Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tempus Fugit, Part Uno

Greetings avid readers.  Since my last post I have discovered I have at least 2.  Woo Hoo!!

Once again I have been negligent in my devotion to the blogosphere.  Plenty has happened since my last post and I have many subjects to write about.  The common theme among them is that time has been zipping by at a much higher rate of speed than I thought possible. But then I don't really think about time very much so to have it disappear is nothing new to me.

I recently had my 40th high school reunion.  In reality it has been 41 years since my graduation but it seems nobody could get it together to hold a reunion last year. I went to my 10th and 20th but I was in the midst of my divorce for the 30th so it's been 21 years since I have seen the vast majority of my fellow HS alumni. 

When I found out about this one I was determined to go.  For the sake of privacy I am not going to name the school or give out my classmates last names but I think I can get the gist of my experience across without those bothersome details.

My experience with high school was different than most folks.  My parents uprooted us and we moved to a new town when I was in the middle of 10th grade. It was a real jolt to leave behind all of my old friends and have to relearn the social niceties of making new ones.  Not that I am introverted or anything but I had my comfort zone and now I was being dragged out of it. 

The new school I went to was a much smaller one than the one I left and most of these people had known each other for most of their lives.  It took awhile but I got involved in activities and soon I was an accepted part of the social structure.  Not a bad group of folks but I had no really deep connections.

The one guy from my graduating class that I connected with was Glen. We were involved in band (we both played trumpet) and he was my doubles partner on the tennis team. He lives in northern California but he comes to New York every couple of months and we get together for a few drinks and dinner when he does.  He was a Major in the USAF, navigating B-52's. He has business cards that say "Specialized in air delivered thermonuclear explosions up to 1.1 megatons '. Pretty cool.  I always thought of that line from "Piano Man" when he entered my brain.  Except Davy was in the Navy.  And Glen retired.  But I digress.

Glen told me about the reunion and I was excited to hear about it.  It turns out it was being held at the restaurant we always went to for our "dates".  I got in touch with Rich K. who was organizing the party and made sure to send in my check to reserve my spot.  In a moment of nostalgic reflection I also donated $100.00 to a scholarship fund that our graduating class had created.  Now I was committed to the event and my excitement started to grow like a fungus. Who would be there?  What were they doing? Where were they living? Would they give a damn about my showing up? Tell me man, I'se gots to know (bonus points if you know what movie that's from).

On the appointed date there was a deluge of biblical proportion.  At least where I live.  On a good day it was 45 minutes to the restaurant but it took almost 90 minutes to get there because of the rain.  I was bummed because the reunion was only going to be 3 hours long.  I got there, parked and ran inside, excited by the possibility of reconnecting with my youth.

When I got inside the first person I saw was Annie. By coincidence she was one of the first girls I introduced myself to when I started at the school.  I also asked her to senior prom and she was very kind and gentle in her rejection. Ah, the story of my youth. She looked great and gave me a big hug. She had a huge smile in HS and she still had it at the reunion. What a start. 

I got my name tag and started to mingle. Of course Glen was there in his flight jacket. He was talking to Mary Ann. Mary Ann always had a very elegant sense of style and this night was no different.  She looked great in her blue dress. Hello, hello.  There was Peter, who was our class president, and Bill B. the AV department Alpha Geek. The three of us were in Spanish together senior year.  It was quite the good class. Our teacher was very hot (en fuego baby!) and not too heavy on discipline. Peter was once caught blatantly cheating on a test and she still gave him a passing grade. We also managed to learn some Spanish. (Me llamo es Andres. Como esta usted?).

Then the familiar faces came fast and furious. Bill L, Rich M, Steve D, Chris C (but not his brother), Steve M, Joe S, Bill G, and so many more.  Old memories came back as if they were from yesterday. Jim G. reminded me that I had reminded him that we were the only two 3 letter athletes our senior year.  Yes, Dr. Tape was quite the athlete in those days.  Hard to believe it to look at me now.

It was great finding out what was going on in everyone's lives.  It was also nice flirting with the ladies, some of whom looked better than they ever did. I found out that one girl had a huge crush on me back in the day.  How I wish I had known!! However it was still quite the ego boost.

After a bit I started to realize how many people didn't show up. I graduated from a small school by Long Island standards.  We only had 245 kids in the grade so every no-show was obvious. Why didn't they come? I really wanted to see them too.

Among the missing were many that I had great interaction with.  Ron and Mike from the wrestling team, Louie who played trumpet with Glen and me. Susan and Jane, the two prettiest girls in my homeroom, who along with Mary Ann once accompanied me to a Met game. Lee and Mary who also went to Sun Tan U (I mean Miami). Jim and John from the tennis team and Pierre, my physics lab partner.

But what really struck home were the names of my classmates who couldn't come because they are no longer with us.  I had known that a few had passed on but it turns out that 18 have died.  It is still hard for me to wrap my head around it. I mean, we aren't old.  Not that old anyway. We are supposed to be living la vida loca. I was surprised at the number and shocked at the names.  Mike who was captain of the track team, Steve from acting and tennis, Ginnie the feminist, Jody the cheerleader who I thought was soooo pretty,  Most died of disease. Brain cancer seemed to be unusually prevalent.  Maybe there was something in the water. But Joey became depressed after his mom died and took his own. They all struck me very hard. But the one that is the hardest is David who I knew had died.

David and I went to Miami together and we often flew on the same flights to and from school. We drove back to NY in my car once. You learn quite a bit about someone when you are stuck in a car with them for a day-and-a-half. We saw each other around campus quite a bit and we ate lunch with each other every once in a while. He almost got us thrown off a plane for rolling a joint on his seat tray while we were taxiing on the runway.  But that's another story.

I had always thought David was gay and he came out at Miami.  Coming out changed him in many positive ways. He was able to be himself. He found acceptance and happiness, things that had been missing for him. He dyed his hair a weird blond shade and he started dressing better. It was quite the shock when I found out at a Miami Alumni function that he had died of AIDS.  AIDS wasn't very well known or understood at that time and I guess it was the price many paid at the beginning.

During the reunion Rich K. focused on how that at our next reunion in 10 years (or 9) we will be in our late 60's and the list of departed classmates will be even longer. It kind of reminds me of Yom Kippur when Jews pray to be allowed to live another year. Who will be inscribed in the book of life?  Who will make it and who won't? As I age (not very gracefully either) I find this issue on my mind more often. Maybe I have to take the time to think about it.

"Don't need a watch to waste your time, oh no, oh no" -- John Lennon

Monday, January 20, 2014

Magnificent Magnolia Fest

For those of you who read my blog (thanks AnnMarie!) you are familiar with my friend Dr. Michael Binder.  For the rest of you go back and read the post titled Not Very Diplomatic.

Anyway, Mike is no longer the world champion of Diplomacy but he is still very highly ranked.  But this isn't about that.  It's about music.  Mike and I have similar yet different musical tastes and we are always introducing each other to interesting acts to follow. I trust his judgment in music and he tolerates mine.

For many years now he has been asking (begging?) me to attend a major annual music festival in north central Florida called Magnolia Fest.  Magnolia Fest is a celebration of the broad range of styles that make up country music.  I have never been big on country but I recently went to see Steve Martin (the comedian) play bluegrass with the Steep Canyon Rangers.  Steve plays a mean banjo and the Rangers are a very good group.  Together they were the Bluegrass act of the year for 2011, I believe. I enjoyed it tremendously and when Mike called asking me to come I said yes.

Now Magnolia Fest is held in mid October and its now the middle of January so some of the details are getting fuzzy but I think I can get it together.  I decided to drive down and do some sightseeing and visit some customers on the way.  And eat barbeque.  An obscenely large amount of barbeque. I love to drive and I had never been on the Blue Ridge Parkway so I decided I would take a week and drive on that and see what all the fuss is about.

I happened to arrive at the Blue Ridge on the day of the Federal Government shutdown.  The road was still open but all of the amenities (like bathrooms) were closed. More on that later.  It was also very foggy and there was very little to see for the first hour or so.  But by 10AM the sky cleared up and it was just amazing.  The vistas were fabulous.  I was stopping every 10 minutes or so to take pictures.

Along the way I met a number of people from around the world. Scotland, Japan, Canada, Italy and New Jersey.  For those of you who have never been to New Jersey it qualifies as a foreign country.  Especially if you are from Brooklyn. It's a Jersey thing. It was wonderful to stop and speak to them all and gain their perspective.  We all agreed that this drive was a fabulous way to spend the day.  Or several days.

Many of the foreign visitors were amazed at how calmly we US citizens were taking the closure of the Federal Government.  No riots, no massive strikes by transit workers and no radical speeches by dissident students demanding free massages during finals week. I explained that it was no big deal.  Until I had to go to the bathroom.

There are services like rest areas and restaurants on the Blue Ridge and they are spaced out at regular intervals for the convenience of all.  Having them closed caused a terrible situation because there are very few exits on the road and there are no signs telling you what lies off the exits.  What this translates to is that when nature calls one must be at one with nature. This is the one area where being male has distinct advantages over the fairer sex.  Unless one has to go number 2. Without toilet paper.

I will spare you the gory details but I had to summon my best boy scout/camping/field geology experiences and try to remember what poison ivy looks like.  While I was successful it wasn't my idea of fun. Luckily a nice couple from California had anticipated the situation and had a list of all the restaurants and gas stations off the Parkway. Because of these folks I found BBQ nirvana.

I don't remember the exit but the mile marker was under 100.  About a mile off the road (on another road) was a gas station with a restaurant attached. And a biker group.  Turns out it was Bike Week in Daytona and they were making their annual pilgrimage from the Land of Cleve.  We started talking and they invited me to join them for lunch.  And what a lunch.  Ribs, fried chicken, homemade beans, collards and sweet potato mash.  If they had a motel attached to the gas station I may have spent 3 days there. They said that this was a regular stop for them.  I will have to undergo hypnosis to remember where it is for next time.

I drove for a few more hours just soaking it all in.  I decided to spend the night in Asheville, NC.  I was lead to believe that Asheville was an artsy fartsy kind of place and I can be an artsy fartsy kind of guy.  I went to the visitor's center and met a very nice guy named George who showed me where to go.  I set out on my tour and let's just say I was underwhelmed.  Very few galleries downtown (although I didn't make it to the River District) and limited crafts.  But lots of homeless folks in the small park downtown.

However there was a cooperative gallery and I saw a piece by Floyd Kemp.  He was a professor at Black Mountain College which is a famous art school about 20 miles east of Asheville.  Floyd was retiring and he and his wife (Laura I believe) were moving to Ohio to live with their daughter. The piece on display was too small for my space but the woman working at the gallery said Floyd might have larger stuff.  She gave me his number. I called him and he sent me some photos. A few emails later and  I bought a piece called Purple Sky. It's perfect for the space.

Then I figured I would check out the Asheville Art Museum.  That would give me a good handle on the situation.  Well I had to fend off several panhandlers (using my best NY technique) and paid a rather high entrance fee.  Let's just say I was underwhelmed again.  But there was a single bright spot in all of the disappointment.  There was a photograph by an amazing artist named Xavier Nuez (www.xaviernuez.com).

He had donated a piece to the museum called Motor City.  It is an urban ruin in Detroit that reminds me of the subway that runs above Queens Blvd near the Queensboro Bridge.  I contacted him and found out that the piece was available in a variety of sizes and mounting options.  I took the plunge and bought one.  Unfortunately the one I bought was a little smaller that I realized and I feel as though I cheated myself.  The solution?  I will buy a bigger one soon.  And maybe a few others.

Then it was off to eat lunch.  What should I get? Why BBQ of course!! I did some research and I discovered that there was a very highly rated BBQ place near the Biltmore Mansion.  It was called Moe's. I set out to find it and I discovered that the area near the Biltmore was where all the action is.  I didn't have time to check it out but I will have to return and see it.

As I was looking for Moe's BBQ I saw Moe's Mexican. I thought it funny that there was more than one Moe's within walking distance of each other.  I was almost expecting Moe's from The Simpson's to show up. I made it to Moe's BBQ and I was dismayed to discover it was empty.  This was not a good thing.  Good restaurants are usually jammed so empty is a bad omen.  I didn't need to worry.  Within seconds of my placing an order the place had a line out the door.  I guess timing is everything. I wound up getting the pulled pork sammy with spicy pickles, slaw, fries and sweet tea. My mouth had an orgasm.

I had to make some business calls in Tennessee the next day and I won't go into the details but I did stop for BBQ just south of Sweetwater on my way out of town. This was far and away the WORST BBQ I have had in a very long time.  Overdone ribs, slimy beans and limp fries. A cloud of disappointment hovered over me for several hours as I drove south.  The only cure?  More BBQ.

I stopped for gas in Georgia and asked if there was good BBQ nearby.  The guy told me he had a smoker out back and he would fix me a plate.  It was heaven. Sliced pork, smoked turkey and home made sausage.  Also excellent smoky beans. We got to talking and he said that he only did it for some friends and family but he was feeling generous that day.  Then he realized I was from NY and he laughed and said if he had known he never would have offered.  I don't know if he was joking but I am glad I got the food.

I made it down to Live Oak, FL that night.  That is where they hold Magnolia Fest (along with several other Fests) right on the banks of the famous Suwanee River.  They even have a sign telling you that you are crossing over it.  The sign says it is World Famous so I guess it must be. I checked into my hotel and the next day I discovered that the music wouldn't start until 4pm that day.  That meant I had about 6 hours to kill.  What to do?  Why more BBQ of course!!

There are 3 or 4 BBQ places in Live Oak but everyone said I had to go to Ken's.  They were right.  It was great.  I had a combo plate with ribs and pulled pork, collards, slaw and beans.  A great value and very tasty. Traditional style ribs and pulled pork with good sides (collards with onion and spicy beans). But then I realized I still had 4 hours to kill.  I went back to the hotel and asked if there was a poker room nearby.  Incredibly there was.  About 8 miles away in a Jai Alai fronton.

Off I went and soon I was walking in to a sad looking place with a single table going.  What the heck.  I bought in for $150.00 and started playing.  And winning.  In a short time I was up $400.00 without very much effort.  In poker parlance this is called a soft room. I love soft rooms.  I soon discovered that the money was secondary to most of the regulars.  It was just their way of socializing.  Whatever but I felt I had to come back before I went home.

Then it was off to the Fest.  I pulled in and I had to pick up my wristband and parking permit. They gave them to me and pointed me off to the music.  The Fest was held at the Spirit of the Suwanee music park and campground right on the banks of the world famous Suwanee River.  Oh wait I already wrote that.  The grounds had several different venues for the music but they were only using the Amphitheater that evening. I made my way over there and realized that I should have brought a camp chair.  It turns out that you can sit in any empty seat until the rightful owner reappears but I still felt uncomfortable.  I vowed to go to Wal-Mart the next day and buy a chair. More on that later.

Now I wasn't familiar with many of the acts but I was blown away by several of them. The first group I saw was Col. Bruce Hampton and Friends.  Now I don't know if Bruce is really a colonel but he plays great keyboards with a blues beat.  Very tight and clean with a lot of range.  Next up was Grandpa's Cough Medicine.  They are a traditional bluegrass band with great interplay on the melody. Very easy to listen to. Then came the last band of the day, Railroad Earth.  They are kind of like a newer version of the Grateful Dead.  Which is appropriate because the whole place had the feel of a Grateful Dead concert including the tie dye shirts and poor artwork for sale. All that was missing was a hit of 4 way and it would have been perfect.

Railroad Earth was great although I can't point to any particular song because I was engaged in conversation with Joan who was there with her family to see Nikki Talley perform the next day. Nikki is Joan's niece and she convinced me to come to the show instead of playing more poker.

Mike and his wife Amy were showing up later the next day and the music started early. There was a Wal-Mart next to the hotel and I went to buy a folding camp chair. Now I don't know if any of you have seen the pictures depicting the people of Wal-Mart (or Walmartians) but I have always laughed and said they can't be true.  Well they are.  It was all I could do to keep from staring continuously at the freak show that was parading around me. It was better than I could have imagined.  I particularly liked the various styles of multi-colored mullets and the ultra tight clothing.

Armed with my new chair I went to see the Corbitt Brothers at the Meadow Stage (the largest venue) and then Nikki Talley at the Porch Stage (looks like an old time saloon porch).  Nice traditional country acts that had a very wide range. Mike and Amy showed up and we got into the music. Grandpa's Cough Medicine played at the Meadow and the Travelling McCoury's at the Music Hall. The Travelling McCoury's are the son's of Del McCoury who is a true country music legend.  They play standard modern bluegrass with great vocals and harmony.  Very good indeed.  And then came a real eye opener.

They were Beebs and Her Moneymakers.  They were dressed as if they were Japanese Anime characters and they bopped to a solid ska beat that was very easy to get into.  They had an eclectic mix of instruments that produced a very full, solid sound.  I vowed to listen to more of their stuff in the future. After Beebs came the Travelling McCourys yet again.  This time with Keller Williams.  Great interplay between them. They really seemed to enjoy playing together and the crowd let them know it.

The last act of the evening (for me anyway) was Kris Kristofferson. Now I love Me and Bobbi McGee (or Bobby McGee depending on who was singing it) and I really wanted to hear Kris sing it.  It was not what I was expecting.  Kris seemed to have limited interest in being there. I commented about this out loud and several people said that this was as good as he has been in a long time. If this is as good as it gets then I was very disappointed. I guess its just his style. I was so exhausted that I didn't stay for John Prine or Stephen Marley.

The next day was going to be my last.  It was Saturday and I had to get back to the office so I planned on getting there Monday morning so that meant Sunday was a driving day. This also meant that I had to check out the other BBQ place in town, Big Daddy's.  I pulled in as they were opening and it was already busy.  I asked the waitress what the best thing on the menu was and she said, "Deep fried ribs".  Deep fried?  I was intrigued.  I ordered them and watched some college football while I was waiting.

They appeared soon enough accompanied by some beans and mac and cheese.  The ribs had some breading on them and they looked and smelled delicious.  One bite confirmed they were delicious.  In fact I ordered a second plate they were so good. I will have to pry the recipe out of them. Maybe I can trade them duct tape for it.  And remember, for all of your tape needs give us a call at TAPE-RITE, 1-800-882-7348.

I decided that I would play poker for a bit before I went to see the music.  I got there at 1 and the one table was going.  I bought in for $150.00 and sat down.  There was a guy in the 7 seat (I was in the 3) who kept straddling.  I have never been a big fan of the straddle and I felt he was just using it to bully people.  I called him down on it twice and he had air.  After that he slowed down a little bit.  I was up $100.00 or so and I was going to be the button so I told everyone that I was leaving after I was the button.

I had J-7 off and Mr. Straddle made it $25.00 to go.  Now since everyone knew he probably had nothing the whole table called except the small blind.  The flop was Jd, 7d and 10c.  2 pair. The big blind checked to Mr. Straddle who went all in for $40.00 more.  Everyone in front called the $40.00 so I jammed for $225.00 or so more.  I expected some respect but everyone else went all in except the 2 seat who had me covered.  He just called.  I figure there was $1500.00 on the table.  In a 1-2 game.

I told the dealer to wait a second before we all showed our hands.  I said that everyone else had a draw, that I was the only one that paired up.  I was right (well Mr. Straddle had a pair of 10's).  There were 5 straight draws and 2 flush draws.  I faded the turn but 2 seat made Broadway on the river.  Phooey. I was still up and not too unhappy so I said good-bye but I will be back next year.  How can I not ?This room was a blast to play. Then it was off to the music.

Mike and Amy had gotten there earlier and were camped out in the front row of the Amphitheatre.  I found them and set-up my chair. I got there in time to see the Honey Island Swamp Band.  Great Southern sound with good picking and nice rhythms. We had some time before the next act at the Amphitheater so we went to the Meadow and saw Jason Lamar & The Big Damn band.  They are actually only a trio but they really rocked it.  They were kind of like heavy metal country.  Very good indeed. Then back to our seats to see the Duhks (pronounced ducks).  They are a Canadian band (from Manitoba) and they were fronted by two nice Jewish kids named Leonard Podolak and Jessee Havey.  They played a very broad range including samba, zydeco, traditional country and more.  Very good all around.  I bought one of their CD's and it is good listening.

Then we had a dilemma.  The next band at the Amphitheater was Donna the Buffalo. I had never heard of them (herd of them?) before but they have rabidly passionate fans who started swarming in and removing people's chairs so they could get as close to the stage as possible.  We had wanted to see Mavis Staples but we didn't want to lose our spots so we stayed put.  We were like an island of serenity in a sea of madness.

The Buffalo (Buffaloes?) came on stage and started playing.  Each song was like a classic Grateful Dead jam lasting 10 minutes or so.  Very good rhythm but no real beginning or end. But since we had good seats it was not so bad.  The crowd respected our position and let us sit while they were bopping non-stop.  Just like a Dead concert.

The last act of the night (for me anyway) was Willie Nelson and Family.  I have seen Willie a bunch of times and he is OK but I just wasn't into it.  Around midnight I had had enough and I said my good nights and goodbyes to Mike and Amy.  I had a great time and I told them I would come back next year.  Which I will for the poker and BBQ too.

 On the way home I stopped in Savnnah, GA to see an old friend who had just gone through a messy divorce.  She was happy to see me and told me it was her son's 18th birthday.  We all went out for a seafood boil to celebrate (my treat) and then back into the car.  I would like to report that I made it home Monday morning but the morass that is Washington, DC caught me in its web.

Now I have been driving from Florida to New York for a long time and I am usually pretty good at navigating around DC.  Until now.  I am not quite sure what happened but it must have taken a monumental rift in the force to cause this traffic.  Or maybe not.  Washington can get stupid.  I mean, just look who we send there.

I did make it back Monday afternoon.  Exhausted, happy and grateful (but not dead) that I had gone.  Til next year.

I need a miracle, everyday -- Bob Weir

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Happy Birthday Dear House

I have been lax in my commitment to the blog.  I have been meaning to write but I was waylaid by other stuff.  Like obsessing over the paint scheme for the entry. Actually it wasn't so much the paint scheme as the thought of taping off all of the molding.  Now that it's done its schweeet and I am motivated to finish the living room.  I am done with the prep, always the hardest part. Priming is scheduled for this weekend. Now I just have to obsess over the color scheme for it.

The last time I wrote about the house I was waiting for my kitchen cabinet situation to be straightened out.  It has been fixed and my kitchen is gorgeous.  Sometimes I stand and stare at it in amazed wonder that it really looks as good as I had planned. Here is a picture. 

You may look at it and sneer because of the small size but it packs a lot of oomph into a very small space. I included many design features that I had lusted after for many years. Notice the under cabinet lighting in the photo.  It's actually pretty cool and useful. I also included one of those pull out spice cabinets.  Not as utilitarian as I had hoped but it is good for holding pasta and canned stuff. If I did it over I don't think I would go this route. I would have made the drawers wider instead,
My favorite appliance is the dishwasher.  I haven't had one in 8 years and it is a joy to have one again.  Not having a dishwasher limited what I would cook.  I didn't want to spend more time cleaning than cooking.  Now I don't have to.  It will also allow me to take advantage of my new gas range. I love it too but not quite as much as the dishwasher. I had a poker game a month back and it did a great job of heating the appetizers.  It also cooks a mean French toast with sausage. 

It struck me as I was preparing to obsess over the living room that I bought this place almost a year ago. A lot has happened since then and I am very pleased with the results.  Both with the house and with life in general.  Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.  But I can't dismiss the connection. My decisions have been paying dividends and my disposition is much better.  I have also been eating more fiber so that may have something to do with it too.

That's all for now about the house but there is so much that has happened I am going to be posting again soon.

I was in the house when the house burned down -- Warren Zevon

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Apocalypse is Here

I have talked about Marc in a previous blog or 2 and I have mentioned that whenever we go out Marc always drives.  Until now.  It was an act that defied belief. I still have trouble believing this really happened.

Marc and I made plans to go out for Korean BBQ (one of the many Asian cuisines we enjoy). We had recently decided that our current place, Kam Gang San, had lost its appeal and we were on the lookout for suitable replacement. I had gone to a newer place called Miss Korea with my cousin Reuben and his family and we decided to give it a try.

We decided on 7 and he would pick me up at THE HOUSE (a subject of previous blogs and it will be the subject of the next blog).

He showed up in one of his cars, the big BMW I think and he looked at me and said "You drive". I felt the Earth start to shift off its axis. My brain locked up.  I started to gasp for breath. I asked him to repeat himself just to be sure I heard right.  "You drive.  I can't handle it anymore". Just for the record Marc has always been very critical of my driving.  I can't blame him.  I don't speed excessively and I don't cut people off (on purpose anyway). So it was with some apprehension that I agreed.

It was uneventful.  He even let me listen to my music.  Real Rock n' Roll instead of that easy listening stuff he likes. There was little traffic and we made it in quickly. If there was nothing exciting to report then why bring it up?  A fair question..  During our drive we spoke about stuff that we only talk about with each other. I can't reveal what was said but Marc is seriously considering leaving New York because of it.  This was the second unbelievable thing he told me that night. Marc and I have lived in various places over our lives and New York was always home.  Its in our blood. Yet now that I have had some time to think about it I can understand his thinking.

Living in New York takes a lot of energy and compromise.  I really don't have the head for that anymore. In my travels I have been to places that are close to major urban areas but are in settings that would be unobtainable at almost any price in similar proximity to New York.  I know this is heresy but I have to give it consideration.

Will I be able to give up Wo Hop, Centro Vasco and all my other favorite places?  Can I live in a town without major league baseball?  I don't know but I may be willing to find out.

Stay tuned for future developments.

PS -- Marc wasn't critical of my driving but I took major abuse for my limp efforts at parking.  A terrible effort if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Not Very Diplomatic

In past blogs I have discussed some of my friends.  Just by first name so as not to cause them undue celebrity.  Avoiding those nosy reporters can become very time consuming. However this time I have to reveal the complete identity of my friend, Dr. Michael Binder.  Why you ask? Because Mike is the current World Champion of a very interesting game called Diplomacy.  And that's what this is all about.

Mike and his wife Amy live in Florida and every summer they visit Amy's parents who have a beautiful home on the beach on the north shore of Long Island.  Not as ritzy as the Hamptons or Sag Harbor but still a most relaxing place to spend time.  I generally visit with them at this time but I was committed to work at the US Women's Open golf tournament (see previous blog) and I was so exhausted that I couldn't make it.  Mike understood but I was upset.  Then he said that he was going from Long Island to Philadelphia (by train no less) to play in a Diplomacy tournament.  I said I would meet him there and hang with him.  He said there wouldn't be enough time for serious hanging out but I was committed to see him.  I made a reservation and I was set.

Now I have never really been a big fan of Diplomacy but I figured the best way to learn to like it was to understand it and I figured the best way to understand it was to watch it. Now I understand it and it is fascinating.

The game takes place in 1901 Europe. Empires are being built and power is being brokered.  Your goal is to dominate the map.  How do you do this? With guns and bombs? No. Through negotiation and backstabbing. Basically you talk to the other players (in closed, secret meetings) on a 1 to 1 basis and create alliances.  Then when it suits your needs you turn on them. But what if they beat you to it?  That is the fascinating part of the game.

Anyway the game consists of 15 - 20 minute negotiating sessions followed by 5 minutes of moving the pieces (everybody moves at the same time). As fascinating as it is to watch I decided to go out and walk around Philly for a little bit.  I was staying on Broad St just south of City Hall and the area has a lot going on.  It is also very gay.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It's actually one of the primary reason there's a lot going on.

I walked and window shopped, bought an ice cream cone and people watched. And I got hit on.  Twice.  I guess I still have it.  At least for middle aged gay guys. Very nice.  As I got back to the hotel I saw Amy talking to a really tall (6'6"), incredibly buff guy.  She introduced him to me as an old high school friend named Marcus. He was wearing a skin tight cycling outfit and he had a very expensive looking bike.

We made some small talk and I mentioned that I had walked around the area.  The first thing out of his mouth was that it was really gay. Now it wasn't hard to figure out that Marcus was probably gay and he may have been doing this to gauge my level of homophobia.  I just said that I didn't really notice the guys holding hands and making out.  This kind of threw him for a loop.  He looked at me a little funny and didn't really talk much more.  I said good night and went back to the Diplomacy tournament.

The next day Mike, Amy and I went for breakfast.  On the walk to the restaurant Amy mentioned that I was rude to Marcus.  Now let's get one thing straight.  I am capable of being extremely rude (and obnoxious) but this comment threw me big time.  How was I rude? "Well you made fun of him being gay" she said.  This floored me.  I am at a loss to understand it but  all I can say is I must not have been very diplomatic.

In the world of diplomacy, some things are better left unsaid.

Lincoln Chafee 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Walk With the Parks

I have been involved with golf for a long time.  I have played it most of my life.  Maybe one day I will get good at it.  Truth be told I doubt it highly.  If anything I am on the downward side of having any hope. I am OK with it.  I have enjoyed my time on the track. In fact I can't really play any more because of a bad foot.  If I get in 2 or 3 rounds a year it's a lot.

I have also been a caddie on odd occasions.  It is much harder than it looks and it is a very tough way to earn a dollar.  I have known some great caddies, Admiral Eddie and Million Dollar Frankie come to mind, and I can say that I am not one. But it taught me quite a bit about dealing with people who were having a bad day.  It also pointed out to me that I looked like a jerk when I acted that way.

Over the years my company, Tape-Rite (www.taperite.com) has been a major supplier of the special double-coated tape that is used for putting grips on the club shaft.  We have expanded and we offer a complete line of tapes for the golf industry at www.golftape.com.

These days I get my golf fix by officiating at local tournaments and volunteering at USGA Championships.  So far I have worked at 6 US Opens, 1 US Amateur and at  the recently completed US Women's Open. I volunteered to act as a hole marshal.  This involved crowd control and finding lost balls. Usually I work with scoreboards so this was a new experience for me.  All I can say is that it was fabulous. I was as inside the ropes as you can get.

Being up close and personal with today's crop of women golfers is very exciting for an old fart like me. I mean who wouldn't want to be surrounded by groups of hot chicks with great bodies who can hit a high cut 3 iron.  My mind is flush with fantasies. All I can say is that whomever is getting these women interested in golf is doing a fabulous job.  More is better.

While I was working I noticed that there were several players named Park. This is directly due to golf becoming very popular among people of Korean background. If you haven't noticed, Korean women are starting to dominate the LPGA tour.

The eventual winner (and currently the world's best female golfer) was Inbee Park who had won the Open in 2008.  She was the youngest person to ever win it, a record she still holds. Inbee crushed the field with a score of 8 under.

The other Parks included Annie who is a) from Long Island and a local favorite and b) the current NCAA Women's Golf Champion, Jane and He Young. Of the 3 only Jane made the cut finishing at 12 over par.  That was good for a tie for 42 place. The way things are going I am sure there will be many more women named Park on the LPGA tour. Maybe one will be named Central Park. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

The course that the Open was held on is called Sebonack. It is located out in the Hamptons (Southampton to be exact) which is where the rich and famous people hang out every weekend with the same rich and famous people they hang out with in Manhattan the rest of the time.

Sebonack was opened in 2006 but it has neighbors that are the epitome of golf royalty.  It's immediate neighbor is National Golf Links. National is very private and exclusive and the course always ranks in the 100 Best Courses in America as determined by Golf  Digest magazine. Adjacent to National is Shinnecock, one of the truly great courses on the planet. Shinnecock has been the host of several US Opens and will be the host again in 2018. The course at Sebonack gives them both a run for their money.

Sebonack was developed by Michael Pascucci.  By an interesting twist of fate I went to high school  with his son Michael. I am a year older than he. They lived in a mansion that was once the home of Gil Hodges when he managed the NY Mets. Every summer they would have a big bash for all the kids from the area.  The summer of my graduation (1973) Mr. P asked me to run into town to pick up the pizza for the party. He snapped off a hundred dollar bill and handed it to me and told me to keep any change.  This may have been the first time I had actually held a hundred.

I was driving into town in my Mom's Mercedes and I was going a wee bit too fast.  The next thing you know I am getting a ticket for doing 70 in a 40. It wound up costing a lot more than the change I kept from the hundred. The reason I bring this up?  Maybe Michael will read this and offer me a round of golf.  I would probably turn it down because of my foot but you never know.

"Golf is a good walk spoiled." -- Mark Twain

Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's The Same (Great) Old Song

Dr. Tape is lucky enough to have friends (yes, more than one) who have interesting perks attached to them.  Golf at fancy clubs is common but others have the ability to get reservations at very exclusive restaurants or great seats to the hottest Broadway show.  By far the best perk is the one that comes with Danny.  Danny is a good representative of the human race.  He is involved in many worthwhile pursuits and philanthropic in many ways.

Danny's family has business dealing with the Songwriters Hall of Fame which has offices in LA and NY.  They hold their annual induction ceremonies at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. It's quite the party. Danny's family always has two tables at the dinner and someone always drops out at the last minute.  Danny knows I keep my tuxedo ready to go and he can count on me to fill any voids.  This year was no exception.  He called on Tuesday for Thursday night.  I was in!! A major score.

This is the sixth or seventh one I have gone to and they are fabulous events.  You get to see great performances by famous people singing their own songs but also other peoples songs. Billy Joel, Elton John, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, John Legend, John Mayer, Hall and Oates, Don McLean, Dionne Warwick and Chaka Kahn are just some of the performers I have gotten to see. I also saw Stevie Wonder but he didn't see me.

You also get to see some bizarre stuff like the time Mary J. Blige forgot the words to a song (they are on the freaking teleprompter for God's sake) and walked off the stage midway through her performance. What would this year bring? I couldn't wait to find out.

Danny sent me a photo of the ticket that listed the inductees. There were some GREAT names. They included Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Holly Knight, JD Souther and last but certainly not least Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith. I was stoked.

Thursday arrived and the time had come.  The ballroom was packed with music industry types and hot chicks.  I found Danny and his family, we had some drinks and got ready.  Danny's sister Jackie was there along with several of her friends. They heard that Steven Tyler was taking pictures and they ran off to see if they would take some with them.  They came back shrieking like teenagers.  I asked them if they got their pictures and one of them said "Even better, he felt us up!". Ahh, to be a rock god.

The show was amazing with performances by Sting, Petula Clark, Patty Smyth, Holly Knight, Jordin Sparks, and the sublime Alison Krauss.  But by far the best were Mick Jones/Lou Gramm and Mr. Touchy Feely/Joe Perry.

The guys from Foreigner sang "Juke Box Hero" that had everyone singing along.  They accepted their award and sang "I Want To Know What Love Is".  Amazingly good with great audience participation.  The only thing missing were the cigarette lighters. I have seen Foreigner several times and this was as good as they have ever been.

Tyler and Perry were going to be inducted next and Nickleback came out and sang "Sweet Emotion".  A great rendition that had that haunting quality to the title verse.  Steven and Joe accepted their award with Steven admitting that they got into songwriting to meet chicks.  Steven brought the point home by asking the crowd how many people had gotten laid the night before.  He didn't ask if they had to pay for it but the point was well taken. Then they took the stage and sang the ultimate Aerosmith song "Walk This Way".  People were dancing on chairs as he explained that it started with a little kiss like this.

Berry Gordy of Motown was the last to be honored with a Pioneer of Music award.  Smokey Robinson introduced him.  The night was winding down but Smokey was just getting started.  He went on and on and on to the point that they were flashing on the teleprompter to wrap things up. He finally introduced Berry who was grateful and brief.  Then the finale came on.  The cast of the Broadway show Motown came out and performed a medley of songs from all the great Motown acts.  It was kind of like one of those Time-Life music collection commercials. I was ready to buy the boxed set but they didn't flash the 800 number. Then it was out the door until next year.

The piece de resistance occurred on the way out.  I was riding down the escalator and I happened to turn around.  One of the white hot chicks was several stairs above me.  She was wearing a dress that had less fabric than a man's handkerchief and she had gone commando. The view was stellar. A perfect end to a perfect evening.

Seeing Smokey Robinson reminded me of another music industry dinner that honored my cousin and music industry legend Charles Koppleman for raising a boatload of money for the TJ Martell Foundation.  For those of you poker buffs out there Charlie's son Brian (my second cousin) wrote Rounders. Anyway after all the speeches Smokey came out to entertain the crowd and a couple at the next table asked me who he was.  I was a little taken aback that people in the music industry wouldn't know who Smokey Robinson is but I guess it takes all types.

For all types of adhesive tapes make sure to call TAPE-RITE at 1-800-882-7348 or visit us at www.taperite.com.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” -- Friedrich Nietzsche

“Play it fuckin' loud!” --  Bob Dylan