Monday, October 9, 2017

And Another Thing About North Carolina ...

So ... we are at the airport just about to leave Asheville. I decided to write a few more highlights from the trip because the sisters said I left out soooo much (their words).

1. Cards Against Humanity ... ever heard of it? It is truly a blast to play (but not for the faint hearted or those with an aversion to words that describe bodily functions of ALL types). We played the game ... which was given to us by Josh and Theresa (so proud of those kids) on the second night.

The twins were in the "how disgusting!" category, Lee and Keli were in the clueless category and the guys were in hog heaven. After explaining in detail every perversion known to man on each card that the girls drew, we played a few rounds ... laughing more at them than the answers to the questions.

Last laugh was on the guys ... the twins won the first two sets, beating all of us.

2. Planning FUTURE trips. There was a heated discussion lasting on and off for pretty much the entire weekend about a girls' trip in January or February to celebrate Keli's and Courtney's birthdays in Austin. ("Why Austin?" we asked ... "Duh! Because we haven't been there!") There was great consternation, apparently, in planning such an important event because finding a weekend was VERY stressful and very difficult. Deciding who was to be invited created additional stress and who would EXPECT to get invited created even more stress. Seriously ... these discussions sometimes broke into heated debates that lasted hours. (Guys pick a date, a place and then if you can't make it they go without you.)

3. Personal stories. I can't really tell you what the family secrets were that we all talked about because I'd have to kill you ... but let's just say ... most had to do with prairie dogs, circus acts, dating 80 year old guys and not knowing what was going on because the person in question wasn't born yet and was the youngest there and STILL didn't know after we discussed names and dates, Keli (oh sorry).

4. BB Gun. The guys (well mostly Mark and I) shot a BB gun from the porch aiming at tin cans, logs and cardboard boxes. Every once in a while a child or two would stroll by but we only wounded one of them slightly (NOT ... in case you think I actually tell the truth).

In all seriousness ... women and children were VERY safe. We probably shot about  a hundred BBs and hit the sand and water just about 97% of the time. The other three shots were never found!   



Oh Well ... they just called us to board  ... TTFN!!!




Sunday, October 8, 2017

In My Mind I'm Going (Crazy) in Carolina

Flew to North Carolina on Thursday to spend a few days with the Gallagher sisters and all us tag along spouses. Debbie and Dennie have birthdays on October 19 and really wanted to celebrate at the Masterson cabin in Lake Glenville ... but because that weekend we'll be at a football game in New Orleans ... we decided to celebrate this weekend instead.

Started out at St. Pete Clearwater Airport and wound up in a remote parking area that we didn't knew existed, waited in multiple lines of confusion, were shepherded into the only security lane open and finally settled into our seats on Allegiant Air to Asheville  ... in other words ... business as usual. Actually, from there it was pretty uneventful. Rented a car and drove about an hour to the cabin and didn't get lost once!

It's truly a beautiful spot.

Nestled in the mountains, Tom and Dennie's cabin sits high above Lake Glenville and is big enough to accommodate the eight of us very comfortably.

By the way .. the family shot was taken a few miles down the road at a restaurant called Canyon Kitchen last night. Good food ... even better atmosphere. Three or four bottles of wine later, we all hopped on the couch back at the cabin while Tom introduced Keli to Blazing Saddles on DVD. She hadn't seen it or heard of it so Tom thought that it would be a good idea for her to enjoy one of the top classic comedies of all time. Not a good plan. Forty eight questions later (I don't get it ... why is the Indian speaking yiddish? Okay ... so I think I understand the story. They are in a town right? And he's a bad guy ...? Why is Mongo tied up? This isn't very funny.) we finally all passed out from exhaustion.

This shot was taken on our pontoon trip around the lake.

I focused on the sisters because of the long discussions about "where were you when ...?" I think we probably all do this when we get older because we suffer with CRS disease. The lengthiest was "where were you staying when sister Patty got married?" Steve patiently steered the boat back and forth in front of the cabins that were the site of the wedding and apparently the accommodations. "I stayed there ... no you didn't ... it was a duplex ... I think it was actually over there ... really? I remember that site ... and so on.

We also tend to repeat ourselves alot. Lee mentioned that she downloaded 135 pictures no less than 5 times at the kitchen table one morning. Keli played that ANNOYING song SONOFABITCH at least a thousand times. Thank heaven one morning Mark and Steve blasted it in her ears when she was sleeping. That stopped her for a few hours.

Even breakfast came with some playful insults. 

Debbie made me scrambled eggs yesterday and her sisters lambasted her for doing this. "You make your husband breakfast?"

Steve asked me to take this picture and send it to him so he would know what at home breakfast looks like and also show it to Lee as a guide. 

Remember the movie TED?

Well Mark got a couple of Thunder Buddy sleepers at WALMART on the way in and modeled them with Steve.

Not to be outdone ... Deb and Den did too.

Keli was in the background of course playing SONOFABITCH ... Arrrrgggghhhhh.

Apparently the Thunder Buddy gods were unhappy because it's been raining today ever since!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cleaning Day

Today, Debbie and I did a project together.

To be exact ... for me ... it sounded like the project from hell. We were tackling my office and my closet. Deb has been after me for years to clean out all the clutter that I call my "treasures".

Today she said she would do it with me so I jumped at the chance because ...
1. Debbie is the most organized person I know,
2. I am the least organized person I know.
3. I knew that meant she would be totally frustrated with me "helping" and just basically do it herself.

We started with my closet.

I dove into receipts from 1978, slot tickets for $.37, name tags from every event I ever attended, 38 pairs of headsets, cuff links that don't match and of course a few hundred dollars in pennies and dimes.

My idea to clean it out was to get a big trash bag and just dump it all in.

Debbie was horrified!

There is a method, Deb told me: Build piles. One pile is all the receipts and papers that have financial information (to be shredded). Another pile is for jewelry and electronics. A third pile is all the crap that can just go directly to the garbage. A fourth was really the change jar that sits right next to the junk drawer that I was too lazy to use.

There was a quick glance at my tee shirts.

Debbie had a momentary look of excitement thinking this was her chance to finally get rid of tee shirts I hadn't even seen in thirty years.

"NO!!!" That was where I towed the line.

"But you don't even use these!"

"So what?"

"Okay ... okay ... we will tackle that another time."

I was relieved and pretty exhausted by now because I had spent about 20 minutes so far actually cleaning. Deb took pity on me and said that she would start on the office.

I just peeked in and there were about a dozen piles so far. I'm gonna have to lie down for a few minutes. I'll finish this later.


  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ate at Bonefish on Friday night.

Our server was brand new. She was very pleasant and reminded me of the cheery round nun in that Whoopi Goldberg movie Sister Act ... even had the same voice.

"Would we like to start with an appetizer?"

Okay ... here's one of my biggest pet peeves. Why do some servers have to include themselves in the order? Is she having an appetizer with us?

I just let that one pass ... "Actually, I would love to get the bang bang shrimp."

"Mmmmm my favorite too. What would we like to drink tonight?"

Strike two. Deb ordered wine ... I had scotch.

"And for dinner?" That was better. no 'we' or 'us' in that statement. Deb spoke up. "We are going to split the lobster tails and have the corn chowder and salads."  It was a celebration night and Deb had closed a big sale.

Dinner was delicious and the universal 'we' was put to bed ... or so WE thought. "Any dessert for US?"

"Um ... no ... should WE just split the bill?" She giggled. Totally unaware of what I meant and ... as it turned out ... of how she used the 'we' word.

"Oh my God (very un-nun like)." After I explained that she did in fact do that when she took our orders."I have always thought that was so rude and kinda dumb when I hear other servers say that. I do that?" She paused to take a deep breath. "Thanks for telling me that. I will NEVER do that again."

I laughed and told her it was just one of those pet peeves.

"Okay ... well ... Is there anything else WE need?" Smiling from ear to ear with her head cocked to one side in her own world.  "If not, I will just run and get US the bill."  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A NOVEL Idea

Trying out a few ideas for a novel with the central character based on my dad, Sammy. I'm not sure where its going but I've experimented with a screenplay and now a novel.

Here's a sample chapter. What do you think?

************************************
        Barry wheeled Sammy into Haim’s Deli. As soon as he stepped through the front door, the unmistakable smells and sounds of the delicatessen settled over Barry’s senses and calmed him. He spotted Haim Shear working behind the counter, slicing meat carefully in long strips and placing them in butcher rap. Haim learned the business from his father, Izzy. He carried on the tradition when Izzy passed away 10 years ago and bought the building that bears his name today. 

“Sam. You’re looking pretty chipper today.”  Haim yelled across the counter as he spotted the Levines. “Is Barry taking you out on the town today?”

Sammy pointed to the meat counter. “Say, Haim  ... Make me a corned beef on rye very lean ... lots of mustard and potato salad.” 


“Coming right up. Barry ... what can I get for you?”

“Pastrami for me ... the works.”

“Oh … Haim ...” Sammy added. “This is my son, Barry.”

“A fine looking boy, Sammy.” He winked at Barry. “Sit. Sit. I’ll bring it over.”

Barry slipped Sammy’s wheelchair into a table and settled into his seat.

“Did I tell you that Bertha died?” Sammy looked at Barry.

“Who died?”

“Bertha. Remember Bertha? She used to sit with me at lunch and dinner. She died ... Another one dead ... They’re dropping like flies. I really liked Bertha. She had a real asshole for a daughter though ... never came to see her.” 

“I remember Bertha. I didn’t think you liked her.”

“She was a lovely woman. She stopped sitting with me about a year ago. Said something about me to the nurses. I guess I didn’t have good table manners. What are you gonna do?” 

Sammy pulled out his wallet. It was worn and thin just like him. He took out a piece of folded paper and handed it to Barry. “Barry ... I want you to do me a favor.”

Haim came up to the table with lunch and set down the plates.

“Okay ... Corned beef for Mr. Sam and Pastrami for the boychik. Anything else?”

Sammy grabbed the note back again quickly. “No nothing. This is fine.” 

Sammy shooed Haim away as Barry grabbed his sleeve. “Thanks Haim ... this looks great.”

Barry took the note and opened it. Sammy closed it. “No, no not here. Don’t open it here.”

“Top secret, huh? Is this the formula for Coca Cola?”

“What? What are you talking about Barry? This is very important to me and I need your help. It’s no joke.”

“I will guard it with my life. The last note is still in a safe place at the house. I remember the coded words ... ‘sans-a-belt pants in size 34 and a bar of soap’.”

“Always joking. Ha ha ha. Well this is not a joke Barry. It’s very important to me so try to do what I ask.”

“I will. How’s your lunch?”

“Too much fat on the corned beef. This should be lean. Haim must be getting his meat from gentiles. It’s not like the old days. Remember Izzy’s? Now that was great food.” 

Barry’s mind drifted back in time. He was sitting at Izzy’s as a little boy. The usual crowd was there. Lots of old Jews yelling at their children, talking with their mouths full and gesturing wildly. At his table were Sammy and his mom, Esther. They were in their 40s then. He and his younger brother Mikey were sitting across from them. 

Younger Sammy spoke. “Too much damned fat on this corned beef. I’m not gonna pay Izzy for kosher meat if he keeps serving this crap.” Sammy grumbled and then turned his attention to Barry. “Don’t play with your food. Look at your little brother. He’s four years younger than you and eats like a real gentleman.” 

Barry answered. “Mikey’s eating crackers and cheerios with his fingers.”

“And he sits up very straight.” Esther pinched Mikey’s cheek. “Such a good boy”.

“Eat your food Barry.” Sam said. “Listen to your mother.”

“You’re not eating yours.”

“I’m an adult, Barry. The difference is that you just need to listen and eat.”

Barry continued to stare at present day Sammy.

“Barry. What the hell’s wrong with you?”

“Huh? Oh. Just thinking.” 

“Well. I’m ready to go if you are.”

Barry grabbed the check and walked to the deli counter.

“Oh ... And Barry tell Haim how delicious the sandwich was. I loved it.”

Haim smiled at Sammy and rung up the check for Barry.

“He LOVES it Haim.”

“God’s got a special place for you, Barry.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Great Game ... Someone Tell The Guy Sitting Behind Me

Great game yesterday between the Rays and Red Sox.

Sitting there in the stadium, I felt a mix of euphoria and claustrophobia. My euphoria was brought on by the quality of the game and the quality of my eyesight. Great plays ... and I saw them all. I saw the ball ... CLEARLY. So if an errant pitch or a random foul ball came into the stands, I could clearly see it right before it hit me in the eye and destroyed my vision forever.

Ironically, that comforted me.

My claustrophobia on the other hand was caused by a loud, obnoxious, dorky looking guy in his sixties and another guy named Derek ... sitting right behind me. I only know Derek's name because he used it in every sentence. Loud talker is really a conservative description for this guy. Just ask the ten rows in front of me.

He had comments about every play. The good ones would all make the highlight reel.

"Derek ... that's a HIGHLIGHT reel on ESPN. I'm telling you ... that's a HIGHLIGHT reel play. I bet anything it's on the highlights tonight. Don't you think so Derek?"
"Yeah ..."
"Better BELIEVE it ... how about you buddy (to someone two rows back) Highlight reel right? I can guarantee it."

Every time someone hit a fly ball he said ... "That's it ... HOME RUN!" When they were just pop ups he'd correct himself and say ... "Should of been a home run ... You see Derek ... (he demonstrates) if they got their power behind it like this ...(if he hits me in the back if the head I will KILL him).

 He didn't take a breath the entire time. I know about his entire family ... his mom for example ...

"You know, Derek ... mom has a fear of poverty."
"I don't think its a fear ..."
"Derek ... it is a fear ... a real fear."
"I think ..."
"Derek listen I know what I'm saying ... she has a REAL FEAR."
"Maybe she just is frugal ..."
"Derek, Derek, Derek ... she's afraid of being poor. It's a FEAR its a real FEAR!"
"If you say so."
"Derek, Derek ... I KNOW so ..."

I wanted to turn around and say ... "DEREK JUST AGREE WITH HIM DAMMIT!" It was like that kid on you tube who says "Linda listen ... Listen Linda ... LEEENDA LISTEN" Except that kid was cute and funny.

Then there was a conversation about the price of the seats.

"You know ... I paid about $50 more for these seats but they're great  ... these seats .. got them on Stubhub  ... I could have gotten other ones ... but I like these ... I don't care about being behind the net at home plate ... I don't care if a ball hits me (OH PLEASE LET A BALL HIT YOU) ..."

I know that he's a car salesman, he is on an investment chat site where he's learning how to invest and was instructing Derek on the fine points of IRAs, and that he dates a nurse ...

"Derek ... are you seeing anyone?"
"Um ... well I have been seeing this girl I met at a bar ..."
"Derek ... if I were you, I'd look for a nurse like my girlfriend (he has a girlfriend???)."
"Well I do know a nurse ..."
"Is she an RN or an LPN?"
"I don't know .."
"Derek ... does she work at a hospital?
"Um"
"...doctor's office?"
"I think ..."
"Is she a physician's assistant?"
"A what?''
"Oh Derek ... you gotta learn these things ... now a physician's assistant makes more money ... and let me tell you what else she does ... (I'll save you the graphic details)."

Thank the Lord it was a fast game ... I don't know if I could have done extra innings. In the 9th, Alex Colome pitched. He apparently didn't like Alex.

"Uh oh Derek ... here he comes ... Colome ... inconsistent ... big mistake ... wouldn't have put him in. What the hell are they thinking? Oh great ... now he walked that guy. They should have taken him out after the first batter. BUM! BUM!"

Colome winds up getting three outs with the bases loaded and wins the game.

"Derek ... SEE I TOLD you when he's on ... he's so GOOD!"

Kill me (or him) NOW.  




  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Better Call Saul or at least ... Watch Him!

Better Call Saul is the Breaking Bad spinoff that tells the backstory of Saul Goodman, the sleazeball lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk. Deb and I started watching the first two seasons on Netflix this past week when I was home between cataract surgeries.

It is brilliant!

One critic said: "It is already better than Breaking Bad, and has a shot—if it stays this good—at being one of the best television shows ever made ...

Better Call Saul takes the style that made Breaking Bad distinctive—the cinematography, dark comedy, and brashly confident pacing—and elevates it by applying it with more beauty, subtlety, and moral sophistication. "

I'm gonna save all the details about plot and characters and let you be surprised and entertained.

Don't miss it!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I Can See!

Both eyes are 20/20 ... amazing after Friday's surgery ... so cool. I haven't been 20/20 since ... EVER. I woke up and looked outside and saw things I haven't seen for years. Seriously ... I saw colors, details, definition. I was like a kid!!! I was SO happy!

Then I looked in the mirror.

I was depressed for the rest of the day. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Deja Vu All Over Again

Flashback!

I brought back my post-surgical pirate pretender patch today. It wasn't just to play dress up ... I actually used it.

You see ... I had my first cataract surgery today. Yes I am now officially old as dirt. Cataracts. Can you believe that?

Well ... the world famous St. Luke's with the equally world famous Dr. James Gills (III) ... known as Pit ... was my destination.

Today, I was to get my left eye worked on. They do them one at a time ... I wondered if it was in case it doesn't work the other eye is saved, but they say it's so that you have mobility while the first one heals.

I'll go with that.

So at 10:40 AM we checked in (poor Debbie chauffeured me again to yet another medical/surgical
procedure).

What an incredible process  ... choreographed and orchestrated like a major production. Pre-op visit a couple of weeks ago was equally impressively organized.

My first stop today was with a primary care physician who did a physical, explained the process ahead and literally escorted me to the next stop. A short ride on the elevator brought us to surgery check in where were were given more materials, promised a gift certificate for the dining room and escorted to another waiting room.  

My name was called, I entered into a treatment room and was given eye drops to prep. The nurse wrote a big YES on my forehead over the eye that was to be operated on.

Back to the waiting room when my name was called and I was escorted to the business office where they collected what was not covered by insurance.

Next stop was surgery. Another series of numbing drops, IV stick, a dose of happy juice and before you knew it (an hour and a half later) I was in the operating suite with Dr. Gill.

More happy juice ... and the actual process of removing the cataract and replacing it with a brand new lens that would give me better vision than I ever had in my life began!

It took 5 minutes.

I say that because I DID remember and I DID stay awake during the procedure. Kinda freaked me out but there was no pain and no discomfort ... really easy.

We got our going home instructions like how to safely shower, which eye drops to take over the next couple of months to prevent infection, and I even got my own set of BLUBLOCKERS for the trip home.

Whew!

I can't use the left eye for 24 hours (that's why I'm temporarily using my patch).

On Friday I get the right eye done ... then I will never use my glasses again!

Oh ... maybe a pair of Fred Sanford cheaters for close up work but I'm ready!! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

New York State of Mind Part 3

Day three started with MOMA and ended with M&M.

The M&M store was a late night visit to stock up on our favorite treat. Judy and Steve make the trip often to get green and gold refills for the candy bowl that Judy keeps outside her office.

We bought the new flavor ... caramel! Tastes like a milk dud covered in chocolate. It was a great end to our day.
Just before that we enjoyed the musical Groundhog Day.

Funny stuff. The lead actor gave Bill Murray a run for his money. The rest of the cast was very good as well. The story was identical to the original movie and the new music added an interesting element.

So before we went to the play we got a bite to eat at a little place called Briciola.

When I say little I mean LITTLE. We were sitting with about ten of our new best friends on one long table in a room the size of Debbie's closet. I visited the bathroom which was smaller than the ones that are on airplanes and the sink was behind the toilet (a reach over).

Good news was the food was excellent.

Continuing to tell the story backward ... MOMA visit was that morning. Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit was very interesting.

Deb was dizzy that morning (no ...I mean vertigo). She missed MOMA but got breakfast in bed.

Telling this story backward was like Groundhog Day or yaD gohdnuorG.

Confused? Well so am I. Good to be home!  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New York State of Mind Part 2

Day 2 was dreary, rainy and cold.

Actually, it was quite appropriate for our visit to Ground Zero, one of the worst tragedies to ever hit the US. The Freedom Tower majestically stood watch ... climbing straight through the clouds.

Surrounding the sight were the Reflecting Pools that were inscribed with the names of every victim who lost their lives on 911.

Just steps away was the 911 Museum ... built over the actual Twin Towers and exposing some of the original walls and flooring of the buildings.

Earlier, we had visited the architect of the memorial, Daniel Libeskind who originally sketched the design of the sight on a napkin. His studio was down the block and he was such a fascinating guy to talk to.

We rested for a couple of hours, got a bite to eat and walked down Broadway to see Hamilton. Looking up at the stage from the third row was surreal (knowing that I might have to get a second job to pay for the tickets).

What a great play. Seriously, its not over-hyped ... it was everything that it has been built up to be. The music, the staging, the historic significance, humor, drama ... all in one great package. Note: If you are going to see it, make sure you listen to the soundtrack ahead of time. I did, thanks to that tip from Steve Greenbaum and it was incredibly helpful in understanding the lyrics.

Speaking of Steve, we all headed to Juniors after the play to eat cheesecake.

Delicious.

Tomorrow ... MOMA and Groundhog Day!    

New York State of Mind Part 1

Debbie and I flew to New York yesterday for a biz/pleasure combo trip.

At the airport, Deb had a momentary melt down.

"Oh no ... I think I forgot my ID."

"Did you check your wallet?" I asked.

"I NEVER bring my wallet."

"Um ... why not?" I asked stupidly.

"Hello! Because it's too heavy."

As I watched her struggle with her three bags ... TWO of which are big purses ... I just had to ask ... "You mean heavier than those bags?"

"Never mind ... it's right here in my convenient slim carrier."

I am so glad she found it before the long explanation of the weight of the wallet vs the weight of the other bags ensued. Of course I was the one who asked the question ... and so we were off to the Big Apple!

First stop was the NFL headquarters where my old buddy Tod Leiweke, COO of the NFL, hosted our New York USF Alumni for a cocktail reception.

We talked about our Unstoppable Campaign (which is breaking records and this month will exceed ONE BILLION DOLLARS in donations ... okay ... I had to brag). Tod was campaign co chair for a few years when he was in Tampa with the Lightning.

Oh ... and very cool ... we even saw the ring that commemorated the Tampa Bay Bucs Super Bowl XXXVI victory.
After that, we ate at The 21 Club just down the street.

Now the things that are unique about the 21 is you can't get in unless you are a member, there are hundreds of jockey statues outside and inside from racetracks around the world and celebrities put all kinds of stuff on the ceiling. Tod is a member so he got the reservations. Apparently everybody from Donald Trump to Alec Baldwin have favorite tables there (although the only semi wannabe celebrity that we saw was a woman who practiced her opera scales as she ate at the table next to us).

But we had lots of fun.

Thanks Tod. What a special night!

Tomorrow we head to Ground Zero, meet the architect who designed it and then see Hamilton for a mere $1,500,000.





Sunday, May 21, 2017

What are FRIENDS for?

Trivia question ... remember these lines?

JOEY: Hey, Ross, I got a science question. If the homo sapiens were, in fact, HOMO sapiens ... is that why they're extinct?
ROSS: Joey, homo sapiens are PEOPLE.
Joey: Hey ... I'm not judgin'!

When is the last time you watched an episode of Friends?

You really should check out Netflix and watch them ALL. That's what Deb and I are doing. They are every bit as funny as they were thirteen years ago. Sure ... I know six grown people still living together was always a stretch but damn they are funny. Makes you want to be one of them ... you know?

Here are more ...

RACHEL: Hey just so you know ... it's NOT that common. It DOESN'T "happen to every guy" and it IS a bid deal!
CHANDLER: I KNEW IT!

and  ....

RACHEL: So basically you get your ya-yas from taking money from all of your friends?
ROSS: Yeah.
CHANDLER: I get my ya-yas from Ikea. You have to put them together yourself, but they cost a little less, so ...

then there was ...

MONICA: My motto is get out before they go down.
JOEY: That is so NOT my motto.


FUNNY STUFF HUH?


Sunday, April 9, 2017

WHATSOEVER


Jury Duty: The two words that strike fear in the hearts of many.

For me ... the words had new meaning last Monday when I checked in to the courthouse and took the last seat I could find between a large woman eating cheetos and a skinny little guy who last bathed in 1976. 

I was Juror 1285. I think there were about 300 people there with me although there could have been 3000. I didn't look around. I just focused on my phone (trying hard not to converse with cheetos or Mr. Dirt.)

Here's how this works.

From the big room, potential jurors are called by number in groups of about 30. These groups are herded into individual courtrooms on one of four floors. Seated on benches four abreast, potential jurors face the attorneys for both sides, the plaintive, the defendant and the judge. The judge then explains the process. Questions are asked of each individual as each side listens intently to the answers.  

So ... I was in the fourth group to be called up to the courtroom on the fourth floor (Cheetos and Mr. Stinky were picked earlier). There I was on the first row right in front of a judge I knew well. "Interesting," I thought. "Should I disclose the fact that I know him ...?" Didn't have to wonder long. His first question was (to each of us) "Do you know any of the people involved in this case ... attorneys, defendants or the judge?" He asked us one by one.

"I know you, Judge."

"Yes Mr. Momberg. I'll discuss that with the attorneys." Well, I figured that was it for me. I'll probably be excused along with the chick next to me that kept moaning about day care for her kids even though she worked nights at a bar, the woman who was some kind of accountant who argued about the way the questions were phrased asking the clerk to read them back and the ex attorney on the back row who said he didn't like the plaintiff and already made up the mind that his client was guilty.

Well ... I got three out of four correct.

"Mr. Momberg ... take juror chair number one." Really?

There were seven of us: Dawn, Bob, Shannon, Bill, Joe, Ron and me. For the next five days we would get to know each other well.

Our job was to decide the outcome of a car accident dispute. The Plaintiff claimed that she was violently rear ended by the Defendant causing her to hit another car and giving her permanent injuries to her back and neck. The Defendant claimed that the Plaintiff hit the car in front first then careened violently backward hitting her car and causing both crashes.

So the first couple of days were filled with opening arguments with diagrams and pictures of the cars and the streets ... long winded medical testimony from doctors about the structure of the spine, and the descriptions of injections that the Plaintiff took ... pictures of the Plaintiff before the accident when she was into swing dancing, sculpture, skydiving, and other stuff.

On the first day, Ron (who sat in the back row) fell asleep through two hour long video testimonies. He was the youngest among us and was a military guy who apparently didn't get alot of sleep. I say that because he slept the next day too. Day three ... he was gone. The judge said in court that Ron was dismissed because he was the alternate ... didn't mention the fact that he missed most of what was said.

Throughout the long days of the trial, we were reminded AT EVERY BREAK that we couldn't talk about the case to anyone, anywhere, under any circumstance ... whatsoever. I put whatsoever down as one word because the judge made us say that every time we left the courtroom. Seriously.

We couldn't even talk about the case to each other. So the long hours in the jury room together  were filled with sharing personal facts about each other. I found out that Bob was a retired police officer who was excited to serve on the jury, had a few girlfriends over the years, smokes, and was related to a good friend of mine. Shannon and her hubby wake up every morning at 5 to work out. Turns out that she works out at the same place as my buddy Ray Smith and knows him. Dawn refills her gum dispenser because she likes the original box, lives on the beach and talks to Ray Smith on the way. (That's two friend for Ray ... two more than I thought he even had). Bill is a plumbing contractor who is working on a big house in Sarasota and DOES NOT DO TILE WORK (it's in his contract)  Joe didn't say much (I'm not sure that's even his name).

At the end of closing arguments, we were sent to the Jury Room with bound evidence books and instructions to make a verdict. The first thing we had to do was pick a Foreperson (Which Bob immediately volunteered for.) Then we had to decide whether the Plaintiff was hit from behind or careened backward (DUH. Easy one ... she was hit). Simple calculations on medical care past and future gave us the amount we awarded her and then we added on Pain and Suffering ... an hour and a half later we were done.

We knocked on the door ... headed back to the courtroom where the judge asked if we had reached a verdict and we said in unison ... WHATSOEVER! 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mr. Coffee Colored Cadillac



I've been home for a couple of days with a cold/flu/allergy/small pox ... whatever ... so I've had time to get back to writing posts for my blog.

To those who actually read my posts (all three of you), I apologize.

As you probably know, Chuck Berry died a few weeks ago. He was 90 years old and one of the most talented musician/ songwriters ever.  "He could play a guitar just like ringin a bell." Of course I would defer to the best guitar players I know ... Mike and George ... to verify Chuck's guitar abilities but I think it's safe to say he was a pioneer in creating the sound we hear today in music.

As my own tribute to the man, I've been listening to his tunes back and forth from work. Since I'm on the road for a good 3 hours a day ... this gives me plenty of time to appreciate his legacy.

Oh ... almost forgot his keyboard player, Johnnie Johnson. The greatest. He actually hired Chuck to play in his band way back in the 50s when his guitar player got sick and never returned.

Chuck had limited experience playing guitar back then but his voice and personality and writing ability immediately made him a force to be reckoned with.  He wrote Maybelline and the Chess Brothers signed him as a solo act. Apparently, he took over the band soon afterward because ... as Johnnie said, "We could get better jobs with Chuck running the band. He had a car and rubber wheels beat rubber heels any day."

Chuck wrote Johnnie B. Goode as a tribute to Johnson referring to Johnnie's behavior when he was drinking. Chuck was a tough leader and insisted the band not drink in the car on the way to jobs. The band complied by sticking their heads out of the window when they were drinking.

I remember seeing Chuck in concert in the early eighties in St. Pete at the groundbreaking of Tropicana Dome. Started out with that famous lick on his guitar ... and then ... he stopped dead in his tracks, staring at someone in the crowd. "If you take your camera out one more time while I'm playing, I'll leave and never come back."

He knew what he wanted.

His lyrics are some of the best ever written. My all time favorite:

NADINE

As I got on a city bus and found a vacant seat,
I thought I saw my future bride walking up the street,
I shouted to the driver hey conductor, you must slow down
I think I see her please let me off this bus
Nadine, honey is that you?
Oh, Nadine
Honey, is that you?
Seems like every time I see you
Darling you got something else to do

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back
And started walkin' toward a coffee colored Cadillac
I was pushin' through the crowd to get to where she's at
And I was campaign shouting like a southern diplomat
Nadine, honey is that you?
Oh, Nadine
Honey, where are you?
Seems like every time I catch up with you
You are up to something new

Downtown searching for 'er, looking all around
Saw her getting in a yellow cab heading up town
I caught a loaded taxi, paid up everybody's tab
Flipped a twenty dollar bill, told him 'catch that yellow cab
Nadine, honey is that you?
Oh, Nadine
Honey, is that you?
Seems like every time I catch up with you
You are up to something new

She move around like a wave of summer breeze,
Go, driver, go go, catch 'er for me please
Moving through the traffic like a mounted cavalier
Leaning out the taxi window trying to make her hear
Nadine, honey is that you?
Oh, Nadine
Honey, is that you?
Seems like every time I see you
Darling are up to something new




   

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Collaterally Speaking!


You know, I just have to say it.

The Academy Awards top movies that won this year were yawners. I should be more politically correct, I guess, but I just don't get it. There's the story about a gay black kid abused by his crack head mother who grows into a gay black man drug pusher and has (big surprise) lots of issues. He barely speaks throughout the whole film. Then there's a film about a sullen janitor who watches his children die in a fire and also barely speaks. And then there's a musical about a tortured piano player who barely speaks but sings and dances.

What's the deal?

Critics LOVED these films. REALLY?  Two of them were like bad reality TV and I felt no empathy for the characters at all and the third was like watching the movie that I really detested when it came out ... Moulin Rouge.

You know the one that critics hated this year?

It's called Collateral Beauty. I saw it at the movie theater and rented it tonight again.

How stupid and classless am I? I think it's one of the best films I ever saw.

Will Smith stars as an ad man who loses his only child to cancer and writes letters to the three abstract elements he blames for her demise: Love, Time and Death. Then he is visited by each in the form of actors hired by his employees.

The rest of the movie is brilliant ... well acted, beautifully written and you will cry your eyes out throughout the whole thing.

Just my opinion, but then again I'm old fashioned. I like movies that ... um ... entertain.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Adventures in Vegas-land

Birthday week!

A time for celebration, a little nostalgia, gambling, time away from the office ... or not, bedbugs ... wait I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'll start at the beginning.

Deb and I headed to Vegas for five days. It's the longest vacation we've ever taken there.

Boarded Southwest Monday afternoon for that 5 hour plus flight in those skinny little seats without any food service ... but  who's complaining. Certainly not me!

We were prepared though.

Before we boarded we bought a delicious turkey sandwich from a kiosk with water and chips. We couldn't wait to slap on the mayo and mustard as soon as the seat belt light was switched off.

Apparently the guy next to me liked our food as well.

He talked about it for most of the trip. Actually, he talked about a lot of stuff for most of the trip. He didn't really talk TO anyone on the trip. He just talked ... and giggled ... and cried ... and laughed ... and walked around the plane ... you get the picture.

Deb said I squirmed around too much on this flight. Just because I spilled a drink on her and elbowed her in the eye I think I got a bad rap.

All I know is that when we touched down I felt a huge sense of relief. The guy next to me celebrated by dropping his shorts when he stood up to grab his plastic bag from the overhead.

Outside the cab lines were empty! We have never seen it that way. Arriving on a Monday was the right thing to do. No crowds.

Caesars Palace was like a ghost town.

I took a picture out of our hotel window and I saw the ghost of Debbie Momberg walking through the building. By the way ... this was our second room. Our first room was situated in an older section of the "Palace" where we stared out at a wall. So we gave it a thumbs down on the Goldilocks scale (Toooo OLD).

Ghost Deb and I changed clothes and headed to the casino.

She immediately hit $500 on a Wild Party machine, pocketed the dough and said "I'm done. I can live on this for the next five days". And she did. I am amazed by this ... $500 wouldn't last a minute in my sick gambler fingers.

And it didn't

As I crawled from machine to machine and table to table. Debbie settled in to her nice warm bed.

Day 2 was March 1st ... my birthday.

I always overdo it the first night we get to Vegas. I stayed up all night until my eyes fell out and my fingers fell off. Bright and early Debbie sang or just said Happy Birthday ... I don't quite remember.

Eventually we went downstairs to the famous buffet ... the biggest and the baddest in Vegas ... and the most expensive. It was definitely wasted on us. I had a few shrimp and a slab of beef and Debbie had bagels and lox in preparation for Ash Wednesday (I guess).

Right after we ate, Debbie left for church to get fingerprinted on her forehead.

I gambled some more (duh).

That night we dined at Joe's Seafood (brother of Joe's Stone  Crab in Miami). It was GREAT! Deb had stone crab and I had the Dover sole prepared at the table ... to die for!

When we got back to the room I was pleasantly surprised by cupcakes delivered to the hotel compliments of my kids. It was a mix of flavors adorned on top with poker chips on  some and dice on the others. I was gonna take a picture but I ate them instead.

Day 3 we did a little sightseeing. Stopped in the Bellagio to smell the flowers.

Beautiful!

We heard there was a shuttle from the Bellagio to the Aria and then to Crystals ... expensive shops. Big surprise.

After only 3000 steps ... Deb sighted her favorite store immediately. She visited her purses for a few minutes and then we headed back.


We changed clothes and went to Harrah's to see ... Menopause the Musical that evening.

Front row tickets to a play about four women who meet at a department store and sing 60s and 70s songs about hot flashes and keeping their husbands in line.

I dutifully smiled appropriately (I think).

On Day 4 we were sure this was way too long to be in Vegas ... the winnings were no longer up and down ... they were just ... down.

So we decided to tour the city by monorail. But before we stepped outside Debbie spotted the tiniest problem on the bedspread ... could it be??? Is it a fly, an ant, a flea ??? No ... it looks like a BED BUG!

We took numerous pictures but couldn't get a close up that we could see anything that resembled much beyond a booger. Debbie swore that she was bitten the night before ... so ...

She made the call.

Some guy named Michael told her to pack our bags immediately.

"What?" I said to Deb. "Are they are kicking us out?"

"No ... they want us to change rooms immediately."

We had no choice ... the last day and the Goldilocks tale was finally coming down to the THIRD room and the third bed which had better be .... JUST RIGHT.

It was .... a few floors below in the same tower with the exact same decor ... it was our final resting spot. "Hmmmm" we thought "Will they give us a big basket of goodies for pointing out the potential bedbug problem? Will it be on the local news? Or will they ban us from Vegas for calling a false alarm on a booger sighting?"

That night we went out to our last dining spot: Gordon Ramsey's. I don't think it was really that good. Surprisingly, isn't he the one who tells other restaurateurs that their places suck?

Oh well ... after a couple of scotches I was feeling no pain. Debbie's very dirty martini had her speaking in tongues too.

Farewell Vegas ... CHEERS!