Monday, June 30, 2014

Unholy marriage...

...of Nabisco and Hershey:


This is just cruel.

Unless you're one of the unfortunate souls that is allergic to peanuts or, even more tragic, chocolate, you're aware that Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (made by Hershey) are among the world's great candies. And Nabisco's Oreo is one of the world's great cookies. But we thought they were safely tucked away in their respective universes, like Loki and Set, Doctor Doom and Lex Luthor, Darth Vader and the Daleks. But something happened, and now this temptation to fat has been fired at us, and right at the start of swimsuit season. What will it do to my girlish figure?

I saw them in the store and desperately wanted to try them, but couldn't justify smuggling the calories into the house. So I texted this picture to the lovely Mrs. Key in a "Can you believe this?" manner and she texted back "BUY!"

I love her!

Her review was similar to others on the Net, as it turned out---too sweet, for one thing. "Too sweet" is a concept with which I am not overly familiar, but the point is taken. The Oreo doughnuts that have just made their annual reappearance at Dunkin' Donuts are really, really sweet, so it seems to be a Nabisco risk they run, a fine knife's edge trod by the Oreo people as they skate where angels fear to tread.

But I liked the Oreo Reese's. I've always been one to walk on the dark side. Or at least the oversweet chocolaty side.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thoughts from the Guinea Pig.

No, I'm not looking at you today. You disappoint me. No.

My hands are not pink because I washed so many dishes. Guinea pigs do not wash dishes.

I suppose I am rather cute, but that is a relative thing. Compared to you, the tarantula a few cages down is cute.

Guinea pigs are nearsighted. Would you mind taking a few steps back from the glass?

What do you mean, hamster? I'm not a dad-blasted hamster. Hamsters are the scum of the earth. I eat hamsters for lunch, I'll have you know.

So no, I do not hamsterdance and I will never hamsterdance.

Elizabeth I had guinea pigs. Elizabeth II has dogs. And they wonder about the decline of the aristocracy.

The main problem with being in the pet store is not the other pets, let's just say that.

Yes, I only live four to five years, but if I have to be around people all that time it will feel considerably longer.

Why the name guinea "pig"? Well, perhaps I am related to your mother somehow.

You may be able to afford me, but you shall never be able to fulfill me.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The people ride in a hole in the ground.

When schlepping around in the subway, you find yourself thinking about things. Thinking, lots of thinking. You certainly don't want to do any talking. That would mean talking to people. Or yourself. If you talk to yourself too much, the police will provide company for you.

Anyway, summer is the 100% worst time of the year to ride in the New York City subway system. The trains themselves are no worse than at other seasons, I guess, but the platforms and passageways (like the one below) are damp, gooshy, sticky, and heated by the exhaust from the air-conditioned cars.

But if you must be down there, you can distract yourself by thinking about things.

Like the ads. When I was a young tot-about-town, each subway car would have dozens of different ads. These days you usually see half of each car sold out to one advertiser and the other half to another. So, one side of the car might have different ads for a cable TV show, while the other side is all ads for a food delivery service. Or one side might have ads for Omaha Steaks and the other for PETA. You never know.

Sometimes you will be in a car with many different ads, though. The other day I stood in one, and at a glance the means of happiness available to New Yorkers was revealed:

Ad for Ripemoff & Soom, Attorneys: Sue the *%!#*(&! to happiness

Ad for the revolutionary Teeth Bleachzap: Smile your way to happiness

Ad for the SEIU, demanding healthcare for all: Odd, since the first thing SEIU did when Obamacare was passed (after fighting for Obamacare) was demand out of Obamacare; you don't suppose they might have some weird agenda of their own that has nothing to do with anyone else's well-being, HMMMMM?

Essentially, except for one trade-school ad, all the ones readily visible were about forcing other people to give you things or finding abiding and meaningful happiness by looking better. I know it's the nature of advertising to suggest that you simultaneously (A) deserve the best because you're so YOU and (B) are a low-down piece of scum unless you use Product X, but it all seems so especially feral down there in the subway.

Maybe it's just me. Being hot, miserable, and underground just makes you think about where Dante got his ideas.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bride alert.

We are almost through Wedding Hell Month---or at least, that's what the caterers are likely calling it. They probably make a fortune in June, but they must be stone cold crazy by now. Offhand, I think only wedding caterers and surgeons can ruin someone's life forever because they had a bad day at the office.

I've been to many, many weddings, and seen many of the marriages fail, I'm sorry to say. One wedding I went to was on the rocks (no lie) before the reception, because the groom decided to snort cocaine and get hammered with his bike buddies right after the ceremony. He eventually turned up, I guess. It was a long time ago and it was NOT my family for a change, all right?

Of course, the structural problems in a relationship that can't survive the interval between the ceremony and the reception should be very evident before anyone starts thinking of whom to ask to be the flower girl.

I don't know a lot about what motivates brides to choose their grooms. After all my years kicking around I have only discovered a handful of things about women, such as: women love bad boys who are secretly good boys and hate good boys that are secretly bad boys. I do know a lot about men, though, and I gladly share my knowledge of men who are not fit to marry decent women, just so that the decent women will think twice before trothing the pledge or banning the posts or entering the lists or whatever they call it.


  • Guy whose only exercise comes from fleeing the scenes of accidents
  • Guy whose idea of formalwear is a tank without vomit stains
  • Guy who shaves his eyebrows---nothing else
  • Guy whose iPod shows that only one song has been played more than once---"The Horst Wessel Song," 8,210 plays
  • Guy who insists on coming along to pick the bridal gown; keeps saying no because "Mommy would never wear something like that"
  • Guy who insists that every date iron a shirt on his abs
  • Guy who keeps calling you "Herschel"---unless your name is "Herschel"
  • Guy who needs Cliffs Notes to get through a Chinese fortune cookie
  • Guy who couldn't pick you out of a lineup because he's never glanced up from his phone
  • Guy who keeps nervously asking to borrow your ATM card
  • Guy who writes on all the wedding invitations, "Gifts must be in the form of Bitcoin"
  • Guy who you met in the bar---and never see anywhere else
  • Guy who says Sister Wives is the BEST SHOW on TV EVAAAARRRR
  • Guy who lists his official address as "the cellar"
  • Guy who has turned his entire garage into the deck of the Enterprise
  • Guy who claims his previous relationship was with a Lawson sofa "and the bitch broke it off"
  • Guy who tells you on the first date that he's "pretty much nailed everything in the shop"---and he's not a carpenter
  • Guy who considers himself a class act because he only uses "a dedicated hypo" to inject heroin
  • Guy who tells you about his great job that he may go and get one day
  • Guy who likes calling you by his own name in the throes of passion
  • Guy who drives you to meet his parents, but makes you use the shovel
  • Guy who wants to show you his collection of "pre-chewed foods"
I know there are many, many others, but consider this a primer.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Karaoke perils.

Jimmy the vulture inadvertently sparks a riot on Open Mike Nite at the Heron Club.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Secrets of Septuagesimo Uno...revealed!

In May I passed by the smallest park in Manhattan, a "pocket park" called Septuagesimo Uno---Latin for 71, as the park is located within a block on West 71st Street. At the time of my passing it was locked up with a chain to keep it from being stolen. No, silly, it was locked up to keep out the overnight vagrants and wilding packs of teens. Well, maybe a wilding teen; it is very small.

The other morning it was open, and I slipped in with my trusty secret phone camera. Behold: Secrets of Septuagesimo Uno...revealed!
The winding path...
...hits the wall about half a block in.
Nice plants. Good thing the fence is there.
The view from the back.

Well, starting to get claustrophobic. Time to go.
Actually, I quite like the little park, although it really would feel crowded if more than two people were in it. Little treats like this delight children, jaded city dwellers, and people like me. The squirrels just make fun, though. Squirrels are jerks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Song sequels.

Last year James Lileks on The Diner revealed something I never knew, nor really needed to know:  Mungo Jerry, the band that had a massive hit with "In the Summertime" in 1970, tried to do a sequel with "Summer's Gone."

That worked about as well as you might expect.

Still, the idea of a sequel is oh-so-tempting when you've had a hit, especially if it looks like your bite of the cherry is all there is likely to be. You suddenly understand the idea of the sophomore slump---you threw your best pitch and now you can either vary it or throw as near the same pitch again, knowing that that's what the public expects. And then the public yawns and says, "They're still doing that same dumb thing."

Chubby Checker essentially made a career of it---although he had many non-Twist hits, he followed the massive 1960 chart-topper "The Twist" with "Twistin' U.S.A.," "Let's Twist Again," "Slow Twisting," "Twistin' Round the World," "Twist It Up," and, with the Fat Boys in 1988, "The Twist (Yo, Twist!)." All charted. But no less a light than Irving Berlin wiped out with a reworking of "Cheek to Cheek" called (really!) "Back to Back." * What was Irv thinking?

As they say: No one knows nothing. Hey, if I knew what the public wanted, I'd have freaking five books on the best-seller lists now. 

Still, one can only wonder what sequels other musicians might have tried... [Cue woowooshwoo music, woozy screen, dream sequence]

Musician Song Sequel
Blue Oyster Cult Don't Fear the Reaper Fear the Reaper's Cousin Melvin
The McCoys Hang On Sloopy Look Out Below (Sloopy's Fallin')
David Bowie Suffragette City Suffragette Sprawl
Paul McCartney/Wings    Band on the Run Band Settles Down, Gets Work
Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick Slimn as a Hymn
Peter Gabriel Shock the Monkey Revenge of the Monkey
The Drifters Under the Boardwalk Over the Tattoo Parlor
Sir Mix-a-Lot Baby Got Back I Changed My Mind About the Butts
Bill Withers Ain't No Sunshine (When She's Gone) Now There's Sunshine (Since She's Back)**
Chuck Berry Sweet Little Sixteen Bitter Old Seventeen
The Lemonheads It's a Shame About Ray Sucks About Bob, Too
R.E.M. Losing My Religion Also Lost My Car Keys
Shirley Ellis The Name Game The Date of Birth-Social Security Number Game
The Bangles Walk Like an Egyptian Crawl Like an Etruscan
Murray Head One Night in Bangkok Equals Three Nights in Buffalo
Dire Straits Sultans of Swing Barons of Bebop
Don Henley The Boys of Summer The Puberty of Autumn
John Mellancamp Jack & Diane Jack, Diane, Jack Jr., Lynnette, Little Peewee,
Francis, and Ditty the Labradoodle
The Free Design Kites Are Fun Balloons Are Okay
Frank Sinatra My Way (Thud)
Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven Dumbwaiter to Purgatory
Benny Goodman Sing, Sing, Sing Shut up, Shut up, Shut up
The Foo Fighters Long Road to Ruin Wide U-turn to Resignation
The Shangri-Las Leader of the Pack Treasurer of the Pack
Pink Floyd Learning to Fly Get Me the Hell Down
Clint Holmes Playground in My Mind Parking Lot in My Medulla
Tony Orlando & Dawn Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree Tie a Pink Bandanna to the Willow Stump
ABBA Waterloo Gettysburg
Bobby Darrin Mack the Knife Bill the Spork
Leslie Gore It's My Party (And I'll Cry if I Want to) It's the Next Day (Still Cryin')

* Really: "That's that new attack / That the other dances lack / You can see what goes on in the hall /When you dance back to back"

** He knows, he knows, he knows, he knows, he knows, he knows, etc.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer, day two.

Day two and this whole summer thing is not working out at all. Back it goes!

And it does go back. Starting now the days are getting shorter and shorter. Wah! Kill me.

OW! Hot town, summuh in the city...

I don't know what it is that's irritating me. Summer without two months of vacation always seems wrong, for one thing, even though I have not enjoyed that since... well, I've been working a long time, going back to summer jobs, and sophomore year of high school was a looooong time ago.

In fact, this year I'm too busy to take any appreciable time off, but it's not like ol' Fred is just heaving money into the Scrooge McDuck Vault with all the dough I'm making. Actually, thanks to a necessary new appliance purchase and my dentist's need to pay college tuition for his children fix some old Turkish Taffy damage, I am flat-out losing money like crazy so far. Worse, the rough winter led to a bunch of necessary repairs around the outside of the house and all the work plus the rainy June has prevented me from making them. Also, having the new dog is not helping. It's tough to stain the deck when Tralfaz the Needy wants to eat the paintbrushes.

Plus there's the kids' book I've been working on. I've worked out the characters and the plot and the setting and all seems well---but writing it has felt like carrying a piano with a bowling ball in each hand. Not sure why. I know that it's been hard to focus on it when I've got tighter deadlines on work with faster payoffs.

So it's all been a blur, and spring left me feeling like no matter what I did, my day would be five pounds of baloney in a three-pound skin. Full to the top with baloney flying everywhere.

Will this leave ol' Fred feeling like he's up against a Summer of Adventure? Could be.

Oy. Bring on the fall.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Basketball great Wilt Chamberlain lived from August 21, 1936 to October 12, 1999. He famously scored 100 points in a game against the New York Knicks* on March 2, 1962. He also famously claimed in his autobiography to have scored with 20,000 women. 

I'm still boggled by the math here. 

Look: Thanks to the date calculator on, Chamberlain lived exactly 23,062 days. That's 2,505 less than the three score and ten years set out in Psalm 90, but 1,062 more set out by the Moody Blues. However, for our purposes, we have to restrict ourselves to the number of Wilt's days after he hit puberty. Since he was a fine looking man and very tall, let's say he started getting crazy busy on his thirteenth birthday. That would be 18,314 days from his thirteenth birthday until the day he died. Which means he bedded 1.09 women a day every day from his thirteenth birthday until the day the final whistle blew.

Madison Square Garden only seats 18,200. If you filled it up with Wilt's conquests there would be 1,800 women standing out on West 34th Street. 

I'm tired just thinking about it. 

It's that extra .09 that throws me. It means that every eleventh or twelfth day Wilt had to go find a brace of babes instead of just one.

King Solomon was supposed to be a big deal with 700 wives. Plus 300 concubines. Good thing he had people working for him, because that means he had to come up with a nice birthday present three times a day. But even Solomon did not get the action and variety of Wilt Chamberlain.

My real point in bringing this up is that I have to wonder what happened to all the gals. They didn't just disappear. Assuming Wilt's girlfriends were his contemporaries or younger, but none underage, they ones still around would be between the ages of 78 and 33 now. There could be thousands of ol' ladies running around with a secret smile, remembering a certain not-repeated encounter with a tall handsome fellow who played basketball, once upon a time.

So... what was YOUR grandma up to back in the day, hmm?

*Which any Knick fan would tell you just figures.

**Not to mention 700 mothers-in-law. Which is why guys don't run around with 700 wives anymore.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Life lessons for the dog.

I have tried to impart some of my wisdom to the dog, using incidents from his daily life as illustrations.

You might as well try to do this with the dog. Kids never listen.

Here are some things I have tried to teach him.

The deer can kick your butt. Actually, he can kick both our butts together, and probably another guy and his dog at the same time. He's fast and he's all muscle. The thing is, the deer doesn't know it. He thinks we can bring it down with our bare teeth. So the big 250-pound chicken runs away.
Lesson: Perception is not reality.

I know it's just a little wasp, but trust me when I tell you: No one ever wins a fight with a wasp. The wasp is programmed to try to murder you and has no concept of the possibility of its destruction. And it has lots of friends just as evil and insane as it is.
Lesson: Determination and dedication make a huge difference.

You always go to people with joy and enthusiasm, but they sometimes look at you like you just rolled in something foul. Maybe you did just roll in something foul. Or maybe they don't like dogs. Or maybe they are allergic. Or maybe they think you are just a fuzzy little barbarian, all drool and tongue, which you were using to lick yourself, all of which is true. Maybe they're germophobes. Or maybe they just are creeps.
Lesson: Love everybody, yes, but that does not mean you have to be in proximity to the jerks.

You can't catch a bird. Not unless it's very, very sick, or even dead, in which case you don't want it. When it's alive and well it will always elude you. A bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush, but a tubercular bird is worth gotz.
Lesson: Dreams are important, but so is good sense.

Don't eat poop. It seems to compel you, but even your ironclad dog interior can't take all that bacteria. Then it's back to the vet.
Lesson: Never eat poop, and never let anyone make you eat poop.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I'm the guy who's still using his Sodastream!

Yes, you knew there was a guy who got a Sodastream for Christmas and was still using it, and I'm proud to say it's me!
It's mine and you can't have it.

I was quite happy when Santa left me the Sodastream, because I'd been wanting to try one, but it's the kind of thing I would never buy myself. There were a couple of reasons:

1. There are far more gizmos for kitchen counters than there are kitchen counters. Millions of Ronco products migrate to closets because of that and never see the light of day again.

2. Products like this come and go as a fad, and if you really like it and the whole thing fails, you can't get the refills. Sometimes it doesn't matter because you don't have to get dedicated products, like the wok fad in the 80's. The father of a friend of mine got a wok and started wokking everything in sight. The cat wouldn't go in the kitchen anymore. But suppose the whole Keurig thing had bottomed out and you couldn't get the K-Cups---it would have been a disaster for people who had the machines. (Yes, I know you can use regular coffee in the reusable K-Cup but no one does.)

3. My main motivator for a purchase like this is to save money, but it never works. Homebrewing produces quality beer at a higher price than you would pay for quality beer from the craft-beer store, for one example. The Ronco Home Cheesery doesn't save you money with homemade Gouda. (Well, if it existed, it wouldn't.) And while Sodastream's Web site puts in a plug for value, I don't think they're serious. Its TV ads don't pretend you'll save money on soda. They stress that you won't have to haul home the bottles. After buying the carbonation canisters and the syrups, I figure I break even.

4. Sometimes the novelty product just doesn't work, or produces something so awful its mother would disavow it.

And that brings us to the review. Do I like the Sodastream? Yes, I do, which is why I've used it for six months continuously, and why I've put up with idiot kids at Best Buy to get refill cartridges, and why I've scoured Best Buy and Walmart and Bed Bath and Beyond and so on, looking for flavors I want to try.

To Bed, Bath . . . and Beyoooooonnnnd

And I like soda.

But do I like THIS soda?

Yes and no. Bear in mind that I seldom drink sugared soda as we go to the reviews:

Plain seltzer: I like plain soda water, or using it to add a touch of fruit juice or some MiO flavor or something. Carbonate some tap water with the Sodastream and you're in business.

Diet orange soda: Very good. Like a good store-brand orange soda.

Diet ginger ale: Ditto.

Diet root beer: Also good.

Diet Dr. Pete: Sodastream's answer to Diet Dr Pepper; quite tasty.

Diet cola: Tastes like licking a manhole cover. Like many store-brand colas, the cola taste in the Sodastream colas is horrible. At least the diet stuff. That goes for their diet cola, diet cola with lime, diet "free" cola (Coke Zero knockoff).

Diet Fountain Mist: This Mountain Dew imitator is pretty grim, although I found that mixing it with other flavors improves it. They could hardly make it worse. Or could they?

Diet energy drink: They did! Are regular energy drinks like Red Bull this nasty? God help us, this stuff is such a foul, sickly brew you'd think it had better cure malaria or something. Bleccch.

Diet Ocean Spray cranberry: Very nice, actually. A five-calorie beverage with a refreshing fruit flavor.

Diet tonic water: I liked it. Mrs. Key hated it. Did not try it with gin. A little lime juice is a nice touch, though.

Part of the problem with some of these is that they make them with Sucralose or even worse, Stevia. I've tried the Diet Coke Sweetened with Sucralose and found it weird, and the same thing is going on here. They treat it like it's a good thing to not use aspartame, but I much prefer it to Sucralose. Maybe you can't make soda syrup with aspartame.

And Stevia is like the annoying neighbor who thinks he's an environmentalist because he drives a Subaru and likes to show off his grungy toes in his mandals. Let's just leave that there.

Anyway, looking forward to trying the Diet Cream, various sparkling teas, Diet Crystal Light Fruit Punch, and Diet Lemon-Lime. Can't find the Diet Cream---another problem with the product is actually finding the varieties.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The tragic garden.

I don't know what it is, but I have no gift for gardening. I come from city people who could make plastic flowers bloom, but out here in the sun and fresh air of the lovely Hudson Valley, I could kill crabgrass---provided the crabgrass thought I was trying to cultivate it. There's clearly some plant psychology going on here.

Even the bugs are critics.

The worst offender is the lawn itself, or as I call it, The Clover Hill Dandelion Preserve. I think it may be trying to kill me. If so, it is doing a pretty decent job. It sees me walking around on top of it, and has decided it would rather have me resting below it.

We had lots of rain so far this spring, which you'd think would help. Sure has! The mushrooms have never been more varied, plentiful, or (educated guess here) poisonous.

Everything I plant becomes a problem. Unless it's considered an invasive species, it's probably going to turn into a lump of nothing. If it does start to grow, it will choke something more expensive. And if it wins out against all odds, a plucky little ficus battling through to be a new plant or tree and bring joy for generations, I'll probably run over it accidentally with the lawn mower.

Plants I Have Cultivated:

Ginkgo Bloba
Crap Myrtle
Morning Gory
Callous Lilies
Agave Up
Arch Anemones
Pink Tarnations
Thyme Out Of Mynde
Rottenest Island Pine
Whatsit Torreya

I'm sure there is lots and lots more garbage I can try to grow, and will likely get the same results. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dewey Dewey want my love?

Fred as Dewey Decimal Code, courtesy of

Frederick Key's Dewey Decimal Section:

229 Apocrypha & pseudepigrapha

Frederick Key = 685458931155 = 685+458+931+155 = 2229

200 Religion

The Bible and other religious texts, books about the general philosophy and theory of religion.

What it says about you:
You don't mind thinking about the unknown or other very big ideas. You will never feel like your work is finished. The 200-series is dominated by Christian topics, so you may feel like you're constantly surrounded by Christians.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Very interesting, given my longstanding interest in pseudepigrapha and all things pseudepigraphic.

It's one thing to write a book and have Mr. Dewey and His Crewey reduce it to a number; it's another to have your own data plugged in that way. I think they generate the entry based on the letters of your name; you're not asked to give any data about past studies or other interests. And yet they plugged my personality and interests better than any online astrological profile or BuzzFeed quiz I ever took.

I do think about the unknown a lot, and other very big ideas*, my work is never finished, and as soon as I looked up pseudepigrapha** I realized it did mean something of interest to me. I am not, however, a follower of any gnostic gnospels or the like. I've looked into it, and the books of Gnosticism appear to have no basis in early texts of the church. I do not wish to offend, but if you are a devout follower of the Gospel According to Louie (Apostle #42), I'm going to have to call you out on it.

And yes, I often feel like I am surrounded by Christians. Especially at church.

* People often ask me, "Hey, dummy, what's the big idea?"

** Basically means "pen names" but is essentially the same as apocrypha in this use---non-canonical writing. Like the Batman TV show is to the Batman comic book, for instance.

Monday, June 16, 2014

What is going on up there?

Never been through the Lincoln Tunnel or any major tunnel in a convertible or even a car with a sunroof. But I was traveling by bus the other day and the air conditioner was not working, so the driver popped the escape hatches for air. It was the first time I'd ever given much thought to the roof of the Lincoln Tunnel. 

I don't know why I was surprised that it was tiled the same way the walls are.

So what's above the roof? When I was a tot I thought the tunnel lay across the bottom of the river like in a cartoon; that if the sides were glass you could see out to the stuff floating by. Oysters, fish, abandoned cars, Luca Brasi, whatever. But of course the tunnel runs under the riverbed.

The sandhogs who built the thing could only work an hour a day because of the enormous pressure down there. The NYC Roads site tells us that worker safety was a premium: "The result was that the Lincoln Tunnel was the first major tunnel project to be completed without a single fatality."
 Something I didn't know was that the project was done as part of Roosevelt's New Deal package. I wonder if it would have been built otherwise. Probably, because it was needed, but since the tunnel runs from one state to another it may have required the feds to get things going. 

I think the current and previous New York mayors probably would have preferred that this and the Holland Tunnel had never been built, that train tunnels would bring people and supplies into Manhattan to be routed by onsite jitneys or something. 

But that's the difference between the 1930s and now. Back then we believed we might be small, but together we could build big projects and do mighty things: the Lincoln Tunnel, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam... Now we think we're big and mighty but the best thing we can do is tear down stuff that our predecessors built. How many great projects do you know of that have been constructed by the 2009 recovery act, hmm?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Stiff the old man again.

Being a father is a serious job, one that neither society, families, or, sadly, a lot of dads respect. Society likes to say that Dad is a dictatorial crank, a borderline psychopath, a neglectful tool, a self-centered dodo, a doddering fool, an out-of-touch creep, or a bumbling idiot. Dads in TV commercials? Idiots. Dads on TV shows dramas? Creeps.

The dad that Hollywood likes best is one who, like Odysseus, abandons his family for twenty years and comes roaring in at the end to save everybody. But the dad that sticks to his last, providing and instructing and protecting, day in and day out? He's an idiot. Or a psychopath.

Moms sometimes act like dad is an idiot too---not that he may not be; Lord knows dads can be idiots same as anyone else. But sometimes moms like to think they do it all even when they don't, that dads are detached and dopey. Maybe moms watch too many TV commercials.

Today is Father's Day, so you'd better run to the store fast unless you want to stiff the old man again. They'll be out of #1 Dad mugs by now, but you may find something.

If you're desperate you can always copy and print out my "Ode to Dad," below. No need to hit the tip jar. Your appreciation is enough. And the best way to show that appreciation is to buy a few thousand copies of my books.

"Ode to Dad"

Every kid should have a dad
That's decent, kind, and strong
A dad who does not walk the streets
Clad in a pink sarong

I know my dad is really great
I think that he's the tops
That's why I'm not ashamed to say
"Hey, this guy is my pops"

You put up with an awful lot
We give you lots of grief
The baby screams and hollers
And the dog bites with his teef

You work a lousy job all day
Your boss will whine and moan
No doubt the man has also got
A family of his own

You try to show us right from wrong
Though Mom says you're a dolt
But since she went and married you
It's no one else's folt

You know I'm only ribbing you
We all think that you're full a
All the greatness dads can have
But pink is not your color

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Feed the birds, nuttin' a bag...

Oh, how misty we get when we hear Mary Poppins sing "Feed the Birds...tuppence a bag..."

Well, my neighbor does it twice a week, but it doesn't even cost him that. Feed the birds garbage! Nuttin' a bag! Nuttin'! Nuttin'! Nuttin' a baaaaaaaaaaggggg!!!

I'm not sure that he is aware that he is putting out a crow smorgasbord when he dumps the plastic bags rather than using a garbage can. Our trash guys are pros, and they carry a shovel on the truck, so he probably never sees what happens after he leaves for work. And I don't think the trash guys have the time or the inclination to leave notes that say, "Hey, schmuck! Get your cheap fat ass down to the Home Depot and buy a stinkin' Rubbermaid can, will ya? Because next week we're leaving this mess and adding a few things off the truck to it, too, stoopid."

I would, but they may be too busy or too polite.

In the winter you can get away with dumping bags, as long as it's early in the morning, because the raccoons and bears and nocturnal things are usually done for the night by then. And it's too dark for the scavenger birds. But in the spring? It's like McDonald's, IHOP, and the Waffle House rolled into one for the Crow-American population.

I'm not too wild on feeding birds anyway. Anyone who's ever gotten pigeon-bombed knows that this morning's act of charity turns into this afternoon's ranch dressing for the hair. 

Of course, teenagers are a lot like birds in that regard, and it's against the law to not feed them. Maybe that's why Mary Poppins checked out while the kids were still small. 

UPDATE: He denies it, but I'm pretty sure I just heard Mr. Philbin singing, "Feed the birds buckets of trash... Buckets! Buckets! Buckets of trash!"

Friday, June 13, 2014

Lili, my love!

I shall always remember Lili.
            Some people dream of stairways to paradise. Lili wanted an escalator. Some people live their lives under darkened skies, brows knit, arms akimbo. Lili raced through sunlit streets, laughing, singing, knocking down old ladies. Such joie de vivre. Such plume de ma tante.
            Ah, Lili!

            Lili wasn’t her real name, of course. She just liked the sound of it. Some days she preferred Gigi, or Pipi, or even Fifi. Usually it was Lili. None of these names was her real name. Her real name was Herschel.
            Sometimes at night I still cry out, “Lili!” It makes the cat nervous. I can’t help it. You don’t forget a woman like that.
            How could I forget her? I can still smell her perfume, can still hear her laugh. How like a bird’s song it was! Which bird was it? The pelican, I think, but I’m not sure. It’s been a long while since I’ve been to the beach, what with one thing and another.
            Besides, how can I think to look at the beach without Lili, sweet Lili? I remember that June day on the Riviera when she whispered in my ear, “I just adore spinach.” Then she ground my face into the sand, threw a small child into the water, and ran off with the lifeguard. How we laughed about that later!
            Yes, life without Lili is life without Life. How can I look at another? Lili was my reason for breathing, for eating, for drinking! Certainly for drinking. She was the reason I got up in the morning, the reason I went to bed at night. She was the reason I flossed regularly and saw my dentist twice a year. She was the reason I slammed my head against the side of the Arc de Triomphe, on more than one occasion. She was my everything. She was my anything. She was this thing, you see. But not just one of those things. No, not Lili!
            One day, and I shall remember it if I live to see my hundredth year, she…no, that was someone else. Ah, yes. I will always remember the day I was fired from my job at the abattoir, was waylaid, beaten, and robbed by a pack of wild Huguenots, and lost my favorite poodle in a game of chance. Straight to the arms of Lili I fled! She cradled my head in her delicate hands, gazing at me with kindly, bloodshot eyes, murmuring sweet words. “Mon cheri,” she whispered angelically, “did the Huguenots take all of your money?”
            “Yes, my darling, every last centime.”
            “Well, au revoir,“ she said, pushing me in front of a passing streetcar. That Lili! She could change my life with but a gesture.
            Yes, I think there are few pure, true, real loves in this mortal, maniacal realm in which we dwell, and I believe that my love for Lili was one of them. Every little thing she did lives with me still. How she would assault the projectionist with a cinder block if she didn’t like the movie we were watching. Or the way she would guzzle blanc de blanc straight out of the bottle in the sidewalk caf├ęs and spit it up on the maitre d’s shirtfront if she found it wanting. The way she would run through my credit cards until the numbers wore flat; that haunts me yet on at least a monthly basis. She always dressed so well.
            Oh, Lili! Can you recall the good times, my love? The afternoons in Marseilles? The champagne dusk in Ballet-Bouton? The bowling alley in the Rue de Keggling that they still have not rebuilt? The memories!
            Lili, Lili. If only you could hear me now. But I know you are far away. Some wonder how I know. I just smile knowingly. That really gets on their nerves.
            I shall never forget the last time I saw you. You broke my heart when you went with Jacques. I had just told you of my good fortune in inheriting that small Renoir from grandmere, and how, in my love for you, you were to be my sole beneficiary. After our celebratory luncheon atop the Tower Eiffel, you and our old ami Jacques rushed at me, no doubt to congratulate me. Why, had I not bent over to pick up that flower you’d dropped, surely you would have knocked me over the side in your enthusiasm. Instead, poor Lili, over the side you and Jacques both went. Even as you plummeted to earth, you still clutched your glass of Beaujolais, living life to the fullest to the last!
            Ah, Lili, ma cheri! I shall remember you always!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tweet release.

As Mr. Philbin knows, and as I have written before, I have staunchly refused to Tweet on Twitter. I'm too free-form for that, man. Too blogalicious.

It's not that I am incapable of the 140-character zinger. Heck, my dog could do that. C'mere, Tralfaz! Tweet for the people!

If ur gonna be late for dinner, leave ur feet and the A1 sauce by the door

Puppy shlobber clinically proven to cure many skin ailments

Was excited to go to eye doc when u got ur glasses--i wanted some too but found out that thats not why i can't read - damn

U call it a crate to make urself feel better but everyone knows it's a cage

I think u liked me better when u thot I could speak English & was just obstinate

See? I could come up with some too, if I wanted to. So there!

No, my main problem is that I look like an idiot enough of the time as it is. Let me put this succinctly, in less than 140 characters---a rule you should post backward on your forehead so you see it every day in the mirror: If you can’t control your anger, DO NOT TWEET. You've seen examples constantly. It's terrible to be a well-respected and wealthy person brought to groveling apology by something you let out in public; it's worse if you're a low-level schlub whose career is completely ruined by the same thing.
And I'm not sure I trust myself. Too many people need a trip to the woodshed, and when I'm sore I get to thinking that I'm the one who needs to be administering the whuppin'.

Plus, I don't want to make the other guys feel bad. James Patterson only has 57,900 followers, for one. He's a prolific and accomplished guy. Why would I want to start Tweeting and racking up followers? Just to make him feel bad?

Well, I'm sorry, people, but that's just not the Fred way.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jupiter is a big fat pig.

People often say that the world is a lot more complicated than it was when they were children. Frankly, I no longer believe that. A little dose of history shows that things are always complicated, but that when you---or anyone, I'm not just picking on you---were a child, you did not know your butt from a hole in the ground. The proper distinction of butt from hole in the ground was your big conundrum, and once solved it seemed like you had this life thing licked.

Then you learned more and more, and life started to look a wee bit tougher.

That aside, one thing that has gotten more complicated is astronomy. For example: When I was a wee tot it was not too hard to know every moon in the solar system. We had one. Mars had two. Mercury and Venus were late getting up and missed the sale. Jupiter, the Big Bubba of the planets, had an astonishing twelve. Twelve moons! The upkeep had to be ridiculous. Some of them (like Ganymede) would have been planets on their own if Daddy would let them leave the farm, but no.

But it was not too hard to get to know them, to memorize them for the quiz on Friday.

Io, Europa, Ganymede, Calysto, Amalthea, Himalia, Elara, Pasiphae, Sinope, Lysithea, Carme, and Ananke.

Then they found Leda and Themisto. Okay, fourteen, but still not too complicated. And yet unsettling. How much further was this thing going to go?

Come to find out that there are now 67 confirmed moons around that big fat bastard! What the hell, Jupe! You greedy solar system slob! No wonder Venus and Mercury got hosed. You took 'em all!

The sad part is that they stopped giving them proper names a while ago. Like no one cared. After they had so many they stopped being special. "Behold the majesty of...uh, S/2003 J 2."

And don't get me started on the whole Pluto thing.

Trust me when I say life is not more complicated than it was when you were a kid. There's just more information and it's more readily available. The big questions are still big. The tough questions are still tough. But the trivia is an avalanche.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Was cleaning out a bunch of old junk the other night and HOLY CRAP:

You're wondering: Fred, what was it like going to kindergarten with Benjamin Franklin?

And I say: Ha ha ha kifs my buttockfs. 

Believe it or not, zygotes, I was still doing freelance work by trading "floppy" disks as late as 2003. I always backed up my data, so I kept a bunch of files on floppies. Those were never cheap (until maybe after I and everyone else stopped using them), but fortunately AOL sent me a constant stream of disks over the years. (Oooh! This needed Windows 2.5! Back then the Windows were made of actual glass.) 

Anyway, I was happy to reformat and reuse these disks when I could, AOL's and any other cockamamie freebie floppy disks that came in the mail. We got enough every month to tile the shower.

This disk was never used for backup; in fact, it still had the AOL installation software on it. But no, I didn't try to install it. I did think about keeping it as a reminder. Not sure of a reminder of what, though. I've never even had an AOL mail account. 

Maybe as a reminder to clean out the old junk more often. That could be helpful.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nature is killing me.

I love you, nice warm weather, but you are trying to kill me. 

Woke up with a sinus headache that felt like I'd been getting punched in the eyes by cement garden gnomes and kicked in the head by their friend, the little cement burro. 

To feel this bad on a Sunday morning used to take a lot of fun on Saturday night. 

On the other hand, I'm not in need of throwing up my intestines, so it's not an exact analogy. 

But it is so unfair. The weather is fantastic this weekend. A little warm for me, but after the winter we had, I'll take warm in spades. 

Then, POW, right in the sinuses. 

"Oh, life is like that," says the adult Ralphie narrating A Christmas Story. "Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at it's zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us." 

But I can't stay mad at Nature---after all, you only get in trouble when you get on Mother Nature's bad side.

I'm more sore at the meth manufacturers whose perfidy put my precious pseudoephedrine behind the pharmacy counter. It's not that it's hard to get---you still don't need a prescription---but it sucks to stand in line when your head is lopsided and falling off from all the gnome punching. Damn you, drug fiends! Bad enough you kill people, destroy families, ruin lives, leave parents with no children and children with no parents---but you've also inconvenienced me! 

If only Mother Nature would strike down you and your little meth cookeries. But not just now---the thunder is more than I can handle.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Yakkity yak.

Voices can be deceiving.

When I hear someone on the radio or just know them as a voice on the phone and then I see what they look like, most of the time I'm wrong, or wrongish. When my mental picture is right on the money I feel I deserve a parade.

Usually I can tell a man from a woman by the voice. Not always. Some voices seem a bit borderline, could go either way, but when I think I know what it is, I am dead certain. There was a large and unattractive woman on the subway recently whom I heard before I saw, and I would bet a good hunk of money that however the person chose to dress or identify or whatever, that person's birth certificate said Boy.

A couple of things can lead to an educated guess. Age is almost always apparent. Sometimes very heavy people's jowls give away their weight. And there are issues of race probably related to timbre, bone structure, and God knows what else that may be indicative. Although we've likely all fallen into same trap as Lt. Zachary Graber in the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three, whose conversations with Inspector Daniels led him to believe the possessor of that deep, authoritative voice (African-American actor Julius Harris) was white. "Oh, I, uh, thought you were, uh, like a shorter guy or---I don't know what I thought."

Some of the scariest women and dumpiest men have the most awesome voices, too. Think of that next time you call your Frisky French Nurses Hotline, boys. 

Singing voices can also be weird. Some people with lovely speaking voices can sing like busted trash compactors and vice versa. For decades people wondered how Gomer Pyle could have such an astonishing operatic baritone. Then again, Goober Pyle had a bachelor's in science, so we know TV can be deceiving.

Why do I bring this all up when everyone knows it from childhood? Because it's one of those things that keep shocking us even though we know it so well. We may become accustomed to the idea that a lovely face may hide an evil heart, but never to the idea that a voice and a face may be completely at odds in our imagination. Or as the great baritone Robert Merrill might say, "Well, surprise, surprise, surprise!"

Friday, June 6, 2014

Open office plan.

"Oh, sure, the open office takes a little getting used to, but you'll love the communication and collaboration!"

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fuzzy varmint at the Lowe's.

Just minding my own business over by the gardening tools at the Lowe's, when I was accosted by this hairy little gray scalawag -- and no, I don't mean a member of Crosby, Still, and Nash:

What a naughty little varmint! Less than two feet away from me!

Why's the might predator so close? Probably because I was standing between him and sacks of bird seed. The little sidewindin' bushwhacker.

I've seen plenty of birds in the big box stores, especially Home Depot and Lowe's. Lots of plants and things to interest them, and that have many doors opening constantly. But I've never been so assaulted, like a salted peanut.

This Lowe's was within the five boroughs of Greater New York, so this squirrel was like, "Yo, outta my way, mofo." He could have easily leaped on my face, but he was trying to play it cool. "Do me a solid. Don't drop a dime on me, aight? I wouldn't wanna have to use one a dese shovels on ya."

I reminded him that he was a hairy little creep, that this life of crime was a one-way trip up the river t crossbar hotel, Sing Sing, the clink, the hoosegow, stir, Cinder Block Castle, the pokey, the cooler, the hot box, the slammer, the lockup, the House of Many Doors.

Then I had to go.

He's probably still there, getting fat as a beach ball on bird seed.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

No-ah-dea why!

"Religious audiences slam Darren Aronofsky's retelling of the Noah story" - The Telegraph

"There it is, my children! God's promise that he will not destroy the world again, and that He wants us to support gay marriage!"

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Post-Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day: The Encapitation.

Yesterday was the first annual Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day, and I had big hopes of perannotatin' da streets of Noo Yawk, hearin' people droppin' malaprops and wise-guyisms with great acrumb. But sadly, da streets remained unpolluted wit' Slip Mahoney imitators.

Dis is depressatatin'.
Well, Leo, it was just the first annual. We'll start earlier next year. We'll move the decorations into the stores right after Easter. Peeps out, Slip in. We'll have a big Black Toisday sale or something. Get people fired up weeks beforehand. Sell malaprop dictionaries and English/Bowery Boy translator apps.

Maybe it slipped (har!) some minds. Mr. Philbin says he totally forgot for most of the day, until he slipped (hyuk!) some dese and dose into his dialogue after supper.

So assuming that mere forgetfulness was our downfall, I resist his suggestion that we were up against pushback from the Talk Like a Pirate guys. Sure, those guys are scurvied scalawags and all, but their day doesn't fall until September. I consider us cohorts, not competitors. Of course, in the Bowery Boys' film Hold That Hypnotist, it was suggested that in a past life Slip's sidekick Sach Jones snagged a map leading to Blackbeard's treasure, so there may be some bad feelings.

Anyway, enough of this stupidity! Back to our regular stupidity tomorrow!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day is here!

So da day is finally here, da day we rememberate our ol' pal Slip Mahoney, king of the Noo Yawk malapropism and central protractorist of most of da Bowery Boys movies. Slip was portrayed by dat esteemed thesaurus Leo Gorcey, who expiated on dis date in 1969.

Da Bowery Boys began as da Dead End Kids in da 1937 Cagney pitcher Dead End, den went on ta do movies and serials as da Little Tough Guys, den da East Side Kids, and finally da Bowery Boys. Da flicks stahted as crime adventures wit some comedy and eventually turned into comedy wit some crime adventures. Troughout most of da Bowery Boys era, Slip Mahoney was da king (and Leo Gorcey owned a hunk of the production company).

Da flicks had most of da ushal street types in movies---dummies, palookas, babyface lovers, dippers, gorillas, yeggs, you name it---but Slip was a classic of da type of fast-talkin' woik-aversive dropout whose tough exterior hid a knightly interior. He could crack wise with da best of 'em, but was expecially good at misusin' da language.

You can see Slip doin' his thing here, in the opener* of 1954's The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters:

Now dat you'ze seen da maestaro in action, I'm sure you can eviscerate his technique. Let us know how youze make out. (And remember to trow in some insults to yer idiot sidekicks. Dat's anuddah Slip trademark.)

*Something I didn't know when I was watching these things as a kid: Leo Gorcey's father, 4'10" Bernard, played Louie Dumbrowski, proprietor of the soda shop. The Bowery Boys were kind of a family business---Leo's brother David actually appeared in more of the Bowery Boys movies than Leo did.