Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spaghetti or Not ... Here I come!

You'd think that ordering meatballs and spaghetti would be a fairly simple task ...  well ... not if the one doing the ordering is my dad, Sam.  Of course, nothing is simple if you are Sammy.

Yesterday, Sammy called me: "Joel, will you come over tomorrow?"

Me: "Sure Dad. What's up?"

Sam: "I haven't eaten in days. The food here is terrible. I really need new food."

Me: "Okay, what do you want to eat?"

Sam: "Anything. What time are you coming?"

Me: "How about lunchtime?"

Sam: "So what time?"

Me: "Is lunchtime okay?"

Sam: "You want to come for breakfast?"

Me: "Breakfast would be okay. How early?"

Sam: "Lunch would be better."

Me: "So ... lunchtime?"

Sam: "How about lunchtime?"


Today at 11:00, I placed the call and got his voicemail: "Hello. this is Sam. My number is ________. Please leave your name and number and I'll call you back." 

Well ... I left the message and got no return call ... so Debbie tried the Nursing Station:

Debbie: "Hi, is Sam able to come to the phone?"

Nurse: "He's in the dining room."

Debbie: "Oh .... we were supposed to bring him lunch. He probably forgot."

Nurse: "Wait ... I'll get him for you."

Debbie waits for a few minutes and Sammy finally comes to the phone. 

Sam: "Hello Miss Debbie ... are you in town?"

Debbie: "Yes Sam. We were coming to bring you lunch."

Sam: "Good. I'll take spaghetti and meatballs."

Debbie: "Okay ... that's what you want to eat?"

Sam: "Where's my seat?"


Sam: "And bread ... no salad. okay?"

Debbie: "Okay ... we will be there in a half hour ... can you meet us downstairs?"

Sam: "Yes. Thank you."

So we pick up his spaghetti and meatballs and head over to Menorah Manor. You guessed it. He was not downstairs. He was in his room with the big headphones on.

Me: "Hey Dad. Got your food downstairs."

Sam: "Oh. Well ... the baseball game is on and I've had two big meals today ... can we put it in the refrigerator?"

Saturday, May 26, 2012

House guests

Check it out.

These are our new house guests ...  hanging in the MAN CAVE.

First let me introduce: George, John, Paul and Ringo. Artist David O'Keefe was the guy who "introduced us" ... in Orlando.

Then there's Dirty Harry.

Clint never looked better ... right? He really "MADE MY DAY."

Finally ... Marilyn. What else is there to say?

All now reside at our house ... Thanks Mr. O'Keefe. You are a genius,

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Universally Accepted

Gotta tell ya ... Universal's a pretty cool place.

Couldn't believe it. There were no lines, the weather was hot but not miserable, the guys in tank tops and tattoos didn't beat their kids, and from what English I could understand ... no one dropped the "f" bomb with the 5 year olds around.

It was a good day.

Men In Black was awesome. That's me killing 100,000 aliens and Deadeye Deb next to me killing 100,000 passengers.

The ride only took about 20 minutes .... the trip to the locker for purses was a little longer. Debbie blamed it on the maintenance guy who told her they were having trouble with the equipment but the 300 people behind her told me a different story.

We saw the Blues Brothers and a bone rattling singer who did a mean Aretha imitation. The sax player was great too.

I met lots of new friends.

There was Lucy ... who shared her Vitameatavegamin.

And Marilyn ... who sang Happy Birthday to me (although she called me Mr. President alot ...)

And the cast of Lollipop kids (all grown up!)

I tried to get them to lend me a pair of socks for the picture. My white legs kept over exposing the shot.

Don't feel sorry for Debbie. She found plenty of company at Krustyland.

The Adventure Begins

Today we traveled to The Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios.

Debbie kept saying she didn't want to go there and get wet ... and she refused to wear a bathing suit. I reassured her that it wasn't Adventure Island at Busch Gardens ... different Park.

She was okay until she saw a big picture of one of her ex-boyfriends (left) some Pecker named Woody.

She carried two stuffed toys (Despicable Me's) that we won at the squirt gun game in the arcade area. Actually, she won them ... one by a long shot and the other I barely beat her with help from one of the carnies.

I found a new girlfriend in the Comic Land ... or whatever the name of that land was ...

Betty Boop.

She talked funny and her lipstick didn't cover her whole lips but she was kinda cute. (A little old fashioned for my taste but she was sweet).

Harry Potter has a whole land to himself. Of course we had to visit even though we were the only people on earth to have never seen a movie or read a book about the little guy.

This is the castle that we tried to get into. There was a three day wait in line ... that was with an Express Pass.

We went on a few rides ... like Spiderman ... but figured we'd pass on some of the roller coasters that flipped you upside down when we spotted a net above us with stuff like sunglasses, watches, false teeth and a couple of small children with dirty diapers.

Tomorrow ... Universal Studios.

(No Debbie ... there is no dress code).

Monday, May 21, 2012

You CAN Go Back Just Don't Look Too Close

Visited my hometown of New Orleans yesterday.

We ate in my favorite restaurant Antoine's (a celebration with friends Luis, Cindy, Fred, Kay and Judy). Then we ate again in my new favorite restaurant Ralph's on the Park and then ate ONCE MORE at Morning Call for coffee and donuts (non natives say cafe au lait and beignets).

Stomach full, I took Debbie down memory lane (she is SO patient).  As you will see in the photos, I numbered the "high points".

I'm sure you will scan these quickly ... I would if I were you.

Enjoy ...

1. This is Rendon Inn. Well, it used to be. It was our local market and sandwich shop. I lived down the street from here growing up. We hung out at the front door when we were about 10, pretending to smoke cigarettes.

There was a pinball machine in the sandwich shop. We'd get roast beef poboys, fries and a Barq's then spend the day playing pinball. By the way ... in those days, you could win money on pinball machines.    

2. This was our house on General Pershing St. Actually, it was the front porch and front door (I think). We never used the front door. I don't know why, but my mom always made us use the side door.

3. There was a basement in this house with a beat up tinny sounding upright piano. I banged the hell out of it and put tacks on the hammers. The neighborhood was surrounded by lots of old New Orleans musicians.

4. This roof was gone during Hurricane Betsy. We were inside when it ripped off and fell on our car in the driveway. It was my first experience with a hurricane. That afternoon, we were playing football at my friend Elliot's house and thought it was pretty awesome to throw a ball and have it come back to you.

5. Behind the house was a Japanese plum tree. I played in that tree for hours. I was Tarzan ... my brother was Boy. He'd bring me food until one day he got fed up and threw a dart at me.

6. Fortier High School. The front entrance faced Freret Street. No one used it. The steps were used for class photos, but that was it. This is a theme in New Orleans ... no one uses the front door for anything. We would enter on Nashville Ave. or Joseph Street. One entrance was for hoods and one was for frats. If you arrived in the wrong place ... you were killed.

It was a really nice school ... if you liked violence,  

Ironically, the school is now Lusher, a magnet for the arts. The only magnet I remember was owned by a kid named Stubby who used to carry it in his pocket. It fit nicely over his one good hand.

7. My house on Melody Drive in Metairie. My folks moved here when I graduated. They never told me. True story ... I came home from college and went to the wrong house. The plants were all fake outside. My mom used to put plastic flowers in the yard to look better and try to win the neighborhood beautification award.

8. Our front door. You guessed it. No one used it. the door on the side was the "front".

9. My Uncle Smitty's record store, Smith Records used to be here on St. Charles Avenue.

Sad ... a thing of the past. He also had one of the most famous recording studios in New Orleans: Instant Records. He recorded Benny Spellman, Irma Thomas, Deacon John, and the Ivories, Robert Parker and Allen Toussaint.

10. Morning Call. THE place for the locals to go in the Quarter. On dates or after dates, we would meet up for coffee and donuts ... It was opened late.

Cafe Du Monde was a couple of blocks down the street.

A real sign of the times ... it is now in a strip center in Metairie with the original bar, tables, sign and mirrors.

Not the same ... but still good.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Atlanta Alumni Trip

Just got back from Atlanta.

We had a great event for USF ... Judy Genshaft (USF President) and I hosted more than 120 alumni at the High Museum. Lots of positive vibes from the crowd and great follow up meetings the next day. 

Dinner had a little wine mishap. but I am getting ahead of myself ...

The flight to Atlanta was fairly uneventful (after I found out that I left my phone in the car and ran back before take off). It actually took less than an hour. The train ride to the rental car building took about 20 minutes and the Avis agent took about three days to get our reserved car.

Okay ... slight exaggeration ... 2 days. Actually she was the manager and was trying to be helpful ... but she couldn't figure out the computer program. Three different agents had to help out. Finally she got the Garmin GPS for us and SHE preprogrammed herself. I should have seen this coming. It never worked the entire trip. All it did was track simulation routes to Brazil.

This was trouble.

Judy was my navigator and although we had maps and directions and even an iphone programmed on map quest ... we both have the same sense of direction ... "South? South? Give me something that makes sense like the corner of Dunkin Donuts and the Tae Kwon do Academy."

Somehow we made it to the hotel. The Marriott Marquis is one of the tallest buildings in downtown Atlanta and we could see it clearly ahead. It somehow took us 4 tries to find the right turns to get to it.

When we checked in, the clerk told us that we had been upgraded. Hmmm ... I'm thinking ... it's good to be with the President. He handed us the keys to two rooms on the 45th Floor.

I was shocked.

I stepped into a suite large enough to house my whole family. On the dining room table was a large basket filled with goodies and inscribed "Hope you enjoy Atlanta". This is incredible ... a whole floor of large suites and a big welcome basket ... Wow.

Judy and I met in the lobby after unpacking and made our way to the High Museum (which was only 10 minutes away ... but took us 20).  We mingled and socialized ... had a brief program about the University and took our host and another couple out to dinner afterward.

The food was great and Judy liked the wine we ordered so much that I took a picture of the bottle for her. One of our guests had the same idea and reached over to grab it for his camera. The bottle didn't cooperate and I wound up with a lap full of red wine. As klutzy as I usually am, this trip was all about people spilling things on us. Judy had a coke spilled on her purse the next day and a bag of chips fell on her at the airport.  Thank God it wasn't my fault.

Later ... the president of the alumni association asked how the hotel rooms were.

"They are great." I said.

"Good ... because I called ahead for an upgrade and sent Judy a basket. Did she get it?"

"Um ... I believe she did."

When we got back to the hotel I told Judy that there was a basket in my room for her ... it was accidentally given to me. I showed it to her.

"Wow," she said. "Nice room."

"Yours isn't ... I mean ... this room doesn't look like yours ... "

"Nope," She said. "I've got two double beds and a shower."

"OH NO ... This is YOUR room ... the basket's in the right place ... I"M NOT."

She laughed.

"No Judy ... we have to trade rooms ... I'm getting my stuff out of here ... this is awful."


Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I thought about Bill Ratliff today.

Before he retired a few years ago, Bill Ratliff was the consummate anchorman. He had the anchorman voice, the anchorman clothes, the anchorman look ...  but don't be fooled ... he was no Ron Burgundy.

Bill was much more.

I met him 30 years ago when we partnered with Channel 8 and joined the Children's Miracle Network Telethon. Bill and I traveled to Salt Lake City to meet with the folks who put the national show together.

We went to workshops and learned about everything from telethon production to volunteer management. Bill sat in talent sessions to hear from other local anchors about interview techniques. He was patient and professional. I'm sure he knew everything they taught but pretended he heard it for the first time.

It wasn't all work.  

One morning after a night of drinking a wee bit too much, Bill and I went to eat breakfast in the hotel bar. We squeezed into the bar stools that were placed tightly against the bar and loudly complained about how dumb it was to build a bar with stools that gave you no room to move.

One of the waitresses came over to talk to us when she heard how uncomfortable we were. "Sir?" She told Bill, "If you stand up, you can pull these stools out so that you can have more room."

"Thank you ma'am," Bill said sheepishly. "We were ... um ... just about to do that."

Bill Ratliff died on Monday. He was 63. Rest in peace, my friend.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dream Big When You're Small ... Dream Small When You're Big

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a rock star. I dreamed of playing to packed houses, girls falling at my feet, parties all the time ... I'd sing like Elvis, play like Jerry Lee and spend money like it was going out of style. 

Debbie wanted to be a June Taylor dancer.

Ahhh ... those were the days. The days before real life hit and the realization that jobs required work ... fame was a relative term (none of my relatives had it).

So .. you work for 30 years, raise a few kids, get older and find other dreams that usually have to do with money, like ... how to make more.

Ten more years fly by and so does the money. Finally .... you hit the age when your kids are grown, you slow down some and you can get back to dreaming about what's next.

Today ... Debbie and I talked about what we REALLY want to do (this week):

I want to be a zookeeper and she wants to drive a beer cart at golf tournament at Innisbrook.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fatty Fatty 2 by 4 ...

Who is the fat guy in all those pictures that people send me with my face on them?

What???  Me???  FAT???

Wait a minute ... I may be getting a little thick around the middle  ... and Debbie might talk about my belly (kinda cute) ... and I may have put on about 10 (or 30) pounds or so ...

Okay, I admit it.

I am officially fat ... again.

That's the first step to good health (or that's what I'm told). Tell yourself you are really fat and unhealthy and then fix it with exercise and diet. Simple formula ... just do it.

I KNOW that was said by a skinny person. Fat people say ... "Maybe I won't super size my Big Mac and fries ... and I'll rinse it down with a big diet coke!" Oh sure ... there's the occasional Tony Little (former fat guy turned exrecise guru) or Richard Simmons (who is unhealthy at any weight) or Jared the Subway guy (another party animal) ...

 ... but there's also Oprah.

I can relate to Oprah. I have a permanent yo yo attached to my brain.

This week, Deb and I are on the Sugar Busters diet. We read that sugar is poison. It kills every organ in your body and turns you into a mass murderer (or something like that).

All I know is that for the last few days WITHOUT sugar, I have tried to kill 14 people and several small animals ... that is ... when I'm awake enough to remember. My exercise program lasted 2 and a half days (the last day I did the treadmill for about 10 minutes).

But I'm determined this time. By the way ... Anybody got a freaking cookie out there?

JUST ONE????  

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...