My first blackout


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

Rest in peace, Mrs. B


Ginnie’s mom died yesterday. She was a lovely woman who lived to be 94, and Ginnie posted on Facebook:

In tribute to my mom, Barbara Bacheler, who lived her 94 years with gusto, spreading light and love to everyone she came in contact with. She’s my hero. And this is her first appearance on Facebook, which would bemuse her!

I like to think that my memory of her would bemuse her, as well.

Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you all about the first time I met Ginnie’s mom, and how she so kindly served me my last breakfast at a kitchen table in the summer of 1971 before Hank and I headed off for the Canadian border in my 1970 Ford Maverick, color Thanks Vermillion, to begin our Kerouacian tour of America.

The day I met Ginnie’s mom began in Brooklyn, where I loaded my duffel bag full of clothes and my Gibson guitar and a brand-new, never-used two-man canvas tent, and a brand-new, never-used Coleman stove, and a brand-new, never-used Coleman lamp and a brand-new, never-used Coleman cooler — we were so experienced at this camping stuff — and drove to Queens to pick up Hank, who threw in his suitcase and our journey began. Continue reading