Sunday, July 31, 2011

Do Over ... What Happens in Vegas


originally published 1/14/10
I was born with a gambling gene that many of my fellow New Orleanians share (my mom had it for sure). The technical name is the "Seeya-Raiseya-Splitem-Hitme Blazing7s gene". Not familiar with it? Then you've probably never been to Vegas.

I visit "kind of" regularly ... although last year, we cut back to 14 times.

On our last visit, we decided to see a couple of shows (a major compromise for me) ... one of which was Donny and Marie at the Flamingo. Debbie was a big fan of Donny's when she (and he) were going through puberty together. I was never a real fan of either ... then again ... I only discovered puberty in the last few years.

Actually ... I had met Marie many years earlier.

When the Childrens' Miracle Network Telethon was first organized, 28 years ago, I was in Chicago with the 10 other childrens' hospital foundation directors who decided to take a chance on a new concept in fundraising ... a national telethon designed to raise money for the local partners instead of the other way around ... a local effort to raise money for a national telethon (like Jerry Lewis). The Osmond Foundation were the founders and Marie was the host. Over the next few years she flew back and forth to St. Pete to meet with our donors.

So as we stood in line waiting to enter the club where Donny and Marie were performing, Debbie said to me ... "Tell them that you know Marie and maybe we can talk to her ... and DONNY!" I reluctantly gave my card to the girl at the hostess desk and asked her ... "Would you give this to Marie? I know her ... at least I used to know Marie ... that is ... we kinda did business together ... it's been a while ..."

She answered without looking up ... "She doesn't take messages before the show. Try afterward ... NEXT!"
I'm sure she tore up my card as soon as we took our seats for the show. I sat there and mentally kicked myself  ... I must have sounded like an old groupie.

After the show finished Debbie said ... "Let's see if we can find them." Sure. Just what I wanted to do after getting shut down by the front door girl. But we wandered out the door and toward the back of the theater where there was the lineup for the meet and greet. Everyone had on badges and lanyards looking official ... like a "fan club" ... and we .... hung around.

Finally a little guy with bad acne asked us if he could help us ... I confidently handed him a card and said ..."Would you give this to Marie? I know her ... at least I used to know Marie ... that is ... we kinda did business together ... it's been a while ..."


He said ... "Sure .... just wait here and maybe you can see her." He left with my card ... at least he pretended to want to take it.

Debbie said to me "You think Donny will be there too?"
I said ... "Drink some water and just cool down ... he'll be there."


A few minutes later ... a guy dressed in a Hollywood looking sportcoat came up to us and said: "Hi ... I'm Donny and Marie's tour manager. Come back with me."
I felt so relieved ... she must have remembered when he showed her the card ...
"Now you do KNOW Marie right?"
I had a moment of panic ... she didn't see the card ...
"Sure .... sure."
The manager said ...  pulling us aside ... "Good ... Okay ... here's what I want you to do. The woman who will be in front of you is a crazed Marie fan. She follows her everywhere and always brings a ton of Marie dolls for her to sign. Marie can't ever shake her ... so when I give you the hi sign I want you to come up and interrupt her and talk to Marie about old times okay?"
"Well ...."
" It's okay ... really .... she won't mind at all."

He left and I sweated in line worrying about Marie not remembering me and NOW I had to knock over some poor fan. I told Debbie we should go ... maybe sneak out .... no way Debbie was gonna leave ... not with the chance to see Donny.

Just then I hear a voice and see a familiar face. Joe Lake, the co founder of Children's Miracle Network comes up to say hello. I was thrilled to see him. We talk about old times ... I tell him what we're doing here and the "plan" to see Marie ...... he said ... great should be fine ... and then he dissappeared.

I'm left again with the urge to run as we inch up closer to Donny and Marie. Debbie is like a school girl .... and I am sweating like a stalker .... the REAL stalker walks up to Marie .... giggles and talks and pulls out all the Marie dolls and then I got ... THE PUSH from behind and I was staring right at Donny ...

He didn't miss a beat .... "JOEL. Is that you? How have you been (hugging me)?"
I whisper in his ear ... "Donny ... You don't know who the hell I am do you?"
He whispers back  ...."No ... Joe told me about you ... now go rescue Marie."

I did as I was told .... Marie was just lovely ... remembering some of our past experiences together or just being polite ... either way I was relieved to have gotten this over with ...


... It only took a few more hours to get Debbie away from Donny. (She kept dancing with him)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's Not Your Daughter's Tea Party Any More

I'm not at all happy about the tea party.

I can't even capitalize when I write the name because unlike the Tea Parties that we all know and love ... the ones that our daughters held with their dolls and the one with the guys dressed like Indians throwing boxes of tea overboard ... this party is really not a party at all. More like a movement.

Who are these people?

Well ... turns out that most are registered Republican, who like the Republican Party and don't like the Democratic Party ... 40% of Tea Party supporters are 55 or older; 79% are white, 61% are men and 44% identify as "born-again" Christians.

By the way, they are wealthier and more educated than the rest of the population.

Wikipedia says: The Tea Party movement endorses reduced government spending, opposition to taxation in varying degrees, and reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit.

An October 2010 Washington Post canvass of 647 local Tea Party organizers asked "which national figure best represents your groups?" and got the following responses: no one 34%, Sarah Palin 14%, Glenn Beck 7%, Jim DeMint 6%, Ron Paul 6% and Michele Bachmann 4%.

Impressed with the list?

Me either.


So ... we now have tea party legislators who live among the donkeys and the elephants ... debating the debt ceiling. 


The Republican-controlled House of Representatives struggled to pass a bill that it knew would not become law. The Democratic-controlled Senate promptly defeated it and then moved to consider another bill, equally doomed to failure.

Each side called on the other to put politics aside.

And where was the tea party?



The group of some two dozen of the determined tea party Republicans revolted against their own party and declared: “No more."

Having been elected to turn Washington upside down by slashing spending and resisting President Barack Obama’s expansion of government, compromise is not part of their vocabulary.


And where was our President?


Earlier in the week, Jon Stewart had mocked President Obama for his strategy of appealing over the heads of Congress. “That’s your idea, call your congressman?” he asked. “Did the president just quit?”

Having failed to produce a White House debt ceiling plan – as with health care legislation, he chose the passive route of allowing Democrats in Congress to do the work for him – he had also neglected to push his agenda much beyond making a speech or statement every few days.


If America does go into default this week, the economic consequences could be catastrophic. Ironically ... for Republicans, the political repercussions could be almost as serious, throwing Obama a lifeline even many Democrats believe he does not deserve.







Aren't tea parties just the BEST!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sammy's Birthday Part 2

Sunday was Sammy's actual birthday ... 90 years young.

To celebrate, we invited him to the house ... and three generations of Mumboigs watched the Rays defeat the Royals.

I picked him up at the "Manor" at 12:30. He was singing Happy Birthday to himself in the lobby with an audience. His walker had seen better days ... scratched and bent where Sammy had bumped into furniture, walls and other residents. Actually he ran over two of them on the way out.

His disconnected conversation started as soon as he buckled in the car.

"You know ... most of the people I know from New Orleans are dead ... Just Bert Stolier and I are still here ... I was just sitting in my room with nothing on ... just thinking about that."

"You were naked?"

"What? Of course not, Joel!"

"You said you had nothing on."

"I meant the TV set."

"Good."

We kept the rest of the car conversation brief. It took me a while to try to erase the visual from my mind.

Once we got to the house, he plopped himself down in his favorite comfortable chair as Debbie asked him if he'd like some lunch.

"Anything would be fine."

Debbie asked, "Would you like a chicken salad sandwich ... on wheat bread?"

"Sure ... what kinda bread do you have?"

"Wheat bread."

"How about rye bread?"

"Sorry Sammy ... I don't have rye bread. I ONLY have wheat bread."

"Okay ... I'll take a roll."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Debt Schmedt

So, about this debt ceiling issue ...

You know ... the $14.29 trillion ceiling that we've exceeded. The one that congress is "negotiating" with the President on the "terms" of how to raise it higher.

Yeah, that one.

It's just like your debt ceiling at home. Well ... maybe the numbers are a little lower. Let's say that you make $30,000 a year and your credit card is at $32,000. You know you probably won't be able to pay it off so what do you do?

Naturally, you ask Visa to raise your limits.

We are very familiar with it in my household. My wife thinks that I singlehandedly caused the national debt. SHE is the practical one ... paying cash for everything ... getting all the home renovations done when we can actually pay for them. I ... on the other hand ... spend what we don't have on gambling, cars and liquor.

I ask you ... who has more fun?

Okay ... I exaggerated ... I don't really buy a lot of cars. I'm really trying to slow down. I even started playing Zenga Poker at home. It's an app on my iphone ... it costs about $3 to buy about $2,000,000 in chips. I've met some great people on line. There's Ipin, Kikilala, Tiong, Zanger and Gus. I have no idea which countries they are from and they all converse in different languages. Gus too ... I think he's from Jersey.

Speaking of different countries ... you know we're the laughing stock of the rest of the world.

Many countries DON'T HAVE debt ceilings. We have raised ours 100 times in the last few decades. Ours is viewed as political theatrics. Everyone else in the world continues to borrow money and accumulate debt beyond what they can afford.




They just all drink alot.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Not For Sissies

A really scary thing happened to me today.

I was shaving in the bathroom when I saw a fat old guy looking right at me. At first, I didn't recognize him although he did look a lot like my old man. I called for Debbie to help me out.

"Debbie. Who is that?"

"Um .... off hand I'd say it was you, honey."

"That's not me ... that guy is so much older than me."

Stupid mirrors. Never liked them. There's only one thing worse than mirrors ... cameras. Funny how we never picture ourselves as being older. In my mind ... I'm still skinny, have hair and look maybe ... 40. In the mirror I'm ....um ... older.

Facebook does the same thing.

Many of my former students (from 30 plus years ago) have found me on Facebook. They were 12 ... now they are in their 40s. One student, Katherine, who is as honest and straight forward today as she was 30 years ago "friended" me. I wrote her a message that she truly looked the same, I couldn't believe it.

She said, "Yes I know ... but you look old ... REALLY OLD."

I'd de-friend her if I knew how.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

When (Will) I Grow Up

Ever think about the impossible dreams and goals you had when you were just a kid?

You know ... those great, unreachable goals that you could never hope to accomplish ... I'm not talking about being an astronaut or explorer or even the President of the United States.

Those might come true.

I'm talking about the ones that you can only dream about. l'll give you some examples of mine ... and why I haven't really grown up yet.

Goal 1: To marry Ann-Margret

Sure she's 100 years old now ... but when I was 13, she was the sexiest actress alive. She's still pretty hot by the way. Back then, she was really hot.

That scene in Bye Bye Birdie when wears that sweater is still the one I remember today. Man ... it was big enough for two and I wanted to be in that sweater with her.

I sent her the only fan letter I ever wrote to anyone. It was filled with lies. I said that I was 21, I had broken up with a girl that looked just like her, I was a doctor (I think) ... maybe I said a surgeon, I asked her if she would go out with me.

She sent me an autographed picture that I treasured.

In my mind it was the only one she ever signed.

Obviously I never got my original wish. But today, I count this as a win ... my wife Debbie not only resembles her ... she's much better looking. And she says I remind her of Elvis (yes ... the fat old Elvis).

Goal 2: To be a professional baseball player

No one knows about this ... and those who know me best will be surprised. My kids have no idea I ever wanted to do this. They are all great athletes who played a variety of sports well.

I played nothing well.

That's why this is in the impossible dream category for me. I was the last to be picked, the one that always played left field DEEP (mainly because at 8 years old, the only balls that came my way were rolling slowly when the shortstop missed them). I had severe asthma and carried an inhaler with me.

Okay, sure ... we all love the stories of overcoming odds and becoming a champion. The only way this was ever going to come true was for me to wake up one morning in a new body.

I finally compromised. I got season tickets to the TB Rays.

Goal 3: To be Jerry Lee Lewis

Notice I said to BE Jerry Lee. He was my earliest idol. Lewis was the bad boy of rock and roll ... his heavy bass rhythm and his staccato treble chords were incredible. I loved the way he rolled up and down the keys, pounded them with his heel, flipped his hair back and hit those high notes when he sang.

The closest I got to being him ... was trying to play like him.

So today when I play the piano ... if you squint your eyes, cover your ears and go into another room ... you would swear I AM Jerry Lee Lewis.




Goal 4: To never grow up

This one I DID achieve.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Two Stories of Courage: Women's World Cup Soccer





Christie Rampone


She's a 36 year old mother of two -- the captain (and only mother) on the U.S. women's soccer team -- whose daughter Rylie lost her first tooth the other day. 

She's the middle player in the photo at right and a lockdown central defender who has been terrific in her fourth Women's World Cup. She's a remarkably fit player who, despite being the team's oldest member, has the No. 1-rated fitness level on the 21-player squad (based on the eight tests everyone has to complete).

And ... she's doing all this despite having Lyme disease.

A sometimes debilitating infectious disease spread by ticks, Lyme disease can cause fatigue, headaches and fevers. Rampone noticed that she was exhausted last year, and finally in December she took action. 

Rampone has been on medication, she says that she "... has good and bad days, but when it's tough I just push through it," 

Think about that when you watch Rampone in action tomorrow for the championship against Japan.

Hope Solo

In addition to setting a goal of being the No. 1 goalkeeper in the world, Hope Solo now has added incentive to play her best: to honor her father, Jeffrey, who died of heart failure June 15 at 69.
Although her parents divorced when she was 6 and her father, a veteran, lived for a time on the streets of Seattle or in the woods outside the city, Solo and her father had a strong, unbreakable bond.
They were kindred spirits. They shared a deep love of sports – when she started playing organized soccer at 5, he was her first coach. They stayed close through the years, through weekly letters to Solo and her brother, Marcus. When Solo moved to Seattle for college, she and her father physically re-established their relationship.
“He’d call me from a pay phone, and we’d pick a place to meet. And I’d make him macaroni and cheese, and we’d sit in the woods in a tent and talk for hours,” she says. “He understood life and sports, and that’s why he knew me so well.”
Solo refuses to describe her father as “homeless.”
“He was a tough Italian guy who was raised in a boys home in the Bronx,” she says. “He always had that street sense in him. In terms of being ‘homeless,’ I’m always very careful not to define it that way. He chose to live in the woods. He enjoyed it. I’d offer him money, and he’d never take a dime. If I looked for him, I wouldn’t look for him at a homeless shelter.”
Six years ago, with Solo’s encouragement, he worked through volunteers at the Department of Veterans Affairs to move into a retirement home. Although he attended all of his daughter’s games at Washington, arriving four hours early to watch her warm up, he’d never seen her play for the U.S. women’s team. He’d looked forward to being at the Brazil game June 23 in East Rutherford, N.J., and giving Solo a tour of the Bronx. He died eight days before he could follow through with those plans.
“He was so excited to go back to his hometown, to see me in my USA jersey, to show me where he grew up,” she says. “Instead, my mom, my brother and I took the trip to honor him. And we took some of my father (his ashes) with us. We took him to Yankee Stadium. My dad was the world’s only Yankee and Red Sox fan.”

She spreads his ashes in front of every goal she now defends.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Boithday, Sammy

Sammy turns 90 in a few days.

Today was the monthly birthday celebration at Menorah Manor and Sam was in rare form. Actually all the attendees were in rare form. It was a full house.

The program started with the presentation of all the birthday celebrants for this month. They started with Rose:

Social Director: "We have a special birthday today ... she's the oldest birthday girl this month and we have a special gift for her. Rose is 98 years old."

Rose's son was standing next to her and started to help her up when she said, "What did he say? I am NOT 98 I'm only 88."

"No mom ... you're 98." Her son whispered.

"I AM NOT."

Sammy hadn't gotten there yet. He was still upstairs. The social director told us that sometimes he likes to make a grand entrance and he's usually fashionably late.

He finally made it during the name that tune/spin the wheel game. Each name is posted on the wheel and randomly called when the wheel spins. They are then called upon to give the piano player a song to play. The first name was Mary.

Social Director: "Mary ... what's your favorite song?"

Mary: "Song?"

"Yes ... what would you like to hear?"

"Oh ... I don't have a song. Oh my ... should I have prepared a song? I didn't really understand ..."

"No ... no Mary ... that's okay. Let's ask Sally."

"Okay ... Memories!"

The piano player burst into song as some of the ladies sway and dance by their chairs.

Sam was watching but had a hard time hearing (of course).

Sam asked," What's that song?"

I started to answer when the lady next to me said, "He really needs a hearing aid."

"I know ... he won't wear it. He thinks he can hear."

"He can't you know?"

Sam (to me): "What is she saying?"

Again I tried to answer but she changed the subject. "You are moving in a room closer to me Sam."

"Yes I know."

She giggled, "Will you like me better?"

"No."

She said to me ... "He is so sweet. We just love him."

Just then the Social Director came up to Sam and asked him what song he wanted to hear. "I don't know any Jewish songs."

"It doesn't have to be a Jewish song."

"Okay .... Stardust."

As the piano player starts a perfect rendition of Stardust ... Sam says , "That's not Stardust."

"Yes it is Dad."

"That's not Stardust ... I used to sing Stardust every day."

"Really? How does it go?"

"I have no idea."

The Social Director looked at me, smiled and said: "How can you not just love this guy?"

Another lady heard him and agreed ... "He is just so sweet. You know he is the only person that has ever told my daughter that she is getting too fat."

Yeah ... you really gotta love him.



As Michelle Bachmann said "He's got a lot of 'choot-spa'"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 4: The Game

Today was amazing. 

I'll actually start from the end of the day and work forward. We ate at the NYY Steakhouse. It's right there at the ball field (Yankee Stadium). Dinner was really the last thing we did today as part of our great NY vs TB USF Athletic Auction package that we bid on a couple of months ago.

The Rib Eye in my hands was their specialty and as you can see ... they carved TB Rays in the bone ... just for us. I carved the rest right into my mouth.

What a meal! 

It's part of The Hard Rock but owned by the Yankees ... didn't quite understand ... but since I didn't find any poker tables or slots ... I figured the Indians must have pulled a fast one on old George.

Jeter hit #3000.

The crowd went wild of course ... as well they should. It was a home run (the only other time a player ever hit a home run on his 3000th hit was our very own Wade Boggs when he was playing for Tampa Bay). 

Jeter went on to get 5 hits this afternoon ... another tied record ... and the Yanks beat us 5-4.

Not the score you want if you are a Rays fan ... but a helluva game!


Right before the game began, we showed up for batting practice. 

Debbie and I, daughter Alissa and one of her best friends who lives in NY, Laura (Sibley) Perkins stood in front of the dugout and collected autographs and pictures.

The little guy in the middle is Mark Teixiera, Yankee First Baseman. 

He and Joe Girardi and Ramiro Pena and a few others came by as well. I tried to distract them by throwing baseballs at them and calling them names ... apparently it didn't work out that well for us. By the way, they are truly nice guys.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 


About Last night ... 

It was raining so we took a town car to dinner.

The town car driver was a chatty Indian gentleman who described the city in perfect English. He grew up in Brooklyn and spent most of his adult life as a driver.

As we turned down the street toward the restaurant, a rather large police officer motioned for our driver to pull off the road.

He actually said, "Pull off to the right, please."

"Officer," our driver said suddenly in broken English. "What ... is ... problem ... please."

"You're not wearing a seatbelt."

"Oh ... no, officer ... I have big ... problem ... with liver. Doctor says I cannot wear seatbelt."

"You have a note from the DMV?"

"No sir ... but I have letter ... yes ... letter at home."

"Bring it to court."

"Seriously officer? Hey ... it just you and me, right?"

The officer was taken aback. We were in the back hoping not to get sprayed by gunfire. "What does that mean sir?"

"Help me out officer ... will you?"

"Im not sure what you are implying ... but once I write these ... they are not retractable."

So ... our driver peals out while the cop is in mid sentence next to the car. 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^





Only in New York ... New York.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 3: More Jersey and Some Manhattan

Got so caught up with the Cake Boss I forgot to tell you ... We had a great lunch in Hoboken yesterday. It was a place called the Clam Broth House.

I posted a picture of the back of the check ... dates back to the 1800. By the way, if my brother-in-law Tom is reading this I want you to know ... IT IS A FINGER HANGING DOWN.

I know this is Jersey ... but dere are limits, you know what I mean?

Throughout lunch we were treated to the sounds of the town's best known celebrity ... Frankie Sinatra.

Very cool.








Outside the restaurant there is a great shot of Manhattan across the water. I shot this just as a bum passed in front of me after he rifled the garbage can.








Last night we saw a great play: Catch Me If You Can. It was based on the movie by the same name.

It follows the exploits of a real guy, Frank Abagnale, who was a check counterfeiter ... turned pilot ... turned doctor ... turned attorney ... all when he was still only a teenager.

The cop is Carl Hanratty and is played by an actor named Norbert Leo Butz. He won a Tony for Best Actor (and Best Dancer). His name alone should win a Tony.

The guy is great. He stole the show. He's funny as hell and he can carry a tune. He also looks like Steve Klasko (sorry Steve ... had to get that in). The rest of the cast was fantastic too.

After the play, we went to a little restaurant on 7th, Maison's.

Alissa is always happy when she sees me (and gets a free meal).

Today ... it's off to visit a cool nightclub/ping pong/restaurant called SPiN. It's the brainchild of Susan Sarandon and her brother Terry Tomalin (St. Pete Times Outdoor Editor). The one here was the original ... there will be one in St. Pete opening soon. Terry wanted us to check it out.

I'll keep you "posted".

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 2: Hoboken

Today we visited THE CAKE BOSS.

Yes ... I'm a fan. I admit it (check out Da Friggin Cake Boss in one of my earlier entries). Buddy and his family run Carlo's City Hall Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ. The greatest cake baker/engineer/designer in the business ... well at least ... I think so.

So ... we hop the subway at Radio City and head to 34th Street where we catch the Path train to Hoboken.

Pretty slick huh?

Except we missed Hoboken.

So ... we hop on the next Path train ... but this one has a whole different route. We jump out again ... cross the terminal and finally get on the right one to Hoboken.

Just a few short steps from the exit ... and there it is ... Carlo's ... wow ... hardly a line.

However ... Little did we know.

A Carlo's tee-shirted employee stopped us and said: "You got tickets?"

"Tickets?" I said.

"Yeah ... you need tickets."

"Where do we get them?"

"See the line down there?" He pointed across the street a block down.

"THAT line?" I said. "How long a wait is it?"

"Three ... four hours."

Wow ... Debbie and I looked at each other and decided we loved Buddy ... but it wasn't worth the heat for three hours to spend fifteen minutes inside with the other gawkers.

So, dejectedly we decided to mosey down the street to get a bite somewhere ... when suddenly I stopped.

"Wait! I have ... I have ... "

"What do you have?"

"I'm not used to this feeling but I think it's ... yes ... an IDEA!"

Debbie rolled her eyes ... and against her better judgement, she followed me.

I walked up to the same Carlo's employee that asked us for tickets.

"Excuse me, my friend (he raised an eyebrow). Can I ask you a quick question?"

"Yeah." That's New Jersey for: Of course sir, what can I do for you?

"If I wanted to order a cake, is this where I would come?"

"Yep. There's an appointment line number to call. They will tell you when to come back. I can give you that number."

"Well ... You know we are visiting from Florida and thought maybe we could speak to someone today."

"When are you leaving?"

"Sunday." I gave the pregnant pause routine and then continued."Well ...you know ... it's okay. We were thinking of ordering a BIG cake ... but maybe when we come back ..."

"You know what (he looked inside) ... why don't you just come this way with me and make your way to the register up front. They can help you."

We squeezed our way through the packed house ... urged on by staff members ... until we were there right in front of the cashier.

WE'RE IN!

"Okay," said Debbie. "Now you did it. I guess now Mr. Big Shot better order some pretty BIG cake now."

"Not so fast ... Mr. and Mrs. Big Shot need to check the prices, you know?"

I said hello to the cashier and told her we were there to order a big cake.

"Yes sir, " she said, "Someone will be right out to help you."

Debbie smugly looked at me while I gushed over the great looking cakes on display. Another of the 30 or so employees got my attention.

"Were you looking to order a cake?"

"Why yes ... we were ... right dear?" I said to Debbie who shook her head sheepishly.

"What size? What price range?"

"Um ... I'm not sure. Do you deliver to Florida?"

"Were you looking for a sheet cake or a specialty cake?"

"Could be a specialty cake. Can you do a giant bull? I was thinking that we might have a cake for our university, USF, a kind of celebration (Yeah, that's the ticket) for our Unstoppable Campaign."

Debbie was now looking physically ill.

"Those are done upstairs through Buddy and his staff. Let me see who can help you today."

Buddy? We might see Buddy? We could go ... upstairs???

"A bull cake?" Debbie was in the middle of admonishing me when the girl comes back to tell us that they will call us and discuss it over the phone ... they were busy. "Whew!"

But then .... low and behold ... Buddy's sister Lisa comes up right next to us.

"Hey Lisa ..." I said. "We are such bigfajhgbs (supposed to be big fans, but I couldn't get it out.)"

"Oh yeah?? Well isn't that nice."

"Would you mind if we ... well ... can we have a picture?"

"Of coawse."

"Debbie ... take this ... will ya?"




Debbie said (gripping the camera) ... "Of Cawwwwwwsssse."  

Day 1: New York

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Unfortunately, we will not be able to land at LaGuardia Airport due to bad weather ... we will instead land in Baltimore to refuel..."

WHAT? Oh great ... Here we are once again in airplane hell.

Our New York trip was supposed to be a semi-vacation and a chance to connect with daughter Alissa ... followed by a trip to Yankee Stadium to watch the Rays beat up on the Pinstripe boys (hopefully). It was all part of an auction package that I bid on a few months ago.

This 3 hour flight actually took 6 hours by the time we landed in Baltimore, refueled and finally landed in LaGuardia. During this time, we also had the pleasure of sitting in the middle of a terrific threesome: an obnoxious salesman, a crazy Puerto Rican and a stoner who kept saying he had to throw up.

The salesman was named Adam. I knew this because he used his name in the third person whenever he told a story...

"So I had this boss when I was just starting out. He said, 'Adam ... remember that you must love your product.' You know ... I'll always remember that and I will also remember my mom saying, 'Adam ... be the one they remember.'"

He had lots of recipes as well. His seat mate was close to hanging himself but continued to politely smile, "Escargot? Right? You like escargot? Here's THE recipe for escargot. Put them in a pan filled with red wine ... simmer ... pour out the wine ... put them back in with blue cheese ... back with the wine .... blah blah blah ... spinach bed ... stay back a hundred steps from your guests ... they will bark like dogs, I tell you ... dogs."

The Puerto Rican madwoman went to the bathroom about 12 times throughout the flight and stood over me with her cell phone screaming Spanish obscenities to whoever was on the other end. She was also constantly saying her legs were shivering and she kept asking to be let off the plane while complaining over and over about the unscheduled landing in Baltimore calling it a scandal. A real treat ... that one.

The stoner sat next to Debbie. He kept moaning until we landed in Baltimore. He called some buddy to tell him about where he was ... "Yeah ... that's right bro ... Baltimore .. I'm in Baltimore ... Hell if I know why .... seriously man ... Baltimore? No ... That is NOT in New York, man ... Are you stupid? It's in Pennsylvania."

Stoner might still be on board.

So ... we finally landed and here's the good news:

Debbie's suitcase didn't explode. We didn't have to go to multiple hotels trying to find our reservations. We found a taxi (not a really difficult task in New York) and a driver that knew where the New York Hilton was.

We checked in and went immediately to the VIP Lounge on the 44th Floor where the desk clerk said to go for something to eat. We were famished ... it felt like we hadn't eaten for days.

They were just clearing the food. Sorry ... try the lounge on the first floor. Nope ... try the restaurant. Out of luck, they are just getting ready for dinner service.

Then ... as we were being pin balled back and forth throughout the hotel ... we looked around us and realized the entire hotel was inhabited by teenagers.

They were everywhere ... everywhere but in hotel rooms.

Apparently they can't find food either.