June 25, 2003

The Atlantic City Between the

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:47 pm

The Atlantic City Between the Casinos.
“It’s no wonder we call the Atlantic City Council Meetings the Jerry Springer Show.” So says Zogby Blog in a post describing the public comment portion of a recent City Council meeting. It seems that HUD has decided that it no longer makes sense to continue to subsidize a couple local rundown buildings. The goal is to encourage the landlords to make improvements. The people who live in these places showed up to demand that the City pick up the slack.

One “enterprising” resident said, “People deserve affordable houses whether they work or not.” I assume that this non-worker would like affordable housing with a nice front porch on which to sit and watch the people who are paying for his housing drag their asses off to work every day.

Another local added this pearl of wisdom to the discussion: “Some people have summer homes here that are empty most of the time. Just because they paid for them, they get to keep them? That ain’t fair!” Interesting idea. Let’s seize those houses, at least during the winter months, and turn them over to the people who didn’t pay for them. Fairness in spades, I’d say. Well, even if I wouldn’t say so, Karl Marx certainly would.

Apparently no one on the City Council took issue with either statement.

Yep. Jerry Springer it is.

Note: As of this writing the permalink is not working (sigh), so you may have to scroll down to the June 24, 2003 entry, entitled Gimme Shelter.

Sopranos’ Loose Ends.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:31 pm

Of course, I am a regular Sopranos viewer, and I make no apologies for that. I understand and appreciate how tiring it must be for non-viewers (almost all of whom do not have HBO) to listen to the Sopranos fans’ Monday analysis of the previous night’s program and how, to the non-fans, it sounds a good deal like the discussion of like a soap opera. With a few unfortunate exceptions in the most recent season, it is decidedly not a soap opera. It is well crafted, sometimes upsetting, and often hilarious in the darkest sense of the word.

The problem is that there is only one episode remaining in the season and there are just too many loose ends out there to be resolved in one episode, thereby leaving the viewers hanging for what might be another extremely long time. Unfortunately, I am beginning to sense that either the producer and writers are running out of creative gas, or they are beginning to take the audience for granted. Probably it is a bit of both.

Anyway, here are some of the loose ends, any of which left unresolved will drive us loyalists crazy.

Tony: How will he deal with the mess that has become his crime family? Will he learn of Paulie’s abortive betrayal? Can he trust his nephew Christopher to kick drugs and maintain his silence about Tony’s brutal murder of Ralph? Will he learn of his wife’s romantic feelings for Furio? Will he continue to see Dr. Melfi, his psychiatrist? Will he make a play for her? Will he learn of her rape? If so, will he even the score with the rapist? Will his fits of depression and panic subside? Will anything come of his having beaten the crooked councilman with his belt? Will he take Johnny Sack’s lead and kill Carmine, the head of the New York family. And, don’t forget that he personally committed four murders (Ralphie, the kid who shot Chris, the guy he spotted while taking his daughter around to colleges and strangled and Big Pussy), any one of which arguably could be the source of serious problems.

Carmella: Will she ever get around to knocking boots with Furio? How long will she be able to tolerate Tony’s girlfriends? Will she run off with the piles of cash that she took from Tony?

Paulie: Will Tony learn that he was sharing family information with the rival New York family? Will Tony see the painting in Paulie’s apartment that depicts Tony as Napoleon posing with the racehorse that Ralphie killed for the insurance proceeds? Will the crazy, Russian mobster who Paulie and Christopher hunted down and shot resurface? Given all the foregoing, will Paulie survive the season?

Chris: Will he succeed in rehab? Will he remain silent about Tony’s murder of Ralph? Will he learn that his fiancée, Adriana, is reluctantly talking to the FBI?

Furio: Will he return from Italy? Will he bed Carmella? If so, will he survive?

Uncle Junior: Will he be acquitted of racketeering charges?

Bobby: Will he learn of Tony’s sister’s duplicity with regard to his children? Will his jury tampering work in Junior’s favor?

Adriana: Will she continue to cooperate with the FBI? If this is discovered, will she survive?

Meadow: Does she suspect that her mother has a thing for Furio? If so, what will she do about it? Will she stay in Columbia?

Anthony Jr.: Will he ever get his shit together?

My God. They’re right. It does sound like a soap opera. Oh well. I’ll stay tuned anyway.

Send in the Clowns, Not!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:31 pm

Here’s the thing. I hate clowns. I cannot remember ever not hating clowns, although, until quite recently, I never mentioned it much. In fact, as a boy, I never mentioned it at all. I suppose I feared that my peers and adults might think that there was something wrong with me for not liking clowns. Even worse, I worried that there might be something wrong with me because I didn’t like clowns or the circus, the place where one most often finds clowns. After all, a trip to New York’s Madison Square Garden to see the circus was supposed to be a treat, no? Therefore, I never refused a trip to the circus, because I thought that perhaps with repeated visits, I would eventually get to like the circus and even the clowns.

It never happened. I thought the circus, with its three rings, was too busy, too smelly, and not terribly entertaining. I couldn’t discern the attraction of many, if not all, of the acts that the circus featured. I questioned why some damned fool would willingly be shot from a cannon. I found myself wondering if the nutbar doing flips on the tightrope without a net really thought he had to do such reckless things for my benefit. It was the same with the “Flying Whomevers” doing a death-defying trapeze stunt (of course, without a net) that had never been done before. Why?

The animal acts also never moved me. As such, I never found it the least bit engaging to watch people dressed in sequined shirts making elephants do non-elephant things. In fact, a huge elephant being coaxed (or prodded) to stand with all four feet on a tiny platform and then spin around always seemed a little sad to me. Similarly, I could never understand what people saw in the obligatory “lion tamer” tormenting the lions with a chair (why a chair?), a whip and a blank pistol. Were the people in the audience waiting for the lions to finally become angry enough to eat their tormentor? Even though he probably would have had it coming, watching him become lion fodder was not something I wanted to see.

And there were the clowns.

While I simply could not understand the allure of human cannon balls, tightrope walkers, trapeze people, dancing elephants and lion tamers, it was different with the clowns. I really hated the clowns. I was not afraid of them; I just hated them. I never bothered to try to articulate the reasons for my clown animus even to myself, let alone trying to explain it to others.

Then, one day several years ago, I was eating lunch with several colleagues, and the topics of that day’s lunch conversation focused on the circus and clowns. I had not participated in the conversation. I was really only half paying attention. Then, and all of a sudden, it all came back lake a hammer blow. I looked up from my plate and said, “I f****** hate clowns.”

The conversation at the table immediately ceased, as all five of my lunch partners looked at me as if I had just stepped from an alien spacecraft. At least one person dropped his silverware. “What did you say?” one of my female colleagues asked.

“I f****** hate clowns,” I repeated. There it was. I said it not just once but twice. I wondered then why it took me several decades to say it, when saying it felt so good.

Everyone at the lunch table howled with laughter and insisted that I was joking. I assured them that I was not, and that I really did not like clowns. I was on a roll – no stopping me now.

“You gotta be kidding us. Everybody loves clowns. What could you possibly have against clowns?”

I don’t know where the answer came from; I can only assume that it had formulated itself deep within my subconscious and lay dormant there for decades, because without a single moment’s hesitation I responded, “Why would anyone like a garishly dressed adult, made up to appear to be deformed, acting erratically like some mentally deranged person?”

They howled some more, and by this time, I was laughing with them, thinking about what I had just said. “No, come on. Be serious. You really don’t like clowns?”

Still laughing, I said, “No, I don’t. I can’t stand them.”

“But why? They’re supposed to look funny. They’re clowns! It’s got to be more than that, they insisted.”

Now, for the first time in decades, I actually gave it a minute’s thought, and I responded, “I hate clowns because they feel that by virtue of being clowns they can invade your personal space with impunity. They can walk up to you and pretend they are going to throw a bucket of water on you, and the bucket turns out to be full of confetti. They can get in your face and f*** around with your tie, or mess your hair and you’re supposed to laugh and enjoy all that. If anyone other than a clown did that, you’d push him away and tell him ‘get the f*** out of my face, asshole’.” It felt so good to say these things, and they were all true.

Think about it. What is a small child’s first reaction to a clown? The child typically recoils in fear, which is completely understandable. To a child’s eyes, a clown with huge floppy feet, and a painted face is a horribly grotesque monster. Only when the parent assures the child that she will not be hurt by clowns and insists that clowns are actually funny, does the child’s perception change. You needn’t go to a circus to see this in action. You need only watch very young children’s first exposure to Santa Claus in a department store. They often scream with terror and cling to their mothers for dear life. I’m not suggesting that ol’ St. Nick is a clown, but you get the picture.

Since that day in the lunchroom, several things have happened. My colleagues take every opportunity to send me pictures of clowns and place little clown dolls on my desk. I can always count on receiving clown birthday cards, and newspaper clippings about things such as clown funerals, clown conventions (we actually had one this summer in Jersey) and clown weddings (you won’t believe this).

The good news is that I have since learned that I am not alone. There are lots of people who hate clowns. It turns out that each time I am asked (for humor’s sake) to relate my feelings about clowns, it produces the predictable incredulity and laughter. However, invariably there are at least one or two of the listeners who confess that they (or their children) don’t like clowns. Hell, there are even websites for those of us who don’t like clowns. Take a look at I Hate Clowns and Clownz.

So, if you are interested in going to a place where you are guaranteed not to run into me, I suggest the circus.

What about mimes, you ask? Don’t even get me started.

Cape May Visit. Just returned

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:31 pm

Cape May Visit. Just returned from a long weekend trip with friends to Cape May, Jersey’s oldest seashore resort. The town is noted for its Victorian Homes, beautiful beach, great dining, and lots of places to shop. The Christmas season is special in Cape May. While other seashore resorts are pretty well buttoned up for the winter, during Christmas season Cape May comes alive, at least on the weekends. The streets, shops, and restaurants are full of people bundled up against the cold wind that whips in off the ocean. And the local residents as well as the proprietors of the many, many Bed and Breakfasts decorate the Victorian mansions beautifully.

Our plan, to the extent we had one, was to eat too much, drink too much, spend too much money, and have lots of laughs. The trip was a success on all counts (although it will be salad and soft drinks for me for the next week or so).

We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and it seemed as if we were the only “tourists” in the town. We walked down a deserted Washington Street Mall, the place where most of the activity normally takes place. We wondered if we had the whole Cape May Christmas Thing wrong, but two of our number had been there before during the Christmas Season and assured us that Friday and Saturday would be different.

Fortunately, our favorite saloon, The Ugly Mug, was open, with plenty of places to sit. We were all hungry and settled in for cocktails (having already gotten a head start upon arrival with brought-from-home champagne and chilled Finlandia Cranberry Vodka on the rocks) and copious amounts of heavy-duty pub food. We topped it off with hot “Apple Knockers,” made with Lairds Applejack (a product of New Jersey), cider, “natural flavors., and an apple slice.”

Now, fairly well oiled, we took a walk to (oy!) a liquor store to pick up some wine for the BYO restaurants in town that we planned to visit, and while we were there we spotted Smirnoff Green Apple Twist Vodka – something new. Well, after the Finlandia cranberry and Laird’s Apple Knockers, this seemed like a natural for a nightcap or four. It was excellent. All you need is a glass and some ice.

The next day, marked the beginning of the influx of people that culminated with the place being mobbed. Being somewhat ragged around the edges from the night before, we went for a “Fisherman’s Breakfast” (read, big) at a local restaurant called “Dock Mike’s.” The pancakes are huge and out of this world.
We then did the real tourist thing and took the trolley (actually a bus that looks like a trolley car) tour of Cape May to learn about its rich history and architecture. The tour was nice, but I think I may have learned a little more about mansard roofing than I needed to know. The tour also included a visit to the Emlen Physick Estate. Two ladies, dressed in Victorian garb and completely in character as Emlen’s mother and aunt, took “their visitors” (i.e. tourists) on a tour of the mansion. Usually, the theme of the tour is the mansion’s architecture, but during the holidays, the place is all done up in preparation for a Victorian “Christmas Dinner,” and the tour focuses on a typical Victorian Christmas (typical for seriously moneyed folks in the 1800’s, anyway). The ladies say cute things like, “Isn’t it wonderful how we can now eat vegetables during the winter, and they are as fresh as they can be. I just ‘love’ the new canned vegetables, don’t you?”
Naturally, we spent what seemed to be endless time shopping in cutesy little shops and even attended a Christmas Craft Show in Cape May’s Convention Hall, which collectively proved two things to me: One, I think I have finally hit the wall looking at Christmas doodads, and two, people positively swarm to look at and buy Christmas doodads. I had assumed that a couple dozen or so little old ladies would attend the craft fair. Wrong! Within thirty minutes of opening, Convention Hall was absolutely packed. Go figure.
In order to escape the crowds in the main part of town, we took a shot for lunch at a place about a mile or so from all the action, and what a find it turned out to be. It is called “Yesterday’s Sports Heroes Café.” It is a sports fan’s paradise. It boasts the largest public display of Babe Ruth memorabilia in the world. Customers are greeted by a life-size talking Babe Ruth robot that periodically tells stories about his life (the Babe’s life, not the robot’s). There are signed jerseys all over the place (each a game jersey e.g. Joe Dimaggio’s), a zillion baseballs, all signed, mitts, bats, and even stadium seats. No description could do it justice. You have to see it to believe it. Even the bar is covered with laminated, presumably very valuable old baseball cards. Not surprisingly, there is also tons of signed Mickey Mantle stuff. The bedazzled patrons can even touch the handles of the Babe’s and Sammy Sosa’s bats. An extra bonus…the food is great!

Dinners: Our Friday night and Saturday night dinners were also first class. Friday was Cucina Rosa and Saturday was Godmother’s (we tend to gravitate to Italian restaurants). Both places are BYO, but curiously one can buy wine at either place, but only wine made in Cape May from grapes grown in Cape May county. On Saturday, we decided to give a $26.00 bottle of Cape May Winery Merlot a try. I am a strong advocate of the Garden State, but California need not worry that New Jersey will put it out of the wine business. (Query: Does an ordinance that prohibits Cape May restaurants from selling wine unless it is Cape May wine violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution?) I’ll think about that another time. In the meantime, I’ll bring my own, thank you.
On the long ride home on the Garden State Parkway, we listened to the soundtrack from “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” the story of the Funk Brothers, without whom there would be no Motown sound as we know it, and about whom nothing much was ever said for far too long. I have not seen the movie yet, but my cousin Jack has, and he has written a great review on Yakety Yak.
All in all, it was a great getaway, even if I returnedf overfed, overspent, overtired, and slightly bleary-eyed. Tomorrow, back to the grind.

Cell Phone Stomping. On

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 1:15 am

Cell Phone Stomping.
On the heels of Monday’s post about Cell Phone Vulgarians, a reader sent me this link to an amazing site. Here’s the deal. Two guys dress up like large cell phones (That’s right; like large cell phones), and seek out Cell Phone Vulgarians, take their phones away and stomp the offending devices into the ground. The site has film clips of these guys performing their snatch and stomp missions. It’s a scream.

Thanks to Josh for the link.

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