Boxers or Briefs? Unzipping the Mystery.

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There is a lot of energy in today’s world dedicated to categorizing us as human beings.   Men more than ever have to figure out whether they wish to be viewed as old fashion, stoic “he-men,” or would they prefer the label of being modern, sensitive “metro-sexuals” when it comes to their approach to man-hood?

Image result for boy george

I wonder what kind of underwear this young “go-getter” prefers?  On second thought, maybe I don’t.

One of the ways you can judge a man is by what they keep closest to their heart….or groin.  Honestly, one has to admit that the first decision of any consequence that every man makes each morning can be traced directly to which pair of underwear they decide to put on.

While women can run the gamut from so-called “Granny-panties” to thongs,  men are really limited to the concept of boxers or briefs.  (I know there are men who have now adopted the “boxer/brief” look, but I reject that concept.  You can’t have it both ways in this world.  Pick a style, and live with your choices!)  There are plusses and minuses  with whatever direction you choose.

Boxer Positives

  1. They are extremely comfortable
  2. You can sleep in them
  3. You can walk around the house in them without barely causing a scene
  4. They allow your “boys” to swing freely.
  5. If they stick out of the top of your pants, you won’t be subject to ridicule.

Boxer Negatives

  1. They give little to no support for your “boys.”
  2. They slide around a lot
  3. They can get caught in your fly
  4. Young men think that the whole world should see them
  5. They’re not shorts
Image result for underwear boxers

Because my parents taught me to be proud of my body, I decided to humbly model these for you.

Briefs Positives

  1. They keep your tummy tucked in.
  2. They give support to your “boys.”
  3. They tend to stay in place.
  4. The elastic seems to last longer than on boxers.
  5. When you’re a kid, you can pretend you are a professional wrestler by wearing them.

Briefs Negatives

  1. They have become the stuff of public mockery.
  2. They sometimes are too tight for your “boys.”
  3. They show all of your “sins.”
  4. If they fall below your belly, they feel annoying.
  5. You should never be seen walking around in them over the age of nine.
Image result for man in briefs

This one is off the charts on the “creep” scale.

For me, there were two factors that forced my hand in giving up the “brief” look, and switching over permanently to the boxer coalition.  First, it was the nickname “tighty-whities” that gave me pause when it came to my choice  of undergarment.  Being a grown man, and walking around wearing something that almost everybody was now referring to as “tighty-whities” just wasn’t working for me.

The nail in the coffin however for my career as a wearer of briefs came from an interview with Brian Cranston.  He was discussing why his infamous character “Walter White” on the classic television program Breaking Bad was seen so often wearing his “tighty-whities” on-screen.  Cranston said that he wanted his character to basically be as dorky as possible.  A complete loser if you will.  Consider me converted.  Hello boxers!

 

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The Beauty of Baseball Cards

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It’s inevitable that every generation believes that the interests and experiences of their youth are superior to the youthful experiences of whatever generation that follows them.  It’s only natural to assume that the way things were are always better than the way things are.

 

Image result for classic baseball cards

As a young boy growing up in the 1970s, I was always in awe of the baseball cards from the 1960s which looked to me like they were from another century.  To me, Luis Tiant was a member of the Boston Red Sox.  Who’s this guy on the Indians without a mustache?

If you are a male, and a baby-boomer, then you know that there were few items from your childhood which resonated with more positive memories than your baseball card collection.  Baseball cards were not only a source of entertainment, but they were also a way to measure one’s status.  If you had a “Willie Mays,” or a Hank Aaron “Rookie Card,” or if you were from New York, and you had collected all of the Mets or Yankees’ cards that were available for that series, then you were the envy of all of your friends.

 

Image result for classic baseball cards

This particular card had it all.  The long flowing locks, the tinted glasses, the bizarro Chicago White Sox “softball” jerseys, and the solidly unspectacular Brian Downing posing in a stadium that nobody would ever recognize.

As purchases go, baseball cards were hit or miss.  Sure, you might snag a Dave Parker or a Pete Rose, but you might also get a pack filled with a couple of Doug Flynns, or Paul Cassanovas.  Baseball cards were also a source of entertainment and competition amongst you and your friends.  Baseball card driven games included…

  1. Scaling
  2. Match-deMatch
  3. Colors

Scaling was the game that most boys played.  If you could scale it and get it to stand up against the wall, you were going home with some cardboard. “Match-deMatch” involved little more skill than was needed to flip a coin.  As for “colors,” I never understood how that game worked, and I’m sure I gave up a few valuable cards over the years to an assortment of schoolyard hucksters.

Image result for classic baseball cards

I’m not sure what Vicente Romo is trying to do in this picture, but I doubt any youngsters fought over his card in order to find out.

If you’re like me, your mother probably bided her time, and when she thought you  had moved on from your card collection, she struck, and threw them all away.  Fret not, thanks to the good people at Amazon, your lost youth can be reclaimed.  The best part of the 1970s, (Aside from platform shoes) is just a click away.

 

 

Credit….Where Credit is Due!

Tomorrow is the universal day in which we are supposed to give thanks for all that we have.  However, in our consumer based society, we sometimes forget all the things that we are supposed to be grateful for.  Let’s face it, some of us aren’t very good at giving thanks, we tend to dwell on the negative.  As my Aunt Sylvia used to say, “If it wasn’t for the pain, I wouldn’t know I was alive”.  However, I feel compelled to point out that it would behoove us as Americans to do a better job of giving credit to those who deserve it.  This seems more substantial than just a generic once-a-year “thanks” to an amorphous higher power who may or may not have interceded on our behalf  while we gorge on canned gelatinous cranberry by-product.  There are many unsung heroes among us, and their contributions need to be recognized.

For openers, how many people know who wrote the Constitution?  It was of course James Madison.  I wonder how many people know the name of the love-child produced by Kanye West and “something” Kardashian compared to those who know the name of the man who literally gave you the “Bill of Rights”.   To be fair, Madison was always a “try-hard” who often lacked the respect you would think a man who wrote the Constitution would merit.  One of Madison’s problems in my opinion was his stature, or lack thereof.  Madison holds the distinction of being our shortest President, only 5 feet 4 inches tall.  This was despite the fact that men wore those “buckle-shoes” with the little heel on them, in the late 18th century,  sort of like Prince or “&” or whatever sign he goes by today, which allowed Madison to artificially elevate.  The problem was that since all men “elevated”, Madison couldn’t grab the edge he so desperately needed.
 “Little Jimmy” MadisonThe Purple One…ready to debate the Elastic Clause

It was not lost on the other Founding Fathers that Madison lacked vertical distinctiveness.  George Washington, all 6 feet 2 inches of him would often egg on the other Constitutional Conventioneers in taunting the diminutive one.  Washington recorded this entry in his diary in early 1787:

“February, 1787, me, Patrick Henry, and that old codger Ben Franklin snuck up behind “Tiny Jim” and swiped his “beloved” Constitution from him and proceeded to taunt him by holding it just above his reach over his head, only returning the scribe  when he would admit, that we were indeed, “His Daddy’s”!”

It appears that Randy Newman may have been on to something when he stated through the gift of song, that, in fact, “Short People…got no reason, to live”  Madison may have been better served by history if he were to have been perhaps our fattest President.  That distinction went to the “Commander in Cheese-whiz” William Howard Taft.  Taft, of the oversized bathtub, specifically designed for his corpulent stature, tipped the scales at over 350 lbs.  It is said that behind Taft’s back, T.R. or Teddy Roosevelt, the avid hunter referred to his protege’ as “Big Game”.
Ah the Pocket Watch, a lost fashion statement!

Another contributor to the betterment of our society who have often toiled in obscurity is the talented Hibachi Chef.  This creature is often found in your standard issue Japanese Steakhouse.  I deem them praise-worthy since no matter which Japanese Steakhouse restaurant  you go to, and I mean anywhere from California to South Carolina, to Buffalo to Intercourse, Pennsylvania, you get the same show, with the same shtick.  We once went to a Japanese Steakhouse in that famous bastion of Japanese culture… Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where we had a Hibachi Chef who looked like he just resigned from his job as “Pit Crew” chief at Daytona preparing to give us the “stir-frying experience of our lives”.  Sadly, there was a lack of legitimacy.  Perhaps, it was when he asked us in a voice that sounded like Gomer Pyle whether we wanted more Saki?  But, in fairness, the guy built a pretty fair fiery onion tower.
Not Legit!
Legit!

Um, well he is building the Onion Tower!

Whichever Japanese Steakhouse you go to, the food tastes the same, they flick the shrimp into your mouth, they shoot Saki at you,  the chef plays with the big knife, catches an egg on his hat, and it costs a fortune.  Remarkable consistency!

My favorite unsung hero shall remain unnamed and uncredited.  It goes out to whomever invented the hat.  The hat is in many ways mankind’s greatest accessory.    I’m going to throw a morsel of credit to the “chosen people”, the Jews.  They have always believed in keeping their heads covered, but the custom has continued to evolve and grow ever since biblical times.

I believe it was George Carlin, the great comedian and curmudgeon who pointed out that it is hats that separate man from animal, since animals never wear hats, unless a human puts one on them.
Dogs shouldn’t be Knick fans since they don’t live that long, and the Knicks haven’t won anything in 41 years.

I love baseball hats in particular, although if you ever take a good look at them, they’re really just Yarmulka’s with a brim.  Yarmulka’s are good if you suffer from male pattern baldness, they fit right over the bald spot.
Even the Pope knows that.

Hats can define our moods as well as explain our careers.  A top hat means you’re going out for a night on the town….or a chimney sweep.  A bowler means you’re a card player, or the fat guy in a comedy team:
         

Santa needs a hat for his costume to be complete, as do Pirates, Police Officers, Firemen, and Choo-Choo Engineers.   So do maids, Chauffeurs, farmers, (Vietnamese or American), and Communists:
 Workers of the world can’t unite…unless they have a stylish chapeau

I’m still partial to the baseball hat.  You can support any cause or team you want, and people don’t necessarily assume you’re bald.  And, if it worked for the immortal Oscar Gamble, then it’s suitable for anybody.
Whew, talk about “Hat-Head”!

Thanksgiving….Turkey, Stuffing, Potatoes……Kugel??

If you watch cable news, or read almost any website that’s not about quilting, (Although some of those “quilters” can be regular bullies) you’d think we are a deeply divided society.  However, there are a few things that we still share as a nation.  No, it’s not obesity, (I always secretly fear that when they show fat people in news features about fat people, that they were actually filming me, but just putting that little black stripe across my eyes to protect my anonymity)

I’m almost positive I don’t have a coat like that…almost.

it’s Thanksgiving…of course!  It is probably the most shared and celebrated holiday in America.  It really is the perfect holiday.  It combines all of the things I hold dear.

  1. Well of course first there’s the food.  So, so much of it.  I have a really large pair of jeans all picked out already.  Belt…Optional!! (To be said in a flamboyant way)
  2. Football!! (Not to be said in a flamboyant way)  The Lions, the Cowboys, and whoever plays at night.
  3. No Gifts!  Other than bringing a bottle of wine or something to somebodies’ house, you don’t owe anybody a damn thing.
  4. No Religious Obligation – You can give thanks, but you can do it from the comfort of the dining room table.  And if you don’t feel like saying grace, you can start eye-balling the good pieces of turkey, or the crispy piece with the most marsh-mellows of the sweet-potato pie while everybody else is genuflecting, or self-flagellating,
  5. Oh, and a family, yeah, yeah, that goes without saying…right?
My memories of Thanksgiving take me back to good old North Massapequa, where as a child I would wake up and out of some form of guilt, I would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Unlike most kids, I hated parades.  Maybe it’s because they showed us all of those scary Nazi parades in Hebrew School, but I’ve always found them grossly overrated.   It was here where I would watch Broadway stars lip-sing and dance to whatever horrible show-tune that was sweeping the “Great white-way”, all the time waiting for one of those damn floats to go by so Willard Scott could say with faux enthusiasm, “Look everybody, it’s Underdog, bad guys everywhere take heed”!
Eventually I would tire of this and turn to Channel 11, WPIX and watch “King Kong”, the original!  It just wasn’t Thanksgiving until the “big guy” fondled Fay Wray, the little hussy.
Easy….big fella
When that ended, (Spoiler alert, the ape loses) it was “March of the Wooden Soldiers” with Laurel and Hardy. Silas Barnaby, the Boogiemen, scary stuff.  By this time it was almost noon, and it was  time to watch the hapless Lions lose another meaningless game.

Sometimes we would have to drive into the “city” to see my aunts and uncles, or  head off to Queens to see my brother who had moved out and gotten married by what seemed like the age of 15.  Traffic was to my father as “Tic-Tacs” are to ballet dancers. (A caloric splurge they simply can’t afford)  He would do anything possible and perhaps a few things humanly impossible to avoid it.  My father’s theory about defeating traffic was simple.  “As long as you’re moving”.  “But Dad, we are going to Queens, and we just past a sign for Niagara Falls”.  Didn’t matter, we were moving.  If you’ve ever taken Merrick Road to Queens….well then you’re out of your gourd, just like my father.

When you get a little older, you learn that one of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the Wednesday night before, especially when you are returning home from college.  It’s the first time you get to come home and see your High School friends, and hang out at your old watering holes.  It also means that you don’t necessarily wake up in time for the “Parade” unless you want to have a pounding headache all day.
I didn’t really hang out there ’cause I would have probably gotten my ass-kicked!

As an adult, I figured that my Thanksgiving Day Parade watching days were over.  Little did I know I’d have children who’d want to go.  We actually got to see some celebrities up close.  We saw Hannah Montana, (I told that Judge that a 100 yard restraining order wouldn’t stop me) and “Steve” from “Blue’s Clues”.  In fact, due to parade traffic, his float got stuck right in front of us.  He waved for a while, and then he seemed to tire of the whole thing.  Mostly it was cold and there was no where to pee.  From now on, the only parades I’m going to watch are the North Korean ones where they parade their missiles down “Lil Kim” boulevard for all the see and fear.
Who’s the “Perv” who took this shot?

When I became a teacher in New York City, many of my students were first generation American.  I assumed that they would eat turkey and stuffing, and pumpkin pie, the usual suspects.  But instead, what I learned from these students who were from Jamaica, Haiti, Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam etc…was that they did eat turkey on Thanksgiving, but they also ate food from their own ethnic culture.  It was really America at its best, the melding of cultures, but still celebrating that most American of holidays.  I don’t know why I was so surprised though.  My family had been serving “kugel” for as long as I could remember.  “Kugel”, for those of you who aren’t familiar is a fried concoction made up of mushrooms, onions, and something called “U-Need-a-Biscuits”.  What are “U-Need-a-Biscuits” you ask?  Well, for starters they look like this:

The name comes from an early attempt by the National Biscuit Company to market their product so it stood out.  Hence the name “Uneeda”, as in “You-Need-A”, and while they were at it, they changed their name to the more palatable “Nabisco”.  As for Kugel, it had mass and a density comparable to the ocean depths where the wreckage of the Titanic can be found.  I believe the formula could be calculated by C=MC2, or Cramps = movement/constipation to the 2nd power.  Kugel’s look like this:
Soooo very dense!

Perhaps the best thing about Thanksgiving is that it begins the entire holiday season.  Once its Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s are just around the corner.  Once it’s Thanksgiving you can listen to Christmas music, you can eat as much as you want since the calories don’t count, and you can watch all the good Christmas movies.  But best of all, you can take time to reflect on all you have in your life that you can truly be thankful for.  In another shared slice of Americana, many have found a way to demonstrate their thanks:
Black Friday!!!!

Where have you gone Tom Terrific?

I saw something very disturbing today.  My favorite all-time athlete, the great Tom Seaver just turned 70.  It seems just like yesterday I was watching him on my black and white television in my room.  That great delivery where his right knee would scrape the ground and be all brown by the end of the game made him one of the most recognizable sports stars in history.   Seaver was the all-American boy, and he was to Met fans what Mickey Mantle had been to a generation of Yankee fans, someone to aspire to.  It was Seaver who changed the Mets culture from that of lovable losers to a competitive team that would one day win the World Series.

Maybe that’s whyit’s more than a little depressing when our heroes get old.  In fact, it’s a little depressing when anybody gets old.  It’s even worse when a beautiful actress gets old.  I know that sounds horribly sexist, but the way I see it, if Linda Carter or Raquel Welch can “hit the wall”, what chance do I have?  When the famous from our youth get old, it reminds us all too painfully of our own mortality.  Whenever we see someone who used to be beautiful suddenly get old, we always think the same thing, “what the hell happened to them”?  But what we’re really thinking is, “What the hell happened to me”?  Watching our heroes age marks the passing of time in our own lives.  It also reminds us of simpler times as well.

I’m not sure why, but there was something calming and reassuring knowing that you could always find the Mets on WOR,  Channel 9 in New York City.  The “Meet the Mets” jingle would cue up, and then, filled with enthusiasm and endless childlike optimism, Bob Murphy, Lindsay Nelson, and Ralph Kiner would let you know that it was a “Beautiful day for Baseball”!  Then the Mets would go on to lose 3-2 pretty much every night.

Fashionistas, all of them!

WOR was a step above a College Television station.  They had the crappiest cartoons, reruns of shows like “Ironside”, bad horror movies, and one of the worst programs ever produced, “Bowling for Dollars”.  Bob Murphy hosted bowling for dollars, (It must have been some sort of Community Service requirement) and he would proceed to bring on the contestant,  usually some office troll or factory worker  who would appear with his wife and co-workers cheering him on.  Before bowling he would pull a letter out of a fishbowl, and that person selected would be his “Pin-Pal”.  They would then split his earnings.  So for example, if he bowled a “9”, it would be $4.50 for the bowler, and $4.50 for his “Pin Pal”.  The jackpot was usually around $2000, and they had to bowl a strike to get that, and the person almost never got one.  (I often thought that they really didn’t have the money to pay them, sort of like a menu in a diner where they claim to have 5000 items on the available, but in reality, they  only have breakfast and burgers, the rest is a giant game of bluff, daring you to order the Twin Lobster tails at market price).


Check out the production values!

As lame as all this sounds, there is something about simplifying our lives that seems to have some appeal on some level.  For most of the past 200 years, Americans have been attempting to escape the hustle and bustle of the modern world with all of its technological advancements.  As far back as the 1830s, people like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau spoke of going back to a simpler time.  It appears the constant buzzing of the Telegraph and the rushed pace of life brought on by the “Iron-Horse” which traveled at breakneck speeds up to and exceeding 30 mph was causing them to stress out.  Emerson would be at his kitchen table, his wife and he trying to enjoy some quality time, perhaps discussing that hussy who Andrew Jackson married who wasn’t even legally divorced, and then, you guessed it, the incessant rat-a-tat-tat of the Telegraph causing Emerson to be distracted from his beautiful wife, Mrs. Emerson, who would then, sigh in exasperation, turning to Ralphie, finally saying, “go ahead, see who it is”.  “Thanks baby, you’re the greatest!”

If people thought life was too fast-paced in 1835, what does that say about our modern world?  One group who seems to have found a way to beat the modern world blues are the Amish.  For those of you who are not familiar with the ways and means of the Amish, let’s look back at a simpler time, a time when all a man needed was a loving wife, a jar of pickled corn relish, a beard without a mustache, and a good barn-raising.  Ah, the life of the Amish.  It’s not just their rejection of all modern conveniences that I respect, it’s the fact that their women are married and buried in the same dress.  There’s something metaphoric about that, but I’m not sure what.

We don’t need to live amongst the Amish to know what it is to recapture a simpler time.  Whenever the power in the house goes out, we are thrust into the days of yore.  The quiet stillness of a house with no power surging though it is a type of silence that is rarely heard in the modern home.  It gives us a chance to get in touch with our inner being, a chance to sit around with the family for the type of quality time that doesn’t exist in our modern bustling world.  No television, phones, computers, video games.  Sometimes, after only three or four minutes, one can begin to feel the stress and strain of the modern world fade away, as they consider a good way to kill themselves.  Ugh, I’ve considered getting a generator, not because of medical needs, not for heat, not to keep the food fresh, just to make sure the kids can play video games so I don’t have to hear how bored they are.  So my hat or bonnet is tipped to the Amish, may all of their barn-raisings be filled with lots of firm wood.

I Want to Rock with You!

There are many people (Particularly many of my old Zeta brothers) who are what I call “concert people”.  These are people who love, love, love going to concerts.  “Hey man, Dave Matthews is playing with Bob Weir, Trey Anastaio, Greg Allman, and “Jaimoe” at the Freeway Jam, Mountain Springs, Isle of Wight Festival. They’re only playing one song, but it’s expected to last four days….man”  While I mock their passion, (to cover up my galling lack) I will admit that going to a rock concert is one of the great rights of passage for a young person.  Your first concert is definitely something that everybody remembers.

For me and my buds, the first concert we attended was at the Nassau Coliseum, home of the New York Islanders, New York Nets, Professional Wrestling, and “Rungling Bros. and Farnum and Daily Circus”. (They couldn’t afford the real deal, they were over at the “Garden”)
What a structure!

My first show, attended with my friends Rob Greenbaum, Scott Erb, Jimmy Barberine, and the legendary  Steve “Toad” Ward was the infamous Jethro Tull/U.K. show from the epic “Storm Watch” tour of 1978.  The tour was made infamous by the fact that the day before “Tull” was supposed to play the Coliseum, Ian Anderson, famed “Tull” front-man, was hit in the eye by the thorn of a wayward rose.  (Snot running down his nose…indeed!)  However, the man who could blow a flute melodically on one leg returned no worse for wear,  (Other than his scratched cornea) and put on a hell of a show.  In one of those, “This would never happen today moments”,  we attended this concert at the tender age of 14, fall of our freshman year in High School.   I wonder how many parents today would let their 14 year olds go to a concert 30 minutes away to see a “Progressive Rock” show on a school night, no less?no less?

I was lucky, I was one of those guys who had a cool older brother, my brother David, and he drove us to the show. (I won’t say exactly why he was cool, but trust me)  He dropped us off near the parking lot, and may have even stopped the car while we got out, but who can say.  The tickets were all of $15, but we were seeing the immortal Jethro Tull!  (And the less than legendary “U.K.”, whose front man, John Wetton would go on to be the lead singer of “Asia” and their drummer Terry Bosio who played for Frank Zappa and “Missing Persons” and their keyboardist and electric violinist, whose name escapes me, but I think I saw him painting the TappenZee Bridge recently)  The first thing I remember doing was looking to buy a concert T-shirt, like all the cool kids had in school.
Guess who gets to hang out at the handball courts now…Bitches!?

My glory however was short lived.  (And by short lived I mean, non-existent) The first time my mother washed and dried it, the t-shirt shrunk down to a concert “bandana” and my glory days at the handball courts evaporated before my watery eyes.

The concert was not without its eye opening learning experiences.  We went into the bathroom and saw one guy throwing  up in the sink.  Another “dude” offered us “acid”,  which we politely declined.  This was the way rock concerts used to be, filled with drug pushing and vomit, and that was just the musicians!

My next show was by far my least favorite concert, “The Greatful Dead”  I was not now, nor have I ever been a communist…or a “dead head”.  But I have associated with some.  (Dead-heads, not Communists)  The concert seemed to start without warning and end without reason.  They played what seemed like a 4 hour drum solo that sounded like they had never played the drums before, but wanted to see what they sounded like.  There were interesting looking people dancing in the isles without reason or cause (or rhythm).  They looked something like this:

Other than the music, the other lowlight of the night was that I put an upside down open beer in my pocket….for medicinal purposes.

My favorite concert event was The Who’s “Final” concert tour in 1982.  A bunch of us from E-1 Moreland in Oswego sent in money for the show at the Carrier Dome in December of that year.  The whole thing was a “luck of the draw’ contest, and our seats could have literally been anywhere in the “Dome”.  We got the letter back a few weeks later telling us that we were 2nd row, right in front of John Entwhistle, “The Who’s” awesome,  bass player.

It was a good thing I saw them when I did, they hung it up after this, with only maybe a few thousand shows since.

Interestingly, we almost didn’t live to see the show.  That very same night, in the dining hall of Mackin’ Complex, after Tom “Hosebag” Murphy set the dining hall record by eating a 100 chicken wings, we drove off to Syracuse in the ice and snow.  We missed the exit, and “the Rat”, Greg Rathjen, negotiated an illegal u-turn on 481 as oncoming highway traffic descended upon us.  The tires of Chris Davie’s Honda Civic spun on the icy road, and as I sat in the passenger seat watching my short life pass before my eyes,  Tom Murphy moaned in regret over his heroic but ultimately flawed choice in sacrificing all to win a contest that was now leaving him in the unenviable position of probably having to shit his pants, either through fear or colon overload.

I fear now that the concert experience that so many of us grew up on is now long gone.  My wife and I along with my brothers’ and their wives went to see Crosby, Stills, and Nash at Jones Beach in the early 1990s.   As the music played on, we noticed people strolling back and forth out of their seats going to the snack bar as if they were at a ball game.  If Jim Morrison were really dead, he would have been rolling over in his grave.

Today, I fear all is lost.  At the risk of offending friends and family, so many people I know now go  to concerts with their kids.  I’m trying to think what it would have been like to see “The Who” with Janet and Seymour.  I’m thinking it would have gone down something like this:

Seymour: “So who are we seeing?  Who?  Who are we seeing”?
Me: “Funny Dad, yeah that’s their name..can I get something to eat now”?
Janet: “Why is the one with the big nose jumping all over the place?  Boy is he ugly!”
Seymour:  “Is the drummer throwing up blood”?
Me: “Something small, maybe peanuts, Dad, you love peanuts!”
Janet: “The singer, the one with the curly hair, he keeps throwing his microphone around, how’s he supposed to sing like that”?
Janet (again): “And now they’re destroying their instruments.  A real musician respects his instrument and doesn’t destroy it, that’s just silly”. (This statement is actually a true one)
Janet (again): “Why didn’t we go see that little Paul Simon, he’s better.  He’s so short though, but I’ll tell you what, he’s pretty tall when he stands on his money!”
Me: “Ok, um forget the peanuts, just some Hemlock”!

Maybe I’m just stuck in the past.  My oldest son likes “Hip-Hop”.  Maybe for ChristmasHanukahQuanzaa I’ll take him to see a “Rap” concert.  I’ll have to find the right look for such an event.  Perhaps this will do?
Mazel Tov….Boyeeeeee!

There’s lots you can do with a Degree in Communications!

It’s amazing how many adults including myself get so hung up on what a 17 year old is going to do with the rest of their lives.  I’m “lucky”, I get to put that unnecessary pressure on my two children (plus my niece who lives with us) as well as my students in school.  It does make me wonder how many people end up in the career that they majored in, in school?  Unless you go in for a specific career like Accounting or Law, or Engineering, it’s probably pretty typical to sort of drift from job-to-job until you find a career.

I went to school in the exotic land of Central New York.  Specifically, in Oswego, New York.  Oswego gets a bad rap due to its weather and radioactive run off from the local Nuclear Power Plant.  But as anyone in Oswego can tell you, “You don’t need a 3rd eye to see how great life is on the shores of Lake Ontario, but it does come in handy!”  Many people like to exaggerate about the weather in Oswego, particularly the winter season, which barely lasts from late September thru early June.  I can remember my Junior year in school where it practically didn’t snow more than 39 straight days.  In face, you’d be surprised how well you can drive when you can’t see the front end of your car.

(I should have majored in snow brush manufacturing now that I think of it.)

Weather aside, I went to SUNY Oswego to major in Communications, with the hope that I would move into their Broadcasting school.  (The Broadcasting school wasn’t a separate place, just a different title for the classes you’d be taking).  I really wanted to go to Syracuse like the great, Marv Albert, but I had two problems…money and grades.  My father said that if I did well the first two years I could transfer to Syracuse for  my Junior year.  It would of course mean that my parents would have to scrimp and save, but they were willing to allow me to pursue my dream.   My dream was inspired by watching the most popular sports/news anchor in New York City at the time, the great Warner Wolf.  This was when ESPN was in its infancy, and  if you wanted to see sports highlights, you had to watch local news.  Warner would yell, “Let’s go to the videotape” and you knew you were going to see something cool.  This is what I wanted to do for a career,  and it looked like a lot of fun, and now my father said we could make it happen.

Who wouldn’t idolize such a man, the suit, the tie, and hair!

Reality settled in quickly when my first semester grades came out.  My parents could now breathe a sigh of relief and go back to their frivolous ways.  Goodbye Syracuse, goodbye school of Broadcasting…hello Happy Hour!

It wasn’t just my grades, or lack thereof, I didn’t think I was very good, or at least I didn’t think I sounded very aesthetically pleasing.  My roommates taped my WOCR broadcast of the heated basketball rivalry between the “Great Lakers” of SUNY Oswego vs. the “Flying Purple Disciples”, (Not their real name) otherwise known as Roberts Wesleyan University.  I forget who won, but I remember it looking something like this:

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time, it was a tremendous amount of fun, although it wasn’t as easy as it looked.  Remember, it was radio, if you don’t talk, the people at home have no idea what is going on.  But it was the sound of my voice that I hated more than anything.  If I couldn’t stand that nasal tone, what were people at home going to think?  I also didn’t like the idea that if I was going to have a career in radio, I was probably going to have to move to Kansas, make minimum wage working the graveyard shift putting carts in all night for commercials for “Zeke’s Tractors, Guns, and Adult Sex Toy Emporium”.  I pictured my experience looking something like this:

Since being a broadcaster was not going to happen, it was time to consider other possibilities.
I tried being a cameraman for WTOP, the school’s television station, but that was like watching a soccer game.  Then I tried being a Technical Director, but every time I was supposed to switch shots, the Director would hit me on the top of my head….that got tiresome fast.  It all seemed so stressful, which considering the amount of viewers we had was pretty silly.   Eventually I settled on writing for the school newspaper and looked forward to a career in Public Relations.  There was only one problem, unless you could type 50 words per minute, it was hard to get too many jobs in the field of Communications.

Approximately a month after graduating, on my birthday no less, I went on a job interview right across the street from the “Twin Towers”.  I went up stairs into what was a pretty old building and exited the elevator for “Read-More Publications”.  The office manager came out to interview me and I was immediately struck by his paralyzing stutter.  It caused him to contort and spit in between probing questions.  I have forever been proud of myself for holding it together during the interview which for a 22 year going on well 22, was no easy feat.  He hired me on the spot (Red Flag) for the impressive sum of $13,000.  When I showed up on Monday, I knew something was awry when I didn’t have a department, a title, responsibility, or a desk.  One guy took pity on me and gave me one of his desk draws.

Working in the city meant riding the L.I.R.R.  The $125 ride from the Massapequa station to Penn Station, along with the $40 a week for subway tokens to take the subway down to the World Trade center pretty much ate up my entire paycheck.  The experience did finally help me understood why my father was so tired when he got home.  There was something every tiresome about the L.I.R.R. process.   Even though my father was an Accountant, I really had no idea what he did, and he never, ever spoke about work.  For all I knew, he took the train in, sat on a park bench for 8 hours and then came home.  He never mentioned a name, never told a work story, never spun an anecdote.  “Dad, how was work today”, “Eh, work is work”.  Try arguing with that.

If you put your ear to the computer, you can just make out the conductor saying, “Tickets Please, Tickets Please”.

As for “Read-More”, they sold subscriptions to Doctor’s offices.  My job was to update Doctor’s addresses and the prices for the subscriptions.  I had to jump into people’s desks when they weren’t there so I could get work done since I didn’t have my own desk or computer,  not that it ever seemed to matter.  The work I did didn’t seem to resonate with anybody and I don’t think anyone ever checked it.  The place had bubbles  and tears in the carpet, and a hole in the wall covered by the copier, and the secretary was having an affair with the boss, so she came and went as she pleased.  One day, I noticed that one of my bosses “Yola” and the Office Manager with the unfortunate stutter started getting ready to leave early and both had black Neil Diamond concert t-shirts on.  Apparently he was doing a 5 night block at the “Garden”, and they were going to make sure they caught every one of them.   I tried to engage them with tales regaling the wild energy of Keith Moon, but they seemed unmoved.

After 3 months I went into to the see the Office Manager since he had promised me a review.  When I told him I was getting married soon and I certainly couldn’t make it on $13,000, he said, “Well, you’re a nice kid, how about we raise you to $13,300”.  I left about two weeks later having left the glamorous world of “Subscriptions” behind.  But for three months, I’ll always remember the kind man who let me use his draw.