Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From Streetcars to Waitresses

When I was 12, streetcars and buses were my major mode of transportation.

Twice a week, I would take the Napolean Avenue bus from my house, transfer to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar and walk about ten blocks to Touro Hospital to Dr. Cohen’s office. I got allergy shots on every visit.

According to my mother, I was allergic to everything from house dust to outside air (different … I always thought ... from inside air). I didn’t really know what was in these shots. I don’t remember really having any conversations or even a physical exam at Dr. Cohen’s office. That’s not to say we didn’t … I just don’t recall any. 

Other than getting stuck with needles, I really liked those trips to the doctor’s office. There was a corner restaurant, Allgood’s, that had great burgers and milkshakes. I remember feeling very grown up as I made my way to the counter and said hello to the waitresses who knew me.  

Debbie told me after she read this, "So ... that explains how you got hooked on drugs, hamburgers ... and waitresses."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Do Over: Take A Lap ... Make it Wide!

It's a dreary Sunday and I'm sitting on my patio listening to Irma Thomas sing "It's Raining". Thoughts of New Orleans drift in and out of my mind. Here's a "Do Over" entry about a few of my old coaches in high school. (Yes ... I'm too lazy to write a new one).

first published  9/5/09

Fortier High School had three coaches that ran the sports program: Mook Clavier (Cluh-veah), Coach Didier (Did-e-yay), and Stanley Richard (Reee-shad). For purposes of this writing, I'll focus on Coach Richard. 

Richard was my favorite and one of the most colorful characters I have ever known.

He was shorter than the rest ... about 5'8" and built like Mr. Universe (he was actually Mr. New Orleans one year). He also had a speech impediment that could have been caused by his missing upper dental plate or the apparent head trauma that must have plagued him when he played sports as a youngster.

Every day, before class we would have roll call. Coach Richard couldn't pronounce any names correctly and his ability to retain information was limited .... so he spelled them out. My friend Wayne's last name was Lassen (which he pronounced "Layyy-Thun"), I was "Mum-boig" and two guys who were named Schmidt and Smith were both called "Smitt". When he called out their names it was always: "Smitt"! "S-C-H-M-I-D-T" ... "Smitt"! "S-M-I-T-H".

We had regular workouts which meant running laps ... lots of laps. And like everything else at Fortier, the equipment was first class ... empty wooden soft drink crates that cornered the dirt track. From the coach's office that overlooked the field, Coach Richard would yell into the microphone ... the one probably used today in most Mc Donald's Drive Thrus. We never knew just what he was saying but after months of trying to figure it out, we came up with: "OKAY ... EVERYONE ... TAKE A LAP ... MAKE IT WIDE .... FIVE TIMES AROUND THE COKE CASES" (or , "otayebryuntakalapmayitwhydfitisarounddacokecattheth").

Coach taught the health class too. The most memorable was the movie he showed us about drunk driving. It was one of those sappy dramatizations that was probably shot 20 years earlier and had Eddie Haskell lines like "Gee, Mr. Smith, I don't know what had come over me when I could not retain control of my vehicle." 

You know ... stuff all kids say. 

Well, in the film, the lead teenager gets killed in a crash while drinking and comes back as a ghost to see what has happened to his family after his death. After about a half hour or so of watching the "ghost", Coach Richard stood up and turned off the projector. He flipped on the lights and said, "I WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW THAT THE BOY IS DEAD ... THEY CANNOT SEE HIM."

He turned on the projector, everyone thanked the coach for his insight and we watched the rest of the show.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wierd News

Who can focus on the Casey Anthony Trial when there are news stories like these ...

Chattanooga, TN … A Tennessee man’s body is being exhumed to remove dentures that belong to another man after a mix-up at a Chattanooga hospital. 

Court records obtained by the newspaper showed Manis died on June 12. The dentures were with personal items placed inside his coffin. Counts said Manis’ family asked that the dentures be removed. Parkridge Medical Center spokeswoman Alison Counts told The Chattanooga Times Free Press that the body of 76-year-old Kenneth Ray Manis will be exhumed after his family learned the dentures belonged to an intensive care patient who shared the same hospital room.

The hospital has apologized and will be paying for new dentures, as well as reburial costs and attorney’s fees. The hospital declined to identify the patient who lost his dentures.

Miami, FL … The FBI has arrested a man accused of putting on a suit and tie, robbing a South Florida bank and then leaving in a taxi.

Jeffrey Harrington, 27, of North Miami, is accused of robbing the Bank of America branch in Hallandale Beach on Tuesday morning. He was arrested Wednesday.

According to the FBI, Harrington handed the teller a note demanding the teller fill envelopes with money and warning the teller not to set off the alarm because it would trigger an explosive device.

The note also read: “Remember the money is insured. Don’t be a hero.”

Authorities said Harrington left the bank and got into a parked taxicab that had picked him up from his home earlier that morning.

After the robbery, the taxi dropped Harrington off at the barbershop where he works, authorities said.

A co-worker told the FBI he saw Harrington at the barbershop putting a large amount of money in his pocket.

Federal prosecutors in Miami said Harrington made an initial court appearance Thursday morning and is scheduled to have his pretrial detention hearing next Thursday.

Lebanon, NH … Here’s the scoop: Some apartment complexes are using DNA testing on dog doo to find out who’s not cleaning up after their pets.

The Timberwood Commons in Lebanon, N.H., opened this year and already has had problems with some residents who aren’t cleaning up messes their dogs leave.
So manager Debbie Violette is going to use commercially available DNA sampling kits to check the DNA that dogs leave behind when they go.

“We’ve tried doing the warning letters. We’ve tried all sorts of things,” she said Friday. “It’s always a problem. It’s just that the majority of people are responsible pet owners and there are a few who are not.”

She said residents have been told they must submit samples from their dogs so DNA profiles can be put on file.

“I want people to know that we’re serious about this,” she said. More than 30 dogs call the 252-unit complex home.

Violette just received the kits from a Knoxville, Tenn., company called PooPrints, a subsidiary of BioPet Vet Lab. Jim Simpson, president of the lab, said about 20 properties in the country have been using the kits.

“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done as a property manager,” said Debbie Logan, who manages the Twin Ponds Development in Nashua, which has identified some problem pet owners through the tests.For testing samples, the company provides a feces collection kit. A small amount is put in a solution and mailed back to the lab. DNA is extracted from the feces. The lab then checks to see if it matches any of the profiles listed for the apartment complex.

Violette said that she hasn’t decided what to do if she catches a pet owner not cleaning up after their dog but that they’ll probably be fined. Language about the DNA testing will be included in a lease addendum addressing pet issues, she said.

So far, Violette said, she has gotten a positive response from dog owners.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sammy Called

Sammy called me ... 6 times in a row.

He had left a message on my home phone and called Debbie twice. I was on a business call when I heard those awful beeps. I have to admit ... I noticed the call waiting name and decided to wait. I knew what he wanted. It was far from an emergency.

I called him back:

"Hi Dad."

"Joel ... what can I do for you?"

"Um ... Dad ... you were trying to call me."

"Oh yeah. Listen ... do you know how I can get in touch with the Schmidlaps (not their real name, btw)? They were very good to me when I was here before."

"That was 30 years ago, Dad. I don't know where they are. I can look it up when I get ..."

"Do you know his first name?"

"It's Stan."

There was silence ... "Dan?"

"No, Stan."


Okay. Here I was ... on my way to work ... speaking on a car speaker ... in rush hour traffic. I was now speaking very loudly. "No. Stan ... S...T...A...N."

"T A N?"

"You left off the S?"

"I did what?"

"S ... AS IN SAM!!" (Now yelling)

"His name is Sam?"

"NO ... STAN !!!!"

"You know ... I looked in the "book" and all I could find was a 'Stan Schmedlap'."

I no longer had a voice. I hoarsely whispered:

"I think that's the one."  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Day for Dads

My oldest daughter Nicole sent me a great Dad's Day gift: Old pictures of the family.

Took me back to the days when I looked like a cross between Mr. Kotter and Groucho Marx.

Nikki had a face full of freckles, Alissa looked like a China doll and Josh was all cheeks.

Nikki used to be a big drinker.

Alissa was raised by Indians until she was about 10.

This picture was taken just before Josh uttered his first words: "Dad ... you got any cash?"

You know ... they all turned out pretty great ... despite their crazy Daddy.

Nikki ... thanks for reminding me. Sammy ... Happy Dad's Day from one Dad to another! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

My New Favorite Cartoonist

These were sent to me with the message "Remember The Far Side". I do ... loved them ... and now this cartoonist has become my new favorite.


By the way ... my nephew, Shane Metler, has a great website. it's been a terrific way for artists to show their goods, patrons to get the goods and everyone else to appreciate the goods.

Check it out:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

There Ain't No Granola Bars In Baseball!

Well ... we've been home for two days and it's a great feeling. You know how you feel when you get away from home for a week and then return? Ahhhh. The best.

Tonight ... after work, we changed into our Rays shirts, headed to the stadium and watched The Rays beat up on the Red Sox.

It was a beautiful thing.

There was a slight change in our routine, however. Ordinarily, we would get to the stadium, buy a couple of dogs and fill them with mustard, get a couple of beers ... maybe a bag of peanuts ... maybe a couple of more beers ... and eat our way through nine innings.

I am now officially a porker.

After getting off the boat and not being able to see my feet ... I knew it was serious diet time. Plus ... I felt like crap. Debbie thinks she is a porker too but I believe she's only gained a pound ... I, on the other hand, became pregnant with twins.

Don Zimmer (pictured) has nothin' on me (except 20 years or so).

Debbie made sure we didn't fall into the food trap tonight ... so she packed granola bars and bananas. Remember that great line from A League of Their Own: " There ain't no crying in baseball!" Well trust me ... "There ain't no granola bars in baseball, either."

We compromised after we got there ... grilled chicken and popcorn sans beer.

I'm full as a tick!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day Nine: Update

We got on the flight!

... but we are stuck in Atlanta (missed our connection). Staying at the beautiful Airport Hampton.

If you see our luggage ... tell them we miss them and will see them EARLY tomorrow morning. I HOPE.

- The Dead-est Catch


Found this video that Debbie shot of me on the whale boat in Juneau. It's destined to become a cult film.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day Nine: Debarkation ... the Nightmare Returns

Here's what the cruise brochure says: 

"Debarkation: For our suite passengers, relax in the Wheelhouse Lounge on Deck Seven until we escort you to your luggage. You have priority Debarkation privileges as one of our special VIPs".

I admit ... We picked the snooty VIP status because we didn't want to wait in those Godawful lines and miss our airline connection. Also ... Because we are snooty.

Apparently, we read the wrong brochure or THEY LIED. Here's what really happened:

At 7AM we went to the Wheelhouse Lounge and had a muffin and apple juice and waited with the rest of the passengers until ... 9 o'clock ... when we could finally get off the freaking boat ... unescorted ... Behind the senior citizens brigade with walkers and canes (I know, I know), the Vienna Boy Choir and the entire cast of Glee.

Meanwhile ... Debbie was checking our flight status (remember we fly standby which means we also wait behind the aforementioned group and enyone with real money), and was also in communication with the airport driver who was waiting at the pick up point for about an hour and a half.

We get to the place that our baggage is dropped off  behind yellow barricades. Our bags were about ten feet away but we couldn't touch them. We waved down the head baggage handler. We knew he was the head handler because he had an orange vest instead of a yellow one, he wore a brimmed hat (thought he was Harrison Ford) and didn't lift a finger.

"Excuse me ..." Debbie said in her non angelic voice.
"Howdy. Where are you folks from?" He asked.
"St. Petersburg."
He looked confused.
"Tampa Bay." Debbie prompted.
"Oh yeah. Well you folks had a nice trip."
"Yes ... Until now" Here it comes ... "When can we get our bags ... I can see them from here."
"Well ma'am, you see we have a process like the airport ..."
"Speaking of the airport ... We are going to miss our flight ... We had priority baggage right here ..."
"Ahhh ... Well I'll see what I can do."
He disappeared out the back door to the Temple of Doom.

The barricades came down a little while later and Harrison reappeared in enough time to say ... "I hope you catch your flight!"

Debbie zoomed ahead and I lost her somewhere between baggage and customs. I pulled  to the side to find a chair to look above the crowd when she spotted me and "sternly" told me to keep up.

I did as I was told.

We found the driver who got us to the airport in time for our flight. The Delta agent at the information desk checked our standby status:

"Looks like there are 58 seats and there are only 11 standbys .. You're in good shape."

Debbie closed her laptop, satisfied that she didn't have to look at those routing options we usually have to try .. Through Minneapolis ... To Salt Lake via Orlando and Sarasota arriving next Thursday.

Suddenly Delta lady said ... "Hmmm."

Uh oh.

"They downgraded the airplane but had an increase in available seats."
Debbie replied, "When I checked my laptop, there were only two seats available."
"Not now apparently." Delta lady said. "Let's check you in."

Now most people would find that strange. I used to. I am no longer surprised by Delta's computer system. No two ever have the same information.

"Your suitcase is over the limit ma'am." Delta lady said. " That will cost you $90. What do you have in there ... books?"

"I have another bag in there ... I'll just repack okay?"

That's what she did ... Right the in the middle of this lady's check in line ... Flashbacks of  Day One: Seattle.  However, since Debbie is a suitcase packing professional it was not a major problem. She repacked in under 2 minutes.

FINALLY we got to our gate ... Settled in ... and ... you guessed it ... we didn't get on! Why not? Because there was a (drum roll please) mistake in the computer system. Yep. They had downgraded the equipment and had REDUCED the number of seats by 58.

What happened next?

I'll tell you when I find out. We are still in Seattle checking optional routes. Debbie tried to route us through Seoul, Korea but there was only one seat left.

Our bags are in Tampa ... If you see them ... Tell them we said hello.


Just heard a loudspeaker announcement: "Passengers Momberg ... Please come to the desk" ...  There IS a God!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day Eight: Victoria, Canada Tonight

Gotta tell ya ... last night was a pleasant surprise.

We saw a show featuring a guy named Steve Moris. He was actually very talented. No schmaltzy "cruise music" ... this guy was the real deal. Apparently, he's played with every band known to mankind from Beach Boys and Jan and Dean to Clint Black and Tanya Tucker. He's got a slide show with all of them grinning and hugging. (Of course ... he could just be good with photo shop or goes to a lot of concerts.)

On stage it was just Steve and an acoustic guitar. We got a preview of his talent the night before when we got a glimpse of his comedy routine. His guitar styles are varied. He did a great rendition of Mason Williams' Classical Gas and ended with Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline with heavy reverb and dangling consonants.

He's going to have a steady gig at the Palace Station in Vegas come October. Check him out.

We found the best on board restaurant last night as well ... Santa Fe. I got kicked out, however, because it was formal night so everyone (except for me) was dressed up. Debbie made me go back to the room to change out of my jeans.

IT'S A VACATION ON A BOAT ... FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. THESE PEOPLE MUST NEVER GO OUT AT HOME. They were everywhere ... posing for photos (sit here ... stand there ... on all fours ... beg ... roll over ... pay me $3000 dollars).

Okay, okay ... I know what you're thinking. Just put on a sport coat, Joel, and play nice. I just can't ... I do that every day. It's time to relax.

But ... I DID change my pants to eat at this restaurant and it was well worth it. Prawns the size of your fist and lobster tails that were perfectly cooked.

Slept like a big fat baby.

This morning, I had some time to think about what I've learned on this trip about cruise vacations and I hope you indulge me for a few minutes while I impart this useless information to you:

Fun Fact 1: There are NO Love Boats in existence. The crew of the Love Boat not only doesn't exist, it never was close to any representation of what the crew of any ship looks like.

Gopher, Doc, Isaac, the captain and Cruise Director Julie Mc Coy were all Americans and apparently ran the entire ship. I don't remember any other cruise members. They also had romantic adventures every week, interpersonal relationships with passengers and no technical skills whatsoever. 

I don't remember seeing any cabin steward making animal sculptures out of washcloths and sunglasses.

Most (I take that back ... ALL) of the ships that sail today have a melting pot of crew members. There are Romanians, Russians, Hispanics, Chinese, Japanese (and other ... ese's), Jamaican, Irish, British, etc. What I discovered though ... is that there are only one of each. That's right ... I think that's how the cruise lines save money.

There's a Romanian black jack dealer who also sells jewelry on Deck 7 and runs the bingo game on Deck 5. I think she served me dinner last night as well.

Fun Fact 2: Speaking of gambling, my new friend Ricky from Alabama told me how the casinos make money. "They ain't got reg-a-lations on these here ships. That's right, the slots are tighter than an (animal's extremity). First day or so ... they pay off to sucker you in ... then they gotcha for the rest of the trip." I had actually heard that before. "The other thing I noticed ... you see that Russian dealer? Well when the table's hot ... they send her in. Deals fast as lightnin' and doesn't let you think about your bets." Ricky's right.

Fun Fact 3: The male dancers in the shows are gay. (I'm pretty sure about this.)

Fun Fact 4: There are cults of bingo fanatics who cruise just for that reason. Well ... maybe that is a slight  exaggeration. They cruise for trivia contests and dollar bill folding demonstrations as well.

Fun Fact 5: Aft cabins are the only way to go.

Oh man ... look at the time. I have to take a nap and then get ready for lunch or dinner or snack or some other meal. This cruise business takes a lot out of you.

Victoria tonight and home tomorrow. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day Seven: At Sea (Again)

It was LOAD OUT day today.

We didn't wake up until ten o'clock. We ordered room service from ... um ... Enrique or Armando or Artemis ... I can't remember his name. He's very nice, though. All the cabin stewards have to meet strict guidelines: They must be between 4' and 5' tall, barely speak or understand English and move lightning fast (they appear and disappear within 5 seconds after you leave and return to the cabin).

It was too cold to eat on our deck ... so Debbie and I had to "rough it" inside.

After that we watched the movie about that guy and girl who raised the baby for their friends who died. We both cried ... Debbie did because it was about babies and I did because I even cry when I watch Baywatch (don't ask).

It was trivia day in the Fusion Nightclub ... so we wandered down, grabbed a paper and pencils  and joined a team of four from Seattle. I was all set to kick butt when the Jamaican crew member who was running the show told us that all the questions related to Alaska. Fortunately, the Seattle group has been on this cruise four times so I was sure they would know the answers. I was right. Debbie and I were useless ... except for the fact that she got the drinks and I looked up an answer on the internet (Insomnia ... Alaskan movie with Pacino and Robin Williams). We still came in second.

I kept my chin up and headed to the Casino. Debbie went to the Internet cafe and read. I know BORING. So here are a few pics I didn't share:

This was one of the bears we saw when we visited Mendenhall Glacier. I told him not to get up.
Red Dog Saloon in Juneau featured this guy. He was a cross between Jimmy Buffett and Hobo Jim from Alaska ... wait a minute ... he IS Hobo Jim. Never heard of him? We hadn't either.
Bad weather day! 

Uh oh .... time to go.

We have a stage show, comedian, trivia and Marriage Game. (KILL ME NOW!) 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day Six: Skagway, Alaska

Today we took a step back in time.

During the Gold Rush, over a hundred years ago, Skagway was considered the shortest route to the Klondike ... even though you had to climb dangerous mountains and survive the cruelest elements. In 1898, it was Alaska's largest town with a population of about 20,000. Dance Halls, saloons and gambling houses prospered. Then suddenly in the early 1900's, the gold rush shifted to Nome and Skagway dwindled to 1000. 

But it still has the flavor of the gold rush era.

All right ... enough of this Chamber of Commerce commercialization ... I'm not gonna give you a test on this stuff. Skagway is a tiny place with some cool old buildings that takes all of about 3 hours to see. 

That's why it was about that long for our shore excursion.

When we got off the ship, we noticed that the rocks along the mountains were hand painted with stuff like The Princess docked here 1974 or John Loves Mary or Klondike Slim loves His Horse.

The place was covered with these. Some were hundreds of feet up ...  looked like there would be no possible way to get there. There was one that had a bunch of obscenities followed by a HOLY CRAP! ... and splashes of paint trailed off down the mountainside.
The real estate here is ... well ... different. I'm sure Debbie can get you into one of these babies for a song. Check it out for yourself:

This house is located conveniently next to the Docks. It has a functional outdoor playground and beautifully designed patio furniture."
This place is called Camp Skagway No. 1. It's made entirely of large matches. The beauty of this is that ... first of all, no one knows what Camp Skagway is (much less where Number 2 is), there are apparently two parts to this house (A and B) and if you get fed up with it ... it's easy to burn. 
Parked outside of one of these houses was a recently remodeled commercial vehicle. The owner has a website and has strong feelings about the former guv (On his rear bumper is written: "Sarah Palin Eats Poop"). Apparently, he's not in the Tea Party.

More highlights.......

We did a little shopping while we waited for our next Excursion (The White Pass Scenic Railway Tour). There were lots of shops (3 ... I think) so we had a great choice of items. Debbie still couldn't get her shopping done in time. Although she WAS able to find me some soap. 

The train ride was three hours long and was ... fantastic. This is the view from the top of the mountain and the end of the line (Alaska/Canadian Border)
You can see the front of the train turning around the mountain ahead.
A couple of brown bears were spotted. I got this picture from across the aisle but couldn't get closer. Some obnoxious brat sneezed all over me.
Found a great spot to dump this kid.

So ... we finally head back to the ship. Debbie has her thirteen bags in tow and it's time to present her cruise card. Security won't let you back on without it. Well ... as luck would have it ... Debbie lost her card. She told me that BECAUSE she put it in her pocket ... it was now gone. Since we had only a few minutes to board, I did what every good husband would do. I told her I would come to get her next season.  

Oh wait ... The Coast Guard just caught up with our ship. She's waving something at me ... gotta go .... more tomorrow.  

Day Five: Juneau, Alaska

This morning … at about 6AM, we passed through the fiords at Tracy Arm.  We were told to wake up early to see it. Well, honestly, I wasn’t sure what that sight would look like … since I didn’t know what a fiord was and Tracy Arm sounded like a fleabag hotel.

It was spectacular.

Tracy Arm sported a narrow fiord (body of water between steep mountains), glacially polished rock and hanging waterfalls. The water depth is 1000 feet. How the heck the ship manages to navigate through the floating icebergs (only one tenth of which is visible above the waterline) is a mystery to me.

I managed to drag myself out of the room to get some pictures. I was extremely tired after a strenuous night of lifting plastic chips, pushing buttons and watching for opportunities to double down, take a hit or tell the lady next to me why she shouldn’t split kings. I was a finalist in the blackjack tournament … came in second … which is to say … I lost. My consolation prize was a hat and tee shirt with Player’s Club on them.

Okay … enough about the casino … today was the day we explored the world’s largest glacier, Mendenhall, and continued our hunt for the humpback whale. We reached Juneau and boarded the bus at about 2PM. The guy in front of us kept futzing with the AC switch for some reason even though the driver said the system was broken. This was the same guy that had an argument with his wife at dinner last night: “… I TOLD you what wines go with what entrees. Don’t embarrass me any more. Go with the Pee-knot Ny-oar tonight.”

We stopped at the Mendenhall Visitors Center and learned all about this incredible glacier. It has been shrinking for 400 years and now it fits on a table at the entrance to the Center. I took a picture of it. Ironically there was one outside that was much bigger and might have been there first.

Debbie posed for a picture in front of the big one.

We got back on the bus after an hour or so of checking out the glacier and headed to the catamaran that would take us to look for wildlife. It took just a few minutes and there it was … The whale … the humpback whale … and killer whales … Everywhere. We grabbed our cameras to take some shots.  

I gotta tell you. I don’t know who gets these pictures of the whales  leaping in the air (when they aren’t captive at Sea World) but my shots didn’t look anything like that.

Mine are little specks in the ocean … mostly blurry… and if I didn’t tell you what they were you would never know.

Ballad of the Big Prostate

Here’s a little country tune I wrote just yesterday to commemorate a dark day in my history. I don’t have a tune but realized you can use an...