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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rant #1,482: Rant Fodder

I am sure that you, as one of the multitude of people who read this blog on a daily basis, wonder how I come up with the topics I speak about.

It is really not rocket science, I can tell you that.

Sometimes, certain news stories irk me, and I feel I have to write about these items.

Other times, I simply like to reminisce, or talk about subjects that are near and dear to me.

Still other times, I seemingly pull topics out of the air that I am breathing at that moment.

Honestly, there are times that I have no idea what I am going to write about until I actually sit down and write about them.

Other times, I know exactly what I want to write about.

The thought process often starts as I get up and get ready for my day at work.

I do think clearer in the morning, so sometimes, the thoughts come to me as I am getting up.

Then there are times when I know exactly what I want to write about, even the day before I do so.

A lot of times, it really is a no brainer; it is an anniversary of something, or I did something over the weekend or the previous day that I feel the need to talk about.

And you, as my audience, have every right to read, not to read, and to agree or disagree with me, which seems to be a unique concept to some people who are charter members of the PC Police, a group that I often talk about.

Mind control is prevalent today, both in our schools and our way of life, and I don't buy into being politically correct. Never have, and never will.

But there are some people who feel that we must bow down to thoughts of others, that we must act and behave in a way that is perfect for today's world.

I don't believe that, and that is why I write about what I want here, and I express my opinions free of any guilt whatsover.

Over nearly 1,500 columns, I have pulled just one, and that was at the request of my daughter.

She found it to be too personal, and I did remove it, because I did not want her to feel that way.

But otherwise, everything I have put up here for more than six years is a real peek into me, into my personality, and into what I believe in.

And I never said I was correct on all these subjects. They are simply my views.

If you agree, fine. If you don't agree, fine. If you are somewhere in the middle, fine.

I find discussion interesting, but today, people do not want to discuss, they want to ram their opinions down your throats.

I try not to do that. Perhaps some things I say are taken the wrong way, but if you have a different opinion, that is fine, as long as you handle your rebuttal in an adult, civil manner.

And that is my column for today ... and for the week, I'm afraid.

Tomorrow, I have to take care of some personal business, so I won't be around.

I will be back on Monday, with Rant #1,483.

I will see you then, Cub Scout honor.

Classic Rant #134 (November 17, 2009): What Do You Call the Westbury Music Fair?

I think that most people on the East Coast of the United States have heard of the Westbury Music Fair.

This venue, which has operated since the late 1960s in this town in Nassau County, Long Island, has hosted just about every musical act under the sun, including the likes of Judy Garland, Tom Jones, the Monkees, Jay Black, Ringo Starr, Cheap Trick, the Doors, the Temptations ... it virtually reads like a who's who of pop music during the past 40 years.

It has also had hundreds of the top comics of the day, including Steven Wright, George Carlin, Jackie Mason ... again, a who's who of comedy over the past four decades.

It has hosted many, many other events, such as boxing and wrestling matches, and even numerous high school graduations.

But it is perhaps best known as the venue with the revolving stage. Yes, it moves like a record player turntable while the performers do their thing. I have been to the theater many times, and I have seen many, many performers lose their bearings and not know where they are as the thing moves. Some performers have in their contracts that they will not perform with a revolving stage, such as Aretha Franklin. Others learn the hard way; I once saw the Monkees' Davy Jones fall off the stage, break his arm, but continue to sing!

The show must go on, even when you are in a daze and hurting!

Although it still operates--and continues to be called by performers as their favorite place to perform--what it doesn't have now is a name.

After going under the Westbury Music Fair monicker, it has been under corporate sponsorship for the past four or five years or so. I believe its last name was the Capitol One Theater at Westbury, or something like that, but it had several names before that.

But Capitol One has not renewed its sponsorship agreement, so the venue is now called The Theater at Westbury or something like that.

Funny, through all the name changes, performers still refer to the venue as the Westbury Music Fair.

While the venue searches for a corporate sponsor, my question is this: if they find one, why can't they keep the name Westbury Music Fair?

I think the reason is that if they do that, their name will get buried, no one will use it, and they will be out several thousand dollars without any benefit from their investment.

For instance, if the place ends up being called "Joe Shmoe Westbury Music Fair," do you think anyone will care about Joe Shmoe? They will just call it the Westbury Music Fair ...

Just like everyone still calls it, even with all the name changes.

I saw my first real concert there, in 1969. It was a Motown Revue with Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Temptations, and Willie Tyler and Lester(!). "Cloud Nine" was just released, and the place was absolutely wild!

I have seen hundreds of productions since then; I even saw Robert Goulet in "Camelot" there.

I have always loved the theater, but to me, no matter what its name is, it will always be to me--and just about everyone else--

The Westbury Music Fair ... and I hope it stays that way, in some form, when they finally find a corporate sponsor.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rant #1,481: Fields of Glory

Yesterday evening, the Texas Rangers got off to a 5-0 lead in the first inning against the New York Yankees at home in Arlington, Texas.

My wife had to watch one of her zombie shows, so since I wanted to watch the game instead, I turned to my tablet, which could pick up the game on Fox Sports 1, where it was the national game last night.

After watching the top of the first inning, when the Yankees went out 1-2-3 without much of a whimper, for some reason, the picture kept going in and out on the tablet, and finally, it went out completely, so I had to put the tablet away and count the minutes until I could watch the game.

I missed about 30 minutes of action, but I ended up missing a lot.

Finally, my wife's show was over, and we turned the game on the TV, and the Yankees were losing 5-0.

I said to my wife, "We might be switching this game off soon."

She replied to me, "It's just the first inning. Maybe they can come back."

Well, yes, they came back, and not just a normal comeback, but one of those that you will never forget.

In the top of the second inning, the Yankees scored 11 runs, yes, 11 runs.

Fifteen batters came to the plate in that inning, and while the Rangers struck out the side, 12 other times during the inning, the Yankees got on base with either a hit or a walk.

But this was just the beginning, as during the third inning, the Yankees scored four more times on a grand slam, and they ended up scoring 21 unanswered runs in a 21-5 rout of the Rangers.

As I was watching that second inning, I thought I was watching a Little League game, and it harkened me back to my personal days of yore as a player in the Rochdale Village Athletic League when I was a kid.

I played in that league from its inception in 1964 to its last days in 1972.

I wasn't very good, but I loved to play those games. I looked forward to those games like most kids look forward to their birthday. And the surprise gifts I got during those games have lasted me a lifetime.

We originally played on a dirt field, and I don't remember if I originally played hardball or softball, or maybe both.

Later moving onto the fabled "gravel pit," which is just what it was advertised as, an area filled with gravel, we played softball, and those are the games I remember most, with all the bad hops and everything that came with playing on such a field.

My teams were always coached by someone I knew very well, initially by my friends' dads and later by my own father.

I wasn't very good, but I got my licks in.

I mainly played second base, but early on, I did play first base, I was the catcher, and yes, I even pitched one game where I must have walked about 20 guys, struck a few out, and was as overheated as I have ever been in my entire life.

Those days were so much fun, as my teams won two league championships, if I recall.

One game was played under the lights, where they actually had to string up lights so we could see what we were doing. It was played in the gravel pit, as I recall, and I had my most memorable moment of my "career" during that game, sliding into home plate and knocking the ball out of a 300-plus pound catcher's mitt.

I was safe, but was I really safe, in the physical sense? I knocked myself out, really saw stars, and probably suffered a mild concussion on the play, even though yes, I did score.

During those days, you came to, and that was that. Today, I would have been rushed to the hospital and put under a doctor's care. I really and truly blacked out during that play, but as they say, all's well that ends well.

Being a kid in the Little League was going to be the highest level of baseball I would ever play, but at least years later, I returned the favor to my own son, and was his coach for his first four years of Little League.

So when I watched yesterday's Yankees' game, I just had to go back in my memory and try to remember similar games that posted outlandish comebacks and scores like this one did. And yes, I did remember one memorable game we had.

I think our team was losing 11-0 in the second or third inning, and the umpire told my father that if we didn't come back to tie the score in our next at bat, he was going to call the game, due to the mercy rule.

My father understood, was not happy about it, but he told us all that that was going to happen if we did not come back.

Well, we sure did come back--we scored 13 runs the next inning. I was on base about three times. I know I got at least one hit, probably walked the other times.

And yes, we won the game, but I don't remember the final score.

And afterwards, as was customary with my father as the coach, we all walked over to the neighborhood Carvel and got milk shakes. If we won, he would buy, if we lost, no milk shakes. So we had to win to get those milk shakes. Call it a bribe, but it worked.

Anyway, yesterday's game conjured up so many images of the RVAL for me, and like Sly Stone once sang, "Summer days, those summer days ... "

What more can I say. I was a true "boy of summer," and will always be one, and those great days in the gravel pit are days I will never, ever forget.

Classic Rant #133 (November 16, 2009): Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey

It is just a few days before Thanksgiving, and I have to admit that I am starting to get the pre-Thanksgiving blues.

I can't wait for this holiday--I am pretty burned out from work lately, and Thanksgiving always serves as a respite from the usual daily cares that I have. And since I get Black Friday off, too, it makes for a nice, tidy, four-day weekend.

The problem is, there are still 10 days to go before the holiday.

Within those 10 days, there is the usual hustle and bustle of the work week, the usual things that you have to do at home, and all of that, for me, is piled around another of my endless eye examinations to see if that rogue vein that was growing in my eye has been obliterated. I sure hope it has, because it has caused nothing but trouble for me. It came uninvited, and hopefully it has gotten the heck out of my body.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving will be a little different for me, because my sister and her family will not be celebrating it with us. They are seeing some relatives on her husband's side of the family that they have not seen in years, so they won't be at our Thanksgiving meal. I think it is the first time ever that I won't celebrate the holiday with my sister, but so be it.

My daughter also won't be there, as she will be celebrating the holiday with friends once she comes back to our area from school.

My wife invited over some friends, so with my parents in tow, we will have a good gathering.

Up until then, I guess I just have to grit my teeth and make it through the next couple of days.

I think I can do it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rant #1,480: Delivering the Newspaper

During Craig Biggio's eloquent Baseball Hall of Fame speech on Sunday, he mentioned that he delivered the daily newspaper as a kid growing up in Kings Park on Long Island.

So many people have delivered the newspaper while they were growing up.

It is almost the All-American thing to do.

Doctors, lawyers, politicians ... you name the occupation, and at one time or another as kids, they delivered the newspaper.

I did too.

I started my newspaper delivering career as a backup deliverer for the old Long Island Press.

I did it exactly one time, one time only, and I was terrible.

I was sick the Sunday morning that I did it, the papers were late, and I think that after that experience, I was crossed off the list as someone who could be trusted to deliver the newspaper on a Sunday morning.

I also helped a friend deliver the newspaper, but I am sure he probably would have been happier if I was not there "helping" him. He could move faster and get the job done quicker alone.

He is now a doctor. I am sure he doesn't need my assistance doing that job.

Anyway, when I did this newspaper delivering, I was probably 12 or 13 years old.

Flash forward nearly 30 years later, and due to economic problems--my divorce nearly killed me--I took up my second newspaper job, as an adult deliverer.

I delivered the New York Times overnight in a neighboring town to where I live, and it was the hardest, easiest job I ever had.

The hard part was the hours. I would go to bed at 7 p.m., wake up at about 11 p.m., take a shower and get my butt down to the depot before 12 midnight.

It would take me about two or two and a half hours to deliver the newspaper during the week and on Saturday, but on Sunday, it took probably about three or three and a half hours to do this.

It wasn't difficult, and once you got the hang of it, it was pretty easy.

You were like a robot, going from house to house on your route.

And you delivered the papers from your own car, so it made you comfortable.

But driving around at that time of night was interesting.

I did get stopped by the police a few times, but once the police got to know me and the car I drove in, they actually used me as sort of a night watchman.

They would stop me from time to time and ask if I had seen anybody or anything strange, or if I had seen someone that they were pursuing.

Once, I actually saw some kids who were not doing nice things to some cars. This was pre-cell phone days in the mid 1990s, and I just couldn't phone in what I saw like I would today.

I told them that the police were looking for them, and that they had better stop what they were doing.

Who knows what happened after that; I had newspapers to deliver.

I ran over a dog once while doing this, I never saw the thing and the dog never saw me.

I would have preferred to have run over some of my customers, a few of which were impossible to please.

They asked for their paper to be put in special places, like in the mailbox, on the side of the house, or inside the door. I obliged everyone's request, of course, but some people you simply could not please.

If, let's say, the newspaper was put behind the door, and perhaps it fell and the door door didn't close all the way, which meant the paper was half sticking out the door, you just know that I would hear about it the very next day.

Other times, people would steal the paper I delivered, so some people did not get their newspapers.

And then, there were others who said I delivered the newspaper too early for them.

Whatever the case, I did these deliveries while my wife was pregnant with our son, and I did this while I lost my job when he was a baby.

There were some nights that I did this that I simply did not go to sleep at all due to things that I did during the day. There was simply no time for sleep, and I just went to the depot sometimes not having slept for a day or two.

When my son was born, I would come home, and he often needed a feeding at about 3:30 a.m., and with one eye open, I would feed him, put him back in his crib, and maybe sleep for an hour or two.

When I still had my regular job, I went to that job at about 5 a.m., often shaved in the bathroom there, and everything was hunky dory. I had to drive into Queens back then for my job, but it was a relatively easy drive during that time of morning. At night, it was a horror show.

During the portion of time that I delivered the paper while I was out of work, I simply began my job hunting very early in the day after getting a few hours sleep.

This went on until my 39th birthday, on April 28, 1996.

I was hired at my new job--the job I am still at to this day--the previous month, and one morning, for the first and only time, I conked out at work for about 20 minutes. Luckily, no one saw me, but I simply passed out.

At that time, I decided that the marriage between the newspapers and me was over, and after having done this for slightly over a year, I left my newspaper delivery position. The people liked me there, and said that if I ever needed a route, they would find one for me.

Happily, that has not happened, and my last day was my birthday, making the whole thing that much better.

I don't know how I did this job, but there were people in all walks of life who delivered the paper. There were moms, dads, blue collar, white collar ... everyone.

Some people actually had several routes, and did this for a living.

I have no idea how they did this, but they did. And they made decent money doing it.

My route paid $150 a week, plus tips, of which I received little if anything. I knew one guy who had four routes, all large, so he made at least $600 a week, with tips, and he worked some wealthy areas, and during the holiday season, he would often get tips of $1,000 or more.

Whatever the case, newspaper delivery is something that I did, and I have no regrets.

It did not lead to a Hall of Fame baseball career like what happened to Craig Biggio, but it teaches you discipline and responsibility, traits that you can use on your actual daily job, and in life.

And there's nothing wrong with that, is there?

Classic Rant #132 (November 13, 2009): Gearing Up For the Holidays

Well, I simply can't stand Christmas ads and promotions even before Halloween rolled around this year, and I still can't stand them when we are still about two weeks away from Thanksgiving.

That being said ...

Evidently, some information has leaked out about Target's upcoming Black Friday--the day after Thanksgiving--promotions. They will be offering $3 appliances, and a 32-in. HDTV for about $250, among other things.

This is all understandable. Last year, department stores took a real bath when it came to the holidays. The economy was really bad, lots of people were out of work, and the department stores felt something of a backlash from the public, who simply didn't want to overspend--like they normally do--around holiday time.

This year, the economy is still bad but improving, lots of people remain out of work, but department stores figure they have nothing to lose by offering amazing deals to get people into their stores.

And this is the time of year where they make the largest percentage of their profits for the year, so it is pretty much on the heads of the department stores to do something drastic to get people buying again.

Target isn't the only retailer who will offer ridiculous deals, I will tell you that. Don't you think other stores, like Macy's Kohl's, Kmart and even Wal-Mart are shaping up their holiday assortment to get people to reach into their pocketbooks (or wallets) again?

Me, I am looking to buy another computer for my wife, who is increasingly finding reasons to go onto the two computers we already have. Maybe I will get her a netbook, but I can tell you, I won't buy something like this unless the price is right--and I have the ready cash at hand. No charging for me this holiday season.

I have already bought my son Beatles Rock Band, and I would like to get him some of his passions, which are wrestling videos. He loves all of them from WWE and TNA, and they are generally affordable, although I noticed that WWE has raised the price of some of its videos by as much as $5. This is just stupid business, because people like me will cut down on the videos that they buy because the price isn't right.

My daughter always asks for money for the holidays, and money she will get. I would like to give her a good amount, but again, it depends on what level of ready cash I have.

Then there are my parents, who are people who have everything, but love it when I find something that they don't have. The search is on!

There are some other gifts for other people that I need to buy, and that shouldn't be a problem. I personally like to shop before Black Friday, because I hate the crowds during that day. And since I am generally shopping for Hanukkah, and not Christmas, I usually have a shorter time span to get what I need. This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 11, or exactly two weeks prior to Christmas.

Anyway, happy shopping, grab as many discounted products as you can, but watch your pocketbooks. We are still not out of whatever our country is in here, and overspending, I think, may be a thing of the past for most Americans.

I hope it is for me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rant #1,479: The Hulkster Gets Pinned to the Mat ... By Words, Not Muscle

I am sure that you heard late last week that the WWE canned Hulk Hogan, fired him for uttering a racial slur.

The whole thing came out due to his sex tape mess, where he is arguing that a former friend tried to blackmail him by making a sex tape with Hogan as its star, without the pro wrestler's knowledge.

Evidently, eight years ago, Hogan was being interviewed on Sirius radio, and he uttered the slur related to a story he was telling listeners about, related to rappers, his daughter, and a then-beau that she was seeing that was going to bankroll her career.

To put it in a nutshell, Hogan basically said that he was becoming very friendly with some rappers in Florida, they used the N-word all the time, used it to address him, and he then started to use it, and he asked, "If they can use the N-word, why can't I?"

And for this, something that happened eight years ago, he was canned by the WWE.

Boy, if this isn't a case of people in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones, then what is?

The WWE, as a major, multi-billion dollar corporation, is trying to save face here, but aren't they about the biggest hypocrites in the world?

The WWE is built on being un-PC. The very foundation of the company is built on stereotypes of every kind.

And they sacked Hogan because he said something supposedly heinous eight years ago?

This is the same organization that not only uses rappers for musical segments on its shows--no, they don't allow the N-word in their music on the show, but that is clearly not the point here--but they revel in black stereotypes.

Take their current tag team sensation, called The New Day.

Three wrestlers enter the ring, prancing, dancing, jiving, twisting their voices so they sound like the most stereotypical of blacks, and they get away with this.

And there have been others in the past, resembling pimps, who have pranced down the aisle toward the ring, or have been used in subservient roles.

And what about other stereotypes that are perpetuated on their shows?

Let's see ... all Irish people love to fight ... very tall people are brutes ... and the worst one of all, that all of their female talent must be whores because they dress like streetwalkers.

And then there is the bullying aspect, which is as part of wrestling as the "1-2-3" on the mat is.

This is an organization that is following the PC Police in its efforts to make everything "right?"

And remember, Hulk Hogan said these things eight years ago. He has apologized in 2015 for some things he said in 2007. He has also tried to save face, and save the WWE's face, by saying that he resigned, that he was not fired, but that is hogwash.

He is/was/will always be their biggest star, and you must have a valid reason for sacking such a star.

The whole thing smells of PC Police nonsense ... I mean, will Chairman Vince McMahon swear that he never, ever used the N-word in conversation? Can anyone swear to that?

I know that I can't, and yes, I find the word repugnant, too, as I do ethnic slurs against Italians, Irish and Jews, among others.

But have I uttered the word? Yes, I have. Not on a tape, mind you, but in private conversation I have uttered the word, sometimes as a example of what one should not say, as I explained it to my son when he was younger, and he was confused by its usage in modern pop culture.

But back to the WWE ...

It appears that in our PC Policed society today, we are on a witch hunt for anything that goes against that group's policy, no matter when it was made.

Although I cannot stand Paula Dean, she has been the victim of this witch hunt, too, trying to perpetuate this nonsensical "white guilt" thing that the PC Police have festered on our current time.

I don't know about you, but I have no guilt about anything, racial or otherwise. My people have been persecuted, too, but I don't hold it over the heads of people.

But this white guilt thing is popular, today, for whatever reason, and things done in a different time are just as suspect as things done today.

But some people are immune to this. Rappers certainly are. For some reason, they are allowed to spread their repugnant behavior all around, and are not subject to any discipline, figuratively or literally, at all.

Heck, what they do is A-R-T.

For the WWE to go after one of its own icons, a guy who helped make the WWE what it is today, is ridiculous, to say the least, in particular related to an incident eight years ago.

They should be ashamed of themselves, and the next time I see the New Day, I am just going to scream ...

As we all should.

Phoney is as phoney does.

Classic Rant #131 (November 12, 2009): Facebook Smackdown

Well, it has finally come to this.

I have taken my son off of Facebook. I think it is a bit too much for him to handle right now, so, to his chagrin, I removed his account.

Of course, you can't fully remove an account from Facebook. I discovered that after I removed his account, I could still access his information. In fact, I could start him up 1-2-3 again if I wanted to.

But I don't.

The problem is, as I have said before, that Facebook is being used incorrectly by the 14-year-olds of the world. They use it as an instant messaging service, and when they post something, they demand a reply quickly. If anybody interrupts this flow, they attack that person unmercifully, which is what happened to my son time and time again.

My son is a good kid, but I think he was in way over his head with Facebook. He got attacked left and right, even though his messages were not nasty in any way.

The major drawback with posting messages on Facebook and even through email is that you don't get the nuances you get when speaking to someone face to face or even on the phone. Some people took my son's messages to be something that they were not intended to be, and this led to numerous problems.

So last night was the last straw, and my wife and I pulled the plug on Facebook for him.

Look, we are not stupid. He can get on it again. We explained to him why Facebook was not a place for him to visit, and warned him that if he did, and we found out about it, he would face some type of punishment from us--probably taking his computer away for good.

My son is a good kid as I said before, but he is not a kid that is going to benefit from being on Facebook. So we took him off, and hopefully, he won't exhibit the anxiety that he has since he first got on and during the past few weeks.