Jul 262013

What I did on my summer vacation …

Go to New York Jets training camp in Cortland, N.Y.!

Yeah, I’m a nerd like that.

Here are some pics … enjoy!

Jets head coach Rex Ryan, rockin’ the green Chuck Taylors—

Jets rookie—and hopefully, soon-to-be-starting—quarterback, Geno Smith

That “other” QB …

Continue reading »

Jul 242013

So I thought I’d share a few things about and from me … you know, since this is my blog and this is probably the best place for it.

• Here is the link to the CT-N broadcast of the recent Connecticut jerks event at the Old State House. (Wish I could embed the video here, but apparently that’s not how CT-N rolls.) Once again, I’d like to give a huge thanks to two guys who are definitely NOT jerks—Charley Monagan and M. William Phelps for taking the time to participate in this event. It was incredibly generous of them to go to Hartford for the event, especially at high noon on one of the hottest days of the year.

Also another big thanks to the Old State House for having me, and especially to everyone who came out to the event!

• Speaking of jerks—literally! Here’s the podcast of me (and Charley) on WNPR’s “The Colin McEnroe Show.”  It’s always a good time when you can talk about jerks!

• For football fans, here’s a recent fun piece I did for The Jets Blog on former Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff, “inducting” him as a member of the TJB Hall of Fame.

• From my daytime gig, here’s a piece about renowned ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are the main characters of the new movie The Conjuring. In addition to what I wrote, there’s a profile that I dug up from the April 1972 edition of Connecticut Magazine, which featured the Warrens on the cover.

• Speaking of allegedly haunted stuff, here’s the most recent Damned Connecticut podcast—along with my BFFs Kate and Steve Frank—on Dudleytown, a place that the Warrens dubbed cursed. Bonus: Kate and I actually convince Steve to sing, something that everyone should hear at least once.

Anyway, hope you enjoy



Jul 212013

It started few nights ago …

My wife asked me if I had noticed the fruit flies buzzing around the house. Noticed? Are you kidding me?!

I am vehemently anti-bug. No wait, that doesn’t seem strong enough: I really, really, really, really hate bugs.

It’s true, though. I strive to ensure that my home is a pest-free domain. We never leave fresh fruit out. We have screen doors at every opening (aside from the garage), and I am constantly patrolling to see that every screen is tightly closed as well as perfect—no tears or rips. When I bring in groceries, even though it would be easier to leave the door ajar, I shut it all the way in between trips to the car. I constantly clean out the sink so that there’s no potential food sources in the drain. I am always dusting crumbs off the counters and tables. As soon as I see a fly in the house I will pathologically hunt it down and make sure to Kill. It. Dead.

Heck, I even welcome spiders because they hunt and kill other more annoying insects, and this despite once getting bit by a spider and having my eye swell shut and not even getting anything remotely resembling super powers….

But back to the fruit flies. I attempted to kill all the ones that I saw the first night, and then tried not to think about it again, hoping it was just an aberration due to a door that may have been inadvertently left open a microsecond too long.

A day or so later—after my wife had *conveniently* left for a trip—I notice that they are back, and in larger numbers.


I quickly realize that they seem concentrated on the wall near a corner kitchen cabinet that’s above the  counter. It’s a cabinet in which we store some sealed food, a.k.a. a possible perfect habitat for pests.

I instantly think of my old buddy Bobby the train conductor, who once told me about how after trains that he was on had hit someone, he had been sent out to find the dead bodies. He described how he hated looking because he really didn’t want to find anything that would give him nightmares …

As much as I don’t want to do it, I grit my teeth and open the cabinet. More fruit flies!

Double grrrrrr…….

The cabinet in question has three shelves, so I start with the bottom one, slowly taking out all the expired cold medicines and sunblock that we keep there. I empty the shelf. A few fruit flies but not quite “an infestation.”

I move up to second shelf where we keep things like peanut butter, canned olives and other packaged dry goods. More fruit flies than the first shelf, which is not instilling me with happiness about what I might find on the top shelf—full of ingredients that my wife uses for baking.

Hating every second of it, I get a chair and climb up so I can get a good look at top shelf …

Winner winner, fruit fly dinner!!!!

A broken bag of corn meal and a spilled bottle of Caro syrup, making for what it turns out is the perfect Petri dish to grow fruit flies.

So with my son calling from the next room how is supporting me from waaay over there and bugs flying around, I start to clean the shelf.

I throw out the broken bag of corn meal (and fruit flies) and then clean up the syrup—and the dozens of fly corpses stuck to the shelf. I dispose of essentially everything that had been on the shelf because I sorta freak out about the thought of insects touching anything I might eat, which I know is a case of willful ignorance because bugs pretty much touch everything everywhere.

Anyway, once I get the shelf clean, it’s time for sterilization. I break out the bleach and start spraying heavily, except after few seconds realize that the bleach, while cleaning everything, is not exactly killing everything—there are still fruit flies wriggling around, not quite dead enough for my liking.

I run to the cabinet where we keep various death-to-vermin-in-a-cans and decide that Raid’s Ant & Roach spray is probably best suited for the job.

That lightning bolt means *REALLY* lethal, right?

I go back to the infected shelf, and after a quick shake, start a-spraying! And, of course, to make sure that I’m killing all the bugs in the all the corners, I’ve got my face right in the cabinet ….

You can see where this is going. In my blood zeal to eradicate the tiny pests, I didn’t.

About a minute after spraying I am a little light-headed. A few seconds after that, I feel a knot burning in my throat, which is quickly followed by a wave of nausea sweeping over me.

Awww CRAP! Are you *NOT* supposed to mix bleach and bug spray?!

The answer to that, as I discover quickly is a resounding “YES!”

I immediately start retching violently and have to run for the bathroom, where the dry heaving starts …

Okay, I’ll spare you all the graphic details but trust me when I say that I am very sick, very quickly.

In between the retching, I open all the windows (did I mention it’s about 105 degrees out?), turn on a fan and send the kids downstairs to their video game room, out of harm’s way.

As I’m flushing out my sinuses with cold water and still retching, I recall a recent episode of “Good Luck Charlie” where the father, who is an exterminator, accidentally gets hit with a bug bomb. As he’s covered in white powder, he says, ” Well, a little poison never hurt anyone …. Oh, wait—IT HAS!” As my chest continues to burn, I picture how so many pesticides are designed to melt the inner organs of insects.

Cue, The Fly: “Heeellllp meeeeee!”

I am also furiously angry at myself for possibly killing myself in such an incredibly stupid manner. I have visions of myself turning up in the weird news section of Damned Connecticut: “Local Jerk Fumigates Self.”

Hello, Irony—sorry I may not live long enough to appreciate you.

A half hour later and I’m still not feeling very good. In fact, I am feeling worse and continuing to retch. In between, my wife calls and is careful not to ask whether she would be able to collect on my life insurance in a case of dramatic idiocy. She suggests that I call Poison Control.

At first I say no because I’m still in denial that I may have done something so stupid. But after another round of retching—enough so that even my kids make comments to the fact that I’m not right—I find the number and call Poison Control.

“Hello, poison control. How can I help you?” says the calm male voice on the other end.

“Hi I’m an absolute idiot and I think I accidentally poisoned myself.” (And this is what I say, almost verbatim—I need to amuse myself at crisis moments, you know, because there’s not enough going on.)

“Really?” replies the voice. “My name is Dana. Who am I speaking to?”

On some level, I’m glad that the poison control center is so friendly, but I need to not die at the moment. I hastily introduce myself to Dana. “Tell me what happened,” he says.

I explain my stupidity to Dana, who is quiet for a few moments—probably to stifle his laughter. He then says, “The good news is that what you did isn’t fatal …” A wave of relief washes over me. “… however, you will feel sick for a while.”

And I did. But knowing that I wasn’t going to curl up with my legs in the air like the bug on the front of the Raid can, I was okay with it.

Eventually, I do go to sleep, and I have one of the most vivid dreams I can recall in a while. It involves Will Ferrell as President George W. Bush, and we’re together on the space shuttle, where he suddenly is having raucous sex in a sleeping bag while hanging upside down …

I swear, that’s really the dream I have that night. You can’t make that up, right? Except I did, apparently. And even though it seems messed up, there were no fruit flies or poison in it.

As far as I’m concerned, it means everything is normal again.

Oh, and the fruit flies are gone.

Jul 142013

I can get very distracted, very easily. Join the club, right?

It’s a huge challenge for me to write sometimes—especially online, like here—because every time I get near the intrawebz, I instantly find myself looking at a hundred different things other than what I’m supposed to be doing at the moment. I wish I had a dollar for every time that I needed to look up a name or a word, open up my browser and then see there’s a message in my email … then I’ll see see a headline … which may lead me to Twitter or Facebook … which leads to how many subsequent sites … and then I realized that I’ve wasted a lot of time and it’s time for me to get back to what I was originally writing, so I go to close my browser and—

D’OH! I *never* got to the original thing I was looking for.

A few months ago I got to interview David Pogue, technology blogger for the New York Times, and one of the things he talked about was that he thought the Next Big Tech Thing is going to be whoever creates a decent digital-curation system, i.e., a way to sort the mountains and mountains of electronic information coming at you from the intrawebz, news sources, social media, smartphones, etc. As he put it, right now trying to process information can be a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose. I certainly feel like that some, if not most, days.

Sometimes I look back at my writing from years ago and I think it was dramatically better and generally more entertaining. That was back before YouTube, Fark, College Humor, Awkward Family Photos, Funny or Die, Cracked, Reddit, The Jets Blog or any of the other ten bajillion sites out there that suck me into their web and away from doing anything that actually might be useful ….

Then again, you’re here reading this … oh, the irony.

Anyway, it doesn’t help that I’m a very slow writer start with. I know what the most of how I express myself looks fairly effortless and somewhat conversational but it actually it takes a lot of work to make it like that. I don’t write as much as I write and rewrite and rewrite, going back over each sentence over and over again. I’m jealous of writers who can generate first drafts that are coherent and brilliant, and then only need to tweak from there.

Let’s put it this way: My process is that I sort of throw up a jumbled lump of clay, and then work it over and over and over until I get something that seems kinda passable, and then with a bit of polishing (sprinkle in those shiny adjectives and metaphors), and eventually it resembles something that can be called “writing.”

I think that it’s because my approach is so labor intensive that I always refer to myself as “a guy who writes” as opposed to “a writer.” Even simple emails take me a long time to bang out because I go back over each word and sentence trying to hone then something that seems intelligible, interesting and, most importantly, comprehensible. A typical blog post, like this one, that you can read in five minutes, if not less, usually takes me about five hours to write. No joke.

Actually, there’s an old joke among writers: “I would have written less except I didn’t have enough time.” I soooo appreciate this! I don’t seem to have enough time in my life to start with, and then to struggle to to get a message across as concisely as possible (which takes even more time), all while trying to avoid the ever-growing minefield of distractions … it can get a little dizzying at times.

Well for this post that you’re reading I decided to try a new approach: voice recognition software.

Yes, I guess you can say I cheated. Although, if I didn’t tell you that I used voice recorder to create the majority of this post you wouldn’t have noticed it. Of course, I still had to go back and edit it quite heavily—for example, earlier I mentioned “ten bajillion” websites, but it was recorded as “Tenba Jillian,” which sounds to me like a reggae band. And for most of the process, I have felt akin to Stephen Hawking, trying to communicate in an odd, stilted way as the app I downloaded for my iPhone only can record/transcribe in short, sentence-or-two bursts. But I was able to get the majority of this post out in a quarter of the time I have in the past, so that’s a good thing.

Too good a thing, though?

Okay, it does seem like I’m sort of cheating here, but is it really any different than using dictation? Milton, Dostoevsky and Henry James all dictated works that have become classics of literature, so I guess that puts me in good company. Well, at least in terms of process, if not actual results. Hopefully, one leads to the other, right? Work smarter, not harder, as my friend Patti likes to say.

But in the world where there’s lots of distractions, sitting in a room by myself without a computer—or more importantly, without the internet staring me in the fact—seems like a good way to write faster, and ultimately, better—without actually having to write anything.

So to speak.

I appreciate your patience as I test this process. I hope that going forward being able to do incorporate this time-saver will actually give me an opportunity to share more than I would normally. Lucky you!


Jul 072013

So in a continuing effort to bond with my sons and share some of their interests, I sometimes will “challenge” them to video game contests—and by “challenge” I mean that we play some sort of video game where they repeatedly pummel me as I have no clue what the heck I’m doing. In the process, we have a few laughs together over my ineptitude and I like to think it brings us closer together.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am not much of a video gamer for the simple reason that it’s waaaay too easy for me to get sucked in, never to be seen again. When I was first dating my wife in the early 1990s (back before I had a computer), I’d find myself over her house spending countless hours playing Wolfenstein and SimCity on her dad’s computer—it’s a wonder she didn’t dump me.

Nonetheless, it became obvious to me that I really can become addicted to it in the blink of an eye. And as one who appreciates the brevity of Life, I’ve decided that I have better things to do than spend my precious time whiling away the hours working a joystick or furiously tapping away at a keyboard. As such, I just avoid them as much as I can, so I’ve never played many of the newer classics, from Angry Birds and Bejeweled Blitz to Draw Something and Candy Crush. Actually, I never played many of the older classics, either—no Mario, no Zelda, no Donkey Kong, no Sonic the Hedgehog … heck, I never even died of dysentery on the Oregon Trail.

Just sad, really.

Anyway, as mentioned, I thought I was overdue for some father-son bonding time, and since it’s about 116 degrees in the shade, an activity that could be done in the comfort of air conditioning seemed like the way to go.

My older son recently got Injustice: Gods Among Us for Xbox from one of his buddies, and I saw him playing it the other day, and it looked like … well, cool. It’s basically a fighting game, stocked with the heroes and villains from the DC universe—Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Joker, Catwoman, etc. The visuals are terrific and the game play seems fairly straightforward and centuries beyond any Pong experience that I can recall from the halcyon days of my youth.

In particular, this sequence caught my eye—it’s Aquaman’s “super move.”

Totally cool, right?!!! Anything that can make Aquaman (long derided as being the lamest of super friends) look like a bad ass—and involves feeding opponents to sharks—I’d like to try at least once.

So we started playing and like I knew might happen, I found myself getting sucked in pretty quickly. I’ve rationalized it by saying that I’m spending time with my sons, but really, I’m also really just losing myself in the mindless fun of it.

But as you might expect, my mind never really rests, even when it’s supposed to be playing.

So I thought what this game needs is some special characters—but rather than take them from the DC universe, I thought they could come from the current real universe. Since Injustice sort of has each hero and their arch-nemesis, I thought I’d follow that pattern, too.

As such, here are some characters that could be added.

Barack Obama – Everyone wants to be President of the United States, right? So here’s your chance. Fighting moves include “The POTUS Punch,” “(Medieval) Flail From the Chief” and “The Violent Veto.”
• Super Move: “ObamaFlair,” where the President strolls up to his opponent and just nods casually at them—a detachment of Secret Service agents appear and beat down the opponent, leaving them bleeding in the middle of the screen. An unmanned aerial drone then comes screaming in and unleashes a firestorm of missiles, completely vaporizing the opponent.

Donald Trump – The nemesis of Obama, and the working poor, too. Fighting moves include “The Birth Certificate Shakedown,” “The Trump Thump” and “The Uptown Lowdown.”
• Super Move: “The Toupée Flambé,” where The Donald’s limo first runs repeatedly over the opponent, and after they are beaten down, Trump jumps out of the back seat, yanks off his bad hair and shoves it into his opponent’s throat until they are choking. He then lights a $100 bill, holds it dramatically, then touches it to the toupée, which bursts in a white-hot flame that torches his opponent. He then stands over them, laughs and says, “You’re fired!”

Charles Ramsey – Sure, his 15 minutes of fame for helping to rescue three women being held hostage in Cleveland might be up, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be immortalized in a video game. Fighting moves include “Kick It Down,” “The 15-Minute Firestorm” and “Cleveland Rocks.”
• Super Move: “The Big Mac Attack,” where Ramsey stuns an opponent with a door, then stuffs burgers down his opponent’s throat until they bloat up and explode, resulting in pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and ground beef (human and cow) to rain down.

Rush Limbaugh – The nemesis of Ramsey and non-whites everywhere. Fighting moves include “The Mega Ditto Mash,” “The Racist Ramble” and “The Bully Pulpit.”
Super Move: “The Pill Popper,” where Limbaugh first sits on the head of his opponent, causing them to become weak, and as they stumble around, Limbaugh reaches inside his jacket, takes out a giant vial of pills, pops them into his mouth and then spits them out like machine gun bullets, tearing his opponent to shreds.

Chris Kluwe – The well-spoken punter of the Oakland Raiders, a huge World of Warcraft aficionado who grabbed headlines by sending a scathing open letter defending gay marriage to ignorant Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. Fighting moves include “Dropkick to Homophobic Balls,” “Necessary Roughness” and “Hero Spell.”
Super Move: “The Death Punt,” where Kluwe whips out his WoW sword and severs his opponent’s skull, which he then grabs and kicks across the Injustice world—leaving a gay pride rainbow in its wake—and through a fiery goal post at the other end. After it explodes, Kluwe just nods his head while Andres Cantor’s screams “Gooooooooool!!!!”

Fred Phelps – As the leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, he is the scourge of intelligence and decency everywhere, and a natural nemesis of Kluwe. Fighting moves include “Haterade Parade,” “Attention Whore Galore” and “Prince of Lies.”
Super Move: “The Picket Line,” where Phelps points at his opponent and screams “Heathen!” which summons forth his inbred followers to do his dirty work that includes beating his opponent senseless with their handheld signs. When woozy, he then calls in his pack of lawyers, who feast on the opponent and tear away his flesh like a hungry jackals while Phelps basks in the glow of heavenly light.

Matt Harvey – The Connecticut-born ace of the New York Mets pitching staff, a.k.a “The Dark Knight of Gotham.” Fighting moves include “The Mystic Warrior,” “Flamethrower” and ”
Super Move: “Strike Three!” where Harvey scorches three flaming baseballs by his opponent simultaneously, which set the opponent on fire. The opponent instantaneously burns to a crisp and crumbles into a pile of ashes, which are casually swept up by an umpire.

Alex Rodriguez – “A*ROID,” admitted steroid abuser and MLB cheater, is the antithesis of Harvey and all the players who compete by the rules. Fighting moves include “The Grand Slam,” “Phony Baloney” and “The Big Choker.”
Super Move: “Roid Rage,” where Rodriguez grabs a giant hypodermic needle and sticks it in his opponent’s butt—his opponent immediately sprouts zits on their back, his testicles shrink and he starts to swell up with muscles (like Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). Rodriguez then grabs a bat and hits them, causing them to explode.

Melissa McCarthy – The full-figured, humble and hugely talented star of TV and movies. Fighting moves include “The Badonkadonk Beatdown,” “Box Office Boffo” and “The Laugh Factory.”
Super Move: “The Gut Buster,” where McCarthy makes her opponent watch her clips, getting them to laugh harder and harder … at first they pee themselves, then they get hiccups, and finally, they just split a gut—literally—and bleed out, expiring with a smile on their face.

Justin Bieber – A scrawny teenaged heartthrob who may have had aspirations of being a genuine entertainer but is quickly becoming just another Hollywood douchebag. Fighting moves include “The Pin Up,” “The Twitter Splitter” and “Beauty and a Beating.”
Super Move: “Bieber Fever,” where Bieber stops the fight, pulls out a cell phone and Tweets something. Suddenly, a hook drops from the ceiling and the doors of the fight arena open simultaneously; Bieber grabs on to the hook and ascends while thousands of screaming teenaged girls flood in through the doors and, deprived of a chance to be with Justin, attack the hapless opponent just standing there, literally tearing him from limb to limb.