Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Post of 2010

I know I promised to do more blogs about my Mexican Christmas Vacation but with the holidays and all, I just haven't had the time. However, I still have plans to post a few soon.  I think I have all of the photos now.

Any how, since it's the last day of 2010, I thought I would go into the old archives and post a few of my favorite ones..  

As you know, I have three dogs and apparently when I leave for any length of time and my computer is left running, they take over.  Here they are... Bonnie, Buzz and Baxter:



It's Bonnie, the nice dog. These guys I live with are %&*$#*@ morons!! And as for mom, I put up with her. Last night she left out almost a full bag of Peanut M&M’s and of course girls, you know how much we love chocolate!! But I think I ate WAY too much!! I barfed on the carpet (I never do it on the tile floor) and when Dad came out at 6:30 am he was slapping his forehead for some reason. I guess he was proud of me!

Anyhow, my friends, I’m OK!! I didn’t have time to digest before I puked! Dad thought it was baked beans! But he found out fast that it wasn’t!! I have to hide the empty bag better next time. Keep them guessing!!

Now, that new ball!!

It’s my new best friend!! My brothers are on their own. I have two of these balls and DON’T like to share! I’m the princess so they are MINE!! Dad took me on a walk today and of course, the ball went with me. Even when I’m napping, it stays close.

Now if only Dad would &*%$#+@ open the new bag of Pig Ears. It better happen soon or next time I’ll vomit on his pillow!!! Won’t be the first time!

Those guys who mow MY yard are coming today so I need to rest up. Ankle biting is hard work!

Well Dad’s friends, until next time, have a good weekend! Arf! Arf!




This is Buzz, the handsome dog…See?

Baxter and I don’t give a bark what she eats. She never shares anyway but I had to laugh when I saw her losing it on the rug! Poor Dad!! It was 6:00 am and he almost added to it! Besides, I’ve seen her eat her own poo!! Ewwww!! How could she? She thinks she’s so tough, chasing cats, rabbits and squirrels but show her a cricket and she hides! What’s with that?

Anyhow, ‘The Ball’!! Dad brought home one for each of us (I still don’t understand how he can leave and yet always find his way back here!), and Bonnie took all three of them and wouldn’t share. I finally got one of them but poor Baxter never got a whiff of one. Maybe he’s the smart one because she slobbers on them.

But all in all, we are good friends and do our best to protect the house. Teamwork!!!

Well, most of us do…

Well, Dad wants to use the Innertube or whatever it’s called and my nose has made a mess of his keyboard. I wish I could type without having to use my nose. I think I’ll take a nap.

Bye for now! Woof!! Woof!!



It’s Baxter. The shy one with the short legs. The one that Buzz picks on!! But he’s my best friend… Bonnie is a pain in the a**l gland!

They tease me alot ‘cause I like to sleep so much. When dad gets up I crawl under those warm blankets and sleep until I’m good and ready to make my appearance. Of course, I never miss breakfast before I do that. But I always find time to blog!!!

Now, as for that ‘ball’ thing, I don’t know why they ever bother buying me one ‘cause Bonnie always ends up with all three of them. Even if she’s outside, if I pick one up she seems to know. She runs in, bowls me over and takes it away! And when dad gives us pig ears he puts me on his lap to keep her away. Females!!!! And to make matters worse, dad clipped my claws…. my last line of defense, but he got tired of me drawing blood from his arms. I love my humans except when they dress me up, like this!

At least Bonnie gets something pretty.. Disgusting!!!!

Remember Burt, my tortoise friend??

I haven’t seen in a long time. I think he’s sleeping, like I love to do, but dad says they only do that in the winter. I hope he’s not under the house again.

Uh oh!! Bonnie is giving me a mean look so I gotta go! As dad would say…

Yall take care!!



It's Bob again,

I wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year.  2011 has GOT to be better!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

L.A. brought Christmas to America

Ahhhh!  I see that you doubt me, but listen up!  Call it a Christmas gift from Tinsel Town.

Look, I was born in the 4th century, and for as long as I have known it, Christmas has been too long, too bloated, too everything. Even our selflessness is tested. My friend Linda tells of how she once got a new car for Christmas.

Worst. Gift. Ever.

"Who the *!&$#%&)&# left their car parked in front of our *!&$#%&)&# house on Christmas Day?" the hungover Brit sneered to her husband when she spotted the car at the curb.


That afternoon, at a neighbors' open house, the gift car caused total chaos when all the other couples in attendance turned on each other for the relatively lame gifts they'd received.

"We'd better go," Linda quietly told her husband.

I love that story, for it shows how human we all are — emotional pretzels and, occasionally, a bunch of twits.

And here we are, you and me, licking our wounds and laughing at ourselves once again on Dec. 25, in the town that gave America Christmas.

"Los Angeles gave us Christmas?" you scoff.

Let me explain.

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.

Your heart's an empty hole.

Your brain is full of spiders,

You've got garlic in your soul.

Mr. Grinch ...

Over the past century, no part of the country has defined the American Christmas the way Southern California has, the place that gave the world the Grinch, roasted chestnuts and Bedford Falls.

It gave Rudolph his own show, made a phenom of old Frosty, gave Charlie Brown a reminder of what Christmas is all about in a screed that holds up, like Twain, as if it were written yesterday.

"I never get what I really want," Lucy says. "I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that."

"What is it you want?" asks Charlie Brown.

"Real estate."

Yep, through TV, song and movies — actually, a gumbo of all three — Hollywood created the modern American Christmas. It kept us on course, shined a klieg light on our wobbly values, warmed us with its words.

Frank Capra penned "It's a Wonderful Life" here one day in a little cabana near Palm Springs. Mel Torme and Bob Wells famously wrote "The Christmas Song" in about 40 minutes on a blistering day in Beverly Hills.

"White Christmas," based on the famous song that was set here, was filmed at Fox and Paramount. By the way, when Irving Berlin finished writing the song, he reportedly told his secretary: "I just wrote the best song I've ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written."


It was at NBC Burbank — Studio A, in fact — that Andy Williams taped those memorable holiday shows that looked as if they'd been shot through a bottle of cognac.

Scenes from the foggy "Miracle on 34th Street" were shot in Studio 3 on the Fox lot on Pico Boulevard.

"Meet Me in St. Louis," in which Judy Garland purrs/sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," was filmed at an old rail depot on 2nd Street downtown, of all places.

Of course, L.A.'s contribution to the holidays goes beyond videotape and celluloid. It was from here that Paul Ecke, an ambitious farmer-entrepreneur, introduced the poinsettia to America. And, of course, an African studies professor conjured up Kwanza here too.

But it is the songs, movies and TV shows that L.A. delivered to the world that crafted the American Christmas of the 20th and 21st centuries — a body of work that rivals Dickens. A body of work that defines the American soul.

If only our politicians had a similar feel for the nation's needs.

"Mr. Potter … this rabble you're talking about … they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?" (Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life")

Where are you reading this? In a tract house in Reseda? In a mountain cabin in Big Bear? On a blanket by the beach?

Much like the town itself, Christmas here is no one thing. In fact, it is L.A.'s great glory — and occasionally its worst shortcoming — that it can't be defined in a single sentence. It's as different as tract homes and mountain hideaways, pine needles and palm fronds, empanadas and warm pumpkin pie.

In L.A., every time a car alarm goes off, an angel gets his wings.

This is no Bethlehem, that's for sure. But through sheer happenstance — and enormous talent — Los Angeles made itself into our nation's Christmas workshop.

Bada-bing, bada-burl.

Now, knowing New Yorkers, they also may stake a claim to having established our Christmas vernacular. After all, Clement Moore's story, the one best known as "Night Before Christmas," and Thomas Nast's cartoons also helped turn Santa into the world force he is today.

And in fairness, the American Christmas has been a group gift. The Brits gave us the tradition of gift-giving; the Germans, holiday trees; the Dutch came up with that corpulent elf.

But it is Hollywood and environs that took 2,000 years of Christmas and captured its poetry, kept the holidays a shining thing.

Not a bad gift, when you think about it. No exchanges. No returns.

Merry Christmas to ALL of my friends!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

L.A. Taken To Extremes

Yet again, I am postponing another Mexico vacation post.  This time due to inclimate weather. After 6 days of steady and at times, heavy rain... Well, what did you expect?

For a region often ridiculed for the sameness of its weather, Los Angeles can point to 2010 as proof that it, too, deals with the extremes of Mother Nature.

It was substantially cooler than average this spring and summer. Then in late September, Los Angeles registered its hottest day ever recorded. Now, Southern California is in the throes of a rainstorm that could result in its wettest December on record.

The sharp changes have even veteran forecasters scratching their heads and searching for answers. Many forecasters had predicted the region would have a dryer than normal winter.

"Just when you think you have Mother Nature figured out, she sticks a finger in your eye," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

There are no easy answers for the strange weather this year, scientists say. In general, as the globe warms, weather conditions tend to be more extreme and volatile, Patzert said.

More than 8 inches of rain have already fallen in downtown Los Angeles this month, and the record of 10.77 inches for December is within reach. Mammoth Mountain has already recorded the highest December snow levels ever.

After six days of pounding rain, another major storm is expected to hit Los Angeles on Tuesday and last through Wednesday night. Then another storm is expected to settle in over the Christmas weekend.

Until now, Patzert and other forecasters had been predicting a La Niña winter, defined by cooler than normal temperatures in the Pacific and lower than average rainfall in Southern California. Jamie Meier, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said it's too early to assume that the region's traditionally wettest months, January, February and March, will be similarly rainy. But with this month's storms, Los Angeles' rainfall is already well above average.

Meier noted that this year has also been marked by a lack of hot, dry Santa Ana winds. That, combined with several fall storms, has resulted in a conspicuous lack of major brush fires that often occur in October and November.

"We get a bad rap when it comes to having boring weather," Meier said. "But we've had quite a varied season, from record-breaking heat to getting a heavily frontloaded rainfall year."

Monday marked the fifth day of heavy rains and snow across California. Kern County was among the hardest-hit areas, and officials declared a state of emergency. Authorities evacuated 2,000 residents from the small farming town of McFarland as floodwaters threatened homes.

"About 400 to 500 houses are in danger of flooding around there," said spokesman Sean Collins of the Kern County Fire Department. "What we have there is quite a lot of farmland with ditches and drainages and canals. Without knowing, 100% it is quite possible one of the ditches either ran over or one of the banks broke."

Downtown Los Angeles has received more than 8 inches of rain since storms moved into the area Thursday. The foothill communities, including those near the Station fire burn area, have received as much as 12 inches of rain, Patzert said.

So far, there have been no major mudsides or flooding reported in areas burned in 2009's Station fire. But residents and authorities are bracing for heavy rain expected later this week.

Numerous roads were closed at times because of flooding and slides, including Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, the 710 Freeway in Long Beach and Coast Highway in Dana Point.

A northern cold front is expected to move into the Los Angeles Basin early Tuesday, colliding with subtropical moisture that has been sitting off the Pacific coast for several days. Periods of intense rainfall through Wednesday will bring an additional 5 inches to coastal plains and valleys and up to 10 inches in the mountains, Meier said.

Despite the heavy rain, rivers are not expected to flood. Ground saturation is climbing, but it is still far below the 15 inches or so that would trigger major mudslides, Meier said.

"We've had a relatively dry five years," she said. "The majority of debris flows we've seen in the past few years have been the result of isolated thunderstorm activity."

She cautioned that burn areas, such as La Cañada Flintridge and Tujunga, will need to keep a closer eye on flooding because the ground is unable to hold as much water as other areas. Neighborhoods have been sandbagging threatened streets and homes for days.
The cold front sweeping down from Washington state is expected to cause temperatures to fall a few degrees and bring snow levels from 9,000 feet to 6,000 feet. Forecasters say the Grapevine on Interstate 5 should not experience any flurries as a result of Monday's storm.

"It's pretty unusual to get a storm of this duration in December," Patzert said. "But it's been that kind of year."

Indeed, 2010 is destined to be remembered as the year of the "unusual."

Summer was marked by gloomy, cool conditions. It drizzled in July, and didn't heat up that much in August. Patzert said that the summer was about 2 degrees cooler than normal. But the daytime high temperatures were 3 to 4 degrees cooler than average.

Then, just as people got used to one of the coolest summers in years, came Sept. 27. On that day, downtown Los Angeles reached 113 degrees — a record high. It got so hot that the National Weather Service's thermometer at USC actually broke.

Two weeks ago, temperatures in the mid- to high 80 set records in some areas.

Those toasty dry conditions are just a memory now. And Patzert said that when it comes to rain, the worst is yet to come.

"What we've seen so far is the preliminary event. Tuesday and Wednesday is the main event," he said. "I think we're going to crush the record for December. I think there's going to be a new champ."

This is our most current weather map. Like a huge funnel.
"Quack, Quack!!"

I promise a Mexico post next with lots of photos.  Oh, to be there right now!

Take care,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

TSA In Her Stockings

OK, first off I'm taking a short hiatus from the Mexico posts.... still receiving and sorting photos.  So I thought I would tell you my plans for Christmas along with other crazy stuff.

As some of you know, I gave my wife the gift of Italy this year.  A round trip ticket (what was I thinking? round trip?), and Italian language CDs so she won't sound like I did in Mexico!  However, I got to thinking, which always gets me into trouble, and decided that since she travels so much I would also give her the perfect airport gift... a TSA Pat-Down!  Now, I learned that there are three types available.  The 'Normal' pat down which is not all that exciting, the 'Geting-To-Know-You-Better' pat down, which I assume includes dinner and a nice glass of Chardonnay, and the one that I always get...  the 'Cell Block D' pat down.  I'm still deciding.

The nice part is, the TSA actually works on an out-call basis now. All major credit cards accepted. And for a small additional fee they will misplace your luggage!  I think she'll love it!!  I can hear her pals now telling her, "Your husband is so thoughtful". And she will sneer, "Yeah, he's a saint'!  The District Attorney is currently investigating this new out-call service, but I'm hoping the Grand Jury indictments don't come down until after the holidays. Then I'm good! And she is always effective on the witness stand.  Listen, find me a woman who couldn't use a thorough pat-down right about now!

 Oh look!  TSA's Little Helpers!!

Meanwhile, the Christmas card is in its final editing stages. The executive editor of our card, Becky, went round and round with the guys at the card shop. She asked them to change the light source in the family photo "to something more celestial, like that dude Da Vinci used."

I don't remember Da Vinci ever working on our Christmas cards, but I'm not ruling it out. Might've been a few years ago.

When I pointed out that it looked as though our two male dogs were actually holding down their little sister so she couldn't bolt — gripping her with four paws as if in a prison movie — my wife became fixated on that instead. Last I heard, she was having our dogs' arms Photoshopped out. Now they will have angel wings, Pixar hair and dimples.

Just between us, there's a week till Christmas and I am one chocolate strawberry away from complete organ failure. I am one drink away from a month at the Charlie Sheen Institute.

Gotta go! I hear a UPS truck coming. It's about a mile away still, but if I put my ear to the ground....!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mexican Vacation - Part 2 Settling In

So, we finally arrived.  A long ride from the airport.  As we walk in we see this:

One-hundred foot stone statues of Mayan Gods overlooking and fountain!  WOW!!!  Very dark and the sound of the drums is a little eerie, impressive!

We move to another lobby and check in.  After the 30 minute walk to our suite, we are again impressed. As you can see from the photos from my previous post, the suite is enormous,  The girls immediately go to check out the pools while Dave peruses the brouchures looking at the golf course.  The golf course is 15 holes (?????) but Dave tells me that maybe he can break 100!  LOL.  I, as always, unpack and try to get organized...... We Need Ice!!!  A machine is right down thw hall from us.

Becky and Patty return and are all excited.  Perfect time to send the the Super WalMart to stock up.  Yes, WalMart is everywhere!!

Dave walks onto the balcony and tells me that he has a surprise for the girls...... He brought Christmas lights!! Geez!!  And he wants to put them up on the ceiling at the edge of the balcony.  Out he comes with self-adhesive hooks and the lights... and a wobbly chair!  There were three problem initially...

1. We totally messed up the adhesive tape on the hooks.

2. Could he have found any bigger lights?

3. I wasn't much help holding his belt loop while he was standing on a chair, six stories up, with my eyes closed!

So the lights go up!  Here is Dave taking down  his lights at last!

Note the look of horror!!  You should have seen MY face!!!

So the lights go up. He plugs them in while muttering something about not testing them first and  we sit back to admire our handiwork. The women will love these!, Dave says.
Then, the first hook comes out and plummets to the ground.  He says he has more, but as he leaves, the second hook also comes loose!  We peer over, praying that no one was killed. Then, of course. the last hook gives up and the huge lights come crashing onto balcony.  Dave is ticked off and I'm still concerned about the folks below but also thrilled that we are relocating them to safer place.  Don't they look festive?

The women returned with $300 worth of WalMart food and were surprised by the lights!  Who wouldn't be? in fact my wife was so impressed that she decided to bring them home to decorate our home also!  What says Merry Christmas better than this!

They haven't fallen off so far, dammit!

Next post, 'Getting To Know You!'

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mexico Vacation - Part 1 The Departure

Well..... It was a blast!! Besides the perfect weather and Great food, the four of us laughed the entire time. Good for the soul...

We left from LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) and dreaded going through the security thing!  Body probe?  X-Ray? I opted for the latter.  I was directed to a 'Special' room because of my foot.  After the usual frisking, they decided to X-Ray my wrapped foot.  I guess they suspected me of being a possible 'Shoe Bomber'!  The guy operating the machine must have been new because he had to ask a fellow employee for the password to use it. (I wrote it down! lol). After a series of nine scans from different angles, I guessed that I was good to go..... Because he told me I was good to go!

We proceeded to the boarding gate and the girls visited the 'little girls room' while Dave and lounged around and talked. I sat down next to a guy and asked where he was going!  Mexico, he said.  I then asked where in Mexico.  Puerto Vallarta.  I told him that we were going there also. So Dave asked him where he was staying and it was the same place that we were headed to!  So I began chatting to Larry and his friend Tony.  They live in Vancouver, Canada and this was their first time in Mexico. They proceeded to introduce Dave and me to their wives and their combined NINE children!  Yep!!  They had their hands full! We saw them there and they were having a Great time also!

Our flight was full but it didn't seem to matter. Everyone onboard was having fun!  This was the 'Party Rpw'!

We finally landed and it wasn't nearly as hot as expected..... Mid- 70's.
The airport in Puerto Vallarta is always a wild scene!  Not because of their security but because there are dozens of men trying to sell timeshares.  I told my friends to keep their heads down and just walk!  And if you have to respond, tell them that you already own one.

Another good tip:  Carry a cane!!  Really!!  They will sit you in a wheelchair and wheel you everywhere!!  A $5 tip is always good.

We took a prearranged bus to our hotel 30 miles and this place was HUGE!!  30 minutes from the lobby to our room.  Bad part was all marble floors, which ravaged my foot. But it ended up being OK.

The rooms were Awesome!!!  The condo was 2000 sq ft and had everything.  As for the microwave and washer/dryer??  Instructions in Spanish!  My Spanish is very limited so communicating with the maid and staff involved much pointing and gesturing wildly!! 

Speaking of our maid, this was ours.  A sweetie by the name of Minerva.
She worked fast and did a great job!  We gave her a nice tip each day.  Since my foot kept me from using the pool or beach I pretty much stayed in our room everyday and gave Minerva instructions from my wife and our friend Patty (you should have seen me trying to order bubble bath!) and watched the people on the street.  I also LIVED by my iPod!!!  I learned that people in Mexico do NOT know how to parallel park to save their lives!!!

Here was the view from my 'perch'!

See that blue area??  That was the beach!  lol!

Anyhow, I will have much more to share but I leave you with photos of our rooms.Note the three big screen TVs and the computer!  More about them later.


Next post, 'Settling In'.

PS: Minerva made this at her home for us..... Am elephant and a mouse made from towels!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jolly-Holly Letter

I'm back from my vacation in Mexico and I plan on posting a few blogs about my travels and stay this coming week (still editing photos), but in the meantime, here is a funny article written by you-know-who..... My favorite columnist from the L.A.Times.  It's a good one!

Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times

In my quest to be the funniest dad of all time — which is saying something, because I know several other dads who are complete cut-ups — I strive to be funny AND thought-provoking. Imagine if Lenny Bruce and Yogi Bear had children together, that would be me: furry, furious and prone to long periods of slumber. Really, it's too bad they can't clone me.

"Dad, you're the funniest dad ever," my 7-year-old is always telling me.

"Here, take this," I say, handing him a small gratuity.

Like a lot of dads, I believe in the power of tipping. Some of the old-school fathers believe that gratuities shouldn't be necessary, but I find that you get better service — and more grateful kids — if you slip them a fiver now and then.

"That is excellent parenting," you're probably saying to yourself right now, and to that I'd respond, "No, it's just survival." For parenting and survival are sort of intertwined. You can't have one without the other. Like baseball and sunshine. Like almonds and wine.

But sometimes, even funny dads need to be completely serious. The other day, I helped the little guy pen a letter to Santa, the only deity he writes to on a weekly basis. As a father, I find that a letter to Santa is an excellent opportunity to reinforce some core values: the joy of giving, the importance of gratitude, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah ...

After a few minutes of careful thought, here's what the 7-year-old came up with, totally on his own. I cannot tell you how proud this makes me feel. The magic of the holidays is evident in his every word:

Dear Santa dude,

I've been trying to call since Tuesday. Pick up, will you?

Look, I'm a single, unemployed 7-year-old with big dreams for Dec. 25. My dad insists that you're an industrialist robber baron, no better than Vanderbilt or Gates, but I think you're misunderstood and profoundly generous. Please don't prove me wrong.

So, I'd like to make a special plea this holiday season: peace on Earth and lots of consumer electronics. As you'll recall, we don't even have a Playstation 3. So bring it on, big guy!

Bring on the Kindles and the laptops and the 3-D games. Dazzle me with vibrant plasma screens, Blu-ray home theaters and iPads, iPods, iPhones and iCarly.

When in doubt, go for the fastest processor speeds and maximum connectivity. I prefer touchscreens to keypads and Macs to PCs. I'm especially interested in anything that might be invented in the next two weeks.

Listen, I know you're busy. I saw you at the mall the other day. Your body language spoke volumes. Do you struggle with depression? It's a tough life for you seasonal workers. That's why I'm being extra reasonable this year.

How's your cholesterol, by the way? At your age (timeless) you need to keep an eye on that. I think I can get you a deal on some bootleg Canadian Lipitor. Remember, stress is the No. 1 killer of men over 500 years of age.

My dad is timeless too. How old is he exactly? No one knows. But he took Marie Antoinette to her high school prom. My mom, she has pictures.

While I have your full attention, how do you really feel about regifting? Never? Sometimes? Always?

What about shoplifting? Dad says this may be the first Christmas where we might have to actually steal the tree. What he'd do, he says, is dress us all in fir-colored camouflage, spray us with air freshener and send us under the Home Depot tree tent at 3 in the morning.

"Make your mother proud," he'd say as he slowed the car and we jumped out.

So, yeah, we could use a little extra help this Christmas. My dad worries that the holiday hooch is already half gone. Mom says when his scotch runs out, she's outta here. Dad says, "Be sure to take the dog," which he claims reeks of stale popcorn even when he's just been bathed. My sister says it may be his diet, since our beagle eats from the trash.

"Just like Dickens," my big sister explains.

Speaking of sisters, maybe you could bring them a gift too. Something in a nice designer sedative?

And my big brother, he needs a front axle for his Altima. You deliver front axles with that hybrid sleigh of yours? Are there weight restrictions? And no, that's not a comment on your girth.

Anyway, thanks in advance for all you'll do for us. Have a rockin' good flight. And remember: Never turn your back on Blitzen.

Love always, the little guy (Los Angeles, California).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Fellowship of the Hockey Rink

I attended an Anaheim Ducks hockey game recently and during intermissions I talked to a few fans.  My 'Brothers'!  HAHAHA.  It was a wild game (which the Ducks won) and I enjoyed the company of my fellow fans..... Hockey freaks like me.  Some observations from my stroll:

I have no patience with people who are always making fun of stuff. I consider myself above that — a thoughtful critic and a discerning contrarian. I like Led Zeppelin better than the Stones. I find Emily Mortimer far more fetching than the highly regarded Jessica Alba. I like south better than north. I like mildew better than mold.

I am the antithesis of hip. Did you know, for instance, that Nike pays me $1 million a year not to wear their clothes?  Kidding, but I wish!

So, naturally, I am drawn to hockey, America's best not-ready-for-prime-time sport.

What's so great about hockey? It's played by men who couldn't make it through a metal detector. They fight like pirates and skitter along the ice on knives. The only way hockey could be more lethal is if everyone were packing a gun. Now there's a sport America could embrace. Talk about shootouts.

Until then, we have the NHL.

I've been following this sport since the days of the Bobbys — Hull and Orr — and I've always liked hockey crowds best. They must be our most misunderstood fans, and not just because they down a beer like a four-inch piece of pipe, though that could be a contributing factor.

Hockey never gets the coverage it deserves primarily because the puck (roughly the size of a wine cork) is not well suited to television. Remember when they attempted to highlight the puck by giving it its own heavenly aura? There was a lesson for everyone: Not even God could save televised hockey.

But in person, hockey is another sport entirely: fast, fickle, furious. To truly appreciate this highly demanding sport, you have to be there, as the wine cork flips and giggles across the ice, defying the stabs of angry men who keep plowing into each other at highway speeds. It's like trying to catch a hamster with a soup spoon.

Imagine the coldest night you ever spent at the Hollywood Bowl and that's the way Anaheim's Honda Center felt the other evening, when the Kings came to visit the Ducks. I had to drink cold beer just to stay a little warm.

As a discerning critic, let me just ask this: Ducks playing hockey? That's so Anaheim, where animals are never merely animals, they're merchandizing agreements.

We don't need to get into the genealogy behind the Duck name, except to say it's based on a Disney movie starring Emilio Estevez. A few years ago, the Mighty Ducks shortened their name and won a Stanley Cup. Now they're just the Ducks. And they perform in Anaheim. I just can't seem to get over that.

In the other corner this night, we have the Kings — the Yankees to their Mets. After more than 40 years, the Kings don't have a Cup. They once had Wayne Gretzky, and they still couldn't win the Cup. That's like having Babe Ruth and not winning the World Series. Or Michael Jordan and not getting a ring. Or Emilio Estevez and not winning a best picture Oscar.

Still, the Kings fans are a loyal bunch, as only hockey fans can be. They bark and grunt and slather and belch. That's how hockey fans display their love. If they really like you, you'll get a thunderous chest thump. OUCH!!!!! Who says romance is dead?

Bunch of hockey pucks. And I love them all.

Well, there is this one guy....  Buck, or something!

"Jon-a-thannnnnnnnnnn!"  he bellows at the Kings gatekeeper, Jonathan Quick. "Jon-a-thannnnnnnnnnn!"

In the fine art of badgering opposing goalies, the big dude in Section 420 is Pavarotti. It's not just the foghorn timbre of his voice, it's the operatic way he wraps a man's name with derision and scorn.


"You're really good," I tell the guy.
"I really like to get after the goalie," he explains.

"You think he hears you?"

"When Ilya Bryzgalov was our goalie, I used to talk to him in Russian."

"You speak Russian?"

"I can order a beer ... in 30 countries."

"WOW! You travel a lot?"

"Used to."


Between periods, I ask another one of these hockey pucks, a guy named Vinnie, about what makes hockey so special. Besides the crazy loyalty of the crowds. Besides the fan-friendly players. Besides the fact you can actually find an affordable ticket.

"We sort of see it as a cult sport," he says , sporting a fake mustache resembling that of the lunatic Ducks winger George Parros, who also may be wearing a fake mustache, hard to tell. You remember him. I blogged about him a few days ago.

"It's our own little world," the fan explains. "There is no better live sport to watch than hockey."

I won't argue with that at all.

By the way, George Parros, the Ducks 'enforcer' actually scored 2 goals. He hadn't done that since his Junior Hockey years.  He ended up with a 'Gordie Howe Hat Trick'!!  One goal, one assist and one fight!!!  He also was named Star of the Game!!  Way to go Georgie!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Follow-Up to Yesterday's Post

Surprisingly, on my little blog, I received a comment via Jennifer Elston from the website  I was speechless!!  Who knew that someone beyond my circle of friends here would actually take the time to find my post. 

She sent a very nice email and a link to an update on the Haitian elections.  Here is her email along with my reply.

Bob -

I just read your post “Haiti elections a shambles” regarding the recent hardships the people of Haiti have had to endure. Recently, 12 of the 18 presidential candidates called for all of the votes to be annulled, as allegations of fraud and corruption plagued Haiti. This is following a devastating earthquake and an outbreak of cholera. How much can one country take?

I really enjoyed (I don’t know if that is the right word for this) the story of Etianne. Her story is saddening and inspiring. All I can do is hope and pray that the conditions improve for the citizens of Haiti and that Etianne can get enough money or support to move away from the terrifying slum that she is forced to call home.

Here is a link to a video I thought you might be interested in - It synthesizes views about fraud in the recent Haitian elections from BBC, CNN, The Economist, CBC and Al Jazeera. I hope you will consider embedding on R U Serious? I thought this video could be a nice addition to your post about Etianne Petit Frere’s heartbreaking story.

Thank you for your time. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Jennifer Elston

Thank you Jennifer. I will certainly watch the video in your link. I have been looking at the comments on my blog relating to this story and as I expected, most people just don't know what to say or how to react. That in itself speaks volumes. However, it is a sad and excruciating story to read and more so to experience such a painful existence everyday.

I spent several days researching the elections before I happened upon her story. "Sad and inspiring" is so true. I have reread my post several times and always end up in tears.

I am very pleased that you were not only able to read my blog, but that you took the time to respond. Thank you again. And yes... I will be adding your link to my blog as a follow-up post.



Anyhow, I just thought that was really neat and it made my day.  You can go to her link by copying and pasting it to your browser. Or just click above.

I will continue to follow this very sad story and update if I can.
Have a Great rest of the week.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Haiti elections a shambles!!

This is not a Sports post, nor is it a humorous one.  This one is a tragedy.  Grab some tissues.....

I'm not sure how many of you have been following the news about the problems that the people of Haiti have tried to endure since that devasting earthquake.  Outbreaks of Cholera, riots in the streets and half of the population homeless.  It's been a horrible situation for this already impoversed island nation.  Elections were attempted recently to try to bring some order there but it did NOT go well.

Voters say they can't find their names at polling centers as allegations of ballot stuffing and other fraud abound. Twelve of 18 presidential candidates call for the elections to be canceled.

Voters like 23-year-old Etianne Petit Frere, above, who fell on hard times, saw in the elections a glimmer of hope for a better day. But voter roll difficulties leave many disillusioned.
She drifted amid throngs of screaming men, looking for her name on list after list. In a land of faint hopes, she clung to one of the faintest: that an election might release the grip of this terrible year.

Etianne Petit Frere, a 23-year-old mother, was thin as a stick, emaciated by grief. During the January earthquake, her 7-month-old daughter was crushed by a falling cinderblock as she slept in her crib. Her boyfriend disappeared soon after, leaving her to raise their two boys alone. She lost her job sewing spandex pants for $5 a day. She couldn't afford to keep the boys in school, and neighbors mocked her as a bad mother.

Now she lives in the smallest tent in a bedraggled, lawless encampment where women are constantly raped. She barely sleeps, in perpetual fear.

Holding on to the lowest rung of subsistence, she hoped that a female president could change that.

Yet six hours after she arrived at the polling center, she still had not voted. Instead, she was getting shoved around as young men fought, cursed and made threats. No one could seem to find their name on voter lists. Poll workers didn't seem to know what they were doing.

This was fast looking like the U.N.-staged farce many Haitians had predicted it would be. As the day wore on, thousands of would-be voters had been frustrated by the chaos and a majority of the presidential candidates were urging them to reject the results.

Petit Frere had woken up at 3 a.m. to vote in the elections for president and parliament. She sent her boys, 7 and 2, down the street to sleep at her mother's house because she was worried about election day violence. Her neighborhood, the Cite Soleil slum, is one of the most dangerous in Haiti.

She combed her hair and pushed it back with a lace headband. She put a drop of bleach in her water before brushing her teeth to protect her from the cholera ravaging the country.

When she saw shadows moving to the polls about 4 a.m., she put all of her possessions — a few pots and clothes — in a laundry basket and trudged down the broken cobble alleys to her mother's house, knowing thieves would take anything she left behind. She didn't even have a door to her tent, just a cast-off Cleveland Browns blanket hanging from a stick.

As she set out, she felt a glimmer of anticipation she hadn't felt in months. It was not just the elections she liked, but one of the candidates, a woman.

Mirlande Manigat, 70, a professor who was briefly first lady, had been leading in the polls. She had a calm, studious demeanor, wore wire-rimmed glasses and pulled her graying hair back in a bun.

And she was a mother.

A mother would understand what she went through. A mother would understand how hard it is for all Haitian mothers. A mother couldn't leave her children behind like her cowardly boyfriend.

Her mind never drifted far from what her life had become.

Petit Frere didn't even have enough money to bury her little girl, Milda, properly. She put her in a cardboard box and paid some men to dig a hole in the swampy field nearby. She doesn't even know where she's buried.

This is why she can't eat, why she is only 75 pounds — this, and seeing her boys linger listlessly around the tent while other children go to school in their little uniforms.

She hoped that, as a professor, Manigat would start a system of free schools.

Petit Frere arrived at the voting center in the courtyard of a school. U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police stood guard at the gate. When it opened at 6, she went from door to door scanning the lists for her name, getting pushed back by aggressive men. All she could find were names that started with letters from A to F.

After a few hours, she was getting light-headed. She needed to eat. She stood against a wall and talked to friends waiting to wade into the chaos again.

She showed her voting card to a supervisor; her picture didn't look like her — her face was so full then. She asked the woman whether she knew where the names starting with P were. The supervisor shrugged and told her she couldn't even find her own name.

Her friends pointed out where she could cast a provisional ballot without her name being on the list. She stood in line behind a young man with dreadlocks and glassy eyes.

Another man was arguing that he should be able to vote without his voting card. A group of men surged forward screaming obscenities at the man at the desk.

"This … isn't right! Get out of there, you idiot. You got missing teeth!"

"I'm not moving! I'm not scared of you."

Petit Frere just looked off, bouncing among them like a leaf in a storm, deep in thought in her own world.

A few U.N. soldiers came to try to resolve the situation, but realized they couldn't and walked away.

Finally, Petit Frere showed the person at the desk her card and asked whether she could have a ballot. Without even looking, the man said her name was not on the list. She said she had heard she could cast a provisional ballot. He muttered something and grudgingly handed her the ballot.

She sat at a desk with a bent piece of cardboard for privacy. In no particular hurry, in the screaming chaos, she wrote an X under Manigat's name, and then picked two candidates for parliament in the same party. She gently folded the three papers and dropped each one in a separate box.

When she got outside, she realized a man had stepped on her plastic flip-flop and broken the strap. These were her only shoes. She walked back to her tent on the broken cobble with a bare foot and fading hopes.

No one knows what will become of Petit Frere and the other poor souls in Haiti but Please pray for them. They need help, hope... anything! 
By the way, their Cholera epidemic was caused by the same U.N Peacekeepers who were sent there to save them.

Pray people ...........

Friday, November 26, 2010

For a hockey 'enforcer,' it pays to be brutal

**** Warning!!  This is a Sports post! ****

George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks is an Ivy League grad whose skills as a young player didn't quite translate to the NHL. Then he discovered he could brawl, and a career was born.

Ducks defenseman George Parros squares off with the Wild's Brad Staubitz during a game earlier this month at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

There might be blood.

At the very least, there will be violence — George Parros can picture it in his mind.

The veteran hockey player goes looking for trouble, chasing down an opponent, then letting his gloves fall to the ice. It is an invitation to fight.

From there, the strategy is simple: Grab hold of the guy's jersey with one hand and throw punches with the other, rapid-fire, aiming for the head.

Parros is the designated "enforcer" for the Anaheim Ducks. Most NHL teams keep one on the roster, a player responsible for intimidating the other side with bare knuckles.

The game's folklore holds a special place for goons — Stu "The Grim Reaper" Grimson, Dave "Tiger" Williams, the Broad Street Bullies — men of brute force if not always a full set of teeth. Parros has joined their ranks with 111 fights in his first six seasons.

This distinct skill set earns him $875,000 a year, not to mention a cult of fans who attend games at the Honda Center eager for a scuffle.

"Georgie's been around," teammate Ryan Getzlaf says. "He can handle the physical stuff."

Parros certainly looks the part — 6-foot-5 and broad-shouldered with a villain's black mustache — but anyone who considers him a mere thug would be mistaken.

With an Ivy League degree in economics, he might otherwise be working on Wall Street. His wife describes him as a homebody, a 30-year-old man who spends free time doing crossword puzzles and watching reality TV shows.

Parros says: "I'm not really that aggressive off the ice."

As his wife, Tiffany, likes to joke: "I knew George when he was a goal scorer."

They met as teenagers, Parros playing alongside her brother.

"He was that kid who always did what he was supposed to do," she recalls. "Always in a good mood."

Parros' outlook on hockey changed after four years at Princeton in the early 2000s. Though he ranked among the team's best offensive players, his skills were not strong enough for the NHL, and any hopes of reaching the big time would require an alternate strategy.

At a pro development camp, he fought with a fellow prospect and held his own.

"It got me thinking," he says. "Maybe I should add this to my tool belt."

YouTube offered plenty of fights to study. He gathered tips from established enforcers, then supplemented his training with work in the boxing ring.

"It helps to get used to having punches come at your head," he says. "It makes you less skittish."

Hostility became a career move.

For all the hockey fights that erupt spontaneously, sparked by passions in a contact sport, there are just as many waged for tactical reasons.

"It's one of those things you have to learn," Parros says. "The ins and outs."

Sometimes, the need for force is obvious — if the other guys rough up one of his team's stars, the goon must exact revenge. Other situations are less clear-cut.

If the enforcer's team is playing sluggishly, he might try to swing momentum by waking up the crowd. Same thing if the opposition pulls too far ahead. A hard check might suffice, or something more might be required.

Consider a game this season when the Ducks fell behind early against the Atlanta Thrashers and Parros began playing rough with one of the opposing stars, Dustin Byfuglien. Though Byfuglien is large, he stepped aside for teammate Chris Thorburn, a fledgling enforcer, to pick up the action. A fight ensued.

Parros and Thorburn grabbed hold of each other, tugging and pushing, throwing a few ineffective punches. They ultimately tumbled to the ice as officials moved in.

"Thorburn had my arms tied up pretty good," Parros says. "I'm not sure how interested he was in fighting."

Critics don't like the idea of players squaring off in hockey. The very service Parros provides would get him ejected or even suspended if he were in the NBA or NFL.

But in the NHL, where grown men race around an enclosed space, constantly smacking into one another, some people consider fighting inevitable. They see enforcers as a deterrent; smaller skill players won't get picked on if opponents know there is a price to pay.

That tussle between Parros and Thorburn was indicative — most fights end with the combatants merely untangling and skating off to serve their five-minute penalties.

But there is always the chance that someone will land a knockout blow, causing serious injury.

"I probably went into every fight I had scared to death," says Grimson, who retired in 2002 after more than 200 brawls.

"The other part is humiliation," he says. "When you do something in front of 20,000 screaming fans, that last thing you want is to get your tail kicked, according to

As Parros learned boxing moves and tactics, he also dealt with the emotional aspect of his job. Imagine arriving at work each day, knowing there is a 50-50 chance you will be trading punches.

During his early years in the pros, fighting proved easier if an opponent checked him hard or delivered a cheap shot. It was more difficult to manufacture anger when strategy dictated a confrontation.

"If there's a time in the game where a fight is coming up and you have to think about it, obviously a lot of thoughts go through your mind," he says. "That's always tough."

There was at least one way to ease the tension.

"I liked to get the fight out of the way early in the game," he says. "So I didn't have to think about it."

With each 82-game season, the right winger grew more comfortable in his role, getting six or seven minutes on the ice a night. He enjoyed the roar of the crowd and his teammates on the bench banging their sticks in approval after each scrap.

"Sometimes it can be cathartic," he says. "It's certainly thrilling if you have a good fight and the fans appreciate it."

The Ducks were playing at Philadelphia in the winter of 2008 when Parros squared off against the Flyers' enforcer, Riley Cote, unleashing an uppercut that put Cote flat on his back.

The knockout became an Internet favorite and boosted Parros' reputation. Still, he would rather not talk about it.

"You have respect for the other guy," he says.

This respect translates into an unwritten code of behavior.

Before the gloves drop, a subtle communication takes place — a tap on the shoulder, a few words — the instigator asking for a fight. The other player is free to decline. Most enforcers hate to say "no" but must consider the circumstances. Parros recalls a night in Detroit when he accepted an invitation and did not fare so well.

"That got their team going," he says. "We ended up losing the game."

Once a tussle starts, etiquette frowns upon hitting a man who is down. Gloating after a victory is similarly discouraged. Such decorum helps nurture an unexpected camaraderie among enforcers.

Two months ago, Parros and Kevin Westgarth of the Kings fought during a preseason game at Staples Center. The Princeton grads — Westgarth came along after Parros graduated — met for dinner with friends the next evening.

You see yourself in the other guy," he says. "You're in the same boat."

Sometimes Parros thinks about his college classmates and imagines a different sort of life. Working behind a desk. Crunching numbers. Getting his hockey fix at the local rink on Sunday afternoons.

"If I were playing in a men's league," he muses, "I wouldn't be fighting."

After so many confrontations, so many clenched fists, he has learned the nuances of this odd livelihood. Aggression comes more naturally.

"What kind of fighter am I?" he asks. "Willing. Eager."

The kind who no longer feels so anxious before games. The kind who knows there will be grabbing and scuffling and punches.

Maybe even blood.

Last night there was a brawl at the Anaheim Pond, and then a hockey game broke out....

As a side note, George Parros also writes children's books during his off time and also cuts his long hair every year and donates it to cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy. I met him once and he is surprisingly soft-spoken.  

Some of the information for this post came courtesy of and David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A time to feast on family football

My favorite columnist's annual Thanksgiving story.  Offbeat as usual but that's just him!

Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times

Love makes misfits of us all, and so it is with football.

And to all those staging family turkey bowls today, I'd like to congratulate you in advance, while you're still alive. May I suggest stretching thoroughly and gobbling the Excedrin ahead of time. Why wait to medicate? This is America, after all.

May I also suggest running at least one flea flicker and one triple reverse during your backyard games. To those unfamiliar with such ballet moves, a flea flicker involves flipping the ball back to the quarterback for a surprise pass, which, by tradition, is always intercepted.

Meanwhile, there are many variations on a triple reverse, but they usually involve one bloody nose and at least two dropped handoffs. One of the glories of the game is that a football never bounces the same way twice, and neither should you. When you fall to the ground to recover a fumble this holiday weekend, treat it like a bank robbery. Hit the floor and pray.

"Dear Lord, please help me through this pileup. I'll never make fun of Notre Dame again."

How prevalent is the family turkey bowl? In the sporting goods store the other day, they had an entire TURKEY BOWL display, with footballs, cones, flags. No Excedrin or elastic bandages, but I figure some clever clerk will eventually add those too.

A turkey bowl is a remarkable thing — as American as embezzlement, as healthy as a car wreck. It is best played in the rain, on fields as soft as you are. The ideal turkey bowl would be played on two feet of Mississippi cotton. Or a cumulus cloud.

Still, your Uncle Mike would probably break a wishbone.

Like Uncle Mike, I have no business being out there. I'm so old, I once drove a Plymouth Rock. It had two speeds: stop and explode. When you turned on the windshield washer, rust would pour out of the radio. It had more holes than the 49ers secondary.

On Thanksgiving weekends, back in the days when "You turkey!" was still a term of endearment, I'd fill it with college friends, and we'd push the car to the high school, where we'd beat each other senseless.

We played tackle, of course. To this day, probably the most American thing you can do is tackle someone. To pulverize an opponent on a football field will remain the ultimate act of male bonding.

They were pretty simple, those games. The sidelines were 10 jackets dropped in a row. The end zone was "somewhere over there." When it finally ended, you were lucky if you still had a functioning gall bladder.

As I grew older, and life began to make even less sense, I'd self-medicate with football. I covered Shula and Schnellenberger in Miami, but mostly I preferred to play the game, not watch it.

To this day, I run around every Sunday with a bunch of so-called friends. Lawyers on the one side, reporters on the other. It's the touch football equivalent of the Indians versus the Pilgrims. Sure enough, some of the guys are built like Bibles: sort of square with the wrath of God deep within.

Actually, that's me.

In one game last month — at "Little Lambeau," the scruffy schoolyard where we play — it rained the entire time. And the game still lasted a full two hours.

"We play rain or shine," my organizing e-mails insist. "But especially rain."

In our league, we used to huddle between plays, but that proved counterproductive. So we instituted the hurry-up offense since adopted by the University of Oregon. Do we get credit for this? Quack, no.

Eddie Cochems may or may not have invented the forward pass. But we definitely invented the forward fumble. Probably the only thing more fun to watch than one of our fumbles is a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. Or puppies being born.

Men like us are pretty hopeless. We should come with air nozzles that say "do not overinflate." Our skin should be pebbled. Our living room carpets should be lined.

You may know football misfits like us. Currently in this country, there are only about 100 million.

So please know that you're in good company this Thanksgiving as you head out to your own Little Lambeau. Muscles will scream. Tempers will flare. The brother-in-law nobody really likes will prove once again why he's the brother-in-law nobody really likes.

When it is over, folks will say, "Never again. I retire."

And next year, folks will do it all again anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving, you turkeys !  Seriously, I hope each and every one of you, my friends, have a Wonderful and Blessed Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shopping for Thanksgiving... OH!, the JOY!!!

I have just returned from my annual 'Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner- Grocery Store Shopping- Trip', from Hell!!!!

Two hours, two shopping carts full of 'stuff' and $170 later, I hit the checkout line and suddenly realize..... I FORGOT MY WALLET!!!!!!  They were nice enough to guard my carts(s) while I went home and retreived said wallet.  Some of the items on 'The List' I had never heard of before but I managed to find everything.  Almost!

The one missing ingredient was Kern's Pear Nectar, which I KNOW I have seen there before.  And don't even ask what it was to be used for....  No clue.  But probably some sort of fancy-smancy cocktail thing.

Soooo, back to the store I got to buy pears.  They HAVE to be ripe.  Now, has anyone tried to buy ripe pears in a supermarket??  Billiard balls are softer than those things are!!  But after squeezing 247 of them I managed to come up with 6 semi-ripe ones.  Now the fun part!!  Making homemade pear nectar!!  I brought in the juicer but it's up to Becky now.

As for the complete menu, she lost me at Turkey.  But I'm sure it will be great.  My wife IS a wonderful cook! 

I just wish the ingredients were easier to find.  And Oh yeah!!  I DID find those dried Crimini mushrooms. I'm so proud!!

I wish all of you a Wonderful Thanksgiving!

And Never, EVER forget your wallet!!

New song-of-the-week today.  Check it out!  Love it!!!  And be sure to click on 'video' for the words.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Facebook! PFFFFT!!!

Myself and two other friends were 'warned' along with the threat of having our accounts deleted tonight.  Why??  Because we had commented too many times and the warning  said we were 'Typing Too Fast'!  HUH????  How sad is that?  I have seen language on there that would make a sailor blush and facebook has no problem with that.

I guess I'll have to 'hunt and peck' a little slower now.  Or maybe it was because I said 'Dagnabbit'!! LOL!!

Whatever.....!  Just venting here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turning The Big 5-0-ish

Not me... I hit that milestone long ago. But yet again, I read this column from my (yours too??) favorite writer and I definitely related to it. So listen up all of you Whippersnappers and tell me that you can't relate too! Dagnabbit!!!!

Chris Erskine

So I turned 50 the other day, and I've never felt better, though I seem to be driving over street curbs more and more, and once in a while I forget the turn signal is still on.

"Dad, your turn signal," the little girl will say.



"Thank you for your patience," I say.

Yeah, I'm 50 in a town full of people notorious for fibbing about their ages. Actually, I'm 54, but when you hit 50, it's all pretty much the same. Age 4 is way different from age 8. Sixteen may be significantly different from 20. But the glorious 50s are sort of the same sitcom over and over.

At 54, you're not young and you're not old — well, you are kind of old. I spend significant parts of my days swearing at software upgrades or at teenage drivers who are too busy texting to bother steering.

Me, I once tried texting behind the wheel and wound up attempting a left turn from a very tall bridge in Long Beach. My final words were almost bubbles.

So, yeah, I'll confess: I'm 54.

You know you're getting up there when they quit putting the appropriate number of candles on your cake. Do you have any idea what 54 candles would look like? A welding torch. A solar flare. In minutes, the Earth would crisp and the three remaining polar bears would shed their coats and retire to Miami.

What I'm saying is that nine candles are fine when you're 54, in some sort of representational, marching band configuration — five on one side and four on the other. Or one of those big wax numerals that shouts 54. Or a single sparkler.

I'm 54, and my favorite actor is still Huckleberry Hound; my favorite vegetable is still ketchup. Remember when you were young and you thought you'd have things mastered by middle age? Well, I'm here to tell you that you mostly won't, though you will learn what's worth worrying about and what's not. You'll learn that true love turns you into the other person. You'll learn that a good work ethic is the second most valuable gift in the world — right behind kids, which are the No. 1 most valuable gifts in the world, or at least the most expensive.

"If you have kids, you have everything," my old man used to say, and now I know what he was talking about — migraines, bills, bad dreams, bankruptcies. ...

I'm 54, and I honor my late father by roaming from room to room turning off unnecessary lights. Depression-era babies, both my parents, proud of their fretful ways. Now I'm raising Depression-era babies. I've been bookended by Depressions.

Wanna buy an apple? No? What about a bank?

On Facebook the other day, I got a big dose of birthday wishes, often from people nearly as old as I am, the remaining few who are still with us.

"Happy birthday, Grandpa," Kelly wrote.

"Good luck, you dinosaur," joked my wife.

Judging by this outpouring of kindness, there should probably be a birthday website completely devoted to sarcasm and snark, and there probably is, though I'm too old to know about it.

So, yeah, I miss the clack-clack-clack of typewriters and phones that actually ring and TVs where the only issue was the vertical hold.

I miss corner bookstores and drive-in theaters. Where do kids learn about sex anymore without drive-in theaters? Somehow they manage. I fear not for the quantity of humankind, just the octane.

I'm 54 and I miss car radios with five buttons (and way better music). Know what a car radio looks like now? It looks like the soundboard at a Pink Floyd concert. My own car radio has a hundred settings, and I can't get it to lock onto a station from one day to the next. Embedded deep within — unfixable — is a super chip that zigs when it should zag.

Know how I handle stuff like that? I just laugh. Hey, at 54, I've earned it.

At lunch the other day, my buddy Tom — also in his 50s — tells me he looks forward to the day when a doctor says to a patient: "You have cancer. Let me write you a prescription."

Fine thought, that. At 54, this is what your hopes and dreams become: sensible, selfless, profound.

So maybe the world shouldn't dread middle age quite so much. Maybe it should embrace it: Honor thy father, switch off a light.


Rainy and cold here this weekend. Beef stew in the crock pot, fireplace going and lots on TV.  I'm SO settled in!
Oh! Dell surprised me today by coming on my computer with updates... For EVERYTHING!!!  Drivers, BIOS, Audio, Video, the works!  And then they scanned everything and pronounced my laptop '100% healthy'!  It was weird, letting Dell take over, but it was very interesting. There was this little animated guy walking around inside of my machine and checking things out.  Pretty funny!!

I'm thinking about reposting some blogs from my old WLS space. We'll see how that goes.  I hope everyone is having a perfect weekend because I don't know about you, but next week will be spent here cleaning the house for Thanksgiving.  Yuck!!

Have a good one!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Roll Players

I had no idea that this 'sport' still existed.  I thought that Roller Derby was something from the 50's and 60's and was about as legit as Pro Wrestling. Then today, I read this in the sports page.

Anyone who's ever witnessed a Lakers game or an Ultimate Fighting Championship would vouch for the comic book excesses of today's athletic endeavors. Probably began with Babe Ruth. And devolved into Chad Ochocinco.
But never mind that right now, for we have found something purer, perhaps, near downtown, at a banked-track roller derby league known as L.A. Derby Dolls. Once, sometimes twice a month, some 2,000 people turn out to watch these tough puppies fly around the rink in unstaged athletic competition that is twice as ornery as any hockey game. You think the NFL bleeds violence? Ladies and gentledudes, meet the Derby Dolls.

Roller derby? Really? Yeah, that's been going on right under your radar at this converted warehouse in Echo Park. Beginning in 2001, the sport's organizers contend, roller derby abandoned most of its canned-ham shtick in exchange for actual athletic competition in which one woman, known as "the jammer," tries to whipsaw-fly-bounce-jounce-somersault-squeeze-elbow-scrape-scratch-claw-cuss her way through the opposing team, gaining a point for every player she passes. Raquel Welch did this once in the movies, as did Ellen Page more recently. "CSI: Miami" is here this week to film some of the mayhem for an upcoming episode.

Is roller derby reborn? Maybe. Today, it is a rapidly growing and affordable alternative to the average sports experience. Is roller derby legitimate? Lay down your 20 bucks and decide.

Listen, all I know is that if flying bodies were whisky, modern roller derby would be Charlie Sheen.

Tonight's center of attention is one Judy Gloom. Librarian by day, roller derby diva by night. She's one of those jammers, which means she flings herself through the scrum about 20 times a night. Hell on wheels, this little Glendale librarian.

Tonight's center of attention is one Judy Gloom. Librarian by day, roller derby diva by night. She's one of those jammers, which means she flings herself through the scrum about 20 times a night. Hell on wheels, this little Glendale librarian.

"Go, Judy, go!" the public address announcer intones, and the crowd gobbles up the chant.

Judy's going, all right ... past an opposing skater, the wicked Long Island Lolita, and right into another, Fleetwood Smack. Obviously, some cheeseball remnants of the sport's early days remain.

Gloom herself is uncomfortable by all the extra attention at this, her going-away party. She is, after all, a librarian in real life, not some chest-thumping NFL pork chop with self-esteem issues.

Since 2004, she has trained three times a week and led the Flight Crew, one of five teams in the year-round L.A. league. She has spun around the track a million times, done duty as the league's PR person, all for what? Nada. The skaters do this for free, as do a lot of the support staff.

"I'm doing this for the sport, for the competition," she explains, as if that's any reason to perform athletically.

For Gloom, 31, roller derby was also a way to connect with people in L.A. when she moved here from Phoenix. She'd always skated — "a rink rat," as a kid — so when she spotted the Craigslist ad for roller derby skaters, she'd found instant family.

It also helped her grow up a little, she confesses, to become more sure of herself and well-rounded. While she skated a lot as a kid, she'd never competed in sports, content instead to lose herself in books.

Soon, the left brain was feeding the right brain, the vegetarian was becoming a carnivore, and the librarian was becoming someone not to mess with.

"I'm kind of an aggressive librarian," she says of her double life. "But as skaters go, I'm kind of shy."

Hers is the story within the story of the Derby Dolls, a decidedly unglamorous but endearing sport that packs the plywood bleachers with folks in search of something different on a Saturday night.

The "bouts" are broken into four 15-minute quarters. Before the game, there are craft booths to browse and a live band to enjoy. At halftime, more music, pizza and Tecate beer. This is minimalist sports, a crazy roadhouse atmosphere with mostly 25- to 35-year-olds but many spectators twice as old.

It's sort of the anti-L.A. scene, the polar-opposite of blingy Staples. There's a guy in a lobster suit, for example, leading cheers. Neither the teams, nor the league, has any sort of seafood connection, but the regular mascot didn't show one day a couple of years ago, so the guy in the lobster suit got the gig. He's been around ever since.

That's the Derby Dolls.

"There's not one type of people here," says fan Joel Mandelkorn, who likes to bring out-of-town guests to this warehouse on Temple Street. "It's one of those things that, once you know about it, you're always telling people."

Consider yourself told.

You can follow this link to see a short video,

Ladies?  Lace up your skates!!!