Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Vacation Part 6

On our last night in New York, with the temperature dropping to 11 degrees, we shuffled into the Brooks Atkinson Theater to see Waitress.

Very cool show. Jason Mraz was in it and was a surprisingly good actor. The music was good and the cast was very talented.

But truly, the guy who stole the show was an actor named Christopher Fitzgerald. He played the boyfriend of one of the waitresses and was so funny that he had everyone in the theater laughing so hard,

Well ... time for bed (and heat) and then off to the airport and home for the rest of the holidays. Happy New Year to all!  (eventually).

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Vacation Part 5

It is COLD!

I'm inside now trying to feel my face ... man. It's 20 degrees and wind chill is zero. LOOOONNNG way from Florida.

Yesterday was pretty cold too.

We took the subway to our Matinee play: Come From Away. It's the play about all the 9/11 airline passengers who had to land in Newfoundland.

It was a musical.

I wondered before we got there ... how do you make a musical out of Newfoundland residents and airline passengers in a stressful situation?


My answer came soon after we sat down in the theater as the band took their places.

It was FANTASTIC.

The cast was real. They looked and acted like townsfolk and like displaced passengers. The dialogue and the music was spot on.

Made you move to Newfoundland.

GREAT SEATS too.

After the show ... we went to dinner. (all we have done is eat!). This time it was Gotham Bar and Grill.

We had a corner table and another excellent dinner. Another winner.

This time ... they had a message for Debbie.  (Just because they can't spell anniversary ...  nobody's perfect)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Vacation Part 4

I admit I was skeptical.

The restaurant we had reservations with last night was in Brooklyn. We had to sign a contract way before we came. I promised money, my first born child, sent my last three pay stubs .... okay, maybe I exaggerated. It was only my last two pay stubs. 

Anyway, it was touted as one of the best restaurants in the world. Pretty heady stuff, right?

Well ... It WAS all that and more.

The River Cafe sits at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and overlooks Manhattan. We had a front row seat ... a window that had the most magnificent view of the city you could have asked for. When we walked up to the restaurant, I took a picture of Debbie in the courtyard.

Breathtaking ... and the view was nice too.

It was cold last night ... in the 30s. But you didn't notice it with that background. The restaurant was beautiful inside ... intimate, warm and not at all stuffy and arrogant (I guess I was kinda expecting it to be cold and formal and pretty full of itself ... what a great surprise).

The wait staff was perfect.

They were attentive but not in your plate and hovering. Deb noticed they were all attractive and very polite. They didn't rush you but were there whenever you needed them.

Then came the best surprise.

The food was incredible.  It started with our chef sending out a duck appetizer, followed by oysters for me and smoked salmon for Deb, followed by goose (duck duck goose) and gnocchi. Deb had the Wellington for her main course and I had the Lobster.

They were all presented beautifully and the flavors were incredible!

Melted in our mouths!

I can't say enough about this place. You have got to go there next time you're in New York. I can see now why you have to reserve a table waaayyyy in advance and why you have to commit to giving up your first born child if you don't follow through.

By the way ... The dessert was pretty cool too. Trio with a chocolate Brooklyn Bridge in the center.

And of course it was our Anniversary ... again!

 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Vacation Part 3.5

Just a quick update.

Because it’s Christmas Day there’s not much open. We were supposed to see a Knicks game but it didn’t work out (which was fine because we needed some time to shop and dine). This trip is costing me a fortune.

I found two great places to shop and to dine this afternoon.


I told Deb to spend whatever she likes.


Christmas Vacation Part 3

Christmas Eve morning at Radio City was a cold blast from the past! The line stretched around the block ... it was worth the wait.

Incredible production ... even 3D of Santa flying in to Manhattan  ("There is a Santa Claus ... There Is a Santa Claus" Said the little Jewish boy yesterday.)

The Rockettes haven't lost a step (haha). They boarded a bus on stage and took a ride through Times Square.

Then it snowed.

Not outside ... inside. That's right it snowed all over us with little flecks of white paper.

It's a Christmas miracle ... I didn't take pictures of the manger and the camels and the sheep and that stuff. Debbie took 734 shots of that if you want to see them.

I took the important stuff ... like Santa and his friends.

We took the subway back to the hotel ... changed clothes and then went to a cool place ... One if By Land. Two if By Sea. It's actually Aaron Burr's Carriage House. I kept singing "I am not throwing away my shot" (from Hamilton) in my head. This was quite a romantic spot for dinner!

Food was delicious and the atmosphere was great. Throw in a couple of roses and a few candles and you've got yourself another romantic night out on the town!

I should know being Mr. Romantic (as Debbie calls me ... not). But I was last night. This is the second night we celebrated our anniversary (12/21). We have a few more restaurants to go.    

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Vacation Part 2

We toasted to New York at the Cafe Carlyle in the Carlyle Hotel last night.

Cool place.

Now that Old Fashioned(s) (the drink that apparently my son even drinks) are in style with the younger set ... places like Carlyle are brimming with millennials and fans of Mad Men ... which is pretty much the rest of the world.

Opened in the 50's, it's the authentic Manhattan backdrop of the classic cabaret, Café Carlyle is known for headlining incredible talents; including Laura Benanti, Alan Cumming, Judy Collins and Woody Allen, who regularly appears with the Eddy Davis New Orleans jazz band.


Steve Tyrell is the headliner for the holidays. Been here for many years and took over for Bobby Short when he died.  He's done a ton of collaboration, producing and recording of soundtracks, standards and movies ... was the wedding singer in Father of the Bride and he won Grammys and an Emmy or two. Wait ... we won an Emmy (but his is probably bigger ... anybody remember Chicken Named Mac? Sunshine Serenade? I'm Not a Little Ant?) I was gonna tell him ... but he was busy singing. Backed up by a group of exceptionally talented musicians, he crooned his way through the 10:30\PM show with us looking right up his nose ... GREAT SEATS thanks to a very good friend.

By the way ... no pictures of the performers were allowed during the show ... you have to trust me on this one. (It's a stretch huh?)

Wonderful way to kick off our Christmas week in New York.

Tomorrow ... Radio City and the Rockettes. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Vacation Pt. 1

Yes ... we are taking a REAL Christmas vacation.

Day 1

Loaded up a rental car from Enterprise and off we went to Savannah to see the kids. Why a rental car you might ask? Good question ... you see we are going to New York for the remainder of our vacation and decided to drive to Savannah, fly to NY and fly back to Tampa.

Clever huh?

Debbie found a great place to park our car ... only 10 miles from the airport and we save $1 a day. It took about a half hour and a heated discussion with the guy who wanted to rip her off and charge her extra when she actually drove in to change her mind. I was more than happy to pay the extra dollar to park at the airport.

So off we went ... only a couple of hours behind schedule.

The Jeep was old school. That is ... basic radio, power windows and a/c. Man ... I am spoiled. I complained the whole way until we stopped for gas (the first time). We had barely made it outside of Orlando and we were already 3/4 of a tank down. I thought we must have sprung a leak. Only after I  filled up the tank for about $10 was it that I realized that we had a tank the size of coca cola can.

We puttered into Savannah at about six and were greeted by the most adorable little faces and the words I was dying to hear: "Papa... can I play with your phone?" and ... "ARE THOSE PRESENTS FOR ME???"

Grace and Cole immediately made us forget all about the drive and just about everything else. Nik and Steven loaded us into their golf cart and we all drove through the neighborhood bundled up ... and screaming for joy at every string of lights or plastic Santa. What a joy!

But ... before our drive we had Chinese food (apparently a hold over from Nikki's childhood as a half Jewish child).

Then ... of course came the presents and the two of them tore through the little race cars, reading books, pop guns, puzzles and pjs ... Grace spent a few more minutes snuggling her new doll ... named Grace.

Just look at these faces. Hard to leave.

Stay tuned for part 2 in New York. 

 Merry Christmas !!!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Growing Up Without Christmas

I just checked my old blog posts to see how many of them were related to Christmas ... Twelve. That was eye opening to me. Considering I grew up without Christmas ... I sure focus on it a lot.

It wasn't like I really missed out all those years that I lived at home. After all, we had Hanukkah. Right? All you Jews out there know how exciting THAT holiday is. Eight Crazy Nights! Lighting candles, reading Hebrew prayers, opening a present a night like chocolate coins or plastic dreidels and retelling the fake story about Judah Macabee and the eternal light.

I didn't care that my other friends were opening cool gifts on Christmas day like model planes and cowboy guns and new socks and underwear. They didn't say it to me but I knew how jealous they were. They had to do Christmas dinner at home with their families while I got to go to Chinese restaurants and eat as much moo goo gai pan as I wanted to.

My kids have all experienced Christmas AND Hannukah. With a Jewish Dad and a Catholic Mom ... they grew up with trees, menorahs, presents, debt, confusion and lots of turkey dinners.

It's all good!

Tis the season ... I wish you lots of good tidings, eggnog, wine, turkey and moo goo gai pan!

Merry Chanukah! (Wait is that acceptable and politically correct this year?)  Have a good one!

Monday, November 27, 2017

It's Good the be The King!

How cool is this?

I was just voted Person of the Year by Time Magazine. I know ... Trump was the original pick but he turned them down. I don’t care. So what if I was the second choice? They called me today to ask if I would accept and I said “Sure ... I’ll be happy to. “

There are a few strings attached ... however.

-First, they said I would be responsible for payment of the first press run. How many could that be ... a hundred or so?

-Second, there is some prince in South Africa that needs my help (this apparently is required as part of the humanitarian component of the nomination). I’ll help him. How complicated can it be?

-Third, this particular issue will not make the commercial news stands. Special issues seldom do (a fact I didn’t know). The people I talked to promised that copies would be sent electronically to subscribers. They said that I should get a list of family and friends together for a special mailing that I might have to pay for as well ... but it's worth it.

I have to say that all the folks that I have dealt with are so thoughtful and willing to help. I had no idea of the many nationalities that work at Time. I'm pretty good with accents but I had a hard time understanding many of them over the phone. They apparently had a hard time understanding me as well. They repeatedly asked for my social security number, credit card info and my address.

Oh ... I was saving the next part as a surprise ... but what the heck ... here it goes.

They take suggestions for future issues of Person of the Year! So ... I gave them some of the names of my closest friends and family that they can contact. Just think ... YOU MIGHT BE THE NEXT PERSON OF THE YEAR!

Monday, November 20, 2017

You've Got A Friend In Me, Randy

Last night, Deb surprised me with a date night and it wasn't even my birthday.

The day before, my sinuses were angry and wouldn't let me out of bed. Fortunately. they gave me a break last night and cleared ... just long enough so that we could spend time at the Capitol Theater with RANDY NEWMAN.

What a night!

Randy Newman was by far the biggest influence on my music. There's no one quite like him. Mix ragtime, New Orleans dixieland, swing ... a few passing chords underneath ... a voice that defies definition ... a cynical look at life with sweet lyrics ... smart and clean ... that's Randy.

And he did not disappoint. He came out on stage ... just Newman and a grand piano ... looking like he just rolled out of bed and played like the genius he is. Hard to say which ones are my favorites because I really love them all for different reasons. Back to back he played my New Orleans favorites (as close to autobiographical for him as any) Dixie Flyer and Louisiana. As the story goes, he was born in "November '43" got on the "Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans". His parents were Jewish but he was raised without any religion "tryin' to do what the gentiles do/ Christ they wanted to be Gentiles too/ Who wouldn't down there, wouldn't you?/ An American Christian".

Louisiana 1927 was the story of the great flood of 1927 which left 700,000 people homeless in Mississippi and Louisiana. he wrote it in 1976 but it became identified with Hurricane Katrina after Aaron Neville covered it for a fundraiser. "River rose all day and it rose all night/ Some people got lost in the flood/ some people got away all right".

He played new stuff from his album Dark Matter ... fantastic: Putin (yep that Putin), Sonny Boy (about Sonny Boy Williamson, the blues singer and his early death as he looks at his pretender from heaven), Lost Without You (beautiful ballad).

Aw heck I could go on for days.

By the way ... The Capitol in Clearwater had been renovated a year or so ago. What a cool place to see a concert.  Still has the ambiance of the original theater.

Loved it.

Thank you ... DEBBIE MOMBERG! 

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.”