DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION AT YANKEE STADIUM

            (This was published March 31, 2017 on Newsday.com)

I enjoy attending baseball games in person. I’m looking forward to the new baseball season, but it’s hard at times to see what’s happening on the field because of all the action in the stands. That was certainly the case last August when I saw the Yankees and Blue Jays play.

I was seated in the upper deck, section 420A, right behind home plate. In the two rows in front of me were five young boys in Yankee jerseys. The grown-ups with them, even an apparent grandma, took cellphone pictures of themselves and the kids from first pitch to last. What I took to be the dad of one small boy spent a minute digging the top of the jersey out of the kid’s pants so the number on the back would be visible in the pictures.

The mother of the boys, or at least some of them, kept looking to her right at the start of the game, presumably to see if the kids were behaving or had set anything on fire yet. Soon the boys—I’d guess between the ages of five and nine—took turns standing by her seat or sitting in her lap, periodically blocking my view. After dad bought a bucket of popcorn, the frequency of the visits to mom, the keeper of the kernels, increased as did my difficulty in seeing the diamond.

One boy had a glove. When it wasn’t on his head, it was on his hand, obstructing my view. His chances of a ball being hit into the upper level of seats were as good as my chances of being the 2028 Republican presidential nominee when I’ll be 90. Luckily the seats on both sides of me were empty, giving me room to maneuver to see. Sometimes. It would have been exhausting if I had been forced to ask a kid or adult every 15 seconds to please get out of my way.

One man spent most of the game with his head turned away from the field so he could talk to the grandma a row above him and show her pictures on his cellphone, taken I presume at previous games he had attended but not watched. He occasionally stood and faced grandma, apparently unaware of the possibility that the announced attendance that day could be more than two—him and grandma.

Tall beers were bought and shared by the adults, necessitating holding the can aloft, pouring part of it into a plastic cup and then passing the cup—more activities that had me making lateral moves in hopes of seeing the Yankees play. Or even the Blue Jays.

When the Yankees showed signs of a late comeback, dad and grandpa announced “rally cap time,” turning their baseball caps inside out and putting them on their heads backwards. The boys had to be shown how this was done. The Yankee rally fizzled. I blame that on the dad who had taken the now empty popcorn bucket and put it on his head over his rally cap.

After a 7-4 Yankee loss, I left the Stadium quickly, determined to get to the subway before a van loaded with kids whizzed by me, driven by a guy with an empty popcorn bucket on his head.

 

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            (This was published February 19, 2017 in Newsday.)

 
After years of playing basketball and setbacks from torn hamstrings and ligaments, I have finally made an All-America list. No, I’m not on it, but all my doctors are.

Topping the list is my Primary Care Physician (PCP), an Iranian-American Jew who always wears a yarmulke. I had never seen this doctor until the morning after I was mugged in a church parking lot in Rockville Centre. My primary doctor at the time didn’t work Wednesdays, and I walked into Dr. S’s office, told a receptionist what happened and was told “of course, he will see you.” He’s been my doctor ever since. He and his brother left Iran together and both became doctors. Whenever he talks about the brother, a pediatrician, my guy pauses before saying, “I don’t know how he does that.”

Years earlier my PCP had been a young doctor who worked out of his house in Oceanside and could frequently be heard speaking Latvian to his mother who I believe lived with him. For some reason, the richness of the various threads that makes our country (and medical profession) strong seem important at this moment.

My All-America list of doctors, all located on Long Island, is a fairly long one, not surprising for someone nudging 80 and fortunate to have good health insurance. More than a year ago when I needed a hernia operation the surgeon was a Japanese-American. Every three years I get checked for colon cancer by an American Sikh doctor. He too always has his head covered, with a turban even during the colonoscopy.

The doctor who made a small slit in my chest to slip in a heart monitor more than three years ago is a Filipino-American. Another physician in the same cardiology group is Chinese-American. Although I don’t see either of them often, I remember our conversations because they’re both skiers, as am I, and skiing always comes up. (While I don’t golf, I’m sure that skiers talking about skiing are as boring as golfers talking about golf.)

A few months ago I developed a stabbing pain in my lower back and by the end of the day I was holding on to furniture to move from room to room. Spinal stenosis, a doctor I was meeting for the first time informed me. He’s a Dominican-American born in the Bronx. I’m much better now, thanks to steroids and physical therapy. One of the talented physical therapists I’ve seen over the last few years for different ailments is a young man from Trinidad.

Having grown up in a small, mainly white Christian farm town in Indiana, what a wonderful mix of expertise and life experience I've been exposed to. What kind of country would this be, what kind of people would we be if we built barriers, physical or bureaucratic, to make sure only certain types of folks were let in it?

One good thing about getting old and seeing the same doctors for years is that they loosen up and tell you things they probably wouldn’t share with new patients. That includes jokes. For instance, are you aware that baseball is mentioned in The Bible? It’s right there at the start, “In the big inning.” Thank you Dr. M and all my other doctors.

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                                   UNITED TRUMP INTERNATIONAL IS LAUNCHED

            Eric and Donald Trump Jr. announced today that they have bought United Press International and renamed it United Trump International “to finally bring the truth to the American people and the world.”

            In a joint statement, the sons of President Donald J. Trump said the new UTI would be committed to exposing the lies and distortions of all those very dishonest so-called people who pose as journalists for the main street media.”

            The first news item sent under the new logo was about a meeting President Trump had today with a group of chiropractors:

“Supreme Leader Donald J. Trump told the National Association of Chiropractors and Metatarsus Manipulators ‘you guys are going to have plenty of work under my administration. Promise. We’re going to be putting that wall up so fast there is going to be a big, big demand for your services. Lots and lots of sore backs. I hope some of you guys speak Russian because Vladi Vladimirovich wants to be a good buddy and is sending over thousands and thousands of Russians to help us with the wall. What a great guy. Just the best.’“

A White House statement said 17,000 people crowded into the East Room to hear the Noble Commander-In-Chief’s remarks and that he received a standing ovation when he entered and left the room. According to White House press secretary Spice Spicer, both ovations lasted 15 to 20 minutes.

According to the Trump brothers, David Duke will be the Executive Editor of UTI. In a brief attempt at a phone interview, Duke said he was very excited to “have this chance to wake the American people up to what is really….”The line went dead at that point. Duke had said he was calling from his underground bunker in Louisiana.

Sources say United Trump International plans to “make spelling great again.” For example, the agency will drop the “c” in “attack” and will use only one “s” in “pussy.”

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Posted February 8, 2017

 

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NOTES I NEED TO WRITE SOON

Dear Dr. K,

As my cardiologist, perhaps you would like to put in my file that for Christmas breakfast I had steak, ham, bacon, and sausage along with scrambled eggs, potatoes, two pancakes, Kolach (a Hungarian nut roll), and three biscuits with jelly or honey. I also had two large cups of coffee. The day after Christmas it was the same story--steak, ham, bacon and sausage for breakfast as well as more biscuits with jelly or honey.

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Dear Vice President-Elect Pence,

I’ve read that you believe those who are gay can go to conversion classes and be persuaded to change their sexual preference. Do you think that similar classes could set Democrats straight, so to speak?

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BowTie Theater, Manhasset, New York

Dear Manager,

Every time my wife and I see a movie at your theater we have to sit through an ad claiming you folks have engineered “a revolution in popcorn” and that if we buy some of what you sell we will have “a better popcorn experience.” Is this what you would like to be known for, what your grandkids will brag about when you’re gone? A revolution? In popcorn? Get control of yourself. I bought some of your popcorn once. It was popcorn. Period. Over and out.

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Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Mt. Arlington, New Jersey

Dear Manager,

I had lunch at your establishment a few days ago and noticed a car parked in front of the store with New York license plates “FATTY 1.” Is that your car? Not to be rude, but if you eat your own food every day you could sure put on some weight. If it is your car, should I be looking the next time I’m in your neighborhood for a car with a FATTY 2 plate? And who might the owner of that one be?

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Mayor, Mahwah, New Jersey

Hello,

Driving by signs for your town recently I realized I don’t know what people from Mahwah are called. Mahwahites? Mahwahtonians? Mahwahts? Mahwahnese? Malcontents?

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Michael McRobbie, President, Indiana University

Dear Sir,

I realize you were born in Australia, but is it not silly, perhaps even stupid, for a university football team with a record of 6-6 to play in a bowl game as I.U. did a few days ago? If a student got only half the questions right on an exam, would that be an exemplary performance deserving of special recognition? In the couple of minutes of the game I watched on TV of the Foster Farms Bowl with I.U. playing Utah, it was refreshing that there many empty seats in the stands. Who wants to spend money, even if some tickets were only $25, to watch a group of mediocre athletes or as you administrators insist on saying “student-athletes?” Ha, ha, ha.

The “Foster Farms Bowl” rolls right off the tongue doesn’t it. If universities are dedicated to searching for truths, should not all the post-season games be called Money Bowl I, Money Bowl II, etc.? I.U. versus Utah would have been Money Bowl XXVII or perhaps an even higher number.

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David Rhodes, President CBS News

Hi, Dave,

Would someone please inform the new afternoon anchor at the radio network (yes, Dave, there still is a radio operation under your command) that when he says the Dow Jones Industrials lost 113 points when the correct figure was 13 points those of us on a fixed income go a little crazy? As a CBS stockholder, may I suggest that when a mistake like this is made (as it was last Thursday) that the anchor be fined a corresponding amount from his weekly paycheck. My wife Irene, a Hungarian financial guru, follows the stock market numbers closely and when a 100 point mistake like the one above is made it can take me two to three days to calm her down and convince her that what she heard on the radio was wrong. The next time I hear this anchor make a market numbers mistake, I’m calling CBS News and demanding that the anchor get on the phone with Irene and explain how he screwed up. I guarantee that’ll focus his mind for a good bit.

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(Posted January 1, 2017)

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To A Republican At The Gym: Why Donald Trump Is Not My President

Ralph, you seem shocked this morning when I said Trump “is not my president.” Yes, he won the election, and I don’t want to get caught up in a discussion of the Putin-Comey influences on the outcome. I’m not sure I agree with Congressman Lewis that Trump isn’t a “legitimate” president, but he’s certainly not my president.

My president:

--Doesn’t mock former prisoners of war.

--Has a sense of humor.

--Doesn’t make fun of people with disabilities. (Ralph, if you had a friend who got drunk and made fun of the handicapped, you might cut him some slack because of the alcohol. How do you explain and excuse such public conduct from someone running to be president of the United States?)

--Doesn’t brag about not paying taxes.

--Doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.

--Isn’t vulgar day in and day out and has a haircut that bears some resemblance to other haircuts on this planet.

--Doesn’t say, at least in public, that an opponent belongs in jail.

--Doesn’t belittle the parents of a dead serviceman.

--Doesn’t talk about grabbing women by the pussy. (You know that isn’t locker room talk, Ralph. In all the years we’ve known each other neither of us has ever heard that word in the locker room except guys talking about Trump having used it.)

--Doesn’t, for years, challenge someone’s eligibility to be president and then concede that person is eligible but claim the challenge first came from someone else.

--Doesn’t accuse a group of people of being rapists.

--Doesn’t make a ridiculous statement about Mexico paying for a wall along the U.S. border and then say U.S. taxpayers will pay for it initially with Mexico coming up with the money later.

--Doesn’t, after winning the election, continue to denigrate those who ran against him.

--Doesn’t continually make public statements before giving some thought to what he’s saying.

--Doesn’t continually say things in public that are either lies or distortions of the truth.

--Doesn’t refer over and over to the “dishonest media” or describe as “failing” any news outlet that has run a story he didn’t like.

--Doesn’t know more than the generals do about ISIS and isn’t an expert on hacking.

--Has read at least two books in the last year.

Ralph, as you know, I’m not religious but among the things that have mystified me over the last six months is how so many people who do believe in a higher being could vote for a man so disrespectful of his fellow men. Donald J. Trump is not my president. Is it possible he could change and win my respect and that of millions of others? Yes, of course, but the possibility of that happening is as great as the prospect of the New York Knicks winning the NBA championship this year.

##

(Posted January 17, 2017)

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ME, CHRISTMAS CARDS AND THE MARINES

December 16, 2016

            I’ve just seen a note online, congratulating someone for a “fantanstic career in radio and print.” Let me join in the congraeatulations.

            Haste makes for mistakes. After lunch the other day, I passed a small pharmacy and ran in to see if they had any Christmas cards. Not only did they have some, they were very cheap and made in that most Christian of nations, China. The greeting inside the cards reads “Peace on earth and with you always!” It would appear that China has followed the lead of those capitalist dogs in the United States and fired all the editors.

            If you don’t think strange things are happening as we await our new president to take office, take a look at what was in my email a couple of days ago:

You don’t have to know what the future will hold in order to take the first step.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Reaching the end of high school can bring more questions than answers. While many will come to a point where they must decide what to do next, only a small group will step forward armed with the honor and courage required to commit to the charge of the few.

Whether making it through 12 weeks of recruit training and earning the title Marine, or getting from ship to shore in a matter of hours to defeat our enemies overseas, Marines constantly face battles knowing that the only way to move forward is to win.

Marines have been winning our country's battles for 241 years, and they will continue to do so, because for them, every victory is a stride toward improving our communities and our world.

If you think the fighting spirit that lives within Marines lives inside of you, take the first step by filling out the form to be contacted by a Marine recruiter.


Stay connected with the United States Marine Corps

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, Please write to :United States Marine Corps, Southgate Road,
Arlington, VA 22204.or you can email to: postmaster@sendinghn.com.
This is an Advertisement.

          I’m pushing 80 and the Marines are hot for my body. What IS this country coming to? Should you think I was overly harsh about the firing of editors, take another look at the second sentence in the first paragraph and tell me what that means. Don’t we all come to a point where we have to decide what to do next?

Yes, it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars if I filled out the form and some poor Marine recruiting officer had to read it. But it might be fun to watch the recruiter’s face when I walked in the door, doing my best, of course, to hold my stomach in and hide the liver spots on my hands.

            Five weeks from today Donald J. Trump, who knows more about ISIS than the generals and who is the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”, will take the oath of office. I wonder who is going to be the first Republican in Congress to call for throwing out the 22nd amendment so Comandante Trump can serve more than two terms. I also wonder who is going to be the first Republican in Congress to call for his impeachment. Wouldn’t both of those be “Fantanstic.” Buckle up.

 

     (Posted December 16, 2016)

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            GRANDMA ALEXANDER

Take a break from politics and meet Charity Melissa Thornton Smith Alexander, the only grandmother I ever knew. She had her first kid before she was 17 and at age 37 her seventh and last, my mother. Among Grandma’s other accomplishments, outliving three husbands.

Around this time of year I would sit at a table with her and help take coins out of cardboard Christmas stockings, donations that went to the church. She did other people’s laundry for a living and didn’t waste money or have any to waste. Christmas cards that arrived with a signature written in pencil were saved. The following year she erased the name, wrote her own and in the mailbox they went.

Melissa (like many people in her family she went by her middle name) made her own laundry soap. A large pot on the kitchen stove was packed with this smelly substance, and she would cut out a large chunk when there was wash to be done.

When my older brother Jim got a car, we would pick up and deliver laundry to her customers. I remember stopping at a Dr. Jones’s house. There must have been 274 rooms in that house and Dr. Jones and his wife were always very polite. Before Jim could drive, I think she drove herself to her customers.

She took me once to Detroit where three of her sons had gone to work. This was an exciting trip. Not because of the way Grandma handled a car on the long drive, but because of an older cousin in Detroit who was fond of skipping school. I remember being at a soda fountain with him when he screamed, “Come on, let’s go.” He had spotted a truant officer in the neighborhood, and we took off running. It was a successful run. If the officer was looking for my cousin, he didn’t catch him that day.

Another time I fell asleep in Grandma’s car in Indiana, and when she took a corner her passenger fell into the street. Melissa Alexander had a bad foot which made walking difficult, but she scurried out of the car that day to see how the grandson in the middle of the street was doing. I was doing okay, though falling on the street from a moving car is not conducive to a good nap. Remember that, please.

In the winter I loved to sit with my back to the coal stove in her living room and listen to her talk about old times, particularly stories about me when I was a baby and had pneumonia and there was concern I might not make it. She talked a lot about a son, Edward, who had drowned. She thought Ed and a buddy had been roughhousing and things got out of control and her second son ended up drowning. The other boy, she predicted, would end up confessing what happened on his death bed. If he did, we never knew it.

Thanks to Grandma I learned how to pluck a chicken. (She wrung their necks. Mom used a knife to accomplish this. I thought Grandma’s technique was more efficient.) My memory says she made the biggest and best sugar cookies in Indiana. They probably weren’t nearly as big as I think they were. I had many dinners at her house that were entirely home-made bread or buttered toast dipped in cocoa. Delicious.

Grandma liked to eat raw hamburger and gnaw on chicken feet. Fortunately, I don’t recall her ever suggesting we do the same.

She was a devoted listener to “Ma Perkins,” the radio soap opera, and had a neighborhood reputation for knowing what to do about burns. Women who had burned themselves in the kitchen would come to see her. I think her treatment consisted of butter and blowing.

Before my senior year in high school, my folks moved to southern Indiana, and I stayed behind with Grandma, perhaps shortening her life by ten years. Whenever I had a buck or two in my pocket, I had to get rid of it. More than once after dark I decided to take the Greyhound bus to Indianapolis where I went to a movie or walked and walked around the downtown area until I was exhausted.

Being around me, she picked up some of the lingo I thought was so daring that I used it constantly. One early morning after an excursion to Indianapolis she was waiting in her rocker when I came in the door. “Well,” she asked, “are you done catting around?” Whatever my response was, I’m sure it was smart-alecky and not among the ten best things ever said to a grandmother.

With the uncertainty, economic and otherwise, that comes with a new president, especially this one, if you get a Christmas or Hanukkah card this year from Irene and me, our names will probably be written in pencil. Feel free to send it to someone else next year.

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(Posted December 1, 2016)

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