Sunday, December 31, 2006

What a way to end the year. If 2006 could be summed up it one moment it was earlier this evening.

As has become tradition, I went with my friend Jason and his wife and four children to watch the fireworks down by the river. It's really nice and really unique for me to be sitting in my shirt sleeves on the last evening of the year with a warm breeze blowing over me as I watch the fireworks. Back home people are bundled in layers of sweaters and coats as they go to the warmth inside someone house to watch the festivities on TV.

I can deal with a Florida New Years.

We sit on the lawn of an assisted living facility. It sits atop a small bluff and gives a great view of the pavilion around which the festivities take place and a panoramic look at the Indian River. As we sat there two grey haired women walked by and were caught by the cuteness and activity of Jason's two smallest children. When I see old folks fascinated by toddlers I'm always reminded of Peter Boyle's character, Frank, on "Everybody Loves Raymond; always wanting to breath in the youth from little kids.

As they were getting ready to leave one of them leaned in to get a closer lok at me. She said, "You remind me of a guy who serves coffee up at the book store in the mall".

"He mush be a very attractive and good looking guy!" I answered.

"Well, he's attractive but I don't know about good looking!" And she walked away.

I don't think Jason has stopped laughing yet.

Happy New Year to's to more of the same ole shit for another year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Uncle Dale Dorman.....Speed Racer....Kimba.....Creature Double Feature

These are my memories of WLVI Channel 56. For those reading this old enough to remember, there was a time before cable TV. Where I grew up there were the three major networks, PBS and two UHF channels from Boston; WSBK and WLVI. For me, the king was WLVI.

I would rush home from school every day for back to back episodes of Speed Racer and Kimba the White Lion. This was hosted by Dale Dorman. "Uncle" Dale, as he was known, was a local radio DJ and host of the afternoon kids programming. After Paul Lynde, he was the first exposure I had to gays in entertainment. Come to think of it now, it is kinda creepy that he was known as "Uncle" Dale. But back then he was just flamboyant, outgoing and a helluva lot of fun to watch on TV. His personality and excitement burst from the tube.

Many a Sunday, my friend Mike and I would sit and watch Japanese monster movies on the Creature Double Feature. There was also a late night movie series that played the old Buster Crabbe "Flash Gordon" serials. For a young couch potato it was the place to be.

Now word comes out of Boston that the station is being downsized and turned into a low power outlet for informercials and some CW network programming. Jack Hybes, a staple of Boston TV news closed the final news broadcast publicly lambasting the management for allowing what he called "a tragic chapter in Boston television history" to happen.

Many of my recent posts have been a walk down memory lane and each one has ended with a dead end. Fire gutted dining halls, amusement parks taken over by field grass and now TV studios covered with dust. Then I look in the mirror and notice more grey than I did last month.

This growing old shit really sucks.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Auto Curse is confirmed!

As Thursday rolled around and my car still wasn't fixed my good friend, Jason, offered to let me borrow his Ford Expedition until Christmas Eve. It worked out perfect, I was still able to get Johnny, would be able to get around to parties and shopping and Jason's family still had their other car to use to get around.

I didn't have the car 24 hours and something broke!

OK, it wasn't something critical, but still I sat there in amazement as I pressed on the button for the cruise control and the rubber button disintegrated under mu finger. Little bits of rubber and plastic fell away from the steering wheel, onto my thigh and the floor beneath.

I touch cars and they fall apart!

At my Starfleet chapter Christmas party we did the math and figured out that in the 13 years I had lived in Florida I had gone through 7 cars. That's a different car every 22 months. So, I'll be looking again come July 2008!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A moment to remember Joe Barbara.

As part of the nostalgia binge I have been on recently I have been overdosing on Hanna-Barbaba cartoons on the Boomerang channel. I sit there watching some of these shows for the first time in 35 years and its as if only moments had gone by since I saw them last. I laugh at the same joke and find new ones I never understood as a child. The cars and worries of bills, schedules and phone calls to return are washed away in a sea of celluloid and paint. The noses of traffic, answering machines and ghetto stereos is replaced with wacky sound effects, cheesy 60's music and the voices of Jean VanDerPyle, Alan Reed and Daws Butler.

Tom and Jerry, Ruff and Reddy, Snaggletooth, Magilla Gorilla, Touche Turtle, The Wacjy Racers, the Banana Splits, Hong Kong Phooey, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Top Cat, Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, Johnny Quest, Space Ghost, Penelope Pitstop, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Pixie and Dixie, the Jetsons, Scooby Doo, Charlotte;s Web, the Smurfs, Atom Ant, Secret Squirrel, Jabberjaw, Captain Caveman, Josie and the Pussycats, the Hair Bear Bunch, Sealab 2020, Lippy the Lion, Harlen Globetrotters, the Herculoids, Samson and Goliath, Frankenstein Jr, Hillybilly Bears, Peter Potamus, Precious Pup, Wally Gator, Grape Ape, Partridge Family 2200, Speed Buggy, Dinky Dog and KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.

Watch some of these when you can. Smile. And thank Joe.

Thanks, Joe.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Hey, I remember you!"

Those were the words the tow truck operator greeted me with as he approached my disabled car Saturday afternoon.

"Jack?!" you say, "You're having car trouble?! I'm shocked!"

Just when I thought I had a car I could trust for a while my steering column breaks. OK, "breaks" is a slight understatement. First, a few weeks ago, it started getting loose. I was able to jiggle the wheel slightly. Then in the past week, it would gently roll around in a circle. I had been planning on getting it into the shop when it would start to short out the radio when I was sitting in the car a lunch and tap the wheel.

Saturday, I got in the car to head to the store during a break from work. As you leave my building you have to make a u-turn on the 6 lane major roadway, US 1. As I made the turn...the car stalled. I pulled over and tried to start the car. It would turn over but then quickly die. As the heavy traffic whizzed by me I decided to at least get the car out of traffic. As I rolled the car back into the nearest driveway I went to turn the wheel and the entire steering column began to rotate.

This was bad.

Oh, and did I mention that it was raining? Just to add insult to injury!

I got the car out of traffic and went to the nearest pay phone to call AAA. I understand the job these dispatchers have to do and also that they are in some regional call center hundreds of miles away. However, my patience drew thin as the gomer on the other end of the phone asked one insipid question after another all the time rain water is pooling in my socks. I explained the precarious location I was in and he assured me he would put my on their priority list. "Priority", in this case meant a 2 hour wait.

Two local police cars came up to check on me. With lights and burning flares they sat vigil with me. Well, from their point of view they had just scored at least an hour and a half break where all they had to do was sit in their car.

As I sat in my comatose car waiting I began to think back on my history of cars. My friend Jason says he has never, in the 12 years he has known me, known me to have good luck with cars. If had known me longer he would have been sure of an automobile curse I seem to have.

My friend Harry can tell some of the best stories about me and cars, right from the beginning. The times he and his father saved me as one thing or another would go wrong and they would laugh at my lack on knowledge of cars. Oh, they would help me and try to educate me about simple repairs but they would still laugh. There is an autograph from my friend Mike in my high school year book that makes reference to a transmission problem my car had. I drove that car into the ground basically.

I had a Ford Escort that spent so much time in a garage parking lot that a homeless guy moved into it. There was also the time, after a convention in Boston, I had to have 6 friends push the car so I could pop the clutch to get the engine running.

There was the Chrysler K-car station wagon with the hole on the floor board. I was once drove through a puddle and had it suddenly raining inside the car.

My VW bus was unique in that once the car was running a bungee cord held the stick shift in place so the transmission would stay in gear.

Our trip to Shore Leave a few years ago was memorable for being the last one taken in my last really good car, the Ford Aerostar. We had gotten no more than 100 miles away from home when a belt went which took out the A/C and then the entire engine by the time we got to Maryland.

There was the Ford Thunderbird that couldn't go more than 45 mins without a refill of the radiator.

The Cadillac with the sun-baked roof. I can't complain about that car much; it's the one that saved my life in the accident.

I should be back on the road soon. The expense of the repair will screw with Christmas a little.

Maybe Santa will read this and bring me a new car!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My friend Howard, apparently likes nothing more than to make me cry. In a recent blog he posted this video:

As I watched this, it was if I was swept back 35 years. I could hear whistle of the train as it rolled down the tracks around the edge of the park's property. I could feel the work that went into making the crank run car go. I could smell the chlorine in the water of the boat ride.

Then today I get a surprise gift from him; a t-shirt remembering the Shore Dinner Hall at Rocky Point Park. Years of memories flooded back again. The smells and taste of clam cakes and chowder from the take out window. The political rallys in the dinner hall. The years spent at Rocky Point Park as a child. Then, I had the right of passage for almost ALL teenagers in Warwick, RI; a job at the concession stands. I also worked the Shore Dinner Hall close to its demise when it was turned into a flea market which was a client of the radio station where I worked and I would do remote broadcasts from there on weekends.

Jolly Cholly's and Rocky Point are no more. I have no idea what happened to Jolly Cholly's but Rocky Point has been the target of developers for years. I'm not sure if I was crying from the joy of the memories of remorse over being reminded of their passing.

The vivid memories live on in my mind. How we concession workers would drink concoctions of as many different sodas in one cup. The potato paste which was shaped into french fries; sounds gross, but they were better than McDonald's! Watching my stepson go to a public restroom by himself for the first time. Well, almost; I followed behind as a discreet distance making sure the little 4 year old found his way back and forth without getting lost. The look of pride in his eyes when he came back strutting like a Big Boy. Riding the rides at Jolly Cholly's with my niece, Cheryl; in the Batmobile, I was Batman and she was Robin.

Thank you for making me cry, Howard.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sorry, I haven't posted in a while. So much so, I've lost track of what has and hasn't happened; so, I'll just go with what happened this evening.

I just came back from "The Friends of the Bob and Tom Show Comedy Tour". It featured five stan up comedians who are regulars on the Bob and Tom Show. It was a great time. Johnny and I went with a friend of mine from work. John enjoyed the evening and they were all good.

At the end of the evening the comics were in the lobby selling shirts, CD's and signing autographs. As I stood there I was kicking myself for not doing what I had wanted and that was bringing a sample of my stand up from the company talent shows to give to the host from the Bob and Tom show or one of the comics. My idea was to give it to one of them for a critical review from a professional to see if I was really any good.

I realize that my performances at these talent shows are playing to a home field advantage. A lot of what I say in my "act" is related to the job and easily relatable for those there. If you've read this blog with any regularity you know of the frustrated performer inside of me. I would love to be able to act on the stage or film, stand up or voice work.

When I was younger, it was a fear of leaving home that kept me from moving to New York to break into acting. Then, life got in the way. But still I had the itch. Working in radio soothed that for a while. Again, life got in the way. I would occasionally do local theater and now voice work. The itch is still there.

As I walked away from the theater I tried explaining some of this to my son. How, if maybe with a little encouragement from a professional that there really was some talent there that I could give my dream a shot. We got in the car and drove away. As we slowly made our way though the heavy after show traffic I kept running it through my head. I though ahead to Monday morning being back in my cubicle at work. Then I thought of the way I felt when I caused laughter in an audience.

I pulled out of traffic and turned back toward the theater. When I arrived one of the comics was standing outside. I approached his, complimented him on his set and then told him why I was there. He kindly offered to look at a sample of my work and tell me what he thought of my writing and performing.

Life is made up of these moments; when you can look back and see that moment when things took a turn. Will this be one of those? If I had kept driving south on US 1, I never would have known.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sorry I haven't posted for a while. The holiday was quiet but it kept me and John busy. Today, however, I was inspired to post thanks to the continuing stupidity of my management at work. Get ready for this one......

As usual, I have decorated my cubicle at work with my collection of 40 Santas and strings of blinking lights. I have just added to it this year with an animated, singing Homer Simpson Santa. We were having visitors from our parent company and our management went into their usual panic mode. When we have any high level visitors management's head gets pushed further u[ their asses. We have been told, in the past, to put our waste baskets out of sight and not to get out of our seats unless absolutely necessary. Why these people would not think that an office would generate trash is beyond me. And wouldn't a vibrant, active office look better than a bunch of drones shackled to their cubicle?

It was in this same mind set that my supervisor came to me Wednesday telling me that I would not be able to have my Christmas lights on while the visitors were in the building.

I laughed out loud.

Apparently these visitors were scared of blinking little lights and goodness knows Christmas lights look so much more attractive when they are off.

Being the good little employee, I agreed; although grudgingly. That was until I walked in Thursday morning to see three other desks in other departments with their lights on as usual not to mention the company Christmas three in the lobby.

I went to my supervisor and manager telling them, "Your request for turning my lights off has gone from stupid to unfair." I pointed out the other displays and added. "Again, emphasis on stupid." My manager, who carefully holds on to being a real person and having to lay down company edicts when she knows how idiotic they are, did not make eye contact with me during this meeting but made it appear that her paperwork was of the utmost importance. The manager said they had already been discussing it and would bring it to our AVP. (The company "golf pro" for those in the know)

Twenty minuets later she came back and said I now had approval from on high to turn my lights back on. Ahhhhhhhh, vindication!!! I know it's not much and not a major issue but it felt so good to stand up against the stupidity and win. I knew what I was going to say since the night before as I had been stewing over this whole thing since the moment my supervisor came to me.

Oh, and my supervisor........

Afterwards, she came by my desk for something and I said to her, "You knew exactly what I was going to say the moment I walked in your office, didn't you?"

"Uh-huh", she said smugly.

"That's why you never looked at me the whole time or else you wouldda busted out laughing, right?"

She just smiled and walked away.