Monday, May 29, 2006
If you’re one of my regular readers, you’ve probably noticed that I changed the template to this blog. It’s not that I didn’t like the old design, it’s just that I was bored and I started playing around, pointing my mouse here and clicking my mouse there and before I knew it, my site had a whole new look. It was simple. Now if only renovating the house could be that easy.
This got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if you could take a USB cable from your computer and attach it to the exterior of your home? You could then go to your PC, surf over to the Benjamin Moore paint palette, point, click and Voila’! Your green house is now red.
Imagine plugging a laptop computer into your car’s cigarette lighter. You could visit the Maaco or Earl Scheib website, point, click, and before you know it, you’ve pimped your canary yellow Camry into a metallic neon blue funk mobile.
Rob a Bank? No problem. The cops have an ABP out on a White Bronco but like a chameleon, you've turned your truck fire engine red. Now, if O. J. had only thought of this invention, he’d be a free man today. (Oh wait! He is free.)
Women could point and click to coordinate their Mercedes with their outfits. Tires would be designed to go with shoes and the car’s interior with handbags. All of today’s hottest designers would be recommending accessories to match your car’s trim and jewelry would be made of hood ornaments, (oh wait! They already do that.)
If we could only point and click our gray away, Miss Clairol would be on the unemployment line. Tanning Salons would be a thing of the past. Just imagine George Hamilton pointing and clicking his pale rawhide flesh, into a nice golden brown. Justin Timberlake’s epidermis would be a dark chestnut brown and Michael Jackson would turn his pale white (oh wait, he already did that.)
Spend money on lawn fertilizer? Fugettaboutit! Just bury your USB cable out in your lawn. Go to the Scott’s Lawn Products website, find the right color…say an Arnold Palmer Green, and Presto…. you now have your own golf course.
Even all your neighbors would be green…with envy that is.
You know? I might be on to something here.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
It's hard to believe that my wife and I have been married for 17 years. What's even more frightening, is that we started dating 25 years ago. It doesn't seem possible.
Every once in a while my daughters will pull out our wedding video for laughs. They always comment on how much hair I had and how much younger we look. Watching this video brings me back to that day:
(imagine screen getting wavy for flashback sequence)
Being a man, I was more than happy to let my wife deal with all the minute details of our wedding. We had dated for eight years before we got married (I didn’t want to rush into anything!) so my wife had plenty of time to dream and plan for our pending nuptials. Sometimes she'd run her wedding plans by me but I was more of a sounding board. She really wasn’t seeking my opinion but rather bouncing her ideas off of me.
My only real wedding responsibilities were to:
1.) Show up. (Something she wasn’t sure I would do since I was a known commitment phobic!)
2.) Keep my mother happy by getting a Catholic Priest to co-officiate the ceremony.
3.) Pick out the wedding songs.
Tasks one and two were simple. Task three proved to be more of a challenge.
I thought of all the songs I’d heard at other people's weddings over the years: i.e. Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song (There is Love),” The Carpenter’s “We’ve Only Just Begun” and Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer”. These were all great songs but it seemed they had been used ad nauseam. I wanted to be an original.
I have always been a big Dan Fogelberg fan and I had remembered a song on his Twin Sons of Different Mothers album. It was a cover of an old Judy Collin’s gem titled “Since You’ve Asked.” I loved the lyrics to this song and as far as I knew, no one had ever used it at their wedding. I played the song for my then fiance and she agreed that it would be perfect.
Jean, our wedding singer, sang this song just after we exchanged our vows:
Since You've Asked
What I'll give you
Since you've asked
Is all my time together
Take the rugged sunny days
The warm and rocky weather
Take the roads that I have walked along
Looking for tomorrow's time
Peace of mind --
As your life spills into mine
Changing with the seasons
Filling up the world with time
Changing time to reasons
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to someone before.
We have seen a million stars
Lying by the water
You have climbed the hills with me
To the mountain shelter
Taking off the days
One by one
Setting them to breathe
In the sun.
Take the lilies and the Lace
From the days of childhood
All the willow winding paths
Leading up and outward
This is what I give
This is what I ask you for
Who says I’m not a romantic?
My wife and I paid for the wedding ourselves, so we were on a tight budget. We couldn't afford a band so we hired a DJ from a company called Rent-a-DJ. Our DJ, they told me, would be Darren Murphy.
Murphy! I thought, that'll be great. He'll probably play tons of Irish music. I was a little surpised on the day of our wedding when we walked into the reception hall and discovered that Darren was actually African-American. I don't mean to disparage him but his playlist was a little heavy on the R&B/Motown side (at least for a crowd of Irish Catholics and New England Yankees.) This was especially true when Darren spun the Jackson 5 song, Mama I Found That Girl for my mother and I to dance to.
Mama, oh mama, I found that girl
Mama, oh mama, I found that girl
My new bride and I, chose the Stephen Bishop song It Might Be You for our first dance. We walked out to the dance floor as Darren spun the record:
I've been passing time watching trains go by
All of my life...
Lying on the sand, watching seabirds fly
Wishing there would be
Someone waiting home for me...
Something's telling me it might be you
It's telling me it might be you...
All of my life...
You might think it strange that I picked a song titled, It Might Be You, my wife however, thought that it captured my non-commital spirit.
Besides, the song ends on a more hopeful note:
I've been saving love songs and lullabies
And there's so much more
No one's ever heard before...
Something's telling me it might be you
Yeah, it's telling me it must be you
And I'm feeling it'll just be you
All of my life...
I've been waiting for all of my life...
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
One snowy January evening circa 1993, actor Christopher Reeve came running down the platform of track 25 in Grand Central Terminal in New York. He was dressed in a parka and a wool cap. On his feet he wore a pair of oversized snow boots.
“Do I have time to run and grab a beer,” he asked.
“What are you worried about?” I said, “You’re faster than a locomotive.”
He smiled, looked down, pointed to his boots and said, “Not in this weather!”
Friday, May 19, 2006
Did you ever wonder how conductors keep track of all the people who board and exit the train?
One trick of the trade is the seat check. Seat checks are rectangular pieces of cardboard, 1 inch wide by 4 inches long. They are divided into 11 fare zones boxes so we conductors, depending on how far a passenger is traveling, can punch holes in their station’s corresponding fare box. We then stick this piece of cardboard in front of the passenger in order to remind us:
A.) That they paid.
B.) How far the passenger is going.
This is the railroad handbook’s official use for the seat check. They do however, come in handy as bookmarks, toothpicks and to squeegee sweat off of bald men’s heads, (at least that’s what I hear!).
Another great use for the seat check is to pacify screaming kids on the train. You would be surprised how calm children get when given little slips of paper to hold in their hands. It really keeps them preoccupied and quiets them down. Other passengers in the car, thank me profusely, and ask if I’m a childcare expert.
A few years back, seat check art came into vogue. A conductor with too much time on his hands got creative with his hole punch and cut out a smiley face on a young passenger’s seat check. Word must have gotten out in daycare centers in the greater metropolitan region, because now all the children on the train want them.
It took me a while to master the smiley face. In my initial design I was spacing the mouth holes too far apart. This made the smile look more like a bunch of random holes in the paper or possibly that my seat check person was British.
I could tell by the expression on my young passenger's faces that I had somehow failed them and they never would ask me for a second seat check, like they did with the other conductors.
After some much needed instruction from co-workers, I finally mastered the smiley face. Kids, no longer satisfied with just one seat check, now wanted handfuls.
A few times, I've made the mistake of giving one child more seat checks than his/her sibling. Whenever this happens it starts a big brawl. One kid will start taunting their brother or sister…“I have three smiley faces and you only have two-o-o!” Physical violence then ensues and the crying kid cycle starts all over again.
So much for me being a child-care expert!
The latest trend in seat check art involves seat check paper dolls. I believe my friend Scott may have started this. A reporter from the Stamford Advocate Newspaper was on one of his trains and wrote a column about how gracious his conductor (Scott) was, and how his kids just loved their seat check paper dolls.
(My daughters think that the following story is the funniest ever!)
This past Christmas, I saw an adorable five year-old girl looking out the front window of the train. As I approached, she turned around and began staring at me with her big brown eyes.
“Hi!” I said.
No response, she seemed to be in awe.
“Would you like a seat check?” I asked.
Wow, I thought. This girl must really be enamored by my uniform.
I took a seat check out of my ticket pouch and punched a silly little face on it and handed it to her.
“Do you like that?” I asked.
She said nothing. Just two big brown eyes staring up at me.
“Mister,” she spoke finally. “You have a real long hair sticking out of your nose.”
Monday, May 15, 2006
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Last week my family and I were watching Forrest Gump on UPN or TNT or one of those cable stations in the high double digits. Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice a similarity between Forrest’s bench at the bus stop and my humble little blog here.
You, the reader, sit down next to me as I babble on and on. I offer a piece of my life here and a piece of my life there. I tell you about my brush with celebrity and some of the funny and touching things that have happened to me along the way.
I hear that I make some of you laugh, some of you cry and some of you just want to get on the dang bus (figuratively speaking of course). It feels somewhat cathartic to share these stories (sometimes it’s darn right draining) but I guess it’s cheaper than paying $100 an hour to a therapist.
“And that’s all I have to say about that.”
Sunday, May 14, 2006
I’ve seen the author Dominick Dunne on my train several times over the years. He is always very impeccably dressed and looks as if he is headed to a polo match or some swanky country club. I recognized him from his eyeglasses, which are horn-rimmed and round. They make him look oh so much like a senior member of the Harry Potter fan club.
The first time I met Mr. Dunne was on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the Nicole Brown Simpson slayings. He had a garment bag slung over his shoulder when he got on the train in New Haven, which is about a 40 minute ride from his home in Old Lyme.
I knew Mr. Dunne’s work mostly from his coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial in Vanity Fair Magazine. During the trial he always sat with Nicole Brown Simpson’s family and became more than just a reporter—he became a friend to the Brown family. I was addicted (like much of the rest of the nation,) to the O. J. trial. I worked nights at the time and I spent my days glued to the TV, watching gavel-to-gavel coverage.
The opportunity to speak with Mr. Dunne was very tempting and although I usually don’t like to bother celebrities, I just had to talk to him.
After exchanging pleasantries, Mr. Dunne told me that he was on his way to New York to do the Today Show live the next morning. He said that he was in the process of writing a book on the O. J. trial.
“What happened to the NASA satellite photos of Nicole’s neighborhood on the night of the murders?” I asked him, “I heard they were going to present them into evidence.”
“You know,” he said, “ I’d heard that too, but for some reason they never presented it as evidence.”
We continued to discuss the aspects of the trial, but it was soon time for our train to depart and I had to make announcements and close the train’s doors.
I noticed that when I collected Mr. Dunne’s ticket, he was recording some notations in a small green journal. I wondered if he was recording our conversation and if it would make it into his new book.
Several months later I came down with pneumonia and ended up in the hospital. Before entering the hospital I went into a bookstore to pick up some reading material. Mr. Dunne’s new book about the O.J. trial was on display. It was titled, Another City Not My Own.
The novel was Dunne’s thinly veiled memoir about his experiences at the O. J. trial and how he, somewhere along the way, lost the objectivity of a reporter and became emotionally involved in the case. The novel’s protagonist’s name is Gus Bailey.
In the last chapter of the book, page 343 to be exact, gossip columnist Liz Smith asks Gus if he ever gets sick of discussing O. J.:
“Yes, I get sick of him. Deeply sick,” replied Gus………..
“I talk about him to Deb at the gas station when she puts gas in my car.
I talk about him to the train conductor on Metro North.”
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
If you had asked me 6 months ago what a hyperlink was, I would have told you about the episode when Capt. Greer took Linc, Julie (my first crush!) and Pete’s badges away from them. “Linc was really upset,” I’d say, ”but he was way too cool to be hyper”.
Now that I know the new millennium definition of link and hyperlink, I’ve decided to post a few of them here.
I met Cary when he was a regular on the 11:22 p.m. train (the theatre train) out of Grand Central. At the time he was playing bass in the Broadway production of All Shook Up (an Elvis Presley tribute show.) In addition to Broadway, Cary has appeared in several commercials and TV shows. He has traveled all over the globe, playing bass for Ben E. King, Chuck Berry and Elvis Costello (just to name a few.) Now that Cary has children, he wants to stay close to home. He has begun writing and recording his own music (sort of Jazz Fusion) on his home computer and hopes to market it as bumper music for radio, TV and video. Be sure to check out the sample tracks, I think you’ll agree…he’s quite exceptional.
Those of you that live in Connecticut, might recognize the name Vinnie Penn. For several years, Vinnie was the better half of the morning radio show on WKCI-KC101 in New Haven. I met Vinnie on the train a few years back when he was headed down to audition as one of Howard Stern’s new sidekicks on his morning radio show. Vinnie didn’t get the job but Howard didn’t forget him. On May 10th, 11pm, he debuts his own radio show, (a Howard Stern Production) on The Sirius Satellite Radio Network.
In addition to being a funny radio personality, Vinnie is also a great writer. He frequently contributes columns to The New Haven Register and recently had a short story published in the book Danger City.
Geoff Fox has been our local weatherman at WTNH in New Haven for the past 20 years. Those of you that don’t live in Connecticut might recognize him as the substitute weatherman on Good Morning America. He and his family were on my train a couple of weeks back, returning from a day in the big city. I recognized him when I collected his ticket and I reminded him that we had met once before at Vinnie Penn’s book signing at a local Barnes and Noble store. He said that he remembered me…I know he didn’t.
I have watched Geoff’s forecasts for several years and knew he was a technophile and self-proclaimed computer geek. He seemed surprised when I told him about my blog (I guess I don’t look like the blogger type.) He told me that he also had a blog and it has something like 1700 posts (where does he find the time?) We exchanged our web addresses and he promised that he would visit my site. I figured he was just being polite. The next morning I awoke to find that he had left a comment on my Victoria Jackson post. I was thrilled!
As Linc would say..."Solid!”
Friday, May 05, 2006
Last week I was boarding my train in Grand Central with a co-worker named Abby. Abby had just come back from vacation and was thumbing through a pile of pictures she had picked up from a one-hour photo store.
“What are the pictures of?” I asked
“Jamaica,” she said. “We just came back.”
“We?” I said inquisitively. “Who are we?”
“Me and Gary,” she said, “You know, Gary…the ticket agent.”
“Oh yeah,” I said, “He’s that flamboyant gay guy...right?”
“I hope not,” she said, “He’s my fiancé.”
“Uh! Er! Um” I fumbled, not knowing what to say next. I tried to redeem myself, “I just assumed… he’s older and…Uh! He’s never been married and…Er!
Open mouth...Insert foot!
One afternoon, I was collecting tickets on my train when I noticed a bearded man placing the classic David Brubeck CD “Time Out” into his portable CD player. I wanted to show off my great celebrity knowledge, so I said, “David Brubeck… he’s dead…isn’t he?”
The bearded man took off his headphones and smiled. “No” he said, “He’s very much alive. I should know…He’s my dad.”
“Uh! Um! Er!” I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I was thinking of Vince Guaraldi, ”(another great jazz pianist). "Yeah that's it, Vince is the dead one."
My favorite “put your foot in your mouth” story doesn’t involve me (that’s probably why it’s my favorite) It was told to me by my sister Sheila.
Sheila and her then-boyfriend Vinnie had a friend named Bill. Bill had made a fortune franchising restaurants in Connecticut, so he decided to retire early.He and his wife Sally moved to a palatial home somewhere in California. A couple of years after moving, they invited Sheila and Vinnie on an all expense paid vacation to visit them in their new home.
On a hot California summer day, Sheila and Vinnie arrived at Bill and Sally's home. Sally answered the door. The last time they had seen her she was model-thin and in great shape. The woman that now stood before them was 40 lbs over weight and had more chins than a Chinese phone book. They were shocked.
Sally said that Bill was out running some errands but he would be home soon.
“Since it’s so hot,” she said, “Why don’t you get into your bathing suits and hop in the pool. They thought that this was a wonderful idea. Sally served them drinks while they floated around on rafts in her luxurious kidney shaped in-ground pool. After awhile, Sally excused herself to go and change into her bathing suit. After she left, Sheila and Vinnie paddled their rafts next to each other.
“Do you believe how much weight she’s gained? Sheila asked in a hushed tone.
Vinnie mumbled back, “ I can’t believe it. She’s twice the size she used to be.”
A few minutes later Sally appeared poolside in a one-piece bathing suit. She was obviously self-conscious about her weight and began to pull at the spandex in order to conceal the rolls of fat that were now peaking out from their hiding spots.
Vinnie could sense she was uncomfortable and wanted to pay her a compliment. His mind wanted to say:
“Wow…look how tan you are!”
But his mouth said:
“Wow…look how fat you are …UH! ER! I mean TAN…Look how Tan you are!
It was too late. The damage was done.
Sheila quickly paddled away from Vinnie, trying to disassociate herself from him. She bit her lip in order to avoid bursting into laughter. She even tried to think of sad moments in her life, but she just couldn’t contain herself. Her body began to convulse, sending ripples along the pool’s surface. She finally decided to roll off her raft, so she could break down underwater.
It made for a very long vacation.