Monday, August 25, 2008

10,000 Magazines

According to Wikipedia, there are over 10,000 magazines published in the United States.

With this many, you might assume there would be a market somewhere for the crap I write.

Apparently not, so it looks like I am going to have to tailor stories to fit the needs of specific publications. I picked some magazines from the Wikipedia list and worked up ideas that will have their editors drooling to sign me up.

Since I am too lazy to do research and too cheap to actually acquire any of these publications, I can only guess at what their editorial slant might be.

I suppose that “Swine Practitioner” is aimed at bad hygiene enthusiasts. I am going to suggest an article titled “Soiled Underwear: a Chick Turn-On.” If they don't go for it I'm sure the editors at “Dirty Linen” will scoop it up.

The Deciders at “Skinned Knuckles” will really jump for my story called “Gloves Would Help.”

Since “Exquisite Corpse” probably deals with funeral cosmetology, how about my piece, “Put a Smile on His Face, Make Everyone Happy”?

I was sorry to see that “Trouser Press Magazine” has folded (neatly, I hope). My article, “Wrinkled Pants Linked to Impotence”, might have saved them.

The gang over at “Real Simple” is very interested in my thought provoking op-ed, “If It's Real Simple, Why Do We Need a Big, Fat Magazine to Explain It?”

“What? No Beano in Heaven?” is right on target for “Angel Exhaust.”

The editorial review board at “Naval History” is intrigued by my think piece, “Did Neanderthals Have Belly-Button Lint.”

“The Skeptical Inquirer” won't have second thoughts about my article called “Yeah, Right.”

My research effort, “Cursing Under Your Breath Lowers Blood Pressure”, will surely interest the editors over at “The Unspeakable Oath.”

If the team at “The Sentimentalist” can ever pull themselves together they will pay big bucks for my tell-all article, “Oprah Doesn't Care Anymore.”

I still haven't come with an idea for “Excellent Prismatic Spray”, but I'm working on it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I can do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

This is not a boast, but rather a pithy summary of my most noteworthy talents.

Some people can time the stock market; some can sing like angels; some can draw like Michelangelo. All are very marketable talents.

I can do the NY Times Sunday puzzle.

Like whatever other talents I have there is no correlation between the talent and making money. Even someone who can wiggle his ears, or touch the tip of his nose with his tongue can make a few bucks in barroom bets. Walk into a bar and say, “Hey, five bucks says I can do the NY Times Sunday puzzle”, and you won’t get many takers; and if you do they will all be drunk or asleep by the time you finish.

In other words, doing the puzzle is not a spectator sport. There are tournaments but you won’t be seeing them on ESPN any time soon. There is even a crossword game show.

I’m not betting on its success because it is an activity that is almost synonymous with boredom; it is what cops do on stake out, patients in waiting rooms, and commuters and travelers on the interminable ride home.

In other words, what many people do instead of blogging. I do both. I really need a life.

I’m not knocking it. Actually, I used to enjoy sitting on the train or Path doing the puzzle in my usual methodic top to bottom fashion. Very frequently some yenta would look over and say: “My God, you can do the Times Sunday puzzle!” I have to admit it puffed me up a bit. There is always someone, however, who will say they know a guy who can do it in fifteen minutes flat, thus un-puffing me.

It apparently isn’t even that much of a talent. Will Shortz, the Times puzzle editor, took all us Completers down a peg when he said on the Charlie Rose Show that the Sunday puzzle is just a long Thursday in difficulty. Now, for the uninitiated, the Time puzzles increase in difficulty as the week goes along with Monday being the easiest and, according to Shortz, Saturday being the most difficult.

He was like “you Sunday Completers think you’re so special, but your not, you’re just like those mediocre Thursday people but with more time on your hands.” I took exception.

Doing crosswords has come back in vogue because many experts feel that doing them keeps the brain healthy. Take it from someone who does a lot of puzzles, I still need a Dust Buster to clean the dead brain cells off my pillow in the morning.

I think that the only thing that crossword puzzles do for your brain is exercise the part that deals with crossword puzzles. I may be able to come up with a three-letter word for lugubrious, but still forget my Social Security number.

Oh, one more thing: I have always done the puzzle in ink. Take that, Will Shortz!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sandal Scandal

Well, I’m in trouble.

In my last blog, I launched into a major rant about the perils of sandals. (See August 6 post.)

Wouldn’t you know, I heard from the Sandal Manufacturers of America and Canada Association (SMACASS).

They accused me of making “anti-sandalian” remarks and jeopardizing the livelihood of the 8,000 people who work in the sandal industry. It couldn’t be more ironic that I should wind up in a pickle like this. In my former life I was head of a trade association that represented the necktie manufacturers. I was always belaboring some poor devil for “anti-tie” remarks. It shows to go you that what goes around comes around.

The Sandalnistas didn’t challenge my contention that people who REALLY can’t afford to fall, like mountain climbers, tight rope walkers, and high iron workers, don’t wear sandals, but countered that the founders of most of the world’s major religions were sandal wearers. They pointed out that nowhere in the copious religious texts is there any reference to any of the Holy Ones taking a digger. I said this doesn’t prove anything since their disciples would not include such an event fearing the believers might interpret it as a Fall from Grace.

They took issue with my contention that New Jersey was passing a helmet law for sandal wearers. Okay, I made it up. But, in my defense, it’s not like I actually do any research for these blogs.

They also didn’t like my blaming the Fall of Rome on the fact that its occupants were wearing sandals at the time. They countered that Roman soldiers wore sandals and conquered the known world. Hold on a sec. Most of the people they were conquering were barefoot and painted their asses blue, so of course the Romans were one up on them foot tech wise. However, as soon as the Ostrogoths, Vandals, Huns and such showed up in their hobnail boots, they put a major stomping on the legionnaires’ exposed digits. (Readers caution: I have no idea if any of these tribes wore hob nail boots (what is a hob nail anyway?), but they sound like something a barbarian would invent.)

Anyway, we ended the conversation on amicable terms. I said that since only two people read this blog and I have seen the light and my wife wears sandals anyway, the 8,000 workers’ jobs are safe until all of the SMACASS members move their factories to China.

I stood firm on the Flip-Flop issue, however. I am spearheading an Advertising Council effort to acquaint consumers with the dangers of this odious footwear. Our motto is going to be “Flip-Flops: First You Flip, Then You Flop.” Catchy, huh?

We are going to have leading medicos link flip-flop wearing with the dreaded Flat Face Syndrome. We are trying to line up the Clintons as our spokespeople, since ….well, you get it.

The sandal manufacturers haven’t heard the last from me. I’ve dug in my heels.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

2-Dollar Digger: A Maine Tale

I fell when we were up in Maine last week.

Here’s what happened:

My wife, Kathie, and I always visit Pemaquid Beach when we are up there. It isn’t much of a beach by New Jersey standards. It’s rocky and weedy and the water is cold. Still, it is beautiful in a Maine way and the scene of many happy memories from the days when we went up there with the kids every year.

Then, they never enforced the two dollar per person admission charge and you could evade it altogether by entering the beach at one of its ends, rather than the main entrance. Now they are making a more concerted effort to collect it. Kathie dropped me at the end that required me to walk through a swamp to access the beach. She went to the parking lot and paid her two bucks.

After wading through the muck, I had to climb a huge mound of sand that had been placed where the swamp trail meets the beach in an apparent effort to block it. I climbed up and over this obstacle and was on the beach. Hey, two bucks is two bucks.

I found Kathie and she said she could not carry my chair and book from the parking lot. I took her ticket stub so I didn’t have to pay admission to get back on the beach and went to fetch my things.

As I was returning along the sandy path that wound in front of the concession stand and passed some picnic tables before leading to the beach, I was feeling all happy and content with my two buck savings. As usual, this was when disaster struck.

Suddenly, I lost my footing and lurched forward in a Spiral of Doom. My falls are rambling, sprawling affairs with lots of arm flapping and leg wagging ala Ray Bolger’s Straw Man.

I came to earth under a picnic table at which a late middle age woman was seated talking on her cell phone. She looked at my twisted corpse in shock and said to her phone mate: “I have to go. A man has just fallen at my feet.” Now, you know the chance to utter those words must have made her day, if not her entire vacation.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “You fell a long way.”
“Not so far,” I replied. “I’m only five foot ten.”
“No. You started to fall over there,” she said pointing at a spot 25 feet away. “ I thought for a second you were going to recover, but then you seemed to give up.” She sounded disappointed in me.

I realized I was having a conversation with someone from under a picnic table and decided now was a good time to get up and take stock.
“ I seem to be fine. Sorry for interrupting your conversation.”
I immediately launched an investigation into the causes of this calamity. I suspected divine retribution for my admission fee evasion, but soon found solid physical evidence for a more mundane explanation.

My efforts revealed the following: I tripped on a root that was hidden by the sand in the path; and I was wearing sandals.

The Witness said that she would report the root to management. In New Jersey this would have resulted in the whole area being sealed off with crime scene tape and the beach being evacuated until it could be determined if foul play was involved. This is Maine, however. Since the root was as thick as my arm, I suspected it has been happily tripping fee evaders and payers for generations.

The sandal thing is another story. I hate sandals. The only reason I was wearing them was that I was at the beach and I had a momentary brain freeze that made me think I could get away with it. Sandals, in my view, are a public health hazard. I believe New Jersey, a state that requires wearing a crash helmet for most human activities, is about to require helmets and kneepads when sandals are worn.

It should come as no surprise that people who REALLY don’t want to fall-high iron workers, tight rope walkers, mountain climbers-don’t wear sandals. I saw a History Channel special that revealed that the Fall of Rome was caused by the fact that all of the occupants were wearing sandals at the time.

Anyway, I thanked the Witness, gathered my scattered belongings and headed for the beach. Just to cover the retribution thing, next time I paid the admission.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Kathie and I went to the Bruce Springsteen concert last night.

It was terrific, but there were a few glitches along the way. A huge accident at the Turnpike’s Meadowlands exit delayed thousands of fans so the concert’s starting time was postponed for an hour and a half.

Springsteen did not come on stage until 9:30. He gave a wonderful performance before a packed house of hometown fans. He did not leave until 12:45.

Since few left early, the whole 40 odd thousand people drained out of the stadium at the same time. We did not get home until 3:00 AM. Kathie asked if I could recall the last time we were out that late. I don’t think I was ever out that late. Sorry, I’ve led a quiet life.

We had a great time, but we may be getting too old for rock concerts.
If you think you might also be in the same boat, here are a few warning signs:

. You are in your seats at 7:30 PM, the posted starting time. You are alone.
. As soon at the place fills up, you start scanning the crowd for people who are older than you. There are none.
. Your wife brings ear plugs in case the music gets too loud.
. Eventhough your feet hurt, you stand through the entire concert because you don’t want to be that old guy who sits down.
. You mention to the young people seated next to you that Springsteen is starting to resemble Tony Bennett. They don’t know who Tony Bennett is.
. You complain that you can’t hear the lyrics over the “damned racket.”
. You wonder if you should say something to the young lady in front of you about the number of beers she has consumed.
. After the third encore, you hear yourself saying: “Oh, no. Here they come again!!”
. Everyone else is half naked, but you brought a sweater.
. You listen carefully to the stadium evacuation plan.
. Eventhough you have written down your parking location and referenced appropriate landmarks, you still lose your car.
. It worries you that you are not allowed to bring an umbrella into the stadium.
. You buy one water after grumbling about the $4.50 price tag and refill from the water fountains.

If you exhibit any of these symptoms, you should probably stay home, pop a Bruce cassette into your Walkman, and take a snoozy in your lounger. Sounds good to me.

Yankee Stadium

It was a nostalgic journey. Kathie purchased two tickets from a co-worker to a Yankee game and Kris came down from Haverhill to attend with me in this the team’s last season in the old stadium.

We were determined to get there early and have time for batting practice, a visit to the monuments, and to absorb the history and ambience of the old ball yard.

On the drive in we reminisced about our many visits to the stadium over the years. In those days we always tried to sit in right field so Kris could be near his favorite player, Dave Winfield. We commiserated about the venality of Yankee management for tearing down the House That Ruth Built for a glitzier, corporate luxury box equipped version.

We arrived at 11:00 AM. With a 1:00 PM start, this left us plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. The first disappointment was that we couldn’t get to Monument Park. The trouble with living in New York is that whatever unique idea you have; a hundred thousand other people have the same one. The line for the park was so long they closed it down to any additional fans.

Next stop, batting practice. We positioned ourselves in the left field ground level boxes near the foul pole. I was unaware of the fact that members of the pitching staff shag the fly balls that don’t leave the playing field. Kyle Farnsworth, the erratic (now former) Yankee reliever, was standing near us. Whenever he would catch a ball, fans would beg and plead with him to toss it to them. I thought it was typical New York chutzpah that a guy wearing an “Anyone but Farnsworth” t-shirt was actually begging the man for a ball.
He was disappointed.

I made up my mind that I would make a reasonable effort to catch anything that came my way. Sure enough a ball hit by A-Rod headed on a trajectory that took it about six feet to my right. An older man made a leap for it just as three other guys crashed into him sending him backwards over the seat and into the next row. The ball came loose and soon all the contenders were crawling under the seats trying to secure this treasure. I was glad to see that the old guy prevailed. I am sure he regretted it the next day. I would have liked to have heard him explain to his wife why a beat up batting practice ball was worth three of his remaining vertebrae.

It started to get very hot. Predictions were that the temperatures would soar into the high nineties with high humidity. Kris and I decided to wander around the corridors of the stadium before going to our seats. Everywhere we went was hot, dark and gloomy, not to mention slick and slimy from generations of spilled beer and sweat.

We went to our seats which were directly behind home plate in the very upper reaches of the stadium. In fact, we were about seven rows from the top. It was a steep climb getting there, but once there we were rewarded with a splendid view of the field. However, it was a little bit like watching the screen of one of the early versions of Sega Baseball with itty-bitty players racing around the bases.

It was also disconcerting to see the birds flying below us.

Soon, the regular season ticket holders started to arrive. They were all old and all male. Several had to take several rest stops before continuing their climb. My guess is that they were retired teachers or postal workers. Soon they started their banter and quaint insults. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone called a “four-eyed jerk.”

As the game wore on, it got hotter and hotter. I kept sending Kris down to refill my water bottle. Kathie had given me huge red bandana and suggested that if I got really hot I should wet it and wrap it around my neck, or drape it over my head. I have seen her do this and frankly would prefer a session with the defibrillator and an intravenous saline solution. Normally, I am not bothered by the heat but it was really getting to me. Maybe it was compounded by the proximity of all of that overheated human flesh. Out came the bandana. I asked Kris to go wet it for me. He stared at it with disdain. “Who did you get this from? Mom?”

And the game wore on and on. From the seventh inning, the fans in the row behind us started cheering on and exhorting the players, which was an exercise in futility since they weren’t even in the same area code, never mind ear shot.

They were strange, convoluted encouragements. Not just “Go, Jeter” but rambling edited- on- the -fly directions: “Hit a homer, Jeter. No, No…..shoot a double between second and third….Wait, wait….lay down a sacrifice…whatever you do, don’t strike out.”

At the top of the twelfth the game was still tied after the Yankees had squandered many opportunities to go ahead. We had had enough, or at least I had.

As we drove down the Deegan headed for the George Washington Bridge we heard the game’s anti climatic-ending when Jose Molina was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded walking in the winning run. We didn’t feel like we missed anything.

We had a great day, but both agreed it was time to tear that dump down.

Note: Kris has done an excellent blog on this same subject at his site