Shakes on a Plane–A First Class Mystery

airtravelI don’t fly much anymore. After I retired three years ago I went from Igneous Medallion to Toughshit Sucker. That all means I lose certain “privileges” such as schlepping down to the airport several times a week, being herded like calves about to become veal and stuffed into a seat even Barbie would find confining.

Now I fly when I want to, which is almost never. In fact I hadn’t been on a plane in 18 months…before last Thursday for a quick trip to Florida and back with my wife. We splurged and cashed in whatever miles I had lingering in my account, coughed up the difference in actual money and flew first class. Nice.

It all started out fine. I received a notice the day before on my Delta app to check in and I was even asked my lunch preference–Salad d’chicken stale, or a turkey sandwich floating in cheese and a bag of chips. I chose the latter. It was fine, although my cholesterol medication later sneered at me while mocking my choice, saying “you eat that shit I can’t help you.” Damn Big Pharma!

But all that seemed about normal. The spooky stuff was to come. I did NOT receive a notice to check in the day before our return flight. I did NOT receive a request to choose a meal for our return flight. After awhile I became suspicious that perhaps I screwed up somehow…but I didn’t. When I attempted to check in on the Delta app it said I had ALREADY checked in. My wife too! We did not check in. Not having flown for so long, perhaps flying first class now entitled you to a “check in angel.” It did not.  So when we got to the airport I figured I’d just go old school and use the kiosk to check in. BN-PH362_deltak_P_20160808120542I slip in my credit card and instead of being nice and polite to first class customer on the screen it says, “do you want to check in…again?” I mean the box had a freakin’ attitude as if I was annoying it during its reboot break. I reply, most emphatically, “yes!” I thought I heard a pathetic sigh from the little speaker and the instructions on the screen seem to indicate the electronic fucker was ready to see things my way by leading me through the process of re-checking in…even though I had never checked in in the first place. But fine.

delta slidersFrom there everything was cool until we settle in our seats. The flight attendant comes over to me and says, “so you pre-ordered the burgers for lunch.” In fact I did not. I did not have the opportunity to pre-order anything, but I thought I’d play it cool. “I believe so,” I lied. The flight attendant whipped out a computer readout that had my name and “burgers” next to it. Strange. But I wasn’t sure. What if there was something better? So I asked in my most innocent tone, “I can’t remember. What was the other choice?” The flight attendant was delighted to tell me it didn’t matter. Whatever the other choice was there weren’t any left. “Ah! Good thing I pre-ordered the burgers, then!” “Yes,” she replied. “You were very smart to do that!” Although the entire scenario was a sham. So were the burgers. They were billed, actually, as “sliders.” Maybe that’s because rather than actual meat, they appeared to be made with some sort of non-stick chemical in a shade of gray-beige. Of course, since I’m a man and men will eat anything I scarfed down both sliders which later slid through my digestive tract and were useful in waxing our hardwood floors to a high-gloss sheen.

Now I’m actually looking forward to my next flight to see if the Dark Spirit of Delta will further intervene on my behalf. Maybe send me a notice that it already watched the safety video for me, or nixed my drink selection because I deserve a better brand of bourbon. I’m OK with such pro-active service. In fact, I’d love it if I received an email informing me “We already snagged an extra dozen of those Biscoff cookies for you. They’ll be in your seat pocket.” Damn…Delta, you’re good!

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My Groovy Cheapass College Education

la-1552449455-ctwg8rk8vm-snap-imageReading about the celebrities and other rich suckers who shelled out fortunes to get their lil’ darlings into prestigious universities through illegal means I can only think about what my parents did to get me into college.

Here’s how it went down. In 1969 my old brother was going to medical school. That’s expensive. Being four years younger, I was about to become a freshman someplace else, which my father stated plainly “would be much cheaper.”

There were two choices. As a resident of New York City, I could go to a city college. A new one had opened called York College. At the time it was no more than a glorified trailer park since the real campus was under construction. The tuition would be a backbreaking $35 a semester. Seemed like a good deal. I could hop one bus, transfer to another and be there in 30 minutes. I wouldn’t drive because there didn’t appear to be any place to park.

There didn’t appear to be any athletics or night life to speak of, unless you consider hanging out at the nearby falafel stand after the sun went down for some “after hours chickpeas.”

I didn’t end up at York College because my parents were concerned I was hanging around some “bad kids” and should therefore be sent to a school many miles away. Not as cheap as York College were the schools in the State of New York, or SUNY, system. I was accepted at Oswego State, about 30 miles north of Syracuse and built along the shores of Lake Ontario. Sound idyllic? Perhaps 2-3 months of the year, definitely. The rest of the year it was a windblown, snow-covered Siberia with an annual snowfall of at least 120 inches.

Nope..not the Ivy League! Closer to the Icy League!

oswegosnow2This would all cost more that York College, but much less than Yale. All-in, tuition was $440, and room and board $1,139 a semester. Still a bargain. My dorm was right on Lake Ontario with a million dollar view overlooking the water–much cooler than a bunch of stringy, clingy ivy. It was also a kick wondering what it looked like on the far shore over in Canada where the beer was much stronger. One day I would imagine rowing to that far off land in my blow up raft that I had bought at Kmart for 7 bucks. Such is the effect of substances available to “serious” academics such as myself.

oswegolakeMy quality of education for that bargain-basement investment? Well..my first class was Sociology 101. It was in a giant lecture hall with Doc Richmond presiding. Remember, this was 1969 and everything was extremely groovy. When the esteemed professor said he really wished there were urinals for women, the rapt/stoned class duly nodded and remarked how exceptionally groovy Doc Richmond was. What a great college!

What I didn’t expect was to find both a career and wife at Oswego. The former helped begat the latter. During an especially raucous party where many beer kegs were tapped dry and upper classman informed me I had a real knack for making strange voices and would therefore be a natural to work at the campus radio station. Talk about groovy! The next day he took me to the station and told the guy on the air I should be a DJ. The guy yawned, told me to show up the following Saturday and I’d be on the air for a couple of hours. From that day, for the next 40 years, I was on the air somewhere from various radio and television stations to CNN.

The finding the wife part came from a group of comely co-eds (they said that back then) who became regular listeners to my show and called in requests. It turns out the upper classman who dragged me to the radio station was a mutual friend and set me up with one of them. It was love at first keg party and we got married six months after graduating. It’s worth noting that several years after our wedding at a catering hall in suburban Rochester, NY, we returned to find out the place had become a topless joint. Made sense.

The point of all this is that it’s not worth the effort to break the law and fork over all sorts of big money to get into a fancy school. Let’s face it, these celebrity offspring were probably too dumb to get in on their own which means they may have flunked out anyway, making the whole idiotic, and illegal scheme worthless.

Personally, I’m glad I was able to go to a school that didn’t break my parents’ budget, making it possible for them to have the great retirement they deserved. I got just about the amount of education I needed to get through life, a fine career and a great wife–all for a few grand a year. Now that’s pretty freakin’ groovy!

When Ted Lindsay and I Were Teammates

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A sad morning as I woke up to the news the great Detroit Red Wing Ted Lindsay had passed away at age 93. As a New York Rangers fan, growing up in Queens, I was not amused by “Terrible” Ted”s regular manhandling of the Blueshirts, but as a hockey fan, I respected him.

Fast forward to September, 1998. I had lived in the Detroit area for 9 years and while still a Rangers fan at heart, I grew to love the Red Wings. For our 25th anniversary my wife sent me to the Detroit Red Wings Fantasy Camp after seeing a promo for it during a game. Keep in mind, I hadn’t played ice hockey since college. I graduated in 1973. I still had BOBBY Hull skates. Antiques. And a wooden stick.

I was horrible but what a kick. At the end of the weeklong camp we played a charity game at The Joe and our teams were combined campers and Red Wings–some current, but mostly alums.

So what a thrill when I found myself on a team with the likes of Chris Osgood, John Ogrodnik, and, yes, Ted Lindsay. Indeed, since he wore #7 and I wore #8, I was introduced right after him.

Shortly after, on a line with Ted and Osgood, I got an assist with an outlet pass, then, between the first and second periods, Ted was nice enough to sign my jersey. Watch the video. It’s priceless. It has the introductions, my assist and Ted signing.

It’s an experience I’ll never forget. It was an honor to play with Ted Lindsay, have a few words with him, see a legend up close, and best yet, see, firsthand he wasn’t terrible at all. Ted Lindsay was a gentleman–even when he rocked the bones of his opponents. RIP Ted Lindsay.

A Belated Apology to the Late Chevrolet Volt

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The Chevy Volt went out of production last week so it’s a good time for a belated apology to the extended-range hybrid electric car. he Volt actually was built and sold by General Motors. The cars I was paid to promote contained similar technology, but were as real as testimony by Paul Manafort.

Here’s how it went down. For 11 years I was the head of electronic communication at the various permutations of DaimlerChrysler, Chrysler Group LLC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. My duties covered video, our media website, social media and broadcast media. It was my actions under that last area of responsibility that leads to this mea culpa.

In 2008, when our company was caught in the gates of hell under ownership of corporate slumlords Cerberus Capital Management and on a straight path to bankruptcy, it came up with a trio of extended-range and electric vehicles. They were known as the ENVI vehicles. ENVIronment…get it?

ENVICARS.001One was a sporty Dodge built on a Lotus body, one was based on a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, another used an extended version of a Jeep Wrangler. Cool, huh?

One was a sporty Dodge built on a Lotus body, one was based on a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, another used an extended version of a Jeep Wrangler. Cool, huh?One was a sporty Dodge built on a Lotus body, one was based on a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, another used an extended version of a Jeep Wrangler. Cool, huh?One was a sporty Dodge built on a Lotus body, one was based on a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, another used an extended version of a Jeep Wrangler. Cool, huh?One was a sporty Dodge built on a Lotus body, one was based on a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, another used an extended version of a Jeep Wrangler. Cool, huh?One was a sporty Dodge built on a Lotus body, one was based on a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, another used an extended version of a Jeep Wrangler. Cool, huh?One was a sporty Dodge built on a Lotus body, one was based on a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, another used an extended version of a Jeep Wrangler. Cool, huh?

We staged a big unveiling of the vehicles in front of Chrysler World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., live on CNBC, followed by a news conference and ride/drive opportunity for the media on our test track.

It was a major deal and the press dutifully reported the company’s stated intentions to put at least one of these on the road by 2010.

My team and I even trekked to SoCal where we were hoping to stoke the “green” media out there with our environmentally friendly “production intent” vehicles–staging a dog and pony at the Rose Bowl parking lot, which included a series of drag races between the Dodge ENVI car and a Dodge Challenger. The electric Dodge won every time.

From there we schlepped the cars to Irvine for the weekly Cars and Coffee event, then up to a Huntington Beach dealership for further fawning. I produced two video features on the attendees at both going gaga over the green vehicles. Apologies on the quality of the videos. They were shot on tiny digital videotapes and have deteriorated over time.

At some point I get a call when I’m back in Michigan from a contact at NBC. I won’t name the person because that person is still working. The contact says, “hey, we’re gonna have the Chevy Volt on the Today Show day after tomorrow out on the plaza. If you can get that sporty Dodge ENVI car here I can probably get it on the show too. I hate for the Volt to have the spot to itself.”

I make the calls to the people who can make it happen….and it does! Next thing I know I’m off to NYC to manage the Dodge EV’s appearance. By that time we were calling it the Dodge Circuit.

Sure enough, Circuit is sitting next to the Volt on the plaza. Matt Lauer comes out to do the spot with CNBC’s auto beat reporter Phil LeBeau. The Circuit is bright yellow/orange. The Volt is a darker green. Phil explains both vehicles to Lauer and everything’s going well. I’m standing next to the PR guy from GM and we’re both happy. Then, as the spot is about to wrap up, Lauer makes some comment about how cool the Dodge Circuit is and that’s the one he’d want! The GM guy’s face drops. I’m smiling because I know neither Lauer, nor anyone else in the world will ever be able to have a Circuit or any of the ENVI vehicles because, well, it’s all bullshit. The chances of any of them actually being produced and sold to consumers was roughly the same as the Unabomber’s shot at parole, but they sure made a good case to Congress and the American people that the company was right on the leading edge of new technology, and therefore worthy of financial help from the taxpayers.

The gang back home watching was ecstatic and, I have to admit, I was too, initially. But once the company finally announced the ENVI program was being killed, and therefore exposed as the vaporware it really was, I felt a bit guilty that, for a moment on network TV, we fooled some folks that what we were doing was real while the innovative Volt was actually being built and sold to consumers. I always wondered if Lauer, now himself exposed for being a creep, would have preferred the Volt if it was painted in a brighter, more exciting color, since that seemed to be his deciding factor.

In all honesty, the whole episode was quickly forgotten. I only bring it up to clear my conscience and tip my hat to Karma. Long after ENVI and Lauer were both shitcanned, the innovative Volt was the last thing rolling.

Regarding Oscar and Other Fancy Nutcrackers

oscarAre you excited about the Oscars? I’ve only seen one of the films, “A Star is Born,” so I have very little skin in the game. Maybe I’ll catch up with some of the others, but probably won’t. It isn’t that I don’t like movies. I just don’t like sitting in one place in the dark for 2-3 hours unless, since it reminds me of the time my family toured the U.S. House and Senate chambers where most everyone who sits there is in the dark.

My issue today, however, is not the worthiness of movies as a form of entertainment. I did enjoy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” back in the 60’s because it was packed with stars, funny gags and was really, really long, which meant I didn’t have to do my homework.

My issue, however, is the award itself. Formally known as the Academy Award, of course, it’s also known as Oscar. Now Oscar is damn fine name. I named my first goldfish Oscar. Unfortunately, a month or so after we got together, Oscar decided to jump out of his bowl and ended up inside a steaming radiator in our Queens, New York apartment.

My brave brother attempted to rescue Oscar, but the poor little mini-carp was steamed into eternity. At least my Oscar, when he was alive, briefly, he had fully functioning fins, gills and a mouth. The Oscar award is basically a casting of a naked eunuch with his arms clutched to his bare chest..just like one of the hapless nominees who was only put on the list to fill out the ballot but has zero chance of winning. Oh, the camera will show them in their seats with a look of hope as their names are read, but honestly, they’re nothing but high profile seat fillers doomed to disappointment. An honor just to be nominated? Really. It just means you were chosen to be one of the designated losers cast aside so the actor or film with a biggest kiss ass budget could be paid off with a fancy nutcracker, with no nuts! Now that itself warrants an award–so many people screwed without benefit of a weenie.

It also makes no sense to me because the Oscar trophy doesn’t scream “awesome acting! Awesome movie!” It’s just a functionless guy mounted on a pedestal. Kind of like Sean Hannity.

grammyAt least the Grammy award is an old gramophone–a device on which music was once played–so it makes sense.

tonyawardThe Tony really looks more like a Chinese gong and no Broadway show or actor wants to get the gong, especially before intermission. Maybe something that looks more like a marquee or a likeness of the late great Carol Channing or Zero Mostel. 

 

 

The Emmy is also stupid. It looks like someone on the ladies Olympic beach volleyball team ready to spike the pumpkin, but is disqualified due to her use of wings. An award for television should look like a teenager with zombie eyes. emmy

So I’ll probably watch the beginning of the Oscar broadcast because there’s no host, which mean no embarrassing monologue, although I think they should have given Dave Letterman a second chance. “Uma..Oprah!” Heh. I don’t care. Dave could do no wrong in my book.

If you do watch, and care about the outcome..enjoy it. But when they start handing out those statues, just remember, all those winners are going home with a guy who can only gather dust…but can’t satisfy their lust..except for attention..and, as the song that will probably win a guy with no poopik..is pretty, um, Shallow. 

The Divorce is Final-The Painful Split From a Famous Brand

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It’s true. Divorce is difficult, heartbreaking, life-changing, expensive. But sometimes, well, it’s just the right thing to do. The relationship has broken down. Trust. Oh, trust. When that’s no longer present, everything else just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. On this day I must reveal I’ve completed the process. I’m OK. Don’t worry. It was my choice and I’m totally good with it. You see, the breakup was years in the making.

jeepgumpWe first got together in 2000 when I decided to move on from a previous relationship because I knew I could do better. Was I selfish? Not at all. I dreamed of soft leather caressing my bottom, plus I needed the cargo space and 4×4 ability.

Yes, that 2000 Patriot Blue Jeep Grand Cherokee was my first. We were together for six glorious years. I loaded my first kayak on her roof and rejoiced in checking its status through the moonroof glass. Ah…the boat was still secure. Awesome. Let’s go paddle off a dirt road the Grand Cherokee would have no problem negotiating. But then things took a turn. At 141,000 miles my wife and I smelled smoke coming from the hood as we waited in the customs line to enter Canada from the Ambassador Bridge. The smoke became heavier, my wife considered bailing out for fear the engine would explode. We managed to limp through the line just long enough to clear customs and then, well, she died. It took a tow truck to haul our blue, burnt-out baby back across the border and then another 26 miles to the dealer where mechanics who appeared to have had deep, deep experience, as deep fry cooks said they had patched her back together and charged me $2,000.

A few months later we attempted another border crossing from Ontario into New York State at Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls!!! Yes, our hot-blooded Grand Cherokee repeated the act she pulled the last time we attempted an international crossing. Smoke, heat. But I was able to coax the bitch the last 70 miles of our trip by repeatedly pulling to the side, letter her cool and adding anti-freeze. I was patient. Every relationship has its tough periods.

But how could she do this to us? We took loving care of her, changed her oil regularly, had her regularly inspected, but no good. It was time to end the relationship. I steered her into the nearest Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in suburban Rochester, N.Y. and told the salesman I wanted to trade her in for another Jeep. He couldn’t understand why I just didn’t wait until I returned to Michigan, but I told him my mother-in-law had bought a car at his dealership and was happy, so maybe slip her 50 bucks for a referral fee. Uh..ok. so I drove off with a new silver 2006 Jeep Commander. Jeep love was again in bloom.

Yes, yes, I know, the Commander did not have a successful run but I loved the damned beast. In six years it never disappointed me, except for the fact I got about half a mile to the gallon. When fuel prices rose, it was time for another difficult breakup. But I remained loyal to the Jeep brand. Why? For one, I always dug Jeeps. For two, I worked for the carmaker that built Jeeps for almost 11 years and I got a hefty employee discount. That’s also why I bought my wife a 2009 Jeep Patriot. You see, we were in a very happy three-way. Jeep, my wife and I.

I traded the Commander in for a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Moab Edition. Totally cool. Gave and got the “Jeep Wave” and received plenty of compliments on the black beauty.

jeepkayakMeanwhile, my wife’s Patriot broke down and it took $2,000 to have it fixed. A few days after paying the ransom at the dealer, my wife reported a funny noise. Back to the dealer. I was told it needed another $2,200 in work. I told him to forget it. That’s when the first move towards divorce occurred. We traded in the Jeep Patriot for, well, something from a competitor. Now there was just one Jeep vehicle in our garage.

Now, only four months since that day, I was on my way home from playing hockey, 25 miles from my house. I heard a whining sound, then the gears stopped meshing and I smelled burning. It was the Wrangler’s last rodeo. Another Jeep. Another tow truck. Another big bill. This time several grand for a new transmission. It was time for the ultimate breakup.

Jeep. You and I are through after a 19 year relationship. The trust. It just isn’t there. I just can’t depend on you anymore. I tried. Damn..I tried! I stuck with you through four models and only one of you actually gave me little trouble. The one you discontinued! My loyalty was not repaid with dependability.  You took it for granted. Yes, you look incredible and can drive over and through almost anything…but only for awhile..and then..well..you can’t…won’t.  It’s time to move on…under my next vehicle’s own power.

I guess all along it was a Jeep thing. I understood it. Lived it. Loved it. But I could no longer afford it. I’m just happy we were able to settle out of court. I paid that final exorbitant repair bill. My ex-Jeeps got to keep all the parts and service. I got to keep, and use, their incredible trade-in value. 

Yes..they say divorce is all about moving on. I look forward to it…without a tow truck.

Stub Dud: The Move to Ticketless Tickets

There’s a line in the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields” that states “nothing is real.” No kidding. The latest blow to tangibility is the move by the Detroit Tigers and many other sports teams and event venues to eliminate real tickets in favor of “mobile tickets.” That, of course, means in order to get in the door or through the gate you have to flash a virtual ticket on your smartphone. If you don’t have a smartphone, one, your kids will laugh at you, and two, you’re probably not being rude at dinner by checking your text messages. Oh, three, you can call a number at the box office to reserve your seats, then have to schlep to a ticket window at the venue to have a paper ticket printed out. So convenient.

Me? I like real tickets. Not because I’m a technical Luddite. I just like ticket stubs. I have tons of them and they all mean something to me.

yankeestatium60sThese Yankee Stadium ticket stubs from the 1960’s remind me of great afternoons with my dad and brother making the trek from our home in Queens up to the Bronx. Mickey Mantle played in every one of those games and we enjoyed multiple “dirty water hot dogs” at each one too. The stub on the right were awesome box seats right near the Yankees dugout.

We lived closer to Shea Stadium where the Mets played and went to plenty of games there too. What I always liked about the Met’’s ticket stubs was the sad face of their mascot Mr. Met with his umbrella on the rain check.mrmetraincheck

Another Shea Stadium stub was for a concert on July 9, 1971 with Humble Pie and Grand Funk Railroad. Rain was threatening to cancel the show with the rain date the 10th. That would have been a problem, because that was the date of my brother’s wedding and I really liked both rock bands. Lucky for all, the rain held off. sheagrandfunk

I love the ticket stubs for what New Yorkers call the “old” Madison Square Garden. That’s the one before the current, or “new” Madison Square Garden. With our high school ID card we could get in the old barn for Knicks or Rangers games for $1.50-$2.50.oldgarden

When the “new” Garden opened in ’68, my family had great seats to see the Rangers vs. the Montreal Canadiens. The seats were green.newgardenrangersmtl

A couple of weeks before Woodstock my friends and I had the good fortune to land tickets to the famous Fillmore East, where impresario Bill Graham came out on the stage and introduced a new band from San Francisco “making their first east coast appearance.” Santana blew the doors off the place and the weed-whacked crowd demanded several encores. Just think. They were the third-billed of three acts. Three Dog Night was number two with Canned Heat headlining. Those tickets set us each back a fat $3.50–not bad for both a brilliant show and decent contact buzz!fillmore

There are so many more, like this one from Resorts International in Atlantic City where my wife, my parents and I saw Rodney Dangerfield melt down when he got no respect from a heckler. They traded f-bombs as the crowd joined the fun and Rodney walked off telling us all to screw ourselves. Instant memory.rodney

My wife and I went to grad school at the University of Arizona the first year the old Pac 8 conference expanded to 10 to include both the UA and Arizona State. All of a sudden we were in the big time. Near the end of our time there, the Arizona Wildcats beat mighty USC and UCLA in successive games..and our stubs prove we were there for both of them.uscuclaarizona

Another memorable stub from our grad school days was when the Arizona Wildcats faced the California Golden Bears. Quarterback for Cal was John Elway. You can see we got our money’s worth. Not only did we see a future Hall of Famer, we got in for free.wildcatselway

Sure, there were stubs from a Broadway show, broadhurstBob Dylan, Chicago and Eagles concerts, dylanchicago

eaglesrochesterthe Grand Ole Opry grandoleopryand the old Schaefer Music Festival concerts in Central Park. Ah..the Schaefer shows. schaefferThousands of buzzed music fans gathering in a converted outdoor skating rink. The two stubs you see here represent a couple of the times my old school buddy and I met after work from our summer jobs in Manhattan. One was to see J. Geils Band, the other was a total surprise. It was supposed to be The Byrds, but then canceled for some reason and a very wasted, but brilliant, George Carlin stepped in. I think we made out pretty well.

I have many, many more, but you get the idea. You may remember events  you attended by gaining admittance via ephemeral mobile tickets. If you put your mind to it. But here’s the big difference. You can say you were there. I can prove it.

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