Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Coming Soon: For Those Who Can


The journey begins with a somber graveside service as the skies above New Orleans burst forth with a hard rain, punctuated by the mystery of an incomplete manuscript delivered to a grieving son by an unexpected guest. From that starting point, author Joel Momberg takes readers on an unforgettable and engaging ride in his third novel, For Those Who Can – following the path through the mid-1970s of a young college prep teacher, Alan Handler, in an adventure filled with laughs, love, and a lingering sense that something is amiss.

Traveling the country for an education services company, Alan learns he has a knack for connecting with the widely diverse groups of students he encounters along the way. Yet he cannot quite understand the beautiful blond-haired woman from Mississippi – fellow teacher Karol Rae Ballard – who captivates him from the moment he lays eyes on her.

Their romance propels them through various stops at high schools in the South and Midwest, as Alan finds himself irresistibly drawn to the strong and stunning Karol Rae. At the same time, he grows increasingly aware of something she seems to be running from – setting in motion a narrative that eventually weaves its way to Europe and back to the States, and in a handful of emotion-packed revelations that ensue.

On another level, For Those Who Can is a lively period piece that unfolds to the soundtrack of the ’70s – Randy Newman, James Taylor, John Denver, and even satiric Texas troubadour Kinky Friedman. It takes humorous detours to a surprise, wrongful drug arrest and surreal trip to Indiana’s state prison. And it winds its way to the cold-hearted killing of a private school headmaster that causes Alan to question whether he should go forward as a teacher.

But then comes a phone call that will change everything, pulling Alan and the novel’s storyline in a new direction – all the while with Karol Rae keeping her hold on his heart. The book’s title is drawn from the phrase, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” As you will come to discover, Alan Handler can both teach and do in his life. The proof lives in the pages of that unfinished manuscript passed along at the gravesite – and in the trademark Momberg twist of the gripping finale. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Bad News Is Everywhere

 I have to temper my TV watching. My blood pressure has been off the charts lately when I watch the news with Debbie. 

I find myself screaming at the TV set.

"What the hell is the matter with people  these days. Killing each other ... insulting each other ...  this country is falling apart!!!"

Debbie will calmly say, "It's going to be okay. We have made it before."

"YEAH? Not with a pandemic, riots around the country, people getting shot ..."

"I don't know why you get yourself so worked up lately."

"Because we are not going to have a country soon if things don't change."

"Go and get yourself something to drink and relax."

So, I do that. 

I head to the kitchen and feel better just not looking at TV, when all of a sudden I hear Debbie screaming at the set. 


I run back in. "What's going on. Is it worse?"


Thursday, August 27, 2020

For Those Who Can

Excited to announce ... Just finished the manuscript for my third novel!

For Those Who Can is a love story.

It’s about a teacher’s love for his students, love between a man and a woman, love of friends and family and love of the legacies that others have left for us to follow. It’s love in the truest form … wonderful, scary, dangerous and messy. 

I was a teacher for six years, three as a college preparatory teacher and three as a classroom teacher. Some of the experiences that I detailed (admittedly) closely followed my early career.

The title of the book is one that most teachers have unfortunately heard as a derogatory opening line of a quote that sometimes is used as a reference by others who scoff at what teachers do: 

Those who can … do / Those who can’t … teach. 

For years, I had a coffee mug on my desk in response to that remark which simply read: Those who can … TEACH.

This book was written For Those Who Can

I truly loved teaching. The students were incredible, I learned so much from them! Many still contact me on social media and I love hearing from them. 

This was a difficult year (2020). COVID 19 was the great interrupter which we all dealt with. I was also battling the effects of stage four melanoma of the liver and undergoing immunotherapy. There were days that I just didn’t feel like writing but by persisting, I feel that it was truly part of my healing process. 

Special thanks to all those mentioned in the book that are real characters (you know who you are) who had such an impact on my life and to my great friend Dave Scheiber who helped me every step of the way editing, advising, and supporting. He is and always will be one of the best writers I know. 

And to my wife Debbie. I would not let her see any pages until I was through. She allowed me to again be selfish in the time I spent holed up on the beach or in my office at home writing this novel. She is such a tremendous support to me.

Thanks to friends and family who were always there.

I hope you enjoy For Those Who Can when it is published next month. STAY TUNED. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Lotteries and All That Jazz

I was listening in my car to the latest blog entry from Malcolm Gladwell this morning. He does a series on Revisionist History and this one was called "The Powerball Revolution".

The premise for this segment was how we choose our leaders and how a lottery might just be as good or even a better way than a popular election.

Crazy idea huh?

Made me think of the time I first joined the staff of USF some eleven or so years ago. One of my fondest memories was meeting Dr. Stu Silverman, Dean of the Honors College.

When Stu found out I played the piano, he invited me to sit in with (his pride and joy), The Honors College Jazz Band: group of students from the Honors College that all played instruments in high school. None were music majors and the only prerequisite was that to play you have to bring your instrument. The band mix changed each year as the students graduated. Some years, Stu had 4 trumpet players or three clarinet players or four drummers. Didn't matter because he was happy to have all comers. One of the faculty members at the school of music served as our band leader.

Stu introduced me as "Not a REAL piano player. A member of the staff who plays piano for fun." I always thanked Stu for that kind introduction and mentioned his questionable drum skills in the process.

Actually, it was all a brilliant idea.

The Honors students were the best of the best. They were the smartest students at the university and represented a variety of disciplines of study. They were also typically shy, introverted and hadn't developed the social skills that some of their other contemporaries had. How could they? They were always studying. The Jazz Band became their outlet. Each year we practiced jazz pieces once a week under the tutelage of a faculty member from the College of Music and at the end of the semester ... we had a concert on the main stage of the theater.

I saw students who started out shy and tentative slowly develop into soloists that really rocked (kind of like the movie School of Rock) ... It was a wonderful experience.

So what does this have to do with Malcolm Gladwell's lottery premise?

I thought about the potential leadership that we all overlook every day. There are so many people that have so much talent and shy away from the election process because it requires a totally different skill set ... much of which is sales and "kissing babies"...  that our best and brightest would rather not even attempt. The shame is ... none of those skills deal with real leadership and management and we have so many that could provide SO much more than we have had in the past.

Lotteries aren't necessarily the answer to it all ... but worth a REAL discussion.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

All That Matters

I've had a few heated conversations lately about politics, the state of the world and how bad things are. I really think it's time for everyone to reread my favorite book ... "All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum. I used to remind my staff of the guiding principles (when I was a working man)

Here they are:

1. Share

2. Play fair

3. Don't hit people.

4. Put things back where you found them.

5. Clean up your own mess.

6. Don't take things that aren't yours.

7. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody

8. Wash your hands before you eat.

9. Flush.

10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.

Friday, May 8, 2020

So ... How Are You Really?

"I'm good."

That is the standard response to the question "How are you doing?" Oh yes ... I could go into a lot more detail but truly, people fall asleep after ten seconds of stomach aches, bleeding fissures, nausea and pain. By people, I mean ME. I can't even listen to it.

So the standard is "I'm good (or fine)."

I remember my brother in law Tom would always have the same response during his battle with pancreatic cancer. When asked how he was doing, he would always say, "Better than I deserve." That stopped further questions on the spot. I now have a new appreciation for that line. Tom was not one to dwell on the negative and hated the focus to be on him. Miss that boy every day.

Responses are a funny thing. Jerry Seinfeld has a new special standup on Netflix that should be required viewing for everyone. One of his hilarious sets is a back and forth on the two reactions that people have to everything; movies, food, health ... life. "It sucks ... or it's great". His claim is that there is no longer a middle ground. 

For example, You go to a movie and the conversation is:

"I thought it sucked, you?"

"Yeah, it REALLY sucked."

"You know the beginning was GREAT, but the rest ... SUCKED." 

His theory is that suck and great are really almost the same thing. For example, you're eating an ice cream cone and it falls on the sidewalk. What do you say? "THAT SUCKS." then you look at the damage and immediately say "GREAT!"

So true ... right?

NOTE: By the way, I never get tired of hearing from you and knowing that you care enough to ask me how I am. Tom would have said the same thing.

I might try "Sucks" and "Great" next time!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Always Hug Your Liver

As is my nature at times, I seem to have a knack for bad timing. Corona virus quarantine was apparently not dramatic enough, so I added to my burden by undergoing surgery to remove a melanoma from my liver two weeks ago.

How does one get a melanoma on the liver, you might ask? So did I. And it’s not easy. It can travel through the bloodstream from somewhere on your skin or just show up in odd places. I'm in the latter category with the other 5% (of course).

The past few weeks have been kind of a blur. Got through the heavy painkiller phase and trying to muddle through getting my strength back. Turns out that removing 40% of your liver is an effective way to drop some weight. But I’d still recommend Weight Watchers. And ... your liver grows back anyway.

I’ve also been dealing with a lot of emotions that I often can’t control. Losing 40% of your liver must be comparable to giving birth so I really have newfound respect for moms after childbirth. My kids think I've always been hormonal anyway ... even crying during episodes of Baywatch when they were young.

Yesterday, was one of those sensitive moments.

I was telling Deb that I had a great idea for a comic book superhero based on what I was going through. I called him IMMUNO-MAN. You see,  Immunotherapy is the next step of treatment to assure that the melanoma doesn't come back. Infusions every month boosts the immune system to help the body fight the cancer.

So I told Debbie, "IMMUNO -MAN has super immunities that fight off all disease and give him special powers."

Debbie answered, "That's a little different from what the doctor described."

"Well, exaggerated but still he will have the additional power boost to fight infection."

"Remember, the doctor said it will give you a little more and the ability to help ward off melanoma but not like you can fight off anything."

I was quiet and thoughtful for a minute and then overcome with emotion. "DEBBIE ... YOU JUST RUINED MY COMIC BOOK!"

I didn't talk to her for five whole minutes.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Outliers Need Love Too

Being the guy who has the reputation as an outlier has certain benefits I guess. People seek out your advice. (Not because you’re so brilliant but more because no one else thinks like that). Gambling has mixed results. When you’re hot you're hot but when you’re not ... Your kids always wanted a normal dad but had to settle for Mel Brooks and Larry David.

As of late, health issues have been quite a challenge. I’m getting a little tired of being in the 5% of unexpected outcomes. Lately, it’s been liver issues that have become so complicated that I have to read Debbie’s medical updates to the family to understand where I am.

I won’t spend a lot of time and medical jargon on this today. Just know that the last month or so has been a blur but we are moving through it with heads high and painkillers in each pocket.

To the outliers! Long may they keep it interesting. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

One More Thing ....

I have a favor to ask!

There is renewed interest in our kid's music and interstitials. Back in my old Dr. Pete E. Atric days, Mike Sexton, Kevin Riley and I produced these spots and actually won an Emmy for one of them "Chicken Named Mac". The other two: "Sunburn Serenade" and "I Am Not a Little Ant" were well received as well,

Take a look:

I talked to Kevin the other day and he was saying how much children's media has exploded and the renewed interest in content. He has been working with many producers on animated movies and stuff. So we decided to create some new cool stuff for kids and brush off our existing stuff as well. 


If you have kids or grandkids and they are glued to the TV or the iPhone ... what are they watching? Send me the popular shows that your kids like so we can get some ideas.

I will keep you posted!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Further Random Thoughts

So unless you’ve just arrived on earth from the planet Zoltar, you know a little about the Coronavirus. Almost as depressing as the latest political interactions among our leaders and wannabes, the virus is now everywhere ... literally.

And I happen to be among the fortunate group known as “corona-screwed”. You know ... the older population who are medically compromised. (As if they really need to add the last part. If you’re old and have not had any medical issues, your unicorn is waiting). And if it’s not bad enough that everyone is limited in their daily activities to reduce the spread of the virus, my group has been told that we could go anywhere in the world as long as it’s within the four walls of our bedrooms.

What does this new world order mean for me? I took stock of my favorite activities and found the limitations to be somewhat daunting.

1. Spending time with grandkids.

Tough to do when I think about one on each arm and one climbing up my back with those adorable runny noses and cute coughs reaching up to my face. They really are cute ... snot and all. But every time I visit I pay the price of a day or two in bed with a cold. The only way to visit and be protected is to separate them with a window and one of those prison phones.

2. Travel to cool places

That’s out. There are no safe places to visit and if I do find one on a deserted island I would still have to travel via the big flying germ factory in the sky. Every time I fly it seems that 75% of the passengers are sneezing and sharing their germs. Can’t open a window either.

3. The Casino

Probably the worst of all. Thousands of degenerate gamblers like me in smoke filled rooms where the object is to collect dirty chips and cash, play with reused dice or push thousands of buttons on slot machines that have been touched by the United Nations.

4. Going to ballgames, concerts and stuff.

Remember when we used to have ballgames and concerts? No more. Oh there might be a game or two played ... but you have to watch it on TV because there are no fans allowed. Just got our Rays season tickets last week. Oh well.

5. Monitoring my retirement fund online.

Talk about depressing. The computer screen has to add another segment on the lower right to be able to capture the descending line. Today it was on the floor next to my computer.

I watched a movie the other day that really had the answer to our problem. Bruce Willis played a cop. The movie was called Surrogates. It was a sci-fi set in the future and the premise was that everyone was connected to perfect replica robots that they mentally controlled from their homes. They could experience everything their robot did and be safe and secure (and waste away in bed).

Well, I didn't say it was a GOOD answer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

More Random Thoughts From an Old Retired Beach Guy

Ah ... another stressful day on the beach, another milestone birthday under my belt, another doctor visit, another grouper sandwich ... all made me think about putting together a list of the things I miss and the things I don't miss pre and post-retirement.

I'll start with the list of things I don't miss:

1. Traffic between St. Pete and Tampa.

To be more specific ... traffic between downtown St. Pete (my home) and north Tampa (my former office at USF). Truly, for those of you who currently make that commute: I really feel for you. Debbie used to pray for me during my commute both day and night. I think that was to protect me and to protect those who drive close to me.

She actually still keeps an encyclopedia of books about Jesus next to the bed, which she (RELIGIOUSLY) reads every night. I used to sneak a peek before I headed out to “ask him” to watch over me on the Howard Franklin or Gandy. When I talk to him I use his Jewish name, Jacob Smolensky (or Jake the Carpenter).

Thank you, Jake for keeping me safe for the last 11 years.

2. Meetings

I should be more specific here.


3. Being the boss.

This might surprise you. Those who have never experienced the joy of leadership, collaboration with fellow staff members and creating destiny might not understand why I don't miss this.

Truth is ... you are never really in control of anything but responsible for everything.

NOTE: I was truly blessed as a boss because I had great staff that really produced incredible results and many became great friends.

Then again, there were others ...

Things I DO miss:

There are A BILLION OF THEM!!!

Coming Soon: For Those Who Can

FOR THOSE WHO CAN ... SUMMARY The journey begins with a somber graveside service as the skies above New Orleans burst forth with a hard rai...