Blackberry Down

Empty Bottle

 

I was back from NY about 3 days, when I realized what hit me, the NY Subway system.  No, not the trains, the handrails.  I thought about how many I had touched, and now their germs were all touching me back.  Note to self.  Next time I’m going to ride the NY subway, bring Purell.  I just spent the last three days going back and forth from bed to the recliner chair, not having the strength to do much else.  I count my blessings though, it could have been far worse.  I wasn’t nauseous or throwing up.  I was just incredibly tired.

When I get sick, I treat myself with my Mom’s secret cold formula, Blackberry Brandy.  Over the course of the first two days, I took about 7 shots of the magic elixir.  At least, that’s how many shots I think I had.  I was pretty out of it during the height of this cold, and I started hallucinating.

I’ve been having some pretty wild dreams lately, but Saturday my dreams crept into my waking moments.  When I closed my eyes, my apartment expanded in size and filled with people.  Because of the conservative way they were dressed, I got the idea that they were Amish.  I didn’t know any of them, and they didn’t talk to me, but it seemed that they were all there to comfort me.  They also brought food, which I remember tasting.  One thing tasted like a dry egg biscuit, and another biscuit tasted of dried blueberries.  As I opened my eyes, the people and food instantly disappeared and my apartment shrunk back to its original size.  When I closed my eyes again they all reappeared.  This seemed to go on back and forth for about two hours.  They stayed with me until I fell asleep.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and I think the crisis has passed.  I woke up feeling much better.  Happy Easter.  Just to be on the safe side, I rested most of the day.

So, now it’s Monday and time for me to get out of the house and move around.  Plus, I better pick up some Purell and hit the liquor store to restock my medicine cabinet.  My Amish visitors seem to have polished off the last bottle of Blackberry Brandy I had.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

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Welcome Class of ’66

CTK-2

My high school showed a total lack of consideration by scheduling their 50th Anniversary Reunion on my friend Marianne’s birthday.  Her party is always one of the best of the year, and I never miss it.  Both events were scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.  I decided to try and do both.

My plan was to arrive at the Reunion at 7 p.m. on the dot.  Then I would hit the bar, drink champagne, eat jumbo shrimp, and scan nametags to see if I could find anyone I knew.  I could only remember the names of 4 of my classmates, so mainly I was going to eat and drink and attempt to perform the set I had never been allowed to perform in the classroom.  If you wanted to be a stand-up comedian, Catholic school was the worst place to practice.  You could only tell one joke before you found yourself out in the hall nursing the bruises from the pointer they used to beat you black and blue.  I had 8 minutes of jokes.  A tight 8-minute set would be enough to get you booked in 100 comedy clubs across the country.  Since they were all Catholic jokes, it might also get me bounced from my own High School Reunion, but I was only planning on staying for a half hour anyway.

My back up plan, if I didn’t find anyone to tell my jokes to, was to drink and eat for a half hour and then head to Marianne’s party.  I figured if I made all the train connections okay, I could be there by 9:45, fashionably late.

I thought that getting to my old High School would be easy.  Amtrak took me to Penn Station without any problem.  Then I had to walk to Herald Square to catch the M train and take it to the last stop, Metropolitan Avenue.  The school was right there.  Easy, peasy.

What’s that Robert Burns said about “the best of plans?”  They often gang a glee, with gang a glee being Scottish slang for getting completely fouled up.

My arthritic hip doesn’t bother me too much when I walk, but it hurts like hell going up or down stairs.  So, getting from train level to street level at Penn Station, carrying an overstuffed knapsack was where my plan started to gang a glee.  Then I had to walk a few blocks to find the entrance for the M train.  Once I found it I had to go down flight after flight of stairs to get to the train platform, which seemed to be just a little bit from the center of the earth.  When I got there, I saw the notice that said the M train did not stop there on weekends.  I had to take the F train to Delancey Street and transfer there.

It was rush hour and the F train was packed, but I squeezed in and took it to Delancey Street.  Now I had to go from the subway to the elevated line, so I had to climb flight after flight of steps to get to the M platform.

That train was also packed, but it got me to Metropolitan Avenue a couple minutes before 7 p.m.  The school is at the bottom of a 4-story hill.  I limped down the hill and finally marched triumphantly through the door and straight to the reception desk.  There were still some name tags spread out on the table and I found mine and asked the lady behind the table where the bar was set-up.

She informed me that before the bar opened up, there would be a prayer service on the 3rd floor.  By this time my hip was really hurting.  Still, I would have climbed the two flights of stairs for champagne and jumbo shrimp, but I’m a card-carrying Agnostic, and I certainly wasn’t going to climb 2 flights up and then 2 flights back down for a prayer service.  It didn’t matter to me if all they were praying for was my bad hip, I activated Plan B.

I spun around and like Jack and Jill, I went back up the hill and proceeded to the train station.  Once on the train, I texted Marianne to let her know what happened and to tell her I was on my way.  I got to the party around 8:45 and it was already in full swing.  As soon as Marianne saw me, she threw up her hands and announced to the room, “Earl is here.  It’s time for our prayer service.”

Fortunately, the altar was a 6 ft. ski with 4 shot glasses permanently glued to one side of it.  I willingly lined up behind a full shot glass with Marianne and two other people, and participated in the service.  Immediately, my spirits were lifted.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Grazing in the Grass

Earl_Debbie - 02

 

It was Monday, Pizza Night at the Alley Kat.  Debbie and I were sitting in my backyard having a few pre-pizza beers.  She got up and started brushing her hand against some stuff that was sprouting in my yard.  To me it looked like little tufts of grass.

She pulled out one of the blades of the grass and put the root in her mouth and chewed.  “Not really a scallion,” she said, “but similar.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to figure out what it is.”

“By tasting it!  Who do you think you are, Ayla the Medicine Woman of the clan?”

“How can I tell what it is if I don’t taste it?”

“What if it turns out to be poisonous?”

“It’s not poisonous.”

“How do you know that if you don’t know what it is?”

“I know it’s not poisonous.”

“Well it could be.  Come on, let’s go get some pizza.”

“What’s your hurry?”

“I figure that if you croak from food poisoning while we’re in the restaurant, I might be able to guilt them into paying for your funeral.  That would save your mother the burden.”

“You’re a lousy boyfriend.”

“That’s good,” I replied, “because I’m not your boyfriend.  I’m just a friend.  Period.”

“No,” she corrected.  “You’re my friend with benefits.”

“What benefits?  The only benefit you’re getting from me is that I’m willing to pay for the pizza when we go out to eat.”

“Well, if you wanted more, I’m ready.”

“I’m not.”

“Why not?”

“I would feel like I was taking advantage of you and only using you for sex.”

“But I’m okay with that.”

“But I’m not.”

“Why not?”

“Because I think you’re a wacko!”

“So?”

“I don’t really want to get into a sexual relationship with a wacko.”

“Why not?”

“Been there.  Done that, and I’ve got the t-shirt, actually a few t-shirts.  Did you ever see Fatal Attraction?  I’ve dated a lot of crazy women in my life, and I’ve learned one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“They always turn out to be even crazier than I first suspected.”

“Do you think that I would turn out to be crazier than you suspected?”

“Well, not really, because I already suspect that you’re nuttier than a fruit cake.”

“So what’s your problem?”

“Right now I don’t have any problems, and I’d like to keep it that way.  If I slept with you, then you would be my problem.”

“You’re a lousy boyfriend.”

“I know.  Are you ready to go get some pizza?”

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Strangers in the Night

I have two big events coming up this Saturday night, my 50th anniversary Reunion at Christ the King H.S., and Marianne’s Birthday/St. Patty’s Party.  They’re both on the same night and I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to do.  My most recent plan is to get to the Reunion early, talk to a few people and then split.  I hate to leave a party early, but I will make an exception when I’m going to a better party.  Besides, if there was anyone I really wanted to see at the reunion, I wouldn’t have waited 50 years to see them.  I think I spent more time in the hallway than I did in the class, anyway.

Catholic School was not a good place to practice for a career in stand-up comedy.  You cracked one joke and they hit you with a pointer and threw you out in the hall.  You never even got time for a follow-up joke.  You didn’t even know if the class liked the joke.  Were they laughing at what I said or were they laughing at the beating I was taking as Brother Bruno escorted me to the hallway?  No wonder that most of the great stand-up comedians are Jewish.  If George Carlin hadn’t been expelled from Cardinal Hayes H.S. he probably never would have made it as a comedian.

So, the reunion has been on my mind, lately.  I’ve also been thinking about the ongoing Presidential campaign.  I’m a Democrat, but most of my friends are Republicans.  The most Republican one of all is Marianne’s brother-in-law, Hilary.  (He must hate the fact that when he says his name, people automatically think of the other Hillary, the one who’s running for President as a Democrat.)  His father was the mayor of Lynbrook for years.  His brothers run for Congress all the time.  If you live on Long Island, I’m sure you’ve seen a “Becker for Congress” bumper sticker or two.  I figure we’ll spend some time at the party talking about the Hair apparent to the Republican nomination, Donald Trump.

Another thing on my mind is that I no longer have TV service.  I cancelled my contract with Comcast last week and tried using rabbit ears to pick up a signal.  Either I’m doing something wrong, or there aren’t any broadcast signals in Lancaster.  I guess the Amish market wouldn’t be a demographic that any of the networks were trying to court, even if the Amish had televisions.

So, I’ve been doing a lot of writing and reading, and walking around the neighborhood.  Reading a book of short stories late at night is just not as stimulating as, say, a Rocky marathon on TV, though.  So, I’ve been going to bed earlier and waking up earlier.  For the past year or so, I’ve been going to bed at around 3 or 4 a.m. and sleeping until noon.  Now, I’m going to bed around midnight and waking up around 8:30.  It’s amazing how quickly my cable-free body is getting back into circadian rhythms inspired by the sun instead of my favorite TV shows.

All these factors contributed to my “attending” a gala Republican function and watching the returns come in.  I knew almost immediately that I was dreaming, but I didn’t even try to wake myself.  I wanted to see where it would go.  Since, I don’t have any TV, I take my entertainment where I can get it.  Besides, it was a pretty decent party.  It was in a beautifully furnished multiplex apartment of some rich couple.  They appeared once on the spiral staircase, but I didn’t recognize them.  Hilary Becker was there, and there were lots of other people there.  They had all sorts of food, free booze, and they even had pot.  This was another clue that it was just a dream, but I just took a few tokes and kept right on snoozing.

I was introduced to George W. Bush, who was a lot older in the dream than he really is, but then again I haven’t seen much of him in the last eight years, so maybe he wasn’t too much older.  We walked into a different room and he had to hold my arm for balance.  He spoke to me, but his voice was so weak, I couldn’t hear what he was saying.  Just as well, it probably would have set me off, and my cover would have been blown if I started arguing with him.  I think we were wandering around looking for Laura Bush, but we never found her.

I went off by myself, and I wound up walking into my High School Biology Lab.  There were some people from my graduating class there, but I didn’t remember any of their names.  They were hunched over the tables like they might be dissecting frogs, but they weren’t.  They were performing vasectomies on little plastic babies.  I decided to try.  I hooked up some kind of rig that looked like a guillotine and WHOOOMP, the little plastic baby had a vasectomy, a circumcision, and could now pee 10 times faster than any of the other plastic babies.  I got beaten with a pointer and thrown out of the class.  That was the first normal thing that happened in my dream, and it woke me up.

Nature abhors a vacuum.  If you don’t feed it television, it will produce its own mini-series while you are sleeping.  I’m cool with that, though.  I actually enjoyed the show last night, and, best of all, there weren’t any commercials.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Cold Turkey, with lettuce & Tomato

Cold Turkey - 7ew

I noticed that my Comcast bill doubled, but I figured I must have missed a payment, so I just sent them the money and went about my business.  Then, the next month I saw the same inflated figure.  So, I called them.

“My cable bill doubled in price,” I squawked.

“Uh huh,” they said.

“Uh huh?” I protested.  “Can you please find the problem?”

“No problem,” the voice replied.  “Your trial period ended, and now you’re being charged the full price.”

“But I’ve only been paying half this price for two years.”

“That’s right.  That was your trial period.”

“Well, this new price is outrageous.  Can’t you do better?”

“We can knock off $40 a month if you lock into a contract for two years.”

“That’s still too high, and I certainly don’t want to lock into that price for two years.  Can’t you do better?  I’m a senior citizen, a veteran, a card-carrying cheapskate…”

“Sorry, that’s the best we can do.”

“I’ll get back to you.”

I investigated other plans from other companies.  They were all pretty much the same – low introductory price and then after a year, bend over, grab your ankles, and don’t expect any lube.

I decided to make my stand.  Now, I must first point out that if there was such a thing as Internet Anonymous, I would be going to meetings every week.  “Hello, my name is Earl.  I’m an Internetaholic…”  But, I figured that I would make some kind of token effort to express my displeasure with the rate increase, and that I could survive a short while without cable in my house.  After all, I have a smart phone.  So, I can still Google whatever I want, whenever I want, and that’s probably what I do most.  That and e-mail.

So, I called Comcast.  “Cancel my subscription.”

“Can you tell us the reason for your cancellation?”

“The rate doubled, and I think that is outrageous.  I’ve been a loyal customer for two years…”  This is where I expected them to back down and make me another offer.  They just told me to take my equipment to the nearest UPS store, and to be careful that the door didn’t hit me on the way out.

So now I don’t have any Internet access in my home.  I don’t have any TV, or a landline phone either.  That evening, I cooked my dinner at 6:30 as usual, and when I sat down to eat it, there’s no Jeopardy! On the TV.  There was nothing on the TV, not even the ubiquitous Big Bang Theory, because I wasn’t picking up any signals even with the new rabbit ears I purchased.  At 11 pm there was no Daily Show with Trevor Noah.  It was freaky, strange, and quiet.

I didn’t know what to do.  So, to distract myself from missing my favorite programs I just got up out of my TV chair and started doing things around the house.  I washed the dirty dishes that had been piling up in the sink.  I noticed that there was a layer of stuff on the floor that wasn’t floor wax, so I broke out the vacuum cleaner.  I found about 30 cartons of stuff from 2 years ago that I had never unpacked, and started to unpack them.  I read a few books.  The next day, I took a walk around town.  I took a few bus rides on routes I had never taken before, just to explore the outskirts of Lancaster.  I started learning Spanish.  I started work on my 6th screenplay, and a non-fiction book about Harness Racing.  I also discovered that I can play Freecell with regular playing cards.

Life without the Internet or TV is strange, but I knew ahead of time that I would have to go Cold Turkey to break my addiction.  Then I visited the local library to get some more reading material and I found that they had dozens of computers sitting there for anyone to use to access the Internet.  So, I took a hit.  Ooooh, I could feel the rush pounding through my veins.  Okay, maybe I can’t go cold turkey, but, thanks to the library, I can last a little while before I go running to Verizon or Dish Network begging them for a fix.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

The Wall

Donald Trump - The Wall

We don’t need no E.P.A.’s

One more comment about my small hands

And I’ll whip it out on stage.

Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone.

They don’t need books to know how to haul

All the bricks that I’ll need for my wall.

 

With apologies to Pink Floyd.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl