Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Autumn Morning: A Metaphor

Saturday morning I awoke with a refreshed feeling. I decided on an early departure from my favorite watering hole and in return I received a decent night's sleep. Seven hours to me is the equivalent of a mini coma, minus any brain deficiency (although some would say it's already too late to save me). I lounged in bed briefly, got up and checked my e-mail, had some coffee and headed out for some breakfast.

I stopped at a neighborhood deli and ordered my bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. I couldn't help but notice the woman standing next to her very muscular boyfriend. She was wearing black leggings and a heavy sweatshirt. A very attractive face and a very toned physique. She paced up and down the deli and I was admittedly too distracted by her appearance to pay any attention to the conversation she, her boyfriend and the man behind the counter were having. A few seconds later, a boy walked in with a high school football jersey on. The boyfriend wished him good luck and told him how much he wished he could play. There is always that awkward moment, that thankfully goes unnoticed when a man my age realizes that the young woman he is appreciating is, not a woman at all, but a girl. I grabbed my sandwich, left the store and proceeded to my next stop. Slightly laughing at myself for not realizing in the first place that the girl had been wearing a sweatshirt with her school's name on it.

I enjoyed my sandwich as I drove down to my old stomping grounds of Garth Road for some great bagels. I had visions and thoughts of the wonderful cider barn that used to be in Armonk. Those delicious warm sugary donuts. A cold glass of cider. Reminded me of younger days where maybe the young girl I had previously seen, might have shown an interest. The cider mill is long gone, as is my youth. I drive down the road, turned past my workplace, noticed some leaves that had started to change. I parked my car and entered the bagel shop. I love the smell in that place. It takes me back to a much easier time. A time when my mother cooked my meals, did my laundry, and my father taught me lessons without letting me know. I thought of the years, and the hundreds, if not thousands of bagels I've consumed from this place. Good times, happier times, healthier times.

As I left the store and walked down to my car. I couldn't help but notice the car parked behind me. A bright yellow Porsche. Out stepped a very nice looking woman, late 40's-early 50's. Dressed in black sweatpants and a black shirt. She smiled as she passed me and walked into the bagel store. There was no love at first sight, there was no emotion attached, it was just a simple gesture. A simple gesture from a woman, definitely out of my league, that made my morning. I drove off and she quickly caught up. We shared a red light and then her car took off into the distance. I turned and headed for home. Through the tunnel, up the hill, and parked.

As I sat in my car, collecting my belongings and purchases it had dawned on me that we only appreciate the seasons we've experienced. We never seem to embrace what lies ahead. In the spring, we appreciate the warming temperatures, but are hesitant about embracing the glaring heat of summer. Then summer comes and we run into air conditioning and talk about how the spring was so wonderful, but already start to talk about school starting and vacations ending by autumn. Autumn approaches and the cooler temperatures begin, holidays are abound and we speak of the lazy days of summer and their wonders and fear a harsh winter. When winter does arrive we enjoy the family fun together during the holidays, we embrace the new year, but complain about the cold and speak of how nice the Indian Summer was in October. Spring arrives and the warming air makes us forget about the winter cold, all the time we complain incessantly about the rain and mention how even the snow is better, never taking time to appreciate that vacations and barbecues are just around the corner.

It made me realize that our lives are like the seasons. In our younger years, we are so much like spring. We live in the moment, no memories matter, we're building them as we go. As we age slightly and get into our 20's and early 30's. We reminisce about our younger days and most enjoy meeting that person they want to spend the rest of their life with, or at least that is the plan in our summer years. Many of us try and hold onto those younger years. Dating younger men and women, trying so hard to hold onto the past. As we enter our late 30's to even our early 50's. We look back at those trying times. The awkward teen years, the loves we've had and lost. We look at those who surround us with great warmth and affection. We think nothing of giving those younger than us a wink or smile. We have become like autumn. Our hair changes like the leaves of a tree. Our faces age and our bodies become rounder like the ripening pumpkins of the new harvest. Many of us lose ourselves in our children's activities, those of us who aren't attached or don't have kids seem to gravitate towards each other, in some sort of land-based life raft. Grandparents have entered the cold days of winter. Their heat is the love of their children and grandchildren. Birthdays and holidays consume their thoughts. They go about their daily chores smiling at whoever will accept their warmth. It so often goes unnoticed by those moving faster, who have busier schedules and only take time to notice the younger girl in the deli.

On Saturday morning, the air was crisp, leaves had started to change and fall. As I drove home that day, I realized that spring was far behind, barely visible in the rear view mirror. Autumn was upon us; upon me. Summer is a recent memory, like the smoke coming from a dampened barbecue fire. The seasons change, as do we and try as hard as I do to ignore, I have but two seasons left. It's my turn to smile at spring and summer. I can only hope they appreciate it as I do. I will try and appreciate winter and what lies ahead. I know I have a while before it comes, so I will enjoy Autumn and whatever it brings. I hope that I can have someone to share it with. Someone to enjoy the colors, the cool, and the brisk walks on the leaf covered path to winter. Regardless, I'll take it in and embrace it. The same way I did the newness and innocence of spring and the passion and heat of summer. The seasons have changed and I welcome this new beginning.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Money doesn't buy happiness in Bronxville

My apologies for any Bronxville-ites who may be offended, this is absolutely a generalization.

Today, I had some change I wanted to cash in and I knew that there was a bank on Bronxville Road, right on the Bronxville/Yonkers border that had a change machine. I jumped in my car and headed south on White Plains Road over to main street. I headed down the hill around the funeral home onto Midland Ave. As I crossed over the threshold into Bronxville the scenery changed quite a bit. No moms or babysitters pushing baby carriages, no landscaping trucks or vans with ladders on them. Nope, we were in Bronxville. On the maybe half mile stretch from the corner of ICS to Bronxville High, I must have passed seven women, all above average in looks, and two men jogging. Mind you it was about 2:15, schools were getting out, it was well past lunch. So nine individuals, with nothing to do in the middle of the day, but jog. Nice life, I thought. As I approached the track, I saw another half dozen or so. Arms flapping as they got their daily cardio in. The scene changed quite abruptly as I got past Pondfield road and was greeted by Verizon workers and a hot dog truck. It was a like a brief oasis of carefree living wedged between the realities of life.

Another thing dawned on me. As I waited at the light, I saw a few people driving by, all in BMW's, Mercedes' or huge SUV's. All had one thing in common. A scowl. A look of absolute hatred of the world and all that was in it. Even the few people walking shared this look. Not a smile to be found. As I crossed into Yonkers I saw an old lady walking up a hill, using a stone wall to help pull herself closer to her destination. The people were less fashionable, but as I came closer to the Cross County overpass, I noticed a definite change in mood. Smiles or at least an impartial look covered the faces of everyone. As I pulled into the parking lot, two women joked about a sale at some store, I wish I had the money, was the punchline. I entered the bank to three smiling tellers, the change machine jammed and within seconds a woman was out to fix it and I returned to my business. As I left the bank I passed two more people, smiles abound. I stopped to let someone pass and a wave. As I pulled back into Bronxville, I stopped at a red light. No sooner had the light turned green, than the woman behind me in the Lexus SUV was on her horn, waving for me to go. Apparently, she thought she could make the turn before the oncoming traffic would catch her. I slowed down, just enough to make sure this didn't happen. I looked in the mirror to see an incensed woman screaming. Would she be miss the last sandwich at Lange's Deli? Would Sammy's Bistro close for the day? What could possibly be the rush that these extra 10 seconds had her so angry?

I rode back down Midland, a few jogger sitings added to the list and then headed down to Eastchester. Four town of Tuckahoe workers joking by the basketball courts. Down Marbledale to a few guys I know chatting outside a garage. Back up Fisher to three highschoolers outside Chubby's deli, enjoying a slice and some story-telling. I parked my car and thought about my travels. I just passed people who live in houses that cost more money than I have made in my entire life. They own cars that cost well over what I make in a year. Their biggest decision of the day is whether to jog down Midland or take their show to the school track. As I, sitting in my piece of shit car, wishing I was at work, wondering where I will come up with rent money or how to pay my credit cards I've been counting on for everything. I entered my tiny apartment, smiled, and resumed chatting with a friend online. How could it be that despite my woes, despite the hardships, my appearance never display the misery thes people showed. I guess in many ways it can, but I definitely believe that money, at least in Bronxville, can't buy you happiness.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Food Snobbery

I grew up in a bit of an odd house. While most of my friends were diving into a pepperoni slice in their 8-10 year old years my family had a different tradition. Escargot. Every week my father would bring home 18 deliciously prepared (and then frozen) snails. We had the special dishes and utensils for plucking the juicy mollusks from their protective shell. For every six shells we cleaned and returned, we received a free snail. So every two weeks, we'd have 24 of these delectable creatures. I loved them. Friends of mine could not believe I could eat this.

Like everything you can't continue having the same thing every week for your entire life. The escargot soon lost it's luster and we moved on to sushi and sashimi. Each week my father would buy an assortment of sushi and a nice slab of sashimi grade tuna. I used to get excited as my mother or father would unwrap the paper to reveal the bright pinkish/purple meat. They'd delicately slice it into bite size pieces, perfect for dipping in a wasabi filled soy sauce bowl. This stayed a tradition for many years. Upon arriving in Westchester, things changes, and we switched Asian cultures and Chinese food became the norm.

My mother was also an incredible cook. On any given night we could expect paella, moussaka, sauerbraten, jambalaya, lobster or crab (which my father was allergic too, hmmm?). I had lamb more in a month than most people ate in a year. Growing up I had duck, squab, pheasant, quail, rabbit, haggis, mutton, and a few other not so every day items. I drank wine at dinner from the age of seven. I even had a special cup, which years later we found altered the taste dramatically. We always had gourmet cheeses in the house. Brie, Camembert, Saint Andre, Roquefort, Stilton, Port Salut, many varieties of chevre, well you get the idea. Sure we had breaded chicken cutlets or steak or pasta for dinner, but these don't hold much memory for me. To me pasta, while sometimes good, has always been quite boring.

So the groundwork was laid. I had become a food snob. Another factor was I lived in Brooklyn and my father worked in the city when it was affordable to go out to eat quite a bit. We went to fine restaurants and ate things that were delectable and it too opened my eyes to food. Moving to Westchester curtailed that enthusiasm quite a bit, because honestly, there aren't many really good restaurants, let alone great restaurants around. Those that are are so expensive, that I can't bare to imagine spending that much on a few spoonfuls of risotto. Even pizza in Westchester, for the most part is terrible. What most people think is good pizza, wouldn't be served to the pizzeria owner's dog in the city.

S0 in coming to terms with this food snobbery, I have definitely offended some. Obviously, I would never eat at someones house and complain, but I have noticed that traditional meals have gotten dumbed down, even the easy ones. Listen, I am by no means a chef. To be honest, I'm not even a good cook. I like to cook, I usually get flustered and screw up some step, but for the most part, I make above average food. Here's what I mean about insulting people. I live in Eastchester, which until the market changed was basically like living in little Italy. So why, can anyone tell me, have I made sausage and peppers a handful of times in my life and the very first time I tried, it was better than any person's house, any restaurant, or any deli's I've ever had? I'm not saying it always comes out perfect, but this was amazing. Why is it that my crappy meat sauce is better than any Italian grandmother's and the single best onc I tasted was made by an Irish guy. Although, technically a ragu. I just think somewhere along the way, people stopped caring about taste. Seems like quantity is deemed more important these days, even in restaurants. It's a shame, because with the same products used, a meal can be decadent or disgusting.

Now I admit, I'm not that educated in all fine foods. I've never had foie gras, or sweet breads, or tripe, or other various innards considered a delicacy. I do know what's good and then I have problems with some foods that are staples in our family upbringing and that gets me to the real snobbery.

Pot roast. For years I've heard the wonders of pot roast. My boss tells me weekly during debates that I have no credibility, because I dislike pot roast. My argument is that cooking a crappy piece of meat doesn't make it good, it makes it tender. Tender doesn't equal good. I also don't like stews for the same reason. Sure the broth, sauce, whatever you choose to call it has a nice flavor, but generally the meat is bland and chewy. Not something I desire. I also hate prime rib. I never understood this at a wedding. Why the heck would you serve roast beef at a wedding? That's what it taste like. Ironically I love cold roast beef sandwiches, but hate warm roast beef. Another food I hate that people adore are cherries. I despise cherries. I can't say why, but I gag thinking about them. Beets! Please just explain to me why they are good and you win a teddy bear. I'm sure there are plenty of other foods I despise, but many are because of bad preparation, not necessarily the food itself being bad.

I also think my food snobbery has allowed me to retry things and gain new respect as my palette has become more refined. There's a long list of things I adore now that I hated as a child - spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, pork and almost all fish (still not a salmon fan). I've only gotten into pork recently and it quickly became my nemesis in the kitchen. I could not cook it properly. Then I bought some beautiful bone-in pork chops, got the pan really hot, threw them in for two minutes, then flipped and put in for one minute, then turned the heat off and let them sit for about six minutes. The result was the most flavorful pork chop I've ever tasted. Perfectly cooked (medium, and yes that means a slightly pinkish hue). I had conquered pork chops, shared my technique, which I stole from someone, with my father and he agreed it worked. the key is patience. It's difficult to let something just sit in a pan when you are ingrained with the idea that it must come out once the heat is turned off.

Being a food snob, in my opinion isn't a bad thing. You can hold your burger cravings, your pizza selection, or your favorite cup of coffee to a higher standard. For example, I don't get burgers anywhere really but Piper's Kilt, because I don't think anyone holds a candle to them. I once had one at Donovan's in Queens, which year in and year out it's rated #2 (behind Peter Luger's) as best burger in NYC. I thought it was crap. Only burger that is as good and maybe better that I have tasted since moving to Westchester was the steak burger at Jake's in Riverdale. About twice as expensive as Piper's but delicious.

I could go on talking about food forever. It excites me, it gets me heated, it gets me mad, it make emotions come out that have been suppressed, waiting to be unleashed either with a grand appetite or an explanation of why or why not I like this or don't. I can't always afford the finer things in life, but I've experienced a plethora of fine foods. I realize everyone's tastes are different, but before you judge me, remember while you munched on a pepperoni pizza, sipping Sunkist from the bottle, laughing at those silly Muppets. I was dunking my baguette into the garlicky drippings left in the dish from my escargot, sipping a Beaujolais, listening to Vivaldi.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

09-13-2009

Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate weddings. When my brother Owen, told me of his engagement, of course I was happy. His fiance, Diana, is a beautiful, loving, kind and most importantly, patient person. To be with my brother, one needs to be patient, or else they may become one. I looked forward to them setting a day and then it arrived. Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 4:30. I thought, what a perfect time, not to hot, not to cold, first week of pro football......the last one took a while to digest. Now my brother is not the big fan that I am, but he does have some knowledge of schedules, teams, etc. To me this was unfathomable. Had the lovely, Diana waited all this time to get back at me for some comment I made years ago? Did Owen, specifically choose this day as repayment for some older brother hi jinks? I could not understand this fate I had to incur. I felt like an overweight Nancy Kerrigan, laying helplessly on the floor screaming "why me, why me!"

As the day approached I started checking the weather reports. Sunny, 80 degrees. Good grief. I'm stuck in a monkey suit, the world watching, in summer heat. Nothing good could come of this. I envisioned myself melting like the Wicked Witch of the West, just in a much larger puddle. As the week began I got bitter. As I put in my fantasy football team, I wept, thinking of what I would miss. My picks pool meant nothing to me. Then Thursday night I went out for the first game of the season. A brief nuptial reprieve. Or so I thought. As the TV counted down to kickoff in a fashion similar to New Year's Eve, I sat restlessly. Five minutes to go and I was definitely ready for some football. Just then with 4:32 seconds until kickoff, my phone rings. Diana, wanting to go over last minute details for the rehearsal dinner. Twenty-six minutes later, I returned to my perch at the bar, half of the quarter gone, my excitement deflated, but now having a better appreciation of the fact that getting information from my brother is like pressing one for English, but accidentally hitting two. You hear something, but it never quite makes sense.

Saturday, the big day of the rehearsal luncheon. A nice drive up the Taconic in the rain, a little confusion as to where we were, but my father and I arrived, early. We met the people in charge and were told how to walk, how to talk, and how to do the hokie-pokie. Apparently, it doesn't start with your left leg in or out. Who knew? So the formal stuff was over and it was time to eat. A lovely lunch, good company, a few more instructions and I was on my way. Dad stayed with the rest of the guys up in Poughkeepsie, I returned home, for what was intended to be a night of college football and serious beverages. Upon my return I began to think about the heat, the tux, and the recovery from a night out. I literally turned around while walking outside and returned to my cave. A friends phone conversation entertained me greatly. I even got a decent night's sleep.

The big day was upon us. The sun was beaming, the air was perfect, even some emotional moments as I got ready to leave. Thoughts of my mother, thoughts of my brother as a youngster, all these things, together on one day. The happiest day of his life. My drive got started with a detour, so I arrived a few minutes later than planned. We all got dressed. Five socially awkward individuals, trying to dress each other, putting on straps and pins and all kinds of contraptions to make us look a little less ape-like. It always amazes me how I can unsnap a girls bra with one hand, in the dark, drunk, from a facing position, but can't get into a tuxedo without the help of multiple people. We all were dressed and it was time to hit the lobby for the first wave of photos. A dapper crew we were as the photographer took us from the lobby, then to street where we walked down the middle of the street like a much classier version of Reservoir Dogs. Then to a garden where we displayed some posed shots, some casual shots, and I'm sure some which could be constituted as homoerotic. Then we had the first drink. Of to the "place" and everything was being set up. A few more pictures and the sweat was pouring from my brow. I worried that the glare from my head would be very evident in the photos. A little joking around and then they brought us all some champagne. We were then told to start seating the guests that were arriving. This all went by so fast I was surprised. The next thing I knew I'm standing in line and the music is playing.

We all took our positions at the alter. The groomsmen looking quite elegant and the bridesmaids looked beautiful. My brother stood calmly waiting for his soon to be bride. Her music started and I caught the glimpse of her father, followed by Diana. Now, when you've known someone for over five years and they are a family members significant other, you don't think one way or another about them as far as looks are concerned. I can honestly say, Diana looked absolutely stunning. From head to toe, I can honestly say, she was the most beautiful bride I've ever seen. Her dress was absolutely amazing. So much that the best man and I both commented. Neither one of us is a fashion guru, but we've been to enough weddings to know what's nice and what's amazing. She was amazing. They were married by a judge, who kept the ceremony light and sweet. A brief mention of my mother's passing definitely caused me to hold back a tear or two, but I refused to be the big sappy guy this day. As they exchanged their "I do(s)" a sense of real warmth came over me. My brother just became one of the luckiest people I know. My happiness for him was immense. I wish I could say the same for Diana, but she and I both know, he's the one making out on this deal.

A few more pictures, a few more cocktails and we were about to be announced. We all made our way and then they were announced for the first time as Mr. & Mrs. Owen Hopper. The dances were sweet. The best man's speech was great and coming from someone who really wanted to make a speech, that is saying a lot. I felt it wasn't necessary, because he had accomplished the two things I would have tried to do. Sincerity and abuse. He nailed them both. The food at this wedding was second to none. I've only been to one other wedding where the food was even close. I can't even count the number of appetizers during the cocktail hour. There had to be at least forty, maybe more. During our pictures alone, I tasted about 6 different things and I didn't even have a quarter of what was offered, just to us. The appetizer salad was one of the best salads I've ever had. It was a combo of Caesar salad and tomato and mozzarella with a basil pesto sauce that was delicious. For dinner I had the 14oz rib eye with mashed potatoes and spinach. I couldn't ask for a better steak, cooked perfectly. The other choices were Chicken Tuscany, Salmon filet, and there was an eggplant dish. No way I wasn't having the Rib eye! Even the wedding cake was good. To be honest, I'm not a dessert person, but between the rehearsal and the wedding, the desserts were perfect. If anyone ever goes to Shadows, which is the bar next to the Grandview, may I suggest the Alsatian Cheesecake. See what happens when I start talking about food?

OK,so the weddings in full swing. I'm dancing with old ladies, I'm dancing with young ladies and I even danced with a few guys that night. I wanted to dance with one of the waitresses, but they frown upon that. The wedding ended at 9:30. I continued the celebration until 3:30 in the morning, but this isn't the place to discuss the debauchery that ensued after the wedding. The names would have to be changed to protect the innocent. When I awoke at 11:30 in the morning, in the front seat of my car, in the parking lot of the hotel in shorts and a tee shirt, I wondered how it was possible that I could actually remember everything. As I drove home I thought about the day. I didn't once think of the football games I missed. I didn't think about anything to do with me. OK, maybe one thing. Anyway, my point is, my brother and Diana put on a great show. I think the thing that sticks with me most is that many years ago, I thought I was going to have a little sister. That for incredible reasons didn't work out. In many ways I feel that around 5pm Sunday, September 13, 2009, I finally got one. Owen & Diana, I love you both very much.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Eleven (maybe 12) Most Overrated Movies

Anyone that knows me knows I'm a huge movie buff. I will pretty much watch any genre, any language, and I steer clear of movies that feature Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, and other idiots. Sure they are funny. I'll take your word for it. I've seen most of Carrey's movies and this is why I don't see them anymore. As our former president once said "fool me once, shame on....shame on you. Fool me....you can't get fooled again." Not sure what this means, but it makes more sense than most idiotic movies put out today.


Trying to think of this list I went to IMDB's website and scanned the top 250 movies of all time, ranked by IMDB users. It's an interesting list with classic and newer movies, but definitely leans a little to the more popular blockbusters, most likely due to the age of most of the visitors. Doing a rough count I've seen 230 of the 250 listed and most I haven't seen were out within the last year or are foreign children's stories. I'm sure some of these are some of my readers favorites and I know one choice will drive people mad, but seriously, it's just my feeling. And frankly, when it comes to movies, I know more than you! There I said it.


10. Good Will Hunting - I've already written about my disdain for Robin Williams, so I'll refrain, but my biggest problem with the entire film is that I didn't really like any of the characters. I didn't care if they achieved, succeeded or ended up happy. They all seemed to destined for failure that the pretentious ending just drove me crazy. Listen, the guy doesn't even use his own line at the end. Other than Ben Afflek's job interview scene, it was pretty lame


9. The Green Mile - I'm not into the whole miracle worker type thing. I think that was done well in an understated movie like Powder. I also don't especially love Tom Hanks. I think he's become too big for the movies and despite what some critics seem to believe, unlike Michael Clarke Duncan's character, everything he touches doesn't magically get better.


8. Raging Bull - listen if I wanna watch a pathetic slob curse for two hours I'll go to a seedy pub. Sure the boxing scenes were pretty good, but that doesn't make it a good movie. I once read it was voted best movie of the 1980's. Who the hell voted on this, Joe Pesci and Robert Deniro? With all the great boxing films this one doesn't stand out.


7. Saving Private Ryan - this is a tough one, because the opening scene is so effective and the the story is good. Honestly, what kills me about this movie is too many names. Every time you turn around you're saying "hey wasn't he in." After a while it's just too much for me. Plus as far as general war movies go, it's not that exciting.



6. Forrest Gump - now this movie arguably has the greatest soundtrack ever, but it doesn't save it from being just plain annoying. The idea is clever but the idea that Forrest Gump seems to touch so many lives inadvertently is a little bothersome at times. My biggest issue of all is that it runs about 45 minutes to long. I was running....and so was this movie, running too long.



5. Citizen Kane - this is like a film school No-No. The same way you don't talk about Fight Club, you don't bash this movie. Well I watched this in a film class and after the fight to keep my eyes open until the end just to find out that freaking Rosebud was his freaking...well you'll have to see it to find out...I ranted for a good 10 minutes about how bad this was. I can appreciate when it was made. I can appreciate that the camera work was ahead of its time. I can appreciate a lot, but I can't appreciate how boring this movie is. Seriously, some of the shots you swear the camera crew just left the camera rolling and nobody told the actors to cut. It's just boring. If you want to see genius film making by Orson Welles' Touch of Evil.

5. The Matrix - I saw only the first one and that was enough. Ironically they made a movie that fit Keanu Reeves acting style. Shitty! Honestly, could anyone else pull off Keanu. Seriously, I almost want him to OD or die in a hang gliding accident just so they can make a movie about him. If anyone can act like him, they deserve an Oscar, because it's almost impossible to imagine someone else on this planet being as void of personality. HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey has more charisma than this tool. That being said he was wonderful in Point Break. Oh wait, he sucked in that too!

4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - Screw you people. This movie was summed up perfectly by Randall in Clerks 2. When your entire existence is wrapped up in a comedy sequel on about thirty seconds, you know you suck. Seriously, from what I can tell the entire trilogy is about a hike in the woods to get a ring and then destroy it. If I missed something else, please fill me in.

3. The Dark Knight - OK being hopped up on drugs and playing a part of a guy who appears hopped up on drugs does not a great performance make. Combine that with a crappy script and a bored looking Christian Bale, i walked away from this gem feeling cheated. I thought Batman Begins was absolutely freaking brilliant. I couldn't believe how good it was. I couldn't wait to see Bale back as the caped crusader. Then about 30 minutes in, the wheels fell off. I couldn't care less about any of the characters and Katie Holmes or whoever it was this time, Maggie Gyllenhal, Jesus, how the hell did they not keep the same actor, was Katie Holmes busy getting the rocket ship ready for Tom? What the hell happened. And what's with Morgan Freeman? Can he once be in a movie where he's not the token black guy. Sorry, but Morgan do an original role dammit. I'm sick of this crap. Anyway, lots of booms and bangs and I felt like I got cheated. Can't wait for the next one.

2. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - hated the book and went into this with the worst possible attitude. I'm going to have to see this one again, because I saw it right after I read the book and couldn't stand it. In all fairness, I've blocked this movie from my memory for the most part. I know the best acting is by the guy who doesn't talk for half the movie. That's probably why I hated it.

1. The Shawshank Redemption - OK, I think I've written about this, but not sure if it was a blog or a response to Facebook post. I hate this movie and I am quite aware that I am one of about 12 people that roam this planet that feel this way. Let's see where to start. Let's begin with Tim Robbins acting. He sucks in everything and he sucks in this. Morgan Freeman (see token black statement). My feeling about watching this is that getting through to the bright sunny ending is similar to Andy Dufrene's crawling through 500 yards of sewage. Which by the way, is most likely physically impossible. Plus, is it just me or when he gets to the end and does his Jesus pose, was I the only one thinking of John Goodman and William Forsythe in Raising Arizona? The ending also got me. Had this not had a Hollywood ending and maybe it ended up that Andy had duped everyone, even Red, I would have had so much more respect for it. I just can't stomach the cliche filled sob fest that left me feeling Shawshanked.

OK So where do I go from here. I named #1 and I've got a silly number of listings, eleven. Well let me add one, since Shawshank was IMDB's #1 movie of all-time I had to list it number one on my list. But there's a big one I left out. If there is a heaven and hell, I'll be taking the elevator down, I realize this, but maybe it's not hot. Maybe some guy who looks like David Niven with a pitchfork isn't down there, maybe it's a room with a DVD player and we have to watch the one movie that gives us chills. That breaks us down to a pile of stench laden ooze. Well for me, that's the holiday car accident known as It's A Wonderful Life. I'd rather attend family members funerals than watch this train wreck. James Stewart, your a babbling idiot, please go away. I hate this movie with such passion that I actually rip the wings off of baby birds when I hear a bell during Christmas time. Don't judge me, you go to the Candlelight all the time, what do you think those are actually from a buffalo you sorry movie loving hypocrite. I so wish James Stewart died and stayed dead in this movie. It would have been about 6 minutes long and I could digest my holiday meal without Maalox. What kills me is when I watch this with men and they get teary-eyed. Are you shitting me Pile? I'd get more enjoyment watching a kid without thumbs playing Xbox than watching this crap. Oh and you know what happens when a bell rings, you get up and answer the goddamn door. Look what you've all done. You've made me angry. Hulk angry. Dammit, the Hulk is a better movie. OK I better stop before I go on a five state shooting spree! Although I'd save some innocent souls from the perils of holiday horrors!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A note to my friends who are teachers and parents

I hope you all have enjoyed your summer. I hope for those teachers without children, you enjoyed your freedom of schedules and paper correcting and relaxed on beaches and soaked up the mild summer sun. I hope those of you with children appreciated the added time with your little ones. I hope you parents, the real teachers, enjoyed some vacation time with your kids and in some way brightened their future with trips that may have taught them something about anything. Anything learned is important.

I'm writing this not in a negative tone, but in a very positive one, but the reality is that our children are not getting smarter, they are getting dumber, by the minute. Parents working too many hours to make ends meat don't have the time or the energy to educate from home. Some teachers take tenure as an invitation to stop driving their students forward. I love children and I've worked with kids for twenty years now. Not as a teacher per se, but as a coach, a counselor, and most of all as a friend. I try every dayI'm with them to teach them something. Maybe it's not how to throw a ball, but to say thank you. Maybe not to make a shot, but to say please. Maybe not to hit a backhand, but about teamwork and sportsmanship.

Much has been made about our presidents speech and the uproar it has caused due to political affiliation or views on health care. Shouldn't we be happy that our Commander-in-Chief, who has two young daughters of his own, feels it necessary to say something positive about education? Our last two presidents didn't feel this was an issue. The two previous did make these speeches, but didn't follow up by pushing positive educational policies. Shouldn't we be happy we have someone who cares about this issue?

I beg of you teachers to make that great first impression. Many of you will spend Monday sipping margaritas and eating burgers at a friend or family members barbecue. The thought of the classroom will be a million miles away. Some of you will want nothing more than one more day, maybe one more week. Please remember, when those children enter your class on Tuesday, that look on your face, that smile, that reassuring nod will mean so much to them. Those bleary-eyed, staring at the clock waiting for 3PM individuals will only compound the fact that school is for all intents and purposes a cold place. I beg of you to make your classroom the warmest one in the building. It makes all the difference.

As a youngster I loved school. As I got older and learned to read people I fed off those teachers who shared their disdain for the four walls that contained us. My hatred for school grew and no matter how important I was told it was, I could see in my teacher's faces that they shared that animosity for this waste of time. Luckily I had parents who pushed me, who taught me that which the teachers left out, or even worse, didn't know. I learned more during dinner about the civil war than in any classroom. I read more poetry in one summer as a nine year old that in all my textbooks. This isn't the way it should be. I know many teachers and many are great people. Many are brilliant minds. Many have families and children of their own. All I ask is that you teach every student as if it was your own. That is how I have coached all my life. I know that I have one hour a day in most cases to make a special time. I would like to think that that hour is the best in their day. That is what I strive for. It's something that every teacher and every parent should strive for too.

I realize we all have our outside issues. we have stressors that don't always allow us to achieve and perform at our desired abilities. We all must fight through those times. I'm not tooting my own horn, but I ran programs and camps right up til the day my mother died. Not one kid knew anything was wrong. It wasn't easy, but it was important to me that my troubles never interfered with their happiness and learning. All I ask is that everyone tries their best, no matter how difficult it is. I myself have been going through a rough patch and I look forward to October when I get to work with the kids again. I find it therapeutic. I have also caused someone else some stress and possibly two friends who have been helpful during this time. All are teachers and I have vowed not to let my feelings for one and need for the others shoulders to carry over into the school year. It won't be easy, but I owe it, not only to them, but to those who count on them. I would expect nothing less from anyone else.

Teachers you have the second most important job there is. Parents, you have the first. Many of you do both and my humble appreciation, despite not having children of my own is immense. I admire you and thank you. I hope that one day your kids can be part of a generation where we can look at our educational system with pride Where kids know more about geology and astronomy than they do about Xbox and Wii. Their and our future is in your hands. Handle it with care.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Perfect Meals

Ever think about your death row meal? While reading Anthony Bourdain's book, Nasty Bits, he mentioned that this is a common game played among chefs when they get together. It's an ever changing answer depending on season or moods, but it's fun to think of. Primarily, the death row meal is a dinner, but I'd like to think of my death row day, minus the execution of course. For arguments sake, I'm throwing in Brunch and snacks. Being that I'm not feeling well and missing a BBQ, my mind is just stuck on food. So here it goes.

Breakfast - my breakfast of course would start with nice hot cup of coffee with a dash of milk. I'd have two eggs over easy with home fries, two strips of bacon and a nice heap of corned beef hash. To be honest, I could even hold off on the home fries if I could double up on the corned beef hash.

Brunch - I'm not a big eggs person for brunch. Sure steak and eggs is a wonderful meal on occasion, but I'm going for that traditional NY Jewish brunch. I want a sesame bagel with a nice thick shmear of Philadelphia cream cheese, two slices of Nova Scotia lox, a nice thick slice of a beefsteak tomato, and a thin slice of raw onion. This baby better be almost as big as mouth. Once again, this with a nice cup of good coffee. Perfect.

Lunch - Lunch is a tough one. Do I go burger, hot dog, or sandwich? What about grilled cheese with tomato and bacon or even Peanut Butter and Jelly. I could go chicken cutlet w/ lettuce, tomato and a little mayo? Philly cheese steak? What about Buffalo wings? Hmm. It's tough. Well I'm gonna conjure up my past. When I was a little kid I used to eat this one sandwich almost religiously. Four, maybe five times a week this was in my lunchbox as a youngster. A nice fresh semolina bread sliced about 1/2 inch thick, slathered with Hellman's mayonnaise one whole tomato sliced and three or four slices of provolone. Perfection!

Snack - my biggest junk food weakness is potato chips. Give me a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos or Sour Cream and Onion chips and I'm good, but I'm on death row, let's add some class to this final day. I'm thinking an assortment of cheeses and a nice port. I'm going with a nice chevre, a Brie or Camembert, a nice smoked Gouda, some ricotta salata and of course an English Stilton. Accompanying my cheeses will be some sopressata and prosciutto, sliced so thin it's almost translucent. My last bite will be the Stilton with the port.

Dinner - This is where it gets tricky. Do I go with the big ass porterhouse? Maybe a perfectly designed chorizo burrito. What about a decadent Moussaka or classic paella. I was delightfully surprised when watching the last season of Top Chef. Big name celebrity chefs asked the contestants to make them their favorite meal. Most were complicated concoctions from their roots. Lidia Bastianach asked for a roasted chicken. She said, it's simple, but when done well it's as good as any meal ever. The other judges seemed almost shamed by her decision, because it was so correct. They hemmed and hawed as they ate this simple meal. I agree, a perfectly roasted chicken is as good as any meal, but my final dinner is a simple choice. I want perfectly pan seared lamb chops, medium rare, seasoned with nothing more than salt, a dash of pepper and rosemary with saffron rice (or orzo) and some sweet baby peas. If you put mint anywhere near my plate, I'll kill you. I'm on death row you know, what do I have to lose? I could die a happy man after that meal.

Dessert - I'm not much of a dessert person. I'd probably skip the dessert and have more lamb chops, maybe even throw in a Shepherd's Pie, made with lamb, of course. For the sake of argument, I'd have to say, a perfectly made pecan pie, of which only one person has ever made this. Ironically it was my brother and he was about 16 at the time. Even more odd is that he doesn't even like pecan's and wouldn't eat it. Since the last time he made it, I have yet to taste anyone's that has come anywhere close. I'm also not an ala mode guy. Just give me the warm soft pie and go away. You put some ice cold Haagen Daz on my plate there's gonna be trouble. Don't even think about the Redi-Whip. Just the pie and of course another cup of coffee.

So there you have it. My death row day will be spent gorging myself. You know, all this talk of the last meal makes me want to go out and commit a crime worthy of such delicacies. Maybe I'll go rob the local butcher, baker, the cheesemaker and maybe even the candle stick maker for good measure.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama's back to school speech, why are Republican's scared?

In the wake of President Obama's speech to all students welcoming them back to school and stressing the importance of studying hard and staying in school. Republican politicians are up in arms over this, saying that the president is overstepping his boundaries and using this to push his policies onto children. Hmmm, did these same politicians have a problem when Reagan and Bush Sr. did this? Here's why we shouldn't be scared about Obama's speech:

"I believe a case can be made that the decline in the quality of public school education began when Federal aid to education became Federal interference in education." Ronald Reagan

"If you serve a child a rotten hamburger in America, federal, state, and local agencies will investigate you, summon you, close you down, whatever. But if you provide a child with a rotten education, nothing happens, except that you're liable to be given more money to do it with. Well, we've discovered that money alone isn't the answer." Ronald Reagan

"We think there is a parallel between federal involvement in education and the decline in profit over recent years." Ronald Reagan

"You don't have to go to college to be a success ... We need the people who run the offices, the people who do the hard physical work of our society." George H.W. Bush

"I'm not what you call your basic intellectual." George H.W. Bush

"Rarely is the question asked. Is our children learning?" George W. Bush

"It is time to set aside the old partisan bickering and finger-pointing and name-calling that comes from freeing parents to make different choices for their children." George W Bush

"Columbia carried in its payroll classroom experiments from some of our students in America." George W. Bush

Honestly, the last one is so convoluted, I don't even know what to say. Our country has been run by a republican administration for twenty of the last twenty-eight years and out educational system has quickly become one of the worst in the world. It is not the teachers faults, because I know many teachers who are intelligent, nurturing and determined, but we have over sized classes, not enough resources, and spending usually goes to areas that do not help the children.

Let's wait til after Obama's speech to ridicule him. After reading the quotes I was able to find by his predecessors, I don't think the nation's children are in bad hands.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Letter to August

Dear August,

I'll start by saying I will not be as kind to you as I was to July. I have yet to see any silver lining in your month. Sure the month started off great. A new found beau, or so I thought, some warmer weather to stimulate the paycheck, and a wedding to look forward to. I couldn't wait for you warm embrace, but alas you let me down.

I guess the first week you were as good to me as any week I've had. I felt my life had taken a turn for the better and was giddy with this new found hope. I went in with full knowledge this would be a difficult month, but was ready to conquer it and stay strong. I had prepared myself for many weeks without any contact with a special friend. Surprisingly the contact was almost daily and this is where things went wrong. As I've stated before, in this blog, I sometimes say too much. My emotions were out of whack and they continue to be this way. I've gone from my normal self to someone I don't ever want to be. I guess when you think with your heart your head doesn't have time to stop your foolish actions. I fear that I may have gone too far and not only lost someone special, but possibly lost a friend.

You weren't all bad August. You allowed me to do things for other people that despite their silliness gave them pleasure. You reconnected me with a dear old high school friend who helped me end this tumultuous month with laughter and levity. For this I thank you. You ended the month with cool northern winds which have cost me dearly. The timing couldn't be worse.

It just seems that for every step forward this month, you made me take so many in reverse. You've clouded my judgment and I know deep down this has cost me. You made me so crazed with emotions that I couldn't stop even when I knew the outcome was not going to be a positive one. You taught me lessons I fear are lost on me anyway. I think the worst part of this month has been not knowing why everything has happened. I know in my heart of hearts that September will not be much better, because the only thing that could make this all right is to go back to that early August morning, look next to me, appreciate July's gifts and realize, just sometimes, words aren't necessary.