Monday, August 13, 2007

We've moved...and are moving!...

Back from vacation after 2 1/2 weeks of wonderful time with my wife's family. What a priceless joy. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

We have moved locations on the world wide web. Please visit me at .

We are also moving as a family. Read the latest post, from today, on the news.
photo: schlomaster

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On Vacation

Til August 11...and switching our look.

Monday, July 23, 2007

LIRR days

As we sat on the Long Island Railroad hurtling out toward Bay Shore – I knew all the stops because the conductor used to rattle them off over the intercom like, “This is the 3:30 local to Montauk, stopping at Freeport, Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa, Massapequa Park, Amityville, Copiague, Lindenhurst and BAB-bee-lon (Babylon). Change in BAB-bee-lon for the train to Bay Shore, Islip, Great River, Oakdale and Sayville. Change in Patchogue for the train to Montauk making all local stops. Next stop… FreeeeePORT!” – what came next was that this same conductor came down the aisle and collected fares. My dad would pay for mom and himself and then ask for two children’s tickets for Jim and me.

I was not a child.

I was 13. Jim was 11 and was most definitely a child.

I qualified for an adult ticket (anyone over 12) and – blast it all! – I wanted to have an adult ticket.

This recurring event stood in sharp contrast with three years later when, in response to my getting caught by the Ocean Beach, Fire Island cops drinking Heineken on the dock – I broke the law expensively – my parents somehow reasoned that I could drink at home under their supervision while I was still a minor. So, my dad saved a buck-fifty each time on the train by reducing me to a child, but on any given night I would put back a couple or three Ballantine Ales on my parents’ budget, which effectively negated the LIRR child’s ticket and then some, and I did so without blinking.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Not so Dad

On the 405 going north toward Sacramento, trying to find the right off ramp leading to the 10 toward Santa Monica, I was seriously outgunned. I mean, the people here are all Professional Drivers. Like New Yorkers are Expert Walkers.

If you walk in New York the wrong way, you know, with a certain oh-well-la-dee-da gait, everyone within three city blocks will know you’re from Des Moines. Or, as did one of my in-laws, if you wear a fanny pack, you’re from Des Moines. White tennis shoes – Des Moines. T-shirt tucked in – Des Moines. The result of this slow walking is that you will not ever get a seat on the subway nor will you contribute to a rapid moving bagel and coffee line at the Korean deli in the morning where the lady behind the register barks, “StepDahn! StepDahn!” People will despise you and will never buy…corn…or whatever you grow or produce in Des Moines.

But I digress.

I’m in LA, and I am quite out of my element. I mean, I am a pretty good driver, learned behind the wheel of my grandmother’s 1970 Mercedes (it was racier than it sounds) – which, by the way, had a stash of chocolate Carnation Instant Breakfast Bars in the trunk that my brother Jim and I used to sneak out and gobble. My mom taught me to drive, and she was a beautiful driver. My grandfather said so: “Your mother is a beautiful driver. She can glide up a hill and make you feel like you’re not going up. Knows just how to feather the accelerator.” True enough, she was great.

Not so Dad. I was in the vehicle once with him as driver, having just crossed over the Willis Avenue Bridge onto the Major Deegan Expressway, and I almost elected to jump out the backseat window into oncoming rush hour traffic in the South Bronx with drug dealers and Squeegee Men on every corner who didn’t like white boys from the time they cut teeth. Dad was awful.

He would have driven in this town, and they would have said, “Dude’s from Des Moines…”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Just one more bite, please...

When I was last headed to McCarren Int’l Airport in Las Vegas, I saw Susan Sarandon in the morning at the US Airways Club and Larry King by the pool that afternoon. So far at Logan I haven’t seen a single celebrity. On my way to LAX through Vegas today. [Inserted post-script comment from Free First-Class Upgraded Seat 2C, Vegas to LA: Woman walks on with every bit of her pumped with collagen and silicon. Didn’t know earlobes went under the knife but apparently they're included in the $2999 Facial Extremities Package…]

Above all the work-related matters going on – among them some very positive developments including a working sabbatical this September and October, when I will study the issue of Christian giving – my favorite time this past week was going to Singing Beach with the boys and the lovely K. Thursday we loaded up and headed out in the Odyssey – what a great name for a minivan that is filled with little adventuresome boys – and arrived at the beach after the attendants had finished charging for parking, and when we could stay without getting ticketed by the town. I think the daily fee is up to $30 this summer, and that’s at area beaches of lesser desirability. In fact, you can’t even park at Singing Beach if you’re not a resident of Manchester. Town Nazis. (Karen once pointed me to an article that detailed how calling someone a “Nazi” basically ends an argument – as if nothing worse or more definitive can possibly be said. That is my intent in commenting on $30 parking fees at the beach…)

Of course, as soon as the automatic side doors started to slide open, the boys were out of their boosters and – barefooted and -chested – ran across the gravelly lot, through the bathhouse and onto the 50-yard wide sand crescent arching between huge beige boulders on the east and a black rocky point to the west, about ½ mile long. Low tide was in about an hour, so it was perfect sand castle and wading conditions.

After a time, I donned my wetsuit and did a 20-minute swim down the length of the beach and back, Karen losing sight of me at the opposite end and giving me a loving rebuke when I returned; she thought I had become fish food.

I took off my wetsuit and played in the surf with the boys. Carter stayed in the 63-degree water for about an hour. We were reluctant to leave at 7:15.

On the way out of Manchester, K picked up ice cream for the boys and herself at Captain Dusty’s and spooned me bites of Cookies and Cream as we drove home.

photo: diamondjoy

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Celluloid night

Singing Beach is so named, apparently, because when you walk barefoot on its white sand, it makes a squeak that is generously called “singing.”

When Karen and I moved to Massachusetts, we ended up in Manchester, the town that owns Singing Beach. Manchester was renamed “Manchester-by-the-Sea” in the mid-1990s by the town council in an effort to increase local tourism – but not too much, though…not too much – and ostensibly to separate it from its New England namesakes, Manchester, CT, and Manchester, NH. There are actually ten Manchesters in the United States (in addition to those in New England, they reside in Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, California, Illinois, Georgia, Kansas and Kentucky – I know that’s not in alpha order; it’s how Mapquest listed them. Give me a break, please.). So, you can see, not wanting to be lumped in with Manchester, Kentucky, where no doubt your cousin lives down the street or perhaps shares a conjugal bed with you, the town elected to come out from the others and be renamed. Manchester, CA, actually is on the sea, too, but…you snooze, you lose.

Manchester-by-the-Sea, which I still call Manchester just because I don’t want to sound snooty – I already have an Upper East Side pedigree to try to explain away – was the location for the David Mamet film “State and Main.” We had sightings of Alec Baldwin and Rebecca Pidgeon and Philip Seymour Hoffman (one of my favorite actors) in Crosby’s market. Then, there was the cattle call for extras, and some 800 townspeople showed up. I think Manchester-by-the-Sea’s population was only like 600.

On the big night of the filming of the “car crash” – where the buzz was that a car was going to come careening down Union Street and fly through the air and burst into flames – the folks started lining the streets in front of the police station and the Congregational church at about seven for a 10 o’clock shooting. I had friends Ryan and Aaron over from my seminary Greek class for a spaghetti dinner, and then we traipsed down the hill, about a half mile, to stand along with others and watch the spectacle.

I won’t tell you what exactly happened – or didn’t – when they shot the scene. All I’ll say is that they did it in two takes, and Hollywood must have some serious kicka#$ special effects studios.

photo: GroenGras

Friday, July 06, 2007

The butcher on Fire Island

Dominick was the butcher out at the summer beach community where my parents had a house since the 70s. (Jim and I sold it in 2002 after their deaths, after we realized that $100,000+ of work probably wasn’t in our budgets.) This was back when it was okay to use that term for that profession – butcher – not deli worker, etc. You knew what a butcher did, and nobody was embarrassed by it, least of all the butcher himself.

He wore a tie and a white coat buttoned down the front that was stained with animal blood, and Dominick would give us slices of fresh bologna, the best bologna I have ever had since. Perhaps the taste was the taste of carefree summer more than the fact that it was made of…what is it made of anyway? I just did a Google search for this answer and came up with nothing satisfactory.

Not only did we dine liberally on mystery meat every time we went in the store – which, by the way, was pretty much the center of our activity away from the beach, as it was next to the Candy Store and constituted the “center” of the village – but during breaks from teaching sailing (it was a hard life), Dave, Dave, Jon and I would sit outside the store on the wood bench under an overhang and munch on boxes of Pop Tarts and Entenmann’s baked goods. (Like I said, a hard life.) The store taped on its plate glass window facing the walk twice a week – in advance of Wednesday and Sunday/Monday nights – posters of the coming movies. The Wednesday movies were geared mostly toward kids and moms, who were pretty much the only ones out at the beach during the week. The Sunday/Monday movies were targeted with dads in mind, many of whom stayed out Sunday night and took “the death boat” – meaning you felt like death warmed over at that hour of the day – Monday morning at 6:15, which delivered you across the Great South Bay in time to catch the early train from Bay Shore into the City with the rest of the Long Island commuters.

The movies that came to the community in those days were things like “Here Come the Fuzz” with Burt Reynolds and “Rabbit Test,” which was hands down the worst movie I have ever seen, even though it starred one of my favorite comedians, Billy Crystal. It was before people knew he was funny, though, and therefore I think he forgot to be funny. As you will recall, he never hosted the Oscars until the 90s.

The movies were shown in a large room with a vaulted ceiling, a space that also served for dances and wedding receptions, in a single-level building of about 4500 square feet, that was surrounded by clay tennis courts. The edifice dated back to the days of the Chautauqua Society in the 19th century. We would sit in blue and green directors chairs, with the canvas seats, and the big joke – not exactly original to us – was to lift off one side of the seatback and line up the flap carefully with the side post, giving it the appearance of being attached, and then waiting for your friend, or your friend’s mother, or the girl you had a crush on to whom you didn’t know how to express your emotions except to do adolescent tricks like this, waiting for them to sit back and – OH MY!! – have them be shocked to fall back on the person sitting behind them.

Everyone walked around in bare feet or rode bicycles. Toddlers and infants were pulled in wagons, and “mothers’ helpers” (a.k.a. au pairs, nannies) could be seen hauling a couple of towheads up to the beach, which was a fifty-yard wide stretch of pristine white sand facing south on the Atlantic ocean.

We ate Pop Tarts and mystery meat, and rode bicycles and watched Burt Reynolds movies and danced and played tennis and walked alongside mother’s helpers who became our friends and girlfriends, and we congregated in front of the store, me and the guys, and talked about…probably the surf or girls or the movie that sucked the night before. We didn’t talk about back home. The real world. School. Homework.

We all looked the same, and in fact once about a dozen of us went to a Rossington Collins (the band of survivors from the Lynyrd Skynyrd crash) concert down at the Palladium on 14th Street in Manhattan in late summer 1980, before the Palladium turned disco for the 80s. Afterwards, we went uptown to sit on the steps of the Met just to hang and talk. We all wore painters pants and concert t-shirts. We were tanned and thin and preppy. Someone walked by and said, “Oh, look, the cast of an Orange Crush commercial.”

photo: joseas