the big game(s)
The Big Game(s)
By Dan Margarita
I understand there was a big football game of some sort last week, the details of which, escape me. For those disappointed New England Patriots fans chomping at the bit to watch some competition, you can always check out the 2018 Olympics in Pyongchang, South Korea. This is not to be confused with Pyongyang, the capital of nuclear-armed North Korea.
Lest anyone think that remark is racially insensitive, I will inform you that in 2014 a Kenyan academic attempting to attend a conference in Pyongchang, South Korea wound up in Pyongyang, North Korea instead. This is why some people still use a travel agent.
Sporting events have long been a major source of public entertainment. The ancient Greeks held the first Olympics, in which all of the athletes participated in the nude. That would explain why there were no Winter Olympics back then (not to mention the problems caused by the high-hurdles).
Also legendary are the games at The Colosseum in Ancient Rome, where the Christians were supposedly thrown to the lions.
For those of you needing a sporting fix that doesn’t involve the riveting comment of curling, let’s take you back to an imaginary broadcast from Rome, in the year 20 A.D.
Mind you, there is no attempt being made here for historical accuracy. So, if you’re basing any research or using this column as the foundation for a thesis, you are making a huge mistake (and will most likely get a failing grade).
THE SCENE: ANCIENT ROME, THE COLOSSEUM
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the Colosseum in Ancient Rome. You know, one of these days someone’s going to tell me why we call Rome “ancient.” I’m Antonius Minimus and joining me, as always, is my partner, legendary former gladiator, Julius “The Chariot” Aurelius. Well, emperor Nero has just finished playing the National Anthem on his fiddle, thrown out the ceremonial first Christian and we’re ready to begin. Julius, we’ve got quite an undercard, Lucius Maximus and Cato Septimus will be the gladiator’s in the opening match and what can we expect from them?
Well, this is your classic “brains” vs. “brawn” match. Lucius has tremendous strength whereas the veteran Cato has learned to use his experience, which is why he’s been able to stay alive so long!
Okay, the bell has rung and our competitors are sizing each other up. Maximus is making his move. He’s on the attack! He’s really taking it to Septimus! Septimus is telling Maximus that his sandal’s untied, but Maximus isn’t falling for it. Wait! Now the wily veteran is pointing out an attractive woman in the stands behind Maximus and the youngster is falling for it! Septimus just plunged his sword into the back of Maximus! Down goes Maximus! Down goes Maximus!
I guess you can call Septimus a real back-stabber.
Now we’re just waiting to see if emperor Nero gives the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to decide if Maximus will live or die. And Nero has ordered the death of Lucius Maximus! Looks like this will be the end of his career. Well, his life, too. Okay, we’re going to take a break before the marquee matchup of the day, the Lions versus the Christians, but first a word from our sponsor.
Men, are you tired wearing tunics and togas? Well, the latest men’s fashions have been coming out of Greece, and they’re becoming all the rage here. Instead of togas you can slip on a pair of trousers, which, you can find at the fabulous new Greek men’s store…“Euripides Pants.” Go see Euripides, and tell him Julius sent you.
Well, we’re back and ready for the big event, the Lions versus Christians. The Lions were undefeated last year and frankly, seem to have a pretty strong team again this season. What can we expect today from the Christians, Julius?
I would guess a lot of screaming and bleeding. They might want to consider praying...but not to the wrong god. That’s what got them here in the first place!
In other words, “same old, same old.” They’re really going to have to change their game plan one of these days. Okay, the Lions are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the visiting team Christians. The Christians have just entered the arena and boy do they look scared.
Well, with good reason. They are about to get ripped to shreds. The odds makers are giving the Christians no shot of winning this match.
Yes! It’s happening just as you called it, Julius! The crowd is loving it! Well, that was over quickly. Folks, if you had money on the Christians, you’re pretty stupid.
By the way, who have we been talking to, Antonius?
Well, since radio won’t be invented for about another 1,900 years, I guess we’ve just been talking to each other. From the Colosseum, for Julius “The Chariot” Aurelius, I’m Antonius Minimus, saying good night.
Damn, I had money on the Christians.
By Dan Margarita
"The man with the best job in the country is the vice-president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, 'How is the president?'"---Will Rogers
The health of any president is always of grave concern because world history can change if he actually winds up in his grave before his term is finished.
By now you’ve likely heard that President Trump recently had the president’s annual physical and passed with flying colors. Judging from the enthusiastic pronouncement of his personal physician, President Trump’s good health from Navy Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson, you’d think that President Trump is a shoo-in to win the decathlon in the 2020 Olympics (though he had to concede that the President was a tad overweight).
Dr. Ronny’s exuberant assessment of President Trump’s health seemed go against the (albeit medically uninformed) opinion of lay people who have…seen the President (or read of his apparent lifestyle).
Dr. Ronny’s seeming lust for the president almost made it appear that he’s hoping to someday become Trump spouse number four (I think you’re safe for now, Melania).
There have been several news reports of the president’s lifestyle. Okay, that might just be “fake news” if you’re in his camp. These reports say that the president doesn’t believe in exercise because he thinks the human body only has so much energy before it is used up. According to Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, the president’s diet often consists of two McDonald’s Big Mac’s, two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate malted. That seems appropriate because the President is built like The McDonald's Grimace. The reason stated for this diet (are you sitting down?) is that it is because Trump is afraid of being poisoned. ISIS doesn’t need to infiltrate the White House to kill the president. They just need to send him a lot of McDonald’s gift cards.
A number of Presidents have been ill while in office. Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke and his wife, Edith, became the de facto president for the last several months of Wilson’s term. This fact only came to light in recent years. Hopefully, Melania is being kept up to date on world events in case she has to negotiate with Kim Jong Un.
Though not widely known at the time, we now know that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in a wheelchair due to polio while he was in office. Unlike Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt made no effort to stay behind the scenes. From what I’ve read, I have the feeling that Eleanor carried the nuclear football in that marriage (Okay, I know there was no “nuclear football” at the time. You get my point).
Let’s not forget John F. Kennedy, who suffered from Addison’s Disease the last several years of his life, stemming from a back injury. It’s unlikely that his wife, Jackie, helped with behind-the-scenes activity because J.F.K. surely didn’t want her to know about his behind-the-scenes activity.
So, now we’ve had a medical assessment from Dr. Ronny. By the way, “Dr. Ronny”?
You’re a Navy Admiral surgeon, not a pediatrician (“Hi, Timmy. I’m Dr. Ronny and I’m going to feel your tummy, okay?”).
It was suggested that I write a song parody about Dr. Ronny to the tune of The Beatles song, Dr. Robert, about the doctor who was prescribing them drugs in the mid-sixties. It’s one of their lesser-known songs, so if you don’t know it you may want to check it out on Youtube before proceeding further here.
YOU say Trump is in good shape, Dr. Ronny
Although he looks like a giant ape, Dr. Ronny
Dr. Ronny, did you lie just a “smidge”?
Was your family held hostage”?
Is there just cake in his ‘fridge, Dr. Ronny?
2012, shorter by a pinch, Dr. Ronny
Yet, in six years he’s grown an inch, Dr. Ronny
Dr. Ronny, please explain that late growth spurt
At that age it sure must hurt
Please don’t show him with no shirt, Dr. Ronny
Well, well, well he eats Big Mac’s
Ironically ‘cause he’s afraid of being poisoned, Dr. Ronny
Did he have both feet on that scale, Dr. Ronny
Let’s face it he looks like a bloated whale, Dr. Ronny
Dr. Ronny, is this Russian subterfuge?
Or were you just a stooge?
At least one part of him’s Huge, Dr. Ronny
It’s true he golf’s but with a cart, Dr. Ronny
That doesn’t do much to help his heart, Dr. Ronny
Dr. Ronny, please explain all that flab
How is “good shape” half-keg abs
Did that porn star give him crabs, Dr. Ronny?
Well, well, well he’s bigly fine
Well, well, well cofevfe, Dr. Ronny
Trump’s kind of built like Della Reese, Dr. Ronny
Just one pound shy of being obese, Dr. Ronny
Dr. Ronny, a passing grade you did give
Were you afraid that you’d get shived
Now your family gets to live, Dr. Ronny
Dr. Ronny, Dr. Ronny
I wonder if the President’s physical was covered by Obamacare?
A Hall of Fame Trip
By Dan Margarita
When there’s a foot of snow on the ground and temperatures are in single digits, it makes me think of one thing…baseball!!!
Of course, there is no baseball being played right now (not around here, anyway), but if you’re willing to take a four-hour drive to Cooperstown, N.Y. you can go to the place where the game is celebrated for its greatest players and moments.
Non-baseball fans will tell you that Cooperstown is where Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball in 1839. Those fans may also think that babies are brought by the stork because, real baseball fans can tell you that the Doubleday thing is pure hooey. Still, it’s a beautiful little town and as good a place as any to attribute the game’s origins.
My trip was not one of pure enjoyment though, as I am on somewhat of a mission. My grandfather, Gene Mack, was a sports cartoonist for The Boston Globe for some 50 years and I am hoping to raise his profile for the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, given “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.”
A cartoonist has never won the award and you may say that cartoons aren’t “writing” but in the era before cable TV or the Internet, my grandfather’s cartoon re-caps of the previous day’s game (or a game earlier that day in the era of afternoon and evening edition newspapers) gave a succinct and accurate account. Plus, I’m told his did some actual writing as well.
With plans to head out on a Monday, my car…that is my brand new 2017 Toyota Yaris that I bought last September (the ordeal of which was chronicled in this space) began to shutter every time I accelerated and got to around 60 m.p.h. This was not a good omen for the trip.
With a hotel already booked for Monday, I had some decisions to make. Should I just take a chance and go? Rent a car? Cancel my trip?
A Toyota service person suggested it was a lot of snow from the recent snowfall caked on the tire causing the vibrations.
I decided to chance it and off I headed for the Mass. Pike, my first time on that road since the removal of tollbooths and eliminating any chance to pay with cash. I had been on my way to the RMV to get a transponder when my tire light icon came on the dashboard, so I abandoned that goal.
Day 1---Somewhere on the western stretch of the Pike I stop for gas in a town I’d never even heard of. I fill up the tank and judging from the smell, you would think I’d filled up the backseat, as for the next hour a powerful gasoline stench pervades my car. Rolling down the windows helps but is not much fun when it 19 degrees out.
Without a transponder, every now and then a sign on the Pike will tell what the fee is for that stretch of road. Once I reach New York, I take a ticket from a toll both and drive for about an hour before I have to get off and pay. Expecting a large fee for having driven so long, I am pleasantly surprised to find it cost just $2.50. I’m guessing the many orange tickets that I will be getting from the state of Massachusetts for traveling 300 yards a stretch will add up to more than that.
Upstate New York is very rural and quite a beautiful sight as you travel through winding roads and see the snow-covered evergreen trees. You know what else is snow-covered? The roads, many of which have barely been plowed, if at all. I question whether or not my GPS is trying to “punk” me by sending me this way.
The GPS tells me to take a right on RT. 41. It’s a good thing because there was no sign saying that this was RT. 41, at least not until you turned on to RT. 41 to see a sign informing you that you are now on RT. 41.
I check into my hotel, which has one car in the parking lot, giving me thoughts of The Shining. Upon entering my room, I notice an odd smell. I call the desk and the clerk came down and agreed to give me another room. Noticing my guitar case he asks, “You play guitar?”
His question answers mine as to why he washed out as a detective for the Cooperstown, P.D.
I take the 10-minute drive to downtown Cooperstown but it is late in the day and much is closed. Being the off-season, many of the businesses, which sell baseball memorabilia, are closed anyway. Sadly, a number of storefronts are just plain shuttered.
Dinner is a cheeseburger (don’t tell my cardiologist) at the Doubleday Café, whose T-shirt features the saying, “A Drinking Town With a Baseball Problem.”
Day 2---I had called ahead and arranged a private viewing of my grandfather’s drawings that the Hall is in possession of. I arrive and say I’m there to meet Cassidy. They ask if I have Cassidy’s last name. I didn’t get her last name and assumed with limited staff this time of year that there wasn’t likely to be more than one Cassidy working there. Soon it gets straightened out and I am escorted to the Hall’s library where they have pulled all of the drawings done by my grandfather.
He did a series of drawings of the then-existing ballparks for The Sporting News and put them in book form. I grew up with those books but now to get to see the original drawings in person is pretty special and somewhat moving.
I have also brought some 50 old baseball photos that he likely used as source material, to donate to the Hall, which they are very excited to receive.
I have to fess up to having some ulterior motive about raising my grandfather’s profile for consideration for the Spink Award and that in return for the photos, I’m hoping to get a little P.R. with some mention of the donation on their website, which they assure me that they’ll gladly do.
My mission done here, it’s time to browse the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I’ve been here many times but never tire of the artifacts on display. There’s Babe Ruth’s locker from Yankee stadium, complete with hat, bat, uniform and glove, although missing what I’m assuming was any number of penicillin vials.
Mickey Cochrane’s catcher’s gear is here. This is of particular interest to me since attending a minor league ballgame at Frazier Field in Lynn some years ago. At the ballpark, located next to what was once a football stadium, the Manning Bowl, there was a photo of a ballplayer from Lynn named Irving Darius “Bump” Hadley, who pitched in the Majors from 1926-1941. At the bottom of the photo there’s a list of some of Bump’s “accomplishments.”
Let me say here that anyone who has played in one Major League game has played in one more than I ever have or ever will. That said, Bump’s “accomplishments” seemed a bit dubious. They include:
“Bump gave up home runs to both Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.”
“In a 1941 exhibition game, Ted hit a ball so hard off of Bump that it chipped concrete off the adjacent Manning Bowl.”
Last but not least: “In 1937 Bump beaned Detroit Tigers catcher Mickey Cochrane in what would be Cochrane’s last game in the Major Leagues.”
Bump was on two World Series Champion teams (N.Y. Yankees 1936-37) and you’d think they leave the praise at that, but no.
Returning to Mickey Cochrane’s stuff, I read the small bio of his life and career. They note that he was the catcher for the 1929-30 World Champion Philadelphia A’s and player-manager for the American League Champion Detroit Tigers in 1935.
Mickey’s bio then concludes: “His career ended in 1937 when he was beaned by a pitch from Bump Hadley.”
Couldn’t they have left poor Bump out of it?
There are exhibits about women’s baseball, world baseball and the Negro Leagues. Baseball not only has reflected the changes in American society, but with Jackie Robinson breaking the color line, has helped spur those changes.
Dinner is at a nice Italian restaurant near the Hall. It’s a nice meal but upon getting the check, I learn that I got charged for each soda refill. Restaurants really should inform customers that refills aren’t free.
Day 3---There is much to see in the Hall of Fame and I hadn’t gotten to everything the day before so, I make one last visit. I also do some shopping at the Museum store and take advantage of the discount I now have as a lifetime member, which I received for my donation (not that I have a plaque or am enshrined).
My GPS takes me through the back roads of upstate New York, which is a much more scenic view than any highway can give. There’s one thing the highway does provide that the rural areas don’t, though…rest stops with functioning bathrooms.
As I get close to the New York border and without a Fast Lane transponder, I see that cash lanes 2-3-4 are open, so I head for Lane 4, which is directly in my path. Suddenly, the green light signaling that the lane is open changes to a red “X”. It is 4:00 exactly and apparently the end of the tollbooth attendant’s shift. So, at the last second I am forced to swerve over to Lane 3 and fortunately, there is nobody already in that lane for me to sideswipe.
While a trip to a warm location (if there are any these days) would have been nice, considering that we have recently been reliving the Ice Age, a Cooperstown trip was what I needed.
The Red Sox home opener is April 5th.
a hall of fame trip
2017:the year in review
2017: The Year in Review
By Dan Margarita
Once again it is time for my annual “Year in Review” column which I do every year, hence the term “annual,” as is that joke.
2017 was certainly a very interesting year, to say the least. Thus, it seems like a good time to take a look back at just a few of the year’s events and reflect on what happened. Yes, the end of the year seems like a better time to do a “Year in Review” column than in March. So, here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) of 2017.
Jan. 20---Donald J. Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. At Mount Vernon, a loud whirring sound is heard coming from the grave of George Washington.
Jan. 21---Millions of people worldwide join the Women’s March to protest the election of Donald Trump. Presumably, these are women that he couldn’t grab by the Electoral College.
Feb. 5---The New England Patriots win Super Bowl LI, which is Super Bowl 51, not a Super Bowl played in Long Island. Down 25 points with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Pats rally to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime. The Falcons blame their medical staff for failing to perform a group Heimlich maneuver.
Feb. 11---North Korea prompts international condemnation by test firing a ballistic missile across the Sea of Japan. An angry Sea of Japan recalls its diplomats from North Korea.
Feb 26.--- Confusion occurs at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony when presenter Warren Beatty incorrectly identifies the film La La Land as winner for Best Picture instead of the actual winner, Moonlight. The mix up occurs when officials from Price Waterhouse Coopers hand Beatty the wrong envelope. Hillary Clinton immediately looks to see if PWC were responsible for the results of the 2016 election.
Mar. 20---President Trump rails at the testimony of FBI Director James Comey, calling the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, “FAKE NEWS.” This will later be disproved by REAL INDICTMENTS.
Mar. 27---The NFL votes 31-1 to allow the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, a city known for legalized gambling and legalized prostitution. However, the city still has not legalized football deflation.
Apr. 7---The Senate confirms Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice after a 54-45 vote. After a Democratic filibuster, Republicans were forced to use the “Nuclear Option” by which Gorsuch was given radioactive powers and grew to be 50 feet tall.
Apr. 16---Vice President Mike Pence, sporting a navy flight jacket and looking all vice presidenty, visits South Korea’s demilitarized zone for what CNN describes as “tit-for-tat” saber-rattling. No comment here except to say that the sixth grader in me thinks it’s kind of funny to read “tit-for-tat” on CNN’s website.
May 9---President Trump fires FBI Director James Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation…or on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein…or because of the ongoing Russia investigation…or because CBS canceled the TV show 2 Broke Girls. We may never know for sure.
May 31---President Trump, who will go on to spend much of the year Tweeting (when he is not golfing), releases the following puzzling tweet: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”
This is reminiscent of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inspiring quote: “The only thing we have to fear is covfefe.”
Jun. 1---Fired FBI Director James Comey tells a Senate hearing that President Trump asked him to scuttle the FBI investigation into former national security Michael Flynn and for Comey’s “loyalty” and that when Comey refused, Trump asked him to at least “pinky swear” not to repeat their conversation.
Jun. 3---Pope Francis names five new Cardinals at a vigil in Rome, but adds that without more pitching they probably will still finish behind the Dodgers.
Jul. 21---Anthony Scaramucci is fired from his job as White House Communications Director after only 10 days on the job. The firing comes after stories leak of his conversation with a reporter where Scaramucci suggests that former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, spent time trying to do something that is either physically impossible or if it is possible, is downright impressive.
Aug.11-12---White nationalists and Nazi’s converge on Charlottesville, Virginia for a “Unite the Right” rally. After the protest turns violent President Trump declares, “There were some very fine people on both sides,” presumably referring to Col. Klink and Sgt. Shultz from the TV show, Hogan’s Heroes.
Aug. 21---A total solar eclipse occurs over the United States. A Total Eclipse of the Heart occurs over singer Bonnie Tyler’s house (younger readers can Google that one).
Sept. 26---President Trump insults North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by calling him “Rocket Man.” Trump warns Kim
to cease his nuclear ambitions of it will be Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and that The Bitch is Back.
Sept. 30---Republicans fail to repeal Obamacare, President Obama’s signature healthcare legislation. However, to in effort to save face the GOP decides to at least re-brand it as “Obamadoesn’tcare.”
Oct. 1---The citizens of Catalonia, a region in Spain, vote to become an independent state. Spain rejects the vote declaring it “illegal” and adding that Catalonia sounds like a made up country from a Three Stooges short.
Oct. 30---Robert Mueller, appointed special council investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, indicts former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort on several charges including: money laundering, false statements and other acts of conspiracy against the U.S. When asked if he understood his Miranda rights, Manafort replied, “Da.”
Dec. 6---The Trump Administration announces that it will now recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Despite criticism from much of the world, Trump downplays the potential consequences of the move stating, “It couldn’t hoit.”
Dec. 7---Australia legalizes same-sex marriage. If statistics of traditional marriage hold true for gay marriage, 50 percent of those marriages will go down the drain, but being in the Southern Hemisphere, they will go down the drain in the opposite direction.
Happy New Year!
'twas the night before impeachment
‘Twas the Night Before Impeachment
By Dan Margarita
Well, it looks like it’s that season. Oh, I don’t mean Christmas season, although it is indeed also that season. No, with the ongoing investigation by Special Councilor Robert Mueller about Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, it just might be…Impeachment Season.
With the Republican Party currently in control of both houses of congress and the White House, that may be unlikely but as the investigation continues, who knows?
A popular poem this time of year is Clement Moore’s classic, A Visit From St. Nicholas, more commonly known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
The poem was originally published anonymously in 1823 in the Troy (NY) Sentinel after being sent in by a friend of Moore’s and was reprinted frequently after that. Only time will tell if the powers that be at The Stoneham Independent will make this piece a Christmas tradition. Since this is a topical piece, that is highly unlikely.
Moore was a serious scholar in the field of ancient languages and didn’t want to be associated with a fluff piece children’s poem and thus preferred to remain anonymous for a while.
His children, perhaps sensing the commercial possibilities or just wanting their dad to be known for writing a cool poem instead of as the guy who knows all about ancient Aramaic, convinced Moore to go public as the author.
If Mr. Moore had this commercial success in modern times, he undoubtedly would have had buckets of money thrown at him to write some sort of sequels and his literary follow-ups may have included:
‘Twas the Night Before Halloween
‘Twas the Night Before Valentine’s Day and
‘Twas the Night Before the Super Bowl.
So, with no further ado let me give you a little poem that deals with the current political situation, but with a Christmas touch.
‘Twas the Night Before Impeachment
By Dan Margarita
‘Twas the Night Before Impeachment
And all through the House
As well as the Senate
There was more than one louse
And up in the White House the president tweeted
About how great he was and how he’s not that conceited
His aides got nervous when he slipped past his sitter
‘Cause they knew he’d say something outrageous on Twitter
While the world falls apart he’s too busy stating
That someone’s a loser for low TV ratings
We all understand why he has these discussions
‘Cause he’d rather discuss that than his deals with the Russians
There’d been some indictments with more on the way
‘Cause there were facts and some evidence to disprove what they’d say
Jared met Russians for Clinton info to get
When they were asked if he did, they lied and said nyet
He’ll criticize war heroes and Sir Isaac Newton
One guy he won’t trash is his good buddy Putin
Like many rich folks he avoided war harm
Then said avoiding V.D. was his own Vietnam
He told us last winter he could deal with one crisis
With his 30 day plan to eliminate ISIS
He said we’d have health care that was cheap and not icky
Then said no one knew such a thing was quite tricky
He constantly lies about his crowd size at rallies
Yet photograph evidence clearly lowers these tallies
Like the broken blood vessels in Steve Bannon’s cheeks
Trump can’t say the truth any time that he speaks
He was so busy golfing or perhaps playing Yahtzee
That he seemed real reluctant to criticize Nazi’s
“There are good folks on both sides and it’s all just fake news”
But really, one side was no fans of the Jews
Despite all the lies and atrocious behavior
His base still sticks by him and call him their savior
Let’s just out and out say it without any hintin’
All that they care about is that his name isn’t Clinton
Finally the left can start to feel some excitement
The swamp’s getting drained with every indictment
On Jared, on Manafort, on Bannon and Flynn
Onward to prison and would you please take him
I’ve now said my piece as is my Constitutional right
Merry Christmas to all, and to all…coffefve
To all my readers let me wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.
help george bailey!
over the edge
Over the Edge
By Dan Margarita
By now heard have probably heard of the quest of “Rocket Man.” No, I’m not referring to North Korean president Kim Jong Un, whom President Trump derisively assigned that nickname, in an attempt to belittle an already little man.
I am talking about “Mad Mike” Hughes, whom you may have heard is planning to strap himself to a rocket and launch that rocket to a height where he can prove that the Earth is flat.
Sure, Aristotle and Ferdinand Magellan believed the Earth to be round, but Neil Armstrong and John Glenn not only got to see the Earth but also photographed it from outer space…or did they?
Mr. Hughes is but one of many believers that the Apollo moon landing was faked and that NASA is controlled by Freemasons like Astronauts Glenn and Armstrong.
Mr. Hughes wants to take a picture of the Earth from above to prove that it’s flat. Wait, isn’t it still going to look round from that vantage point? For example, if you take a pizza or a chocolate chip cookie and place it on a table and stand over it, isn’t it going to appear round? I should probably have used an analogy that didn’t make me crave pizza and chocolate chip cookies.
The launch has been delayed due to two factors:
1. The rocket launcher he built out of a motor home broke down in his driveway. Failure was not an option…it was a reality. The fix to his situation was probably a lot simpler than it was for the Astronauts of Apollo 13.
“AAA, we have a problem.”
2. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) won’t allow him to use public land to achieve his goal breaking free from the bonds of Earth, if not reality. So, he is moving his venture a few miles down the road to some private property. He apparently has the support of someone who is either a believer that has similar views or just a desire to see a guy splatter himself of the ground.
This won’t be Mr. Hughes’ first time flying one of his own homemade rockets. In 2014 he shot himself across the Arizona desert before being forced to parachute to safety. Well, “safety” might be stretching it. According to an NPR report, he spent several weeks using a walker after that. Warner Brothers should have sued Mr. Hughes for performing an unlicensed live action Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Hopefully Mr. Hughes will stop buying products from the Acme Corporations. They get terrible reviews on Yelp.
“I don’t believe in science,” Hughes told the AP.
If the flight doesn’t go as planned, he may very well soon learn some science in the form of the theory of gravity.
That said, Mr. Hughes may want to consider that anything he sends up in the air, including himself, will eventually come down and if he doesn’t know exactly where that machinery is going to land, unsuspecting folks living on the ground may be in for a rude awakening.
He then went on to tell the AP that he understood aerodynamics before adding, “that's not science, that's just a formula. There's no difference between science and science fiction."
Yes, there is. Science has proved that if a man or woman is exposed a lot of radioactivity, they will not become 50 feet tall.
To his credit, it will not be the first time Mr. Hughes, a limousine driver by profession, has been airborne.
In 2002 he set the record for the longest ramp jump in a Lincoln Towne Car limousine, a record that most people didn’t know existed.
Rocketry is nothing new to him. There’s a video from 2012 online of Hughes and some friends test firing a rocket engine. In the video, after a hissing noise, Hughes pokes it with a stick and some steam comes belching out from the bottom of the contraption. As far as I can tell it may be either a rocket test or a couple of hillbilly moonshiners breaking in a new still.
In 2016 Mr. Hughes set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund his ambitious quest with a goal of reaching $150,000. According to a recent Washington Post article, that campaign netted $310. That won’t fund a rocket trip but could at least fill his limo’s gas tank.
Post also said that campaign mentioned nothing about Freemason Illuminati but after an appearance on a radio show catering to the flat-Earth believers, donations began pouring in. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s being able to take money from extremists.
I wish the limo-driving rocket builder luck on his mission.
I just hope when he returns to the Earth he doesn’t fly past the edge.
By Dan Margarita
‘Tis the season this week. No, not the Christmas season, even though we’ve been getting TV commercials since before Halloween.
‘Tis the season of eatin’.
Thursday is Thanksgiving, the day when we all pause to give thanks for what we have. The next day is Black Friday, which is the day when we get up at a ridiculous hour to go to a place where we might be crushed to death by a mass of people who are trying to buy things they don’t have.
Thanksgiving is the day when we celebrate our bounty by overindulging on food and beverage before settling down to watch the usually woeful Detroit Lions play football.
The main course for Thanksgiving has long been turkey, a bird that Founding Father Benjamin Franklin proposed as being the National Bird. Fortunately, Ben stuck to inventing bifocals and stoves and the Bald Eagle became the National Bird. I don’t know if Franklin’s bird idea had caught on, we would instead be eating Bald Eagle this Thursday.
Thanksgiving is the one day of the year when I feel a germ of sympathy for vegans.
Turkeys are traditionally referred to as “Tom Turkey,” which seems to me to be a bit sexist. I don’t actually know the sex of the bird that I am in the process of consuming, nor do I care. Perhaps, like hurricanes, the names can alternate between male and female, with the alternate years having a president pardon “Tammy Turkey.”
In 1863 President Lincoln reportedly granted clemency to a turkey although it is seldom reported that he also had a Rhode Island rooster hanged as a traitor.
After Lincoln Emancipated the turkey, things quieted down on the turkey front until a Rhode Island farmer named Henry Vose began donating turkeys to the President from 1873 until his death in 1913. Mr. Vose gained great publicity from this, making him the Frank Purdue of his time. Frank Purdue would not become the Frank Perdue of his time until much later.
Harry Truman is often incorrectly characterized as the first president to formally pardon turkeys. The Truman Library apparently vehemently denies this stating, “Hey, all he did was drop nuclear bombs.”
Truman was not always so turkey-friendly, though. In an effort to conserve grain for foreign aid, his administration promoted “Meatless Tuesdays” and “Poultryless Thursday.” Those proved about as popular as “Foodless Fridays.”
As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with either “Big Meat” or “Big Poultry.”
No politician likes bad publicity and so Truman then had a choice between pardoning Tom Turkey or suspected Soviet Spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Tom didn’t get the electric chair.
According to Wikipedia, “The Eisenhower Presidential Library says documents in their collection reveal that President Dwight Eisenhower ate the birds presented to him during his two terms.”
Towards the end of his second term, Eisenhower famously warned about “The Turkey Industrial Complex.”
President John F. Kennedy spontaneously spared a turkey on November 18, 1963.
That’s your typical liberal, left-wing, bleeding heart liberal Democrat being soft on turkeys.
That turkey wore a sign that said, “Good Eating, Mr. President.”
Most creatures don’t have such a positive outlook about imminently being eaten.
After the death of JFK many conspiracy theories abounded that his assassination was in retaliation for the turkeys consumed by Ike, however the Warren Commission found that there was no “second turkey.”
According to Wikipedia Ronald Reagan was the first president to officially “pardon” a turkey, in 1982. He continued to do so until 1988, his last year of presidency when he was busy granting a pardon to New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
For many years, after being pardoned, the turkeys were sent to a place called Frying Pan Farm Park. That sounds like getting a stay of execution from the governor and being released from the electric chair, only to be marched out in front of a firing squad.
“For many years, the pardoned turkeys were documented to have very short lives after their pardoning, frequently dying within a year of being pardoned.”
Well, it looks like those turkeys had a tough time once they got back on the street.
Nobody has yet to pardon the cranberries that get made into sauce.
By Dan Margarita
This week marks the 500th anniversary of The Reformation, the time when Martin Luther and his followers broke away from the Catholic Church to form the Protestant church. I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for this occasion.
For the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Lutheran and Catholic churches are trying to come together to heal their division.
"Can two Christian churches share a savior without driving each other crazy?"
(Cue The Odd Couple theme) Da da-da da-da da-da...
Martin Luther, not to be confused with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., held many titles in his life, the first one being “child.”
His father, already somewhat well to do himself, wanted Luther to become a lawyer with the idea of becoming prosperous. Luther decided to become a monk, a decision that, in addition to probably being a big disappointment to his dad, probably paid even less then than it does now.
After becoming a monk, Luther was ordained a priest in the Catholic Church and then became a professor.
It was then that Luther began having a problem with some of the rules of the church, with one in particular bothering him.
He was appalled by “Indulgences,” which were monetary donations that the Catholic Church declared would help those trapped in Purgatory reach salvation. Really, things haven’t changed much what with televangelists asking for money to reach salvation. For me, celibacy would’ve been the deal breaker, but that’s just me.
Luther then wrote a letter to the church to complain about this abuse and included what is known as the “95 Theses” that were to be used for a discussion of the topic of Indulgences.
Legend has it that Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the church, although that is now believed to be just a myth.
Still, it became the basis for a song to occupy many children’s time on long oxen rides through the countryside.
“95 theses nailed to the door, 95 theses nailed to the door. Take one down, turn it around, 94 theses nailed to the door.”
The Theses gained wide acclaim thanks in part to the advent of the printing press, which had recently been invented by Johannes Guttenberg, who later would go on to star in the movie Cocoon. I’m sorry. Further research on my part indicates that it was in fact, actor Steve Guttenberg who starred in Cocoon.
Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church but seeing as he had already broken away from it, it was more of a “You can’t fire me, I quit!” scenario.
He married a runaway nun, which often happens when they leave the convent door open.
Luther authored many books including, Baptismal Book, Wedding Book but not, as is commonly believed, The Jungle Book.
Of course, many would like to forget some of his later work such as (and I’m not making these up) Jesus was born a Jew and its sequel, Jews and their Lies (with the forward by Mel Gibson).
Martin Luther was a lawyer, a monk and a priest who, every time he walked into a bar, immediately became the premise for a joke.
Speaking of bars, this brings me to what I think Martin Luther’s biggest contribution to modern society might be: beer as we know it today. According to a story on NPR, Luther loved his beer and extolled its virtues, as well the laxative properties for Luther, who suffered from constipation (and yeah, I got that from NPR).
In an age where water purification was unknown, beer was a much safer alternative beverage than water. In the 16th century beer was made with herbs instead of hops and the Catholic Church had control of most of these herbs. Hops were considered an undesirable weed and not taxed, so it was readily available for use in brewing beer.
Besides being undesirable, according to William Bostwick, who wrote a book about the history of beer (I wish someone had told me you can make a living doing that), “German mystic and abbess Hildegard had pronounced that hops were not very good for you, because they ‘make the soul of a man sad and weigh down his inner organs.’”
This would have been great for a rival’s advertisement for their beer.
“Tastes great! Less filling! Won’t make you sad and hold down your organs!”
So, now that the two churches are coming together to discuss their differences, I think the beverage of choice should be obvious.
Maybe one compromise they can make is to replace communion wine with a nice lager.
By Dan Margarita
Halloween is here again and it serves as a reminder of just how far women have come in the work force. Women can be found in any number of fields now, in addition to the ones they have traditionally have been associated with.
Why, all one has to do is go to a Halloween store and you can see that women can now be “sexy cops,” “sexy pilots” or “sexy doctors.”
We can’t forget “French Maid,” but they were always kind of sexy.
Let’s be honest, too. While these are labeled “sexy” I think we’re all really thinking, “slutty.”
However, for the sake of civility and politeness I will stay with “sexy” for the rest of this column.
A quick visit to the online site HalloweenCostimes.com has a wide variety of costume options. There are several categories starting with the obvious ones, “men’s costumes” and “women’s costumes.”
Considering all of the recent discussion about gender identity, they may have to expand this list.
After that comes “plus size men’s costumes” and “plus size women’s costumes.” These are designed for large people but are just merely larger versions of the previously mentioned type costumes.
One of the costumes in the “plus size” category is, “Where’s Waldo.” Being plus sized ought to bring about a quick answer to that question.
The last category is “sexy costumes.” If you check out this page you will note that all of the “sexy” costumes are designed for women. There’s no “sexy fireman,” “sexy garbageman,” or “sexy milkman.”
Men are limited to a more mundane selection, unless you find Fred Flintstone, Where’s Waldo and Adult Avocado sexy (and yes, a guy dressed in an avocado costume is a real thing).
Perhaps the closest thing to “sexy” in the men’s costuming department is the “Adult Nacho Libre Costume.” If you find a shirtless, tights-wearing Jack Black sexy, this is your thing.
As I perused the “sexy” costumes (because I have a responsibility to you, the reader, to thoroughly research my subject) I found such costumes as: “Sexy Swashbuckler,” “Sexy Bad Cop,” “Sexy Princess Leia Slave Costume” (that seems a bit redundant), and “Women’s Head Nurse Costume.” I’ll assume this means she’s in charge of the department.
I can’t figure out what the “Women’s Catchin’ Em Cutie Costume” is even supposed to be. She doesn’t appear to be a cop or law enforcement officer of any sort. She’s wearing leather hip boots with stiletto heels. Whomever she’s trying to catch would have to awfully slow for her to “catch em.”
There is also “Sexy Playtime Bunny” which I assume is labeled as such to avoid a lawsuit from Playboy, Inc. With the death of Hugh Hefner, perhaps that can be changed for next year.
I also noticed the “Bad Habit Nun Costume.” I will say that if the nuns at St. Pat’s had looked and dressed like this, the teenage me never would have dropped out of C.C.D. and I might still be a practicing Catholic today.
She is not to be confused with the “Naughty Nun” whose outfit seems like burlap sack compared to the “Bad Habit Nun.”
The “Women’s Military General Costume” looks like the outfit that the female Nazi’s wore in the Mel Brooks movie, The Producers.
Unless she’s preparing to sing Springtime for Hitler, than I’d have to say the Nazi uniforms aren’t exactly, well…kosher.
There are a few outfits that I don’t find particularly sexy and wonder why they were put in this category. The “Sexy Deer Costume” is just a short skirt with a hood and a small pair of antlers. I’m more concerned that some guy with an orange vest would mistake her for the real thing and blow her to smithereens with a shotgun.
The “Sexy Cheshire Cat Costume” looks like a one-piece body costume that Goldie Hawn might have worn on Laugh In. That might sound sexy but trust me, it’s not.
There are some other occupations that have historically been neglected in this realm and deserving of attention.
Here is a list of costumes that I would like to suggest:
I think I may go to a Halloween party this year in a costume that no one would ever define as sexy…newspaper columnist.
By Dan Margarita
Despite the title, this column has absolutely nothing to do with Tom Petty, the great rock star who recently passed from this earth.
Mr. Petty’s music was the soundtrack to my high school years and since it is fall, it seemed like a small way to pay tribute to the man.
R.I.P. sir, and thank you for the music and the memories.
That said, with all that has been going on, it seemed like a good time to kick back give you some random thoughts that have been in the back of my mind.
I hear that in an effort to be environmentally friendly, some Texans are now wearing five-gallon hats.
I’m old enough to remember when the phrase, "The Juice is loose!" merely meant that O.J. Simpson had broken off a long run down the field.
Hugh Heffner is dead. He was sitting in the Playboy Mansion, surrounded by dozens of young, beautiful, scantily clad women willing to satisfy his sexual needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now…he’s in a better place.
God said, "go forth and do what comes naturally." Adam sat on the couch with the remote and Eve yelled at him to, "pick a channel already!"
The woman doing phone company ads needs to enunciate better. I mistook “4G” for "orgy." That’s not a "family and friends plan" that I want to be a part of.
I would've assumed that if we ever got a reality TV star as president, it would President Wink Martindale.
Toys 'R Us has filed for bankruptcy, on the advice of their law firm, Lawyers 'R Us.
For the right price I would hire myself out to prospective bank robbers as a human shield. If you know anyone…
Today's oldies song, updated for political correctness: "Play That Funky Music Human of Western European Ancestry."
When I was a kid, being from a football family, I thought "Wichita Lineman" was about a football player.
I wonder if Twitter had existed at the time, if FDR would've had "Fireside Tweets."
Before "helicopter parents" there were "zeppelin parents" before that, "hot air balloon parents.” Before that...I guess there were no parents
At no point in my life has anyone ever played "nick-knack" on my thumb, my shoe, my knee or any other part of me.
A movie prequel I'd like to see..."Rosemary's Baby Shower."
Just to be different, I do second things first.
I think whichever network broadcasts Apollo13 should try to get Viagra as the sponsor, using the motto: "Failure is not an option."
So, people are worried about Sharia Law taking over the U.S. We should also be concerned about the Romulans violating The Neutral Zone."
You're so vain, you probably think, "The Star Spangled Banner" is about you.
Try as I might, I was unable to convince the folks at Dunkin Donuts that "National Donut Day" had been extended to National Donut weekend.
They say, "You can indict a ham sandwich." I want to see that happen. Ham sandwiches have skated for far too long.
"I just flew in from 120 feet away and boy are my arms tired!"---Orville Wright doing stand up comedy.
I’m developing a “can-don’t” attitude.
FYI: the phrase "I wish I had Jesse's girth" is not a Rick Springfield song.
I see these apps that can transform a photograph into a work of art. Here’s a thought…pay an artist a few bucks to do it. They usually don’t have much money, hence the term “starving artist.”
"Luke, I am your father"---Luke Johnson Sr.
I'm wondering who makes the "nuclear football." Spalding? Wilson?
We need another “Deep Throat.” I'm referring to a highly placed credible news source but I'll also settle for a cinematic remake.
I have an idea for a show about an intergalactic time traveler with British accent and a hearing problem. It's called, "Dr. What?"
I think Thomas Jefferson misspoke and meant to say there should be "a wall of separation between church and steak."
I use the old fashioned version of Photoshop...scissors and Scotch tape.
Bob Dylan’s fans were mad when he went electric. I hope my fans won’t get mad when I go “eclectic.”
What I said to the hairstylist was, “Give me a trim.” What he apparently heard was, “Make me look like Hitler.”
Autumn has officially arrived. This is evident by virtue of the leaves changing color, football season is underway…and the Red Sox are out of the playoffs.
By Dan Margarita
Hello everybody, and welcome back to this week’s episode of, “Avoiding the Apocalypse!”
While everyone is focused on a bunch of NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, there are other things going on in the world such as: hurricanes causing devastating floods.
Puerto Rico has been hit hard and some of their officials are actually calling it, “apocalyptic.”
To phrase it as the voiceover of a Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon might say, “Meanwhile, our fearless leader is engaged in a war of words with a deranged dictator.”
Recently President Trump made his first speech before the United Nations, an agency he derided as a candidate, and had a number of provocative things to say.
He threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and called their leader, dictator Kim Jong Un, “Rocket Man.”
It makes me wonder if Elton John and Bernie Taupin now regret having written the hit song of that name.
Ah, but the diminutive dictator isn’t one to take taunts lightly. He responded by calling Trump a “dotard.”
Before you get all up in nuclear arms about that one, it turns out the word “dotard” is an actual English word. Heck, even my spell check recognizes it.
It’s an arcane word meaning “an old, senile person.”
The North Koreans knew it and I didn’t. Maybe “covfefe” is an actual word meaning…something. Nah, I doubt it.
Let’s face it, like me, most of you probably thought the word “dotard” was a corruption of the nasty “R” word, which even some Americans haven’t been shy using in reference to the president.
With this juvenile name-calling going on between these two world leaders, can it be long before one of them says, “I know you are but what am I?”
In his response, Kim Jong Un also said of Trump , “a frightened dog
Barks loudest.” Okay, that sounds like it came from a fortune cookie. He should’ve at least given Trump a lucky number and showed him the correct characters for the word “cabbage.”
However, I digress.
Fortunately, there is one sane man who may be the only thing that stands between nuclear Armageddon and us. I am of course referring to…Dennis Rodman.
Yes, the cross-dressing former NBA star has offered his assistance and may have to be the grown up in all of this to save us.
How did it ever come to this?
We’ve elected a reality TV show host as president and a retired basketball player, a man who once married himself (well, he had to get married, if you know what I mean), may determine the fate of the world.
I admit, I figured that if we ever had a reality TV show host as our leader, it would be President Wink Martindale.
What are future history classes going to be like?
“After the impeachment of President Trump and the resignation of Secretary of State Dennis Rodman, Americans hoped for a brighter future under the Carrot Top administration.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt had some strong words for Hitler but probably never called him a “ninny” as that would not be befitting a U.S. President. Nor has anyone used the word “ninny” as an insult likely since the Korean War.
Since President Trump has called Kim Jong Il “Rocket Man,” it seems appropriate to do a song parody of the Elton John classic (maybe I can get William Shatner to cover it).
I packed my bags last night pre-flight
Though I wasn’t going anywhere
As a despot I can do what I want ‘cause I don’t care
I fire missiles every now and then
Some into the Sea of Japan
So I can tick off that man with the tiny hands
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
Until I leave the job Dad says was mine
That dotard doesn’t scare me, not all
Oh, no, no no…I’m a rocket man
Rocket Man, crazy as a loon but I’m in charge
I hope that Dennis Rodman can save us from nuclear annihilation. We haven’t had as skilled a diplomat as him since Tiny Tim died.
I beg you, Mr. President…Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me. I’ll apologize for any mean things I’ve said about you, but you know how it is…Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.
If President Trump aims to destroy North Korea, let’s make sure he doesn’t hear, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.
a very partial eclipse
A Very Partial Eclipse
By Dan Margarita
So, did you all see the partial eclipse last week? I didn’t…or I did. I’m really not sure.
There was much hype and anticipation regarding the event, where the moon would pass across the sun blocking most of the sunlight. Unfortunately, we are not located where we would be in a position to experience a total eclipse of the sun, where all sunlight is blocked and total darkness briefly ensues.
We’ve always been told not to look at the sun during a solar eclipse. I guess that means that once the eclipse is over, you can resume staring at the sun for hours on end.
There have been other things that we’ve been told not to do for fear it may cause blindness, but we’ll save that for another day.
Primitive people would have had no way of knowing the damage that an eclipse might cause except for simply having been blinded by one.
It must’ve been a hard lesson for the first caveman who thought, “Me look at sun and see why it go away.”
Of course, I’m merely trying to reflect his thought process here and not assuming that a caveman spoke broken English. He’s a caveman, not Tonto.
That Og (my fictional cavemen are always named “Og”) was blinded and wound up with a seeing-eye pterodactyl likely became the example for future generations.
We live in the Internet age and information on potential eye damage and how to view the eclipse is readily available. I discovered the space.com had this insightful Internet headline.
“A Solar Eclipse Can Blind You (Read This Before Looking at the Sun!).”
The FOX News headline reads, “Will I go blind if I stare at the sun?”
Being FOX News, I would think they’ll blame any blindness on Hillary Clinton.
It’s true that you can damage your vision if you stare at the eclipse with the naked eye. So, for God’s sake put some clothes on those eyes when looking at an eclipse, young man!!
There is a brief period when one can view a total eclipse and it is the phase known as “Totality.” This is when the moon completely blocks the sun and one can look safely at the sun/moon eclipse. Of course, you’d better be really accurate with your timing or else you may wind up like our poor caveman friend, Og.
Many people bought special glasses with which to view the eclipse. Too stubborn, too proud and/or too cheap to buy glasses, I decided I would do it the old fashioned way.
I had heard for years talk about making a “pin hole” in a cardboard box to enable one to view an eclipse. This was before someone could go onto the Amazon website and have glasses delivered, along with their copy of 50 Shades of Gray and its sequel, 50 Shades of Plaid.
So, I went online and found instructions as to how to make the necessary viewing contraption.
What was required were two pieces of white, cardstock paper. I then cut a square in one of them and then taped some aluminum foil over the hole. The next step was to take a pin, needle or paper clip and punch a hole through the aluminum foil.
There are no paper clips around the house as far as I know and I never learned to sew. I think there’s a sewing kit somewhere around here but rather than go look for it, I opted to use the tip of a ballpoint pen.
Let’s face it, that’s sort of typical male logic.
Naturally, a pen point would make a larger hole than a pin would and having waited until the last minute to do this (hello again, male logic) the hole was far too large. I did manage to close it up a tad but I wasn’t sure if it was small enough and there seemed no time to make a new one (or find a pin).
The fact is, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was I was supposed to look for.
A website listing the viewing time of the eclipse as being between 1:00-4:00 EST. Granted, I had little else to do that day, but I wasn’t going to spend three hours waiting for this thing to happen.
I was able to get a more specific timeline and found that between 2:30 and 2:58 was the optimal viewing time, with 2:46 as its peak time.
I must confess that like our fearless leader (POTUS), as soon as I walked outside I briefly looked up to see where the sun was. Obviously, I know it’s in the sky but I mean in terms of its positioning.
With my back to the sun I held aloft my aluminum foiled paper and indeed, a ray of light appeared on the corresponding paper on the ground. Then again, that would also be the result if I went outside and did that right now.
Well, I didn’t see anything at 2:46 that I didn’t see at 2:45, 2:44 or 2:43 p.m.
Figuring that maybe being a little west of Boston, for which the website was giving the eclipse info, it might take a little longer to get to my house so I waited some more. 2:47, 2:48, 2:49 came and went…not a thing.
Then again, since I didn’t know what I was looking for, maybe I did see it and didn’t realize it. It left me thinking, “There’s 25 minutes of my life that I’d like to get back.”
The next eclipse will be in 2024. I will save up some money for some glasses…or a pin.
Guam or bust!
Guam or Bust!
By Dan Margarita
Hmmmm…tough deciding which world nightmare to talk about this week. I’m going to go with Guam. Normally, that is a sentence that would likely only be heard as an answer on Hollywood Squares.
Guam has been in the news lately (yet another seldom-heard phrase) because of threats made by North Korean leader and subject of a failed thesis at the Pyongyang Barber School, Kim Jong Un.
There’s been a lot of saber rattling between Kim and President Donald Trump lately. This being a small-town newspaper, I’ll leave it as sabers that are being rattled.
For years the dictator Kim would occasionally cause a ruckus to get the U.S. or South Korea to give them something, much like a petulant child wanting its mother to do the same. Instead of a pacifier North Korea would get food to put into the mouths of their starving population.
Last month North Korea launched two missiles that (according to The Guardian) may or may not have the ability to reach the United States. More frighteningly, it is believed that they have developed a nuclear device “small enough” to fit on one of these missiles. I don’t know if that means their previous versions were so big that they made the missiles topple over, but I’d like to think so.
In many ways Kim is such a cartoonish type of villain I can almost see him raising his pinky to the side of his mouth and saying, “I will call you…‘Mini Nuke.’”
I don’t have enough space here to list the whole timeline of brinksmanship, at least not without cutting into space of the “police blotter.”
In a nutshell (appropriate since we’re dealing with a nut), Kim has fired several missiles into the sea that surely have SpongeBob and several other marine life wondering why they’re under attack.
The United Nations has imposed sanctions, President Trump has implied threats and remarkably, no one has called on Dennis Rodman to intervene.
Perhaps no one is more concerned about this than the people of Guam (remember, this was about Guam). Kim has threatened to send missiles at Guam, making them understandably nervous.
Guam is a tiny country, with a population of 162,742. It’s a lovely country whether it’s the capital city, Hagåtña or it’s most populous city, Dededo and why wouldn’t it be when it’s 1,332 feet above sea level? Am I right, people? Okay, I just wanted to prove that I did some research.
Guam also hosts a lot of American military personnel, making them a prime target for a U.S. enemy trying to look tough.
ABC news (That’s the Australian Broadcasting Company) is reporting the North Korean state news agency as saying that Kim is ready to strike, “’at all times’ in the event he makes a decision.”
I’m assuming they mean that decision is whether or not to strike Guam and not what he’s going to have for lunch. With this guy, there’s no telling.
The news agency also quotes Mr. Kim as saying, "watch the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees." Granted, trading for Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics hasn’t worked out the way the Yankees hoped, but…oh, wrong Yankees.
President Trump has sought to ease the concerns of the nervous Guamanians (Yeah, that’s what they’re called…again, research) and told their governor Eddie Baza Calvo, “And when it comes to tourism, I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold, with the expenditure of no money.”
I don’t know about you but I know that whenever I book a vacation, I look for a place that is a potential nuclear target.
I imagine that the Guam Board of Tourism is going to have a tough time selling it as a vacation destination.
“GUAM: Come for the beautiful beaches! Stay for the nuclear annihilation!”
Since Guam is one our territories, I think we need to send them the standard nuclear defense system of the 1950's, elementary school desks, to hide under. Some of you remember “Duck and Cover.” I don't believe that Guam has yet developed "school desk defense" technology.
Let’s hope that if Kim Jong Un does fire off a nuclear missile, he has the same success as another cartoon character…Wile E. Coyote.
By Dan Margarita
It’s getting harder and harder to write satire these days when life itself has become one giant piece of satire. How do you satirize satire? You can’t.
Merriam-Webster defines satire as: “a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn. 2 : trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly.”
Oh, this is from the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary because if I even still have my hard copy of the dictionary, it is most likely holding up some furniture.
The events taking place every day in Washington are happening faster than I could even write something. Just how fast you may ask? (You may also ask when the roads of Stoneham will be done being torn up).
Just after writing the third paragraph of this piece I learned that Anthony Scaramucci, just recently installed as White House communications director, has resigned from his post after 10 days on the job. Clean out your desk? He didn’t even have enough time to get it messy.
“I’ve been told to clean out my desk. Wait, I have a desk?”
Mother Jones is reporting that Scaramucci was “escorted” from the White House.
This smacks of, “You can’t fire me, I quit!”
Mr. Scaramucci’s departure coincides with the hiring of Gen. John Kelly as the president’s new chief of staff. So, I guess that makes Mr. Scaramucci a “Kelly Temp” (rim shot).
White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The President certainly felt that Anthony’s comments were inappropriate for a person in that position.”
Well, at least now we know where the line is…or that there is a line.
Scaramucci’s tenure as the White House communications director makes William Henry Harrison’s tenure as President look like FDR’s tenure in office.
This firing particularly hits home for those of us from Stoneham, because native son Mario Cantone (SHS, Class of ’78), a comedian-actor and a dead-ringer for “The Mooch,” had already done a nice comic turn on Comedy Central as the embattled “Mooch.”
Like many other Stonehamites, it filled me with a bit of parochial pride to see a local boy getting a plum role like that.
I suspect we may not see the last of Mario in that role, however. At least, I hope not.
In fairness, President Trump promised to increase employment in the country and also downsize government. I just didn’t realize he’d start with the White House.
By now you probably have read about the profanity-laced conversation that Mr. Scaramucci had with journalist Ryan Lizza, of The New Yorker.
If you haven’t heard or read Mr. Scaramucci’s actual remarks, the advent of the Internet makes them easily accessible to you. Suffice to say, it is not a conversation that I could imagine Mayor Stoner on The Andy Griffith Show giving to The Mayberry Gazette.
I can’t print what Mr. Scaramucci said to Mr. Lizza in a small-town newspaper. They won’t print them in most major news publications (unless I missed it). Hell, I wouldn’t even repeat them in mixed company (Can I even say, “Hell”?).
Well, they print edited versions of them with the first letter of the offensive word followed by a series of punctuation marks, like *%#@*.
I understand the reasoning. There are just certain words you don’t print in a newspaper, or at least until recently, you couldn’t. In a way it seems a bit silly in light of the availability of these comments online, though.
Does anyone not know what the words are when they use the punctuation marks instead of the actual letters? If that’s the case, you’re probably not old enough to read a newspaper.
Would we not have the full meaning of The Gettysburg Address if we’d used punctuation on some words?
“F*** score and s**** years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new n******.”
In re-reading that, I realize that every one of those words I edited could be mistaken for a much more unacceptable word that is usually edited out. Fortunately, we know what Abraham Lincoln actually said in that magnificent speech.
This column started out as an account of my recent trip to the John and John Quincy Adams birthplace houses, followed by a trip to the JFK Museum. Perhaps I’ll save those for a “What I Did This Summer Column.”
Someday maybe I’ll write about my trip to The Donald J. Trump Presidential Library.
I saw some of JFK’s papers.
I look forward to seeing the archived tweets of President Trump.
come sail away
Come Sail Away
By Dan Margarita
In these crazy and turbulent times we often look to the past and long for the simplicity of a time gone by. Of course, that’s not to say that we’d give up modern plumbing.
Here in Boston we got a glimpse of that past over the course of the last week when the Tall Ships invaded Boston. Well, maybe “invaded” isn’t the correct word. That makes it sound like the giant cicadas have awakened and will be swarming our houses this summer.
The Tall Ships are defined as “a sailing ship with high masts.”
It seems like kind of a vague definition of “tall.” It’s like, exactly how tall does a person have to be to be considered “tall”?
They (the ships, not tall people) are known for their beauty and grace that I imagine Ernest Hemingway would have likened to the beauty and grace of New York Yankees centerfielder Joe DiMaggio running down a fly ball. Since there few around who have seen DiMaggio play, I will update the reference by saying that the ships have the beauty and grace of actress Mariel Hemingway in a Noxema ad.
It’s no coincidence that DiMaggio was nicknamed, “The Yankee Clipper,” as in “clipper ship,” a sailboat built for speed, like DiMaggio patrolling the outfield at Yankee Stadium. Okay, I was shooting for Ernest Hemingway there but I think I only got as far as Mariel in that literary effort.
There were a number of events and like many other locals looking for an entertaining and free activity, I managed to catch a bit of it on Saturday. It’s unlikely that any of you reading this were able to attend all of the events unless you’re fabulously wealthy, are unemployed and have a lot of free time on your hands or you’re just mad about sailing.
There certainly was no lack of information online but if you wanted to go old school there was no shortage of enterprising gentlemen selling “official” Sail Boston programs.
“Programs, here. Can’t tell the ships without a program” or something to that effect.
The events began on Friday, June 16 with the Opening Ceremony, which tends to be at the beginning of most events. This included a blessing and a presentation of the flags of each participating country. If you previously didn’t know what the flag of Malta or Vanuatu looked like, this was your chance to find out.
On Saturday was the parade of ships. This was the event I was able to attend and I suspect what everyone really wanted to see the most.
Security was tight, but not unexpected given the state of the world and recent events. Some ships allowed members of the public to board but it was a bit crowded and I’ve seen enough old movies to worry about being slipped a “Mickey Finn” and waking up in the ship’s hold while sailing in the China Sea. Granted, though that was highly unlikely, I’m not one to take chances.
One ship featured a life-sized wooden statue of a pirate, complete with an eye patch and a hook for a right hand. Certainly not “politically correct,” it also was probably not the best sales pitch to join that crew. Show up on time for work lest ye be walking the plank.
Much to my surprise we were able to find seats in the bleachers that were set up to watch the parade of ships. An announcer introduced each ship as it passed by, which was not at a rapid-fire pace.
He then announced that any minute a pair of Navy F/A 18 jets would do a flyover, coming from right to left. We all craned our necks to look right in anticipation of the more modern and speedier mode of transportation.
Sure enough we heard a “whoosh” as the planes flew past…going from left to right.
The announcer apologized profusely, insisting that he’d been told the planes would be going from right to left. As the saying goes, “You had ONE job.”
Fortunately, if he didn’t know which direction the planes were going in, at least the pilots knew.
That pretty much capped the day (at least for us).
Events did/will (depending on when you read this) continue for several days with activities that include: a soccer tournament, parades, a tug of war (how about a tug of peace for once?), a sunset salute and then on Thursday, the ships depart for Canada.
I didn’t get to see everything but at least I got see part of it.
I’d say it was…a three hour tour; a three hour tour.
what a babe
What a Babe
By Dan Margarita
There’s a natural shift that occurs in a person’s life, as he or she gets older. When you’re young you go to a lot of weddings. When you’re older, you go to wakes. Weddings are a lot more fun.
So, when the opportunity arose to attend a wedding in Baltimore recently I took full advantage of it. Of course, as regular readers of this space know I am a big baseball fan. If I’m traveling to Baltimore to go to a wedding of two people I barely know, you can darn well bet that I’m going to squeeze in a Baltimore Orioles game.
There is one baseball legend that few people would associate with Baltimore, though. I’m referring to George Herman “Babe” Ruth, who was born in the city in 1895.
Sure, he started and ended his career with Boston teams (the Red Sox and Braves, respectively) but we all know him as the star of great Yankee teams of the 1920’s. I think most people reading this are aware of a certain “curse” involving The Babe.
As a fan of The Bambino, I was going to make it a point to visit The Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum, located a few blocks from the Orioles ballpark, Camden Yards.
First there was a little matter of a wedding to attend to on Sunday, however.
Rain had been forecast, which is not ideal under any circumstance but since this wedding was being held outdoors in a state park, it posed a particular problem. Fortunately, skies were friendly for the ceremony and the couple was hitched without a hitch.
The rains eventually came but only after we’d moved under the wooden roof structure for the meal (which wasn’t a “pic-i-nic” basket). Of course, if you had to use the restroom, you would have had to venture out into the rain to get to the cabin where the bathrooms were. Most people decided to hold off on drinking liquids for a while.
The next day, Memorial Day, we checked into our hotel, located right at the ballpark and then set off for the Babe’s birthplace. Thanks to some bad directions, we set off in the wrong direction.
Local traffic directors didn’t seem to know where it was but we stumbled upon a sign that pointed us in the right direction.
The building and those around it look somewhat upscale now but when Babe was a boy it would’ve been a lower class neighborhood and a rough area.
The museum isn’t large but there are plenty of memorabilia items on display, although I looked for but failed to see The Babe’s first penicillin vial.
There’s not room for a large gift shop and items are limited but I did buy a T-shirt that read, “His greatest day at the plate…18 hot dogs.”
After perusing the museum we head to Camden Yards, a beautiful ballpark now celebrating its 25th season of operation. Usually we go to New York City for a few days every summer and catch a ball game there. The last time I bought two beers at Yankee Stadium it cost me $24. Camden Yards prices are far more reasonable, averaging about $8.75 per beer.
After a moment of silence to remember those who’ve sacrificed their lives for their country, S.F.C. Randy White performs a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Unfortunately, a tall man with a large hat, a Yankees hat, sits in front of me and partially blocks my view. Luckily, his companions soon arrive and he moves down and becomes somebody else’s problem.
In the fifth inning a “National Moment of Remembrance” is held to remember those who’ve sacrificed their lives for their country.
The Orioles are on a seven game losing streak going into the game but despite their usual ineptness, i.e. missing cutoff men, not covering bases, etc. they managed to beat the Yankees 3-2.
In the seventh inning, before the singing of God Bless America (also stirringly performed by S.F.C White) and Take Me Out to the Ballgame, a third moment of silence is held to remember those who’ve sacrificed their lives for their country. Of course, we’re all in favor of remembering and honoring those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice but three time was, to say the least, unexpected.
There’s still time after the game to head back to the museum since my entry ticket is still valid and I can view the exhibits a little more thoroughly.
Later that night we take a walk around the Inner Harbor, a scenic, albeit touristy place to go. There is a Barnes & Noble, H&M, Uno’s and other chain stores, but there is also a live band at the Hard Rock Café and Jane & I dance on the boardwalk.
Before we head to the airport the next day, we take a tour through the Orioles team store. You’ve really got to be an Orioles fan to want to buy such bright orange paraphernalia, not to mention game-style jerseys for $269. For that kind of money, in addition to the jersey, I want to pitch an inning.
We arrive home and this past Sunday seemed like a nice day to take a drive. Figuring I could bookend the week with visits to the homes of Babe Ruth, I to a leisurely drive to the farm house where he lived in Sudbury, Ma.
I really didn’t have enough gas to get to his Riverside Drive apartment in NYC.
a gay old time
A Gay Old Time
By Dan Margarita
In my last column I lamented that it might be hard to find something humorous to write about in light of that week’s events. That was before the horrific events that took place in Orlando.
There’s always a lot of political debate after a mass shooting and sadly, it’s become an all too common occurrence. The call goes out to ban military style assault weapons from one side of the political spectrum. Then there are people who think that the Second Amendment of the U. S. Constitution enables them to possess rocket launchers, tanks and, were they able to acquire one, a nuclear weapon. If you want to carry the weapon of choice from when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, a musket, feel free.
Some on that side of the aisle will try to debate the semantics of weapons and about what’s an “assault” weapon, and what’s not or what’s “military” style or not.
It seems to me that nobody needs a weapon capable of killing dozens of people in a matter of seconds. As noted by many others (including Ronald Reagan) these weapons are not designed for hunting or for home defense.
If you need this type of weapon to successfully hunt, you should probably become a vegetarian, and if you need it for home defense, you must be expecting a Mexican drug cartel to invade your house. People have successfully defended themselves from a home invasion with a pistol, although those instances are greatly outnumbered by accidental shootings.
There are those that insist that they need these weapons for when the U.S. government comes to “take over.” Well, if Saddam Hussein’s army couldn’t defeat the U.S. Forces, I don’t think Cletus and Jeb with their AR15’s are likely to be on the winning end of such a contest.
Polls show that most people want these weapons banned as well as background checks to at least try to keep weapons out of the hands of anyone potentially dangerous.
As always, these types of measures never get passed because of the political influence of the NRA lobbyists. The politicians will send thoughts and prayers, though.
I know I’m not saying anything here that a lot of people haven’t already said or will continue to say but conscience and outrage compel me to speak where I have a voice to do so.
Man, I really didn’t want to have to get political. I would’ve been happy to write a nice fluffy column about a trip to The Stone Zoo.
Much has been made of the Orlando killer’s (I won’t dignify him by naming him) Muslim religion and his claimed allegiance to ISIS. The problem is that he also pledged allegiance to two other terrorist organizations and all three of those groups are fighting each other.
With that in mind and the fact that the event took place at a gay nightclub, which he had apparently frequented as well and also had a gay dating app on his phone, it makes me wonder if this wasn’t a man tormented by his repressed homosexuality. Like Christianity, Islam does not seem all that fond of those who practice, “the love that dare not speak its name.”
My friend and mentor, political satirist/activist Barry Crimmins, declared on Facebook, “I'm walking into the next gay bar I see because if people have to risk their lives to congregate with those they care for, we all must do the same.”
Thus, I decided that the place to watch the Red Sox that night was at a gay bar. First there were some strategic issues to deal with like telling my girlfriend Jane that I was going out to a gay bar. She was out of town on business and had been for some time, so I wanted to make sure that while I missed her, I didn’t miss her that much.
The second issue was finding a gay bar. There aren’t many bars in my area period, and to the best of my knowledge no gay bars. I didn’t want to have to go into Boston if I could avoid it just because of the hassle of going into the city.
With help from Google I found a place in Cambridge that wasn’t far and would be easy to get to. However, many reviews on Yelp mentioned strippers, drag queens and a lot of men feeling each other up. While that may be an aspect of gay life, it is surely not representative as a whole.
Then Jane found a place in the South End called Cathedral Station. Yes, my girlfriend pointed me to a gay bar. Lo and behold I managed to find a metered parking spot nearby, which hadn’t looked like it would be possible.
It’s a nice spot with several TV’s and many great sports photos adorning the walls. The thing is, I’m by nature quiet and shy and generally don’t like chatting with strangers in any bar. So, I didn’t want to be initiating chats because it’s not my nature and would likely seem phony but I also didn’t want to seem unsociable (although I usually am). I made some small talk with a couple of guys, more than I normally would and that was that.
There were a few women there but the clientele was predominantly male and yes, it seemed a little strange at first to have a male bartender call me “honey,” but it didn’t bother me.
The most objectionable thing I found that night was the Red Sox pitching.
By Dan Margarita
Muhammad Ali has died and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the two likely presumptive nominees for President of the United States…and you want me to write something funny?
Well, the idea of a reality TV star being elected as POTUS is somewhat comical in its absurdity.
I could write a solemn column about D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, which began to turn the tide of World War II in the Allies’ favor, but it’s been written about in far better fashion than I am capable of and I don’t feel I could do it proper justice.
So, with a little scrolling through this Internet here thing I learned that besides D-Day, June 6 (according to one website) is when frozen foods began being sold commercially in the U.S. in 1930. Seems like that could be a little more fun topic.
According to the website Eater, Clarence Birdseye is “The Father of Frozen Foods,” although there is no mention of frozen foods’ mother.
He was not the first to freeze foods, however. In fact as early as 1000 B.C. the Chinese stored goods in ice cellars.
“Bring up some frozen chicken for General Gao!”
This of course was not possible as far back as One Million Years B.C. because judging by the size, or lack thereof of Raquel Welch’s bikini, it wasn’t very cold back then.
As a young engineer in Labrador (the province in Canada and not the breed of dog), Clarence Birdseye learned a method of freezing fresh catches of fish from the Inuit. Once again, you have an example of the white man stealing something from natives and exploiting it (okay, that was my tribute to Muhammad Ali).
I suppose you could say that the Inuit were the inventers of frozen food. Their technology was quite simple. After catching a fish through a hole in the ice, they’d bring it up and expose it to the air, i.e. Nature’s northern freezer.
Birdseye knew that other frozen foods he’d tried were mushy when thawed out so he needed to find a way to freeze food immediately. I won’t go into the science of it, mainly because I don’t understand it, but Birdseye invented a machine to freeze food immediately, which would revolutionize the food industry (and I suppose the freezing industry).
In 1954 Swanson introduced TV dinners, although if the technology already existed I don’t know why someone didn’t think of inventing radio dinners in the 1930’s-‘40’s.
There is some confusion as to who invented the TV dinner though, with the Library of Congress saying it’s between Swanson, W.L. Maxson and Gerry Thomas as the possible inventors.
In the 1940’s W.L. Maxson invented a frozen dinner and accompanying oven that he sold to the U.S. Navy and commercial airlines. Previously their only in-flight meals were cold sandwiches and K-rations. Yeah, my mouth’s watering, too.
Maxson planned to expand his business after the war but in 1947 made the classic career blunder of dying.
Finally, Gerry Thomas claimed credit, not for the TV dinner, which already existed, but for the tin foil tray shaped in the TV. This claim sounds a bit specious and a bit like obnoxious guy at a party who claims he invented the “fist bump.”
Regardless, Gerry Thomas is a member of the Frozen Food Hall of Fame. Yes, such a thing exists. Sure, every year they have their fierce arguments over who belongs in the Hall of Fame. Does Nevin B. Montgomery deserve it over Dr. H. Reid Wagstaff, and will Dr. Wagstaff ever tell us what the “H” stands for? Can Benjamin Zdatney get in despite the rampant rumors that he “juiced”?
Of course, it’s a lot tougher to get in now that they’ve instituted drug testing.
You can find out a lot of good information on the website Progressive Grocer. That’s where I learned that Dale Morton is to receive the 2016 GMA Food Safety Award (and you had your money on Jerry Howard). I think it’s a good idea that food manufacturers try to make our food safe.
The organization responsible for these selections every year is the Distinguished Order of Zerocrats. That sounds like an organization with a self-esteem problem. You’d think that if they were so distinguished that they wouldn’t include the word “zero” in their name.
However, it is pretty hot and human now and I could go for a drink.
Maybe I’ll have a frozen Margarita.
The six million dollar dan
The Six Million Dollar Dan
By Dan Margarita
“Dan Margarita…writer…comedian…musician…bon vivant…a man barely alive. Well, at least until he’s had his morning coffee. We can rebuild him; we have the technology. We have his insurance deductible payment. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise (sorry, wrong Classic TV parody).”
That opening is a parody of the opening of the 1970’s TV show, The Six Million Man. The premise of the show is the saga of astronaut Steve Austin who is nearly killed in a training accident and is saved by having bionic body parts replace his damaged human ones.
The series was a phenomenal success and spawned a spin-off, The Bionic Woman, because even bionic men need the company of a bionic woman now and then.
These bionic parts gave Austin super human abilities, which he would use to do battle with Cold War enemies. Times have changed a lot. The Cold War is over (although Vladimir Putin seems intent on reviving it) and these days six million dollars won’t even fetch a top starting pitcher.
This latter factor brings one thing to the forefront that the TV show creators didn’t seem to take into consideration: depreciation.
The aging of the actors should have been a clue when they did a reunion TV movie called, The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman.
Where in the original TV show Steve Austin once did amazing physical feats in slow motion to a metallic soundtrack, the reunion movie saw Austin (and I’m not making this up) spring from a coiled position and jump down…a series of four stairs. Frankly, it was embarrassing. Sure, I may feel pretty macho when I open a stubborn pickle jar but I don’t expect ABC to include it in a Movie of the Week.
Little did the series creators’ anticipate some 45 years ago that artificial hips and knee replacements would be commonplace in the not-too-distant future. Mind you, this technology doesn’t give anyone super powers, as they did Steve Austin but just allows one to move at a normal pace without pain. Yeah, it would be great if it allowed us to run 90 M.P.H. and jump a 10 foot fence from a standing position, although I don’t know what practical purpose that would serve.
I mention all of this because this past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the placement of a stent in one of my coronary arteries due to a 90% blockage. The staff told me that it was a blockage that they refer to as, “The Widowmaker.” Fortunately, I’m not married so I guess that’s why I was spared.
Unfortunately, the stent didn’t allow me to have super-human powers but did give me the ability to climb stairs without having chest pains.
Nor did it cost me six million dollars but let me tell you, it wasn’t cheap. Fortunately, I have good health insurance so I’m only paying a fraction of it but one bill alone came to nearly $40,000 of which I paid nearly $1,700. That almost gave me a heart attack for which I might have needed another stent.
I’m getting old, or as the late, great comedian George Carlin noted, we like to say that we’re getting older.
Aging is a slow process, usually taking a lifetime. I’ll tell you when I first noticed myself getting older…it was in my forties, playing softball.
I’d always had a pretty strong throwing arm. Oh, not Major League caliber of course, or else I would be writing this from my hot tub in my mansion in Bel Air and not within earshot of Rt. 93.
In my younger days of softball with my comedian friends, from the outfield I could routinely throw out runners foolish enough to try and take an extra base on me. Eventually, if you play with the same people on a regular basis they learn not to do such a thing.
Then I played infield on another softball team and after several years went back to the outfield. One day a ball came to me and I saw a runner trying to take third. I licked my competitive chops as I knew that I had this runner dead to rights at third base. Then something bizarre happened…when I threw the ball it just sort of…died.
I stood there befuddled as to why my throw didn’t reach third base on a line like it always had.
“Why is this runner safe? He should be out!”
It took a while to sink in but I eventually remembered Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver being asked late in his career about not throwing as hard as he used to.
“I throw as hard,” he said.
“The ball just doesn’t go as fast.”
Then, shortly before I turned 50 I noticed that I could no longer read small print that was right in front of me, as though nature said, “You are officially old NOW!”
Well, you know how it goes from there. It’s no different for me than it is for anyone else. Thanks to modern science I get to sit here and enjoy my morning coffee.
Of course, these days I drink decaf.
snakes on the plains
Snakes on the Plains
By Dan Margarita
Very often, at the end of the presidential primary campaign, where the field has been whittled down to two candidates I find myself thinking, “300 million people and this is what it comes down to?”
There are many hot-button issues for candidates to deal with these days…federal budget, ISIS, healthcare and of course, poisonous snakes. Yup, you read that correctly…poisonous snakes.
The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is hoping to breed Timber Rattlesnakes and introduce them to Mt. Zion, an island in the Quabbin Reservoir because it seems we just don’t have enough poisonous snakes in Massachusetts.
Does anyone ever recall having a discussion with someone and both parties came to the conclusion that what Massachusetts was lacking were poisonous snakes? I didn’t think so.
The issue arose because apparently the Timber Rattlesnake is an endangered species needing to be protected and this week officials will hold a meeting in Athol to determine how to proceed with the situation as well as figure out where Athol is. I think most of us generally favor protecting endangered species but, most of us are creeped out by the mere thought of poisonous snakes. If rats became an endangered species I don’t think there’d be a huge cry for a, “Save the Rats!” campaign.
Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if PETA had such a campaign. After all, they complained when President Obama killed a fly during an interview. They squawked that he should have spared the fly and perhaps set it free in the wild and provided it with a nice pile of dog poop on which to play.
Of course, I’m assuming Bono would lead a benefit concert for the rats, “RAT AID.”
I’m not exactly sure how one goes about breeding snakes. Perhaps you introduce a male and female snake to each other over a nice candle lit chipmunk dinner.
Naturally, residents of nearby towns have some concerns about living close to The Isle of Snakes. State officials have assured the public that although snakes can swim and there is a narrow land bridge between the island and the mainland, the snakes aren’t likely to leave the island.
I believe that government officials also told us that breeding two species of bees wouldn’t be a problem. Those bees eventually became known as “The Killer Bees.”
It doesn’t feel too reassuring to know that the snakes probably won’t leave the island. Apparently it’s some sort of reptile paradise that they will never want to leave.
The argument in favor of protecting the snakes is that they feed on mice and other rodents that carry disease ridden ticks. Let’s face it…once they’ve eaten all of the mice and ticks…the humans are next!
Mt. Zion Island, where the snakes will be deposited, is off limits to the public. Well, if you didn’t want to go there before, you’re probably not going to want to go there now.
Members of the public are upset for obvious reasons but local politicians are upset because they apparently were not consulted before Governor Baker signed off the decision without legislative approval.
It seems like the public should have some say on the matter but the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife can seemingly implement a plan like this on their own.
Nowhere on the ballot do I recall there being a “poisonous snake” initiative that I could vote on. Nor do I recall Charlie Baker and his campaign making poisonous snakes a campaign stance.
“A chicken in every pot, two cars in every garage and two hundred snakes on an island near you.”
Alas, we are in a presidential campaign season, as noted earlier in this column. I have yet to hear any of the candidates weigh in on the subject.
If we’ve learned anything about our candidates, it’s that we think we can assume their position on the matter.
Donald Trump: “Snakes have an important function. In the wild or in the boardroom, they serve a function. I love snakes!”
Hillary Clinton: “I’ve always been against snakes except for when I was for them.”
Bernie Sanders: “Seriously, why are we talking about snakes?”
Hopefully reading this column isn’t going to give you nightmares and if it does, I apologize.
To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson from a line in one of his movies (at least the broadcast TV version for obvious reasons):
“I’m tired of all these snakes on a monkey fighting island!”
shakespeare's Last Words
Shakespeare’s Last Words
By Dan Margarita
“Be not afraid of greatness: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”---William Shakespeare
I’m not the greatest writer of all time. Heck, I’m probably not even in the top five. Everyone has his or her own opinion but I think that a certain William Shakespeare is generally regarded as the greatest writer in the history of the English language. Of course, you might be more of a Stephen King fan.
I have to admit that I could never really get into The Bard of Avon, as he is often referred to, except for a brief job as a door-to-door salesman when he was The Bard of Avon calling (rim shot).
The root of my discomfort is the Shakespearean English that he used in penning his works. I supposed that’s understandable that he’d write in Shakespearean English due to the fact that was Shakespeare and he was English.
I don’t know if that’s just the way they wrote back then or if they also spoke like that in every day conversation. It sure would’ve made things, like dinner, a much lengthier process.
“The most notable condiment of all comes to us in the formeth of thine squished tomato that be mixed with an assortment of spices and thou wouldst be most appreciative if thee were to relay such condiment in a timely fashion.”
(Pass the ketchup)
Hell, I managed to cook and eat dinner while writing that sentence.
The reason I bring Billy Bob Shakespeare (okay, no one ever called him that) is because last week marked the 400th anniversary of his death. Note that I didn’t say “celebrated” the anniversary of his death. Unless you’re talking about Hitler or someone like that, you don’t celebrate someone’s demise. Nobody’s ever sent a “Happy Death Day” card and if they did, the recipient never read it.
Little is known about Shakespeare’s death, including the exact date. It was written that died after a drinking binge with some friends (That could’ve been a lot of fun) but that seems to have been the smear of a jealous rival. Most evidence indicates that he was ill for sometime before passing away.
Among the information we’ll ever know is what The Bard’s last words were (if there were any). There are numerous websites devoted to famous people’s last words.
For example, upon being asked on his deathbed by his wife where he wanted to be buried, Bob Hope said, “Surprise me.”
You’d like to think he said something profound and brilliant (Shakespeare, not Hope…”Surprise me” was kind of brilliant) but we’ll never know. Since April is also Poetry Month, I have thus penned some verse for the occasion.
Shakespeare’s Last Words
It was just four hundred years ago give or take a day or two
William Shakespeare left this Earth, as all of us must do
Somebody put out rumors that he drank himself to death
Unlikely since he made a will right before he last drew breath
You’ve read about some famous folks declaring great last words
Most of us say nothing or just babble on like nerds
No one who wrote in English has been held with more regard
And though I don’t know what it means, they nicknamed him “The Bard”
Perhaps he was with loved ones when he slipped away that night
Too bad he was the only one in the room who learned to write
So, we’ll never know the final words our greatest wordsmith said
Before the barber felt his pulse and then declared him dead
“An ambulance! My kingdom for an ambulance!” is something that he probably never uttered
He might’ve said a brilliant thing that nobody there heard
Because possible it’s something that he muttered
It surely was apparent that he would not survive the day
Because medicine was several miles and three centuries away
And cures those days for anything were really out of reach
Best they’d do is let some blood and maybe add a leech
He should’ve felt that he was lucky to be fifty and alive
The average lifespan for a man back then was only 35
And that was true for everyone from London to The Hague
The common cold could kill you, then again so could the plague
We’ll never find out what he said if we haven’t learned by now
Being Shakespeare, it probably started with “thee” or “thy” or “thou”
Maybe with more research we’ll have an answer in our grasp
If I had to guess what he last said, it was probably just “GASP”
what a difference a day makes
What a Difference a Day Makes
By Dan Margarita
I hope you all had a Happy Siblings Day, which is assuming you have siblings and I suppose it also assumes that you like them. Until recently, I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as National Siblings Day. Apparently, there’s a day for just about everything.
If you want to know what days are to be celebrated there is a someone running a website called National Day Calendar, who for some reason has made themselves the official arbiter of all things “Day” and I am not making these up.
Sure, there are some “Days” worth noting, particularly those which raise awareness to certain medical conditions or memorialize historic events or people.
That said, I’m not sure if we needed National Teflon Day on April 6, which no doubt was backed by “Big Teflon.”
If you missed NSD (National Siblings Day to be known heretofore in this column) then you probably also missed National Sorry Charlie Day on April 6. According to the website, this day, which uses the StarKist Tuna symbol Charlie the Tuna, “encourages us to think about the times we’ve been rejected, whether we’ve been rejected by a sweetheart or by a college, a prospective employer or by the bank for a loan.” Why would I want to think about that? Yeah, that’s a day I want to mark on my calendar. There are people who “celebrate” this day everyday…they usually then wind up at The Betty Ford Clinic. I suspect that this holiday was suggested by Debbie Downer.
Of course the day before you may have celebrated National Read a Road Map Day. While road maps have pretty much been supplanted by the invention of the GPS, neither one of them seems necessary unless you’re planning on going somewhere you’ve never been before. Otherwise, it seems unlikely you’d want to read a road map for pleasure instead of that John Grisham novel you were working on.
April 7th was National Beer Day…see: National Sorry Charlie Day.
As for the week of this publication you can look forward to National Make Lunch Count Day, National Glazed Spiral Ham Day, which is particularly delicious right after observance at Temple, National Take a Wild Guess Day...not sure whose idea that was, and National Ex Spouse Day. That last one I find a bit confusing. It’s a day, which, “recognizes an ex spouse.” Unless they mean as a potential target, it seems impractical. While some people manage to have amicable divorces, the majority of those I have witnessed more likely resemble The Battle of Gettysburg. After all, there’s a reason that other person is an “ex.”
To this point we’ve only dealt with the month of April. Let’s see what other “Days” we have to look forward to, shall we?
On May 3rd I expect that you’ll be celebrating National Lumpy Rug Day. You can participate by doing some Spring Cleaning or ignoring past bad behavior, i.e. “sweeping it under the rug.”
May 12th is National Limerick Day.
There once was a young man who played
A professional writer by trade
Written by either him or Rick
It’s a real stupid limerick
And he can’t believe he gets paid!
Be sure to celebrate National Dance Like a Chicken Day on May 14th. That ought to liven up those board meetings.
May 21 is National Memo Day but I don’t know how I will remember that one and May 21 is also National Wine Day but I’m not sure how that is celebrated.
In June we have National Repeat Day on the 3rd. In June we have National Repeat Day on the 3rd. On the 7th it’s National VCR Day, which you may recall replaced National Victrola Day.
After you’ve celebrated Eat Your Jello Day on July 12th, you can set your sights on National Rat Catcher’s Day on the 22nd. That’s a parade I’m not looking forward to.
Come August 6th it’s Wiggle Your Toes Day. Okay, I think whoever was coming up with “Days” was starting to get a little tired and just mailed that one in.
August 10th is National Lazy Day, which I think pretty much confirms my previous paragraph.
On September 22 it’s National Centenarian’s Day, but I wouldn’t recommend throwing any surprise parties.
October 25th is Chucky, The Notorious Killer Doll Day…I will remind you, I am not making these up.
November 20th is National Absurdity Day, which I think you can celebrate by coming up with more absurd days to celebrate.
December 8th is Pretend To Be A Time Traveler Day, and maybe you will celebrate by pretending to go back and skip this silly column.
Time to go now. I’ve had a long Day.
Planes, Change and Roll away beds
Planes, Change and Roll Away Beds
By Dan Margarita
Spring is in the air, or it certainly has been lately. It’s also on the calendar, meaning that regular followers of this space know that this is the time of year when I join my buddies Jim and Rick for a trip to Florida to watch some Spring Training baseball.
RROTS (Regular Readers of this space) also may know that this is my first S.T. trip since my health woes began some nine months ago. It will be a little different.
Day 1---Arriving at Logan Airport, where a crabby elderly woman ushers us through security (“You have your boarding pass? Well get it out!”) and eventually I wind up in line with Group 5. Among the last of the boarders I was concerned that I’d have to ride in the cargo hold with the other animals, but alas, no.
There’s a connecting flight in Newark with a bit of a wait. Looking for food I look at the menu at a food kiosk and approach a young man, whom I assume is standing there to take food orders. Before I can get two syllables out he says, “iPad” and point to such a device and I realize that’s where I order my food. After doing so, I pull out a $20 to pay him and he says, “Card only.”
Okay, I didn’t expect to have a pilot standing in front of the plane, spinning the propeller to get the plane started but this is a world I don’t know anymore.
Arriving at Tampa Airport I wait at their TGI Friday’s for Jim and Rick to arrive. Natalia, the lovely bartender from South America, has been serving us for 13 years. Tradition is important and we’ve gladly made a visit with Natalia a tradition. Unfortunately that tradition will end as she informs us that they will be tearing the Friday’s down in June and she will be seeking employment elsewhere.
We drive to the Intercontinental Hotel, a 5 star hotel that Jim got a good deal on for a room with two beds and a roll away bed. Upon arrival the desk clerk tells Jim that they have roll away beds but they can’t give us one because it would violate fire safety laws. Jim’s arguments about being promised a roll away bed as well as “why have roll away beds if you can use them?” fall on deaf ears.
One of us is going to have to sleep on the floor and Rick, a bartender who been up for some 33 hours, volunteers as he will clearly have no problem sleeping. Indeed, he falls asleep in the room chair.
Day 2---A two-hour drive to Ft. Myers to see the Boston Red Sox take on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It is a torrential downpour when we hit the highway but by the time we arrive it is sunny and warm.
In years past my first stop would have been to a beer stand but after a recent skin cancer scare (turned out it wasn’t) my first stop is now the free sunscreen that the team generously provides fans for free. I put so much suncreen on that I make the Pillsbury Doughboy look like Chris Rock.
Our seats are on top of JetBlue Park “Green Monster” and we get a great view of Christian Vasquez single off the wall right below us.
The seats are in the shade, a place I always gleefully avoided in past trips but is now a blessing.
The Sox take a 1-0 lead on a home run by Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval who RROTS will remember being mocked for his girth in my last column.
The bullpen blows the lead however, and the Sox wind up losing but hey, I’m seeing baseball again and that’s enough.
There is no night game so we head to a motel that had promised us a roll away bed. It is not nearly as nice as the previous hotel and it turns out that they also won’t give us a roll away bed for the same safety concerns. Despite having been assured by someone from the hotel that we could have a rollaway, we are still denied.
I volunteer to take floor duty and get no argument about it. We all do our share.
I manage to get a decent night’s sleep, which is important because there’s a lot more baseball to go…
To be continued…
Planes, Change and Roll Away Beds II
By Dan Margarita
When we last left Rocky and Bullwinkle, uh, Jim, Dan and Rick, they spend consecutive nights in hotels that contained roll away beds but wouldn’t give them to us, citing safety concerns.
Now our journey continues.
Day 3---The day game is the Red Sox hosting the Yankees at Ft. Myers. Unlike yesterday, our seats are in the sun, which, these days means a whole lot of sunscreen. Free agent acquisition David Price starts for the Sox and gives up just three hits over four innings. Unfortunately, one of them is a solo home run and he departs the game with a 1-1 tie.
A woman two rows in front of us spends several innings with her back turned towards home plate conversing with someone, begging for karma to send a foul ball her way but karma spares her.
The night game is the Phillies at the Tampa Bay Rays, a game so boring that the only highlights that the MLB has are two postgame interviews.
The good news is that after two nights with someone sleeping on the floor we’ve rearranged the furniture in a way so that they deem it safe enough to give us a roll away bed.
Day 4---The day features the Baltimore Orioles hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates. In regular season play the American League features the Designated Hitter, while the National League does not. In Spring Training, an NL team visiting an AL team has the option of using the DH and the Pirates don’t, which must surely throw baseball purists for a loop.
We head to Ft. Myers to see the Red Sox but this time they’re the visiting team being hosted by cross-town rivals the Minnesota Twins, who proceed to tee off on pitchers Clay Buccholz and Koji Uehara. We see the Sox lose for the third time in a row but after the game the fireworks are the fun kind with explosions and stuff.
Another tradition is kept when we stop at a local Ale House, a popular chain restaurant in the area. After having eaten (fortunately), I am washing my hands in the men’s room when I see a guy in a chef’s hat going about his business. When he finishes he starts for the door but I block his attempt to leave and say, “You’re gonna wash your hands, right?”
This perplexed him for a moment and he suggested I do the same, not noticing that I was in the process of drying my hands. This shames him into doing the hygienic thing. Just after I sit back down at my table, he passes by and noticing my out of control ”hat hair” says, “Nice hair, bro.” I will not be eating there again.
Day 5---We watch the Red Sox finally win a game, a 9-5 victory over the Orioles despite the efforts of prized prospect Henry Owens who gives up four earned runs in four innings. The sun beats on our necks and not wanting to be a red neck figuratively or literally, I slather sunscreen on liberally.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day and the Sox wear green caps, have green bases and no doubt, rake in a lot of green.
Like Fenway Park in Boston, jetBlue Park in Ft. Myers requires anyone buying alcohol to produce some I.D., regardless of how old one is or one looks. Moses couldn’t buy a beer if he didn’t possess
a government issued I.D. Unlike Fenway north however, you can buy beer in the stands at jetBlue Park. When Rick asks a vendor for a beer the man requests to see Rick’s I.D. Our seats are in the middle of the aisle but fortunately the vendor asks Rick to merely hold it up as though he is Clark Kent and can verify Rick’s I.D. from 12 feet away.
For the night game we head to Sarasota where the Orioles (a split squad game where half the team plays the day game and half the team plays the night game) host the Twins. My efforts to eat healthy on a baseball trip are largely successful, especially since the Orioles ballpark features the Orioles Fit Grill. Oh, there’s still the occasional hot dog and slice of pizza but grilled chicken sandwiches and turkey wraps are available. Well, at least until the vegans get a hold of me.
Great seats in the upper deck behind home plates where we can see the scouts in front of us charting the pitchers.
It’s Spring Training for me too, so I decided to score the game to get ready to do some baseball coverage. I buy a program and then go to the team store to get a pencil. I ask a woman if they sell pencils and with a sympathetic look on her face she tells me they’re all sold out. She says they only have last year’s pencils and that she can sell me two for a dollar. Personally, I don’t care if the pencil is from 1957; if it writes, I’ll take it. However, the pencil actually does say “2015 Spring Training.”
Day 6---A “split squad” game, we have the option of going to Ft. Myers to see the Red Sox “A” team or their “B” team in Port Charlotte, which is closer and we have better seats, so that becomes our destination.
If I thought the previous day’s seats were nice, these are awesome! Six rows right behind home plate. Though the Sox roster is made up of mostly minor leaguers, regular third baseman Pablo Sandoval has made the trip and looks no less thin than he did the beginning of the week and makes an error. The Sox lose 5-1 but it’s a nice day with great seats, so who cares?
Day 7---Though there have been rainy mornings, the weather has always cleared up by game time but not today. Torrential rain falls and we question whether we’ll even see a game at George Steinbrenner Field where the Yankees are to host the Atlanta Braves.
The game is delayed and we take our first opportunity to have an actual breakfast instead of grabbing a Dunkin Donuts coffee. Still, for the first time all week we get to a game after the first pitch, which breaks that streak.
Being a Red Sox fan in a Yankees ballpark feels like being a cat that finds himself in a dog pound. Whereas I’m used to Yankees Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Rodriguez booed mercilessly here and in Ft. Meyers, it’s an odd thing to hear them lustily cheered…but it’s a pleasant thing to listen to.
The Yankees win 3-2 and with no night game we head to a sports bar to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Granted, it’s a place where the men’s room might as well put up a sign reading, “EMPLOYEES MIGHT WASH HANDS” and after my Ale House experience I am careful to order food that is cooked in a way that no chef could put his or her hands on it.
Day 8---My last game is in Clearwater where the Phillies are hosting the Houston Astros. It’s Alumni Day and several former Phillies including Greg Luzinski and Ivan DeJesus are at tables signing autographs before the game. I am fan of neither the Phillies or of long lines so I opt not to seek an autograph.
The seats are club level seats, a little more expensive but a great view and shorter lines at the concession stands and the men’s room; those are big plusses.
Day 8---Sadly, all good things including vacation, must end. Though we’ve had a pretty mild winter I had been reading that I would be coming home to 8-10 inches of snow. Fortunately, there was but a dusting on my front steps, the weather forecasters proving themselves wrong once again.
I’m hoping these weather people also didn’t pick the Red Sox to win the World Series.
Mighty Panda at the (Dinner) Plate
Mighty Panda at the (Dinner) Plate
By Dan Margarita
Fat shaming is wrong, people. It is mean, it is unnecessary and it is politically incorrect. That said, what I am about to do is some fat shaming.
Historically, people who were overweight were seen as having some sort of character flaw but we now know there are many factors that may be in play. Some people may be dealing with a genetic issue. If a big body is what you’re handed down by your parents, then that is your lot in life (pardon the pun). Others may deal with some sort of medical issue and the fact that generations of Americans have been brought up on a diet of McDonald’s Big Mac’s and Coca Cola is part of the mix. Then there is the case of Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
The man has always been big, hence his nickname, “King Fu Panda.” Pandas are chubby and cute. If a Panda can smack 30 home runs and play good defense, they’re even cuter.
After having the worst season of his career, Sandoval arrived at Spring Training looking less like a panda and more like “The Thing That Ate Cincinnati.”
Ballplayers have been heavy before and still managed to be productive. George Scott and Boog Powell come to mind and the most famous fat man of them all was Babe Ruth.
When you land a $95 million contract and proceed to have a lousy season, fans want to see a change of some sort, however. You know, maybe just drop a few pounds. No one is expecting you to be Twiggy but at least try to drop a few pounds. As mentioned earlier some people have genetic of medical issues they deal with but Sandoval is a professional athlete who made no apparent effort to lose weight.
He had fourth months to do it and with that huge contract could’ve afforded a gym membership, a personal trainer or even liposuction if needed.
So, in keeping with the spirit of the newly arrived Spring Training I have written a poem to the tune (for lack of a better term) of the epic poem Casey at the Bat about Pablo Sandoval.
Panda at the (Dinner ) Plate
By Dan Margarita
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Boston nine that spring
Their fat third baseman looked like he had eaten everything
If he could not stop eating there’d be no way he’d be great
But Panda, mighty Panda couldn’t miss a dinner plate
There were jokes and many comments and concern about his girth
‘Cause he looked just like a woman who would soon be giving birth
If he didn’t drop some poundage it could seal the Red Sox fate
But there seemed so little chance that he would ever lose this weight
Seventeen million dollars is what the team was paying him
Yet apparently it wasn’t quite enough for him to join a gym
All he seemed to see were opportunities to eat
So he couldn’t see a ground ball not to mention both his feet
He never seemed to wonder if all this food would hurt his play
And his only exercise was back and forth to the buffet
“Mangia!” cried the waiter who was in a jolly mood
And Panda would’ve thanked him were his mouth not full of food
Restaurants in his neighborhood should’ve had revolving doors
While he stuffed himself with pizza, cakes and pies and even S’mores
And though his play at third last year was rated the league’s worst
He’ll likely still be better than the stiff now playing first
With four months off we wondered how the Panda’s time was killed
It wasn’t exercising unless exercise is grilled
He once was a slick fielder and strong throws he would uncork
The only thing that he is good at now is wielding knife and fork
Oh, some folks have an illness and other folks have rotten genes
And some cannot stay healthy because they haven’t got the means
And some folks can be burly and still swing a mighty bat
But Panda, mighty Panda is just a millionaire who’s fat
My apologies to any readers of considerable size that may have been offended by this column. I have weight that I would like to see disappear, as well.
If anyone wants to pay me $95 million, I promise to give it a shot.
Wrap it up
Wrap It Up
By Dan Margarita
This week marks the holiday known as President’s Day, the day set aside each year when we remember the life and times of Chester A. Arthur by purchasing a discount mattress.
Of course the term is referring to all of our presidents, whatever we think of their accomplishments or lack thereof. According to Wikipedia, the day is not even actually called “President’s Day” but is still technically called “Washington’s Birthday” as a federal holiday. This is of course in reference to George Washington and not acclaimed actor Denzel Washington, although I would have no objections to a paid day off in tribute to this fine actor (hell, I’d take a paid day off for a day of tribute to the late character actor Robert Loggia).
The obvious reason for the change is that it is also in tribute to Abraham Lincoln, whose February 12 birthday is in close proximity to Washington’s February 22 birthday. If Lincoln had been born on September 26 the holiday might still be known as “Washington’s Birthday.”
In fact, few people know that Washington was actually born on February 11, 1731 and not February 22, 1732 as is commonly thought. In 1752 Great Britain (and even “pretty good” Britain) and its colonies switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, which moved Washington’s birthday ahead a year and 11 days, thus putting Washington’s birthday on February 22. Who says you can’t learn anything from reading this column? This is what happens when they give a column to the son of a history teacher!
In some states it’s known as “President’s Day” and in some states it’s, “Presidents’ Day” and yet in a few other states it is “Presidents Day.” If we can’t even decide on where to put the apostrophe on the name of a holiday, it is no wonder why so little gets done in Washington, D.C. these days.
Some states claim Washington alone and others honor both Washington and Lincoln. In Arkansas they celebrate George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day. Yeah, I Googled it. She’s an impressive Civil Rights leader.
Then there’s the story of William Henry Harrison. It’s a short story, actually. Well, his presidency is a short story. For better or worse
he was quite accomplished before reaching office. He was considered a war hero for winning The Battle of Tippecanoe, hence the birth of his eventual campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” You probably always wondered where that phrase came from, well now you know. On the other hand, maybe you didn’t want to know but now you know, anyway.
He had also served in various political offices and then after an unsuccessful run for president in 1836 he ran again and won in 1840. I suspect his campaign was much longer than his term in office. Some of you may have heard that Harrison gave a very long inaugural speech on a cold and rainy day while refusing to wear a jacket, a hat or gloves. As a result, he caught pneumonia and died a month into his term.
These days if a 68-year-old man wants to go outside on a cold and rainy day without a jacket or a hat his family will stop him and begin immediate discussions about, “What are we going to do about Grandpa?”
Harrison’s speech went on for nearly two hours, which seems odd given the weather circumstances and the fact that this was long before the invention of the microphones and public address systems. Thus, presumably only a handful of people in close proximity to Harrison were able to hear him.
One can also assume that Harrison could only hear a few of them yelling things like, "Harrison, wrap it up! We're freezing!"
Harrison’s speech is on record as being the longest Presidential inauguration speech ever, going on for nearly two hours. The speech clocked in at 8,445 words and that’s after being edited down by Harrison’s friend, Daniel Webster.
A while back The New York Times ran a story about modern physicians examining Harrison’s medical records and declaring that Harrison more likely was killed by bacteria, what with the lack of a sewage system causing illness. The resulting treatments of the day probably contributed to Harrison’s decline. I know it’s hard to believe that a combination of opium, leeches and enemas couldn’t save the President. Two days after Harrison’s death, Chester A. Arthur was sworn in as the next president.
Presumably, the oath was administered indoors.
Love, Neanderthal Style
Love, Neanderthal Style
By Dan Margarita
February usually means two things…groundhogs and Valentine’s Day and if you think of them in that particular order, chances are you’re single.
Valentine’s Day is the day when we celebrate love and romance by eating a lot of chocolate. This ensures that our beloveds will gain weight and develop acne, thus ensuring their appeal will be limited to only us.
Traditionally, men also commonly give flowers to women as a token of affection and to show they are capable of doing so not just when they are in some sort of trouble.
The symbol of Valentine’s Day is Cupid, a flying cherub, because nothing says “romance” like a flying baby that is armed with a lethal weapon.
That humans are still around to continue to celebrate love and romance is commendable and perhaps somewhat surprising given how often various species have died off over time.
I stumbled upon an article on a website called Science Vibe with the headline, “Sex With Neanderthals Made Us Stronger!”
Maybe stronger, but if depictions of Neanderthals are accurate, not necessarily better looking.
First of all, I don’t know who is behind this website but I assume that they know what they’re talking about because when it comes to science, I’m lost.
Secondly, whoever wrote it apparently is not a native English speaker nor does this website appear to have an editor. Oh, I understand we all make gaffes that get out there, much to our eventual dismay and embarrassment. I sure as heck do but this website has numerous broken English malapropisms.
Take this actual sentence for example:
“When the first modern humans left Africa about 100,000 years ago, they walked not only against new and unknown continents.”
I think I get where they’re going here but it’s isn’t exactly the work of Charles Dickens.
Still, the person who wrote this probably has a Master’s degree and a doctorate and several other distinguished letter abbreviations after their name while the greatest scholastic achievement I’ve managed is to get a driver’s license (barely).
The opening line of the article is: “Neanderthals and modern humans last had sex about 47,000 years ago.”
Typical Neanderthals…they never call. Sure, they say they will but you wait through the discovery of fire, the introduction of tools, the development of language and the next thing you know you’re 47,000 years older and he hasn’t called on the phone which was invented some 46,850 years later.
The article points out that when humans left Africa and traveled “against new and unknown continents” they encountered new diseases and germs that they had no natural immunities to. Thus, mating with Neanderthals led to humans’ immune systems being able to adapt to their surroundings. I’m sure that was not part of their thought process at the time, however. Nor would it probably work as a pick up line in a bar today.
“How’d you like help maintain the survival of the species?”
The article goes on to say that studying DNA shows that “modern humans’ ancestors occasionally successfully interbred with Neanderthals.”
Trust me, if there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s an unsuccessful interbreeding. Ouch.
There’s a lot of science stuff in this article with science-y words (sorry to go Sarah Palin on you) that not only am I unable to pronounce, but I can’t even spell…and that’s while looking at them!
Without documentation of some sort, we’ll never know how the two species got together so we can only surmise. I like to imagine the two groups sitting around and getting to know each other while scavenging the meat off of a carcass by the fire.
“I have to admit, I find your low-brow humor appealing.”
“So, do you come to these slaughtered saber-toothed tiger scavengings often?”
“I don’t like to brag but I happen to have a pretty big brain.”
“Are you a hunter or a gatherer?”
“What I really want to do is direct.”
“Maybe I could give you a call sometime? You know, when I develop language skills and mankind continues its advancement in the sciences to the point of civilization where an industrial revolution leads to the invention of the telephone? Maybe Saturday?”
Neanderthals, “our closet relative” (I’m not sure if that’s another editorial gaffe or Freudian slip) disappeared “about 30,000 year (sic) ago.”
Or did they?
Seems like they might be writing science blogs.
By Dan Margarita
Hey, even I’ll admit that it’s been a relatively mild winter. Still, it is winter and as such, I am naturally inclined to hate it. There’s usually just one remedy: a trip to Florida.
I have never been to Miami (save for a brief stopover) so my girlfriend Jane and I made arrangement for fun in the sun. Okay, I let her make the arrangements. Regular readers of this space know that my Florida trips usually involve Spring Training with my pals Jim and Rick. A trip with the girlfriend is bound to be quite different.
Jan. 12---We fly into Miami International Airport and it takes two trams and at least five moving walkways to get from the gate to the car rental place. We should’ve chartered a small plane and flown to car rental place.
The first thing that sticks out is that the majority of what is spoken is in Spanish. This fills me with pangs of regret at not paying more attention in Mrs. Robinson’s Spanish class at Stoneham High, where I learned the phrase, “Donde esta la bibliotheca?”
If I recall correctly, it means, “Where is the library?” If I recall incorrectly, it means, “There is an otter in my sink.”
I never understood why I needed to learn that phrase. If I go on vacation to a Spanish-speaking place, I don’t want to spend time in the library unless it’s raining or snowing.
We make our way to a very nice, though not elaborate Holiday Inn. Spring Training trips usually involve seeking out the cheapest lodgings possible. Our benchmark for Spring Training is that if the place doesn’t have chalk outlines on the floor, it’s acceptable.
Jan. 13---To paraphrase LeBron James, we take our talents to South Beach. Our hotel, The Chesterfield, is in the Art Deco District, named for famous architect Arthur Deco (not really).
The buildings are from the ‘20’s through the ‘50’s and are three stories high (mostly) and divided in three sections both vertically and horizontally.
After checking into our tiny room we dine outdoors for the first time in months. The Art Deco buildings have their neon lights on and with the constant Latin music playing, one feels like one could be in Havana in 1957. In fact, there’s actually a restaurant called, Havana 1957.
Another we do thing to do that would not be possible back home is sit outside to watch a movie. We pick out a nice spot on the lawn to see The Queen, which stars Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth dealing with the death of Princess Diana. Think of the movie as Downton Abbey: The Next Generation.
Suddenly a mouse runs out of the bushes and comes within a couple of feet of me until I scare him away. I’m pretty sure it was a mouse. Yes, it was a large mouse but definitely a mouse. Yup, I’m going with mouse.
Later, we walk along the boardwalk, which is a series of restaurants. Each restaurant has at least one person, usually an attractive young woman, trying to convince passers by to stop in. The hookah bar hostess is dressed the most provocatively, looking like a real hookah.
Jan. 14---It’s overcast with occasional drops but that doesn’t stop us from taking the Art Deco architecture walking tour. Our exercise then continues with a walk along the beach. It starts to rain more heavily but we have brought an umbrella, so we’re safe. Besides, it’s still 30 degrees warmer than back home.
Rainy days are good museum days and the Holocaust Museum is an option…that we reject. Sure, we should all go there once in our lives but not while on vacation.
At night we head to Señor Frog’s where the dance music is constant, the daiquiris flow and the bar stools are shaped like buttocks that have a thong painted on the back of them. A bachelorette party dances on the platform while another party twerks. I’m so disgusted I leave after the second drink.
Jan. 15---Heavy rain falls so another museum seems in order and there’s one near our hotel that the staff tells us is just one stop on the Metromover trolley. Unfortunately, we can’t find that stop and walk three blocks through torrential rain, near-gale force winds and several deep puddles and get soaked. Then again, it’s still warmer than back home!
The Pérez Art Museum features modern art that ranges from thought provoking to boring. At least we’re able to find the Metromover to get back to the hotel.
Jan. 16--- Finally! The Miami weather we’ve come to expect, hope for and dream of arrives. It’s sunny, warm with temperatures reaching the mid 70’s. We take a boat cruise around Miami Harbor and the guide points out homes where many celebrities live such as Antonio Banderas, Jackie Chan and Jackie Gleason. I can’t verify these claims.
Later, we take a walk up to Little Havana, home of the largest wooden chicken statues in the world (I’m guessing here). There are several lining the streets and reason for their existence, according to one source, is as a tribute to the chickens roaming the streets there. Indeed, we pass one rooster crowing from a low tree branch in mid-afternoon.
Apparently, he’s on Asian Pacific time.
The beautiful weather presents one problem, however. It’s the day of the Patriots-Kansas City Chiefs playoff game, which I very much want to see. With a gorgeous day finally upon us, we don’t want to spend it inside, watching TV.
The solution turns out to be a daiquiri bar down by the harbor, where we took the boat tour. This way we get to watch football and enjoy the nice weather.
Jan. 17---Back to Boston where a jacket is once again required. At the end of the evening I look out the front door to see that it’s snowing outside.
I just may have to spend some time in la bibliotheca.
By Dan Margarita
To mark the beginning of a new year, I’d like to celebrate by going back 100 years. Recently, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s completion of his Special Theory of Relativity. Okay, we celebrated that anniversary in November but there was a lot of stuff going on so yeah, I’m a little late to the party. I prefer to think I’m “fashionably late” to the party.
So now I’d like to explain Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity to you. I’d like to explain it to you, but I don’t understand it so I can’t explain it to you.
It’s not like I haven’t tried to figure it out. I’ve read paper after paper purporting to make the theory simple and each time it seems that it would be easier to teach a monkey to fly an airplane than for me to learn Einstein’s theory.
I even went to Einstein’s Special Relativity for Dummies and couldn’t understand it. It's not helpful for one's ego when one is baffled by something in a book specifically labeled "for Dummies."
That being said (written, technically), I’m going to pass some of the stuff from the “Dummies” website along and see if you can figure it out. Maybe then someone can explain it to me.
Actually, though completed in 1915, it was in 1905 that Einstein published the first part of his “Theory of Special Relativity.” Oh, it’s special relativity, la-di-da.
The opening of the “Dummies” online page says that the theory explains, “how to interpret motion between different inertial frames of reference.”
I’m already lost and that’s just the first sentence.
The next paragraph goes on to use an analogy where you and an astronaut named “Amber” are traveling in different spaceships and if you shine a light in your spaceship, she will view your light beam the same as you would if you’re both traveling at the same speed but if you’re traveling at different speeds, your light beam will appear to Amber to be bending.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Einstein didn’t attempt to explain his theory to his colleagues with an astronaut analogy because in 1905 the idea of manned space travel was unfathomable, as probably was the idea of someone naming their daughter “Amber.”
1905 was a big year for Einstein. He had four papers published in the Annalen der Physik, one of the preeminent scientific publications of its time. Their centerfolds were legendary. It’s impressive to think he could have four papers published in one year when for decades I haven’t been able to get one of my letters published in Penthouse.
It was in his fourth paper that Einstein came up with the equation E=mc2, suggesting that tiny particles of matter could be converted into huge amounts of energy and also that one day it would look cool on T-shirts.
Einstein finished his theory in 1915 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. His wife was awarded the money for the Nobel Prize for Physics in their divorce settlement.
Einstein didn’t stay a bachelor for long, though. Just a few months after divorcing his first wife, he got married again…to his first cousin, thus explaining his nickname, “Jerry Lee Einstein.” At least she was older than 13…I think (I hope).
Mind you, marriage apparently didn’t interfere with Einstein’s love life. He is known to have had affairs with numerous women. Not only is this known to us, it was apparently also known to his wife because he wrote about them in letters to her. Nice move, Einstein.
In fairness, when you’re a world-famous scientist the women are probably going to be throwing themselves at you, what with that enormous brain hiding under that wiry mop on top of your head. You know what they say about men with big brains…they’re really smart.
Tesla couldn’t turn around without being hit on by one of “Tesla’s Trollops.”
Thus, Einstein became a star of the lecture circuit and academia and was loved by those academia nuts (worst pun ever!).
Speaking of brains, after he died, the pathologist performing the autopsy removed Einstein’s brain…without getting permission from Einstein’s family. Presumably, this pathologist assumed that other scientists would be interested in studying Einstein’s brain to see why he was so unique. At least I hope so and it wasn’t some sort of weird fetish that made his basement a CSI crime scene.
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity revolutionized the world and is a major factor in much of the technology that surrounds us today. At least, that’s what I’ve read but I have no clue.
Maybe one of my relatives does.
2015-The Year In Review
2015: The Year In Review
By Dan Margarita
Once again it’s time for my annual “Year in Review” column, which I write every year, hence the term “annual,” like that joke…and that joke about that joke (I could go on a while).
I have to admit that for the first time in my fifteen or so years of doing this column I considered not writing a Year in Review column for 2015 because, let’s face it…there were so many terrible things that happened. I thought about changing it to a “My Year in Review” but then regular readers of this space are aware that my year was not so great, either. However, all I had to do was look up and see that one of the first notable stories of 2015 was about Sarah Palin and I took it as a sign from above that I was meant to write jokes. Besides, if I don’t do my YIR column, the terrorists win.
So, here are some (but not all) of the highlights (and lowlights) of 2015.
January 18 - The New England Patriots defeat the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 to become AFC Champions despite the Colts accusation that the Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady is known to let air out of the football. The accusations lead to “Deflategate” where the Colt’s mommy, er, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspends Brady only to have it overturned in court. The Patriots go on to win Super Bowl XLIX and secure the coveted Lombardi Trophy. Tom Brady goes home to celebrate with his coveted trophy wife.
February 24 - The use and possession of marijuana becomes legal in Alaska. Alaskan voters can now openly explain how electing Sarah Palin to the state’s top office seemed like a good idea at the time.
March 2 - The New York Times reports that, during her time as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was using her personal email for official business. Later reports indicate that Bill Clinton was using his personal email for monkey business.
March 3 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner. However, Netanyahu’s mother doesn’t find out about it for three days explaining, “He never calls.”
April 24 - During an interview with ABC, former Olympian and reality star Bruce Jenner tells Diane Sawyer, “Yes, for all intents and purposes, I am a woman.” Jenner breaks down though, when he is forced to admit to having married a Kardashian.
May 17 – The Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to her second child, weighing 8lbs 3oz. That is, the child weighs 8lbs, 3oz, not the Duchess. The child will be known as Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. She will also be known as Her Royal Fodder For Paparazzi.
June 16 - Rachel Dolezal resigns head of the local NAACP in Spokane, Washington, and states to Matt Lauer during an interview on The Today Show that she identifies as black. She also identifies as “unemployed.” In a moment of candor, Matt Lauer identifies as a “journalist.”
June 26 - The Supreme Court rules 5-4 in favor of same-sex marriage, making it legal in all 50 states and in the opinions of us confirmed bachelors (gay or straight), advisable in none.
July 14 - NASA's New Horizon spacecraft completes its first-ever flyby of Pluto, giving researchers an up-close look at the planet. Wait, wasn’t Pluto declared to no longer be considered a planet a few years ago? Make up your mind, NASA!
August 20 – Greece receives the first portion of its third bailout, worth up to $86 billion Euros. Meanwhile, my cousin Lenny continues to either ignore or not recognize the several hints I give about the $20 he owes me.
September 18 - U.S. regulators say that Volkswagen has programmed some 500,000 vehicles to emit lower levels of harmful emissions in official tests than on the roads. The German carmaker admits to the deception claiming that it was, “only following orders.”
October 29 – Paul Ryan officially becomes the 54th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, replacing the retiring John Boehner. Former Speaker Boehner tells reporters that he’s looking forward to spending more time with his tanning booth.
October 27 – The Kansas City Royals win the World Series, their first World Series win in 30 years despite having only a $110 million payroll. The Boston Red Sox, with a payroll of over $166 million finish in last place in their division for the third time in four years. In a brilliant public relations move, the Red Sox announce that ticket prices will increase 1.4 % in 2016.
Nov 1 – This is when the Kansas City Royals actually won the World Series in Game 5 but everything else that happened in November was horrible so the World Series post will have to cover both months.
December 14 - Legendary rocker Dan Margarita releases his CD, “Put It On The Vinyl.” The CD, which many critics call “for sale,” and individual tracks can be downloaded at www.danmargarita.com.
There you have it.
May you all have a joyous, peaceful and loving 2016.
Married, With Jesus?
Married, With Jesus?
By Dan Margarita
Jesus was capable of miracles, as The Bible tells us. He could heal the sick, turn water into wine and walk on water. Apparently, it’s possible he was also quite the stand up comic.
A recent story in The Boston Globe focused on a piece of ancient papyrus discovered a while back, which contained the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…”.
Sadly, that’s where that fragment of parchment ends. Wouldn’t we all love to know what the rest of that sentence says? I’m going out on a limb and guessing that the next line wasn’t, “is so fat…”
For all we know the author of the papyrus was the entertainment reporter for The Bethlehem Times and was reviewing Jesus’ stand up act at The Bethlehem Funny Bone.
Presumably, he’d be the headliner. I mean, millions of people are followers of Jesus but you probably wouldn’t want to be the comic following him on stage.
He’d have to be the headliner, of course because it’s hard to top credits like, “Lord and Savior, King of the Jews and The Messiah.”
Naturally, some of the standard terms used in comedy today would have to have been different.
If Jesus had a good set you wouldn’t want to say, “Jesus killed!”
The papyrus in question was debuted by a Harvard Professor named Karen King, who called it, “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”
As you can imagine, this caused quite a firestorm.
Historians know that there have been many translations of The Bible and that various texts have been inserted or omitted depending on the political or religious climate of the time.
Eventually, The King James Bible became the accepted standard text for the English Speaking world. Many texts like The Dead Sea Scrolls have since come to light and offered either similar texts to the standard version or alternative versions of the texts.
Thus, any new texts are either ignored or considered dubious and many are crying “fraud” over The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. Carbon dating tests place the papyrus in ancient times, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a forgery, as some have claimed.
This begs the question, who would create a forgery and why? Was this a 14th century novel, perhaps The Da Vinci Code of its time?
Would Tom Hanks play Jesus in this one? If anyone could, you know it would be him. I mean we’re talking serious Oscar buzz there.
The idea of a married Jesus would perhaps throw The New Testament into a whole new light. Presumably the best candidate to be Jesus’ wife would be Mary Magdalene. After all she is mentioned at least a dozen times in the four Gospels. Most importantly, what would married life be like for Jesus?
I’m assuming this is no ordinary husband and wife combo, although I guess they would have been the world’s most famous “power couple” of their time. In fact they would have been the most powerful “power couple” of their (or all) time.
Like all power couples, a cute name would likely be derived, i.e. Billary, Bennifer and Brangelina for this pair. I propose that this couple would be named, “Jesdalene.”
Domestic life would certainly have been interesting.
“What’s for dinner, honey? Loaves and fishes…again?”
Of course, they sure would be a great couple to invite to parties.
“Let’s make sure we bring a bottle of wine…or water and then, you know…”
The holidays would probably be rough, what with trying to shop for “Dad.” I mean, what do you get the guy who created everything?
Now we have embarked upon the Christmas season, the time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Actually, no one knows when Jesus was really born (and you thought getting a hold of Obama’s birth certificate was tough) and many Christian traditions were taken from Pagan festivities but that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate peace and goodwill towards others at this (or any) time of year.
Anyway, if I offended any Christians with any of these jokes, I sincerely and most humbly apologize. It was my intent to amuse and not offend and I hope you will forgive me.
I mean, you kind of have to.
Nice to Meat You
Nice To Meat You
By Dan Margarita
I was never a big fan of steak. I figure there were two reasons for this: 1. As a teacher, my dad couldn’t afford the best cuts of meat and 2. My mother was a lousy cook. To us, Italian food meant Chef Boyardee.
Now The WHO, that’s The World Health Organization and not the rock band The Who, (who, as 1960’ and ‘70’s rock stars undoubtedly ingested their share of carcinogenic chemicals) announced that processed meat likely causes cancer and red meat may also lead to cancer, according to The WHO and not The Who. To the best of my knowledge, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend have yet to weigh in on the controversy.
Naturally, “Big Beef” isn’t about to take this lying down and finds themselves in a pickle and hoping to ketchup to their opponents, who clearly relish the new findings. The North American Meat Institute (I can’t even imagine what their school mascot is) says, "Cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods” and stressed the importance of lifestyle and environmental factors.
This is a fair point, but I think there’s a reason that no one ever coined the phrase, “a steak a day will keep the cardiologist away.”
Processed meats include bacon, hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, beef jerky and canned meats. If you’re eating these things every day then you probably have a lot of other things to worry about to go along with the cancer risks, such as heart disease, obesity and probably heart-wrenching loneliness.
The WHO based their finding based on some research by 22 scientists in their Lyon, France office. The scientists looked at 800 studies from several continents, because why do the work yourself when you can aggregate other people’s work and call it your own? That was a successful business model for The Huffington Post.
Presumably the scientists celebrated their finding with a nice filet mignon.
Dr, David Agus, one of the world’s leading cancer specialists and who is a mere “n” away from being red meat himself, told CBS News that processed meats can “slightly increase your risks” and if you have a hot dog every day that risk goes from 5 percent to 6 percent. The chance of me going to a ballgame and not getting a hot dog is 0 percent.
He went on to say three and a half servings of regular meat per week appear to have no negative health consequence. Of course, there is a negative consequence if you ever try to ask a woman for a date by suggesting they have a “serving of regular meat” together.
Experts say that red meat can also provide essential amino acids, iron and vitamin B12. I think the beef industry should simply play up this fact. Instead of commercials of tasty looking burgers on a grill, how about an ad where anthropomorphic vitamins are shown protecting your autoimmune system to the tune of a cute jingle?
After all, those of us of a certain age still know what kind of kids ate Armour Hot Dogs. It was fat kids, skinny kids, kid who climbed on rocks. There were tough kids, sissy kids and even kids with chicken pox. I would love to see the folks at Armour try to put out an ad mentioning “sissy kids” in this politically correct era.
Clear Foods, a company that examines food on a molecular level, published a study saying that 10 percent of all vegetarian products contain meat. That must be the ultimate vegetarian nightmare. That same report also had other things to say about what is in hot dogs, but you may be eating dinner as you’re reading this, so I will spare you that info.
In an even more recent study, Dr. Xifeng Wu of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center says that grilling and barbequing meat can increase the risk of kidney cancer.
"Limit the amount of time the meat is cooked at really high temperatures or over an open flame resulting in burning, smoking, or charring of the meat," said Dr. Wu who is clearly not a native of Texas and was last seen being chased out of town by local residents with torches and pitchforks.
In the end, experts advise something that people have suggested for centuries for everything in general…moderation.
Who can have a beef with that?
By Dan Margarita
It’s that time of year, kids! Halloween! When we celebrate the occult, the undead and ghouls, by giving candy to children. Sleep well, kids!
Halloween is also known as “All Hallows’ Eve,” because it precedes “All Hallows Day” as any “Eve” would precede a “Day,” just like New Year’s Eve precedes New Years Day (duh). Another name for All Hallows’ Day is “All Saints Day,” which (according to Wikipedia) is the day of the year that various Christian denominations “honor all of the saints, known and unknown.”
I’m not sure how you honor someone who is unknown.
“Here’s to whomever they are, for doing whatever it is they did!”
Nor am I sure why any saints would be unknown. It seems like the church has historically been pretty good at record keeping. Didn’t they write down the names of saints on a scroll somewhere?
Children like to dress up in various costumes and approach strangers’ houses and demand confectionary treats. It’s really the only time of the year when such a tactic is advisable.
Adults also like to dress up in costumes and attend parties but their costumes are often far less innocent than that of their offspring. This is especially true if you are a female (and you know who you are).
Oh, ladies you have numerous options. You can be a: sexy cop, sexy nurse, sexy doctor (because the costume industry wants to see women break through those glass ceilings in the medical field) and for the blue-collar workers among you there is always the French Maid option.
Of course, sometimes adults will dress in costumes that only adults should dress in and if your child wore that costume to school, you would visited by Social Services.
The term “monster” has numerous connotations, but regarding Halloween we often think of monsters like, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Mummy, all of whom became classic monsters courtesy of the great movies from Universal Studios in the 1930’s.
Another great Universal “monster” movie/creature is The Invisible Man. I’ve actually gone to many parties dressed as The Invisible Man. At least that’s what I told people.
Then, as now, successful movies inspired sequels galore and so after Frankenstein, Universal gave us Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein.
Boris Karloff starred in all of these but technically, the monster was never “Frankenstein.” No, that designation belongs to the guy who created the monster as well as the heirs of that guy, all of whom tried to rehabilitate the family name by subsequently reviving the creature and I think we all know how that worked out.
The Dracula sequels continued with Son of Dracula and Dracula’s Daughter. No mention is made of whether or not they were conceived during Dracula’s honeymoon.
Oh, the monster glass ceiling was shattered for women with films like, Captive Wild Woman, Jungle Woman and Weird Woman. If being “weird” makes one a monster then I guess many would consider me a hideous beast.
Universal rounded out the 1940’s with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (a pretty good film, actually) and Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff. Yes, they actually identify Boris Karloff the actor as a killer in the title of the movie. I suspect that movie was made before Karloff got a new agent.
Another use of the term “Monster” would be for real-life monsters such as serial killers and the like and if you have your child dress up as Jeffrey Dahmer, maybe you should be getting a visit from Social Services.
Unfortunately, history has made monsters out of those who were merely born with what we would now call birth defects. These things were not understood in ancient times and sadly those people were treated as something less than human.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame features one such example. He is a poor unfortunate soul that is deemed an outcast because his appearance and shunned by society. Described as “deformed at birth” and made deaf by ringing church bells, perhaps modern medicine might have been of assistance to him, although even in the Middle Ages putting in some earplugs while ringing church bells might have been a good idea.
The Phantom of the Opera presents another such character, although he goes on to do horrible things, so yeah, he really is a monster and not because of his appearance.
So, watch a scary movie, enjoy, eat some candy and oh, yeah…boo!
By Dan Margarita
As I have noted on occasion in this space, my last name is Italian and not Spanish. This is an understandable mistake since my name is spelled like the drink and not the pizza of the same name.
The name is Italian though, and since this is Columbus Day I shall explore my Italian roots. Oh, I won’t get into the whole Columbus/genocide/smallpox stuff. I’ll leave that to others.
On my mother’s side I am of Irish ancestry, with McGillicuddy being her family’s name and the reason she didn’t like Lucille Ball, who made fun of that name in her show I Love Lucy, claiming it as her character’s maiden name.
I think that my physical characteristics tend to favor my mother’s Irish side, what with my fair skin and high forehead like my Mum. If one were meeting me for the first time, one might be more inclined to think me Irish and not Italian.
There are some Italian aspects to me, however; more specifically, my forearms. Yes, I know it sounds bizarre but in the summer sun my forehead burns red like a good Irishman but I swear, my forearms just get brown and I believe that to be the Italian side of me.
I once found a book lying around the house called, Learn to Speak Basic Italian. With my family history usually focusing on my mother’s side of the family, this seemed like a good time to explore my Italian heritage and also take on an intellectual challenge.
I flipped through the pages of various phrases with their Italian language translations, and this one actual phrase in particular stood out:
“Your tall cousin has entered the room.”
I’ve never said that sentence to anyone in English. I don’t know why the publishers of this book assume that I would go to a country where I didn’t know anyone, and need to use that sentence.
If I don’t know anyone in Italy, how am I to know if their cousin, tall, short or of average height, has entered the room? Even if I knew it was their cousin, why wouldn’t I just say that their cousin has entered the room? Are there a lot of cousins entering the room and I only want to point out the tall one? Do you only have one tall cousin? Why am I at your family reunion? I spent all this money and traveled all this way to spend time with your annoying relatives? I want to see the Colosseum!
In high school Spanish class, if a student wanted to use the bathroom, that student would have to ask the teacher in Spanish for permission to use the bathroom. Thus, if you learned little else in high school Spanish, you learned how to ask to use the bathroom in Spanish. I must admit that I no longer remember this phrase as I have not had to use the bathroom in Spanish in 35 years.
The peculiarities of the Spanish language (that’s the one I chose to take in school because it was supposedly the easiest to learn…yeah, right) always intrigued me. Unlike English, some Spanish objects are assigned either masculine or feminine qualities.
This would only serve to confuse me when a teacher asked, “Is the chair masculine or feminine?”
Um, I haven’t checked. At no point have I ever turned on a room light and found the furniture mating.
Whatever amount of Spanish I learned in school didn’t seem to help whenever I turned on the TV channel Univision. The Spanish spoken there is said rapidly and probably more informally than is taught.
I imagine that this goes the other way, too. Some of the phrases taught (that don’t involve tall cousins) in school are usually taught in a formal way.
Where the phrase, “I am going to go to the store” might be something we are taught a foreign language version of, it’s not how we’d actually say it here.
“I’m gonna go to the store.”
Contractions and colloquialisms don’t seem to be taken into account in these textbooks.
Perhaps the Spanish phrase that I remember best is, “Donde esta la biblioteca?” which means, “Where is the library?”
If I spend a lot of money to travel, it won’t be to see the local library, unless, of course I’m meeting your tall cousin there.
Oh, if you were wondering what the Italian phrase for, “Your tall cousin has entered the room” is:
“Tuo cugino grande entrato in camera.”
Papal See, Papal Do
By Dan Margarita
To paraphrase the announcement that was made at the end of Elvis Presley concerts, Pope Francis has left the building.
Well, he left several buildings that he had entered while he was in the country. That’s pretty much how buildings work; you enter them and then you leave them.
The popular Pontiff’s visit was very much like that of a rock star, and in fact in many ways mirrored the arrival of The Beatles visit to America 51 years ago, except perhaps in order of appearance.
The Beatles famously arrived in New York and then traveled to Washington D.C., however the Pope made the opposite trek while in America. Also, the Pope didn’t appear on The Ed Sullivan Show.
In Washington the Pope met with (among others) Speaker of the House John Boehner. Well, Boehner was Speaker of the House until he had a meeting with Pope Francis. Boehner, a Catholic, resigned the next day probably after confessing his worst sin…being a politician.
After his visit to Washington and New York City, Pope Francis ended his trip with a visit to Philadelphia, where he celebrated Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before his departure.
Perhaps getting Absolution from the Pope on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway can be called an “EZ Pass.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had a website page that featured “10 Ways to Participate in Pope Francis’s (sic) US Visit.”
Yeah, I suppose that this is information I probably should’ve shared with you before the Pope arrived, but better late than never.
- “Take part in a ‘Virtual Pilgrimage’” with a series of prayers. Well, we are in the age of the Internet so instead of posting pictures of your lunch on social media, you could indulge in prayer to make yourself feel more connected to His Holiness.
- “Become ‘Pope Francis Literate’ by reading his two encyclical letters: Lumen Fidei and Laudato Si.” Cultural critics claim that people don’t write letters anymore. They certainly don’t write encyclical ones. Let’s hope that Pope Francis stops with these two letters though, and doesn’t make the mistake that Francis Ford Coppola did with The Godfather franchise by trying to make it a trilogy.
- “Stay up-to-date and read insightful commentary by connecting with the only news source founded and supported by U.S. Bishops, Catholic News Service.” Doesn’t Catholic News Service know that “pride” is a sin?
- “Have a Papal Visit Watch Party!” I’m guessing wine will be served.
- Download the “Catholic Church app on iTunes.” The Lord apps those that app themselves.
- “Respond to Pope Francis’s call to encounter by reaching out to those in need, supporting parish or community charitable efforts, acting to promote life, human dignity, families and religious freedom and by caring for creation. Find ideas HERE.” If you didn’t already have the notion that you’re supposed to reach out to those in need, you’re way behind in your Christianity.
- “Invite a non-Catholic or non-practicing Catholic friend to Mass next weekend so they can experience the joy of the Gospel!” I won’t invite a friend to Mass but I may invite one to N.H. or Conn. Seriously, I don’t want to be invited to a bris or some religious function of another faith so they should be accorded the same respect. I suppose that’s part of evangelism, though.
- “Engage in social media: use our hashtags #PopeinUS and #PapaEnUSA. Don’t forget to use some Pope emojis!” Okay, but whatever you do, never use a Mohammed emoji.
- Support those seeking to make Pope Francis’s visit a success by praying to the “Blessed Virgin under her title, Mary Undoer of Knots.” I know that I always got my mom to untie knots that I couldn’t. I would think that Mother Mary would do it the best! Sorry for being flip there but it’s just that in the time I spent in CCD at St. Pat’s School and Mass at St. Pat’s Church, I don’t ever recall the Virgin Mary being referred to as “Undoer of Knots.” Maybe I skipped that day.
After all, Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love so I suppose it is also the City of Holy Fatherly Love.
A Labor Day of Love
By Dan Margarita
Summer always seems to go by much too quickly, yet somehow winter manages to drag on longer than the calendar says is possible.
Thus, you will have to drag me out of summer kicking and screaming.
With football season now upon us I felt that it was imperative to get to Fenway Park to watch a Red Sox game. Sure, they’ve been pretty bad this season, although they’ve played better of late, led by some exciting young players. Still, when your team’s goal isn’t winning the pennant, but to simply not finish in last place (Yeah, grammar fans, I split an infinitive like Captain Kirk, “to boldly go”)…it hasn’t been a good season.
I hadn’t been to a game at Fenway all season though, and I always try to make a trip to “The Friendly Confines” at least once per season. I also wanted to get to see “The Boys of Summer” when the weather still seemed like summer.
There was a time when I would go to many games during the season. My lack of attendance these days owes less to adult family responsibility than fiscal reality. The price of tickets and concessions is beyond the reach of the average guy and I’m about as average a guy as a guy can get.
So, a reasonable option that I have discovered is StubHub, a website where people who are looking to get rid of tickets will sell them at less than face value. The one good thing about your team being horrible is that tickets are much more readily available.
The fact that it was Labor Day weekend made it less likely that good seats would still be available and not at such a discounted price, however. That proved to be the case as there were bleacher seats selling at the same price as the grandstand ticket that I eventually bought.
Section 16 of Fenway Park runs roughly between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. Sure, my seat was a ways back but still not a bad seat and certainly a better seat than the woman sitting two seats to my left, whose view of home plate was obstructed by a beam. The irony is that she probably paid full price for a worse seat.
She was a Philadelphia Phillies fan, as were many people in the ballpark since the Red Sox were hosting the Phillies. The Phillies are a terrible team in their own right, but thanks to a reasonably cheap and short flight courtesy of Southwest Airlines, combined with a holiday weekend, the Phillies were able to draw a respectable showing from The City of Brotherly Love. At least I assume that proximity and cheap fares account for the presence of so many Phillies fans and not some long-simmering anger over the Red Sox defeating the Phillies in the 1915 World Series.
Since I only work three jobs, I cannot afford to park in any of the lots surrounding Fenway Park, making public transportation a more money-friendly alternative.
If you’ve ever taken the MBTA (or “T” as it is more commonly known) and had to make change then you know that change given back to you is not in quarters or even silver dollars but in Sacagawea dollars.
That is to say, they are dollar coins featuring the likeness of the legendary Native American woman Sacagawea, who accompanied Lewis & Clark on their exploration of the American continent in the early 1800’s.
In recent years there seems to have been an effort to pronounce her name in a more authentic way, which is probably the least we can do after introducing Native Americans to smallpox.
The pronunciation that I learned in (I think) Miss McQuinn’s fourth grade class at Robin Hood Elementary School was, “SACK-UH-JUH-WEE-UH.” Now I hear it more commonly pronounced, “SUH-CAAH-GUH-WUH.”
This column also represents the most times that I’ve written about Sacagawea in one instance than I have total in the intervening 40 years since Miss McQuinn’s class.
Having only had $20 bills on me and getting $6 worth of transportation on my Charlie Card, I thus wound up with $14 in Sacagawea coins in my pocket (Sorry, Miss McQuinn but my math skills improved little despite your fine efforts).
New to Fenway Park and all Major League ballparks this season are metal detectors that fans must pass through when entering the ballpark. A sign at the gate states that items to be removed from one’s pockets include: cell phones, cameras and iPad tablets. This left me wondering if the vast amount of Sacagawea dollars in my pocket would set off the metal detectors (or cause my pants to fall down) but fortunately, they didn’t.
As previously mentioned, food and beverages at Fenway Park are quite expensive but since I was making a first and likely only appearance at Fenway Park, custom dictates that I get a couple of hot dogs, despite my recent efforts having a healthier diet. Plus, I was anxious to unload $14 in Sacagawea dollars that are useless in any vending machine. I mean, they don’t even accept Canadian coins, which couldn’t be any more similar to American coins so I assume they won’t accept Sacagawea coins.
It turned out to be a perfect summer day with Red Sox winning 6-2 and David Ortiz slamming a home run.
Things are looking promising for next season and I’d be willing to bet money that the Red Sox will once again be a pennant contender.
Well, I’d be willing to bet Sacagawea dollars.
By Dan Margarita
You say it’s your birthday? It’s my birthday too, yeah. Yes, it was on September 1, 1961 that I came into this world. It was earlier this year when I almost left it.
As noted in some of my previous columns, in May of this year I faced a health crisis, which has served to make me become more introspective about my time on this planet.
Thus, it seemed like a good time to look at exactly what the world, more specifically my world was like on the fateful day during JFK’s first year in the White House.
I don’t know when I was brought home to our dark brown house on Drury Lane, but I’m assuming that back then new mom’s were given a little more time in the hospital after giving birth than they are now.
Being the inquisitive type and needing something to write about, I spent some time at the Stoneham Public Library (an institution that has been important to my family and me), where I searched through microfilm to find out what was going on in Stoneham that week.
That week’s issue of The Stoneham Independent came out on Thursday, August 31, the day before I was born and had I been able to read in the first few hours of life, I would have learned what an interesting town Stoneham was.
It was an exciting week in the old hometown, as evidenced by the two top headlines, “Car Wash Granted Sunday Permit” and “Prospects Good For SHS Football team.”
Charles Cerretani was granted a “Work Permit” to operate on Sundays, after having been shut down on Sunday’s for a month for violating the Sunday Blue Laws, which forbade businesses from operating on the Lord’s Day. Fortunately for Mr. Cerretani, 629 Stoneham residents (and possibly the Lord) signed a petition stating that Sunday was the only day they could get their car washed.
The car wash opening on Sunday may not have been happy news to Virginia Guarino, who according to another front page headline, “Will Study to Become a Nun.”
Of course, the beginning of September meant then, as it means now, that a new school year is about to begin. Frank “Tiger” Burns (or whoever was the editor at the time) had no problem getting in a dig at the Stoneham kids expense.
“The Picnic’s Over, Kids, Schools Open Thursday.”
With school opening soon, much attention was focused on the Stoneham High football team, led by coach Wilbur “Whip” Halliday and assistants Paul Carey, Ralph “Bama” Rowell, Jack Feltch and Bill Hoyt.
Later generations of Stoneham High students found themselves chased down the railroad tracks behind Stoneham High by Bama Rowell, disciplined by Bill Hoyt and counseled by Jack Feltch.
Big things were expected from the SHS football team with Jackie Tole, “now a strapping 180-pounder” moving from center to end.
These days I think the waterboy is 180 pounds.
Michael J. Rolli asked the town to transfer his license as he moved his liquor store from the Star Market redemption center to 101 Main Street. It would be also be renamed, Redstone Liquors, a “packy” which still exists.
The most unfortunate headline involves a town worker whose leg was crushed on the job but fortunately, he was quickly rushed to the New England Sanitarium where he was expected to recover, perhaps under the care of Sister Virginia Guarino (Okay, I don’t know if it was a religious hospital or not).
Page two consisted mostly of “classified” ads but page three informed us that Stoneham had an adequate supply of gas on hand for the approaching winter.
Perhaps the biggest news on page five was that the “Stoneham Bowling Alley Completely Reconditioned For Start Of Season.” I wasn’t even aware that bowling had seasons.
The Cuban Missile Crisis would be over a year away but you would have been prepared for the worst if you contacted M.B. Joseph Construction, who specialized in building “Fallout Shelters.”
No doubt you would’ve been saved since their ad noted that their shelters were, “built to civil defense specifications.”
If you needed a 1961 Street List, which contained, “lists of residents by streets, alphabetical lists of women, alphabetical lists of men, streets and their locations and (the location of) Stoneham fire alarm boxes,” you could pick one up the Stoneham Independent office at 11 Franklin Street. You could also get one at Pullo’s Rexall Drug Store, Middlesex Drug Store, Frederic’s Pharmacy, Dearth’s Pharmacy, Lane’s Rexall (Drug) Store and Stoneham Pharmacy, which begs the question, “Why was everyone in Stoneham so sick?”
If your health deteriorated too badly you could also pick one up at The New England Sanitarium Gift Shop, or perhaps ask Sister Guarino to pick one up for you.
The world has changed quite a bit since then but I will celebrate the anniversary of my birth as I have every year since it took place.
Yes, I’m going to a party, party.
By Dan Margarita
I’m a warm weather person, though the few days of The Bowels of Hell weather we have experienced this summer is perhaps a little hotter than I would care for.
Still, it seems odd that the hotter it gets, I have to make sure that I have a long sleeved shirt in my car when I go out to dinner.
This is a constant topic of debate among people. When I was shoveling eight feet of snow this past February I was dreaming of warm weather where I could dine al fresco (that is dining outdoors, a concept apparently invented by noted Italian chef, Al Fresco).
Still, while I prefer warm weather to cold weather, I don’t need to be roasting. Nor do I need to be freezing when I could be roasting. All too often I’ll walk into a restaurant in July or August, when it is 95 degrees outside (Fahrenheit, because Americans never learned Celsius like Jimmy Carter said we would) and hope to cool off when in fact, I find myself freezing.
I’ve actually had to leave restaurants because they were too cold…in the summer!
Don’t get me wrong; I am a fan of air conditioning. I use it in my car and in my house on occasion. When it’s hot outside it can be refreshing to go into a mall or office building that has air conditioning. Why, some of my best friends use air conditioning.
What I don’t want is to have to dress inside like I have to dress in the winter when I go outside.
There have been various attempts to create air conditioning throughout the ages, with increasing levels of success. Having serfs fan you may have made you cooler but it didn’t do much for them.
The industrial age brought mechanized air conditioning about in the 19th century and in 1902, Robert Sherman, of Lynn, Massachusetts, invented the home A/C unit. Sadly, a large corporation stole his idea (Wikipedia is vague on what company) and he died penniless, but cool.
The New York Times recently had a story about a study published in the journal, Nature Climate Change (which of course is known for its annual swimsuit issue) about the ongoing battle of the office thermometer.
You know the story…men are comfortable and women wear sweaters and scarves.
The authors of the study, including a Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt (whose parents doomed him to a life of science with that name), contend that the formula for office temperature was developed in the 1960’s when men had total dominance in the workplace and if the TV show Madmen is to be believed, were busy drinking and jumping the bones of their secretaries.
According to the NYT the formula was developed using a version of Fanger’s thermal comfort equation (like you didn’t already know that).
Men still dominate the workplace in management though and are often inclined to wear suits, shirts with collars, long sleeves and neckties while women might be inclined to wear skirts and/or sandals.
A scientist, Dr. von Hoof, is quoted in the article as saying, “The cleavage is closer to the core of the body, so the temperature difference between the air temperature and the body temperature there is higher when it’s cold.”
No mention is made in the article of how Dr. von Hoof’s parents felt when they found out his expensive education that they paid for was for the purpose of measuring the temperature of women’s cleavage.
Well, they’re probably no more proud than my parents would be about me writing about it.
In essence women and men have different metabolic rates so they respond differently to room temperature. There are other basic differences between men and women but if your parents haven’t explained that to you by now it’s certainly not my job (but maybe you can ask Dr. von Hoof).
The other author of the study, a Dr. Kingma said, “men should stop complaining.”
“If it is too warm, the behavior thing you can do is take off a piece of clothing, but you can only do that so much.”
You probably didn’t think a science discussion was going to be so sexy, did you?
I know I certainly didn’t.
The Script in the Crypt
By Dan Margarita
For all of you writers out there, you’d better shred any uncompleted works before you check out of the big ballgame because someday…someone might read it.
The literary world is agog, or I think it is, if “agog” means what I think it means, because of the release of works of two literary world giants.
Harper Lee, author of one of the most beloved books in American history, To Kill a Mockingbird, has released a so-called sequel to the classic book called, Go Set a Watchman.
Well, she didn’t release it so much as Ms. Lee’s lawyer found the manuscript in a safety deposit box and, well here we are. Though “Watchman” is being billed as a “sequel” to “Mockingbird” it should be noted that it was written before the classic novel and rejected. Ms. Lee then reworked it into the beloved book we all came to know and love. Okay. Some of us only came to know and love the epic film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the white southern lawyer who defends a black man falsely accused of rape in a small town in Alabama during The Great Depression (which for those who lived though it, wasn’t so great).
In “Watchman” however, Atticus Finch is older and apparently a racist. So, instead of being the kind, empathetic Ward Cleaver of Leave it to Beaver, he is in fact Archie Bunker from All in the Family.
All I can say is I’m glad that at least this didn’t come out until long after the death of Gregory Peck, who played Atticus Finch in the classic “Mockingbird” movie. I couldn’t bear to hear that beloved actor playing that (formerly) beloved character saying, “Frankly Scout, I never much liked those people.”
Trust me, that works much better if you hear me do my spot-on Gregory Peck impression.
The other newly released book is one by Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Geisel called, What Pet Should I Get?
The good doctor had a fondness for rhymes and produced many beloved children’s stories. Like “Watchman” however, this new book comes from a manuscript discovered long after Geisel’s death (Harper Lee is still alive, though).
While fans of the two authors may eagerly anticipate the new releases, it doesn’t seem to occur to them that there’s a reason why these books were never released…they weren’t that good.
This would perhaps be the equivalent of The Beatles releasing their Decca Records audition tapes as a “new” Beatles album.
Decca executives have long taken heat for rejecting The Beatles but as any Beatles fan who has heard these tapes can tell you, they weren’t all that good.
No doubt they were nervous, and probably hung-over since the audition occurred on New Year’s Day in 1962. The audition featured covers of some terrible songs like, Three Cools Cats, The Sheik of Araby and Besame Mucho, and three Lennon-McCartney originals including, The Love of the Loved, Like Dreamers Do and Hello, Little Girl.
If Decca had signed The Beatles, perhaps they would’ve been encouraged to continue to cover and write such drek and we never would’ve had Can’t Buy Me Love.
If Geisel/Seuss left “Pet” in a drawer maybe it’s because he didn’t think it was good enough to publish. He might’ve still been tinkering with it with the intention of publishing it when he felt it was ready but died before he got to that place.
Certainly his classic books, like all art, went through several revisions until they were worthy of publication. Here are how I imagine some Dr. Seuss classics may have started out.
“The Cat in the Scarf”
“Hop On Father”
“Horton Hears a Noise”
“Green Eggs and the Resulting Intense Nausea”
“How the Grinch Stole Money Out of Aunt Edna’s Purse”
“The Foot Fetish Book”
“One Fish Two Fish Red Fish and I Can’t Think of Another Rhyme”
“Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Like, to the Moon, Alice!”
“Mrs. Brown Can Moo! (And it’s Rather Disturbing)”
“There’s a Wocket in my Pocket (Or Am I Just Happy To See You?)”
No artist is going to hit a home run all of the time. Sometimes you hit a single and sometimes you just plain strikeout.
Maybe I should have just left this column in a desk drawer.
To Pizza, With Love...
By Dan Margarita
See that last name? That one, the one right above where you’re reading right now…yeah, that one…it says “Margarita.” That’s my real name and not a pen name.
Sure, pen names are not unheard of for writers. Sam Clemens had “Mark Twain” and Eric Blair had “George Orwell.” J.K. Rowling’s real name is Joanne Rowling. She doesn’t even have a middle name.
So, it’s my real name and despite what people might assume, it’s Italian and not Spanish. Every now and then I get a phone call from someone speaking Spanish who automatically assumes that because of my name that I can do likewise. Fortunately, I learned just enough Spanish in high school to respond, “yo no hablo espanol.”
However, documents discovered after my father’s passing showed that at one time the family name was spelled “Margherita.” I don’t know when or why it got changed. It was not uncommon for families coming to America to Anglicize their name for easier assimilation.
If my last name were still “Margherita” I suppose when saying my last name people would say to me, “like the pizza?” instead of “like the drink?” which is what I get now. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Jimmy Buffett. I’ve been dealing with that song of his for over 30 years.
Indeed, when this column first appeared in this paper, it was called “Wasting Away in Margaritaville.” A previous editor, unaware of my disdain for all things Buffett thought it was cute and I figured, “Sure, you’re paying me. Whatever…”
With Italian blood flowing through my veins it is no surprise that I love Italian food. It is when I am eating pasta or pizza that I am most convinced that there must be a benevolent God who is also of Italian ancestry.
Regular readers of this space know that a little while back I had a health issue necessitating the implementation of a stent in a blocked artery near my heart.
This has forced me to somewhat radically change my eating habits. Though my doctors made a point of telling me, “This is NOT your fault” repeatedly, I can’t help but think that occasionally having a block of Muenster cheese as a snack did not help lower my cholesterol level.
One of my favorite places in the world is a place called Café Luigi in Bedford, Mass., home of the best Garlic Bread Parmigiana I have ever tasted. That is usually the appetizer that I order along with my Baked Ravioli Parmigiana. Once the dishes have been placed on my table a server usually comes by with a cheese grater and asks if I want some grated cheese. I then gesture towards my meal, which is saturated in cheese and say, “I think I’m all set on cheese, thanks.”
Who says I can’t show restraint?
Pizza hasn’t been a food to me but a way of life.
According to Wikipedia, the term pizza “was first recorded in a Latin manuscript in the 10th century,” most likely found under the windshield wiper of a centurion’s chariot.
It’s a little weird to associate pizza with Latin but it is probably the origin of the famous Latin phrase, “Carpe pizza.”
One must make adjustments as one gets older and often those adjustments come in the form of lifestyle changes. So, I must say good-bye to pizza. I thought that like any painful break up, I should probably do it in the form of a break up letter.
I love you. I’ve always loved you but I guess you’ve always known that. I loved you since I first met you through Francine’s Pizza in Stoneham and I loved you in all of your forms. From Mama Celeste frozen pizza, to Papa Gino’s (when they don’t burn you) to even when you’ve come to me as Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza.
We had a good thing but this just can’t go on any longer. They told me that you weren’t good for me but I wouldn’t listen.
Oh, I suppose you will pop into my life every once in a while and I will fall prey to your tempting ways. Who knows, maybe if we’re feeling adventurous we’ll ask a Brownie Sundae to join us for an awesome three-way but that will be just a quick fling.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll always have a special place in my heart. More specifically, you’ll have a place in an artery very close to my heart.
But in reality, it’s over.
Don’t cry. We’ll always have Francine’s.
Big Apple Bites
By Dan Margarita
After a grueling winter, a health scare and the aggravation of relocating, it was time for a vacation. The destination for my girlfriend Jane and me, as it has been for the last few years, was New York City. Okay, the vacation was planned before the health scare and the move; they just made it more necessary.
If you play your cards right you can escape to New York City without necessarily breaking the bank. You might have to bend the bank a little but it will snap back to attention soon enough.
The first cost saving measure comes in the form of booking a bus ticket. Fortunately, we came across $11 roundtrip tickets via Megabus. Of course to get such a fare, one must get up pretty early to make the 7:00 a.m. departure. This means taking a cab rather than risking the sometimes-problematic public transportation system.
Fortunately, we’re the first ones in line, thus ensuring that we get our pick of seats. Well, we were first in line until a young woman cut in front of us and asked the ticket taker, “Do I have to wait in line?”
“Yes,” he replied incredulously.
For reasons unknown the bus stops at a rest stop in Bedford, New York. Though I contemplate looking up “George Bailey” in the phone book (Yes! It’s July and I got an It’s a Wonderful Life reference in!), I opt to use the men’s room instead as it is likely to be preferable to the one on the bus.
The bus slogs through Harlem on its way to Manhattan and the driver feels free to give a running commentary on every bad driver he encounters. Dropped off at Penn Station, we hop in a cab to go to our hotel and experience the usual New York City “Cab Ride of Death.” For those of you who have not experienced this and want to know what it’s like, rent the movie Ben Hur and wait for the chariot race scene.
After checking in to our hotel we go to the TKTS ticket booth in Times Square where you can get discount theater tickets on shows playing that evening.
Many theaters “go dark” on Mondays though and we have just four options: Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera and Kinky Boots.
Since Jane had seen the first three, it meant that we would be seeing Kinky Boots, the story of a failing British shoe-manufacturing factory that is saved when they switch their product from standard shoes to flashy hip boots for drag queens.
I am not a huge fan of Broadway musicals but they can be entertaining. However, my tastes are more along the lines of Monty Python’s Spamalot or Damn Yankees but Jane is a big fan of musicals though, and theater night is her night.
Kinky Boots is an entertaining show about tolerance and acceptance, which is always a welcome message. Nevertheless, after the show I asked Jane in a deep masculine voice, “We are going to a ballgame tomorrow, right?”
The next day, trying to keep somewhat in line with my new heart healthy regimen, we decide that a brisk walk across the Brooklyn Bridge would be both enjoyable and healthy. Well, the one thing it wouldn’t be was brisk between slow moving tourists occasionally stopping for photos, plus construction that narrows the walking lanes. Though I have made this walk in the past, a new safety hazard has appeared in the form of “selfie sticks” that need to be dodged periodically.
Since Jane had “theater night,” tonight is my “ballgame night.” Off we travel to marvelous Citi Field, home of the New York Mets who would be hosting the Chicago Cubs.
Before the game we are treated to some live music from Country music star Easton Corbin. Okay, I’m not a Country music fan and I’ve never heard of him but live music is always nice. He thanked us for making the song he was about to sing a number one hit. You’re welcome, Easton.
I thought I had bought field box seats but I was in the mid-level section, which I didn’t mind since it was undercover and rain was forecast.
The ballpark holds 41,800 people but only 27,000 show up on the evening. With plenty of empty seats available the large man in front of us decides to take the opportunity to spread his arms over the backs of the adjoining chairs. I suggest to him that he might want to watch out that he doesn’t topple the beer in my cup holder, because it’s more polite than saying, “Can you get your armpit out of my beer?”
Both teams are mediocre and it soon becomes apparent why…neither team seemed to be able to hit starting pitchers that were throwing 88 m.p.h. fastballs.
With little offense, aided by the fact that National League baseball requires that pitchers bat, when the final out was made at 9:33 p.m., it ended a game that took 2:22 to play. When the final out was gloved by the centerfielder I looked at the scoreboard and noted that the Red Sox-Blue Jays game, which had started at the same time, was still in the seventh inning.
After the game we head to one of our favorite places, The Beer Authority. This pub has a rooftop deck where you can enjoy the night air while you have a drink…unless the rain comes, which it did. However, our table had an umbrella so we were able to weather (hee hee) the brief storm until it was over.
The next day, after a breakfast that pushed me even further over my two-eggs-per-week allotment (please don’t tell my cardiologist), is a beautiful one and we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry. Not that we wanted to go to Staten Island. I think even the people who live on Staten Island don’t want to go there but the ferry is free and provides a nice view of the New York skyline line, which now features the magnificent Freedom Tower in the place of the World Trace Center towers that were destroyed on 9/11. Plus you have the added advantage of annoying New Yorkers who are simply trying to get to work that day.
Then it came time for the bus trip home. Since we weren’t first in line we had to take seats on the top deck of the bus and were lucky we could sit together. Once underway it soon became apparent that the air conditioning was at maximum output. With our luggage stowed away downstairs and thus unable to retrieve a sweatshirt, we were left to suffer temperatures more suited to storing bodies in a morgue.
Eventually we resorted to taking Jane’s newspaper and spreading out as a makeshift blanket like two unfortunate souls on a park bench.
After everyone had grabbed their luggage, I said to the driver, “Do you need to blast the air conditioning like that?”
She replied, “We didn’t even have the air conditioning on.”
I assured her that freezing cold air was blowing on me and she realized that I must have been sitting up stairs and said, “Oh, we can’t control the air conditioning up there.”
Highway construction had delayed our arrival in Boston and instead of coming in at 10:30 we arrived at midnight, putting a subway ride home out of the picture, and thus having to pay cab fare.
Vacation usually means deviating from healthy eating to fun and unhealthy eating, but then again your mental health is important too.
The Non Masters
By Dan Margarita
Every now and then some guy corners you and to be polite you smile while he bores you with a golf story. Well, here’s my golf story.
The first time I golfed I was 26 years old, despite the fact the I grew up and lived about 150 yards from a public golf course, Stoneham’s Unicorn Golf Course. I didn’t golf again until I was 30. The fact that I didn’t possess a set of golf clubs might have been a major deterrent in this area.
One day I casually mentioned to my aunt Ruth that I had more seriously taken up golfing but that I always had to borrow clubs. Aunt Ruth was always wonderful to me and extremely generous, and although I honestly wasn’t suggesting that she buy me a set of clubs, I wasn’t surprised when she did.
We went to a local golf store and I picked the cheapest set of clubs I could find. The set didn’t include woods or a putter and I certainly wasn’t going to ask for them. I would just have to learn how to tee off with irons. As for a putter, I had one my father had used in the ‘50’s. Not the modern kind where at the end of the shaft, club head, which is shaped like half of a hamburger, sits about a half inch behind the shaft. My putter looks like something Fred Flintstone might have used, a hockey stick-like stub at the end of the shaft. You probably last saw them if you played miniature golf 30 years ago at Hago Harrington’s.
I try to get out at least once a year now and thus made the two-minute walk to Unicorn. Being a solo player, you usually get paired up with others for the sake of efficiency. I was offered the chance to join a young couple or wait for another group. I asked the couple if I could join them but being young and in love or having taken an immediate dislike to me, they wanted to be alone. So, I figured what the heck, I’ll go out ahead of them but before I could tee off the clubhouse attendant came rushing out and yelled at me repeatedly, “No onesomes!
Indeed, the course rules states no onesomes but it didn’t seem overly crowded.
“That’s why we have a sign! No onesomes!” he repeatedly yelled.
So, paired up with the next group, three guys named, Matt, T.J. and another Matt.
Matt (not to be confused with Matt) wore a T-shirt with a large picture of a skull on it. I was well aware that course rules state that one has to wear a shirt with a collar. I considered wearing a Def Leppard T-shirt and a dog collar, but it didn’t seem worth the effort.
The three of them teed off first and when it was my turn I warned them that this was my first time playing and I’d probably be terrible. I also told them that the last time I teed off from this first hole the ball and the club head traveled the same distance…about 40 yards. That got a chuckle from them but I wasn’t kidding.
After a few practice swings and some Ed Norton hip movements (“Helloooo, ball!”), I let loose with a vicious swing.
I did much better then last year’s opening tee shot. This time the club head traveled about 60 yards. That’s progress.
I should probably mention that both of these now headless clubs were given to me by my friend and landlord Paul, who had grabbed them from his late father’s bag and given them to me. I’m hoping he doesn’t see this column.
When we got to the second hole Matt and T.J. reached into their respective bags and pulled out a can of Budweiser. The other Matt lit up a cigarette, because…we’re athletes.
It was here that the following conversation took place when Matt told Matt:
“You look just like the actor…”
“George Clooney? George Clooney?
“William H. Peterson.”
“Who the hell is that?!”
Actually he did look just like William H. Peterson (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).
Course rules also permit removing your ball from an adjacent fairway without taking a penalty stroke, although I think it has less to do with altruism than wanting keep people from being conked on the head by golfers on that fairway and then suing the course. I took full advantage of this rule as well as preferred lies, subtle lies, damn lies and statistics. I did everything short of deflating the golf ball.
Somewhere along the way, Matt & T.J. pulled out another can of Bud. I would occasionally hit a nice shot, which gave me hope that my game would improve drastically (it didn’t).
As my ball flew through the air on one nice approach to the green Matt said, “That is sexy, Dan!”
He was unable to hear me mutter, “That is enough beer, Matt.”
Around the fifth hole we noticed a lone golfer behind us, a onesome, if you will. By the seventh hole he caught up to us to create a fivesome. It was anarchy, folks.
Golf is a maddeningly frustrating game that causes anger, stress and sometimes makes you want to throw your clubs in frustration.
Hopefully I can get back out there soon.
At The Zoo
By Dan Margarita
“Something tells me it’s all happening at the zoo/I do believe it/I do believe it’s true”----Simon & Garfunkel, At The Zoo
The Stone Zoo has been in my life and the life of every one reading this, for all of our lives (unless you were born before 1905). For the most part people refer to it as “The Stoneham Zoo,” which is an understandable mistake, and in one sense technically true.
The zoo is now under threat, however.
Recent news stories report that the zoo is in danger of losing its accreditation, which I think means that any of the animal’s academic degrees will be considered invalid.
A little history for you first…at least my history with the zoo. Once upon a time there was a Polar Bear named Major, who was the major attraction of the zoo (yeah, a real groaner, I know). There was also the aviary, a large glass enclosure containing various exotic birds and their even more exotic smelling waste that was enough to mentally scar a friend of mine towards a life-long fear of birds.
Then some 15 years ago I brought my niece Dayna when the zoo was probably at its lowest point. By this time Major was dead and the zoo was void of most forms of wildlife. I found myself trying to convince Dayna that the pigeons near us were exotic pigeons.
I noted the sign warning patrons not to feed the animals read, “We Bite.”
It seemed appropriate.
Then about eight years ago I went again to see if recent fund-raising efforts had paid off. Indeed, they had. The original configuration of animals in concrete pits, likely the standard of zoos constructed during Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, had changed.
Creatures were now in enclosures with much more foliage closer to their natural habitat.
Apparently, among the recent problems that zoo inspectors found, were nonworking electrical outlets (so the kookaburra can charge his phone) and insufficient fencing. Wherever you have several large man-eating animals, you want to have sufficient fencing.
Arriving a little before 4:00 I paid my $15.95 and was informed that there would be “bear training” at 4:00. I was hoping that this didn’t mean putting a bellhop’s cap on a bear and making him ride a unicycle. Of course, if they taught bears marketable skills that they could use when they re-enter society, I think that is something we can all get behind. The area for the two bears wasn’t overly large and I never did get a chance to answer the perpetual question about their digestive habits.
The bears were named Buddy and Bubba. They were rescued as cubs in Georgia, which likely accounts for someone naming a bear “Bubba.”
By the time 4:20 rolled around no bear trainer appeared and I had to move on, what with the zoo closing at 5:00. A zoo personnel person then told me that the bear trainer wasn’t there that day, so basically, I needlessly stared at a bear for 25 minutes.
There was the bald eagle, which I learned has a life expectancy of 16 years. Every time I read the daily paper I wonder if our democracy will last that long.
On to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which contained a Gila monster (which is not as frightening as its name would suggest), Jaguar (these animals travel in style), a cougar (I told her I was involved) and a coyote, who, despite all that I learned as a child, did not have two giant sticks of dynamite attached to roller skates that were strapped to his feet.
This was across from a group of about 20 pink flamingoes, one of whom I hope was named, “Divine” (I’m guessing eight percent of readers will get that).
On I went past a series of monkeys who are always fun, regardless of whether or not they’re in a barrel.
You have to look closely to see the alligator because he raises just enough of his head out of the water to see whether or not he has a shot at making a snack out of you.
The moose seemed unimpressed with my impressions of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
The trip finishes with a snow leopard, a yak, a black-necked crane and a markhor, which “lives in herds of 9-100 females. Males join in the fall for mating season.” Well, also to watch football.
The Mexican gray wolf was hunted to extinction in the United States, which may explain why he was nowhere to be found. You’d think he would’ve felt safe under Obama’s immigration policy.
The zoo was a nice place for moms (and a granddad) to stroll around with a young’un or two and on Sunday the parking lot is a good place for divorced parents to make the kid exchange.
There are several rules posted at the gate that visitors are expected to abide by and I made sure to follow them all, especially the most logical one:
By Dan Margarita
It is Monday, Memorial Day as I sit here and write this. Monday is the day that I usually write my column. I jack myself up on coffee, which helps jumpstart my brain, and then I go to town (figuratively speaking; I write at home). I swear, the caffeine really does help. The ideas come flying, fast and furious. Sometimes too fast because on occasion, my brain will be going at such a pace that I will think of something great but before I can write it down I think of something else and forget to write down the previous thing. My caffeinated days are over, however.
You see, last week while at work (I know you might find it hard to believe that a writer has more than one job to make ends meet) I began experiencing some chest discomfort. I had been pushing some heavy cases around when the discomfort took place. Though I’m not a doctor (nor have I ever played one on TV) my immediate conclusion was, “This isn’t good.”
Truth be told, I had experienced similar symptoms in the previous few weeks when exerting myself. Perhaps the wisest course of action might have been to immediately call for an ambulance, but instead I chose to go home, change and then drive myself to the Lahey Clinic in Burlington. While that may have been somewhat foolish, I knew from my previous experience that if I was at rest I was likely in no danger while driving and my risk assessment proved correct. Plus, though Boston is renowned for its great hospitals someone recently had told me of a bad experience they’d had with one of the Boston hospitals and I just felt comfortable going to Lahey, which is where my PCP and my medical records are located.
I called my girlfriend Jane but got her voicemail and so I left a message telling her where I was going and why. Thus on her drive to Lahey she kept her eyes peeled towards the side of the road on the possibility that I didn’t make it (I did make it).
Once admitted, I was given a stress test. This is where they put you on a treadmill and make you walk at an increasingly brisk pace until you have a heart attack or at least come close to having one.
My symptoms returned and it was declared that the next day I would be given a test where dye is injected into my system and if any blockages appeared, they would be dealt with accordingly.
WARNING: From here on in there may be some “TMI” moments and you may want to skip to the next column.
The procedure involves sending a device through an artery up to the heart. There are two possible locations for inserting said device, the wrist and the groin…I was really pulling for the wrist. That would be sort of a game-day decision by the doctor, though so both areas had to be prepared and ready. Thus there was the shaving of the wrist area and well…and if the other thing had to be done at least a cute nurse named Erin did it. Well, Erin started the job and it later was finished by a not-quite-as-cute nursed named George.
Indeed, there was a blockage so apparent that even I could spot it despite having no medical experience beyond being a huge fan of the TV show House, M.D.
There was a 90% blockage, which is enough of a blockage that it is given its own name, “The Widow Maker.” Since Jane and I aren’t married, I guess that saved me.
The doctor then inserted a device called a stent, which opened up the artery, allowing blood to flow more freely through the artery. I was told that if the blockage had been a centimeter higher, they would have had to do bypass surgery. Fortunately, America never went to the metric system.
One of the doctors, an Italian named Giuseppe Sarno (and when I say Italian, I mean from Italy and not the North End) told me I had to be careful with the area of the wrist where the stent was inserted.
“It’s-a not a vein. It’s-a an artery so if it-a goes, it’ll spurt like the Fountains of Trevi.”
So, I have a new lease on life. No doubt certain aspects of my life will change, primarily in the area of my diet. The bachelor life of pizza on any or even all days of the week will have to end. Also, my fondness for blocks of Muenster cheese as a snack will have to become a thing of the past, or else I will. Fortunately, Jane is being quite helpful in this area.
Thus, I will live to (attempt to) entertain you again.
I will just have to do it with decaf.
By Dan Margarita
Well, it’s official…Tom Brady is appealing. No kidding. My girlfriend has made me acutely aware of this for years.
Sure, there’s war, poverty, disease, famine, racial unrest and the like going on, but let’s get to what it is we’re all really concerned about…“Deflategate” (Microsoft Word is never going to allow anything with the suffix “gate” that isn’t Watergate).
Though you know the story by now (boy, if you don’t then you either don’t speak/read English or have been in solitary confinement for the past several days), but newspaper protocol dictates that I give a synopsis before proceeding further (plus, it fills up space).
The New England Patriots and quarterback/sex symbol Tom Brady were accused of deflating the air pressure of their footballs before the AFC Championship with the Baltimore, oops, the Indianapolis Colts. Sorry, I guess I was showing my age there.
Did two locker room attendants, previously known as people that nobody outside of their families had ever heard of, conspire to take air out of the footballs either at the behest of Tom Brady or even just do it knowing Brady’s preference for soft balls? (Add you own joke, thank you).
According to an NFL commissioned report, compiled by a man named Ted Wells, “probably.”
So…after several months, several interviews and several millions of dollars (okay, I’m assuming that one) the best that they could come up with was, “Probably”?
Okay, it’s not a court of law so the burden of proof is lower…I mean, much lower. About the only burden of proof that could be lower would be “women’s intuition.”
Well, Tom Brady may very well be guilty. I don’t care.
When the ball pressure issue was brought to the game official’s attention at halftime of the Colts game, they were re-inflated to the proper PSI level, which stands for “Pounds Per Square Inch.” Why that acronym wouldn’t be, “PPSI” I don’t know.
Then, with properly inflated footballs Brady went on to torch the Colts 28-0 in the second half. In other words, Brady could have used a rotting pumpkin and beaten the Colts.
The NFL has fined the Patriots, taken away two draft choices and suspended Brady for the first four games of the upcoming 2015 season. The first game of the season is a Thursday night, national TV game on NBC, who I’m sure is thrilled to have the league’s biggest star missing from its opening game. In case you were wondering, that was sarcasm.
With Brady out for four games (which will likely be reduced upon his upcoming appeal), the Patriots will get a chance to see if backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, drafted to be the heir apparent to Brady, has the stuff of burgeoning legend.
Let’s remember that Tom Brady himself was originally a backup QB for the Patriots. It was a vicious hit on then-starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who had led the team to a Super Bowl, which enabled Brady to show the world what he could do on the gridiron.
If Drew Bledsoe doesn’t go down with an injury, Tom Brady doesn’t marry a supermodel, plain and simple. Oh, he’d still have a pretty hot wife because I’m secure enough in my sexuality to admit that Tom Brady is one handsome fella (yeah, maybe using the word “fella” isn’t helping my case there).
I hope that none of this is making Brady contemplate doing anything rash because you see, Tom, you really have had a wonderful life.
Let’s take a look at what Tom’s life may have been like if Drew Bledsoe had never been injured, shall we?
The scene: The Zakim Bridge. Tom Brady, upset by the NFL suspension is contemplating his own mortality. Suddenly, a figure in a sweatshirt with a whistle around his neck appears next to Brady.
TB: “Who are you?”
VL: “I’m Vince Lombardi, your guardian angel. I’m here to show you what the world would be like without you. Your existence has made so many other people’s lives better. Take hold of my hand.”
TB: “Uh, no thanks.”
VL: “Okay, I’ll just blink, I Dream of Jeannie style.”
VINCE BLINKS AND THEY FIND THEMSELVES AT A FOOTBALL GAME FOXBORO STADIUM.
TB: “Wait, this is our old stadium. Where’s Gillette Stadium?”
VL: “The team never got that good without you, so a new stadium wasn’t needed. Look…the place is half empty. The team stinks because Drew Bledsoe was a good quarterback but not a great one. He retired and now their QB is someone who wouldn’t even be in the league if you didn’t exist.”
VINCE BLINKS AGAIN AND THEY ARE AT A WALMART. BRADY’S PATRIOTS TEAMMATE VINCE WOLFORK IS WORKING THERE AS A GREETER.
TB: “Oh, no! Vince never played in the NFL?”
VL: “Oh, he did but he got older and fatter and a mediocre team doesn’t want to pay a lot of money for that.”
TB: “Vince, where’s my wife? Where’s Gisele? I don’t know how you know these things but tell me, where’s Gisele?”
VL: “You’re not going to like it, Tom.”
TB: “WHERE IS SHE?!”
VINCE BLINKS AND THEY ARE IN THE BACKYARD OF A HUGE MANSION WHERE GISELE BUNDSCHUN IS SUNNING NEXT TO A SWIMMING POOL.
VL: “Well, I didn’t say everybody’s life would be worse without you.”
I hope that when the Patriots play the Colts this season that Brady throws for 500 yards and they win by 50 points.
In the meantime I think this proves one thing: I will pull out an It’s a Wonderful Life reference any time of year.
A Twitter Divided
By Dan Margarita
I’ve always had an interest in U.S. History that I attribute to my father, the late Bob Margarita, being a history/social studies teacher for many years at Stoneham High School. Pretty much every day for three years (mine was a three-year high school in those days) I would ride to school with him in the morning. Skipping school was not an option. For that matter, neither was misbehaving.
In fact, I had my father as my history teacher my junior year and it may or may not surprise you to learn that I did well in class. No, it wasn’t because he let me slide because I was his son. I was actually interested in history, as was the case with most things that hold my interest, I did well at it.
However, one time my father was sick and not in school, so I got a ride to Stoneham High from a couple of friends. I shall not name names here (although the statute of limitations has surely long since passed) but prior to picking me up they had partaken in the indulgence of a then totally illegal substance (of which I was not then and am not now a partaker thereof, though I don’t condemn those who do). When they pulled up I opened the back door only to be overcome by a wave of smoke that was not from an incense candle.
My father had given me a test for my class that I was to give it to the department chairman, Jim Campagna, who would administer the test to my class that day. Reeking of an odor that would have been obvious to the dead, which I was in no way responsible for and had nothing to do with other than be in contact of those who were responsible for it, I handed Mr. Campagna the test and assured him that I had not looked at it. That was a statement to which he responded with a look of utter disbelief and skepticism.
The truth is that I honestly hadn’t looked at the test because I felt that doing so would’ve been a betrayal of my father…plus, I didn’t need to look at it since I knew the material and I knew that I would do well on the test.
Thus, as a history buff and with the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War at hand, I have been reading a lot about our nation’s great conflict. Most recently I’ve been reading the dispatches between Ulysses S. Grant, Commander of the Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia that led to Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox. Well, I read those after I read the sports page.
Like most writing of the day the dispatches were elegantly framed missives with flowing language because that style was the norm of the day, or because according to historian Larry Kramer, they were all gay.
Communication has changed greatly since then and this makes me wonder how their communiqués might have appeared if they were written today in the age of Twitter.
Let me set the scene: Richmond, the Confederate capital, has fallen to Grant’s army. Both armies skirmish as they move west with Lee attempting to escape and Grant attempting to contain Lee’s army.
Grant, knowing that victory is imminent, tweets Lee about a possible surrender.
“@genleeconfedguy___face it ur losing war. whadda u say u give up? #victoryisnear”
“@gengrantunionguy___ha! not quitting yet. #notaquitter”
“@genleeconfedguy___kicked ur butt some more today. u sure u don’t want to talk about surrender? #notreferringtothecheaptricksong”
“@gengrantunionguy___ok i admit not a good day. always up 4 a chat tho. #stillholdingouthope”
“@genleeconfedguy___finally coming 2 ur senses. #:)”
“@gengrantunionguy___didnt say i was quitting. just happy to catch up. #amiablefellow”
“genleeconfedguy___im crushing u! 4 gods sake give up!” #slaveholdingbastard”
“@gengrantunionguy___not there yet. plz respect my feelings. #sensitivegeneral”
“@genleeconfedguy___c’mon lets end civil war. #tiredofkickingthecrapoutofu”
“@gengrantunionguy___is not civil war is war of northern aggression. #amatterofsemantics”
“@genleeconfedguy___ya i remember when union fort sumter aggressively withstood cannon fire and bullets to start this whole thing rofl. #delusionalgeneral”
“@gengrantunionguy___ok it looks like the fat lady has sung #yomama”
“@genleeconfedguy___yo mama is the fat lady #u-s-a! u-s-a!”
“@gengrantunionguy___omg u win. i give up. where 2 meet? #notgoingotdisneyworld”
“@genleeconfedguy___appomattox use ur gps. #amgoingtodisneyworld”
I’m glad that Twitter and its 140-character limit didn’t exist at the time of The Civil War.
I’d hate to see what is possibly the greatest speech of all time reduced to:
“4 score & 7 yrs ago…”
By Dan Margarita
Once again I was able to get away from the cruel New England winter (is there any other kind these days?) to make the trek to Spring Training in Florida, where the air is warm, the grass is green and for one week the real world doesn’t exist.
Mar. 21---I arrive in Ft. Lauderdale courtesy of Spirit Airlines, whose baggage fee page’s first line is, “Spirit Airlines has 25 different baggage fees.”
Their website is a nightmare to navigate and is likely to go down if the hamster running the wheel that operates it gets tired and takes a break.
We land in Ft. Lauderdale, or as the drunk young woman sitting next to me, who had been dancing from the waist up the entire flight calls it, “Miami, mother&$#*&S!”
Mar. 22---My usual Spring Training pals Jim and Rick and I head to jetBlue Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox and a mini replica of Fenway Park.
My seats are on top of The Green Monster, the replica of Fenway’s 37-foot high left field wall. I could never afford or have access to these seats at the actual Fenway Park, which is odd because they’re actually pretty bad seats. If you went to any other ballpark and got seats in the left field upper deck you’d be bummed out.
With the Sox clinging to a 1-0 lead I head to the men’s room and while in there I hear a prolonged cheer. It’s too long to have been a home run and I clearly missed something big. Then while at the concession stand putting mustard on my hot dogs I hear another prolonged cheer. Upon returning to my seat I learn that the first cheer was for a Mookie Betts inside-the-park home run and the second for a Hanley Ramirez three-run homer.
Sox fans seem to think the team’s pennant hope rely in getting a top starting pitcher but clearly the key to their success rests with my ability to go to the men’s room and buy hot dogs.
It may be a Spring Training game but they have Big League prices at the concession stands. Two Stella Artois beers cost me $19.50.
Mar. 23---Back at jetBlue for a Sox game, which is going well…until the skies open up in the bottom of the fifth inning, and the game gets rained out. 83 degrees and pouring rain still beats 25 degrees and sunny, in my humble opinion.
I bid Jim and Rick adieu as scheduling conflicts mean that our vacations only overlap. Instead, my girlfriend Jane joins me for the rest of the week. This is big, folks. No girlfriend has ever been on a Spring Training trip.
That night we stay at a ritzy hotel, much better than anything that Jim, Rick and I have ever stayed at. When traveling with the guys, accommodations are pretty plain and if a motel room doesn’t have a chalk outline on the floor, we’ll deem it sufficient for the night.
With a girlfriend however, more romantic lodgings are required. Though it cost a bundle, we had a romantic dinner on an outdoor deck at a marina. In 20 some odd years (with some years being more odd than others), I had never had a romantic Spring Training dinner (Sorry, Jim and Rick. I mean I really like you guys…).
Mar. 24---Having spent the night west of Fort Myers, we get up early for an anticipated three hour drive to Jupiter, on the East Coast to see the Sox play the Miami Marlins. Of course, you never get up early enough. There is no time to get breakfast or even stop for coffee. This is Jane’s first game and I think she fears that if we’re not there for the first pitch, the game will be ruined for me and she doesn’t want to be (in her mind) the cause of it.
It wouldn’t have mattered to me if we got there a little late but I appreciate her attempt to keep us on schedule (she had the rental car). Thanks largely to a 70 m.p.h. stretch of highway, we are in our seats just in time for the first pitch. This begins our stretch of incredibly good timing.
The Sox are up big until prized rookie pitcher Henry Owens enters the game and gives up six runs. In fairness, only four of those runs were earned…the other two were the result of an Owens throwing error.
Mar. 25---The best seats that I could get to see Marlins-Cardinals game are bleacher seats down the third base line, i.e. metal benches with no backs. When Jane enthusiastically belts out Take Me Out To the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch, the old guy sitting in front of us compliments her enthusiasm and questions whether she is always that enthusiastic in other areas, if you get my meaning.
He’s an old guy so I can’t slug him, but let him know he’s out of line.
Fearing that Jane’s interest might wane without the Red Sox being involved, I show her how to do a box score. She picks up easily as she is quite bright. I mean she recently showed me where I could find texts on my phone.
Mar. 26---Up to Melbourne to see the Nationals host the Mets. It is a 5:00 game, which is an odd time for a game. This provides us with a chance to go to the beach, though. Despite many Florida trips, I had never been to the beach, save for a brief time at an MTV style party with 20-something men and women who made me and Rick look like two fat old letches.
A GPS glitch sends us not to the beach with the free parking but to one with meters. With a beach trip in mind, we brought no change and I wind up going to Starbucks to buy water so I can get some change. The barista is kind enough to give me $2 worth of quarters, as well. Not wanting to push it, I go to Wendy’s and buy a water. Then I get back in line and buy another water, once again just for the change. The clerk refuses to give me quarters even though I just saw her get some from the kid in line in front of me.
With two and a half hours worth of change we set up on the beach but the waves and undertow are too powerful to swim in, especially for a non-swimmer like me.
Once again our timing is impeccable as we depart with three minutes remaining on the meter.
At the game woman in the row in front of us sits in front of Jane and takes photos of the rest of her group. She then continues to sit forward to talk to them, blocking Jane’s view.
My passive-aggressive technique of fake sneezing loudly so that she’ll want to move away from the germy guy fails, but the Mets fan sitting behind me catches on to my tactic and loudly says, “Why don’t you just say, ‘I can’t see. Would you mind sitting back?’”
The woman hears her and goes back to her original seat.
The forecast had been for thunderstorms but again it works out and doesn’t start raining until later.
Mar. 27---Our final game puts us back in Jupiter for a Cardinals-Mets tilt. The skies are ominous and indeed, just before game time thunder and lightening erupts but Jane & I are able to get shelter under an overhang from a concession building.
The rain stops and we enjoy the last day of warmth and watch former Red Sox pitcher John Lackey throw for the Cards and look good.
Probably the worst seats we’ve had, down by the right field foul pole, so we move over one section, where there are plenty of open seats. Eventually they fill in as older folks with “VIP” tags sit down. We expect to get kicked out but never do.
Wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates shirt by chance, many assume I’m a Pirates fan and try to engage me in conversation regarding the Bucs.
“Hey, that McCutcheon’s a great player!”
“Yes, he is! Go McCutcheon!” I reply.
Our final evening and we search for a place to watch NCAA basketball, but the rain has returned so we duck into the first place we stumble upon, a Scottish-themed restaurant.
The men wear kilts and the women wear low-cut blouses that make Hooters waitresses look like they’re wearing burkas.
Certainly not an intended destination on my part and I try to convince Jane that there’s equal opportunity leering and that the guys wearing kilts are hot but she isn’t buying it.
Mar. 28---Time for the fantasy to end and return to reality, i.e. home. Having left my jacket in a hotel room in Florida, I emerge from Logan Airport into the cold air and see something I’d avoided for a week…snow.
We’re not in Florida anymore, Toto.
By Dan Margarita
You’re probably assuming that by the title that I’m going to write about how we just had yet ANOTHER snow storm, but I’m being a bit coy here…I’m really talking about Liquid Paper. See what I did there?
This leads me to wish a very Happy 70th Birthday to former Monkees drummer Mickey Dolenz. Baby Boomers most likely get the connection.
Sure, part of this is my natural A.D.D. gift for…hey, look at that blue jay. Sorry…anyway, for those whose mind may not wander on its own, the Internet seems to be able to give a sense of what A.D.D. must be like. One thing leads to another, which leads to another. For example, you’ll start out with the intention of researching The Treaty of Ghent and 45 minutes later you find yourself reading the biography of Barney Rubble.
For those not old enough to get the connection between Liquid Paper and Mickey Dolenz, it was Dolenz’ band mate Mike Nesmith’s mother who invented Liquid Paper.
Also for those not old enough, The Monkees were a fictional band modeled on The Beatles and had a zany TV sitcom that was inspired by The Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night.
Part of The Monkees undoing came about when it was revealed that they didn’t play the instruments on their albums (for those not old enough, albums were sort of like a CD on steroids). Though Nesmith and Peter Tork were accomplished musicians, session players were mostly used on their records. Even as a kid when I watched the show and saw the band perform I could tell that Dolenz wasn’t really playing drums (although he eventually became a competent player). If he was even making contact at all it wasn’t at the same time as the drum sound that was heard on the soundtrack.
Heck, it was pretty obvious to me that sometimes their electric guitars didn’t have cords attached and even my uneducated childhood brain knew that an electric guitar that’s not plugged in is not going to make much noise.
No one was aware that The Beach Boys used session musicians though it should have been obvious that The Beatles probably weren’t playing the violins or cello on Eleanor Rigby, but it was The Monkees who were called out for using session players.
Rumor also has it that The Archies used session players but we’ll save that one for another day.
In this day and age of Microsoft Word, cutting, pasting and autocorrect we forget what a revelation Liquid Paper (or “White Out” as it was sometimes referred to) was back in the day.
According to Wikipedia Mrs. Nesmith worked as a typist and made so many mistakes that she, “strived for a way to correct them.”
A couple of things come to mind, here…
- How did she continue to maintain a job if she was terrible at it?
- Why didn’t she simply try to get better at typing?
- Why does MS Word not recognize the name, “Monkees”?
Those of us who put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper in the form of our computer take for granted the ease and swiftness with which we can make corrections.
If Charles Dickens or Mark Twain wanted to rewrite a chapter they pretty much had to start the whole chapter over again. Let us not forget that they didn’t even have typewriters. They were constantly dipping a quill pen into an ink bottle and carefully scratching it on the papyrus.
It’s a wonder that they ever wrote more than one book.
Furthermore, the beautiful calligraphy (a lovely form of writing not to be confused with a depraved Roman emperor) used by the Founding Fathers on the U.S. Constitution doesn’t appear to have needed any corrections (that I can see). Apparently Mrs. Nesmith’s great-great-great-grandmother had no hand in writing it.
Maybe there were earlier drafts that had screw ups and had to be discarded.
“We the People of the Untied…” “Wee the People…” “We hte…”
I can just imagine James Madison screaming, “Son of a female dog!”
Pretty strong language for the times.
Now, back to my research on The Treaty of Ghent.
By Dan Margarita
The cycle of life continues. Daylight Savings Time is about to arrive. Spring is on its way (well, tradition holds that spring will be coming but I’m starting to have my doubts) and winter will soon cease to exist.
People spend time on this earth and like the seasons, their time is eventually ended. Thus, I am personally mourning the passing of a dear friend, the late Rita Kelley.
I first met Rita when I was about 12 years old when I became friends with her son, Tom. Rita told us a cute if slightly ribald joke and I immediately concluded, “this is the coolest mom ever!”
Rita was a part of my life from that time on, whether it was taking us to Lake Quannapowitt for the July 4th fireworks or up to stay at her sister’s cottage at Hampton Beach for a few days.
I knew I could always count on Rita, if needed. One year when I needed a ride home after a colonoscopy, Rita was kind enough to pick me up for said ride. That’s how long I’ve known Rita…from when I was in sixth grade to the “annual colonoscopy” years.
In previous years my post-procedure condition was such that I could’ve driven myself home, if necessary. However, on this occasion I was perhaps either awakened too soon or given too much anesthesia since upon awakening I was staggering around like Uncle Billy at Harry’s wedding in It’s a Wonderful Life (as always, that movie remains a key reference point in my life) and found myself being held up by Rita as we walked.
Those that have gone through this procedure know that there is what I shall call a “cleansing” period of 24 hours or more that one must endure before the colonoscopy takes place.
This involves not eating anything and drinking a solution that…keeps one housebound for the rest of the night. Thus, when the procedure is finished the patient (me, in this case) is bound to be quite hungry what with not having eaten in over a day. So, Rita took me out to eat. I would’ve gone anywhere and I was offering to pay for both of our meals. Of course Rita would have none of this and took me to Meadowbrook, the private club where she and her husband Jack were longtime members, and Rita bought me a much-needed lunch.
In the later years of my father’s life Rita was also there when I needed her as I was unable to get home one day to feed my housebound dad. Somehow I had to get food to my father and with one phone call to Rita, dad had himself a roast beef sub for dinner.
Even in her most difficult time she was there for others. One day as I passed her house in my work truck, which was pure chance and an unusual event because my work was never in Stoneham, I saw Rita in front of her house. I beeped and waved and intended to proceed to my destination but Rita flagged me down.
“My son Jackie died this morning,” she informed me.
Still, after we spent some time chatting and mourning Rita then went and fetched a $20 bill to fulfill her promise of a donation to a charity that my sister was running that I had mentioned to Rita.
Alas, in the end I felt like I let Rita down. I kept intending to go by and visit with her but being the King of Procrastination and quite busy this hellacious month, I never got around to it.
To quote Archie Bunker, “You see…I’m not like most people. Death bothers me.”
Truth be told, part of it was that I knew that I would be a blubbering mess and I neither wanted to bring Rita down or have her see me that way. I feel terrible about that and will carry that guilt but I know Rita would’ve understood, what with her being the most understanding person in the world.
What I wouldn’t give to hear one more high-pitched, “Hi, Dan!”
So, farewell and rest in peace Rita Hooper Kelley, or as I liked to call her, “Ma.” You will be missed.
“Give us a wink and make me think of you”---The Beatles, Lovely Rita
By Dan Margarita
Where do I even begin? I suppose the best place to begin is at the end. I don’t think I’m being too presumptuous to assume that by now you’ve learned that the New England Patriots just won Super Bowl Several Roman Numerals.
If you are unaware of that fact when you read this you may need to see if you have a pulse.
I’ve been trying to figure out how I was going to approach this column. I didn’t want to just give a recap of the game because by the time most of you read this many others will have given a much better recap and analysis than I can.
So, all I can do is give a recap of what I saw and thought before, during and after the game. I hope that suffices.
Let’s face it, Super Bowl Sunday in this country is essentially a holiday. So, my girlfriend Jane and I had our own Super Bowl party, with her sister Dinah and Dinah’s fiancé, Jeff. I’m glad it wasn’t a large party because although those can be fun, I really want to watch the game and not get distracted by someone I might be meeting for the first time who wants to tell me about their child’s tuba lessons or their job in the furniture industry.
Like every superstitious fan I went through my pre-game ritual of donning eye black and putting on my Tom Brady number 12 jersey. That’s how superstition works, of course. I’d worn it the last two games and the Patriots won those contests and you know that if you deviate from your ritual and your team loses, it’s your fault. It doesn’t matter if they fumble, throw interceptions or get blown off of the line of scrimmage. If they lose, it’s because you didn’t put on your customary eye black and Tom Brady jersey.
Actually, I’d also worn my Brady jersey during their two previous Super Bowl losses and I considered not wearing it this time, but the jersey was a Christmas present from my late father so I decided to give it one more chance.
While Jane was preparing a variety of hors d'oeuvres in the kitchen, I was summarily ejected from the kitchen as my nervousness and enthusiasm was an unnecessary and annoying distraction to Jane. It was a far better call than the one Pete Carroll would later make.
Things started promisingly for the Patriots when they marched downfield on their second possession and looked like they were about to score when Brady, under some pressure, threw a horrible pass that was intercepted.
They did score in the second quarter, were matched with a Seattle touchdown after that and then scored with :36 seconds remaining in the half to go up 14-7. It’s always good to go into halftime with a score and thus some momentum.
Here’s a little trivia for you…every year America’s lowest national water pressure is at halftime during the Super Bowl because that’s when everybody takes the opportunity to make use of the bathroom and there is a national flush going on. So, with Seattle getting the ball with :31 seconds remaining after the kick off I decided to beat the crowd (small as it was) to the bathroom. I mean, how much could the Seahawks do with so little time on the clock? Then when I emerged from my detour I came back to find Seattle with the ball at the Patriots 11 yard line.
Etiquette for a small town newspaper prevents me from repeating my exact quote at the time, but let’s just say that it was questioning reality with an expletive.
Seattle scored to make it 14-14 at halftime.
This bathroom trip was much worse luck than I had in the Patriots first Super Bowl win in 2001. While I was availing myself of the facilities the Patriots scored a touchdown. Superstition being what it is, I almost felt compelled to remain in there, lest I incur the wrath of the sporting Gods or the wrath of my fellow game watchers.
Then I remember seeing Katy Perry riding a large paper mache tiger, changing outfits without having a “wardrobe malfunction” and singing while wearing a beach ball bra.
There were the commercials that included an insurance company with a real downer about a kid saying he’ll never grow up because he’s dead due to an accident. They meant well, but I imagine a few people needed to be talked down off a ledge after that.
There was a toenail fungus commercial with a cartoon foot with yellow nails and a big toe wearing a football helmet. One of the subtitles said to “apply to affected toenails for 48 weeks.” That might also be the length of time that I will need to eat food again after watching that commercial.
The Seahawks jumped to a 10-point lead in the third quarter and things didn’t look good. Jane kept a check on my heart rate, which had been excessive, the whole game. It was still racing.
Then Tom Brady added to his legend and led the Patriots to two touchdowns to give New England a 28-24 lead with 2:02 left to play.
Seattle had been playing well and got the ball to New England’s one-yard line when they made a play call that children who watched the game will still recall decades later when they are old people.
Malcolm Butler, who most fans had never heard of, intercepted a pass to preserve the lead and the game for New England.
I did my last “happy dance” of the evening (of which I made sure none were recorded) and my heart rate subsided.
So, the Pats pulled off an incredible victory with a little help from some eye black, Jane’s Stromboli and Dad’s Tom Brady jersey.
Of course, Mr. Brady himself was also a factor.
30 Years: An Introspective, Retrospective
By Dan Margarita
The thing about anniversaries is that they are usually all about reflection upon one’s life as to where one hass been, where one is, where one is going and why this person keeps calling themself, “one.”
Of course, a forgotten wedding anniversary has been known to lead to sleeping on the couch, divorce and in extreme cases, homicide.
This past Saturday (January 17) marked an important anniversary for me, as it was the 30th anniversary of the first time I ever received money for doing stand up comedy.
The year was 1985 (I did the arithmetic as a tribute to one of my math teachers at Stoneham Junior High, the late Al Lanni) and I had been performing stand up at now-defunct Stitches Comedy Club open mic for about a year.
I don’t recall the exact circumstances but I’m guessing that Mike Donovan, who hosted most of those open mics and would become a friend and mentor to me, (and for my money is still the funniest comic around) was probably responsible for getting me a guest spot on a Thursday night show at Stitches.
I remember nothing about the show itself but after the show, in the ticket booth/green room a club employee handed me $10.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Some money for you,” he replied.
I was on my way.
As for how I got started doing stand up, I suppose my story was pretty much the same as most comics’ story.
I was watching Eddie Murphy perform on HBO and thought, “This kid’s my age and making this kind of money for doing that? I can do that!”
Needless to say Eddie and I are still the same age but our incomes still don’t match up the way I’d hoped.
Mind you, I thought he was very funny. It’s just that I thought I was pretty funny too. Like most comics, I was innately shy, though. That seems to be contradiction to people but the saying that “humor is a defense mechanism” is true.
Of course, a .357 Magnum is also a defense mechanism. Cornered by several thugs with switchblades, I would rather be armed with more than a sharp wit.
I started showcasing in other rooms such as Play It Again, Sam’s. I did a set for the booker of that room, Barry Katz, and it went extremely well. I was very excited and after my set, not knowing anything about the business or anything at all for that matter, foolishly said to Barry, “So, when do I get paid?”
Ed Driscoll, a veteran comic who would become a friend (and later an Emmy Award winning writer) sarcastically said to Barry, “Oh, you’re paying for seven minutes now, Barry?”
I had properly been put in my place.
I started getting more and more gigs, which at this time were plentiful in this town (Boston, not Stoneham).
Then I set out on the road. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia…I got to see a lot of the country.
The great thing though, is that I got to see many parts of the country that most people don’t get to see. When you think about it, if you’ve traveled extensively than you’ve probably traveled to the classic tourist spots. There’s nothing wrong with that. I still do it.
However, those places, great as they are, are filled mostly with people who, like you, are from somewhere else.
You’ve probably never booked a trip to Monroeville, Pennsylvania or Johnson, Tennessee. Why would you? I wouldn’t but thanks to stand up comedy I went there.
I also went to Wooster, Ohio, which I deemed “America’s Most Boring City.”
I asked the motel clerk if they had a cinema there and she replied, “You mean like a movie Thee-ater?”
I answered in the affirmative and she informed me that they were planning on getting one, but in the meantime they did have a mall.
To commemorate the town I had a T-shirt made up with “America’s Most Boring City” on the front. The young woman behind the counter wasn’t too happy about it but she wasn’t about to lose a sale.
I met many nice people and saw some amazing parts of the country that most of you never will.
I made many great friends along the way and lost a few great friends like my dear late friend Bob Lazarus, known to his comic pals as “Laz.”
I also got to meet some celebrities (and got to know many before they became celebrities). Perhaps the highlight of my showbiz career was eating from Jerry Seinfeld’s pre-show food plate.
I chauffeured my friend Barry Crimmins to a show where he was opening for Seinfeld (this was before the TV show so Jerry was not yet an icon but still a well known stand up comic).
Someone was supposed to pick up Seinfield at the airport but missed him and in this pre-cell phone and Internet era, his whereabouts were unknown.
I hadn’t had a chance to eat and our plan to stop for a bite on the way to the show was derailed by our getting lost. By the time we got to the venue I was famished. There in the green room was a plate filled with cheese, crackers and grapes. They were for the star though, and I knew that I could not touch them without permission.
As management panicked while waiting for Seinfeld’s arrival, the cheese, crackers and grapes sat there taunting me as though they personally knew of my hunger.
Seinfeld finally arrived and Barry introduced us.
“Jerry Seinfeld, Dan Margarita. Dan Margarita, Jerry Seinfeld.”
“How do you do?” he asked as we shook hands.
“Good, thanks. Listen, I haven’t eaten and I’m starving! Do you mind if you have some of that food?
“Sure, help yourself,” he graciously said before I began gorging like a hyena feasting on its first kill of the winter.
The comedy boom eventually went bust and unlike many of my contemporaries I opted not to move to L.A. or New York.
I found a new venue when this paper agreed to host my ramblings and gave me a creative outlet to continue the cracking of wise.
To quote Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman,
“I’m just gettin’ warmed up!”
2014: The Year in Review
By Dan Margarita
Once again it is time for my annual “Year in Review,” which I do every year, hence the term “annual” (as is that joke).
Due the rotation of the schedule with my off-week counterpart, I am able to do the review with all the events of 2014 taking place. In previous years I might do it the last week of the year and hope that nothing major happened to comment on.
So, here you go...some (but not all) of the highlights and lowlights of 2014.
January---French President François Hollande is embroiled in a sex scandal when he is found cheating on his attractive girlfriend with an attractive actress. If you saw a picture of President Hollande, you’d know why this is a scandal.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman visits North Korea, virtually ensuring a lock on the Nobel Peace Prize. As a goodwill gesture, Rodman gives Dear Leader Kim Jong Un the entire series of the TV show Freaks and Geeks, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.
February---The Sochi Olympics take place in Sochi, hence the name “Sochi Olympics.” Also, “Anti-gay laws will be strictly enforced,” said a shirtless, waxed and buff Russian president Vladimir Putin.
College football star Michael Sam comes out as gay, expresses relief that football wasn’t played at the Sochi Olympics.
March---Malaysia Flight 370 vanishes off the face of the Earth. Even the face of the Earth is dismayed.
Russia annexes Crimea, causing thousands of Americans to look up “Crimea” and “annexes.”
April---The Financial Times announces that China is set to overtake the U.S as the world’s largest economy. China is pleased but is determined to let the U.S. continue to have the world’s largest rear ends.
Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun are kidnapped by gunmen in Cameroon, after initially walking into a bar as the set up of a joke.
May---News reports surface that The Department of Veterans Affairs has trouble treating patients in a timely fashion. A back order of leeches arrives a week later.
The United Nations Security Council declares Boko Haram a terrorist group, urges them to go back to doing work like, A Whiter Shade of Pale.
June---The World Cup gets underway in Brazil and in keeping with the local custom, all players are forced to have their chests waxed. Vladimir Putin books a flight to Brazil.
In cricket, the Kolkata Knight Riders win their second Indian Premier League championship defeating the Kings XI Punjab in the final in Bangalore. Yeah, I didn’t care either.
July---LeBron James announces that he will be returning to Cleveland, making him the first person in American history to return to Cleveland willingly.
Russian forces continue to enter the Ukraine to find out why the Ukraine has the word “the” before their name. Russian president Vladimir Putin explains his real motives stating, “Those Ukraine girls really knock me out. They leave the West behind.”
August---Islamic terrorist group ISIS changes its name to ISIL and then to “The Islamic State,” which winds up costing them a fortune to constantly change their stationary. In a bizarre twist, they eventually change their name to “Prince.”
September---Hundreds of photos of naked celebrities are leaked to the public, forcing celebrities to hand deliver their naked photos to other people in person.
“Open government” takes on a new meaning when a number of individuals jump the White House fence and enter the President’s residence, causing the D.C. Board of Tourism to rethink their slogan, “Come and See the White House Up Close!”
The first case of Ebola is diagnosed in the United States, giving Americans a severe case of “this isn’t so funny, after all.”
October---Beloved comedian Bill Cosby’s reputation takes a hit when several women come forward with accusations of rape against the entertainer. Cosby refuses to acknowledge the charges, making it a case of, “he said-she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said.”
The San Francisco Giants defeat the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series. Boston Red Sox fans express outrage at the existence of other baseball teams.
November---Republicans trounce Democrats in the midterm elections, with Republicans vowing to do more nothing than ever before.
An early snowstorm dumps four feet of snow on Buffalo paralyzing the city. The upside is that people won’t have to see Buffalo for a while.
December---President Obama announces that after 50 years of a diplomatic freeze, he is normalizing relations with Cuba. Obama states that he hopes to one day normalize relations with congress.
Sony Pictures announces its cancellation of the Seth Rogen-James Franco film, The Interview after complaints from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Unfortunately, he is unable to get The Learning Channel to cancel the Rogen-Franco project, Naked and Afraid.
The Senate Intelligence Committee releases a report admitting that the CIA engaged in torture as part of the “War on Terror.” The nation is stunned to find out that a body of congress had anything to do with “intelligence.”
Well, there you have it.
Happy New Year, all.
Married, With Children
By Dan Margarita
The snow, cold weather, multi-colored lights, wreaths and decorated fir trees in my neighborhood mean one thing…I really need to move to Florida. Oh, it also signals the arrival of Christmas.
Jesus, the guy whose birthday we’ll be celebrating (or not, if that’s your inclination) has been in the news recently and not just because his birthday means savings on electronic goods at Best Buy.
There is much controversy surrounding a new book called, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene, a title long enough to possibly have it be considered as the latest chapter of the New Testament.
The new tome claims that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married, making them history’s most awesome power couple. Today’s tabloids would probably call them, “Jary.”
Not only does the book proclaim their marriage but also states that they had two children. Those kids would have pretty tough footsteps to follow; and you thought it was tough being Julian Lennon.
According to ABC News (because I have no intention of reading this book myself), the authors decoded a 1500-year-old-text that they found in a British Library, which I imagine would have amounted to an enormous fine had the book not been returned.
One crucial detail to note is that apparently nowhere in the ancient text do the names Jesus or Mary Magdalene appear. The ancient text speaks of the story of “Joseph” and “Aseneth” and the authors substituted “Jesus” and “Mary” in their place.
Well, sure a text can take on a whole new meaning if you’re going to turn it into a Mad Lib.
Try substituting the names “Ralph Kramden” and “Ed Norton” and you’ll see the text take on a direction that you would never have conceived of.
No mention is made as far as I can find as to the names of the children, though for the sake of today’s parents let’s call them Mackenzie and Connor.
One of the authors, Simcha Jacobovici, in the past claimed to have found, “the actual tomb of Jesus with the actual bones of Jesus still inside; the actual nails that actually nailed Jesus to the actual cross.”
I’m quoting here directly from the ABC News website, actually.
Mr. Jacobovici also claimed to have found the Lost City of Atlantis, although I suppose if that were true it would be The Found City of Atlantis. Maybe his next job ought to be finding Jimmy Hoffa.
Furthermore, the book goes on to suggest that years prior to his crucifixion there was a plot to kill Jesus, rape Mary Magdalene and murder their children. I think this could be labeled, The Gospel According to Truman Capote.
This is not the first time that the idea of Jesus possibly being married has come up in recent years. You may recall that a while back a scrap of ancient text was discovered that purportedly was alleged to have read: “Jesus said to them, ‘My Wife…’” before cutting off.
We all would love to know what the rest of that sentence was. For all we know it could have been a transcript of Jesus’ stand up set at The Jerusalem Funny Bone.
“My wife is so fat that when she sits around the manger, she sits around the manger. Thank you. I’ll be here all week, try the loaves and fishes.”
This particular text has become known as, The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife (sic).
Radio carbon dating places the document as originating from roughly 700-800 A.D. Of course, many proclaim it to be a forgery, pointing most notably to the document constantly referring to comedian Sam Kinison. Okay, not really but if claims of Jesus being married were true it would presumably have a profound impact on Christianity.
The document is a small fragment that has eight incomplete lines on it. Hoping to help fill in the historical record I have provided the rest of the translated lines with possible endings or commentary:
- “not (to) me. My mother gave me life…” (when I asked for Newsweek?).
- “The disciples said to Jesus…” (What? What?).
- “deny. Mary is (not?) worthy of it…” (The Gospel According to Wayne and Garth).
- “She is able to be my disciple…” (was Jesus a feminist?).
- “Let wicked people swell up…” (wicked big?).
- “As for me, I am here to…” (I’m guessing “install cable” is out).
- “an image”…(is not something I’m not terribly concerned about).
Well, we will never know definitively what the truth is but regardless of Jesus’ marital status, let us strive to believe in his message of peace and love.
By Dan Margarita
Well, no doubt you’ve probably heard about a long beloved celebrity that is going through a lot of public scrutiny and criticism. No, I’m not referring to one Mr. Bill Cosby but someone nearly as beloved and like Mr. Cosby now, nearly as reviled…Barbie.
Those of us who had sisters that played with Barbie dolls (or that occasional brother, I suppose) noticed long ago something unnatural about Barbie and her alleged boyfriend Ken…they were not, shall I say “anatomically correct.”
Even at that age we knew somehow that if they were ever to get together to try and produce little Barbies and Kens that they would probably have to adopt.
Barbie (full name: Barbara Millicent Roberts…and no, I’m not making that up) has taken a lot of heat in recent years, not over her lack of reproductive organs but instead another physical anomaly: her ridiculous proportions.
A study by Rehabs.com has shown that if a woman with Barbie’s actual proportions existed, her skinny neck could not support the weight of her oversized head, leaving her unable to raise said head.
With a 16-inch waist, real-life Barbie’s waist would be four inches thinner than her head and would leave room for only half a liver and a few inches of intestine. Of all of the methods of losing weight, i.e. mainly diet and exercise, reducing the size of internal organs is probably the least preferable.
Now comes a counterpart to Barbie, a rival if you will. The Lammily Doll has been referred to as “Normal Barbie.” Using proportions (provided by the Center for Disease Control) similar to that of the average woman, the Lammily Doll also includes stickers of acne, cellulite and scars to apply to reflect how real women may appear at times.
I mean, what child doesn’t want to play with cellulite?
So far as I can tell, Mattel, makers of Barbie, have no plans to introduce these realistic aspects to Barbie, or Ken for that matter.
I think that would be a good idea, though. For instance we could have Beer Belly Ken: A Ken doll who sits on the couch and watches TV.
Midlife Crisis Ken: A Ken doll that ditches Barbie and takes up with his 25-year-old receptionist, Michaela. He also buys a red convertible sports car.
Comic Book Ken: He still lives with his parents and has never dated.
Whether or not girls will want to play with the Lammily Doll more than Barbie, only time will tell.
My girlfriend Jane informed me that she once tried to give one of her daughters a positive role model Barbie, “Dentist Barbie” as a birthday present.
Someone else gave her a Malibu Barbie to which her daughter responded, “I love you! I love you! I love you, Malibu Barbie!” and then never once played with Dentist Barbie.
Okay, maybe another profession might have been a better gift. No one likes going to the dentist so maybe a kid doesn’t want to play with one, either. I suppose Mortician Barbie might have failed as well.
Another controversy surrounding Ms. Roberts recently is a book called, Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer. On the surface it sounds like a feminist’s dream Barbie, an educated woman with engineering skills.
However, it turns out that Barbie is just creating the design ideas and needs Steven and Brian to help her finish the project she was working on. Even worse is that Barbie’s computer acquires a virus, which then spreads to her friend Skipper’s computer. For the record, Skipper is apparently a female here (Barbie’s sister, Jane informs me) and not played by Alan Hale, Jr.
Perhaps if the makers of the Lammily doll are interested in making Lammily’s life more realistic, they can have her spreading a virus, which brings us back to the CDC.
Later, Barbie meets Steven and Brian in the library where hopefully, she didn’t give them a virus when they fixed her computer.
“It will go faster if Brian and I help,” offers Steven.
Well, if that meant getting more heads involved sure, but it kind of sounds like, “Let the boys figure it out.”
Steven and Brian do fix Barbie’s computer and at the end of the day, Barbie takes credit for their work, which I presume may lead to a new doll, “Copyright Infringement Lawyer Ken.”
Now to get to work on getting CSI TV characters to be more realistic.
Nobody is that good-looking.
Werewolves of Boston
By Dan Margarita
“Feah the beahd”…a phrase no doubt that you have all heard by now. The Boston Red Sox are in the World Series and as of this writing, it is quite possible that they could be playing on Halloween night.
That would certainly seem to be appropriate given the way the Red Sox have played not only during this World Series, but the way they played this season. After the debacle of the 2012 season under the disaster that was manager Bobby Valentine, nobody expected them to be World Series bound this season, but the team has continued to surprise everyone time and again.
In fact, I would even say this team resembles…the Undead!
Just think about it…every time we count them out, they rise up again.
A team that I have often said this season looks like the House of David softball team, also looks like a team comprised of werewolves, if you think about it.
Seeing that this is the time of year when we allow our children to go out and ask strangers for candy to celebrate the undead, here’s my guide to the Boston Red Sox/All Halloween team.
Mike Napoli: The Wolfman---Honestly, with that bushy beard, what else could he be?
Dustin Pedroia: The Fly---with his industrious nature and constant activity, no doubt that opposing teams would like to swat him.
Clay Buchholz: Dracula---Can’t you envision him wearing a cape? Can’t you envision him turning into a bat? Can’t you envision him biting someone on the neck? Maybe it’s just me.
Jacoby Ellsbury: Dracula, as played by Frank Langella. In the 1979 movie, Langella played the Count as a handsome, suave and charming creature, which seems apt for the Sox resident heartthrob.
Shane Victorino: Nosferatu---With his bald pate and pointed ears, he looks like the Count Orlok in the 1922 classic German silent film Nosferatu that was based on the novel Dracula but with the names changed to avoid a copyright lawsuit. You think a silent movie can’t be creepy? Watch this classic film. Then again, Victorino could also pass as one of Santa’s Elves from the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special.
Brandon Workman: The Frankenstein monster---At 6’ 5” and 225 lbs., Workman is a big lug of a guy, not to mention probably good at reaching for things in high places…oh, and I think he’s got those electrodes on his neck.
Ben Cherington: Dr. Frankenstein---Note that with Workman that I didn’t just say, “Frankenstein” as is usually the case when discussing the creature. Frankenstein was the name of the guy who created him, like Cherington has admirably created this roster of unlikely heroes.
Franklin Morales: The Invisible Man---Morales ought to be the Invisible Man after inexcusably walking a man to start an inning in the playoffs. Let us see him no more.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Freddy Krueger---With yellow tape on his fingernails so that pitchers can see his signals, Salty has sort of a Freddy Krueger-with-a-manicure look. The fact that that there was a series of Nightmare on Elm Street movies always made me wonder why anybody would consider buying a house on Elm Street. I suppose that the property values were pretty low.
Davis Ortiz: The Blob---They say he’s lost weight and indeed, he might have. He also might have gained it back...he’s a large man.
Jon Lester: Gort, the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still. Often seeming emotionless, Lester is clearly more like a robot than anyone else on this team. All I can add is, "Klaatu barada nikto" (rent the movie).
Davis Ross: The Bride of Frankenstein---With that streak of gray in his beard he reflects the male version of the creature’s would-be mate…or Madelyn Kahn in Young Frankenstein.
Koji Uehara: Godzilla---Okay, that’s an easy one because Uehara is Japanese, and my apologies if that’s too cheap or offensive but the man has simply been a monster out of the bullpen.
Jonny Gomes: One of those hillbillies from the movie Deliverance---Okay, they may not technically qualify as movie monsters but they scared the crap out of me. I can easily see Gomes wearing overalls with no shirt underneath.
As of this writing the Red Sox stand one win away from winning another World Series championship, with a possible Game 7 on Halloween.
I am both excited and now after researching all of these Hollywood monsters, scared at the same time.
Of Guts and Gauze
By Dan Margarita
I used to have a lot of guts. Recently I had some of them removed…literally.
Due to an inflammation of the colon, I had to have a section of my intestines removed. You now know where this is going, so if you’re squeamish, uncomfortable with medical terms or have never watched House, M.D., you may want to skip to the Police Blotter and then move on from there.
An inflamed colon is something that develops over time, of course. Though I am no medical expert, I doubt that one could ever trip over a rung, fall down and from the resulting fall be diagnosed with an inflamed colon.
So, arrangements were made for surgery at a prestigious medical facility in the area for laparoscopic surgery. To save you from googling “laparoscopic,” I will explain that this means that small incisions are made and surgery is performed with the aid of a camera instead of a Frankenstein-like cutting open of the abdomen.
Once checked in, I put on my hospital Johnny (when is the Johnny going to grow up and be called a John? Wait, I guess that already has another meaning). For some reason, hospital exam rooms must be cold enough to hang meat. For this very reason the hospital wisely keeps a steady supply of warm blankets coming for the patients. Indeed, the lovely Jane, who was by my side the whole time and is biologically perpetually cold, though internally spiritually warm, was also given a warm blanket by the hospital staff.
Next came the anesthesiologist (hey, I spelled that correctly the first time without the aid of spell check!), a top professional no doubt, who had no sense of humor.
It was his job to insert an I.V. port, which he did successfully. Unfortunately, one trait he didn’t possess was a sense of humor. After the I.V. insertion, the nurse asking questions asked if I felt any pain anywhere, to which I responded that I’d just felt a sharp pain in my right arm, alluding to the I.V. She laughed, Jane laughed and I laughed, but not him (trust me, it was funny in real time).
Next came a steady flow of questioners whose task was to ask the same medical questions that the person before them had asked.
Then I was wheeled into the operating theater (sounds more dramatic that way). As I looked up and saw people hovering over me, I remember thinking “this is usually how the aliens do their experiments on humans.”
The operation was supposed to take 4 ½ hours but wound up taking 5 ½ hours. When I was later able to ask the surgeon why it took longer than expected, she diplomatically explained, “Well…you’re a big guy.”
The insecure teenager in me thought, “Just say it…I’m fat. I’m faaaaat!”
One thing I’m quite proud of was my ability to pre-plan, remember and later execute a joke.
As I was brought to consciousness, the first person I saw was Jane, who asked me, “How do you feel?”
To which I responded in a high-pitched voice, “I think they cut the wrong thing!”
Next came the recovery period, with an initial diet of soft foods and liquids. Oh, and pain medication.
This was the first major surgery I’d ever been through and I learned a lot of things. For instance, I learned that while one is unconscious when a catheter is inserted, one is wide-awake when it is removed (well, I was awake). As a result of this, I also learned that had the Germans captured me during World War II, I would have told the Gestapo anything they wanted to know.
“The Allies are landing at Normandy on June 6th! Roosevelt’s phone number is (213) 555-2975! There’s a secret entrance to the White House and I’ll draw you a map!”
Then came several days in the hospital for recovery and monitoring. I took small steps, literally, each day and still continue to make progress, now at home. Buoyed by the thoughts, prayers and well wishes of family and friends, I am now on the road to recovery.
I now spend my time recovering and cheering on the Red Sox, who in Game 2 of the ALCS, showed a lot of guts.
By Dan Margarita
Well, another year has passed and once again it’s time for my annual “Year in Review” column, which I write every year (hence the term “annual”).
Here I present some of the highlights and lowlights of 2012.
(NOTE: I will not include some of the tragic events of 2012 here, as they need no smart aleck comments from me).
Jan. 24---President Obama gives his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of congress. His aides convince him to set aside his planned remarks of, “Uh, it’s not good.”
Feb. 26---Russian television reports that a planned assassination of President Vladimir Putin has been stopped. Ironically, it turns out that it was one of Putin’s own assassinations that he inadvertently plotted against himself.
Mar. 21---Syrian president Bashar al-Assad agrees to a cease-fire. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding al-Assad thought it meant that he would not start a fire in his fireplace and thus continues to attack his political opponents.
Apr. 14---Eleven Secret Service agents are fired after allegations of misconduct as they prepare for a visit from President Obama. The charges include involvement with prostitutes. Though no longer with the Secret Service, the agents are now qualified to be members of congress.
May 9---President Obama endorses the idea of gay marriage. “Let them be as miserable as the rest of us,” said the Obama. Sorry, that was pretty much every other married guy I talked to.
Jun. 2---Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her “Diamond Jubilee,” marking 60 years that she has been sitting on the throne. Her doctors recommend more roughage intake.
Jun. 28---The U.S. Supreme Court upholds President Obama’s healthcare law, a.k.a “Obamacare,” making conservatives sick to their stomach. Fortunately for them, that is covered under Obamacare.
Jul. 2---CNN host Anderson Cooper comes out of the closet, announcing publicly that he is gay. Later that day, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announces that he is tall.
Jul. 27---Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II presides over the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics. The queen mournfully watches as athletes from countries once governed by the British pass by, knowing that she can no longer behead them.
Aug. 17---The Russian punk band Pussy Riot is convicted of “hooliganism” and sentenced to two years in a penal colony. Supporters of the band protest, yelling, “Free Pussy Riot!” Sometimes the jokes write themselves.
Aug. 30---Actor/director Clint Eastwood appears at the Republican National Convention and has a conversation with an empty chair. Many 81-year-olds have done the same thing.
Sept. 5---Former President Bill Clinton gives a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Clinton opts not to talk to furniture.
Oct. 10---A Moscow court frees one of the three members of the band Pussy Riot. I have no joke here. I just like to be able to write about an actual news story where I can write, “Pussy Riot.”
Oct. 14---Adventurer Felix Baumgartner skydives 24 miles from the top of the atmosphere to the earth, boldly going where all men have gone before.
Oct. 22---Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is stripped of his titles after cycling’s governing bodies receive reports that claim that Armstrong was part of a massive doping scandal. Armstrong is now said to be considering admitting to doping, and changing his name to “Lance Lesstrong.” (Hey, you try writing a Lance Armstrong joke).
Nov. 6---Barak Obama is reelected as President of the United States, becoming the first ever, black, Kenyan-born, socialist Muslim to do so.
Nov. 9---C.I.A. director David Petraeus resigns after confessing to having an affair with journalist Paula Broadwell. Petraeus, a former general who had led the surge in Iraq, finds his latest surge less successful.
Dec. 7---The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it will hear two same-sex marriage cases challenging laws that define marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. Plaintiffs cite the case, “A Fool v. His Money.”
Jan. 1---The U.S. House of Representatives votes on a deal to keep America from going over the “fiscal cliff.” Speaker John Boehner declares that as long as no one looks down, ala Wile E. Coyote, the country will be fine.
There you have. Let’s hope that 2013 is a better year (and that you’re still not writing 2012 on your documents).
Happy New Year.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
By Dan Margarita
Of all of the Charlie Brown’s in the world, I must be the Charlie Browniest. It is Christmas Day as I write this, and I think it’s time that I start my Christmas shopping.
I kid you not. Traditionally, the Margarita family doesn’t celebrate Christmas on Christmas. That would be logical. We are not logical.
My friends have been known to kid me about this. Sometimes when I make plans for my March vacation, they question whether or not it will interfere with the Margarita family Christmas.
There is the hectic rush of pre-Christmas activity, shopping, etc. so we usually have our family gathering after the actual day. This gives us the added benefit of doing our shopping with items being at a greatly reduced price. If anyone asks, we can say we’re celebrating Greek Orthodox Christmas, which I believe is a week later (if I’m wrong, I apologize).
Okay, a little research on the Internet shows that that is correct. It seems that many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the old Julian calendar, named of course for Julian Lennon.
In 1585 Pope Gregory XIII did something that the previous seven Pope Gregory’s didn’t do. He changed the calendar to add Leap years to account for the accurate amount of time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun, thus creating the Gregorian calendar. Under the Julian calendar, the incorrect time would cause a drift and result in the equinox would shift to earlier in the year. Sure, we’d all like spring to come a little sooner, but if it also results in Labor Day being in June, it’s not so appealing.
Okay, I seem to have drifted a bit here, but it’s Christmas, so please be charitable to me.
Back to Charlie Brown. I watched the 1965 Charles Shultz classic last night. We often talk about how commercial Christmas has gotten, but it’s kind of funny to hear Charlie Brown complain about how commercial Christmas had gotten in 1965. The irony here is that the original version of this show was sponsored by Coca Cola and had several instances of the characters referencing Coca Cola.
This portion was not reinserted in the version I saw, but that is one of the joys of getting modern DVD versions of these shows. The DVD version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer I watched last year included a song that was originally in the show but dropped for some reason many years ago. Oh, there aren’t a lot of lost footage moments from animated shows that could be added. I assume that no blown lines or a Lucy, topless sex scene would be lying in a film vault somewhere.
I can recall even as a child the contradiction of Charlie Brown being called a “blockhead” when in fact his head was obviously quite round. This didn’t square with my version of childhood logic.
Always one with an eye for detail, I also noticed how either lame or full the Christmas tree Charlie Brown picked was, depending on what the scene called for it to be. Yes, I know it’s not a Ken Burns documentary, so realism is not at the top of the list of goals for the program.
Another odd theme of the show is the fact that everyone constantly refers to Charlie Brown as, “Charlie Brown.” When you talk to friends of yours, do you call them by their first and last name?
“Hi, Dan Margarita. How are you, Dan Margarita?”
Of course, the most notable moment of the show is when Linus takes center stage and tells Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas, quoting the Bible (Luke 2:10) "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy."
Though not deeply religious myself, I still find this quite moving. It seems that this was somewhat controversial at the time and would probably not even be allowed on TV now. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Would you want Linus giving a Scientologist message in a show?
“And behold, for it was Xenu, who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of his people to Earth (then known as "Teegeeack") in a DC-8-like spacecraft, stacked them around volcanoes and killed them using hydrogen bombs.”
Of course, I presume Tom Cruise would voice Linus in this one. From what I understand, they’re roughly the same height.
Tonight the Christmas celebrations will continue with viewings of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and for some odd reason, Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol. That one will take some getting used to.
Hope you all have a happy and safe New Year.
The Santa Diaries
By Dan Margarita
We live in an age where nothing is private anymore, with social media dominating our lives. If we have to be subjected to the daily lives of the Kardashians, let’s get a closer look at some one more interesting…Santa Claus.
Through anonymous sources, I have come across the diary of Santa and have decided that it’s in the public interest to give you a peek into what a year in the life of Santa life looks like.
Dec. 26---Totally wiped out. Traveling all over the world, giving presents and toys to billions of people, is starting to take its toll. The arthritis is getting worse, not to mention nearly being shot down by a Russian MiG. Gonna sleep for the next three days, so if anyone is looking for me…tough.
Dec. 31---A night out with the wife for dinner and dancing. Gonna be drinking, so I’m having one of the elves as a designated driver for my sleigh. I have to remember to get the booster seat. We’re going to party like it’s 99!
Jan. 10---In Barbados with the wife for two weeks. Yeah, it kinda shocks people to see Santa in a Speedo, but I’m entitled. Hell, it’s dark six months of the year at the North Pole, so I need to get my vitamin D when I can. Also, Mrs. Claus was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). I figured I could do without two weeks of her crying and listening to Ani DiFranco music.
Feb. 11---Time to get back to work again. Problems with some of the toys coming in from China (if only people knew that elves can’t handle the entire workload). Some of the toys have lead paint and Human Rights Watch is giving me crap about Chinese prison labor making some of the toys.
April 15---Damn income taxes due.
May 23---The elves are making some noise again about unionizing. I’ll crush the little bastards (except Hermey, who wants to be a dentist).
June 9---Need to call the exterminator to do something about these ticks. Blitzen already has been battling hoof-in-mouth disease. We can’t risk adding Lyme disease to his burden.
July 12---Turns out the value of Santa’s Village has plummeted, not just because of the real estate market taking a dive, but with Global Warming, I’m losing more square footage.
July 28---Tried to register a domain for “santaclaus.com” and found out it’s been taken. The guy wants $100,000 to let me have it.
Aug. 12---Got an angry letter from N.O.W. complaining about my use of the phrase of “Ho! Ho! Ho!” as “demeaning to women.” Jeez…
Aug. 24---Sprained an ankle, playing pick up basketball.
Sept. 1---Labor Day. The elves get the day off and though we’re behind schedule, I don’t mind. I’m not as young as I used to be (then again, technically speaking, who is?).
Sept. 12---Checking the Times police blotter…it’s sad how many I’ve had to put on my “naughty” list.
Oct. 15---It used to be that it was a bad thing for people to get coal in their stocking, but what with the price of oil, people are thrilled to get coal. I swear, some people are intentionally being naughty just to get a lump in their stocking (or they’re just happy to see me…BA-DA-BOOM!).
Nov. 23---That stupid Black Friday is causing people to get hurt. Just write me a letter, people!
Nov. 26---Cyber Monday…I have to admit, it lightens my load a bit. I just have to be careful not to collide with the Amazon sleigh on Christmas night.
Dec. 1---It seems they’re airing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on TV again. Boy, did that show give Rudolph a big head. He’s become such a prima donna. “I’m cute!” Not so much anymore.
Dec. 15---Out of wrapping paper. Gotta head to the store.
Dec. 21---Still trying to figure out what to give the Mrs. I mean, what do you give the woman whose husband can give her anything? Everyone says that today the days start getting longer. That’s B.S. “Midnight Sun,” my butt! Also, no matter what time of the year it is, each day is 24 hours.
Dec. 25---The big day is here again! Gotta make sure I set the DVR so I can watch all of the football games! I hope no one tells me who won!
To all of you I wish a Merry Christmas and to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukah!
By Dan Margarita
I’m not sure where it originated, but there’s an old saying, “Keep your pants on.” If there is one place that it should be prominently displayed, it is in the men’s locker room at Secret Service headquarters.
By now it’s likely that you’ve heard the story about a group of Secret Service (an ironic name, by any stretch now) agents who stirred up controversy when, while stationed in Columbia in advance of a trip by President Obama, brought a number of prostitutes back to their hotel. These are men (and they were all men) who whose job is to make sure that there is no security threat to the president and protect him and his family. Hopefully, “protection” is something they thought to pick up on their way back to the motel.
It seems the row started when one of the women, who had told an agent the night before that he was supposed to give her a “gift” of $800 the previous evening, found the agent reluctant to pay more than $30 the next morning. As the two argued, a crowd began to gather, including police and hotel security. This may throw a monkey wrench in the rationalization the conspiracy theorists, who always seem convinced that nefarious people from nefarious agencies are constantly manipulating events in secret to shape world events. In other words, do you really think that they could pull of the 9-11 attacks without alerting anyone ahead of time, when they couldn’t discreetly settle a debt with a Columbian prostitute in a motel hallway?
One agent allegedly claimed that he didn’t know that the woman he was dealing with was a prostitute. I guess that’s why he was assigned the duty of jumping in front of an oncoming bullet and not assigned to strategize about potential threat to the president.
These guys aren’t exactly James Bond. Then again, James Bond didn’t need to pay women for sex. They were constantly throwing themselves at him. Although, I’m assuming that when Pussy Galore introduced herself to him in the 1964 film, Goldfinger, James Bond was pretty much able to determine what her occupation may have been.
According to the New York Post, who interviewed the young woman involved, the $800 “indicated she was an escort, not a prostitute. ‘An escort is someone who a man can take out to dinner,’ the woman told the Times. ‘She can dress nicely, wear nice makeup, speak and act like a lady. That's me.’”
Hell, if that’s really all that is involved, for $800 bucks, I’ll go out to dinner with you.
The story goes on to say that the men eventually gave her a combination of local currency and U.S. dollars, which totaled about $225. I’m betting that these guys wish they’d coughed up this money a little sooner.
Many have speculated that if more women were involved with the agency, that this likely wouldn’t have happened. If these men, many of whom are apparently married, had brought their wives along, “negotiating with hookers” probably would not have been on the agenda.
Clearly, there seems to have been a fair amount of testosterone driving the events in question and if there had been more estrogen on this detail, the evening would’ve turned out differently.
Hey, let’s completely stereotype things and speculate that an all-gals Secret Service detail would’ve spent the night watching soap operas and knitting!
Mind you, it should be noted here that in Columbia prostitution is legal. That still doesn’t make this excursion a good idea.
Several agents and some military members descended on a club, a brothel called The Pley Club, drank heavily and paid extra for sexual favors. Since prostitution is legal in Columbia, I suppose that these extra services are listed on some sort of menu.
A number of Secret Service agents have been allowed to retire and some have resigned. Gee, I wonder what they will do now with so much free time on their hands? Traveling sounds like a fun thing to do. I understand that you can get cheap flights to Columbia.
Some agents have had their security clearance revoked, which has to be embarrassing, as would questions for those applying for a new job elsewhere.
“Can you tell me why you left your last place of employment?”
These guys may have cast a new light on the work of secret agents.
I watched James Bond movies. I know James Bond movies. James Bond movies were a favorite of mine.
Guys, you’re no James Bond.