Monday, August 29, 2011

Little Treasures

Today ... I happened across the demolition of my former "home", All Children's Hospital.

It's the place I worked for over thirty years. The images ran through my mind as I watched Sonny Glasbrenner tear out the walls of the old Emergency Center.

So many memories.

There's a brand new All Children's Hospital down the street. It stands proud and majestic ... overlooking the medical complex that surrounds it.

But it's not this building.

This building has heart and soul. Always did. Just ask the hundreds of thousands who passed through the doors. I still see the faces of the children, the families, the staff  ... the courage, the tears ... and the miracles.

I remember Doug ... a cystic fibrosis patient who lived much longer than he was supposed to. CF is one of those terminal diseases in children that destroys the lungs. Most might live into their teens but Doug beat the odds ... living into his twenties. He was determined to get his way ... his way was to go to school, get a job, date lots of women, and spit in the face of death. He did it all. He even wrote and videotaped his own memorial service with specific instructions about who was invited and who wasn't. I was among the lucky ones ... I got to help organize it, speak about Doug's exploits (there were MANY) and watch the video he shot.

The last scene showed Doug pulling down his pants and mooning the camera ... saying to his sister, "Hey Sis ... I knew you'd like this ... This one's for you!"

Tommy D. was another one of my all time favorites. He lived in the hospital while his internal organs developed. He had "short gut" syndrome ... his digestive tract was not complete so he was fed through a tube for many years. You'd think that would slow him down.

It didn't.

Tommy was a terror on the floors. He would spend nights making crank calls to nurses, scooting down the halls in a toy car dragging a portable IV, in general ... being a kid. Tommy was always a special guest on the telethon, but we held our breath whenever he was interviewed. His language was pretty colorful. He was loved by all. He is now a talented artist and speaks beautifully.

Christie was a cancer survivor.

She starred in a production that was filmed and shown on NBC's Main Street show. Christie missed a couple of years in school when she was battling and beating the odds all the while taking incredibly high doses of chemotherapy. It never stopped her. She went extra years to college, refusing to give in ... graduated and worked at the hospital. She's now happily married and has her own beautiful children.

I stood there and watched the demolition. The walls came down ... the dust came up ... there was no crowd ... just me. But I realized at that moment ... I'm so very lucky. I lived there. I was one of the privileged few to be invited to be part of a very special family.

I'll always have that ... even when the walls are all gone.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Do Over ... I Love New York

Today is Do Over Sunday ... mainly because I'm lazy. It's one of my favorite blog entries and my daughter Alissa has just moved to New York ... bedbugs and all. 

I Love New York

(first published 3/10/10)

Yes I do ... I love New York ... I especially love listening to the locals.

Even the guys with the handmade signs for those Comedy shows on Times Square crack me up (I'm an easy audience). One guy has a sign that reads "I'm Holding a Sign" while another whispers in your ear "Hey .... wanna see a marginally funny comedy show?"

Last night night we were waiting for a table at Bobby Van's (great steakhouse, btw) and at the bar were four guys who were having a "mine's bigger than yours" night. They were feeling no pain ...

#1 ... "Hey man ... that's bulls*t. There's no f*in' way that would happen."
#2 ... "You don't know s*t ..."
#3 ... "YOU don't know s*t ..."
#2 ... "Who the f*k was talkin to you? I was f*in talking to him ... "
#3 ... "Well I was f*in' talkin' to you ... What do you f*in' think about that?"
#4 ... "None of you know what the f*k you're talkin about."
#1 ... "Hey ... what the f*k were we talkin' about?"
#2 ... "Who the f*k knows ... Sal's buyin' the next round ..."
#3 ... "I ain't buying the next round ... it's Carmine's turn ..."
#4 ... "F*k you."
#1 ... "F*k you."
#2 ... "F*k you and the horse you road in."
#4 ... "Know what? I f*in' love you guys ..."
#3, #2, #1 .... "Yeah .... me too .... f*in' right ..."  

Aldo and Naz .... I f*in' love you guys ... too!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kick It To the CURB

Curb is back for the 8th Season.

If you haven't ever watched the Larry David HBO series, Curb Your Enthusiasm ... I can only say that you have been missing the best TV Comedy series ever written (except for Seinfeld ... which of course was also written by Larry David). 

In honor of Curb's return, I took a look back at ... what I consider ... some of the funniest moments. Curb fans ... tell me yours.

1. Mary, Joseph and Larry

(Season 3, Episode 9)

Irreverent in every sense of the word, this one finds Larry feeling extra-Jewish when his Gentile wife, Cheryl invites her family home for the holidays and turns it into an unabashed celebration of Christmas, with extra helpings of Jesus. Larry is offended, they're offended that he's offended, he's offended the they're offended that he's offended... in other words, it's perfect "Curb" material. This episode has some of the show's most expressive close-ups of Larry biting his tongue during uncomfortable moments and trying and failing to hide the true feelings that radiate off him in hostile waves. The final scene ... with Cheryl and her parents confronting Larry over having thoughtlessly eaten the centerpiece of a gingerbread manger scene, Christmas cookies shaped like Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus ... is one of the all-time great "Curb" scenes. 

"You ate the baby Jesus and his mother, Mary!" Cheryl's sister, Becky, yells. 

"I thought they were animals!" Larry protests. 

"Jesus Christ is not an animal!" she shouts back. 

"I-I-I thought... he was a monkey!" Larry says. 

"You didn't see the hay?" Cheryl says. "The toasted coconut was hay! The barn?" 

"I thought that was all part of the zoo!" Larry says. "I'll make it up to you, OK?" 

"You're not gonna make it up to us, Larry, OK?" Becky shouts. "You just swallowed our Lord and Savior!" 

2. The Special Section

(Season 3, Episode 6)

Larry returns from New York after playing a Jewish gangster in a Martin Scorsese film ... pretty funny in itself ... only to be informed that his mom died. Weeks ago. And that his mother told Larry's father not to bother him while he was busy if something should happen to her. David's reactions during this sequence is priceless. 

Things get even more squirm-inducing when Larry begins using his mother's death as an excuse to get out of social engagements that don't interest him. And they take a turn for the surreal when he learns that his mother was buried in a "special section" of the cemetery reserved for "villains" and other undesirables because her husband got tattoos, which is forbidden under Hebrew law. So he plots to rob her grave and relocate her body.

3. Shaq

(Season 2, Episode 8)

This episode is demented even by "Curb" standards. Larry David trips Shaquille O'Neal during a Lakers game, leaving Shaq incapacitated for two months, and is vilified by everyone in town. But once he hears that Shaq is a "Seinfeld" fan and resolves to bring the basketball great a stack of videotapes to make amends, his luck inexplicably changes. A car splashes a man on a curb near Larry but leaves Larry miraculously un-drenched. He arrives home to discover that his hated in-laws have abruptly decided to leave. He discovers that the team doctor who was rude to him earlier is cheating Shaq at Scattergories and tells Shaq, who fires the doctor.

4. The Terrorist Attack

(Season 3, Episode 5)

The Davids' friend Wanda Sykes tells them there's a rumor of a terrorist attack in Los Angeles that weekend. Cheryl wants to stay because she doesn't want to miss an important fundraiser, and because her vanity as an event planner won't permit her to cancel or postpone it. But Larry wants to get the hell out of Dodge.

"Let's postpone the benefit and let's get out of here," Larry tells Cheryl.

"I never thought I'd say this, but Larry's right," Wanda says, then storms out in disgust, muttering about how she's going to Vegas and did the best she could.

"Well, call me when you get back into town," Cheryl tells her. "Hopefully you'll be here," Wanda says, and leaves.

Then comes one of the great no-win-situation reaction shots in "Curb" history, as Larry hems and haws, trying to figure out how to tell Cheryl that he's leaving town without her.

"Maybe... maybe I could go," he says.

"Maybe you could go where?" she demands.

"I could go... Golfing?" Dreadful pause. "Pebble Beach?"

"It just seems like if we're gonna go, we should go together," Cheryl says.

"Mmm, not necessarily," Larry says. "It almost seems a little... selfish... that you would want both of us to... perish."

"So you'd be fine going on without me."

"Well, it would be very difficult at first, sure... But hopefully I could, at some point, get back some semblance of a life."

5. The Car Pool Lane

(Season 5, Episode 6)

Larry's expedient selfishness always gets him into trouble, but the complications are especially sharp in this episode, which finds Larry saving time en route to Dodgers game that he's late for by using the carpool lane, even though he's a lone driver. "I'm not gonna use the carpool lane by myself because I don't want to!" he exclaims, from bestride his moral high-horse. But then a streetwalker leans in his window and propositions him. "Get in," Larry tells her.

As they're driving, he negotiates a five-hour flat rate with the prostitute in exchange for having her just sit in the car during the game, then accompany him home so that he can use the carpool lane. She wants a thousand dollars. Larry balks. "That's $200 an hour." She explains that she could do four bjs in an hour, so it's a fair rate. "I drove a cab," Larry protests. "I used to drive around for four hours without a fare, you're telling me you're getting four bjs in an hour?" They go to the game together and have a surprisingly good time; it almost feels like a date. "I got us some popcorn," she tells him when he returns to his seat. "You're a sport!" he exclaims. It gets even funnier when they go to Larry's father's house to smoke a joint. The episode's punch line -- a "Seinfeld"-worth freeze-frame/photograph from the point-of-view of a traffic enforcement camera -- is one of the show's best. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I find that ... especially, these days ... sleep is one of those unplanned joys of life. That's why I am writing this blog at 4 AM (after thinking about life, death and taxes for the last 3 hours).

Don't get me wrong. I get lots of sleep .... when I go out to dinner with my wife, in the middle of a very important meeting and sometimes on my commute to St. Pete from Tampa. But ... those are really power naps. Solid hours of sleep can easily come from watching a movie, sitting in front of the TV or attending any of the three dozen variations of Cirque du Soleil.

I remember a trip we took with the brothers-in-law to Vegas (of course). We were told (by the sisters) that we had tickets to see a Cirque performance at one of the hotels. It had something to do with water or clowns or a moving floor or little Japanese acrobats ... God only knows ... all I know is that I was the first one snoring.

Somewhere in the first act, the lights came up ... Debbie poked me in the ribs and I sat up dazed. A security guard rushed up the aisle coming directly toward me ... saying something and pointing in my direction. "I can't believe this," I thought. "It must be against the law here to sleep during one of these mime performances ..."

The guard swooped in and grabbed a camera from the man who was sitting right behind me. "Sir ... there is no flash photography during the performance. The performers could suffer serious accidents."

Wow ... I guess there is more to flying in on silk handkerchiefs than I thought.

You see ... these are the things that keep me up at night. That ... and depressing things like what is the meaning of life, what is life, who is really living in my body ... how much longer do I have to think about stupid stuff like this? You do too, huh? It must be something about the dark stillness in the middle of the night when it's just you and your thoughts and ...

"Joel ... shut off the damned computer." Ahhh ... Debbie's awake. Now I can finally get some sleep.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Of Mice and Bunnies

Hugh Hefner has been in the news alot lately.

His fiancee broke up with him in June ... she apparently found out that there was a 271 year age difference between the two of them. Then earlier this month, there was a social media rumor that Hef was dead.

"Not so ... Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated," He said as he lay next to his new girlfriend who will finally get her braces off next week.

I go way back with Hef ... not that I ever met him ... But he DID have a big effect on my career when I first started working at All Children's Hospital as the PR Coordinator.

I got a phone call from the hospital president asking me why a Playboy Bunny was coming to visit the hospital. There was an article in the Times that she was coming to visit the kids, hand out magazines and sign her autograph across her centerfold picture. It was part of a promotion for a fundraiser that one of the local restaurants was doing for the hospital.

"It must be a mistake, " I stammered. "I don't know anything about this. I think she must have done this on her own."

"Well stop this then ... and call the paper and get this retracted," He said. "These are children ... for God's sake ... what's wrong with these people."

I got busy on the phone trying to track down where this all started. I called the restaurant and found out that the "bunny" had done an interview with the reporter and she had commented that she would LOVE to meet the children at the hospital ... not that she was actually coming to sign autographs.

So ... I called the reporter who wrote the story.

"... so as I said ... there was a mistake ... she is not scheduled for a visit after all."

The reporter was silent.

"If you could do me a GREAT favor by printing a retraction about this visit. I think the families would be relieved."

"Relieved?" The reporter said. "Are the parents upset?"

"Well ... there is a concern ..."

"Someone complained?"

"Listen ... the fact is ... she is not coming to the hospital. These are kids ... Playboy is not published for them."

"But they are giving money to the hospital, correct?"

"Well ... the restaurant is doing a fundraiser ... but that has nothing to do with ..."

"So let me get this straight," The reporter said. "You are accepting money from these folks but won't let them in the hospital to see the kids?"

"No ... that's not what I said ... "

"So DO YOU like Playboy?"

"LISTEN ... BUDDY," I lost it. I learned a valuable lesson about reporters and interviews that day ... they definitely don't like to print retractions about mistakes they made. "We are really more the MICKEY MOUSE type ... not PLAYBOY ... got it?"

"Got it."

The next day the headline read: ALL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL IS REALLY MORE MICKEY MOUSE  ... the quote was attributed to me and was reprinted at the end of the year as one of the "worst quotes for 1986"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not Again!

Spent a few hours in the Atlanta airport on Sunday.

It was the second leg of my flight back from Vegas. (I won't bore you with another Vegas story ... I'll just bore you with my travel woes). This time I got a full paid grown up ticket on Delta so I wouldn't be delayed.


As I settled into a seat at the gate, I plugged in my adapter for my now-dead iphone. Fortunately, there are now electric outlets at the airport that sit above the seats. Trouble is ... for you iphone users ... those damned wires are only about 12 inches long. That means if you aren't sitting directly below an outlet you have to drape across the guy who is sitting next to you holding your iphone on your finger tips and talking into the speaker for all to hear.

As I juggled the phone, a voice came over the loudspeaker:

"Passengers awaiting Flight 1678 to Sarasota (I had to fly out of Sarasota because the flights were all filled out of Tampa), I regret to inform you that we are delayed awaiting one additional flight attendant."

Oh great ... I thought. What the heck difference does it make if we are one attendant short? Just let me in and I promise not to order extra peanuts.

No such luck.

My first leg of the flight began at 6 AM. I slowly started to drift off ... shaking myself awake ... afraid that the flight attendant will arrive and they take off without me. An hour later another announcement:

"Ladies and gentleman awaiting flight 1678 to Sarasota ... we are still waiting for a new flight attendant.  We apologize for the delay. The attendant who was scheduled for our flight took sick on the previous flight and was immediately sent home."

Hmmm ... I thought ... so maybe ...  if I told them that I was sick ...

Almost in unison the crowd stood and headed toward the gate agent. Either they all got sick or they saw a flight attendant swoop in.

"Passengers awaiting flight 1678 ... we will start boarding our First Class passengers and passengers who need assistance ..."  


Finally, I slipped into my seat next to a Jamaican golfer who immediately drifted off to sleep. There was one problem .... he was a nervous leg shaker. His legs opened and closed in his sleep ... a lot ... banging against mine.

Then ... the pilot had an announcement:

"Good morning ladies and gentleman. Sorry for your delay. Unfortunately we have some more bad news ..."

My God ... this is only an hour flight ... I could have WALKED home in less time. What is it now?

"We had a passenger who got sick on the plane and are cleaning up the area he was sitting in ..."


"... when another passenger also got sick. Now we have to complete some necessary paperwork so we can take off."

I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. So .... all I could think of is that the bubonic plague had hit the Atlanta airport and we all would eventually die. The only one not worried was the Jamaican guy pounding my leg and now snoring as well.

What else could go wrong?

Oh no ... my worst fear was now 20 rows behind me ... A LOUD TALKER.

She started in with a story about Medjugorje  .... every step she took to finally see the Virgin Mary ... EVERY STEP. Step by step ... inch by inch ... I started to feel like Edgar Allen Poe in the Tell Tale Heart ... I wanted to get up and kill EVERYONE .....

"Ladies and Gentleman ... we are cleared for takeoff ..."

YES ... There IS a GOD.

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...