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Friday, August 26, 2016

Rant #1,742: Garbage

That's right.

What better topic to talk about on a steamy Friday in August than garbage?

It stinks, and it stinks worse in the summer.

We all generate garbage.

No matter how clean we are, and how clean we keep our homes, we generate garbage ... tons of it.

I don't know if any studies have been done on how much garbage a single person generates in their lifetime, but I bet it is tons.

Just think about the newspapers you get rid of, or even the boxes of tissues you throw out when the box is all used up.

It's all garbage.

I did the garbage this morning for what feels like the 1,580,750,899th time in my house, and it's all the same things--newspapers, paper plates, toilet tissue rolls, napkins, tissues--that have always been in our garbage.

Some garbage can live new lives as other products, some garbage hurts the environment, and some garbage is really, just garbage, not helping anyone in any way, but it still has to be gotten rid of.

I remember as a kid, when I lived in Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, garbage was something of an adventure.

Each building had its own incinerator, and we would gather up our garbage, bring it into the hall, and lug it to the door that opened to the incinerator chute. We would open the chute and shove our garbage down that chute, and it was almost a fun thing to do ... especially when the incinerator was in the process of burning garbage. You would see the flames go up as you pushed your junk into the chute.

It was kind of fun.

Now, I just lug it out to the curb, and wait for the sanitation trucks to come and pick it up, on their appointed days to take our garbage away from us.

No fun, and I guess there is a reason they call it "refuse."

Today, we use heavy plastic garbage pails, but I remember when we used those metal pails, which were a pain in the neck to haul back and forth.

And heaven forbid you hit one in the middle of the street with your car, guaranteed your car would be more damaged than the pail ever would be.

Whatever the receptacle being used, garbage is a chore I hate doing, but if it is not done, your abode turns into the very garbage you should be getting rid of.

Funny, some people throw away things that they consider to be garbage that really isn't. How many times have we heard that treasures have been found in someone's garbage?

Also, sometimes secrets are contained in that garbage, and oftentimes those secrets are unearthed by people who dare to get to the crux of the situation by looking through someone's trash.

People also lose things in the garbage, like wedding rings, and sometimes, people have to sift through the garbage to find these items.

But our garbage here is just that, pure garbage, and after I am done writing this, I will cart our garbage off to the curb.

Yes, today's Rant is garbage, and I won't take offense if you call this entry garbage, either, because that is precisely what it is.

Speak to you again on Monday, and I am sure that from now until then, I will be hauling more garbage out to the curb.

It is an act that I can't refuse.

Classic Rant #396 (December 2, 2010): Low-Key Hanukkah

The first night of Hanukkah came and went pretty much without a whimper last night in my house.

I don't know if it had to do with the fact that my wife and I really watched our pocketbooks this holiday season--save one gift--or that the holiday this year is so far removed from Christmas, but it was really a very quiet celebration last night.

My son had homework to do, and my father came home from work late, so the celebration was pushed back a bit. My wife and I were knocked out from our respective workdays, and I guess this all led up to a low-key celebration.

We said the prayer for the Hanukkah lights in both Hebrew and English, lit the middle candle, known as the shomash, and then lit the first candle, signifying the first night of the holiday.

Now to the gifts ...

Unlike other years, my son didn't get anything spectacular from us, just some clothes, which he received in full last night, some personal products (he loves the Axe brand), and wrestling videos, of which he already has hundreds, but let's face it, you can't have too many of those, can you?

He will get the wrestling videos, but as is the tradition, he will get them one per night. He will get his second one tonight.

My daughter was already given her present on Thanksgiving because she currently lives 300 miles away from us.

My wife gave me a Beatles T-shirt, a Beatles DVD of their performances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and a great video, "The Abbott and Costello Christmas Show" (see, I am not really Scrooge) taken from their appearances on "The Colgate Comedy Hour."

I gave her a couple of CDs, a digital camera (not an expensive one), and a gift card to Dunkin' Donuts, which I think she liked the best out of all the presents I got her.

My mom and dad bought my family a toaster oven, and gave my wife, my son and myself some other small gifts. They gave my daughter something when they saw her for Thanksgiving.

My father got a DVD and a gift card for him and my mom to go to the movies. We gave my mom a video of Lucille Ball on "The Lucy Show," which came in a nice lunch box.

But the big gift was for my mom. It was a combination Hanukkah/Birthday gift, as she turns the big 8-0 on March 11. We bought her a computer, a netbook, so she can go on the computer anywhere in the house.

I think that not only was she surprised, she was astonished!

In lieu of potato pancakes--which I really can't have anymore--my wife bought chocolate covered pretzels, which were OK. You are supposed to have something sweet for the holiday, and this fit the bill.

And then, that was pretty much it. There were kisses and hugs all around, and then we all retired for the night.

Pretty low-key, but that was fine with me.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rant #1,741: The No. 1 Album In the Country (Sort Of) ...

My allergies are killing me this morning.

I can barely see out of my left eye, and my right eye is bad too.

So bear with me for this column, because right now, at exactly 4:36 in the morning, I can't see very much.

But anyway, this Rant today is not about viewing, it is about hearing.

Do you know what the No. 1 album in the country is today?

Look, we all know that having a No. 1 record today, whether on the albums or singles charts, doesn't mean very much.

It is not like during days of yore, when even if you didn't like the album and/or artist that was sitting at the No. 1 perch, you still knew what was the top seller in the country, even if my osmosis.

Today, that doesn't hold water, because music is so scattered that the charts basically mean nothing--they are not linear, as Billboard would have you believe that they are.

But that being the case, do you know what the No. 1 album in the country is right now?

It is "Good Times!" by the Monkees.

Well, sort of.

With all the different charts that Billboard offers that they use to try to address the scattered nature of music today, the Monkees album does top the albums chart, but not the Top Albums chart.

It is the No. 1 LP on the Vinyl Albums chart.

That's right. Billboard actually has a separate chart for vinyl albums right now, and the Monkees album is the most popular one in the country on that chart.

There is a market for vinyl albums, and people are buying them. They often duplicate the regular CD release, and certainly, the Monkees album does just that.

There are different versions of the vinyl LP, including regular, colored vinyl, and one that comes with a bonus 45, which is the one that I have.

But yes, even if the LP just sold a couple of hundred albums, it sits atop that chart.

It is kind of a hollow victory, but that is where it sits right now.

So you can say the Monkees are the only act to have a No. 1 album in 1966 and a No. 1 album in 2006.

That, in itself, is quite an accomplishment, and the album is quite an accomplishment itself.

Rising to No. 14 on the regular album chart--and just coming back on the regular Albums chart this week--the LP is something completely different. Even the naysayers have given it an excellent review. and if the world is right, it will receive some Grammy nominations.

But right now, even though it is hard to fathom this, the Monkees actually have a No. 1 album in 2016.

Sure it is kind of hollow, but so be it.

And later this week, two--count 'em, two--greatest hits albums are to be released, with one appearing on both CD and vinyl.

Let's see if either one of them--or both--can crack any of the charts that Billboard has created.

I wouldn't bet against either of them.

Classic Rant #395 (December 1, 2010): Tonight It’s Hanukkah

Tonight is Hanukkah.

I know that for most of our culture this means absolutely nothing, but for many of us, this holiday, which begins at sundown tonight, reflects the culmination of a year's work, and the time to party and celebrate.

Honestly, in the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is not a major holiday. But it is a joyous and festive one, celebrating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt, during the second century BCE (before the common era). After the Jews regained control of the temple, they found that they only had one night's oil for their candelabra, their eternal light. Somehow, through some type of miracle, the oil burned for eight days, hence the celebration of Hanukkah for eight days and the use of a menorah to signify the eternal light.

It's a great family-oriented holiday, and one of my favorite ones during the year (the other of my favorites is Passover).

Now, if you don't want to read some blunt words, don't read below, because I promise you, you are going to get them.

Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush or Hanukkah tree ornaments or wreaths.

One holiday has nothing to do with the other.

And if you consider yourself Jewish, you cannot celebrate both.

Christmas is about Jesus, the messiah. Hanukkah, as my explanation provided, has nothing to do with Jesus, and the basic tenet of the Jewish religion is that the messiah has not come yet.

So once again, Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas.

Don't ask me if I follow both holidays. For me, although Christmas is a wonderful holiday in an of itself, for me, it is simply a day off from work for me and many of my fellow Jews, nothing more.

And the inundation we receive from the media about Christmas this and Christmas that is, well, annoying. I know some non-Jews who believe that starting to play Christmas songs on certain radio stations starting in October or even earlier is ridiculous.

And who do we blame for this idiocy, where Hanukkah is somehow blurred into Christmas?

Well, I kind of blame many of my fellow Jews themselves.

We have so assimilated into the Christian culture of this country that many of us have forgotten our roots.

Look, I am not a religious Jew at all, but I know, and my family knows, our heritage. We are Jews. We are not Christians.

I am not saying that there is anything the least bit wrong in following other religions. But when Jews decide that they are so assimilated that they forget who they are, that kind of bothers me.

And when people--oftentimes those in my own family--send Christmas cards or Season's Greetings cards to me this time of year, well, don't you think that is just plain lazy on their part?

I am not talking about business associates. I am talking about family members who should know better.

One year many years ago, a relative sent my family a Christmas card. I sent it right back. They figured out why I did that, and quickly sent over a Hanukkah card.

And yes, I blame Hollywood too. Hollywood is a place where Jews have always felt welcome to ply their craft, whether it be as an executive, behind the scenes person, or even in front of the camera.

Yet, Hollywood Jews kind of hide this time of year. I mean, where are the Barbra Streisands, the Neil Diamonds, the Dustin Hoffmans during this time of year? Celebrating Christmas, of course.

They are as phony as a warped sheckel.

When was the last time "Entertainment Tonight" ever asked high-profile Hollywood Jews about how they celebrate Hanukkah?

And when they ask Jews about Christmas, Jews just answer as if it were their holiday.

Well, it isn't.

The No. 1 movie the last time I looked was the umpteenth "Harry Potter" film. Just so you know, its star, Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, is Jewish.

Just so you know.

That's the end of my bluntness. Have a great holiday, whatever holiday you celebrate, and I will be back tomorrow, hopefully with a nice report about how the first night of Hanukkah went.

Mazel tov!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rant #1,740: Polar Opposites

My son had a good birthday, got some nice gifts, had some birthday cake, and that was that.

Funny, no comments were left on yesterday's post by the naysayers.

When I talk about something nice, they aren't nice people to begin with, so they have no comments to make.

That is their right, and at least they didn't veer off into nonsense on the post I had yesterday.

Anyway, today is a new day, and today I bring up a completely different topic.

In the New York metropolitan area, one of the hottest stories that simply has not reached its end yet is the story about the supposed condition of former New York Mets and Yankees player Dwight Gooden, who has had a misguided past and might just be going off the deep end right now.

Or so says former teammate Daryl Strawberry, a guy who certainly has seen the deep end--and way beyond that--in his life.

Last week, Gooden did not show up for a radio interview, and no reason was ever given for his absence. This got Strawberry to claim that Gooden was back on the sauce again, meaning back snorting cocaine.

Look, it takes one to know one. Strawberry has himself been to hell and back, threw away his enormous talent to drug abuse just like Gooden did, and when he smells a rat, he talks about it.

Gooden has since vehemently denied the charges, and the main thing that has come out of this at this point is how the media has a habit of creating its own story when it feels the need to do so.

It has painted Gooden and Strawberry as blood brothers in pain and excess, and evidently, nothing could be further than the truth.

Both shared tremendous talent and tremendous addictions, but that was about it, even though the media would have you believe that they were ascloseasthis.

Heck, ESPN even aired a recent documentary on the two and their supposed close relationship.

In reality, they evidently don't really enjoy each others company, never have, but they played the game that the media created to get exposure and stay in the public's awareness.

Now, because of this story, we see that the duo really weren't dynamic, everything but actually, and another media created situation has bit the dust for good, and maybe that's a good thing.

Gooden claims he has not used cocaine in years, and that he is clean and sober, and has been for some time. He says that Strawberry is only out for himself with the accusations, and has always been that way.

Strawberry claims just the opposite, and at this point, no one knows the truth about what is going on.

The Yankees themselves have stepped in, saying that they would foot the bill for Gooden's treatment if he admits to falling off the wagon.

Stay tuned, this story still has plenty to go, has more legs than a centipede, and the media will eat it up hook, line and sinker.

Classic Rant #394 (November 30, 2010): Happy Birthday, Dad

After the calamities I experienced the past few days, I am happy to report that there is something good happening today.

My father turns 79 years young today.

And yes, I do mean young. Both he and my mother are the youngest older people I know. My mother has the energy of someone a third of her age (she turns 80 in March), and my father, while a little slower than she is, is as active as one can be at his age.

Proof: he still drives a New York City cab for a living!

No, he doesn't own his own cab anymore--he did for several decades--but he still drives a yellow cab for a fleet three days a week.

And don't think this is easy work.

He gets up at 1 a.m., leaves by about 2 a.m., gets into work by 3 a.m. or so, and begins work for the next 14 or 15 hours or so. Then he drives home, which is oftentimes a trip of two hours or more.

Double that regimen, and you get what he was doing for many decades before that when he worked five days a week (or sometimes six days a week).

He is the guy who brought me up with a sports-minded bent. I wasn't the greatest athlete--although I played all sports--but he was the one who taught me that the first part of the newspaper you turn to in the morning is the sports section.

He is my link to my heritage, as is my mom. With my grandparents long gone, both of them are the leaders of our family--spiritually, mentally, emotionally and religiously.

Sure, he isn't 25 anymore. He has had some health ills, but nothing catastrophic, I am happy to say.

He also has a wry sense of humor, says what is on his mind, and is stubborn as all hell--just like I am.

And I am very proud of him.

So happy birthday, Dad. I hope you have at least 79 more birthdays to celebrate!

And by the way, how is he celebrating his birthday?

He is, of course, behind the wheel of a New York City cab. As we speak here, he is happily at work.

He is a true one of a kind.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rant #1,739: 21!

On Saturday, we celebrated my son's 21st birthday a few days early. His actual birthday is today, August 23, but we had friends and family over on the weekend to mark this very, very special birthday. We had a simple barbecue, hot dogs, hamburgers, even some sausage that my wife enjoys.

Nothing crazy, just a lot of fun. And the weather held up, which made it even better.

Here are some photos that my wife and my sister took of the occasion.

This year, we are having two celebrations, because both of my son's grandfathers are ailing right now, and really can't travel great distances. In addition to this one, we are having one this coming Saturday at a restaurant for my wife's side of the family so my son's maternal grandfather can attend. The one we had this past Saturday was for my side of our clan, so his paternal grandfather could be part of it.

It hasn't been easy during the past 21 years. Our son has pushed his way past a number of obstacles, and has become a success in spite of some of the naysayers who said he couldn't do it.

The measurement of success is relative, but him beating the odds makes him a success in my and his mom's eyes.

He is a good kid, and like me, he doesn't take no for an answer, and his stubbornness to succeed has made him what he is today.

He works, enjoys what he does, and he has his hobbies, which he can pursue when he has some free time.

When he came into this world 21 years ago, I was in heaven. To have both a son and a daughter duplicated what my parents did when they had my sister and I, and having two happy, healthy kids was all I could ask for in life, and that is what I got.

True, there were hurdles to scale with our son, but through it all--and with the help of some others in his life, including a solid family--he has done all we can ask for.

There are still many mountains to scale, but we have no doubt in our minds that our son will be able to not only scale those mountains, but even move them. Yes, we have lots of confidence in him.

The best thing is that his future has no bounds. My wife and I have always believed in him, and he can go as high in life as he wants to.

He is on the right road now. The future is so bright that we might all have to wear sunglasses in order to see the light that is our son.

Congratulations on reaching your 21st year. You are a man now, not that you haven't been before, but now, legally, you are an adult, and we look forward to your future.

But to me, you are simply the greatest son a guy could ever have.