was absolutely dreadful. I mean, the absolute worst ever—you wouldn’t hear a version that bad on a cruise ship. Obviously, your parents were wealthy enough to pay off your music teachers to tell you that you could sing. Shame on them,  shame on you and shame on anyone who contributed to your campaign in the hopes of hearing something special. You may have the breeding and money, but you couldn’t carry a tune in a milk bucket, I’m sad to say.”

4. Shocking truth – This one is pretty simple: During the debates, electrodes are attached to each candidate’s genitals. As they statements are made, they are checked by a non-partisan group like factcheck.org. If a candidate tells a lie, they get a angry jolt of electricity delivered right to Mr. Nutsack or Ms. Ladypart. If anything, I suspect this will greatly shorten debates.

5. Dunk tank – Each candidate climbs up on the bar over the tank, and answers the questions. Whoever gets them wrong, gets dunked. It could also be rigged where the audience gets to vote on the answers or the performance, and the candidate who loses goes for a swim. The dunk tank could also be replaced with a vat of ticks or a bengal tiger pit—I certainly wouldn’t to deter the imagination of the American people.

Any chance we can get these in place before the next debate?

Oct 182012

This week, we have JERKS of the week, and when you discover why they are being so (dis)honored, I think you’ll agree with me that they are more than worthy of sharing the “distinction.”

Meet husband and wife JERKS OF THE WEEK—


“Okay, that looks like a pair of mugshots,” you might be saying to yourself. “That can’t be good.” And you would be right.

The Lacys were arrested for allegedly running “an exotic strip club” in their Perris, California home, complete with a stage, stripper pole and private “erotic zone.” Although illegal and generally frowned upon by more prudish neighbors, that isn’t exactly jerk of the week material.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Investigators found seven adopted children, all under 11 years old, living there and at least five ecstasy pills sitting on the kitchen counter, the documents said.

According to the documents, the children told officers that LaQuron Lacy, 43, would hit them with “fists, belts, hangers and metal objects, which caused them traumatic injuries and scarring,” and that she “often refused to feed them and often locked them in their bedrooms.”

The children told officers they witnessed late-night strip club parties that lasted until the early morning, the documents said.

Four of the seven children “described being hit … with belts and a metal cane” by 60-year-old Gregory Lacy, and a 6-year-old child said he threatened them with a Taser, according to the documents.

A 7-year-old girl also told officers Gregory Lacy had recently sexually assaulted her on a bathroom floor, according to the documents, an act apparently witnessed by some of the other children.

Sometimes, “JERK OF THE WEEK” isn’t strong enough a term for someone. I’d very passionately argue that this would definitely be one of those times.

I’ve often stated I understand how some sorts of child abuse can happen—I’ve been occasionally driven to absolute frustration and anger with my kids, but then I have that little thing that goes off in my brain that says, “Okay, calm down. They’re just kids. You love them, they love you . . . big deep breaths . . .  let it goooooo . . . .” But then there are some times and some stories—like this—that I can’t even picture how someone could get to the point where they would treat another person, let alone innocent children, in such a fashion. I’d say it’s unreal, but a glance at the full dockets of juvenile and family courts tell me that it’s all too real.

As many of you know, I don’t believe in God, which means heaven and hell aren’t concepts I buy into, either. Thus, I hope that there’s some sort of special retribution meted out on these two subhuman creatures in this life, maybe something in front of prison cameras so we can all watch, and then mentally slowly tuck a buck in the waistband of the inmates who provide justice. Not that it’ll help those poor kids . . .

This is one of those times that after I read the story, I just sort of went over, hugged my kids and told myself that even though I sometimes make mistakes as a parent, things are generally pretty damned good in my life.

Really, I’m not sure that I have anything else to say that isn’t already obvious. Buy my book, thanks.

Oct 152012

So for reasons only known to my subconscious, lately I’ve been dreaming a bit about my grandparents’ apartment in Brooklyn, New York. It’s weird … my grandmother Helen is in a few of the dreams, and occasionally my grandfather John will amble through, but for the most part, it’s just a lot of random events and actions happening in that apartment.

In terms of physical space, it really wasn’t that special—a second floor apartment with a living room, dining room, kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms (one of which was a den with a TV). To say that Helen kept it immaculate is an understatement—she used to scrub the walls every week for criminey’s sake! The decor was very 50s—slightly gaudy couches with plastic slip covers in the living room, which we almost never went in—green patterned loop carpet throughout, lots of overly detailed furniture. They did have a TV in the kitchen, which was on during pretty much every meal except formal Sunday dinner and holidays. Plenty of tchotchkes, of course.

I guess why the place sticks out in my mind is because it’s the only place and time that I was ever truly spoiled in my life.

I can’t recall exactly how many times my grandparents had me stay with them during summer vacation—I want to say it was at least three or four times, each time for a week, sometimes more. (I know I was definitely there the night they caught the infamous “Son of Sam,” the “.44 caliber killer,” David Berkowitz, which was in August 1977, when I was 12.) They did it to give my parents a break, but it was truly an awesome deal for me.

Essentially, I would be the king of the apartment—fully air conditioned, by the way, which was a luxury my parents could not afford back in our Connecticut home. Their Ford Granada had it also, but that wasn’t as sweet a deal because they both were chain smokers and the a/c would blow the smoke into the backseat; I’d be turning green as I clawed at the opera windows in the back.

But a little permanent brain and lung damage from second-hand smoke was really was a small price to pay.

To this day, I still say that Helen was the greatest cook I’ve ever known. She made me eggs and Sizzlelean every morning, although she kept trying to push real bacon on me—hey, I was just a kid, I didn’t know any better! Even though she would’ve made anything for me, I always asked for a sandwich at lunch; being a smart ass, one time I asked for “pheasant under glass.” She gave me pb&j with a drinking glass turned upside down on it. They also had the best pickles (from real New York delis) and what I thought was the sweetest nectar: Key Food black cherry soda.

Seriously though, her dinners were amazing, every night. How my grandfather John was not 300 pounds, I’ll never know, although I’m guessing the chain smoking helped. She never skimped on real ingredients (like butter), and cooked everything from scratch and memory. I still miss her chicken francaise; my wife had Helen write down the recipe before she passed away, and although Sue tries—and has gotten close—it’s not quite the same. (I do really appreciate the effort though.)

So even though I had run of the place, the best part of it all was “THE drawer.” The second drawer down (under the knick knacks and sundry tools drawer), it was originally designed as a bread box of sorts with a retractable tin cover on it, which was good because it was stocked with perishable treasures: junk food!!!

Like I mentioned with the meals, Helen never skimped on food, and that was evident by what was in this drawer: full-sized Hershey bars, Yodels, Fudge Town cookies, Big Wheels—all the “real deal” junk food of the 1970s, no cheap knock-offs! And being an indulgent grandmother, she essentially let me raid that drawer almost any time I wanted, and being a teenaged boy whose mother usually bought knock-off brands—Hydrox, ugh!—I indulged myself quite a bit! How I ever fell asleep, being jacked up on sugar the whole week, I’ll never know.

I remember sitting in the den in the morning while Helen cleaned, picking apart Yodels (I ate the chocolate coating first, then the cake) watching lots of bad late 70s daytime TV—”I Love Lucy” and “Gilligan Island” reruns, old Abbott and Costello movies on WPIX-11 on Sunday mornings and tons of cheesy game shows!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to just sit there and watch guys with loud ties give away Whirlpool refrigerators. Helen and John always had multiple places to take me. I’d always see at least on Mets game, hit Coney Island and the New York Aquarium—they’d also bring my cousin Jim along a lot, since he was close to my age and we got along very well. They also took me to “Great Adventure” (now Six Flags), Asbury Park (for frozen custard and skee ball) and to visit their friends The Gridellis in Bayville, Long Island—”Uncle Johnny and Aunt Kay” were well-to-do and owned Continental Candy, and in addition to having friends who owned yachts, had even more chocolate around!

Sweet, right?

And if all that wasn’t enough, we also went to a bunch of movies—two stand out:

  • John took me to see Fort Apache, The Bronx, and there was a scene where a topless woman ran across the screen—I remember him squirming in his seat and just muttering, “Madonnnnn ….”
  • After some cajoling, Helen took me to the The Blue Brothers, and even though “It only got two stars in the paper,” she really enjoyed it. “That fat guy doing all the backflips—he was great! The music, too!”

Yeah, it was a week every year where I was pampered and showered with unadulterated attention, and didn’t have to do anything other than be myself. As I now spend my days working, chauffeuring kids and keeping numerous balls in the air, I guess it’s not too much of mystery why I dream of that old apartment.

Sizzlelean, anybody?


Oct 122012

The other night I had the good fortune to enjoy a lecture about the alleged forthcoming end of the world from Dr. Kenneth Feder, my favorite skeptical archaeologist.

Dr. Kenny has graciously let me to interview him for Damned Connecticut (he always kindly tells me that he thinks it’s one of the better interview he’s ever done) and has also allowed me to bring my son to one of his archaeological digs at The Lighthouse site in Barkhamsted. I’ve also seen him give presentations on the fantasy that’s the lost continent of Atlantis, the shenanigans around the Cardiff Giant and the ludicrous speculation of pyramid-building aliens. I’ve also seen him as the voice of reason on History Channel-type programs, debunking various Erich von Daniken-inspired myths about an ancient world where intergalactic Peace Corps allegedly regularly dropped in on Earth to help various non-white European cultures to build monuments then zip away never to be seen again.

Speaking of sheer folly, his latest lecture was about the Maya calendar and all the ridiculous “Doomsday Dec. 21, 2012” chatter. As any rational person might expect, Dr. Kenny (a respected professor, researcher and scientist) has bothered to go to the source material to gather all the actual facts rather than just regurgitate all the inane theories and New Age psychobabble. (Like other scientists have done.) Not surprisingly, he was able to easily cut through the crap.

In a nutshell: Like our calendars, the Maya calendar is essentially reaching the end of its long cycles (like our millennia) on December 21, 2012, and will simply start a new cycle on December 22—you know, not unlike how our calendar “turned over” on December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000. Yes, it’s a notable event (to the Maya), but as he pointed out, nowhere in the collected writings of the Maya did they indicate that this would be anything other than another holiday, maybe to be marked with a few special ceremonies welcoming the new long cycle. They never ever said anything about it being “The End of Times”—that feldercarb and fiction has been the work of various 20th-century crackpots.

Actually, the Maya have predicted the end of the world—I don’t remember the exact date Dr. Kenny provided, but it was somewhere in the order of a few trillion trillion years from now. Pretty sure none of us have to worry about it.

Anyway, all the talk of Maya timekeeping got me thinking about our calendar, which made me think of

My Five Favorite Months

(Didn’t see that coming, did you? Should’ve checked your Mayan calendar.)

1. October – Every year at this time, I’m reminded of why I love Connecticut so much. I truly believe that during this month, it’s the absolute best place on the planet. The weather is mostly clear and crisp, the foliage is spectacular and there’s about a jillion things to do, from hiking and apple picking to football (J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!) and Halloween, my second favoritest holiday.

And yes, October is my busiest month, mainly because Damned Connecticut is usually hopping all month long and I get requests related to that. (In fact, I’m scheduled to be a guest on Jaki’s Buzz! Details to come.) Plus, I try to stay on top of our monster list of Halloween events, which takes up a bit of time. So many great things going on all month long.

2. November – Lots of the cool things and ideal weather from October carry on into November … well, at least the first part, anyway. And then it’s time for my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.

I’ve written numerous times about how much I love everything about Thanksgiving, so I won’t (turkey) trot it all out here again. Suffice to say: food, football, food, family, food and fun! Oh, and food.

3. May – Despite containing the day of the year I hate the most, I always welcome May, mostly because it means that all the snow, cold and winter is really, truly behind us. Flowers are blooming, windows can be opened and the world truly feels alive again.

May also usually kicks off the official start to summer and all its glory, which is fine by me.

4. July – The height of summer, and despite the heat and humidity, I love it (especially knowing how much my buddy Steve hates it). Going to the beach, enjoying ice cream, swimming—all good stuff. Nothing better than sitting out on the porch in the early evening, enjoy the sounds of the neighborhood and life all around.

Oh, and there’s Independence Day, which is probably my third favorite holiday, if we’re counting (and it appears that I am). As we know, I love fire … works. Fireworks. Yeah. Things that KA-BOOM!!!! YEAH!

5. August – I might put June here, but it’s usually so jam-packed with events, it’s hard for me to enjoy. In a five-day stretch (from June 17th to the 22nd), I have: my son’s birthday, my wife’s birthday, my parents’ anniversary, my in-laws anniversary and Father’s Day. Plus, all sorts of sundry graduations, weddings and other events. Too much, as my grandmother would say.

August, however, is great because it’s the one month on the calendar with no holidays or obligations (outside of a birthday or two). The weather is usually still warm but not as humid as July, and the NFL preseason is just starting which is always welcome after seven or eight months of no football.

Of course, there are certain days throughout the year that I appreciate, and the good news is that after this December 21, I will still be able to enjoy them.


Oct 102012

This JERK OF THE WEEK feature is a double-edged sword: It’s great because there’s so many people from which to choose, but it sucks because there are so many people from which to choose.

Being the consummate professional (and a jerk myself), however, I’m not about to stop.

This week’s wiener (shh … must be a typo) is living proof that being able to achieve financial success is no indication as to a person’s true worth. Sometimes the personality traits that are useful in amassing a fortune—like being an intimidating bully at times—aren’t always welcome outside the boardroom …

… Or in the voting booth!

This week’s JERK OF THE WEEK is …


Some of you may already know of Siegel, who is the founder owner of Westgate Resorts, one of the largest time-share companies in the world. He—and his lovely wife Jacqueline—have also been in the news recently, mostly for being very rich people with very exorbitant taste.

But hey, liking shiny expensive toys does not make one a jerk. Threatening all your employees by sending them an email telling them if they don’t vote for Mitt Romney that they will all lose their jobs, however, is another story.

A story, best summed up by MSNBC.com, who posted a copy of the email:

“If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company,” he wrote. “Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

In a version of Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, Siegel added that “people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn’t. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for.”

The points are ones that have often been made during this election. But what makes the letter surprising is the source.

David Siegel is the man who, together with his wife, Jackie, built the largest new house in America, known as “Versailles.” His story first appeared in my book, “The High-Beta Rich.” It then made it to the big screen with the documentary film “The Queen of Versailles.”

They became symbols of outsized spending, debt and real estate in America.

But when the company started buckling under $1 billion in debt during the crisis, the Siegels’ home went into foreclosure and was put up for sale. They cut back on the jet, took the kids out of private school and gave up some of their staff.

Now, I don’t begrudge the man his rightfully earned millions, and obviously, he should vote for whomever he thinks will best protect his interests—heck, I do the same!

I do take exception, however, when he uses the power of continued employment—and all the basic amenities of life that are derived from that—during tough economic times to bully others. To me, that’s just dirty pool—or in this case, three pools and numerous fountains, as the Siegels’ opulent mansion has.

He can justify it anyway he wants, but all the money in the world won’t change the fact that David Siegel is the JERK OF THE WEEK.

And as always, if you want to throw some money my way, you can do so at Amazon.com with a purchase of my book!


Oct 082012

So Monday is Columbus Day, and like many, I am off from work. But why?

Let me preface what you’re about to read with this: I’m not complaining about having a paid day off from work—as Erma Bombeck (or was it Anna Quindlen?) has said, “No one at the end of their life looks back and says, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.'”

I mean, I get that it’s to honor Christopher Columbus and the “founding of America,” but why do we need a day off for that? As my son says, “How can you ‘discover’ something if there are already people there when you arrive?” The evidence also shows that there were (at minimum) Viking explorers who arrived here long before Cristoforo Colombo washed up on the shores of a place he called San Salvador (the natives had been calling it Guanahani). Heck, he wasn’t even looking for the place—he was trying to get to get to Southeast Asia! He also thought the lands he had found were the outskirts of the Orient and continued to believe so, even after others had proved otherwise, which is just more fodder as to why exactly do we celebrate this.

I guess Columbus’s fame comes from being the impetus for the European colonization for the Americas, which, by the way take their name from Amerigo Vespucci—the guy who realized that this was a “New World” and acted accordingly. It seems as though his birthday (March 9, same as my non-whore sister) should be the day we commemorate, you know, since we live in the United States of America. Just sayin’.

But again, why are we celebrating this day? I get Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays—great men who were critical to the founding and preservation of our nation. Independence Day and Thanksgiving have deep historical implications. Other holidays have religious connections—Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, etc. I even understand Veteran’s and Memorial Day—the former to honor those who have served our country while they are still alive to appreciate it, the latter to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

But this day is set aside to celebrate the birth of a guy who “accidentally” stumbled into a place where people had already been living for centuries? I can name a half dozen people off the top of my head who deserve to be commemorated before Columbus because of their contributions to and impact on our nation.

Thomas Jefferson
John Adams
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin Roosevelt
Susan B. Anthony
Philo Farnsworth (look it up and tell me I’m wrong)

I’m sure you can name a few others …

But the question of whether it’s a misnomer or not aside, why do we need a whole day off to boot? It’s not like there’s anything special going on, aside from a few furniture store sales. A few cities, like New Haven, have actual Columbus Day parades, but those are almost always held on Sunday. No one gathers the family together for a feast of roast beast and who hash, and to raise a mug to ol’ Cristoforo. No one dresses like Columbus (or even a Bahamian native), and there’s no Columbus Day pageant full of Columbus-related verse and song. (“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” is a single line, not even a full poem!) Heck, there aren’t even fireworks and I think if there’s *one* thing we can agree on as a country is that we don’t need much of an excuse blow stuff up! (Minor league baseball games, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, mall openings, etc.)

So really, after thinking about all this, Columbus Day is really a day off for no reason and with nothing to do . . .


I’m good with that.