This just defies belief. The greatest rocker of them all entered his eighth decade on earth today.

He’s been at it for more than half a century, and he still has the moves of a 20-year-old.

I’m gonna put Let It Bleed on the turntable and play it all night.

Happy birthday, Mick! Start me up!


Bronx cheer


That’s my kite. It’s the only one I’ve ever owned and, roughly 30 years after Linda bought it for me, it is still, like Anthony Weiner, flapping in the breeze. I decided to go fly the thing a couple of weeks ago, and I’m sad to say that the world continued to go to hell in my absence. Some folks have been very, very bad of late. So without further delay, let’s all give a big Bronx cheer to . . .

This guy . . .


George Zimmerman, Sniveling Coward

OK . . . he’s not guilty of murder; I don’t think he left the car with the intention to kill Trayvon Martin, so he’s not literally guilty of murder.

He’s definitely guilty of manslaughter, but the jury felt otherwise. And, like it or not, we have to accept the jury’s verdict. I’m much more comfortable living with that than I am living with the alternative — a country in which vigilantes take things into their own hands when they don’t like the decision.

But here’s what I don’t accept . . . I don’t accept that everyone wanted to talk about stand your ground and self defense, but nobody wanted to talk about what was so obvious: the fact that this was another case of a nut with a gun.

Because if Zimmerman, the sniveling coward, doesn’t have a gun, then there’s no way in hell he gets out of his car — against the advice of law enforcement — and trails Trayvon Martin.

If Zimmerman, the sniveling coward, isn’t packing heat, then there’s no confrontation, no banging of face into pavement, no debating “who was screaming for help,” no blood, no nothing. Bupkis.

If Zimmerman, the sniveling coward, doesn’t have a gun, he sits in his car and waits for the cavalry to arrive. And when it does, the guys wearing badges ask Trayvon a couple of questions, compliment him on his hoodie and candy selection and send him and his Skittles home to watch the second half.

That’s what would have happened . . . should have happened, but didn’t happen because  Zimmerman, the sniveling coward, had a gun in his pocket.

The gun made Zimmerman brave.

Now, this guy is such a loser that even the people he pulled out from under an overturned SUV don’t want to appear in public with him.

But at least he’s a living loser. Zimmerman, the sniveling coward, is out there somewhere, wasting our precious oxygen. Trayvon Martin, on the other hand, is dead.

Looking for an argument for gun control? I give you George Zimmerman.


 And then there’s this guy . . .


Geraldo (Weiner Got Nothin’ on Me) Rivera

Memo to Geraldo . . .

Unless you’re this guy . . .


. . . you must keep your shirt on when you’re 70. And if 70 is the new 50, then you should have kept it on when you were 50, too.


And then there’s this guy . . .


Vladimir (I Swear I’m Straight) Putin

He’s so anti-gay, I think he may be Michele Bachmann’s next husband, once the current one outs himself.

Harvey Fierstein’s op-ed in the New York Times was an eye-opener, and essential reading.

RUSSIA’S president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals. So far, the world has mostly been silent.

On July 3, Mr. Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form.

A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a lawallowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail.

Oh, he’s a manly man, that Vladimir. He’s someone America’s social conservatives can get behind.

Very close behind.


And then there’s this guy . . .


Lyin’ Braun

He said he was clean, a victim of a poorly handled urine test. He said he went to that Florida clinic for some legal advice. He said . . . Who me? Not me!

Y’know what? I can deal with the doping. He’s not the first. And, sadly, he won’t be the last. You sit out a suspension, give up hopes of ever visiting Cooperstown, and get back to work.

What I can’t deal with is that this guy lied to everyone, and that he put a decent man’s job in jeopardy by publicly blasting him for mishandling his urine specimen when he knew all along it was dirty.

I’m glad he was suspended for only the rest of the season, and not for life, though, because I look forward to seeing him come to the plate next year, and hearing the boos cascade down on him from every seat in every ballpark he plays in. And I’m hoping some flamethrower — Aroldis Chapman, anyone? — nails him with a 100-mph fastball, and that Lyin’ Ryan’s teammates don’t bat an eyelash. No charging the mound for this guy. He isn’t worth protecting.

Lyin’ Ryan was supposed to be everything that’s right about baseball. An MVP-winning, Hall of Fame-caliber nice guy. A Jeteresque figure worthy of our admiration. This, you’d tell your kid, is a ballplayer to look up to. A mensch.

Be sure to read Tyler Kepner’s piece in the New York Times:

ARLINGTON, Tex. — There are liars and frauds and scoundrels, and then there are people like Ryan Braun, who somehow seem worse.

And this piece by Josh Levin in Slate:

Why is Braun such a villain? Because after getting a reprieve last year that it’s now pretty obvious he didn’t deserve, he had the gall to smear the lowest man on the baseball org chart to make himself look a teeny-tiny bit better. In February 2012, after he successfully appealed a 50-game drug suspension, the 2011 MVP smarmed his way through a victory press conference, whining that he’d been wrongfully accused and that the whole process had been so very hard on him. He also attacked the integrity of Dino Laurenzi Jr., the man who’d collected his urine sample. “There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened,” he said, citing nothing at all to support his claims. “We spoke to biochemists and scientists, and asked them how difficult it would be for someone to taint the sample. They said, if they were motivated, it would be extremely easy.” At the same time, Braun praised his own moral rectitude, saying, “I will continue to take the high road. We won because the truth was on my side.”

Way to damage the game you professed to love, Ryan. “Loser” doesn’t even begin to describe you.


And then there’s this guy:


Anthony (You Want More? I’ll Show You More!) Weiner

What can you say? I see so many commenters comparing him to Clinton, Sanford, Spitzer, Vitter . . .

But Weiner is the worst of the bunch, because those other guys are, well . . . they’re guys. If you had a thing for prostitutes and you had $5,000 burning a hole in your pocket, chances are you’d be spending a few hours with a $5000 prostitute. If you suddenly fell in love with an Argentine beauty, you’d probably be out hiking the Appalachian Trail. If a 24-year-old intern . . . Oh, never mind.

But Weiner’s got them all beat. Those guys are guys. Weiner’s a perv, plain and simple.

He’s not even Anthony Weiner. He’s CARLOS DANGER!!!!!

That’s the name you’d give a superhero wearing tights. Uhhh . . . Skip the tights. Please, skip the tights.

Those other guys engaged in consensual sex with real, live adults. But not Weiner. Weiner sits at his computer and gets really, really icky. What’s more . . . How could he have been absolutely sure that the person he was tweeting his junk to wasn’t a 12-year-old girl? Or a 12-year-old boy?

This guy was sexting with people HE NEVER MET!

And, seriously, folks . . . Who on earth photographs his junk and posts it on Twitter? I haven’t seen the word “penis” in so many respectable publications in my whole life as much as I’ve seen it in the last few days.

A Facebook friend tells me that all the kids are sexting these days. So, OK, I guess I can deal with that.

But . . . Hello! Weiner’s not a kid!

Look, I love a tabloid war as much as the next guy, but we really don’t need to be watching this stuff every day for the next three months . . . or four years:

Image Image

I feel bad for Weiner. He’s got a wife and a kid and some bigtime problems. But please, please, PLEASE stop running for mayor of New York. That’s a big job, Anthony, and you’re not up to it.

It’s a different kind of hard. Pull out now.


And then there’s this guy . . .


Gilberton, Pa., Police Chief Mark (My Words) Kessler,

This guy thinks it’s oh-so-cute to call the secretary of state of the United States a “piece of shit traitor.” He despises “libtards” and, according to Talking Points Memo, he “shot a photo of a clown that he described as ‘Nancy Pelosi with her gavel, when she was speaker of the House.’”

He also appears to have a thing about massacring trees.

Did I mention that he’s a police chief?

Here’s how Kessler defends his YouTube videos:

“I think the video is in support of the Constitution — the support of the First Amendment, the right to express your thoughts and words freely without reprisal from any government,” Kessler told the Republican-Herald. “That’s why I used the vocabulary I did. As for the firing of the guns, that is my Second Amendment right. I have the right to keep and bear arms regardless of what the government says that I don’t.”

Fair enough. But did I mention that Kessler is a police chief? His job is to calm the flames, not fan them. And he fails bigtime in these two videos:

Keep in mind, as you watch, in case I wasn’t clear . . . that’s a police chief speaking.

Best to steer clear of Gilberton, Pa., as you’re traveling this great nation.


And the winner is . . .

Whoever designed the uniforms that the New York Mets wore last night. Here’s David Wright, the New York Mets’ All-Star captain, scratching his head, trying to figure out who is responsible for the making him look like he’s playing semi-pro ball . . .


Congratulations, Mr. or Ms. Uniform Designer. Come on down and claim your Anthony Weiner Bobblehead Doll.

— 30 —

The All-Star Game and Linda and me


Figured I could do this on an iPad for a week. Figured wrong.

Can’t copy/paste photos. Or at least I don’t think I can. We’ll find out when I publish this baby whether that code above becomes a picture . . . or whether it’s a bunch of code.

But a piece in today’s New York Times . . .

All-Stars of 1964 Recall a Wild Show at Shea

. . . got me to remembering that game, and many others.

The 1964 All-Star Game was the first one I can recall watching from start to finish. I was at summer camp, and one of the rules at Camp Robinson Crusoe was that you don’t watch television. You’re here to get away from television. But a coterie of young lads, 13-year-old me included, were not going to make it through to the next day if we didn’t watch the All-Star Game. It was at that new ballpark, Shea, and many of us were New Yorkers.

So Bob Hill, camp director, decided that for this time only, all the boys who wanted to watch the game (sorry, girls, but this one was for the boys, now go make a wallet or something at arts & crafts) could cram into an upstairs room at the main building and watch the game on a small TV.

One thing I remember was that it was unbearably hot up there. Upstairs, no air conditioning, middle of the summer, a hundred boys in a room that should seat maybe 10 . . . But we stuck it out till the very end. And when Johnny Callison hit that home run, we all went nuts.

Read the voices in the Times piece. They tell a wonderful story. And how’d you like to have Mays, Aaron and Clemente on your team, in their prime? With Drysdale on the mound and Koufax on the bench? Damn.

Worth noting here that Roy Kardon, Philadelphia boy, thought the Phillies of 1964 were the greatest team since the 1927 Yankees, and spent an entire summer reminding us of it. When Callison hit that home run, he became nothing short of insufferable. When the Phils pulled their classic folderoo in September, I couldn’t wait for the next summer, so I could go back to camp and remind him of it every 15 seconds or so for eight weeks.

Only Kardon didn’t return to camp the following year. He knew what was coming.

Memo to Roy Kardon: Art Mahaffey was not Sandy Koufax.


The next All-Star Game I remember was 10 years later, in 1974. Amazing what a difference 10 years can make when you’re young.

In 1964 I was a 13-year-old kid. In 1974, I was a 23-year-old adult and traveling for two weeks in my Ford Maverick through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island with the love of my life.

We’re camping, in a tent for two in Camp Kejimkujuk (I’d look the spelling up if I weren’t writing this on an iPad), and romance is in the air.

And they’re playing the All-Star Game.

Linda, I tell the young woman sharing my sleeping bag, I never miss an All-Star Game.

So there we are, the two of us, in that tent, in that sleeping bag, and I’m doing what any red-blooded American boy would be doing . . .

I’m fiddling with the dial on a transistor radio, looking for a broadcast of the All-Star Game. I finally find it, on Armed Forces Radio, and we stay up listening to the game.

Linda put up with it. And me. This woman is a keeper.

A day or two later, over a twin lobster dinner in a restaurant in Nova Scotia, I asked her to marry me.

— 30 —

Worth reading, 07/11/13


New York Sizzles (Gail Collins, New York Times)

Gail Collins is hands-down the finest columnist in America. If she’s not in the Times on Saturday or Sunday, then the day is off to a lousy start. Today she offers her take on Weiner and Spitzer, and it is essential reading.

Time after time, we hear a scandal-tarred politician vow to go away and make amends. Time after time, we envision a stint as a missionary or a hospital volunteer. Time after time, we are disappointed.

Consider the example of former Congressman Steve Driehaus of Cincinnati, a person who, I should point out immediately, did not do anything wrong whatsoever except lose a race for re-election in 2010. He then packed up his family and went off to join the Peace Corps in Swaziland. “He’s working with folks with H.I.V./AIDS. He loves it,” reported his sister, Denise.

In this week’s TV tour, Spitzer failed to address the question of why he was not in Swaziland. He said on “Morning Joe” that during his five years in exile, “I’ve tried to do things that matter in a small, quiet way.” This seemed like a strange way to describe multiple stints hosting political talk shows.

People, it doesn’t get any better than that.



Pat Robertson: I’m Not ‘Anti-Gay’ Because Gays Are Just Straight People Who’ve Forsaken God (Mediaite)

“I am very pleased that we have many, many, many homosexuals watching this program and many of them are looking for love and acceptance and help,” the minister began. “And I’m glad to report that we have thousands of these people who are saying, ‘Yes, we want to follow Jesus, we’re not happy with the lifestyle we’re in, and we want to have a better way.’ I think it’s wonderful that that’s happening.”

“We’re not anti-gay or anything,” he asserted, before explaining his belief that homosexuality has existed throughout time amongst those who have “forsaken” God. “It’s not something that is natural and when people reunite with the Lord, the Lord will get their priorities the way it is supposed to be,” he added.

Robertson concluded by arguing that those who are “into this homosexual thing” are typically victims of sexual abuse as children who, later in life think, “Well, I must be gay.”

“They aren’t,” he insisted. “They are heterosexual and they just need to come out of that.”

Good ol’ Uncle Pat. The rev’s an eyeroll a minute. Let’s harken back to the good ol’ days, right after September 11, when good ol’ Jerry Falwell said:

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say: “You helped this happen.”

And good ol’ Uncle Pat chimed in,

“Well, I totally concur.”

OK . . . I totally don’t.

Go away, Pat. Your meter expired a long time ago.



Beyond the Courtroom (Charles Blow, New York Times)

Whatever happens in the George Zimmerman trial, it has produced a valuable and profound dialogue in America about some important issues surrounding race and justice, fear and aggression, and legal guilt and moral culpability.

That conversation is about people’s right to feel suspicion and fear and whether those feelings need be justified to be real. It is about the degree to which suspicions and fears are culturally constructed, or at least culturally influenced, are innate or are born of personal experience.

More specifically, it is about how race, age and gender might influence our threat responses, and whether that is acceptable. For instance, as a thought experiment, reverse the race and ethnicities of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman and see if that has any effect on your view of the night’s events. Now, go one step further and imagine that the teenager who was shot through the heart was not male but female and ask yourself again: does it have any effect on how you view the facts of this case?

Are we acculturated to grant some citizens the right to feel fear while systematically denying that right to others?

This is a terrific piece. As the George Zimmerman trial heads to the jury, I’m convinced that Zimmerman is not guilty of murder, because I don’t think he intended to kill Trayvon Martin. I also think it’s at least plausible that once Zimmerman encountered Trayvon — and make no mistake about it, it’s Zimmerman’s fault that the encounter took place — then he realized that the kid was able to hurt him or even kill him, and so he shot him.

In Florida, that’s standing your ground.

So I don’t think Zimmerman will be convicted — but I nonetheless think this is all his fault. What’s more, if Trayvon wasn’t black and wasn’t wearing a hoodie, we’re not even having this conversation. Zimmerman saw a black kid in a hoodie and everything fell apart from there.

So Zimmerman is not a murderer; he’s just a racist cop-wannabe with a concealed gun who decided that the black kid in the hoodie did not belong in his neighborhood. But I do believe he didn’t get out of his car intending to kill Trayvon.

Someday, Zimmerman will go out on a deep-sea fishing boat, and he’ll fall overboard, and all the others on the boat will hear a splash, and they’ll look up and say, “Hey, look, Zimmy fell overboard.” And then they’ll open up a cooler and have a few beers and figure justice has been done.



Photographer captures incredible image of massive waterspout towering over Tampa Bay (Imaging Resource)

Pick a word. Any word . . . Omigod. Wow. Whoa. Yikes.

This thing is for real and I am in awe. I may even have to start rethinking that whole Big Bad Invisible Voodoo Guy in the Sky thing. (Shamelessly plugging my own post.)


Bob McDonnell is unfit for office (Ruth Marcus, Washington Post)

There are two swift routes to political downfall. One is sex. The other is money. The first is humiliating but survivable. The second tends to be terminal, even criminal.

Today’s topic is the second, in the form of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and the now mountainous evidence that — whether he technically complied with Virginia’s Swiss cheese disclosure laws or not in accepting thousands of dollars in gifts from a wealthy businessman — he has no business continuing in office.

We in the metropolitan New York area are so fascinated by the adventures of Anthony and Eliot that we’ve been blissfully unaware of what’s been going on in Virginia, where Governor Bob is ducking from incoming.

That has to stop, because this is fascinating.



A Free Miracle Food! (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times)

MOPTI, Mali — Can you name a miracle food that is universally available, free and can save children’s lives and maybe even make them smarter?

That’s not a trick question. There really is such a substance, now routinely squandered, that global health experts believe could save more than 800,000 lives annually. While you’re puzzling over the answer, let me tell you how I just saw it save a life here in West Africa.

I don’t think Mr. Kristof will mind much if I give away the ending without a spoiler alert. The free miracle food is breast milk.

And if you read nothing else today, read this.

Kristof returned from a several-month book leave last week, and he was sorely missed. Excellent column.



Latest Businessweek Cover is Worth a Peek (Fishbowl)

Ummmmm . . . Now I’m wondering whom Bloomberg will be voting for. Weiner? Spitzer?

And what would the public reaction be if the New York Post did this?

Really, BusinessWeek? REALLY???



Toshi Seeger, wife of folk legend Pete Seeger, dies (Lohud, via Poughkeepsie Journal)

Memo to obit writers: There are some things you MUST include in an obituary, especially when it concerns someone local.

That thing would be the deceased’s age.

Toshi Seeger was 91. I had to look that up elsewhere because the obit’s writer AND the editor failed to include it in the obit.

Pretty bad, Lohud.



Justin Bieber Talks With Bill Clinton After Vulgar Video Surfaces, Calls Former President “Great Guy” (Gossip Cop)

So The Beebs apparently is feeling totally regretful about peeing into a restaurant’s mop bucket and screaming “F*** you, Bill Clinton!” at a picture of the 42nd president and spraying it with a kitchen bottle, because he went on Twitter last night and so humbly wrote . . .

“@billclinton thanks for taking the time to talk Mr. President. Your words meant alot. #greatguy,” the singer tweeted on Wednesday night.

Great guy.

I hope Bill sat down with Hillary and Chelsea at dinner last night and asked . . .

Either of you ever heard of this guy?

Worth reading, 07/10/13


30 Years Later, Brett Is Still Dealing With Pine Tar (New York Times)

It has been almost 30 years since Brett tore out of the visiting dugout at Yankee Stadium on July 24, 1983, and raced maniacally toward Tim McClelland, the home plate umpire. McClelland had just ruled Brett out, wiping out his go-ahead, two-run homer, because he had too much pine tar on his bat.

Probably the greatest on-field rampage of all time. Thirty years on, it still has to be seen to be believed. Watch and enjoy. You’re welcome.



Elizabeth Hasselbeck joins Fox & Friends (

Let’s just say she’ll have no problems with wardrobe.



Indiana professor: Film shows FDR in concealed wheelchair (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A professor at an Indiana college says he has found film footage showing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt being pushed in his wheelchair, depicting a secret that was hidden from the public until after his death….

Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921 at age 39 and was unable to walk without leg braces or assistance. During his four terms as president, Roosevelt often used a wheelchair in private, but not for public appearances. News photographers cooperated in concealing Roosevelt’s disability, and those who did not found their camera views blocked by Secret Service agents, according to the FDR Presidential Museum and Library’s website.

Hard to believe there was a time when a disability as crippling as polio could be kept secret from the public, and that the press was complicit.

Now we’ve gone so far as to tell the world whether our president wears boxers or briefs.

On the other hand, we always knew for sure that FDR smoked cigarettes.


Take cameras out of the courtroom (Kathleen Parker, Washington Post)

As a courtroom junkie since my early reporting days, it is at great personal sacrifice that I suggest the following: It may be time to get television cameras out of the courtroom.

Or at least, judges might be encouraged to exclude electronic media from high-profile trials.
I have very mixed feelings on this one. Parker is right . . . The cameras have turned this and several other trials (O.J., Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias) into media circuses — more theater than trial.
But criminal trials are supposed to be held in public, and the cameras enable all of the public to witness the proceedings — not just the folks lucky enough to get into a small courtroom. Cameras would have come in very handy during the civil rights years; I think it would have been good for the entire world to watch how suspects who were clearly guilty  got acquitted.
It would be nice to find a solution short of banning the cameras.

Spitzer Redux (New York Times Editorial)

New Yorkers, like all citizens, deserve serious and thoughtful political campaigns, but between Anthony Weiner, the former sexting congressman, and Client 9 (the name given to Mr. Spitzer in the federal investigation of the escort service he used) and the self-described madam who ran that escort service and now claims she’s going to run against her former customer, the stage is set for a summer of farce.

Mr. Spitzer, like Mr. Weiner, is a political animal who clearly finds it hard not to have an audience. That’s understandable, but did they have to bring us all along on their journeys of personal ambition? For these two charter members of the Kardashian Party, notoriety is looking like the quick, easy path to redemption.

This editorial pretty much sums it up. Tabloid editors dream of stuff like this, but New Yorkers really deserve better.



Justin Bieber pisses into restaurant mop bucket (TMZ)

Normally, I wouldn’t give this guy even this many words, but really . . . The video tells you everything you need to know. This guy is a grade-A jerk.

Maybe if people stopped showing up at his concerts, the press would stop following his every move. And then he might find himself wondering where everybody went, and he’d have to develop some manners to go with his talent — and yes, he DOES have talent — before he totally self-destructs.

Parents, tell your little girls . . . No more Justin till the idiot grows up.



Arlo Guthrie is 66 today

Time flies, I reckon. So if you’re too young to remember . . . and even if you AREN’T too young to remember . . . This is a great time to listen to the anthem of a generation. Close your eyes and listen for 18 minutes.

You’re welcome.

Worth reading, 07/09/13

Sex and the Sorriest Pols (Frank Bruni, New York Times)

… before we go too far in lumping [Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner] together or draw too many conclusions about priapism and punishment, let’s get our bearings.

Eliot Spitzer doesn’t have a quarter of the gall that Anthony Weiner does. He doesn’t have an eighth of it. Out of office for more than five years, he isn’t asking for a restoration of his prior glory. He isn’t even asking for a particularly sexy job. Comptroller of New York City? Most voters don’t know what that is or even if it’s spelled correctly. It doesn’t come with a mansion. It’s not a ticket to parades. It’s drudgery and decimal points. Audit till you drop.

Weiner, meantime, hadn’t been gone from Congress for even two years when he announced his candidacy for mayor of the city, a job exponentially more influential than the one that he’d never done especially well in the first place. He’s angling for a gigantic promotion. In the narrative he’s constructed, his mortification has made him a new man, so we’re supposed to give him an extra measure of our trust and hand him the reins of the most important and most complicated city in the country. I know we like our mayors brash, but we needn’t accept delusional in the bargain….

Already there’s chatter about whose infidelities are more forgivable: Spitzer’s, which were arguably a crime, or Weiner’s, which were creepier? This misses a crucial point. Both men fell as spectacularly as they did not because they got caught with their pants down but because none of their colleagues liked them much even with their pants up.

This is a terrific read. One thing we know for sure, The New York Post and New York Daily News hope Spitzer and Weiner win their primaries, just so they can keep those headlines coming until November. And maybe beyond.

These two guys are a tabloid editor’s dream.

Mrs. Watkins and the Big Bad Invisible Voodoo Guy in the Sky

BFSPull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you the story of Kindly Old Mrs. Watkins and how she unwittingly and unknowingly led me to my firm conviction that there is no Big Bad Invisible Voodoo Guy in the Sky.

It’s a long one; go grab a beer.

But first, some background, because all of this might not have happened if I hadn’t screwed up third grade, when Mean Old Mrs. Murphy sent me straight on my path to hell, or wherever those of us who don’t believe in the Big Bad Invisible Voodoo Guy in the Sky go when this life is over.

I had mastered the fine art of silent reading long before I entered third grade, and I reckon that was very inconvenient for Mean Old Mrs. Murphy, who more than anything liked order in her classroom. If it was reading-aloud time and the class was on Page 9 of the latest Alice & Jerry book, then Mrs. Murphy was going to make damned sure that every kid in the class had his or her page turned to Page 9 and was ready to read out loud when called upon.

And everybody meant everybody.

Well . . . everybody but me. Because I thought Alice & Jerry were supercool, and I just couldn’t wait to find out how their latest adventure was going to turn out. And did I mention that I had mastered the art of silent reading?

There was the rest of the class, their books dutifully opened to Page 9, and there I’d be, inevitably, tooling merrily along on Page 30 or somewhere when Mrs. Murphy, inevitably, would call on me to read out loud.

And every time, inevitably, I would have to ask Mrs. Murphy, in front of all my classmates, “What page are we on?”

And Mean Old Mrs. Murphy, inevitably, knew exactly how to handle an upstart 8-year-old. This situation called for public humiliation!

“I see Stephen isn’t paying attention again,” she’d tell the class, inevitably.

And so I knew well before Columbus Day that third grade was gonna be one tough slog, because there would be just too many inevitablies before summer vacation came along.

And then there was the issue of that poem we had to recite out loud, in unison, at an assembly, the one for which we prepared for months. It started out like this . . .

“The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

Listen real close and you’ll hear 8-year-old Stevie, his nose buried in Page 30 of an Alice & Jerry book, whispering the third-grade equivalent of . . .


I knew very little about shepherds and wanting. And this being Brooklyn, N.Y., there were very few green pastures that some shepherd could maketh me to lie down in. And even if we could find a green pasture, where the hell were we going to find a shepherd?

And then we got to the “anointing my head with oil” part. That just sounded weird.

Now, I could memorize stuff OK. I knew, for example, that Crest had been shown to be an effective decay preventive dentifrice when used in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care. I could relate to that. But there was no way in hell I was going to learn that twenty-third psalm. I mean, seriously, what’s a psalm? And why’s it got a “p” in front?

And how come we didn’t have to memorize the first twenty-two before we got to it? How come I can’t skip to Page 30 but Mean Old Mrs. Murphy can skip right to Psalm 23?

Clearly, I was doomed.

And so it was that my parents got me the hell out of P.S. 197 and sent me to Brooklyn Friends School when it was time to be a fourth-grader.

BFS was a cool school. I quickly made friends and I became quite fond of my new teacher, Kindly Old Mrs. Watkins.

You remember Mrs. Watkins? This is all about Mrs. Watkins. (Literary device courtesy of Arlo Guthrie.)

Aside: Mrs. Watkins is the teacher in the picture at the top. I’m there, too. Bet you can’t pick me out, unless you went to BFS.

Flash forward a few weeks and we’re in class one day when Mrs. Watkins, for some reason, decided we would discuss everyone’s religion. (This was OK, by the way, because BFS was a Quaker school. Reciting the 23rd Psalm in a public school one year earlier was definitely NOT OK, but we digress.)

Mrs. Watkins went around the class, and each kid had to say what his or her religion was. Just about everyone was Jewish or some variety of Protestant. This being Brooklyn, there were a lot of Catholic kids around, but they went either to public school or to parochial school. We had a smattering of Quakers in the class, too, this being a Quaker school and all.

So we were going through the class, and Howard said he was Jewish, and Ryan was Protestant, and Michael was Jewish, and Raye was Protestant, and Stephen was Jewish, and Laurel was Protestant.

And then Mrs. Watkins called on Robert, who over the past few weeks had quickly become one of my best friends in the whole world, which means an awful lot to a New Kid in School. And Robert stood up and said:

“I’m an atheist.”


More than two dozen 9-year-olds listened very intently, because this was a new word. What the hell is an atheist?

An atheist doesn’t believe in god, Robert told the class.

WHOA!!! WHAT???? How can that be possible? EVERYBODY believes in god. Haven’t met him, haven’t seen him, never heard a word from him, but . . . he’s there, right? I mean . . . Who doesn’t believe in god? I’ll bet even Eddie Haskell believes in god.

But Robert didn’t believe in god. Which, of course, meant that his parents didn’t believe in god, because really . . . where do you get your religion from when you’re a 9-year-old? If your mom and dad are Klingons, then you’re a Klingon, and Klingons hadn’t even been invented yet.

And that’s when Kindly Old Mrs. Watkins set the wheels in motion. It’s been more than half a century, but I still remember the exact words she said to the class after Robert shocked the world.

“Let’s continue,” she said, “and see if we can find a religion for Robert.”

WHOA!!! WHAT????

I was barely 9-years-old but I already knew this much:

Robert was my friend, and if he didn’t have a religion, he certainly did not need one. Robert was doing just fine.

And this got me to thinking, and once you start thinking about your religion, I reckon all hell breaks loose. If Robert was doing just fine without a god, I thought, I could do just fine without one, too. There was room in this classroom for TWO atheists!

So let’s move ahead four more years, and I’m studying for my bar mitzvah. And since I attend a Quaker school a long subway ride from home, I can’t go to Hebrew School at the end of the day with the rest of the Jewish kids in my neighborhood. And besides, my father’s mother is very, very orthodox, and so I am going to be bar mitzvahed in an Orthodox synagogue.

Yeah. Me.

So my parents hired an Orthodox rabbi to come to our home twice a week and tutor me so that I could read my Haftorah with style and class, surrounded by about six guys wearing black suits who would be speaking no English. This part was actually pretty easy, because Hebrew is a phonetic language. Lean the letters, learn the vowels, and you can speak it even if you don’t have a clue what you’re saying.

So all was going fine and well until the day Rabbi Aronoff (I think that was his name) showed up with these black straps and a black cube and told me they were tefillin —  also known as phylacteries. Two more new words. They didn’t look any prophylactic I had ever heard of, but hey, you learn something new every day.

Rabbi Aronoff showed me how to put the black cube on my head like a miner’s flashlight, and how to wrap the black straps around my arm, and he told me I was supposed to pray every morning with these things on. But he didn’t say what would happen if I didn’t.

I don’t have time, I told him.

Find the time, he told me.

Yeah, like that’s gonna happen, I said to myself.

So for a few months, Rabbi Aronoff would show up twice a week to tutor me, and every time he’d start out by asking me if I’d been putting on my tefillin and praying.

And remember . . . this whole atheist thing is still nagging at me.

Now Rabbi Aronoff was a decent guy, so when it came to answering the tefillin question, I most definitely did not want to hurt his feelings. So I told him, sure, I’m putting on my tefillin. You betcha.

I waited a bit, and, remarkably, no lightning bolt crashed through the window. It turned out you could lie to the rabbi and nothing would happen.

A couple of months later, I stood among a bunch of old men, all wearing black suits, facing a large congregation — men downstairs, women upstairs — and recited my haftorah. I didn’t have a clue what I was saying, but I said it just fine. And, again, amazingly, no lightning bolt crashed through the window.

Half a century later, I’m still standing.

Robert had it right all along. There is no Big Bad Invisible Voodoo Guy in the Sky.

So here’s a tip of the hat to Mrs. Watkins, who set all the wheels in motion.

— 30 —


Welcome, pilgrim, to Sam’s Bar and Grill, a dive in Geneva, N.Y., where you’ll find neither a Sam nor a grill, though I vaguely recall being able to buy a prepackaged ham and cheese hero that could be heated in some fashion, probably over a Bunsen burner, and then you’d burn your fingers trying to get it out of its cellophane wrap when Cosie plunked it on the counter.

You could also score a long, soft pretzel, slathered with mustard. And there were two giant, grimy, old gallon jars, one of which was filled with enormous pickles and the other with hard-boiled eggs. But for sure, I never saw anyone so much as dare to dip a hand into either.

Not even Cosie.

Let me tell you about Cosie.

Pull up a barstool, kids, and I’ll tell you a story about the greatest bar on god’s earth and the wonderful man who owned and operated it. Not Sam, whoever he was. I’m here to tell you about Cosie. Here he is behind the bar, where he stood for half a century:

Photo by Doug Reilly

But first, we have to roll back the clock to 1969. And we have to deal with the pronunciation issue.

Cosie’s real name was Cosmo Fospero, and that’s why we pronounce Sam’s Bar and Grill “Cozzie’s,” which is how it was known to one and all. From what I can tell, Cosie was born in 1922, which means he was pushing 50 when I got to know him in 1969.

Cosie’s was off a side street in Geneva, a very long walk or a quick drive from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. It was a townie bar, but it was always filled with college students (New York’s drinking age was 18 then) and faculty — and the occasional street drunk.

I should note that there was another, more popular college bar in Geneva called The Oaks, and it was located just down Pulteney Street from the colleges, which meant you could walk there even in the worst weather, and you could stagger home without need of a car. The Oaks, owned and operated by the legendary Dutch Venuti, teemed with jocks and frat guys and gorgeous women. I was none of those.

The Oaks was Ringo. Cosie’s was John. The Oaks was Namath and Unitas. Cosie’s was Marx and Marcuse. The Oaks was Iron Butterfly. Cosie’s was Dylan. The Oaks was a pepperoni pizza, a burger and fries. Cosie’s was an old sandwich in a cellophane wrap.

Dutch kept a shotgun behind his bar; Cosie kept a beat-up old guitar behind his.

Who you were was in some ways defined by where you drank, and I was a Cosie’s kind of guy. I belonged in a place where you could sit in the back with a few dozen cold ones and solve all the problems of the world, one beer at a time.

I was at Cosie’s one night when a political science instructor named Jack Krause leaned across the table, looked me in the eye and told me, in a very serious tone:

“I am your faculty adviser, and I am advising you to have another beer.”

And so I did. Jack always had my best interests in mind.

The walls were tastefully decorated with yellowing clips of Cosie’s patrons that had appeared in the Geneva Times and the Hobart and William Smith Herald. You could walk around and count your pictures on the wall.

There was a large industrial standup fridge at the end of Cosie’s bar that was stocked with beer, and Cosie’s offered a great selection. True, you couldn’t get a Lite, but that was because Lite beer hadn’t been invented yet. Nor could you get a craft beer, for the same reason. And there was no Coors, either, but that was because Coors hadn’t yet found its way east of the Mississippi. Coors in 1969 was sort of like the Sasquatch of beers: We’d heard of it, but only a very few could claim they’d actually seen one.

But there was Schlitz, Miller, Bud, Genessee, Utica Club, Pabst, Schmidt’s, Rheingold, Schaefer, Rolling Rock, Molson’s, Labatt’s and a fancy-schmancy European import called Heineken in that stand-up fridge. And, really, what else did you need?

Well . . . for one thing, you needed to know how to get your hands on one.

Sure, Cosie was behind the bar, but he was way too busy to do something as mundane as get you a cold one. There were pretty young women to be flirted with, jokes to be told, stories to be shared and songs to be sung.

So if you want a beer, pal, go get it. Cosie’s fridge, located just behind the bar, over in the corner, next to the men’s room (where every beer fridge should be) was open to the public. Open the door and grab something cold. There’s a bottle opener under the bar, to your right.

Now, the beer wasn’t free, of course. You owed Cosie 35 cents. Or 45, if you were a rich kid drinking Heineken. But, c’mon  . . . Cosie is way too busy to take your money. Like I said, there were stories to be shared and women to wink at, and that guitar behind the bar was going to come out before long and Cosie would be way too busy strumming it to bother collecting your coin. The night was finite, and Cosie had a lot to accomplish before 2 a.m., when the cops would drive by and flash their lamps to remind everyone to grab their coats and go home.

No . . . Cosie was way too busy for something as mundane as taking  your money.

So here’s how you paid for a beer at Cosie’s:

You walked behind the bar, opened the cash register and put your money in.

If you had a five-dollar bill, you made change. If you had a ten-dollar bill . . . oh come on, who had a ten-dollar bill? If you needed dimes for the bowling machine, you did the same. No problem. Mi cash register es tu cash register at Cosie’s.

This seems as good a time as any to show you some more pictures of Cosie. Here he is doing something he loved, putting a cork with a toothpick jammed into it into a bottle with just a little bit of alcohol at the bottom, and heating it up just right, until that cork would explode out of the top and the toothpick would fly into the ceiling tiles. There were hundreds of toothpicks in that ceiling.

And here he is with the ladies. And if one of them happened to be with you that evening, he’d tell her what a great guy you were, and how she should never let you go. Maybe even go home with you.

Speaking of the ladies, let me tell you about the night Jerry Jeff Walker played at Hobart and William Smith. Jerry Jeff showed up on the Albright Auditorium stage with a guitar and a quart of whiskey and played that baby until the bottle went dry, which was around the time that Fire Commissioner Quigley announced that the concert was over and y’all have to go home now.

But Jerry Jeff was just getting started. I mean, he’d played Mr. Bojangles only four or five times, and that barely met his quota. This was no time to pack up and go home. So Jerry Jeff asked the audience if there was a place where his concert could continue, preferably one with another bottle of whiskey begging to be drained.

We knew just the place.

And so it was that a large group of us found our way to Cosie’s that night, and Jerry Jeff arrived with his guitar and sidled up to the bar, and found a young thang on his right and a young thang on his left, and put an arm around each of them and suddenly realized that he’d run out of arms and his guitar needed tending.

“Here,” Jerry Jeff told me, “take good care of this.”

And so it came to pass that I spent a few hours at a table in the back, playing Jerry Jeff Walker’s guitar till closing time, pausing on occasion only for as long as it took to have another beer. Nineteen years old and I’m playing 12-bar on Jerry Jeff Walker’s guitar. How sweet was that?

I have one more picture of Cosie. This is him with me, at my college reunion in 2007.


I went with my wife, Linda, and our longtime friends, Kenny and Rachel, in search of Cosie’s. We had trouble finding the joint . . . urban renewal has greatly changed the landscape of Geneva. But we finally succeeded in spotting the Sam’s Bar and Grill sign, and we walked inside.

Behind the bar was an 85-year-old man who didn’t look a day over 70. He looked up, grinned widely and said, “Where you been?”

I went to the fridge and pulled out a few Heinekens, because I couldn’t afford the extra dime in 1969 but I’m Heineken rich now.

“They still 45 cents?” I asked.

Cosie laughed heartily and gave me the 2007 price, and I walked over to the cash register and put my money in.

He put a toothpick in a cork, put the cork into a bottle, heated it up and shot the missile into the ceiling. He told some tales. He pulled out his guitar. He flirted with Linda and Rachel.

Turns out that you can go home again.

But not for long. Cosie closed the joint and retired a few months later. When last I heard, he was 91 years old and enjoying retirement in Geneva. Get that man a beer.

And, please, click here to listen to Cosie himself. And thanks to Jeff Hogue for saving Cosie’s song.

Cosie’s, once upon a time. That sign in front says Sam’s Bar and Grill.

And now it’s gone:


— 30 —

Eye of the beholder

Christian Preachers Brutally Beaten at Gay Pride Festival (Todd Starnes, Fox News Radio)

Says here that when guys show up at a gay pride festival holding signs reading “Repent or Else” and “Jesus Saves From Sin,” they are provoking the celebrants.

So why doesn’t this headline read:

Bigots/Haters/Hecklers Beaten at Gay Pride Festival ???

How different were these “Christian Preachers” from the scum of the earth who call themselves members of the Westboro Baptist Church?

What’s the difference between “Christian Preachers” who show up to heckle people at a gay pride event and the “church members” who show up at the funerals of American soldiers to say they’re glad they died because “God hates fags”? 

These were not “Christian Preachers.” They are agitators. They didn’t deserve to get beaten, but they also certainly were there to provoke.

They COULD have stayed home. 

It’s all in how you see it, Todd.