Mar 30, 2012


The lady behind me in the check-out line at the local A&P had a very peculiar order. Even more peculiar, the guy in front of me thought all the containers were mine. And, even more peculiar than that, I felt the need to vehemently dissociate myself from the whole mess.

"You must really like yogurt, huh?"
"No, it's not mine."
"Ha!" He smiles. "You sure fooled me."
"Why would I make something like that up?"
I grab the plastic order divider thingy and wave it. "You SEE?!?!"
He looks at the lady in back of me and starts laughing.
"Oh, so it's YOURS."
She looks away, mortified.

She should have expected such a reaction. I just hope she didn't see me take this photo:

I really hate being part of the problem.

Mar 23, 2012

Playing Games

Mary Pols, a TIME columnist, wrote a piece appropriately entitled “Why I'm NOT Taking My 8-Year Old To The Hunger Games.” If you are reading this, I’m guessing (at the very least) your secondary address is “under a rock.” Thus, like me, you have neither an 8-year old nor a clue as to what The Hunger Games is.

But, just like there is no need to run out and adopt an 8-year old so you can deny them life experiences, there is no need to view the film The Hunger Games to play along with this post. Here is my secondhand summary of the book-turned-movie: in a post-apocalyptic world (surprise!), teens are sent – via a government-sanctioned lottery – to the wilderness where they battle each other to the death while on the TV. According to people who have time for this nonsense, themes of this story include oppression, poverty, self-preservation, power, and downfall.

If that's the case, maybe everyone should skip the box office and just let the 8-year olds talk to anyone over 35.


Pols points to the film’s vivid violence as the main reason why THG is inappropriate for youngsters. An illustrative quote:
Nearly two dozen kids aged 12 to 18 die by machete, sword, blows with a brick, a spear to the chest, arrows, having their necks snapped. All damage inflicted by each other.
And we thought WE had it rough with dodge ball in junior high gym class. Ah, those halcyon PRE-apocalyptic pubescent years.

As extreme as this violence sounds, me thinks Pols needs to pop a pill. And I should know as I am an expert…on film violence, not pills. You see, I was raised on horror and graphically violent films, which is precisely why I spurn them as an adult. My mom, who mad-crushed on Tom Savini and named my younger brother after the lead character in A Clockwork Orange, watched them with us and explained things like “special effects” and “imagination” to me and my siblings. In hindsight, I think it was a valuable life lesson. I mean, we may have grown up into a bunch of fucking weirdos but, as kids, we were never frightened or fooled by movie magic like stunt fighting or elaborate makeup.

Perhaps Pols can take comfort in the anecdotal evidence that exposure to gore at a young age completely turned me off to it in later years. Really, I couldn’t care less if my eyes never see “fantasy violence” again. Furthermore, I feel the experience has contributed to my character in several other positive ways. For one, it has helped me develop one of my more special talents: the ability to give sarcastic running commentary during horror films thus spoiling the fun for anyone who generally enjoys the genre.

And this baptism by celluloid carnage has also deepened my dark sense of humor, which a few oddballs actually appreciate. True story: I once chased a Jehovah’s Witness around with a bag of fake blood saying “I’m going to transfuse you!” in the most Dracula-esque accent I could summon. Though, in that context, my actions were more along the lines of psychological/spiritual thriller than horror. But, I digress.

So, having established my authority on the subject, I've got a message for Pols and any other adult who is about to forbid their kid a ticket to see The Hunger Games. There is obviously a shitload of peer-pressure on pre- and young teens to see this film. If you don’t take them, they will find a way to see it without you. And if this crap really does cover the themes it is purported to, your kids will need you there to explain it to them. So take them; turn it into a teaching moment. And, while you are at it, seize that opportunity to also explain that movies are not real, that violence is usually unnecessary, and that junior high gym class really isn’t that bad.

Mar 11, 2012

Spirit In the Sky

While catching up on the news of the week, I was particularly drawn to the story of the American Airlines flight attendant who went berserk. If you haven’t heard, a cracked cabin aide took control of the intercom and delivered a diatribe which included such gems as "Oh, I forgot to take my meds,” and “Captain, I am not responsible for crashing this plane.”

Members of the flight crew as well as passengers physically subdued the poor thing while she screamed: an outburst described by one witness as “demonic.”

According to experts, this incident was the inevitable consequence of extreme workplace stress. It seems the airline industry is fraught with hectic hours, comparatively low pay, and a challenging work environment.

Say, how is that different from the atmosphere at any other workplace? In fact, I just read an article on how Chinese factory owners literally wrap their facilities in wire netting so workers can’t jump from windows to their deaths. You don’t see the Chinese melting down or otherwise making escapes via emergency slip and slide thingies with mini liquor bottles in tow. Oh, right. The netting.

Anyway, my point is that I tend to think the stress level in such a place may be slightly more intense than it is at American Airlines.

And that is precisely why I’m siding with the onlooker and sighting demonic possession as the lone and only reason for this event. The problem isn’t corporate greed at the expense of the worker. Nonsense! It’s the Icarus-like hubris of man to think he is worthy of flight. God did not give us wings. As punishment for our pride, Satan’s stewardess paid the price for all of humanity who finds it acceptable to fly, if you will, in the face of God’s plan to keep us grounded.

But where does that leave us? Airline travel is a multi-billion dollar juggernaut that not even the Almighty can abolish.

I have an idea. And while it may only be a Band-Aid measure, I think it can work. I propose the US Government mandate an undercover exorcist on each and every flight. Not only will this calm the nerves of passengers on the heels of this news story, but--more importantly--it will prevent any possessed flight attendant from serving up pea soup the hard way.

Keep flying the fiend-ly skies, folks.

Mar 1, 2012

Oh, Baby

Several weeks ago, I came across a bit of a discovery regarding the Lindbergh baby, whose kidnapping occurred 80 years ago today. While the famous crime took place in Hopewell, NJ, it turns out the child was actually born in north NJ's Bergen County – just a few miles from where I live and mere blocks from where I work.

It seems the Morrow/Lindbergh clan had a special hospital built on the Morrow family's Englewood estate in order to provide the most kind conditions under which to welcome Charles Jr. into this cruel world. Ironically, this estate – unlike the Hopewell house – was under heavy security due to the prominence and celebrity of the Morrows and Lindberghs.

The estate now functions as part of a K-8 private school which was founded in 1930 by Elisabeth Cutter Morrow, the Lindbergh baby’s grandmother.

Here is the Morrow estate as it existed in 1934:

And here it is today:

Simply fascinating, I know.

While my imagination was captured by this bit of history, it was damn right held hostage by the realization of the sheer amount of activity that goes on TODAY regarding this kiddie caper. And it’s not all just rehash of old news; there are actually people on the interwebs who claim the emergence of new evidence in recent years. Yes, “breaking news” on the Lindbergh baby. There is officially a message board for everything.

Don't get me wrong, I am not one to throw stones at folks who file Freedom of Information Act requests as my window of weirdness has been broken for years. File fast and frequently, I say. Make those Federal workers earn their pensions.

You see, what really left me reeling were the pages upon pages of stories I found of people who convinced themselves that they actually WERE the Lindbergh baby. Among the more outlandish accounts was one by a Black woman from NJ’s own capital city. The following appeared in an article on originally published in 1998:
In 1989 Geneva E. Cato Fields of Trenton filed her "claim," backing it up with a self-published memoir entitled "I Located Myself, The Lindbergh Baby Alive."
Ms. Fields, who was raised in Oklahoma, wrote that in 1978 she learned from a friend about "the Skin Dye Procedure my Banana-Split Sex operation and seeing my birth records stating Born MALE-WHITE, My mind blocked the fact and I wrote this book, as you can see, as if I had never been told, Until my skin dye started to fade in March this year I still kept blocking the fact I did not want It to be true. But it is."
Yup. As theories go, it’s as crazy as the day is long. But it does speak to a more overarching reason why this story is still alive and kicking. Well, at least more so than Charles Jr.

There is something universally appealing about this 80-year old saga. Sure, life loves a tragedy. Especially when it involves the trifecta of rich folks, government conspiracy, and children.

But people are also intoxicated by the idea of “what if?”

In this case, the “what if?” is not just contained to the facts surrounding the closed case – the who-dun-it, the potential police cover-up, the classified FBI files – it extends to the possibility that the baby did not die in 1932. The appeal is the fantastic idea that any person who fit the description on the poster (and, apparently, Ms. Fields) could be someone other than who they thought they were for their entire life. A proposition that, for some, is worth all the ransom money in the world.