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.




The Ice Breaker

April 19, 2018

Maybe you’ve not noticed but I haven’t written in quite a while. This, because I’ve been stricken, once again, with “bloggers block”, a malady I’ve suffered with three or four times during this blog adventure. The timing of my infirmity is particularly unfortunate because I’ve been making real strides in escaping my hermitage which would ordinarily yield some real blog fodder. Sadly, that has not happened.

For example, about a month ago Lebasi and I took a little trip to Charleston, South Carolina. The trip was timed to include my birthday. I thought my absence from home would somehow shield me a bit from the indignity of a new age.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.  Somehow overnight, I went from one ridiculous age to an even more ridiculous one. Funny how that happens.

Charleston is obviously very welcoming, gorgeous and even in light of its very complicated history, a real treat.  So despite the onslaught, we had a wonderful time.

As further evidence of my committment to escape the confines of my apartment, last week I took a trip with Lebasi to Washington, DC.  During our stay there, we visited a few museums including the Holocaust Museum.  I left there emotionally spent.  Also with a bad cold. Lebasi thought it was something I picked up from the throngs inside the museum.  I saw it as one last desperate attempt by the Nazis to get me. A clear sign that I’m both more suspicious and more Jewish than she is.

Before the “block”, these outings would have given me tons to write about.  I’m not certain, but I have a sense that the stuff that’s going on in the political world is overwhelming my sensibilities and may be preventing me from getting back to form.  I just know it’s waaaay more inviting to write about that than a travelogue.

Particularly the kind of sordid business that involves Michael Cohen and the Defiler In Chief (DIC).  For example, I’m tickled by the irony that the judge in Cohen’s case is Kimba Woods. Among Mr. Cohen’s “clients” is a Republican fundraiser who enlisted Mr. Cohen’s services to pay $1.6 million dollars in hush money to a former Playboy Playmate.  As luck would have it, while she was a student in London, Judge Woods worked for a period of time as a Playboy Bunny at the Playboy Club there. Who would’ve thunk it?

Before the “block” that could have been a riotous and interesting story.  So let us imagine this essay as one would look at one of those ships that break up icebergs.  As a small ice breaker assaulting a block of ice at least the size of the one that took down the Titanic. I think that’s what I may very well be up against.

Stormy Whether….Or Not

March 21, 2018

As you might expect, I’ve been paying close attention to the legal battles that our Philanderer-In-Chief is currently fighting. Lately, the TV coverage of the brouhaha with the porn star, Stormy Daniels, has taken up a lot of my free time. (Truth is . . . I have nothing but free time.)  As a result, I’ve become somewhat of an expert on non-disclosure agreements, lie detector tests, court proceedings and fake tits.

While the reporting on this saga has been pretty solid, there are times where I think I could supply some really interesting analysis. For example, there have been a number of times where I’ve heard some pundit question why the settlement with Ms. Daniels was such an odd amount—-$130,000; not $125K or $150K but $130K.  Here’s where my expertise could be really useful.  You see, the pundits are primarily gentile and miss the semitic significance of that amount.

In the Jewish gestalt, the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, chai, is considered lucky.  So it is not uncommon for Jews to give cash gifts of some multiple of $18. (For example, a grand-nephew of mine recently had his Bar Mitzvah and my gift to him was $360. Or $36,000. Or maybe $360,000 . . . I forget which.)  At any rate, the lawyer who handled this matter for our P-I-C is one Michael Cohen who is, unfortunately, Jewish. Not one of our stars, for sure.  It’s obvious to me that the amount Mr. Cohen “gave” to Ms. Daniels is exactly 7,222.2 times chai. Just do the math . . . 7,222.2 X $18 and voila! — $130,000! Sometimes, if you have the right background information, explanations can be quite simple. (CNN, MSNBC —if you’re listening; you might want to start looking around for someone with a yiddishe cup.  Maybe someone with a lot of free time. I’m just sayin’.)

Another interesting observation I recently heard about this weather business is that apparently, the non-disclosure agreement that Stormy signed was a boiler plate document that had the appearance of having been used many times.  That it was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, etc.  You know, one of those forms that get fuzzy and lose their margins after a while.  For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why that would be.  Maybe I’m not the right man for that pundit job, after all.

The Grateful Dread

February 13, 2018

Just recently, I went to a dinner party given by one of Lebasi’s friends. There were about a dozen or so guests all of whom knew one another in varying degrees.  That is, except for me, who knew no one but Lebasi.

Everyone seemed nice enough but I didn’t really connect with anyone. That, I attribute to two factors; the first and most important is that the person I was traveling with (and am always traveling with) was me.  Secondly, and possibly just as salient, was the fact that there was no hard liquor being served and I was embarrassed to been seen swigging red wine. So I wasn’t as loose as I sometimes can be.

It’s not that I didn’t make an effort to be social. I did. In fact, at one point I found myself in a long conversation with a woman who was probably very nice. I say “probably” because she had a very thick Spanish accent which made understanding her really difficult. I know that a lot of the time I wound up nodding my head as if agreeing to much of what she was saying.  For all I know, she and I may have planned a long vacation together. Yet, Senora X and I did manage a sustained conversation.  Unfortunately, what we wound up talking about included my three least favorite things — real estate, her health and my health. I’m giving myself a B+ for the effort.

As the party wore on we all helped ourselves to the main courses and settled into various places of the living room to eat. I was just about to dig in when I heard the sound of a spoon clanging against a glass. Someone wanted our attention. A woman I had briefly engaged with wanted the floor . . . I thought she was going to toast or thank our hostess. But that’s not what she wanted.  Not by a long shot. Instead, she related how at her house before meals, her family would go around the table to talk about what they were “grateful for”.  And wouldn’t it be a good idea for all of us to the same. I thought that actually that wasn’t such a good idea at all. But as an outsider it wasn’t my place to put the kibosh on such a nifty plan.

The fun began as the first guest spoke and the solemnity made its way around the room  After a few people spoke saying some sincere and sometimes platitudinous remarks, it became my turn. You should know something about me—-public speaking fills me with dread.  And, by “public”, I mean speaking to any more than one person.  So after the person before me made their little speech and all eyes were focused my way, I said, “Ditto”.  I thought that fit the bill quite nicely.

Well . . . no, I didn’t say that. Instead, I said what was in my heart, “I’m kind of a private person and since I don’t know any of you at all, I feel somewhat put upon to have to talk so personally and intimately to strangers.”  I thought this would really lighten the mood in the room.

Actually, I didn’t say that either. Instead, I said something to extricate myself from the nightmare I was in without actually touching upon what I was grateful for. Eventually, the grateful speeches made their way around to the woman who had suggested it and not surprisingly, she was well-prepared with her gratitude platitude(s). And then, we all got back to eating and being less thankful for our blessings.

After the party, on our way home, I complained to Lebasi about how I didn’t like being put on the spot in that way and maybe Ms. Gratitude might have been more sensitive that there was a  gorilla in the mist stranger in her midst and maybe  . . .  blah, blah blah. Lebasi was very patient with me and ultimately brought me down from my high horse and back to earth.  Now that’s something to be grateful for.