Take me out!

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My friends, today is a religious holiday. And, as I have for the last 30 years or so, I will be attending a house of worship with my sons, Josh and Ben.

Every year, Linda and I would pull them out of school on this day and we’d all head to the ballpark. Their principal would give them a dollar and ask them to bring him back a bag of peanuts. Never mind that a bag of peanuts cost around six bucks . . . He got it. And we brought him back the peanuts.

I said then — and I say now — that there was nothing they would miss in class that day that would be as important or as meaningful as this family tradition.

Today is Opening Day, and I’m heading to the ballpark. There will be hot dogs. There will be beer. I don’t care if I never get back.

And here’s the best part . . . This year my sons are taking ME!

Great memories last a lifetime. Let’s go Mets!

— 30 —

Shoveling snow after eight years of leisure

We made our move in 2005. Josh was gone, Ben was going, the wood playground we’d assembled in the backyard had rotted away, unused for at least a decade. We needed a new roof, a new sewer line, a major repair of a leaking wall in the basement . . .

Clearly, the four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath Dutch colonial on a third of an acre in Upper Nyack had outlived its purpose. Let somebody else deal with all that stuff.

And what was more … I’d had it up to here with shoveling the driveway and the walk and the steps in the winter and mowing the grass in the summer and, because we had dozens of trees on the property, raking the leaves in the fall. Or, more often, paying people to do all of the above. 

And I’d had it up to here with finding people to deal with the inevitable problems of owning a home – the guy to clean the gutters, the guy to clear the branches overhanging the house, the guy to replace the bushes that were destroyed when a kid under the influence plowed his car through them and wound up dazed from alcohol and exploding air bags, sitting in a stupor at 2 a.m. in our front yard. Not once, but twice.

So Linda and I decided to do what empty-nesters in situations like that do: Sell the lawnmower, toss the snow shovel and get out of Dodge. Continue reading

It’s been good to know you

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I’d like to live in a world where Toys ‘R’ Us has a Pete Seeger action figure.

Because our kids need better role models.

This was an American who served in the Armed Forces and stared down McCarthyism.

This was an American who was blacklisted for his politics and then, in the middle of the Vietnam War, when finally allowed back on television, proceeded to sing “We’re waist-deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool says to push on.”

This was an American who saw what had become of the mighty Hudson River and proceeded to  head an organization that built a magnificent sloop, the Clearwater, which still travels up and down the river in a campaign to keep it clean.

This was an American who, in 1955, when summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee, said:

“I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature…. I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”

This was an American who was denied a chance to appear on a TV show called “Hootenanny,” because he refused to sign a loyalty oath.

This was the American who wrote “How to Play the Five-String Banjo,” still the premier primer on the subject, and a book I plan to study closely when I take up the instrument. When I retire. If I live to be 94, as Pete did, I should have time to master it.

This was an American who sang and played with Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Turn, Turn, Turn, Goodnight Irene, If I Had a Hammer, So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You . . .

We Shall Overcome.

To everything, there is a season.

R.I.P., Pete. We need more like you.

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— 30 —

The worst New Year

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Journalists have to work on holidays, because cops and firefighters and doctors and nurses and EMTs and soldiers work on holidays, and someone has to report on what the heroes are up to while the rest of us are drinking ourselves silly.

And that’s why I always worked on Christmas. It’s not my holiday, so to do otherwise would be selfish.

But because I always worked Christmas, I always had off on New Year’s Eve. Quid pro quo, and all that.

Except for New Year’s Eve 2000, a night of work that still infuriates me, 14 years later. Continue reading

My first blackout

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Today’s obituary in the New York Times for Stan Brooks, a legendary “Voice of New York,” gives prominent mention to the evening of November 9, 1965, when someone pulled the wrong switch and plunged most of the New York metropolitan area and a good portion of the American Northeast into immediate darkness. It was the Night of the Blackout, or would be until the night of July 13, 1977, when we had the Son of New York Blackout, which would be the end of all blackouts until August 14, 2003, when we had the Grandson of New York Blackout.

I’ve had the dubious pleasure of being in town for all three, and each one comes with a story.

So pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you all about Blackout Number One, and how, if not for some unknown clown who these days would be called a bully, I would have been underground on the subway in Brooklyn, somewhere around DeKalb Avenue, when the lights went out, and how I was such a good citizen that my mom and dad had no idea where their 15-year-old kid was for roughly six hours. Continue reading

Thank you, Miss Mosey


My friend Ash recently posted on Facebook a Business Insider article about a college kid who got an 89.22% grade in his chemistry class and emailed his professor asking if maybe there was a way the prof could find an “extra” .78% somehow, somewhere, so that he could get an even 90% grade, which he said would “be a great boost in the GPA for me” and, let’s face it, would so obviously make the difference someday between slaving behind the counter at McDonald’s for the rest of his life and becoming the CEO of Dow Chemical.

The kid finished his email with “Thanks for a great semseter and good luck with medical research.”

Now, first of all, I would have lowered his grade for misspelling “semester.” But that’s just me.

And I digress. Continue reading

If Jesus was Jewish . . .

Now that we’re deep into the ridiculous, annual War on Christmas – you know, the one where we’re supposed to believe that America is waging a duel to the death with roughly three out of four members of its own population – a new wrinkle has been added:

What color is Santa Claus? Is he white? Is he black? Paisley?

And, for that matter, what about Jesus?

This kerfuffle got kerfuffling when a “culture blogger” named Aisha Harris, who is black, wrote a compelling piece in Slate about how, as a child, she “knew two different Santa Clauses.”

The first had a fat belly, rosy cheeks, a long white beard, and skin as pink as bubble gum. He was omnipresent, visiting my pre-school and the local mall, visible in all of my favorite Christmas specials.

Then there was the Santa in my family’s household, in the form of ornaments, cards, and holiday figurines. A near-carbon copy of the first one—big belly, rosy cheeks, long white beard: check, check, check. But his skin was as dark as mine.

Harris goes on to write:

Two decades later, America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn’t it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas?

Yes, it is. And so I propose that America abandon Santa-as-fat-old-white-man and create a new symbol of Christmas cheer. From here on out, Santa Claus should be a penguin.

That’s right: a penguin.

Cue the outrage. Continue reading