Tagged: Humor

When Back to School Meant Back to Sol and Lefty’s

schoolsuppliesI was in my local big box store the other day looking for some late season garden supplies. But where the fertilizer, hoses and jugs of stuff you spray to kill things had reliably been all spring and summer, perused by guys with guts like me, were replaced by shelves of pens, pencils, paper products, backpacks, moms and whining kids.

Yeah, yeah, back to school time again. Are you telling me the backpack the brat used only a couple of months ago is no longer viable or the pens probably still sitting at the bottom of last semester’s backpack are already out of ink?

backpackI can see maybe getting some new clothes because kids grow but honestly, and I get that some stationary products become depleted but backpacks pretty much remain the same size and style forever.

Of course, when I was a school kid in the 60’s we carried our books in a rubber strap and our writing implements in a pencil case, which you shoved beneath the strap. You lugged your strapped bundle on your hip and by the end of the day you had a nice red, painful welt, somehow proving you gave major flesh to your education.bookstrap.jpg

There also weren’t any big box stores with a billion choices of notebooks. We got all our school supplies and Sol and Lefty’s Candy Store on the corner of 249th Street and Union Turnpike in Queens, a couple of blocks from Glen Oaks Village..the massive apartment complex where we lived.

Sol and Lefty’s was cool. It was our hangout. You bought your candy and comic books there or sidled up to the lunch counter for an egg cream or a fried egg sandwich or a burger birthed in the same ratty aluminum frying pan made long before the advent of no-stick Teflon. 

Artie, the skinny, bald short order cook, was not friendly. When you called out your order to Artie, he’d often snarl and invite you to screw off–but in less polite terms. It was part of the charm.

Sol and Lefty and Sol’s sister ran the place which was always populated by a New York City cop or two..not for security..but to pop in to lay some wagers on the races at nearby Belmont, Yonkers or Aqueduct. I mean, how much dough can you make selling penny and nickel candy and burnt burgers?

Around school time, they tossed some boxes of supplies they thought the kids would need on the booths no one sat at anyway. Loose leaf binders and paper, memo pads, Bic pens, number 2 pencils, pencil boxes and for a bit, those groovy things called a Nifty–a combo of pencil case and loose leaf binder. I had a brown one.

NiftybinderIt was awesome. Kids were jealous. Jealous kids showed their jealousy by punching you in the arm. It was OK. I had the Nifty, they had anger management issues.niftyinside.jpg

We also didn’t buy our school supplies before school because our teachers were very particular. On the first day of classes, especially in elementary school, teachers would give us list of what type of everything they accepted. Some only accepted loose leaf paper with two holes, some accepted three-hole paper, some required paper with five holes. One of my teachers did care how many holes but firmly forbid us to use spiral notebooks because once you tore out the pages to hand them in for grading, there was no way to put them back, leaving you with dozens of loose pages with ratty edges.

memobookOne teacher was very adamant about what kind of memo pad we used. The only use for a memo pad was to write down our homework assignments. You couldn’t write down the assignment on loose leaf paper or in a notebook–it had to be on a memo pad. NOT A steno pad–a MEMO PAD. A real memo pad had the word “memo” on the cover.

Now Sol and Lefty and Sol’s sister knew all this. They only carried certified memo pads–not a steno pad to be found. They also seemed to know what color binders and rubber book straps kids liked. That’s why they were able to keep a pretty limited stock–no sense in being stuck with stuff kids would reject. If you asked for something they didn’t have, Sol or Lefty or Sol’s sister would give you a snarling look as if to say, “are you questioning our school supply judgement? Get outta here and never return–unless you’re gonna come back for a comic book or egg cream.”

When we’d return to class the next day, our teacher would scan the room making sure we had only sanctioned supplies. Any renegades or losers who showed up with a two-hole instead of three-ring binder or non-certified memo pad, or, worst of all..a number 3 pencil, earned a verbal ass kicking and time in the hall to “think about what you’ve done.” Almost certainly, the chastised school supply offender would be making a return trip to Sol and Lefty’s to make appropriate amends before showing up in class the next day. Noting the proper adjustment the teacher would paste on their puss a complacent look–a personal reward for displaying such paper supply power over a little kid.

Sure, times must change and I imagine it’s a lot easier to schlep one’s books and supplies in a backpack than wedged against your hip strangled in rubber strap, and it’s nice to have choices, but I will argue till my last breath, compared to my time as a school kid, today’s supplies will never, ever, be as Nifty.

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What-Me Worry About MAD’s Demise

trumpputincoverI’m quite sure none of you gave this any serious thought, but doesn’t it seem a bit suspicious that Mad Magazine announced it’s all but shutting down shortly after its “face,” Alfred E. Neuman was referenced by Pres. Donald Trump? You may recall Trump derided the chances of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s chances of succeeding him in the White House, telling Politico, “Alfred E. Neuman cannot become President of the United States.”  Fact is, Neuman did give it a shot in back in the ’60’s, running under his fairly over confident slogan “What-Me-Worry?” whatmeworry

For Buttigieg’s part, he tweeted that he had to look up who Neuman is because he claimed he wasn’t familiar with the reference. To that, I say, anyone who doesn’t know who Alfred E. Neuman is cannot be President, since the gap-toothed ginger represents just what made me what I am today–a semi-retired aging Baby Boomer who spends much of his day writing things in his basement office partially adorned with water color courtroom paintings of Pete Rose on the wall. I covered the case. Our artist kicked over the water for his paints in the jury box and it still makes me laugh. edpete

Now, two months later, Mad announces it’s shutting down. Coincidence, I think not. Once a chump like Trump co-opts the magazine’s mascot, you know only bad things can happen to a publication that took great joy in lambasting him and most of his predecessors over the past 60 some-odd years. That means my whole life.

But I will not be denied. My brother and I were devoted readers as we refused to mature  into adolescence and adulthood, regularly coughing up a quarter, and later 35 cents (cheap!) for issues of Mad and deep in a box in my awesome basement I came up with these three beauties from the 60’s. The pages are brittle, but then again, so was the humor.

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In what other publication could a kid learn to be a cynical shit though tough love satire like this classic showing the big bad wolf blowing down the Berlin Wall.

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I still crack up about the warning about making sure we pay close attention to the asterisk in ads. 1964 Plymic “luxury car with the economy price” for $2,164. Asterisk-all the stuff you need like power brakes, seats, a roof….are extra.

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There was the famous inside back cover fold in. Here’s one asking “Who wants to be President more than anything? with caricatures of former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and failed 1964 candidate Barry Goldwater. Fold it in…and it reveals the real answer….Richard Nixon!  

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Think things are much different today than they were in Mad’s heyday in the 1960’s. You would be wrong. Take a look at Chapter 1 in The Mad Primer of Bigots, Extremists and Other Loose Ends, which concludes, “Now you know what a Super Patriot is. He’s someone who loves his country while hating 93% of the people who live in it.”

chapter1Mad held nothing sacred, taking aim at even the most sacred chestnuts such as the soundtrack from “Sound of Music” as part of its feature titled, “Fakeout Record Jackets.”

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Of course Mad’s classic subversive Spy vs. Spy strip basically lampooned how idiotic creating international conflicts is with every perceived “victory” being pyrrhic in the end. spyspy

Right up until the end, Mad shoved it up butts that deserved thorough stuffing, including recently departed Press Secretary Sarah Sanders …trumpsanders

and the arrogant Facebook posse.

facebooklibraBut the bottom line is we need Mad’s kind of satire to keep us laughing when so much seems so hard to take. Oh sure, a lot of what “the usual gang of idiots” published was technically “fake,” but like all good comedy, based on truth…and that’s what helps us keep it real.

RIP MAD. Neuman in 2020! Sorry, Pete. 

Some Rules to Keep Those Crowded Democratic Debates Moving

debatefullBeen thinking a bit about the challenge of 10 candidates at a time trying to make their best pitches during the two-night Democratic version of “Survivor.”

The combination of binge-watching “Veep” and lack of REM sleep conspired to create this imaginary scenario of how it might go.

NBC Moderator: Welcome to the first Democratic presidential debates for the 2020 election cycle. Since we have so many unknowns, er, candidates on the stage mixed in with a few old guys, er, elder statesman, we’ll have to set down a few rules to make this work.

First, to save time, we’re boiling your names down to one or two quick syllables. For examples, you, from South Bend, you’ll be addressed as Butt, while long, tall, spastic hand-waving guy from Texas will be Butt-O. See the difference? Makes sense, right? There won’t be a doubt whom we’re addressing. The former Veep will be identified as Bye and the other old guy from Vermont will be Burn. The senators from California and Massachusetts will be recognized as Harry and Tonto respectively. Sorry if we seem disrespectful at times, but this is television and we don’t care.

As for the others whose polls barely show a pulse, we’re just going to address all of you as Who? Just jump in if you have a thought, but be prepared to do so only when we’re in commercial. That’s simply to keep things moving and because, again, we don’t care.

Some of you won’t like the names we’re assigned you but let’s face it, for at least half of you, it doesn’t matter because most Americans don’t know who you are anyway, so go with it and enjoy your 15 seconds of face time in between ramblings by the front runners, aka, those sucking up all the donations, airtime and are prominent enough to earn an obnoxious nickname from President Trump.

We’ll start with opening statements. Due to the number of candidates and time constraints please limit your statements to a 20-second pre-written soundbite you hope will go viral. 

From there our panel, chosen from recent visitors to the Bronx Zoo, will fire off piercing questions. Each of you will be limited to either two-word responses or one hand gesture. Rebuttals are allowed, but, again, due to time restraints they will be limited to the following choices:  “Huh,” “Uh uh,” “Well, yeah, but,” or simply a moment of arched eyebrows or a tight grimace.

At the end, each candidate will be afforded a closing statement of 12 seconds or less. That pretty much kills the idea of parenthetical thoughts or tangents and gets us off the air on time because no one in this great country wants to miss even a second of the popular NBC series “Filthy Rich Cattle Drive.” which, you have to admit, is genius programming following this useless cattle call.

We realize not every candidate will have to time to fully flesh out his or her talking points but then again, that’s not why you’re watching, right? You’re here for the inevitable embarrassing screw-up or pantsing of one candidate by another frustrated when his or her arched eyebrow rebuttal was laughed off as an incomplete response.

So if everyone is ready, let’s to this thing! Time’s wasting!

Kitsch and Tell

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Thought you might like to know I recently bought a blue thing that’ll keep my sunglasses from sinking in the river…and a kazoo. These were not impulse items. Indeed, I had considered both for some time but never had the ambition to search among many stores, or online, for either. But I found them them mere yards apart at an old emporium in East Aurora, New York. It’s called Viddlers 5 and 10 with the subtitle, “you never know what you’ll find there.”

viddlerstuffLet’s clear up something first. The 5 and the 10 do not mean nickel or dime. I found nothing there that costs pennies, but I suppose you could make the case that you do need at least 100 pennies to make a buck and most items there cost several of those.

Unlike the 5 and 10-cent stores I remember as a kid, Viddlers doesn’t have a tank of homeless goldfish for sale or a lunch counter serving up malts, BLTs or Bromo Seltzers.

Vidlers bozoWhat it does have is the luscious aroma of old wood-planked floors that squeak with every step, a million little tchochkes begging to collect dust in your home, lawn art, pots and pans, board games, paint, back scratchers, a billion types of candy and other sweets, books, magnets for your refrigerator with a picture of the store, (bought one of those too) and silly signs.

childrensignI love the one that says, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten.” No one actually buys them, but if you wanted to, Viddlers has ‘em for you.

 

How about a dopey hat that looks like a cheeseburger….or a bison? Might be a hit at the synagogue where every other guy just sports a little round yarmulke? I think bisons are kosher, no?hamburgerhat

Then there’s the toothpick bird. Got something caught in your teeth? Touch the birdie the right way and it coughs up a handy toothpick. I can only hope Viddlers finds the floss flounder one day.

toothpickbirdWhen visiting Viddlers it’s important to check out every one of its many rooms and every corner in each room because that’s where some of the best stuff is hiding, like a some odd sized pan or garden gargoyle.

kazooI found my kazoo begging for attention on a lower shelf. It competed against two other kazoos, but I settled on mine because I liked the box and color. I wanted to try it out, as you would with any musical instrument, but I was told it’s not cool to slobber over something you may not decide to buy. So I took a chance and gambled two bucks it would mesh with my particular playing style.

The blue thing for my sunglasses was hanging near a bunch of toys, and not anywhere near sunglasses, which I’m not even sure Viddlers sells. I need this thing because I’m always afraid my sunglasses will fall off my head and into the drink when I’m kayaking or attempting to walk across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee. Now I can enter water with full confidence that no matter what unfortunate circumstances befall me, my sunglasses won’t sink.

sunglassesViddlers hasn’t always been called Viddlers. According to its website, “Robert S. Vidler, Sr. opened “The Fair Store” in the quaint village of East Aurora. Family legend has it that his mother-in-law complained of having to go all the way to Buffalo (16 miles distant) to buy a spool of thread – and Robert saw the opportunity for a new, local business.”

He changed the name to Viddlers 15 years later.

This was technically my second visit to Viddlers. My first didn’t last long. We intended to stop in on our way home to Michigan from my in-laws place in  Rochester, N.Y. East Aurora, which is near Buffalo, is way off the route but my in-laws had enthusiastically recommended, so we took the detour. Hmm..plenty of parking in the back. Good start. Uh oh…door locked. It was Memorial Day. Sign informed us Viddlers not open on Memorial Day. Bad ending. So now it’s a year later and we avoided all holidays and tried again. This time there was still plenty of parking, but many of the spaces were taken…and the door was open.

We may go back to Viddlers again some day. I do like corn on the cob and ribs. I hope the toothpick bird is still available.

Clucking Over Stampede for Chick fil A

chicksandwichI woke up this morning to read about a stampede of sheep lining up to eat chicken. Here in Detroit people are used to working hard to put food on the table but I would suggest, the meal they got yesterday wasn’t worth the laborious multi-hour wait in line for a breaded chicken sandwich.

 

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I truly believe it’s Atlanta’s lingering revenge for the work of General Sherman. He burned that southern city long ago, and now it’s returning the favor to us Yankees by luring us away from work, play, families and good health with the scourge called Chick fil A.

For a few hours Wednesday the chain of chicken joints opened a pop-up version in the lobby of the Chrysler House–a downtown Detroit office building. Long before the doors opened the lines began to form with those who had never sampled the stuff along with those who are addicted to it. Only two cashiers were on duty to handle the hundreds of hungry Chick fil Afficiandos.

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Detroit Free Press Photo

 

I lived in Atlanta for 8 years and yes, we stopped at Chick fil A from time to time but we much preferred a chain called Mrs. Winners for our chicken fix. The biscuits were as big as cat’s heads and the chicken was to die for, since the greasy, delicious barnyard bird would surely hasten one’s demise, but who needs to live that long anyway, right?

Let’s get real. A Chick fil A sandwich is a breaded piece of chicken with a pickle on top on a very ordinary bun. The chicken does taste pretty good, but worth wasting one’s limited time on Earth waiting for it? I don’t think so.

In Chick fil A’s hometown, the lines were about the same as you’d see at any fast food place. Here in Michigan, at the very upscale Somerset Collection mall, the lines at the Chick fil A in its food court inexplicably snake around and around while other vendors sadly sit with no one to serve. I’m always tempted to hang around with a camera hoping to catch someone in imagined rapture after taking that last bite, sighing, and lighting up a Lucky to complete the act.

I have another beef with aforementioned chicken place. When I lived in Atlanta and working for CNN, there was a Chick fil A in the commercial atrium at CNN Center. Many of us belonged to the health club on the lower level. Since I worked overnights when I produced the morning show, I would hit the gym when I got off the air at 9am. Did my exercises, swam my laps, knocked myself out playing racket ball, gettin’ real healthy, right? But the fumes from the damned Chick fil A wafted down the stairs, into the gym and after showering and dressing and being hypnotized by the aroma we followed our noses back up the stairs straight to the Chick fil A and promptly ordered two chicken biscuits and waffle fries. A sincere workout gone straight to hell.

Aw..what am I saying? Writing about it has my olfactory working overtime.  It was damned worth it. Gonna head to Somerset Place and get in line.

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!

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.