Friday, May 30, 2008

Get your rock salt, honey!

5 clever quips
This goes out to my poor friends trapped in cubicle hell on this beautiful Friday afternoon. Me, I'm heading to the 'fridge to start happy hour.



(If you're not finding this funny, it's because you're not realizing that half the images are misinterpretations of the lyrics. The chorus, for example, is actually "Get your rocks off, honey." Man, you take all the fun out of this sometimes.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Caught on tape ... at last!

13 clever quips
Like most Parental Units, we bought a camcorder right before the birth of our first child.

Like most camcorder-owning Parental Units, we never use the frickin' thing.

man wrapped in video tapeOh, we try. Our Sony Handycam Hi-8 (not-quite digital images on very tiny cassette tape - it's digi-tape! No, it's cass-ital!) has traveled through several U.S. time zones. We usually pull it out on the last day of a trip after we realize that it was what was causing that strange lump in the closet corner under Day 1's dirty underwear.

By then, the battery has lost all its power. After two hours of recharging (this is pre-Y2K equipment, people), it's ready to go. Unfortunately, by now we've already gone to the swim-up bar for the sixth round. Autofocus, autoschmocus -- my mojito needs more min-tito, Isaac, and tell Julie to stop pawing Gopher's white shorts.

Well, last week, the camcorder finally captured a priceless moment in need of replay on the family flat screen: the mistake my son, Thing 2, did NOT make in the annual afterschool-program play.

This year's epic, based on "The Little Rascals," found the He-Man Women Haters' Club facing a dilemma. Obey the teacher's orders to dance with the girls or squeegee the hair oil out of Alfalfa's 'do and sell it for $4.50 a gallon to an ex-stripper-turned-soccer-mom on the lam from a crazed Ethiopian Viagra dealer with an enormous royal inheritance locked in a Nigerian bank account that only Porky's Social Security number could unlock.

At least that's my best guess. The sets were nice.

Midway through the "action," came the deafening silence. Followed by finger pointing and muttered accusations. Someone forgot his or her lines. Some looked at my boy, sitting onstage in a white turtleneck and a backwards Bridgeport Bluefish cap. Others, in the minivan on the ride home, just screamed at him.

"It was all your fault!" suggested Thing 1, who I think played one of the twin pole dancers in the show. "You messed up and we skipped two whole lines."

"Did not!" countered Thing 2. "I did not mess up."

"I know, when we get home, let's review the videotape," I said. "I have it right ..."

I turned back so I could retrieve the camcorder I left under my seat in the auditorium. Consistency -- my virtue, my curse.

At home, I waited the three minutes necessary for the camcorder to rewind the six minutes of actual footage I shot. Then, it occurred to me - what if the boy did screw up? This could cause permanent damage to his ego and psyche. This could stop him from ever taking the stage again.

This could be my ticket out of many school performances for the next 11 years.

"Now, we push 'Play,'" I said.

It was like watching the Zapruder film for the first time; however, the answer was crystal clear in this masterpiece, even if the picture was a bit grainy and shaky.

Thing 2 - NOT GUILTY!

"Oooooh," his big sister said. "I guess it was Brendan's fault. He forgot his line."

I made her apologize to the boy. Then, I let Thing 2 eat popsicles until his tongue went numb.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Everything comes down to poo

11 clever quips
"Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog.
Sigh! There's so little hope for advancement."
-- Snoopy

Most celebrate their birthday with cake. Some prefer the bubbly. My dog ended his big day with 16 sticks of Extra sugar-free bubble gum. Foil wrappers and all.

dog buttSuch is the life of Murphy, now 2 years old, and me. Him, sucking down life in hearty gulps; me, following around with a plastic bag, trying to identify the remains and comprehend the crime. It's like "CSI: Doggie Style."

While I've always said dog ownership is the best prep one can have for parenthood and vice versa (Don't put that in your mouth! Stop peeing on the carpet! Get in your crate -- now!), Murp has presented his own challenges ... mostly from his back end.

At six months, a vet diagnosed him with giardia. That's a parasite in the intestine that is tough to completely rid your system of despite the volumes of material it helps usher through the intestine. Though not usually life threatening, it is not an enduring feature in a new pup.

Unless, of course, you prefer your diarrhea explosive and slimy.

Months six through 18 of the dog's life went something like this. Crap, crap, crap. Chicken broth, drugs. Chicken noodle soup, more drugs. Boiled chicken and rice, final round of drugs. Back to nor- …, no, nope. Crap, crap, crap.

Rinse (with industrial-strength bacteria killer) and repeat and repeat and repeat.

"I think you have a defective dog," My Love said at one point. murphy puppy

"Not defective," I said, shooting her the don't-think-your-choice-in-pronouns-went-unnoticed-look. "Just defecating."

Sigh.

Something finally clicked with the trillionth round of meds in November, and Murphy's potty time has been most stellar since. He did have one final blast, though, so to speak.

It occurred the weekend my brother-in-law volunteered to look after him while we took a family trip. At 4 a.m., the phone rang in our hotel room. On the other end, a hysterical, 260-pound, one-time butcher's assistant gagged out:

"It's everywhere! It's all over the crate and it's all over him! I let him out and he shook and it's on the walls! I'm getting sick. I'm going puke! Oh, God, it's disgusting!"

The bro-in-law's name and number was promptly removed from the "Emergency Contact" list for my children.

murphy as sam sheepdogBut the last six of months of puppyhood have been good to all … except the eyes of one kangaroo Webkinz and one white teddy bear, several cups of coffee and, of course, the aforementioned pack of gum. Murp's turning into an excellent shortstop for the family Wiffle ball games, although his throwing arm is still suspect. He does a spot-on "Sam Sheepdog" imitation, sitting at the edge of yard looking for neighboring dogs and deer. And, he's forces me to actually get up my computer and venture outside every day … even if it's only to reconnoiter for land mines in the yard.

Happy birthday, dog. Here's picking up after you, kid.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why Hump Day is a misnomer

4 clever quips
This Flight of the Conchords song could be based on my life.




But it's not. You know how I know?

Because it's Wednesday. The Uncool Law of Business-Time Probability indicates conditions are less than perfect despite Wednesday being known to the Morning Zoo crowd as "Hump Day."

Might have something to do with the wife's travel schedule. How is London, honey?

Further proof:

  • I do the laundry and sort the recycling in our house.
  • My Love does not own a "Team Building Exercise '99" shirt, although she did have a preference for a ratty red "Hooligans" softball jersey (also of 1999 vintage). That piece of clothing did not survive the Great Closet Expurgation of Aught-Seven.
  • In the video, the two so-intense minutes are not interrupted by children in search of Sippy Cups (p.m. version) or French toast sticks (a.m. version).

_________________________________________________
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Call me your doctor. Dr. Johnny Fever, that is.

3 clever quips
I know middle age (and ingesting too much malted beverage) induces memory loss, but this must have been one wild blackout I had during the 1970s. But it is listed under the "WKRP in Cincinnati" entry in Wikipedia, so it must be true:

wkrp cast"The character of Arthur Carlson was based on an actual person, as was Dr. Johnny Fever. The real Arthur Carlson owned a group of radio stations in Central Pennsylvania under the name Susquehanna Radio. Based in York, Pennsylvania, it was one of the first radio "chains" to emerge in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Carlson also was a past president of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB). Fever was based on an afternoon drive DJ at one of Carlson's stations, working under the name 'Kevin McKeever.'"

So, baby, if you've ever wondered, wondered whatever became of me ... this is how my friend JB explains my sudden transformation from rockin' mid-PA drive-time, disc spinner to minivan-driving, work-at-home picker-upper of dog poop and children's laundry.

"Yes, the secret of your lost youth has been kept secret from you for too many years. You had conquered York as the youngest DJ in the country with a daring playlist mixing Warren Zevon and Scooby Doo. Alas, your days of spinning discs was cut short when your mother, joined by a daring pack of naked Duckers armed with plastic Shamu shovels, liberated you. Your memory was erased by forcing you to inhale Rheingold from keepsake Ed Kranepool sippy cups. You are 40 now, perhaps ready to deal with the truth of your past. Welcome back, Dr. Johnny McFever."

Now that makes sense.

Honestly, this warrants further investigation if only because it opens the possibility that those fantasies I've always had about Bailey Quarters were more than just sweet dreams. Oh, dearest Bailey, that trampy receptionist had nothing on you, girl.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lessons for my son, age 6

5 clever quips
The middle male of the Uncool household, a.k.a. Thing 2, turned 6 over the weekend. This is a pretty amazing feat for you, little dude, because, in all seriousness, Mom and I gave much thought on Day 4 of your existence to trading you in for a quieter model.

thing 2 self-portraitI walked three miles around the creaky second floor of our old house that first-night-into-morning you were home, son, bouncing you in my arms, swaying you back and forth, swaddling and re-swaddling, singing you my up-to-that-time-never-miss (at least for your big sister) bedtime medley of "Sunny Afternoon" and "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay." All for naught, boy, all for naught.

Thanks goodness for Tanqueray. I mean, for me. Over the next three weeks, it eased the soreness you caused in my right knee that night.

As for your problem, well, seems Mom wasn't putting out enough and you just needed a big ol' helping of artificial help. Consider that your first life lesson.

On this most important occasion, son, let me say that I see a lot of me in you. And I am so, so very sorry for that.
The least I can do is try to tell you about some of the many left turns I made when I should have gone right in life. So, sit down, let me put on my cardigan and fill up my pipe … there, that's enough bubble solution … and here we go:

Southern Comfort and instant iced tea … not a good drinking experience from start to the inevitable finish.

Don't do illegal drugs.

If you are in Amsterdam, however, where certain pharmaceuticals are legal, find someone who actually knows how to roll that thing up for you. Nothing says "ugly American tourist" quite like walking the canals while shy an eyebrow.

Righty, tighty; lefty, loosey.

When the boss tells you NOT do something -- like, say, file a claim for full-time status and benefits since you have been working 40 hours a week as a freelancer for the past two years -- because doing so might "jeopardize you ever having any kind of career in this organization," find a new organization. Then, give the old one the finger as politely as possible on the way out the door.

Learn to tell people "no" and not feel guilty about it. Your mom is a master at this.

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Especially when you sneak a flight to Miami over spring break to hook up with your girlfriend.

Which reminds me. In picking a girlfriend, "family history of mental stability" almost always beats "looks hot in those jeans."

Don't fall for that "you need to match my dress" line. You will never look at old photos of yourself in the basic black tux and cummerbund, shake your head, and wonder what you were sniffing prior to rental.

Like me as a child, you love playing with Hot Wheels cars. Note that this does not translate into a working knowledge of real automobiles when you are older.

Avoid paying for "light" beer. Drinking it is acceptable as long as that's all that's still available from the concession stand or you need to clean out the refrigerator after a party to made room for better things.

Take a job for fun, not profit, at least once in your life.

In my day, it was funny to put dishwashing liquid in a cupcake and give it to that mean 8th grade reading teacher. It was funnier when she was out sick the next day. Today, that will just get you arrested.

You may like dinosaurs now, son, but you won't like working for one when you grow up.

You're going to lose more often than you win at most things. The faster you learn to accept that, the sooner you'll start enjoying the experience as well as the glory.

Forget the GPA, suck it up and take an actual typing class.

There will be times you will need to tell your significant other that she (or he, if need be, I can handle that, too) is right even though you have irrefutable, concrete evidence to the contrary. Trust me on this.

Always question authority, except mine. I may steer you wrong from time to time, but it won't ever be because I am deliberating trying to screw you over.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A new Marshall in my home

4 clever quips
marshall crenshaw 1… and from behind the wheel emerged …

Marshall Crenshaw.

Singer. Songwriter. Guitarist. "Someday, Someway." Co-writer of the No. 1 hit "Til I Hear it From You" by the Gin Blossoms. Golden Globe nominee for the "Walk Hard" soundtrack.

OK, he also played Buddy Holly to Lou Diamond Phillips' Richie Valens in the '80s movie "La Bamba."

Marshall and I have a long history together … unbeknownst to him.

At the first show of his that I attended (Jan. 16, 1992), I was downstairs at Toad's Place in New Haven using the pay phone before the fun began. The booth was right across from the dressing room. Here I am, taking annoying questions from the copy desk, and MC walks in, guitar case in hand, and pauses.
marshall crenshaw 2
He gave me a suspicious glare. I waved.

A decade later, I saw him play a tiny pub in Dallas. After the show, he came out to the bar and we talked. Turned out, he had lost his wallet before the show. So, I bought him a Shiner Bock.

He played the same pub the next summer. We talked about his appearance on a Nick Lowe tribute album along with another one my faves (and, I learned, one of Marshall's), Graham Parker. I asked him if heard GP's latest album at the time. He said he hadn't.

We flew up to Connecticut to see my family the next week. Turned out Marshall was playing a free concert with Freedy Johnston in Westport. marshall crenshaw 3

So we went to the show. I spotted him before the show, re-introduced myself … and handed him Graham's CD, Deepcut to Nowhere.

"You said you didn't have it," I said. He seemed grateful, but also a bit freaked that I "followed" him from Dallas. Pure coincidence, MC, I swear it.

But then, when I left the newspaper business, my colleagues made up a fake front page that included an article about my many alleged celebrity stalking over the years. He was on the list.

So, Marshall Crenshaw rocked my house party for two hours along with his regular drummer, Diego Volglino, and bassist Byron Isaacs.

My music-fiend friends in attendance, several of whom are "bass players" (they understand why I put quotes there), all commented on how good Byron was.


marshall crenshaw 4

Well, Byron plays all over Levon Helm's recent "Dirt Farmer" album. He wrote one of the songs on it, too. This last tidbit I should have known at the time since I just listened to the album by the former drummer of The Band the day before.

And I read the liner notes while listening to it, too. In fact, the CD was sitting on the desk in my office … WHERE I WAS HANGING WITH THE BAND BETWEEN SETS.

Big, frickity frick-frick, Homer-esque, triple-dog D'OH!

Byron, forgive my ignorance. I am so not worthy of your presence. Can I brew you up some more hot tea?

Back to the show -- awesome. This, despite the fact that it was misty with a windchill of minus 16 (approximately) and the propane heater we had on stage kept blowing out. As I said to the attendees afterward, it's not often you get to have a man with Marshall's credentials rock your backyard while running the risk of simultaneously electrocuting him, exposing him to frostbite and setting him on fire.

Aside from the musical highlights, including opening with one of my faves "Fantastic Planet of Love," my favorite parts on the evening included: kids dancing

-- Fetching hot drinks for the band and crew (Marshall only took a large mug of hot water to wrap his fingers around for warmth between sets). This is the closest I have ever come to being a roadie. I'm just glad they didn't ask me to get them groupies. I've never been THAT good at any job.

-- Learning that Diego the Drummer let Murphy out of his crate in the basement (not punishment, just protecting him from the food and liquor and vice versa) and played with him before he took the stage. You, Murph, have been petted by one sweet timekeeper.

-- Seeing my goofy kids and their buddy, Andrew, play air guitar throughout the entire show.

-- Talking baseball with the band between sets. Marshall had recently been to Yankee Stadium to watch his home team Detroit Tigers play.

-- Learning later that My Love asked the crew who had brought the Coke. The kind you drink. She found a bottle on the patio while they were setting up. A big no-no in our home as she works for the better company. But an inappropriately hilarious question to pose to them, nonetheless.

marshall crenshaw's pantsWhen the evening finally ended, I realized Marshall and the guys left before I could add a few more autographs to my collection and get a formal photo with everyone. But I don't blame them, their fingers were blue from the cold.

"It's an odd sensation, playing your instrument when you can't feel your fingers," to quote Bryon between sets.

But Marshall did leave me a gift. Late that night, draped over our underused treadmill in my basement, I found the clothes he changed out of before the show.

I'm sure he left them there by accident.

I think. Maybe. Hmmm.

Speed-dialing My's Love Blackberry …

* * * * *
- Photos: Justin Murray and Richard Shapiro
- Thanks to Anders the sound man (hope you made it back), the cola-drinking roadie (I'm very sorry I forgot your name), all my friends who attended and those you who couldn't but sent your regards, and My Love for pulling this whole thing off.
- Marshall's clothes were not harmed and returned safely.
MARSHALL'S SET LIST: Fantastic Planet of Love; There She Goes Again; 2541; Someone Told Me; Whenever You're on My Mind; Alone in a Room; Dime-a-Dozen Guy; Crying, Waiting, Hoping; Right on Time; What Do You Dream Of?; Passing Through; Long and Complicated; Spell is Broken;Valerie; From Now Until Then; Favorite Waste of Time; Someday, Someway; Cynical Girl.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Something's gonna happen

2 clever quips
fixing tarp
I walked into the kitchen just in time to spot a person in a hoodie carrying large pieces of wood into my backyard. Moving closer to the sliding glass door, I noticed a blue tarp and a person's legs dangling down from the top of the pergola, 12 feet above the flagstone patio.

I slide the door open.

It was my friends from D.C., Sue (hoodie and wood) and Justin (dangling legs), who were staying with us for the weekend on their way to attend a wedding in Trumbull. Or so the Germans would have us believe.

"What are you doing?"

"Your wife wanted us to put a tarp over the pergola."

"Why?"

"That's what she wanted."

I speed-dialed My Love's Blackberry.

"We're having a few friends over," she said. "I thought we might want to use the patio and it looked like rain."

"Who's coming over?"

"A few friends."

"Look," I said, "I just spent 2½ hours on the phone with HP trying to get the hard drive on the home computer fixed. I'm not in the mood. Tell me who's coming over."

"Oh, just Tom and Suzanne and Amy and Andy."

That should have tipped me off. She was mixing unaffiliated college/work friends with our neighbors. Worlds colliding! Worlds colliding!

But I was still a tad light-headed from the HP phone support experience to pick up on it.
Until, of course, the West Side Party Rentals truck backed down the driveway.

"Oh, it may be a more than few friends," My Love said.

"There are 70 people coming!" yelled Thing 2, obviously showing knowledge not normally associated with kindergartners who still can't tie their shoes.

"Surprise!" added My Love.

Jig was up. Surprise party for my 40th birthday was in the works.

Cool. Unlike My Love, who a few years back threatened divorce and/or death if I acknowledged her 40th in any sort of public manner, I was resigned to the fact my youth was on life support. It actually started last year when I had to officially move a waist size up for the first time since high school.

Besides, she owed me. On my 30th, she quite loudly chewed me out in a Home Depot for "futzing" when she had a hair appointment to get to. Hello -- guy, birthday, Home Depot … did the woman need a diagram?

I agreed to vacate the house for several hours so the workers could set up. Besides, I needed the Geek Squad to retrieve from the family hard drive the data that I thought I had backed up three months ago. Turned out, I had backed it up … a YEAR and three months ago.

Hours later I returned, $159 lighter and two Dos Equies Ambers happier (Best Buy in Norwalk is next to an excellent and reasonably priced Mexican restaurant, Rio), to find the biggest frickin' smoker I had ever seen -- in my driveway -- before.

"Surprise! It's a barbecue!" said My Love, as I basked in the charcoal goodness of The CookHouse catering team. Mmm, barrrr-beeeee-cuuuue, uuuuuhuuuuuhuuuuuh. mets cake

After putting my birthday cake in the basement for safekeeping (My Love asked me to pick it up on the way home … c'mon, I knew there was going to be one at this point), I ventured out to check out the huge tent now killing my second attempt at growing grass in the back this spring. Along with it and the margarita machines (note - plural), I discovered a half ton of sound equipment and stage lights on the pergola/patio.

"Uh, will there be music tonight?"

"Yep. We're having a band."

"Anyone I know?"

"Oh, it's a band."

"OK," I said, "that means it is one of two people …"

(HA! Several years ago, My Love asked me who -- within reasonable limits, of course -- I would want to play a party at our house if I had the chance. I gave her two choices.)

"… it's either Graham Parker or Marshall Crenshaw."

"You'll see," she said.

Ten minutes later, a dark blue car pulled down my driveway, and from behind the wheel emerged …

TO BE CONTINUED …

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Hey boy, you knew this day would come ..."

2 clever quips
miley cyrus magazine virginity"What's that say?" asked Thing 1, dressed in her newest Hannah Montana outfit, pointing at the checkout counter magazine rack.

I had spotted it about 10 seconds earlier. I nearly flipped the issue over, but the former bag/bottle return/cart boy in me held back out of courtesy for my former union brothers and sisters.

"What's what say?"

"That … the one with Miley's picture on it."

Her 8-year-old index finger nearly touched the blaring yellow words.

"MILEY'S VIRGINITY VOW: HOW SERIOUS IS SHE?"

Breathe, man, breathe!

Stay calm.

Be thankful, for once, she's still testing just shy of the "proficient" level in reading.

I have no issue with supermarket tabloids. I actually made a few pesos tipping off the National Enquirer, my rag of choice, back in my days of scouring the celebrity-strewn streets and backcountry of Greenwich, Conn.

I have no problems with the pictures she posed for in Vanity Fair. The controversy is total media hype, although the shot with her lounging in Dad's lap is pretty creepy and that is all Billy Ray working the wiggy factor there. He should know better.

I have no love for the squeaky clean pap of the Disney people. Give me some Bugs Bunny wit and violence any day. I feel watching Looney Tunes as a child (as well as reruns of "Gilligan's Island" and "Get Smart") prepared me well for my run in newspaper journalism, corporate communications and parenthood.

So, when Miley starts pulling a Britney/Lindsay/Jamie Lynn, parading around town drunk, panty-less and/or pregnant (or hanging publicly with one of those three or Paris Hilton), then I say it is open season. But her virginity vow? Sweet nibblets!

First, someone should have told the girl to say it is no one's business and shut up. She doesn't push sex on her show, in her concerts or songs. Trust me, I've witnessed them all. I regularly frighten My Love with the amount of Disney Radio lyrics I have acquired through satellite radio osmosis. (Proof: The title of this post comes from "G.N.O (Girls Night Out)" and, honest-to-Bob-Dylan, I didn't need to look it up.)

Second, the media should just leave it alone. I know the tabs are in the entertainment and gossip business, but is picking on a 15-year-old who otherwise seems on the level really in everyone's best interest? If anything, pick on Disney and her handlers for overexposing and overmarketing the kid.

Meanwhile, back at the checkout:

"Well," I said, "it says Miley made a commitment to do something and they want to know whether she is really going to keep it."

"Oh."

Pause.

"Dad, can I get those little cinnamony round mints that Mom and I like?"

"Not a problem."

Friday, May 9, 2008

This is who we are … at 40

4 clever quips
elderly crossing signSo here it is. The big 4-0.

Forty.

The beginning of the slippery slope downhill. Unless you go by my Blue Zone score, which says I will make it to the ripe age of 94 but spend the last 15 years paying for the indiscretions of my youth.

I feel cheated. Had I known way back when, I would have picked way better indiscretions.

So, let me start the 40th anniversary of my birth by thanking my Mom. After witnessing the birth of my own two children, I can only hope she got a real long, solid buzz from the painkillers that day.

Of course, the fact my birthday occasionally coincides with Mother's Day pretty much relegates me to second-class status every few years, but that's not your fault, Mom. We'll blame Dad, you dirty dog, you.

Next, I'm happy to report there have been no major injuries yet to mark my 40th year. My Love, who is three years wiser than I, warned me back when I turned 30 that little aches and pains that never bothered me before would now start to appear. The next day, I promptly strained my back attempting a few laps in the pool.

On the plus side, my hair didn't suddenly fall out overnight. But I knew that wasn't going to happen. I was thinking more along the lines that it would go completely shock-white like it did for Lance Henriksen's character after he watched his wife die of the apocalyptic plague in "Millennium." Now, how cool would that have been?

Instead, I'm fighting the creep of a David Letterman-esque floating isle of hair above my forehead. I'm still only at the peninsula stage but I fear the shores are literally receding. Put me down as another victim of global warming.

So what have I accomplished after four decades?

Anyone? I'm open for ideas here.

Haven't writing the Great American Novel, Short Story or Pop Song. But neither have you* … so there!

Never had true, physical carnal knowledge of Cindy Crawford.

Sorry. … Wiping drool off keyboard.

My only great regret is never having mastered a musical instrument. But, I'm still surprised that I faked musical competence well enough to sing in a band in high school, even if we never played anywhere but the drummer's basement, and play some Casio riffs for the short-lived garage band we had in my newspaper days.

Thankfully, I have erased all the tapes. I think. The memory and the reflexes are always first to go.

Some may question whether I truly lived up to being voted "most likely to succeed" in high school. I know that, in at least one area, I fared better than my female counterpart. Last I heard, through an e-mail she circulated before the 20th class reunion, she was on the prowl for husband No. 3. I'm sorry I missed that party.

I guess it depends on your definition of success. I've had jobs in which I was underpaid and overworked, overpaid and underutilized, and paid a fair wage but completely unfulfilled. I had one great job and it paid only in free admission to movies (intern in the press office of the American Film Institute in Washington, D.C.).

But the best job, honestly, has been being able to hack away on a laptop from home over the past four years. That's because it means I:

1) never have to wear a tie,
2) never have to attend meetings in which I must pretend to be enraptured by the "insights" of my CEO-ass-kissing boss," and
3) get to spend lots of time raising Thing 1, Thing 2 and the Murphinator.

I owe it all to Al Gore, for inventing the Internet, and having a wife with far more ambition, business acumen and earning potential than I.

Also, she loathes shopping and housework. I, by contrast, feel it is my duty to read the care labels on clothes and sort them appropriately before washing. This arrangement of ours is what someone in her profession would call "having complimentary skill sets."

That means, if she ever used the phrase "having complimentary skill sets" in my presence, it would send the beer I'm drinking straight out my nose. It's all about balance.

I only wished she traveled less so we could be a family more often.

OK, I also wish she was Cindy Crawford. But then, she wishes I looked like Denzel Washington and did home repair like Ty Pennington. Someday, we'll start a really successful fantasy spouse league.

Well, here's to me at 40. Always home and uncool, but pretty OK with life as it is.

***

NOTE: An entry on the surprise party My Love threw for me last weekend will be coming soon. My colon needs more time to process the 60 pounds of barbecue and birthday cake that I wedged into it.

* Unless you are Marshall Crenshaw. Then you have written many Great American Pop Songs. Why you would be reading my blog is also a topic for later.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

UPDATE: Save the Eagle

2 clever quips
One "Uncool" reader, who I understand is quite popular in the United Arab Emirates, says he has made contact with our target, George Irish, president of Hearst Newspapers.

He said Irish sounded at least somewhat interested in our concern, but that the unusual management arrangement between Hearst and MediaNews made it difficult for him to intervene. No surprise there.

But, Irish did say he was considering having someone look into this situation as he had heard other concerns about NewsMedia being more concerned with gutting for gutting's sake than producing quality product. Hmmm ...

Let's keep it up.

Mail your bow ties and a copy of Joe Pisani's May 3 column to George Irish, president of Hearst Newspapers, 959 8th Ave., New York, NY, 10019-3737.

Or, e-mail him copy of the column at girish@hearst.com. In the subject line, write: "FIRE NEWSMEDIA: Save The Advocate/Greenwich Time." If you can, as include any NewsMedia gripes, quality of local journalism concerns you have.

Or just call him at 212-649-2000.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Save The Eagle and your local newspaper

9 clever quips
joe pisani
One of my first bosses from the days when I still thought newspaper journalism (and rock 'n' roll) could change the world "left" his job last week.

For those of us who still care about newspapers or, at least, depend on them to get the scoop on local happening, this is another sign that the end is nearing for the print era.

For my former editor, Joe Pisani, I'm hoping he recognizes that this is the sign he has long waited for from Up Above that a better, saner lifestyle awaits him elsewhere on Earth and possibly in the Hereafter.

The May 4, 2008, article and the editorial in The Advocate of Stamford about Joe's departure makes it pretty clear (between the lines) how crappy life had become there since MediaNews Group Inc. bought it and Greenwich Time a few months ago. Staff reductions through layoffs and attrition. Budget cuts. Press deadlines moved up from 2 a.m. to as early as 11 p.m. -- this is why the papers no longer feature West Coast/late-night sports scores and run government meeting news a day late now.

Joe's penultimate column, appearing on his last day on May 3, clues you into what work had become to him at the end.

The last time I talked to Joe was about a month ago. I had stopped by The Advocate office's to drop off an opinion piece I wrote for the ViewPoint page. I tried to e-mail it, but the system in the new offices MediaNews had banished the newspaper was on the fritz.

In the span of 20 minutes, Joe -- a man who goes to Mass daily, a man once who gave me a bottle of Holy Water from the shire of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a man who sends multiple prayer cards in his Christmas cards every year -- repeatedly used a word to describe the current situation at work that I never heard him utter in the 10 years I had worked for him.

It's the word, as you fellow fans of the movie "Bull Durham" know, that is guaranteed to get the umpire to throw you out of the game.

Then, after all the many conjugations and grammatical variations of the word were exhausted, Joe asked if I needed a job because something was probably open in Greenwich.

I asked him how much longer he was going to stick it out. Joe, known affectionately to the old composing room staff and night editors as The Eagle (his photo explains it all), had worked there in some capacity for 30+ years. The last of the Eaglettes (his four daughters) was in college. And his wife, Sandy, was still putting up with him to the best of my knowledge.

Joe said he planned to fight the good fight until they kicked him out. He felt it was his mission to change his new bosses' minds and bring the papers back to what they were and could really become.

"You gotta rally the troops, man. You gotta rally them to save these papers," he said to me.

So, Joe, this one's for you:

I am printing a copy of Joe's May 3 column. I am mailing it along with a bow tie, Joe's signature neck wear, to George Irish, president of Hearst Corp. Newspapers, 959 8th Ave., New York, NY, 10019-3737
If you can't afford the tie or the postage, e-mail him copy of the column at girish@hearst.com. In the subject line, write: "FIRE NEWSMEDIA: Save The Advocate/Greenwich Time." If you can, as include any NewsMedia gripes, quality of local journalism concerns you have.
Or just call him at 212-649-2000. Leave a message. He'll get right back to you, I'm sure.

If you care about The Advocate and Greenwich Time, newspapers, local journalism or just the fact that corporate America is screwing over the little guy again (and that includes readers of The Advocate and Greenwich Time as well as the papers' staff), please join me.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

You go, American Girl. Go, now.

4 clever quips
American Girl store frontNothing says "female empowerment" quite like women using capitalism to cash in on female empowerment.

I have seen it up close, dear friend. It is called the American Girl doll/book/movie phenomenon.

For those without little girls or good credit lines, American Girl dolls were created by a mid-Western woman who wanted a better line of role models for girls than the bodacious airline hostess Barbie dolls of her day.

She succeeded. She succeeded so well, she sold the company in 1998 for $700 million … to Barbie's maker, Mattel. Now, the woman, Pleasant Rowland, is taking her money and essentially remaking Aurora, N.Y., in her own American Girl image, much to the displeasure of some of the natives.

Conceptually, I have no problem with AG. The dolls all have historical, fill-the-world-with-love-and-goodness backstories (Slave girl helps with the Underground Railroad! Hippie chick saves bald eagles!) supported through books, videos and a soon-to-be-released Major Motion Picture.

Values, character, etc. - I'm down with that. Beats Bratz and their "passion for fashion."

But, being in the Land of the Free Enterprise System, they tie all that wholesomeness into selling you not just the dolls at 90 bucks a pop but also the doll's accessories (Own the slave girl doll's bird in a cage for $18! Buy the hippie chick doll's picnic gear for camping out to watch bald eagles for $48!), life-size clothes for your girls that look like the dolls' clothes, and more.

And, your precious girl needs them ALL!

I'll give AG props for chutzpah and quality. The stuff they shill is definitely more substantial in terms of size and material than say those flimsy, teeny Polly Pocket toys Thing 1 was into for a while. I still occasionally find them under furniture or in the dog's digestive remains.

Well, yesterday, Thing 1 and took a day trip to Chicago for her quarterly appointment with the juvenile dermatomyositis specialist (she's doing very well, thanks for asking). As part of our appointments, we always visit the American Girl Place store there. It's her reward for enduring all the blood draws, daily doses of pills, weekly injections of medicines, nights in traction boots to stretch her ankle muscles, methods of avoiding too much sun exposure and periodic medical procedures over the past six years. They should make an American Girl doll out of her.

So, there she is, skipping up the "Magnificent Mile" of Chicago's glitzy Michigan Avenue shopping district. Arms swaying, safari hat perched on her head, a blissful blur in pink and white stripes only stopping to ask how many more blocks 'til we get there.

We arrive five minutes before the store opens. She's looking at the window displays, telling me what she likes and doesn't like.

Now, she's detailing exactly what three things she wants. She knows because she has pored through the AG catalog (which seem to arrive weekly in the mailbox), made thick colored marker circles around 85 percent of the items, and then narrowed it down to a Holy Trinity of American Girlness. This is because she knows that while I am a sucker, I am a sucker with financial limitations.

"I added it up with the calculator," she exclaims, "and they only cost $126!"

Hey, math skills being learned here. American Girl is THAT good!

It's now 10 a.m. on the dot. A man in a navy blue custodial uniform unlocks the door. "Come on in," he says.

Thing 1 is today's Customer No. 1. Some day, I'll remember to bring a camera for proud moments like this.

American Girl hair salonThe AG store in Chicago is three floors of red, pink and purple pre-teen paradise (add green if you own stock in Mattel, of course). Being a Wednesday morning, this is the first time I've been in the place without it being wall-to-wall girls dressed just like their favorite AG dolls they cradled in their arms.

There was also no snaking queue of moms waiting to pay an AG stylist $20 to give a ponytail-flip-with-braid 'do to their princesses' "Just Like You" doll. The café was silent, waiting for parent-child bonding over afternoon tea at $17 a head.

It gave me the same feeling of time-slowing, stomach-sinking regret you might experience between the moment the 46-inch LCD flatscreen slips from your fingers and the millisecond it smashes onto your tile floor.

doll on crutchesAs we wandered through the stacks of boxes filled with can't-live-without-accessories (plastic cast and crutches for playing 'my doll had an accident' was a vital item Thing 1 sought for a while), I saw a fellow Dad. He asked a saleswoman if they sold Girl Scout uniforms for the dolls.

No, she said, but the closest thing would be this doll's summer camp outfit. Then you could get the camp tent and backpack and camping accessories …

I now know exactly what that vacant, dead man's stare of helplessness looks like that I give my wife every time she tells me about the latest home improvement idea she got from watching HGTV.

So, $137.66 later (note: must teach girl about sales tax), we were on our way. But first, I needed to make a pit stop.

I stopped a male security guard walking past me on the basement level. "I see the big 'Women's Restroom' sign," I said, pointing out the obvious in front of us, "but where is the men's room?"

His eyes rolled.

"You're not going to like this," he sighed. "Two floors up, in the back, tucked around a corner from the customer service desk."

"We all complain about it," he then added. By "we," he was obviously referring to only the other male members of the store staff. You could tell.

"Well, I'm sure they are fixing that when you move to the new, bigger store across the street this fall," I said.

"Oh, no," he said. "Same location in the store. But it's a bigger store and a longer walk. We all fought for that one, but it's not happening."

I guess it's true. Payback is a bitch.
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