Posts

Halloween is Over

For Halloween this year I went as Jerry Garcia, and I didn’t need a wig. It had been a year since my last haircut. But now, as they say on Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.” It was time for a haircut.

I didn’t think it was fair to the students at the Barber School where I used to go to have to face the daunting challenge of cutting off all that hair, so I went upscale a smidgin. The employees at the Walmart barber shop questioned my timing. Since I made it through the dog days of Summer with long hair, shouldn’t I keep it long for the winter to keep me warm? I told them that I had read about a new invention called a hat.

Hats and long hair conflict. Whenever I pull off my ski cap, my hair looks like Doc Brown’s in Back to the Future. It was time to simplify. In short, it was time to get it cut short again.

I liked having long hair. It was the first time in my life I ever let it grow past my collar, and it was pretty cool, but there were some disadvantages. On windy days I felt like I was walking through a cave of spider webs, and when I ate, I often found myself chewing on Peanut butter, Jelly, and Hair Sandwiches. I was constantly picking hairs off my shirt only to find that they were still attached to my head. The cost of shampoo and conditioner was also escalating the longer the hair grew. Plus, the stylist who cut my hair last time said I needed “Product.” In the old days a little dab of Brylcreme would do it, but nowadays you need “Product.” I’m not sure what ingredients are in this product, but everyone told me I needed it.

The salon product was extremely expensive, so I experimented. I tried Coconut Oil. I tried Macadamia Nut Oil. I tried Mane and Tail Detangler. None of them really worked well, and they all attracted flies, bees, and mosquitos.

When I got home from the salon I looked in the mirror and loved my new haircut, except for one thing. The hair looked good, but now my beard looked scraggly, without the mop of hair on my head to balance the picture.

Oh well, I guess I’ll have to find some “product” for my beard now.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Advertisements

Oh Captain, My Captain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I met Mark about 20 years ago when we were both working for Sports Eye (a.k.a. “The Bible of Harness Racing”). Every employee played the horses. We all had that one thing in common. Mark and I also shared a fondness for smoking weed. When his mother kicked her tenant out of the upstairs apartment in New Hyde Park, Mark offered the apartment to me at a low rent, and I moved in. At least once a week, we would get together, get high, and go to the local OTB. Afterwards, we’d grab a bite to eat, while we explained why the horses we picked lost. We went through this ritual for 14 years. Then, he bought a house in Texas, and I moved to Lancaster. I found out from his Mother that he just had a massive heart attack and died.

During the prime years of Mark’s life, his friends called him “Captain.” He outlived most of those friends, but I would still call him Captain, just to remind him of the good old days, even though I didn’t even know him back in his good old days. We had talked so much over the years that I practically knew his life story. He loved boats, and even lived on a houseboat in New York for several years. I think that he bought another boat a few weeks ago and was fixing her up. That might have been what did him in. I’m sure that Preparing for the hurricane that recently passed through his home in Corpus Christi didn’t help, either.

Now, the Captain will return to the sea. He’s a member of the Neptune Society. His body will be cremated and his ashes will be spread on the ocean.

Fair winds and following seas, Captain.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

The Trotterbury Tale

First let me say in this brief introduction,

That I’m listening to a BBC production,

Of the Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer, Geoffrey,

Who wrote in Middle English, which is all Greek to me.

 

This poem in High School, I surely did dread,

Because I couldn’t understand a word that he said.

But now this story gives me great inspiration,

Thanks to Burton Raffel and his fine translation.

 

Now I can follow this ancient old song,

And understand why it’s lasted so long

I’m enjoying the story and so I will show it,

By writing this blog in the way of a poet.

 

The Harness Racing Fan’s Story

 

Last week, three friends they had a notion,

To visit the upstate town of Goshen.

A place that bears a biblical name,

And is home to the Harness Hall of Fame.

 

The trip was my idea, as I am a big fan,

Brother X and friend John went along with the plan.

It was my birthday, which is why they agreed,

They’d rather watch Yankees than any old steed.

 

Please do not poke the driver

So we packed up the car, and were on our way soon.

We reached the museum a little past noon.

20170819_132355

20170819_132409

 

On the walls I saw pictures of drivers so mighty,

They only recognized a guy they called Whitey.

20170819_133539

We toured every exhibit and every space,

And inside of cutouts our heads we did place.

2017 Humbletonian

Our favorite spot was a place where we could act,

Like we were driving a Trotter on the main track.

 

Johnny went first and just like he oughta,

He took to racing like a duck takes to water.

20170819_150948

I mentioned Ducks, because on the previous night,

We saw The Long Island Ducks really put up a fight.

They beat my poor Stormers on a night filled with rain,

But it was still nice to see some old friends again.

 

Linda and Jimmy from the old Sutter crowd,

Were cheering for Ducks and rooting quite loud.

Brother X and Christine, the home team were backing.

And nephew DJ and wife Stacy were all busy quacking.

Ducks vs Stormers

Now back to my story about our Goshen trip.

It was my turn in the sulky but with my bum hip

I needed some help to climb in with my pain.

If truth be told, I needed a crane.

20170819_151125Then, finally, I got it right,

But to get me out, it took all night.

I didn’t care; I was having my fun,

And in the picture, it looks like I won.

20170819_151219

At the end of the day, we were ready to eat,

My friend Sally told me a place that couldn’t be beat.

So, we took her advice, and it couldn’t be finer,

We all enjoyed the food at the Goshen Diner.

 

Goshen DinerBefore we left I took a picture of the track,

And we agreed that someday we’d all go back.

But there is one sad note about this town.

Two days later this old barn burned down.

20170819_152750

 

But when they saw the flames and smoke,

This sleepy little town really awoke.

The people came from everywhere

To save the horses that were there.

Goshen Fire

An historic barn is now gone,

But, thankfully, the horses all live on,

Thanks to the people with courage true.

Oh, Land of Goshen, how I love you.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

I Was A Teenage Nazi

When I was a teenager, my family bought a summer bungalow in Yaphank, Long Island. The place where we lived was part of the German-American Settlement League, a private club exclusively for people of German extraction. They had 50 bungalows, a ballfield, a clubhouse, and a private beach on the Carmen’s River. Our house was right on the river. As nice as that sounds, there were still problems for me living there as a teenager. For one, I was a big fan of screaming guitars and Rock N Roll, while the neighbors all preferred accordions and polkas. When there was a dance at the clubhouse, it seemed that all they played were polkas and waltzes. There was no twisting, nor frugging, nor mashing of potatoes – and those were the only dances I knew at the time.

German American Settlement League Clubhouse

There was a bigger problem than the music selection at the dances, though. Most of the people were ancient, and there weren’t any girls my age there. I had a few male friends – Fritz, Freddie, Edgar, and Charlie, but there weren’t any Brunhildas, Annegrets, or Margaretes around. The only girls were Linda Zeltman and Carol Ann Schultz and they were only 12 years old. Lillian Lyons was the only eligible female in the entire neighborhood, but she was a college girl, so she was way out of my league. There were no potential girlfriends in the entire community, and that can be a real bummer for a teenager.

There were a few real Nazis among the resident there, but they weren’t really a problem. They came in two varieties – old Nazis or very old Nazis. They were the ones who had founded the place back in the 30’s. There weren’t very many of them left alive by the time our family moved in. The club’s rules stated that you had to be at least part German to be a member, but some of the newer families who lived there, like us, had only a few drops of German blood. My Dad had none. He was Irish and Swedish, but my parents got in because my Mom had a little German blood in her lineage. Years later, after he retired from the Telephone Company, my Dad, who had pounded the Nazis commanding a U.S. tank during World War II, actually became the President of the German-American Settlement League. The times they certainly were a changing.

The newer families moving in were more interested in a cheap summer getaway than preserving the proud tradition of Oom Pah bands. You had to be a member to buy a bungalow there, and you had to be part German to be a member, so the limited market kept bungalow prices way down. When I got married, Ginny and I bought our first house there, simply because the price was cheap, $12,000. That was less than half of what equivalent homes were going for just outside the community.

The German-American Settlement League came a long way from their Nazi beginnings, and, by the time my family moved there, it had become more of a retirement village. As the old guard died off, however, a few of us newcomers wondered aloud if, when it was time to sell our homes, the by-laws of the community might change and allow us to list the house on an open market, where it might sell for 2 or 3 times more than we would get selling it to a club member only.

Well, I read recently that it finally happened. Philip Kneer and his wife, Patricia Flynn-Kneer sued the G.A.S.L. for the right to list their home on the open market.

To win their case, all they had to do to was go to the newspapers with pictures of the community back in the 1930’s.

Camp Siegfried

An undated photo at Camp Siegfried in Yaphank shows the swastika and the salute, familiar Nazi symbols, on display. In a federal lawsuit on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, a Yaphank couple said that discriminatory covenant restrictions of the German-American Settlement League, which owns the former camp site, have prevented them from selling their home. Photo Credit: UPI

 

Once their lawyers played the Ole Nazi card, it was impossible to get public opinion behind keeping the by-laws of the all-German community intact. Besides, like I said, many of the club’s members also hoped to be able to sell their homes on the open market when the time came, so the G.A.S.L. settled the lawsuit quickly.

 

Noe, with the German American Settlement League opening their doors to people of all kinds, who will still be around on Long Island to dance the polkas and remind the world of Germany’s many proud traditions, like Oktoberfest, lederhosen, Bratwurst, and beer? The answer, I recently found out, is Nephew X. He’s a teacher on Long Island, and he actually wore this outfit to school one day. I think it was National Pretzel Day, or something like that.  At least I hope it was.

Mr. Germany

Peace and Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Storm Troopers

CyloStorm Trooper

It was Star Wars night at Clipper Magazine Stadium and the first 1,000 attendees got free bobblehead dolls of the Barnstormers Mascot, Cylo, dressed in Darth Vader attire. I got there an hour before game time, but that wasn’t early enough to be among the first 1,000. Almost 7,000 people showed up for the game.  So the night started with a little disappointment for me. Then the Lancaster starter gave up 5 runs in the first inning and the disappointment mounted.

One of the mottos of the Barnstormers, however, is “Keep Calm and Storm on.” They did just that. The Barnstormers fought back and scored one run in their half of the first inning. They held the Sugarland Skeeters scoreless in top of the second, and scored 2 more runs in the bottom of the inning. So, with the score now 5-3, hope was returning. The Skeeters were blanked in the third and the Stormers stormed on to tie the game in the bottom of the third.  The Force is strong in this team.

In between innings the Star Wars characters staged mock light saber duels on the field, and fireworks were also planned for after the game, so the thousands of children in attendance were kept entertained. While they were enjoying themselves with hot dogs and cotton candy, I was enjoying the seesaw game. The Skeeters retook the lead and the Stormers fought back. Then the pesky Skeeters would score again and the Barnstormers would respond with enough runs to keep the game close. Then the Stormers actually got their big break, when one of their guys struck out. The Skeeter catcher wasn’t able to catch the outside pitch and it went all the way to the backstop. The batter darted for first and got there well before the throw. Safe at first. The next batter took advantage of the opening and hit a two-run homer.

Both teams kept piling up runs but the Skeeters never relinquished the lead. Then in the 7th innings, another Stormer struck out on a pitch way outside that the Skeeter catcher again couldn’t reach, and he, too, reached first safely. I crossed my fingers hoping for lightning to strike twice. A homerun would tie the game. The next batter only singled, though.

The Skeeters still had an 11 to 9 lead, but the Stormers now had the tying runs on base and with two out centerfielder Beau Amaral stepped to the plate. He hit a looping fly ball down the left field line that the leftfielder raced after and dove for at the last second, but he came up empty, and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. The two men on base scored easily and as Beau chugged into third the coach frantically waved him home. The relay throw got to the plate before Beau, but not soon enough for the catcher to secure it, and a sliding Beau scored what eventually was the winning run as the ball bounced away from the hapless catcher.

I’ve seen inside-the-park homeruns in some of the huge Major-League parks, but I never before saw one in a small Minor-League park. The last time a Barnstormer hit an inside-the-park homerun, was 6 years ago, playing against the Ducks in Commack, Long Island.  It was a sight to behold, and even more exciting than the post-game fireworks. The force was definitely with the Lancaster Barnstormers that night, and they increased their league lead. It looks like they’re headed to another Championship season. Storm on, Stormers.20170805_215526.jpg

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

 

 

Hate the Sin. Love the Sinner

Everybody hates Joffrey

 

“I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show, a fantasy world of celluloid heroes and villains.”

-The Kinks (Celluloid Heroes)

 

Thanks to the extensive DVD collection at the library, I’m catching up on the TV shows I missed. Currently I’m binge watching Game of Thrones. I just finished seasons one and two and I’ve learned quite a few things. One is that this show really is as good as people said it was. Two is that they’re not afraid to kill off the main characters, unlike old TV shows like Star Trek, where you knew that many of the crew might be killed, but Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and “Bones” McCoy would still be alive at the end of each episode. And three, everybody hates King Joffrey.

It came as no surprise to me that Jack Gleeson, who portrays the sadistic young king, won the People’s Choice Award for Best TV Villain. We love our movie heroes, but the actors we love to hate are the ones who win the acting awards. This is something I learned back in 1971 when I first saw the movie Bonnie and Clyde. Even though they were bank robbers, Bonnie and Clyde were the charismatic stars of the movie. We hated to see them gunned down at the end of the picture. Clyde’s sister-in-law, played by Estelle Parsons, was the one we hated. She whined constantly, and everybody in the movie theatre would have gladly watched her get riddled with bullets instead. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Remember Kathy Bates in Misery? She made Nurse Ratched look like Florence Nightingale. Everyone who saw Misery remembers the scene where Kathy smashed James Caan’s ankles with a sledge hammer. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Louise Fletcher, by the way, also won a Best Actress for her portrayal of the previously mentioned Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Charlize Theron won the Academy Award for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wournos in Monster. I’d have to look it up, but I’d guess that the make-up artist who turned the beautiful South African actress into a Monster must have won an award, too. Speaking of monsters, Frederic March won the Academy Award back in 1931 for his dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Presidential monsters also get their recognition. Frank Langella, who can do a trick with his eyes that scares the bejesus out of me, was nominated for Best Actor for portraying Richard Nixon. Daniel Day-Lewis won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln. I know that Lincoln is up there on Mount Rushmore as, supposedly, one of our greatest Presidents, but I, personally, consider him a monster. Yes, he abolished slavery, but at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives. Plus, history books fail to tell the story of how more than a million slaves died from hunger, disease, and neglect soon after they were freed. Don’t take my word for it. Read Sick from Freedom by the historian Jim Downs.

Fictional Presidents can also be good monsters. Donald Sutherland was superb as President Snow, the tormenter of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Rooney Mara was nominated for the Academy Award for her performance as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Of course, she wasn’t a monster. She just appeared to be one. Read the books. She’s one of my favorite female characters in literature. She even tops Katniss Everdeen, who was portrayed in the Hunger Games by another Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence. Rooney Mara, as her name suggests, is the paternal granddaughter of Wellington Mara and the maternal great-granddaughter of Art Rooney, Sr. Good thing she wasn’t a boy or I’m sure her family would have pushed her into football.

Michael Keaton can play the good guy or the bad guy and be terrific. He’s lovable in Mr. Mom and downright terrifying in Pacific Heights. Marlon Brando won the Academy Award for The Godfather. Sure, he was very likable, but, after all, he did play the head of a Mafia family. Michael Douglas won for personifying greed in Wall Street. Anthony Hopkins won for his portrayal of serial killer Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs.

This list of bad boys and girls who thrilled us on screen goes on and on. The mountains are more impressive because of the valleys, and heroes are more impressive because of the villains they faced. So, hail King Joffrey for making Game of Thrones more interesting, but I sure can’t wait until I get to the episode where they kill you off.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

The Great Flood of Tourists

Animatronic dinosaurs and people are throughout the CreationCreation Museum - 02Creation Museum - 04

Creation Museum - 03

“Noah, how long can you tread water?”

-God

 

Nothing crazy has been happening in my life lately. The library had a big clearance sale on books, CDs, and DVD’s, and I walked away with enough material to keep me busy for months. So, I’ve been either listening to CDs, watching movies, or sitting on my back porch reading. Oh, I’ve also been practicing my clarinet for an hour a day. You’re lucky I can’t post sound on this website, or you would have to suffer though my squeaky rendition of This Is the Moment from the musical Jekyll and Hyde. To my great surprise, though, the neighbors have actually been very supportive and encourage me by telling me that they think I’m improving with practice. Of course, they’re not really sure, because they don’t recognize any of the old songs I’m playing. So, they don’t know what it’s supposed to sound like, but at least I’m not playing as many squeaky notes as before. They consider that an improvement.

Fortunately, during this calm period in my life, I still have a crazy friend to provide fodder for my stories. My friend Debbie and her mother went to visit the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where “the Bible vividly comes to life.” Evidently, this is the Mennonite equivalent to a trip to Disney World.

Just enter the Creation Museum and you’re transported back to the very beginning – 6,000 years ago, when dinosaurs and people roamed the earth together, and where the Big Bang Theory is Fake News. Don’t laugh. Recent surveys show that 41% of Americans believe that dinosaurs and people coexisted. (If you find that hard to believe, remember that 46% of American voters also thought that Donald Trump was a good choice for President.) Exhibits at the Creation Museum even show you how dinosaur fossils were created by the great flood that happened during Noah’s day. They even have a real live archaeologist to show you how it happened.

You can take a stroll through the Garden of Eden and watch how God created woman from Adam’s rib. I think that the refreshment stand there probably offers everything but apples. Then, after touring the hundreds of biblical dioramas, hop aboard the centerpiece of the Park, the life-sized version of Noah’s Ark (300 cubits long). Since a cubit is equal to the length of an average forearm, that means it’s about the size of 1 and a half football fields, plenty of room for 2 of every kind of animal, except, of course, for the poor dinosaurs and unicorns, who somehow missed the boat.

Debbie complained that while they were visiting Noah’s Ark it rained the whole time. Does anyone else find that funny?

Faith can move mountains, and it can also sell a lot of souvenirs.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl