Be Careful What You Fish For

February 7, 2019


For anyone who has been following this blog, you know that practically every third posting has something to do with my ongoing battle upstate with the mice who think that my Miata is an all-inclusive vacation resort. Well, I have news to report on the Mouse War, the second longest war in the history of Ulster County. (See Note)

Sometime last spring, I bought the car a 25th birthday present — a major tune up.  When I picked the Miata up, the mechanic regaled me with stories of finding mice nests in the carburetor, the air filter and some other places that I can’t remember. Having removed those sanctuaries, I resolved, at that point, to spare no effort in keeping the car rodent free. So now, as the car sits in my barn it looks much like a patient at a dentist’s office with all sorts of gizmos going into various parts of the car.  I have ultrasound machines attached with extension cords inserted in the passenger compartment that are “guaranteed” to keep vermin away; I have beeping machines in the engine compartment and the trunk which are “guaranteed” to keep vermin away; and I have a strobe light going which is  . . . well you know the rest.

These measures came with some interesting unimagined consequences. The first few times that I went into the barn to look in on the Miata, the high-pitched beeping noises I heard made me think that I had suddenly developed tinnitus in the one ear that had, up until then, been tinnitus free. What a relief to realize that the racket in my left ear was from nurture, not nature.  And, of course, the strobe light transported me back to the 60’s with such vividness that it was all I could do not to run to the house, find some bell bottoms and head back to the barn to smoke a joint.

I can report that all these measures seem to be working — the car appears to be mouse-free.  But (and I can’t write that “But” large enough) there’s been an unforeseen downside to my success in the barn. Having been turned away at the border of the car, It appears that the mice are now seeking asylum in my house. Yes that’s right . . . Mickey, Minnie and a lot of their friends have breached my foundation walls and seem to have made themselves very much at home in . . . in  . . well, MY home!!

Oh … if only!

Lebasi and I discovered this last week when we arrived for a weekend away. Not to gross you out, but we very quickly became woke to mouse droppings throughout what heretofore has been a very welcoming and cozy respite. After recovering from mouse-shock, we remembered that there were some mouse traps and repellent in the basement and we began to plot our counter attack.

I was a bit more ruthless than Lebasi and focussed my attention on the mouse traps which were unlike any I had ever seen. They were essentially small electric chairs powered by some AAA batteries; just without the chair. By luring the mouse into the trap with peanut butter, Mickey’s friend would wind up standing on a metal plate that would . . .  well, use your imagination.  I put a few of these out over night and in the morning found that one of the traps had done its job. I went to empty it and quickly realized I wasn’t cut out for that kind of work. That this was not what my mother had raised me for. Not by a long shot.

I made a plaintive call to a local exterminator, Steve, who arrived later that day. He explained his modus operandi which included the initial visit during which he would clog holes and lay down assorted bait traps.  He appeared even more ruthless than I was. Steve explained that he would return in two weeks to collect his bounty and re-bait his traps. Unfortunately, I heard “re-bait” as rebate and got really excited. It was only after he left that Lebasi straightened that out for me.

So, even though I’ve reduced the Misis caliphate in the barn to almost nothing, the Mouse War continues . . .  with neither a rebate nor an end in sight.


Note: The Revolutionary War was longer by one year and several months.  No mice were involved.


Breaking News: Basketball Team Dissolves Before First Game!

January 9, 2019

In the course of writing the blog, I know that I’ve covered some topics numerous times.  But I never really know exactly how many times.  But this time I know . . . it’s the sixth time. Because, you see, my son Essej recently announced to me that he and my daughter-in-law, Fets, are having another kid, their fourth.  So now it’s six grandchildren.

Of course, I’m thrilled for them. But for me, it presents some real challenges. That’s because I’ve only recently been able to figure out a mnemonic to help me remember the existing birth dates of my grandkids.  Along with that, I’m well on my way to committing four of the five middle names to memory; I even frequently get the right middle name with the right kid.  But now . . . now all that work is at risk of being upended by this turn of events.

In a perfect world, one in which I could use my brain cells for some higher purpose, the new baby would be born on the same date as one of the other ones. But the due date is in June and as best as I can remember, there are no other June babies. Add to that, I assume he will have a different first and middle name than all the others. New names, new birthday — Jeez!  It’s at times like this that I think George Foreman was on to something by naming each of his five sons, “George.”

Just to show you that I’m not totally narcissistic, before I started worrying about how this affects me, I worried first about how Essej was going to fit all these kids into his apartment.  I know that he and Fets have been feeling a bit squeezed and looking to move anyway so I asked him if he now felt a sense of urgency.  He looked at me quizzically and wondered what I was talking about.  When I pointed out that they were already running out of room and in June things were going to get even more crowded, he calmly explained that my oldest grandson, Julian, would be going to camp this summer. I didn’t see how that solved the problem since presumably Julian will be coming back. If not, someone should have a talk with him. A long one.

But back to me.  I think I’ve shown a lot of flexibility as it’s been raining grandkids over the last several years. When the fourth came, I easily gave up the notion of a three person horseshoe team and was all set to oversee some interesting tennis doubles. And then when the fifth came I totally abandoned the tennis gig and moved on to a basketball team. Seemingly, that idea has gone the way of pleated pants. I’m not sure, but I think a volleyball team may consist of six players. Maybe ice hockey, as well. Given the outfitting for hockey, I think volleyball makes the most sense for my team of the future. So now, it looks like I’ll have to bone up on both the coarser and finer points of the game. Of course, that’s assuming I don’t get another call and have to take a crash course in ultimate frisbee.


Founders Night

December 27, 2018


I’ve been holding on by my fingernails to keep my connection with the real estate office formerly and currently known as Garfield Realty. That office has proven an oasis in the desert in this land of re . .  retir . . retirement.  Among the percs of that relationship is my friendships with a number of the people who work there. Which is why I (along with Lebasi) was invited to a holiday party being thrown by a stalwart of the office, Luap#2, and his wife, Laura.

So last weekend I put on my better jeans, picked up Lebasi and headed over to Luap#2’s house. On our way, we made a quick stop to pick up a bottle of wine to take with us. I double-parked while Lebasi went into the wine store.  When she got back to the car she expressed some concern that what she had bought was not a good enough bottle to show up with.  I assured her that I thought it was certainly a nice enough wine and besides, why would it matter. To which she said, “But they’re Italian!”

I didn’t know how to take that. I asked if she was worried that they were going to break our legs for showing up with an inferior red. She set me straight by explaining that she thought that Luap#2 and his wife might be wine aficionados and would be put off by the $1.99 bottle we were bringing.

It turns out there was nothing to worry about because it was crowded as we arrived and we played three card monte with our bottle and a few others that were already there. For all I know, someone else at the party took the “hit” and has already been thrown off a dock wearing cement boots.

I didn’t know many of the other guests but Luap#2 was nice enough to introduce me to some of the them; unfortunately, as part of the introduction he referred to me as the founder of Garfield Realty.  If I hadn’t already been feeling older than everyone there, that pretty much clinched it. Maybe it’s just me but that word “founder” just conjures up figures like Washington, Franklin, Jefferson et al.  Nothing like the guys who “started” Facebook or Twitter.

I found myself chatting up a nice, interesting couple who were friends of Laura’s. After a bit, and needless to say, the conversation turned towards real estate. I write, “needless to say” because that topic has been the staple of almost every cocktail and other kind of party I’ve been to over the last twenty years. Which to be honest, bores me. (I tried to explain this once to Luap#1 — until Luap#2 came on the scene, he was known simply as, Luap — by describing it as, a “busman’s holiday”.  This drew a blank. And since Luap has always been my EverymanI realized that it must be an expression that has lost its currency.)

So I drifted away from my new-found friends and moved towards the food table. I eyed some shrimp on the far side and reached across some other guests while apologizing for my “boarding house reach.”  As they looked at me with the same blank stare that Luap had, I realized at that moment that maybe it wasn’t an expression, but rather I who had lost currency; that as much as I won’t claim it, I may, indeed, be the founder I don’t want to be.






Sitting In The Lap Of Lunacy

December 4, 2018


I’ve been going to the movies for as long as I can remember.  I really like going to the movies.  But something happened to me just recently which may propel me to get the largest TV I can fit through my door in order to see films in the safety of my own home.

It wasn’t this

Lebasi and I went to BAM the other night to see a new film, At Eternity’s Gate.  I had a perfect seat; no one in front of me and no one next to me on the side away from Lebasi. But just as the movie was about to begin, a couple slid into our row heading for the empty seats next to me. And then it happened — the moment that may have changed everything for me. Astoundingly, the woman in the couple passed the empty seat next to me, continued on and then plopped down right on my lap.  Yes, that’s right . . . a fully grown woman, a stranger to me, sat down right on top of me!! Without thinking, I screamed, “You’re sitting on my lap!” (see note)  She then moved her ass to its rightful place. I think I may have been in shock because without hesitation I again shouted out loud, “That was funny.”  At which point the offending party corrected me by saying, “It isn’t funny, it was a mistake”.

Well, I’m sorry . . . but that’s way more than a mistake.  In fact, I have irrefutable evidence that it’s not a mistake.  To wit: just last week there was a clue in the NY Times crossword that read, “Sitting on a stranger’s lap in the movie theater, e.g.”  and the answer definitely was not “mistake.”  The truth is that it wasn’t “funny”, either. The correct answer was just four letters – – – NUTS!

More like this

Obviously, I remained in a heightened state of vigilance from that moment forward. Amber alert. I paid particular attention to my popcorn because it was clear that this woman might make another “mistake” and reach over and start digging in.  Maybe this had some bearing on my enjoyment of the film. Which was next to nil.

The movie is about Vincent Van Gogh’s life and descent into a kind of madness. If nothing else, it was aptly titled because it moved so slowly that the film’s ninety minutes or so did, indeed, feel like an eternity.  It was as slow and boring as watching paint dry; in fact, I believe a number of the scenes were literal depictions of watching the artist’s paintings dry. (Which given Van Gogh’s thick brush style, took forever).

Mercifully, the movie experience ended without any more drama . . . either on the screen or in my row. I kidded with Lebasi that it wasn’t such a waste because we had recently become BAM members and our tickets were only half price.  And then it occurred to me that I ought to check the fine print of our subscription. For all I know, there may be a clause that dictates paying half price means I’m supposed to share my seat. There’s nothing funny about that.


Note – The Supreme Court has ruled that there is no first amendment restriction in yelling, “You’re sitting on my lap!” in a crowded movie theater.


There’s No ‘Fun’ in Funeral

November 14, 2018

Only In A Pinch

Just recently, I had a foreshadowing of what’s coming down the pike for me.  Lebasi sent me an article about the death of a namesake of mine — one Neil Stein who had been a well-known restaurateur in Philadelphia who died about two weeks ago.  As luck would have it, one of my early blogs was about this very man.

Ordinarily, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how it’s all going to end for me.  To be more precise, not the death part but rather the business that comes after; you know, the “celebration” of my life.  Now with this other Neil Stein’s passing, I’m even more concerned with what the turnout will be at my last party.

I’ve had this discussion with some of my friend(s) and we more or less agree that, unless you’re someone really famous, attendance will certainly be sparser as you live longer.  One of life’s/death’s ironies.  Go early — lots of people; hang on and it’s just a smattering of people who you haven’t out-lived.  Sad.

But good news! I’ve found that there are outfits that provide paid mourners to help beef up attendance at funerals. Yet another instance of Yankee ingenuity or “building a better mousetrap” or something like that. (By the way, that ‘mousetrap’ thing reminds me that I’m not quite through with the Miata vs. Mice ballgame taking place in my barn. Stay tuned).  Additionally, a while back my friend, Retep#2, passed along an article that he had come across that reported a trend in China where strippers are hired to help in mourning the loss of a loved one. The presence of the strippers has the twofold benefit of increasing attendance while at the same time entertaining mourners. Yet another case of Chinese ingenuity.

I haven’t priced any of these options yet because I think I have an ace in the hole.  You see, my tennis club, the Knickerbocker Field Club, (a misnomer if there is ever was one — the closest thing to a “field” at the Knick is a guy named ‘Rosenfield’ who plays there sometimes) is currently the repository of many of my social connections. So for a thousand bucks a year, I have a community of people who might show up for my final match. Although most are not real friends, as of now, I don’t think I’m feuding with any of them. To ensure their presence at the last hurrah, it’s best to keep it that way. To that end, I suppose I ought to make some adjustments.  Be a little fairer with my line calls; go easy on the foot faults; make sure I kick in more than my share of balls. In other words, try to be nicer than I really am.  Jeez . . . this is going to be so much harder than I thought.  I wonder . . .  how many semi-professional mourners would a thousand dollars get me?




October 8, 2018

As I’m sure you’re aware, today’s yet another Columbus Day.  This holiday, surprisingly, has proven to be a much needed source of blog gold silver bronze.  In years past I’ve written about my unhappiness with the way the celebration day is moved around as if it’s a piece of furniture you reposition in your living room; and also how I’ve noticed the remarkable similarities between us Jews and Italians. And now, this year, I see yet one more way that the holiday “speaks” to me.

When I looked on my computer calendar the other day, I noticed that Columbus Day is now shared with or called (I’m not sure which) Indignant Peoples Day. In other words . . .  MY DAY!  And it couldn’t have come around at a better time.  Not only do I have the heart-breaking Supreme Court nomination fiasco to resent but there’s a ton of other circumstances that have been accruing for which I certainly need a day, at least, to memorialize.

To name a few, Bumble Bee has downsized its standard can to 5oz.  Fully a third less than it used to be. They must think I’m an idiot. I guess they hope that I won’t realize that  I can no longer get two sandwiches out of what is one of my dietary staples.  Come on!  And, I’ve already cited how impossible it is nowadays to get a martini that’s actually served in a martini glass. Give me a break!

But maybe the greatest indignity of late is the recent announcement of the MacArthur ‘genius’ grants.  Twenty-five  of these $625,00 awards will be handed out to mostly unsuspecting recipients. Yours truly was not one of them even though I certainly would fit the profile ’cause I’m nothing if not “unsuspecting”.  But as far as I know I wasn’t included.  I say “as far as I know” because I just finished an article about one of the ‘geniuses’ who kept getting phone calls from an unrecognizable number which she ignored. Finally, after much annoyance, she took the call. That’s how she found out about her selection.  I never pick up calls from unidentified numbers. That may be proven to be really costly.  Damn!!

Oh wait . . . Shit!!  I just looked at that calendar again; it’s Indigenous Peoples Day!  Not my day at all.

Jeez . . .  now I’m really upset.

Come Fly With Me

September 20, 2018

For much of my life I’ve heard that travel is a broadening experience, particularly international travel. Presumably, we learn how our neighbors in the world live and we’re able to escape the bubble of our own circumscribed experiences. I recently had this notion highlighted for me.

That’s not a piece of dust on        your computer screen

About two weeks ago, Lebasi and I took a trip to The Netherlands. I won’t bore you with a verbal slide show of our trip. Instead, I’ll relate something that I learned in Amsterdam’s airport as we were on our way home. While we waiting to board our flight I went to the bathroom.  As I neared a urinal, I noticed a house fly on the back wall.  Not wanting to be bothered by the fly, I moved on to an adjacent urinal — and again, another fly.  I checked a number of the other vacant urinals and sure enough, they all had flies. At that point I realized they weren’t real flies at all but were, I thought, part of the design of the urinal, possibly a logo.

Now that I’m back home and have a respite from traveling, I’ve had a chance to continue my “broadening” and find out exactly what’s going on. What I’ve found is that these fly images were introduced at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport a while back as a way of giving us guys a target to shoot at. This is hard to understand . . . hitting the urinal is like “shooting fish in a barrel” or like peeing on a fly for that matter; how can you miss? In any event, according the airport’s manager, providing a fly target seemingly resulted in a reduction of spillage rates by 80 percent. And apparently, a change like that translates into a major savings in maintenance costs. (How the “spillage” rate is determined is something I don’t want to even think about. Nor should you.)

It wasn’t always this way. Originally, the target in the urinal was a series of dots. At some point the dots were changed into etched flies because research showed that guys like to aim directly at an animal they can immobilize. Studies showed that the  ability to use one’s natural gifts and achieve victory over the foe while standing is the key. Guys can always beat flies. That’s why flies are so satisfying.

The Dutch may really be onto something here.  But I’m sure that there’s a lot more that can be done to reduce the spillage rate. Way beyond that 80 percent figure. And not just in Amsterdam but everywhere. Obviously, the key is to come up with a target that’s just so satisfying to pee on that any drop of spillage would be one drop too many. Maybe something really outlandish; perhaps a little weird looking; possibly orange . . . hmmm, I wonder what that could be.

Dutch Treat?



Mystery Bus Ride

August 20, 2018

Unfortunately, I’ve been watching an astounding number of political shows lately. Because there is so much repetition of the  content on these programs, I’ve been hearing the same expressions used over and over by the journalists and pundits who appear on them. None of these annoy me nearly as much as the invocation of the term  “thrown under the bus.”  As in, Person #1 threw Person #2 “under the bus” in order to save his own skin. (This is where I get to use all the nifty lingo I’ve learned about FISA warrants.) It seems to me there are so many other ways to say that differently even if it’s only not to sound like everyone else. Someone might be sabotaged by a colleague, have his legs cut out from under him, may be “knee-capped” by a cohort or some other expression that doesn’t immediately spring to mind. People, let’s show a little originality here.

Of course, being thrown under the bus or its equivalent is nothing new.  If you go  back in history you can find loads of examples. In Biblical times, as you may remember, Jacob threw Esau under a rock to appropriate his birthright. In medieval times Thomas More was thrown under the guillotine by Henry VIII.  And let’s not forget our early American history where Alexander Hamilton was thrown under a horse and buggy by you-know- who. (I’ve taken literary license here–I’m not stupid.)

More currently, who can forget Richard Nixon throwing John Erlichmann and Bob Haldeman under a 1974 T-Bird? (John Mitchell would have joined them but it was too crowded; he wound up under a 1973 Ford Falcon.) And now, it seems that DJT and the people in his orbit have thrown so many people under so many buses that delays at stations around the country have swelled to heretofore unseen waiting times. Sad.

It’s only fairly recently that UTB has taken the lead for my least favorite meme. Prior to that, I was wincing regularly when I would hear, “at the end of the day” intoned by everyone and his brother on these political shows. That seems to be the preface for any concluding remarks on almost any matter. We have the entire English language to work with —- why limit yourself! Why not an occasional, “when all is said and done” or even just, “ultimately”?

Or better yet, refer to the statement by John Maynard Keynes who, when commenting on short-term and long-term economic theories, put it simply, saying “in the long run, we’re all dead.”  And for all I know . . . maybe under the bus, as well.

Before The Fall

May 31, 2018


(Real) Estate Planning

The other day, I stopped in at the office presently and formerly known as Garfield Realty. This has been happening a lot less often which I now realize may have something to do with the infrequency of my blog posts, a situation that is close to becoming epidemic.

When I went into the office I was greeted by Luap and his two sons, Everett and Gus. The younger of the two, Gus, looked about the same age as my grandson, Rex, so I asked him how old he was. He said, rather proudly, that he was four years old. I asked when he had turned four to which he answered, “On my birthday.”  Apparently, the kid is every bit the smart-ass his father is.  I followed up by saying that I couldn’t wait to turn four also.  He explained to me that grownups can’t turn four because “you have to be three before you can turn four.”  See what I mean?

But even more fun and interesting was the presence in the office of a woman Luap was meeting with who, it turns out, is a founder of a seniors organization in Park Slope that arranges group activities.  Luap had mentioned this outfit to me a few weeks ago.  Why, I can’t imagine. He introduced us and despite my long-term absence from the world of normal civil discourse, I was able ask her a bit about the organization. Almost as if I was getting some information to pass on to my parents.

Luap asked what events she had coming up and this is when it got really interesting.  She said that early in June her group would be having a meet-up to discuss funeral planning. I must have made the face that I use for things that I can’t fathom because she quickly added that there would be a free lunch at that meeting.

Luap #2 (or #3)–there are a lot of Luaps at Garfield Realty—- was also in the office and was sitting near to me. When I heard the suggestion that the funeral planning would include lunch, I leaned toward #2 and remarked, sotto voce, that they’d have to do a lot better than that to get me there. The woman continued that later in June there would be a meeting to discuss “fall prevention.”  Again, I whispered to #2, “how can you hold back an entire season?”  After he made the face he uses when he can’t fathom something, I realized she wasn’t making an autumnal reference. Then I launched into an internal tirade about how I had just finished up biking back from the tennis courts after playing for a few hours and why would anyone in there right mind think that I had to worry about falling and who did she thing she was talking to  . . . and . . . and . . .   Clearly, she had touched a nerve.

Maybe this is an indication that visiting my old office is not all it’s cracked up to be.  And then again, there’s that steep set of stairs getting in and out.  Seems kind of risky.  A person could take a terrible fall.  Maybe Luap should look into installing a handrail. Or maybe two.


“The Birth Of A Notion”

May 10, 2018

I imagine that many of you have read about Senator John McCain’s failing health and his request that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies at his funeral  Oh . . . and also his insistence that Donald Trump not attend his funeral.  This planning of his final Senate hearing is a bit macabre but certainly understandable, particularly as it regards the Asshole-In-Chief (AIC).

This news story has prompted me to consider if I might have any special requests when my time comes.  And I do. I’d also like Obama to attend the final set of my last tennis match and perhaps say a few words. After all, he is a terrific speaker.  But I’m not so delusional that I don’t know that’s a real long shot.  However, like Senator McCain, I also am adamant that the AIC stay away. Under no circumstances should he be anywhere near my final serve.

And, I’m not alone. Not one person I know would want him to attend any of their occasions–happy or solemn.   So I’ve decided to launch the #IAlso movement both as a paean to the Senator and as a companion to the #MeToo movement.  Think of it . . . #IAlso could be the meme that, in shorthand, says that this guy is so vile and despicable that you wouldn’t want him around even “over your dead body”.  #IAlso.

Because Senator McCain is in his twilight, those of us who have disagreed with him may be more sanguine about the homages honoring his decency and morality. Maybe . . .  but not quite. Because, as right as Mr. McCain is about the venality of DJT, it’s too soon to forget that he is the one who, in an act of cynicism, introduced us to Sarah Palin by making her his running mate. It’s possible he fells guilty about that and recognizes that Ms. Palin may well have been the gateway drug that led us to a President who is so crass, corrupt and devoid of any humanity that he is unwelcome to attend funerals.