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Friday, September 30, 2016

Rant #1,762: The New Year

Sunday night begins what for Jews around the world is the most holy of times, the most sacred of times, the beginning of our new year, which starts off after sundown tomorrow with Rosh Hashanah.

This begins the most sacred period of reflection for those of the Jewish faith, and culminates with Yom Kippur a few days later.

I will get into that more in a moment, but first, my new year is going to start off with a bang, so to speak.

Yesterday, you might remember that I told you about my tooth woes, and how they were driving me up the wall.

I asked for advice, because I thought my own dentist abandoned me, and I still think that way.

I took the advice of one of our regular readers, and off to a periodontist I went.

The periodontist told me pretty much right away what my problem was.

Evidently, I have a tooth way back in my mouth that has grown in sideways. This one tooth is one of my wisdom teeth, teeth that I have never had a problem with until now.

This is something that is not that hard to believe with me, as 50 years ago, I had eight to 12 baby teeth pulled at one sitting because, well, they weren't coming out naturally, and yes, some were growing in every which way.

This time, the tooth growing in the wrong way is rubbing against the next tooth, which is rubbing against the next tooth, and so on, causing a calamity in my mouth.

I am now scheduled for dental surgery on Monday, October 17.

And while one never looks to have surgery, this procedure--which I am told takes half an hour, and I will be up for it, with all the deadening agents used to prevent me from feeling a lot of the pain in place--is something that I am kind of looking forward to.

As Dr. Smith from "Lost in Space" used to say, "The pain, the pain!"

I won't say it will be fun, but it will be necessary, because at times, I swear, I feel like I just want to rip the affected teeth out of my mouth with my own hands.

So again, I must thank one of our regular readers, who I have had issues with in the past, but who this time came through big time.

I just wish that my own dentist would have stepped up to the plate on this one, but he didn't, although he did provide the periodontist with recent X-rays and did suggest a surgeon for me.

Why this wasn't done in the recent past is beyond my comprehension.

So my new year will begin with an extraction. I hope it is the only thing I lose in the coming year.

Now, back to talking about the coming year, year 5777 on the Jewish calendar.

Rosh Hashanah literally means "the head of the year," and it is the first of the High Holidays, leading into the holiest day for Jews, Yom Kippur, 10 days later.

It is a time for reflection, a time to look back at the past year and to also look ahead on how you can do better during the new year.

Many Jews attend services at their local synagogues during this period, and pray for themselves and for their loved ones. Remembrances of those who have left us are also part of the ceremonies.

To me, the High Holy Days are of major importance, although I admittedly do not attend services like I once did.

My family gets together with other family members during this period of time, and we reflect on the past year, and how we can be even better during the New Year.

I have always felt that every Jew has his own way to honor this period. Some feel the need to go to synagogue and pray, others are at home and do it their own way, and that is the way my family does it, since we do not belong to a synagogue at this time.

We once did, of course, and we could now, but honestly, there are other issues with the synagogues in our area that I won't get into now, and that is why we haven't joined them.

Yes, some would consider that to be a copout, but one thing that you can say for Jews is that we do things to our own drum beat, and that is what has made us strong through the ages, probably the main reason why through years of persecution, we are still here and still strong.

I do fast on Yom Kippur, but this year, I am going to be away. In the past when this has happened--one other time that I can remember--I have chosen another day to fast. It is not what I am supposed to be doing, but I do believe God understands.

And yes, I do believe in God. I believe in his almighty presence, his power, and his strength.

And when I say "his," even if God is a woman or some mix of the two sexes or something else, I believe in God 100 percent.

I look back at the past year, and it has been an incredible run indeed.

And I hope to make the new year even better.

I thank God for whatever I have done this year, and I especially thank God for helping my father to recover from pneumonia to the level that he has reached.

I thank God for having a great family, great kids and the best wife a guy could ever have.

And I thank God for allowing me to be me, which is reflected in this column, to a certain extent, five days a week.

And I thank you, my faithful readers, for taking a few minutes out of your day to visit here and see what I have to say.

So Happy New Year to all my Jewish friends, and I know that with God's help and guidance, I will make it through my oral surgery and do the best I can do to make the new year better than the past year was.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Classic Rant #415 (January 3, 2011): New Year’s Honors

Happy New Year!

I guess when you read the title of this rant, the first of 2011, you thought I was going to give out awards for the best of various items of the past year.

Well, guess again.

I am sure that you heard that the Navy is targeting a video that was released on the USS Enterprise which supposedly starred Capt. Owen Honors, USN, when he was the executive officer of the ship. He has since been promoted and is now the ship's commander.

The video, which was supposedly only broadcast over the ship's closed circuit system, shows Honors talking about a variety of topics, including homosexuality and, err, self pleasuring.

No nudity is shown in the video, but there are scenes of two women in a shower and also two men showering, fake stimulation, and other things.

The video was made in 2006 or 2007, so why is it coming to the surface now?

Evidently, some shipmates were turned off by the video then, and may have voiced some mild complaints, but they kind of fell to the wayside.

In the meantime, Honors was promoted to the top helm of the ship.

An investigation has been launched, looking into whether Honors was actually personally involved in the making of the video. I guess they have to be sure, because using various techniques, he could be in the video but may not have authorized it.

Sure, the topics discussed in the video aren't politically correct right now, and supposedly the video was made to shed a lighthearted spotlight on some topics that were important to the ship at the time.

My question is: during wartime, when did the creators of this video have the time to put this thing together?

Sure, it's not all weapons and machinery on board a ship. I guess you have to have a lighthearted way of looking at things when you are manning such a vessel.

But why put out a video? And if it was authorized by Honors, why did he give his OK?

And again, when did the video makers have time to do this?

An investigation is being launched, and all I can say is that 2011 has gotten off to a bang, hasn't it?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rant #1,761: Truth Decay

For the past couple of weeks, and through my trip to Korea, my teeth have been killing me.

They hurt like the Dickens, and as I am typing this, they are hurting me right now.

They hurt me at work, they hurt me when I try to go to sleep, and they hurt me, in particular, when I eat.

My teeth have been a mess the past year or two. After more than 30 years of having had absolutely no problems with my teeth, today, at age 59, I feel like my head is going to explode.

The latest episode--and the worst in my estimation--revolved around a crown that I need on the right side of my mouth, all the way in the back.

I had what amounted to a double root canal on the tooth, so I started to eat entirely on the left side so that I would avoid eating on the worked on right side.

The left side always felt faulty in my mouth anyway. It kind of stung, but the pain never lasted more than a second or two, so I felt confident that the left side could withstand whatever I would eat on that side.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

As the procedure to get a crown on the right side continued--I still don't have that crown, only a filled cavity--the pain on my left side increased.

It is now at the point where I have it when I don't even eat on that side, as I have been forced to eat on the right side, which also hurts, but only on occasion.

I went to the dentist as an emergency patient this past Saturday, the day after I came home from my Korea trip, and the dentist found nothing, and I mean nothing, wrong in my mouth.

I told him that the pain continued, even if he found nothing. He said that he was sorry, but based on X-rays and visuals, he found absolutely nothing wrong with my teeth.

A few weeks earlier, my wife and I went to our regular doctor for a checkup, and as he stuck the wood in my mouth and asked me to say "AAAH," I asked him on a lark to see if he could see anything in my mouth.

He said that while he could not help me, yes, he saw irritation on the left side.

So how come the dentist doesn't see this?

I think, now that I am a couple of days removed from my last dentist visit, that all the dentist is looking at is his handiwork on my mouth, which he has declared to be fine.

He is not looking for irritation, so he doesn't see the agony I am now going through.

Yes, it is time to look for a new dentist. But I have to have the crown procedure done before I do that.

But maybe what comes around goes around.

As a child, my teeth were not very good, solid and strong, never hurting me, but growing in every which way possible.

I once had between eight and 12 baby teeth pulled at one sitting, because they were not falling out like they should have been. I remember the day well, and believe it or not, the pulling didn't hurt that much, because most of the teeth were falling out and just needed a little push to fully come out.

I wore braces for a number of years, and quite honestly, once those braces came off, my teeth settled, and for decades, I never had a problem.

I laughed as much as anybody when I was told I had "black man's teeth," wherein the roots of the teeth are very long, much like men's teeth of those of African extraction.

But those long roots aren't a laughing matter now, because that is where the problem is, where the decay is happening, and in my mind, I don't think that even with root canal, they are getting deep enough into the problem.

I feel I may need a specialist, perhaps even a gum specialist, to really find out what is wrong with my mouth, but for right now, I need to stick with my dentist, see what he can do for me, and see if anything subsides once the crown is finally put in.

The problem is that I have to wait until November to get this done, and no, I am not a happy camper about that wait.

I had pain in Korea, will have pain on my upcoming cruise, and to be away and suffer pain like this really isn't too much fun, especially when I am being told that there is nothing wrong.

My ear is staring to hurt on the left side too, so yes, I am a mess.

But I am being told that there is nothing wrong, so I have to keep telling myself that, even though I know it is not true.

What more can I do to pacify myself at this point in time?

My teeth hurt, my mouth is a mess, and I don't seem to have any recourse.

Any suggestions?

Classic Rant #414 (December 30, 2010): The End of the Year As We Know It

It's the end of the year as we know it ... and in spite of everything, I feel fine.

Yes, I have had pretty good health this year, and I am happy for that.

Over the past few years, I have had some vision problems, have had my gall bladder removed --on my birthday in 2008--and have had doctors tell me that my cholesterol level is up.

Due to stronger medication, watching my diet a little bit more (well, my wife watches my diet more than I do), and some other small changes, I am healthier now than I was a year ago.

However, I am probably still not where I should be. I am overweight, and still have a penchant for cookies of any kind, a failing I have had since childhood, as depicted in the pictures accompanying this rant. (God, was I ever really that young?)

I don't have the vision problems anymore, although I still have to be checked every couple of months for any reoccurrence.

What I am saying, in a nutshell, is that I am good to go for 2011.

I think that things are looking up as I enter my 54th year on this planet.

Sure, I still have tension and stress, but maybe things are going to get better.


Maybe not.

But I have to feel positive. If you don't feel positive, how can you face another dreary year?

I'm a believer, as the song says (by the way, happy birthday to Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones, former Monkees born on the same day to different mothers).

Maybe I'm a daydream believer (notice the Monkees reference again), but I think 2011 will be a good year--or at least better than 2010 was.

So here's to 2011.

Yes, I am playing the lottery this week, and hope to win a bundle.

If that happens, that will make 2011 the best year ever (or 2010, since the ticket will be bought this year).

But even if that doesn't happen, I look forward to the new year.

It should be fun. See you back here on Monday.

I will let you know how the year is going for me then.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rant #1,760: Jet Lag

I overslept by an hour today.

My left eye can't seem to stay open.

My nose is running and everything hurts me.

No, I don't have a hangover, I am just now getting over jet lag.

While our trip to Korea last week was the most wonderful experience one could possibly have, it did a number on my body, and one of the main things it did was to put my entire body out of joint in the manner of jet lag.

First, we had to get used to West Coast time, as on the first leg of our trip, we traveled from New York to Los Angeles, California.

That is the three-hour difference right there.

Then we had to travel to Seoul, which was a 13 hour trip going there, and yes, that is the one that pretty much completely through my body off.

Right now, in Seoul, it is nearing 6:30 in the evening, so it is a 13-hour difference.

What is for us the morning is the evening for them, and we had to acclimate ourselves to the time change, which for some was easy, for others, not.

I was a "not" in this case.

I didn't sleep much the first three days, and once I got acclimated to the topsy turvy time change, it was about time to leave that beautiful city.

So I then had to re-acclimate myself back to the time I had been used to for pretty much my entire 59-plus years on this planet, and it took me another several days to do that.

Before last night, I simply could not get to sleep, or maintain much sleep at all, but finally, last night, I slept.

And I overslept, and my eyes are killing me, my nose is running haywire, and I feel like I got run over by a Mack truck.

I guess I simply can't win, whatever time location I am in.

But all in all, it was well worth it, to visit another land and another culture.

I would do it all over again if I could.

But as for sleep ... I proved that for a few days last week and a few days this week, I really don't need it.

It is overrated.


Classic Rant #413 (December 29, 2010): Sober vs. Drunk

A woman says two intoxicated fans at a Cincinnati Bengals game last year fell on her, breaking her nose and finger and causing other injuries.

The woman and her husband are suing the Bengals, the beer vendor and the county-owned football stadium for negligence, alleging they continued to serve alcohol to "noticeably intoxicated" fans at a 2009 NFL game.

The Bengals, through a spokesman, have declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

We have all been to sports events where fans get a bit unruly. I know I have been to several. The last one was at a Knicks-Nets contest earlier this year at Madison Square Garden, where, when the game was out of hand, some fans in the upper seats near me started to go at it. They were noticeably sloshy, let's say, and I was glad that the game ended quickly, because if it were longer, who knows what would have happened.

As a kid, one drunk challenged my friend's father to a fight during a Yankees-Red Sox game. My friend's father had just come out of the hospital after suffering a heart attack, but as a proud former Army service member, he was ready to go at it, although he was at least double the age of the drunk. Happily, my father talked him out of it.

So this stuff has been going on forever.

What can a team and a stadium do?

They have limited the availability of alcohol up to a certain point in the game. And they will get rid of boorish people who decide that the stadium is their living room.

But the only other option is to completely ban the sale of alcoholic beverages period, which I don't think they will ever do. It's just too much of loss of a revenue stream for them to do this.

So what else can you do? I just don't know, but again, it all adds up to what people can do to watch themselves.

There is nothing wrong with having a beer at a football game. Nothing at all.

However, having seven beers at a football game is wrong. Or coming to the game buzzed and then getting sloshed at the game is wrong too.

I don't understand how people can drink excessively at a game anyway. You are there to watch the game; how can you watch the game when you are drunk as a skunk?

People have to know their limits; you can't expect the team or arena to know every fan's alcohol limit.

Less a ban, I don't know what the solution is.

But like drinking when driving, drinking excessively when you are at a football game or any game, for that matter, is really stupid.

And during this time of year, when many people lose their minds anyway, is not the right time to drink excessively.

So if you have a beer or two, fine. But don't have seven or eight, especially if you are driving.

I mean, what's so fun about being drunk anyway?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rant #1,759: The End of An Era

Lost amidst the hubbub surrounding my wife and my visit to Seoul, Korea was the fact that my father evidently has retired from driving a cab for good, after more than 50 years behind the wheel.

He is nearly 85 years of age, is still dealing with the after-effects of pneumonia, and my mother has decided that the work is too strenuous for him, so she has said that that is that.

Yes, my mother decided that, because if my father had his way, he would still be behind the wheel.

I told my mother that she was right, but that she should leave his options open. If they are short on cash one week for whatever reason, if he is fit enough and feels OK, he can go in and drive, maybe once in a blue moon.

But for all intents and purposes, his career as a New York City licensed medallion cab driver is over and done with.

He worked two weeks ago one day, and while he had a good day, you could see that the time away from the cab--after contracting pneumonia several weeks earlier--did play on him.

He looked a little worn out, but that is understandable after having been away from work for many weeks.

But his doctor's diagnosis that he still was battling pneumonia pretty much put the final nail in his career, and being that he is of an advanced age, he might actually still have this sickness for several more weeks, even if, at this point, it is very slight.

So his career is for all intents and purposes over and done with, and while he admits he enjoys being home after so many years behind the wheel, he has had a fabulous career, one that he can look back on with glee.

My father started out as a kosher chicken butcher on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and he worked with my grandfather in a store on Delancey Street.

As the area changed, their business wasn't what it once was, and then Mayor John Lindsay announced that a bridge would be built at that spot, and that they had to vacate this area as work was to begin.

This was really the tipping point for the next 50-plus years of my father's life, and even though that bridge was never built, it was the best non-event that could ever happen to anyone.

My father did not know what to do--continue as a butcher?--but he had driven a cab here and there to help make ends meet on occasion, and pushed by a friend who was a full-time cabbie, he decided that this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

He bought his first cab, and basically, the rest is history.

He picked up common folk and celebrities, helped people who couldn't afford rides to get to their destination in his cab, was on several TV and radio shows and appeared in a few films, and really found his niche as a cab driver. He knew Manhattan like most people know their own name, so he was really a natural for this job, and he really took it to the hilt.

For many of his years as a cabbie, he owned a Checker cab, truly the Cadillac of cabs, and he drove that brand of cab until the company went out of business several years ago.

He drove other types of cabs, went with the flow with the new, computerized cabs, and whatever type of cab he drove, when he was behind the wheel, he was in his element, and he brought probably hundreds of thousands of passengers from all walks of life to their destinations safely.

He has a million cab stories to tell, many of them not fit for print in a family discussion, but when behind the wheel, he was a hard worker, and many of the funny and interesting things just happened to him, he didn't look for them, but they found him.

He often said that he was one of the inspirations for the film "Taxi Driver," as Martin Scorcese was one of his fares, told him he was working on such a film, and drove around with my father, taking notes as he spoke with him. Scorcese told him he would get back to him, he never did, but when my parents went to see the movie, he drove up in his Checker cab, and people crowded around the car, thinking it was connected to the film.

That is just one of the thousand stories he could tell you. He picked up many celebrities--everyone from Jackie Kennedy Onassis to Tiny Tim, and he gave them the respect they deserved, and oftentimes they gave it back to him.

He argued with Howard Cosell, tried to get Michael J. Fox to give me a job when I was out of work, and took Andre the Giant to a motel so he could have dalliances with some ladies.

He also picked up people just like you and me, took them to their destination, and that was that.

And now it really is that was that, as after more than 50 years behind the wheel, he begrudgingly has called it a day.

I am so proud of my father and his accomplishments that I am bursting at the seams. Sure, I am sad that he isn't going to work anymore, but my goodness, look back at his career.

It really is amazing.

When the time was right, he took the bull by the horns, learned a new industry from the ground up, and made a nice living, and made it better for myself, my sister and my mother.

Later, he was an inspiration to his grandchildren.

What more can you ask?

Congratulations to my father, and now he can relax for the first time in his life.

To me, 85 is the new 65, and he has lots of years ahead of him to enjoy life.

He is my hero, and I wish him the best.