Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This year has certainly been a good one to political junkies like myself. And the fun isn't over yet.

In Minnesota former Saturday Night Live writer, Al Franken, is within mere handfuls of votes from being elected senator. The reason I want Franken to win is to give him the opportunity to put his money where is mouth is. He has published books lambasting the conservative right and also hosted a radio talk show. It is easy when in those positions to argue, debate and spew rhetoric all day long; it is a completely different thing to be the one doing the job for real. From a cushy seat behind a computer or microphone a person has the luxury of not having to actually produce results but to only nit pick those results made by others. If elected will Franken be able to live up to his calling? I hope so.

I am still hoping that Caroline Kennedy gets appointed Senator in New York. She does, however, prove one thing; not all Kennedys have "it". I have heard Teddy speak and had a one on one experience with Teddy Jr and they have "it". Patrick Kennedy, after 20 years in public service, still cannot make a speech sounding like a winded teenager. In a prepared speech, like that at the Democratic National Convention, Caroline is fine. However, I just watched a video of her talking with a reporter in which she said "you know" 23 times in 2 minuets. I understand that such a phrase is simply the brain's way of giving itself time to sort through information while looking for what it needs while at the same time keeping a conversation going. It is also a lazy man's way of doing so. "Ummm", "Uhhhh" and "Like" are in the same category of lazy speaking. A thoughtful pause is always more impressive than a throwaway phrase that, when repeated over and over again, can decrease the importance of what you are trying to say.

She's new at this; I understand. Her media consultants and staff aren't and should be thumping her on the head every time she says "you know" to break her of the habit. She's a very intelligent woman and should sound like one every time she opens her mouth.

You know...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What does today mean when you really don't believe?

A day off. Nothing but Chinese take out if you haven't stocked up correctly. A stress-free ride on major roadways. Some fairly decent movies opening at the theater.

This thought weighed on me as I drove around. Yes, I am the same guy with 83 Santas on his desk. That's 83 Santas but not one manger. I've even been to Bethlehem and seen "the spot" where Christ was born. In recent years, though, I have shuffled off most of the religious beliefs into which I was indoctrinated as a child for logic and reason. Faith is defined as "a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny". I gave up on supernatural powers when I realized that DC Comics were stories and not documentaries on the lives of Batman and Superman. And as far as "controlling human destiny", I have seen that life is far too random to be under any sort of control.

Webster's defines faith as "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". While it may be shaken from time to time I have faith in the belief that Lee Oswald did not act alone. The "evidence" is sometimes questionable but, just like religion, enough of it is laid out so I can reason through it and reach a logical conclusion. In 46 years a belief in a god has not provided any such proof.

I tend to agree with the Jews who say, basically, that a teacher named Jesus probably did exist and had a pretty good philosophy. I can see that. I can read the Bible and come away with some really good, basic rules for living a good life.

Does that cheapen my memories of my childhood Christmases? No. I still treasure the memories of all of those candlelight services I went to in my childhood church, of being lector for a number of years running at the midnight services and going Christmas caroling in some of the coldest weather I can remember.

I also pondered whether or not all my curse words still held any strength without the faith to back them up? Does "damn it" or "got to hell" really mean anything when I say them? I know I certainly feel the strong emotion when I say them but if I don't really believe the person I am yelling at will end up in a purgatory am I just shooting blanks? Loud and frightening like the real thing but with no stopping power.

I will still decorate each year with my growing horde of Clauses and I will sleep in on December 25th and eat Chinese food. I will also wish you a good day celebrating in whatever way you see fit and hope you have a Merry one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I got yer Christmas spirit right here!

You are looking at what some are calling my obsession. My collection of 83 Santas all loaded into my cubicle. I went for a "toned down" display this year. I did away with the yards and yards of wrapping paper to cover my desk and the 250 lights from previous years and simply showed off my collection.

All day long I have the feeling I'm being watched!

This collection has grown each year. If I don't get a promotion with a bigger desk, next year I'll have to modify the desk by adding a shelf as the little guys are starting to get a little crowded.

There are M&M Santas, a Homer Simpson Santa, snow globe Santas, Santa bears, beach Santas, a Spongebob and a Patrick Santa, skating Santas, round Santas, tall Santas and Santa and the entire team of reindeer from the Rankin Bass "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindee".

My favorite this year is one of those spring loaded Swiss puppet toys that when you press the button on the bottom the strings holding it together lose all tension and the puppett goes limp and then pops back up when you release the button. This one is of the "skinny Santa" from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". I press the button just enough to make the Santa slightly jerk from side to side as the head and arms go limp and flail around. I call this "Michael J. Fox as Santa"!

Also, since I am on my company's "Green Committee" which is overseeing recycling and energy saving practices around the company I used only the LED lights which use less power, don't emit any ambient heat and they're on a timer.

People are constantly stopping by and either commenting or taking pictures. I have almost been outdone by other departments who have turned some entire rows to versions of Santa's Village and one with a "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme.

On an individual basis, mine takes the prize. That is, if my company ever decided to have a decorating contest...then I'd win a prize!

The best side story to this is when I called my friend Lisa to tell her all abut my desk she announced to her 10 year old daughter, "Uncle Jack has 83 Santas in his office."

There was a moment as this pint sized "Dexter Riley" (10 points if you get the reference) pictured such a thing in her mind piped up and said, "How did he get all those people in his office and are they all wearing a Santa suit?!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

How do I explain this photo?!

Yes, that is yours truly kissing Wilford Brimley!

Wilford is our company spokesperson and was in town visiting and receiving a special award from the American Diabetes Association. After the festivities were over with he sat down for photos and autographs for employees.

One thing you have to know about Wilford is he enjoys greeting our female employees more than he enjoys greeting the male employees. No female employee is immune from a squeeze or hug from Wilford. As I stood in line behind half a dozen ladies all I heard from Wilford was, "Can I have a smooch!"

I decided turn about was fair play!

To make it better, the first we took the photo it didn't come out perfectly so the person with the camera asked if we could do it again. To which Wilford answered looking up at me, "A son of a bitch that big can do whatever he wants!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Barrett Roddenberry has passed away today. Not a sit down and cry moment for Trek fans but a moment to reflect, none the less.

I had a met and interacted with Majel on a number of occasions over the years. She could be sweet and charming and she could be a bitch on wheels. You could, however, always be her best friend by presenting her with a glass of white wine. She LOVED her white wine.

My first experiences with her were during the heyday of fandom of the mid to late 80's when Lincoln Enterprises still ruled the roost when it came to collectables. Lincoln was the first mail order company to offer Star Trek memorabilia. She had started it by selling copies of scripts and otherwise discarded frames of edited film from the series. To starving fans this was like manna from heaven. Slowly the list of items grew to include patches, stationery and jewlery. Long before there were hucksters rooms at conventions teeming with merchandise or even eBay, there was Lincoln Enterprises.

And Majel was the Queen....and she let you know it. Many a time I would see her sweep through a huckster room with an assistant in her wake scratching away in a notebook.

"You can't sell this! You can't sell that!" She would yell at each offending dealer selling something they had not "legally" purchased through Lincoln, "That's copyrighted! That's a bootleg! That's unauthorized. You'll be getting our lawyer's letter!"

To many of us fans at the time she was seen as being a little too protective. For years, fans and dealers had been able to make their own merchandise and fed a cottage industry in fandom. When George Lucas came along and shut down any fan based moneymaking off of HIS CREATION a light bulb went off at Paramount that they had missed a major money making opportunity for the previous dozen or so years and Majel was their avenging angel. Luckily, Paramount, Majel and even Lucas all calmed down and have learned how important that cottage industry really was.

It was during the Platinum Anniversary Convention in 1986 in Boston that I learned about Majel and her white wine. Majel, myself and a few other members of the convention committee were in one of the bars at the hotel in between appearances and she was sipping her white wine. When the third glass got to her was when it got interesting. Apparently, the third glass of wine is the one which causes Majel's defenses to crumble and her gossiping gene to kick in. She started telling us all kinds of dirt surrounding the filming of Star Trek II and III with some not-so-kind words and stories about some of the newer cast members.

She leaned in and whispered after a particularly spirited opinion on one actress, "Why do you think she wasn't back for the next film!" With a wink and a nod she went back to sipping her wine.

A few months later our convention committee was hosting a room party at a convention in Baltimore where Majel was one of the guests of honor. One of our members had met up with her earlier in the day and invited her to visit the party. The evening was winding down around 1AM when in through the door bursts Majel and Robin Curtis how seemed to have been in the partying mood long before coming to our room. They were best described as, "Majel was in full sail and Robin was along for the ride!"

My last encounter with her was in 1989 on one of the Star Trek cruises. (You forgot I was a geek?) One night, somewhere near 2AM, I was seated at a table with Nichelle Nichols and her husband, Majel's secretary and Majel. The boat was staffed with a Panamanian crew and apparently the waiter we ended up with had a little problem with English. Majel ordered her usual white wine but it did not make it through translation to the young man.

"White....wine" An exasperated Majel then tried describing the drink to him, "You know....WHITE (pointing at the tablecloth).....DRINK (miming drinking)! WHITE (pointing into her mime glass).....DRINK (miming again)!"

The young man nodded finally and sped off to get our order. He returned a few moments later and passed out each order just by chance leaving Majel's for last.

"WHAT IS THIS?!" She bellowed as she stood with the horrified look of a vampire being given a plate of garlic and Holy water, "Who put THIS in front of ME?!!!!!" To which she pointed down at a frothy, cold glass of MILK!!!!!!!!

It's those kinds of memories I will always treasure. It amazes me sometimes that 40 years ago I sat in front of my TV and watched some of these people on TV and now I have broken bread with them and call some of them friends. My life has been far from perfect....but, DAMN, it's been fun.

Thanks for those memories, Majel.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Comedy is subjective; I get it. We've all had those moments when we tell a joke that almost made us pee our pants and suddenly we're loohttp://www.blogger.com/k at deer caught in headlights. No laughter for the best joke EVER told.

What is funny to one person is stupid to another. What may seem like cutting edge satire is crude and offensive to another. Which brings me to all the hub-bub over part of SNL's Weekend Update this weekend. Take a look...

I'm sorry....that was funny! Governor Paterson and the National Federation for the Blind have been all over the media whining about it. I have friends who are blind and disabled and I still think it's funny. I know the Governor is using his Bully Pulpit to raise awareness for the blind; good for him. It was still funny.

I also take this as continuing evidence that SNL is back. This season they have been knocking it out of the park with political satire. I also take it as a good sign that they are offending people and not just doing it by saying penis 100 times in a row. Satire is at its best when it makes people feel uncomfortable with seeing the truth.

Speaking of Governor Paterson; Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg has made it known she is interested in being appointed to Hillary's Senate seat! I can only imagine what some of the phone calls leading up to that decision must have been like! This should be interesting to watch.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday night's "Boston Legal" series finale certainly won't go down in history as one of the best; actually it was quite uninspired as finale episodes go. The bar has been raised in recent years and, when a show as well written as this comes along, you always hope for something good to top off they years of viewing you as a fan have put into it.

There was one neat moment when Betty White's cell phone ringtone was theme music to "The Practice", which was the show which spawned this one. Other than that Betty's character seemed to have no other reason for being there other than to give Betty one last paycheck.

I kept waiting for a "Star Trek" joke hidden somewhere, but none came. The final balcony scene between Spader and Shatner did not sum up their relationship, leave you smiling, crying or smiling misty eyed as you watched them fade away as their lives go on but he show ends. No twist ending, no joke ending just a convoluted ending.

There was a gratuitous courtroom scene which seemed nothing more than David E. Kelley bitching about why the show was ending and that there was nothing of value left for baby boomers and older to watch on TV.

The biggest letdown was Denny Crane's "mad cow". In the past Shatner has had me in tears as his character dealt with, denied and battled with his oncoming Alzheimer's. In this episode we are told by his doctor "It's here". I kept waiting for Shatner to do his "For Your Consideration" acting and give us insight into the disease as it finally tears apart this man with a lust for life. Instead, in another contrived and quickly written story line, they argue and win before the Supreme Court to allow Denny to take an experimental drug from Russia. And he doesn't even take the danged drug but only talks about how just thinking about it makes him feel better. And he and Spader marry....WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!

Kelley never had the BIG FINALE with "The Practice" and I always thought he had something really wonderful up his sleeve. At least Christian Clemson got the girl. There was a hint that, at least Spader and Shatner might live on after the show but there was no real "swan song" just a gentle closing of the book and I wanted more.

Does Kelley have it in him or am I giving him too much credit? Have my expectations been raised too high by the likes of "Bob Newhart", "MASH", "Mary Tyler Moore" and "St. Elsewhere"?

The good thing is the rest of the show is out there and available and I highly suggest it. I may even go through the series again on Netflix soon. And I can keep my fingers crossed that Kelley's next series will be just as good.

Farewell to Crane, Poole and Schmidt.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Never one to just give up I made yet another attempt at possible romance.

Tricia is a lovely young lady with long. dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Since her department moved into part of the building we have noticed each other, smiled, nodded and done everything else but actually talked to each other. At par with my usual tactics, this has been for at least two weeks as I have circled her department on needless errands and walked back and forth hoping for a chance meeting.

That chance finally came today. As we passed by each other and nodded a "hello" I finally spoke up and said, "Hi!" She apparently overlooked the lack of further conversation as some sort of brain defect on my part and stuck her hand out and introduced herself. I had suggested she join me on a shopping trip across our parking lot to the Dollar Store to buy more Santas for my collection. That eventually did not happen but by the end of he day we had talked again and I gave her my number.

And so...I wait. I'm looking on the positive that I'm at least ready to move on from my last "relationship". OK, OK....I know you're either laughing or shaking your head. I got that same kind of reaction my my "Dr. Phil".

I had clued her in a few days ago that there was someone new I had my eye on, so after I had made my "first contact" I went over to Dr. Phil and nudged into her chair. "What?" I nudged her chair again smiling a big-shit eating grin. "Oh, what did you do now?" I nudged her again raising my eyebrows in the direction Tricia works. "Oh! Get out of here, you bubble head!"

I complained to a mutual friend that she had just called me a "bubble head" to which he said, "BOBBLE-head? Yeah, that's you!" To which he started swinging his head around like an epileptic bobble head, "Uhhhhhh - Hi, I'm Jack! Uhhhhhhhh - Hi, I'm Jack!"

It's so nice to have supportive friends you can count on.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ahhh.....a Sunday drive.

It's been a long time since I've gone on a Sunday drive. Just to get in the car and GO somewhere just for the sake of going.

Finally, gas prices are back in the reasonable range and fuel and money aren't simply rationed for to and from work and we can indulge ourselves as the car-loving Americans we are.

There was a new stretch of roadway opened up not far from here that sounded perfect. I loaded up the CD player with some good blues and a few new cigars and I headed out for the open road.

This road is perfect for Sunday drives. It is a long stretch of a 4 lane roadway which connects the western part of my town with the next community to the south. The road meanders through orange groves and tall pines. The scenery is the usual flat Florida vista but with a cool breeze and "A Prairie Home Companion" on the radio it was heaven.

The road was designed to ease traffic on the major roadway along US 1 but I imagine that even on it's busiest days the scenery easily makes this a much easier ride than the concrete and street lights on the Federal Highway. If I had to work in that area I would even go out of my way to travel the new Citrus Highway, as it is called, and let the miles of grasslands and squat orange trees vent my stress out onto the afternoon breeze.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Most people who read my blog are science fiction fans. If you consider yourself a science fiction fan and have no idea who Forry Ackerman is please do me a favor and stop reading this blog as I have no use for your ignorance. If you consider yourself a science fiction or horror film fan in particular and have no idea who Forry Ackerman is please do the human gene pool a favor and consider either having yourself sterilized or euthanized.

That being said...

Forest J Ackerman, or as he preferred to be called Forry or "Uncle Forry" has passed away. He was a writer, editor and literary agent who has been credited with coining the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s. He published Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and spent a lifetime amassing what has been called the world's largest personal collection of science fiction and fantasy memorabilia. He was what every fan wanted to be and he had the house we all wanted. The Ackermuseum was filled to the rafters with some of the most amazing items. After a stroke in 2002 a large portion of it was sold off to help pay his hospital bills.

It was at this time that I had my encounter with Uncle Forry. Word had gotten out through fandom and all across the internet that he was in rough shape immediately following his stroke and was not expected, at that time, to survive. He welcomed any and all contact with friends and fans (which to him were the same thing) and people were encouraged to help bolster his mood.

As you may have read in previous posts I have made it my mission as I have gotten older to cut back on the number of regrets I have in my life. With that in mind I called directly to Forry's hospital room. He sounded strong and attentive and no where near as frail as I had imagined. We exchanged the basic pleasantries and then I got to the purpose of my call.

"Forry, you don't know me but I have been a fan of yours for years. I heard you weren't feeling well and thought I would call and tell you how much of an impact you had on a total stranger's life. You shared the excitement of the movies with me and widened my interests beyond the simple and mundane. As you got older you were an example to me that someone should never let that spark of a child's excitement leave your eyes."

He kinda stammered and I could hear the smile in his voice as he thanked me for calling. We talked for a minuet or two about how he was doing and that he hoped to be going home soon. I begged off the phone saying I knew how important his rest was for him at this point. He thanked me again and said a pleasant good bye.

It was over in less than three minutes but I did what I felt we all need; vindication. To know that our life mattered to someone else.

Forry; thank you again for making your life matter. I'll miss you.

Monday, December 01, 2008

If geeks like me had the internet back in the 70's this is what we would have been doing! I am so happy there is a new generation of fanboys out there!!! And I DARE YOU not to go away from listening to this singing the "Jaws" portion!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is it just me, or is this a little presumptive?

Don't get me wrong, I am happy Obama won. I cried a little the night he won. It was a milestone moment of American history. Yes, Bush has really messed up over the past eight years, BUT he is STILL THE PRESIDENT.

I first thought it was cute when near the end of the election Obama started talking from behind a podium with a campaign logo which closely resembled the presidential seal. I'm sure some guy in their advertising agency came up with that and he deserves a raise. A subtle way of easing the electorate into accepting him in a presidential setting. The prime time special days before the election had the senator speaking from an office which looked like a clone of the oval office. Again, making us think of him in a presidential setting. The more we see him looking presidential the easier it would be for us to vote for him. And it worked, thank God!

For the most part, I like the way he has been handling the transition. Quickly and on a regular basis he has been naming members of his cabinet and has been making some wonderful choices. Personally, I would have like to have seen an old friend of mine, Jack Reed, picked for Defense Secretary, but it does make sense to keep the current man in place; the whole "not changing horses in mid stream" thing. Naming Hillary as Secretary of State seemed an easier pick than trying to get her on the Supreme Court. There's even rumor of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg as Ambassador to the UN. Cool!

But Bush is still president. There is no such thing as "The Office of the President Elect". The new president doesn't get to propose policy before he gets the keys to the Oval Office. Bush is a buffoon and still gets to be the top buffoon until January 20. You could almost hear it in his voice recently in a press conference on the financial crisis when Bush stated that he was keeping Obama appraised of what was happening and what the administration was doing. There was a tone biting behind his words as if to say, "Hey! Remember me! Yeah....still the president! Me! Over here!"

I am looking forward to January 20th. I wish I had the time and money to take my son to DC and see the inaugural in person; to be able to say, "I was there". President Bush should still be given the respect due until that day and not given the bum's rush.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I am so sure John would be soooo relieved to hear this news:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican's newspaper has finally forgiven John Lennon for declaring that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, calling the remark a "boast" by a young man grappling with sudden fame.

The comment by Lennon to a London newspaper in 1966 infuriated Christians, particularly in the United States, some of whom burned Beatles' albums in huge pyres.

But time apparently heals all wounds.

"The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a 'boast' by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll," Vatican daily Osservatore Romano said.

The article, marking the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' The White Album, went on to praise the pop band.

"The fact remains that 38 years after breaking up, the songs of the Lennon-McCartney brand have shown an extraordinary resistance to the passage of time, becoming a source of inspiration for more than one generation of pop musicians," it said.

It's a wonder I've more or less given up on organized religion. Who gives a rat's ass that the Vatican has finally forgiven Lennon. The world has happily gone on spinning without worrying if the Vatican was still upset about what was said more than 40 years ago. Apparently, issues like war, women's rights, child abuse or abortion weren't tops on the Pope's "To Do List" this week. Maybe they should take more of their time and effort worrying about declining numbers in their church due to a leadership that still seems to think it's the 1600's.

"We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity."


Which do you think more people all across the planet know better; the words to any Beatles tune or the 10 Commandments?

Friday, November 07, 2008

I an officially excited about the new Star Trek movie.

Many fellow geeks and fanboys have been wringing their hands over some of the photographs that have been released recently. Let me say that again....PHOTOGRAPHS. Still photographs and individual frames of an as of yet unseen motion picture. Silly me, I'd rather wait to see these people moving around and, oh....I dunno...ACTING before judging. Some of these naysayers are going as far an boycotting the movie.

Sure, I could get all obsessive about the uniforms, the weird airbrushed look to Zachary Quinto and I could really go to town about the trailer as it showed the Enterprise apparently being constructed on the ground in an atmosphere. But I take three deep breaths, stroke my autographed copy of "On the Good Ship Enterprise" and I can feel my blood pressure returning to normal.

A trailer is just advertising and this teaser trailer was designed to set the whole "reboot" mood of the movie; and it worked perfectly as it still gives me chills. The photos are only just that, photos. Next weekend a new trailer, probably with actual scenes of people moving and acting will be shown with the new Bond flick. Yet, I remind myself that it is, after all, advertisement.

What has me so jazzed about this new movie is that I just finished watching "Mission Impossible III". I had not seen it in the theatres and I regret it. I had heard it was not up to par with the others so I let it pass by. Boy, was I wrong!

This movie had me glued to the edge of my seat the entire time. This was the first time, in any of these MI movies that I felt as if I were watching an updated (rebooted) episode of the original series. I was not a fan of the original "Transformers" which is why I probably didn't like that movie. However, from fans of the old animated show repeatedly told me they felt "as if I were watching an updated episode of the original series".

Hmmmmmmm....let's see......

JJ Abrams directed "MI:III" which was a successful reboot of an old TV series and he directed "Transformers" which was a successful reboot of an old TV series and he's the guy who directed the upcoming "Star Trek" which is...oh, my...a reboot of an old TV series. Whether or not he is successful remains to be seen. However, I will take his track record and the opinion of Kevin Smith that this will be what we are hoping for.

That is what I am hoping for as well. Would I have like it better if it had been "Star Trek: Captain Sulu" instead of "Enterprise"? Yes. But there is the opportunity now to ressurect the franchise the Rick Berman (the anti-Christ) had beat into the dirt and keep it going for another 40 years or longer. I'll be there in May with my fingers crossed and thinking of how I can describe to my grandchildren how it was when there was only one version of "Star Trek".

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy told the world that the United States, despite Alabama violence, is moving so fast in race relations a Negro could be President in 40 years. "...there is no question about it," the Attorney General said "In the next 40 years a Negro can achieve the same position my brother has,"...Kennedy said the prejudice exists and probably will continue to exist..."But we have tried to make progress...We are not going to accept the status quo."

The Washington Post
May 27, 1961

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Exhausted is not the word for how I feel.

I went to Orlando for another geek fest called Vulkon. Due to my tight money situation, I didn't even pay the minimum for the show itself and only stayed one night with my usual convention going pals, Jim and Cheryl. It was all the usual hanging out with friends, Starfleet meeting and gook window shopping in the dealer's room. It would have been an otherwise usual weekend if I hadn't turned towards the bar at just the right moment and saw an old friend I hadn't seen in twenty years.

Standing there, big a life, was my old pal Marc Lee. His story in fandom is as wild, if not more, than my own. I first met Marc at the Boston Star Trek Convention Platinum Anniversary Convention. He was sitting in a secluded part of the hotel, leaning against a wall, reading a book. Quiet and not paying attention to the blurred activity around him.

"Would you like to help out on the convention?" I asked and he jumped at the opportunity. Later in the day I asked him if he would want to act as escort for George Takei. Again, he jumped at the opportunity. Within six months of this meeting Marc, professionally an architect, had been working on additions to Marina Sirtis' and Will Wheaton's house. Within two years he had his photo in Starlog magazine and within 5 years was MC'ing a major convention in Germany with his own fan club.

A fanboy version of the Frankenstein story; we had created a monster.

And it wasn't only in the world of fandom that he took over, but in my personal life as well. He came to my first wedding and while my new bride and I took off for our honeymoon Marc had taken over the reception and the party at my mother's house afterwards. I came back from my honeymoon hearing stories about "my mothers' black son"!!!

Marc is a good friend and we stayed in touch over the years. As usual, we have gone though long spells of no contact and I had thought he dropped off the planet completely. I was hopeful as when I moved to Florida and heard he was very active in the Vulkon conventions. That was until almost the day I moved down here when he and the promoter had a major falling out and he was no where to be found.

It was a natural as anything to hug him once again and sit with him and catch up. We both realized the worst part of this story was that he lives only two hours from each other. From now on, that small distance will not be enough to keep us apart.

Yes, it was a good weekend, after all.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Some said I could not top my Halloween appearance last year as Jackie-Oh!

Well.....guess again!

What you can't see in this photograph is the punchline to the whole thing; I am wearing a name badge which says, "Management Trainee"!

I have no real idea what I wanted to do. I had the concept of a full-fledged clown outfit but, as I looked around, it was way too far outside of my budget. In a last minute effort I went to the local party store on Thursday night and wandered the aisles amongst the discarded costumes and the lonely ones still hanging on the wall with no one wanting to wear them. I still wanted to go as a clown but the price tag on the loud and colorful jacket was about the same as a weeks worth of food.

But wait!

Inspiration hit. I'm the sarcastic SOB who gets away with this kind of thing at work. If it's done in the spirit of the day and with a wink and a smile I wouldn't end up in the midst of another HR investigation.

Probably not...

Every one loved it. My AVP looked up from his keyboad for only a moment to let it sink in and simply turned back to his work shaking his head, "Only you, Jack!" While most people weren't really surprised to see me in clown makeup, as soon as they saw the name tag their eyes would either roll or the would break out in guilty, church laughter; the kind you want to make loudly but can't for fear of breaking the composure of the room.

I have such a reputation I had two female co-workers say to me, "I woke up thinking about you this morning, Jack". My answer, of course...

"I love it when a woman says that!"

I was a good employee throughout the day working hard on the phones. If only those people knew who was on the other end!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The list of stupid things that happen in Florida is a long one. At the top of that list shows up every election season; the street corner campaigners.

I may have blogged about them in the past but this constant display of idiocy cries out to be ridiculed again and again. These political zealots stand for hours on end at major intersections waving at passing traffic while holding signs for their favorite candidate.

Oh YES! If I had been an undecided voter....THIS is going to make me choose!

What do these people think they are accomplishing? I'm not talking one or two people but dozens. This pool of volunteer manpower could be used more effectively making phone calls, stuffing envelopes, going door to door or talking to their friends about their candidate. I have been involved in numerous campaigns and managed one State Senate campaign; I know how important volunteerism is to a campaign. The only thing I could think of that would be a worse waste of manpower would be to host a beef jerky taste test booth at a vegan convention.

If you have ever done this.....you looked like an idiot out there.
If you are the campaign manager who suggested doing this you should be fired.
If you are a candidate who allows their dedicated volunteers to make fools of themselves like this you should apologize to each and every one of them, pull out of the race and lay a wreath at Tip O'Neil's grave.

Phew! I feel better....at least until the next election.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I did my civic duty yesterday by voting. As amazing as it may seem, Florida is one of the forward thinking states which allows early voting. That of course balances with the redicilous way they do it here in St. Lucie County.

There was only a 30 minute wait but they were only letting in a dozen people at a time. All of us in line were asking each other why they didn't let let the line flow normally; one person at a time. When you got inside you first had to wait in another line to verify your identity with one clerk, then wait in a third line to get your printed ballot before you could go to these individual mini-cubicles to do your voting on these paper ballots which, after waiting in fourth line, would be fed into a scanner.


Someone has got to let Florida know that it's the 21st century.

Either way, I did do my civic duty. While my voting record is nowhere near as perfect when I lived in Rhode Island, I have voted in all of the major primaries and elections. Yes, I voted for Obama. In addition to the differences on the economy, health care, choice of running mate and the war, the mean spirited campaign of McCain made this an easy choice.

So much of this election year has reminded me of 1968. We are in the midst of an unpopular war which has divided the country and there is a candidate calling for change and embodying a sense of hope. Let's just hope that this election turns out better than that one did!

Friday, October 24, 2008

It seems that, just in time for Halloween, my body has decided that I should be a hunchback! Somehow, sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, I did something to my back which caused a major muscle spasm in my lower back. This is, sadly enough, nothing new and has been happening on and off for the past few years. I have learned to deal with it and know some of the steps to make it better.

This, however, was not one of those easy fix times. I left work, in a fair amount of pain, Monday afternoon and have barely moved from the house since. I limp and scream my way from room to room as the muscles twist and turn their way around the nerves sending bolts of pain down my leg and racing up my back.

If I had actually done something to cause this I don't think I would have minded so much. But to simply wake up in pain because of maybe having turned the wrong way in my sleep is aggravating. If I have been lifting a car off a child or bracing a falling building so orphans could get out alive; that would have balanced with the constant pain I have lived with all week. No! I was sleeping! How could I have damaged a muscle when I was at my MOST relaxed?!

I finally got in to see my doctor today and thanks to a better life through chemicals, namely vicodin, naproxen and flexeril, I am ready for a rousing set of Caber Toss at Highland Games.

Since I've got an ample supply of medication I will be ready for the next time someone needs a refrigerator lifted by hand.

Monday, October 20, 2008

If you are a Florida driver then you'll appreciate this post. If not, please bear with me while a rant.

What you are looking at is a Sandhill Crane. These little lovelies resemble shrunken ostriches and live close to the ocean. Unfortunate thing is, so do a lot of people. These birds are a protected species and there is a hefty fine for killing one. They usually meander along roadways and through parking lots in family groups. It is kinda cute when the babies come out for their first walkabout.

The annoying thing is that I think someone tipped off the birds that they are protected. While most birds would fly away from oncoming vehicles in an instinct driven reaction at even the slightest approach of a car, the Sandhill Crane adopts a snooty and self-righteous attitude if your car dares cross their path.

They seemingly slow down to a crawl. Each step slow and meticulous. Some of them even stop in mid stride, look you dead in the eye and just stare you down as if to say, "Yeah, that's right, asshole, I'm protected! Just go ahead and run me over; see where you end up!" And then, with the air of superiority, they continue step by agonizing step, taking their sweet time moving by the front of your vehicle like Superman at the Winchester testing range.

Another snooty bird in these parts is the Snowy Egret. Also protected and also possessing an attitude bigger than it's head, I had one of these little squabs first cross my path in the drive thru at a local burger joint. Not only did it slow me down from getting my grease on a bun while still hot the little bastard was able to make it across the parking lot in record time so it could block my way to the exit.

It just stood there, staring me down. I could see in its beady little eyes, "Stupid homo sapien!" I stared right back at him, reached into my bag o' lunch, pulled out a chicken nugget and bit into it tearing it in half.

He continued to stare at me, indifferent and cold, still saying "Endangered" and "Protected" with each deliberate step. But, damn, did that nugget taste better than usual!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I don’t know how the hell Julie has been able to do this but each time, in the year’s-plus time we have known each other, at the exact moment when I stop thinking about her…is the exact moment when she contacts me.

A few days ago she had left a message on my voice mail, “Hi, it’s been a while; can you guess whose voice this is?” Cute, huh?

I just sort of stared at the phone in amazement. Amazed that she had actually called and also amazed that I had trouble remembering all of the things I had wanted to say to her three months ago.

A few days later, I left a message on her phone; not really surprised that I didn’t get to talk with her immediately. All of my friends who I have told about this call have all had the same reaction.

“Stay the hell away from her!”

What do I expect out of talking with her again?

Part of me wants the vindication that comes with telling her all of the things I wanted to months ago. While I could go the really nasty route a few friends have suggested, “So…you need more money?”....”Finally found the phone number?”…”Looking for more DVD’s?”

I guess I am also looking for that elusive that all kinds of psychotherapy says we are need; closure. I can remember only one relationship that ever ended with something close to closure. It was back in high school when the girl I was dating and I looked at each other at the same moment and could see it in each others’ eyes that it was over. I don’t know who said it first, but we almost instantly and mutually agreed that we didn’t feel the same for each other any more and wanted to move on. It seemed the most adult and easy decision I had ever made. Added to that, the fact that we both were completely clear with each other on why and there were no lingering emotions; either good or bad.

I know life isn’t that clean and that answers never come that easy. You’ve got to almost feel sorry for Julie if we ever do talk because she’s going to get the brunt of 46 years of unrequited closure.

My first wife, the one I almost moved back to Rhode Island to marry, a few other recent girl friends, some old flames from high school and college….heck, even my father.

What do I plan on saying? Lots of what I had planned on saying months ago before she moved. I think its best summed up by the opener, “I want to be noble and say that I hope you’re happy; I just don’t think I can do that. I can say that I hope you’re happy with the choices you’ve made.”

Hey! I said you could almost feel sorry for her. Just remember…she left with my copy of “Shawshank”!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I am surviving without TV!


For a few months now, I have been without satellite or cable TV service. In other times this would have been the source of panic and dread in my couch potato world. First, I survived by going through almost EVERY DVD I own. Some movies I had not watched in a while and some of my old favorites were as perfect as always. Give me "Mr. Roberts" or the "Godfather" any day of the week.

Then, the new TV season approached. I fought panic and started to investigate the wonderful "deals" my MEGA-supplier of an internet/TV/phone company could offer me. The...I found HULU!

For a while ABC has offered some of their programming online. The phenomenon of "Lost" led the way and now the offer almost all of their prime time shows within 24 hours of its original airing.

The website Hulu has been around for almost a year and has grown by leaps and bounds. At first, it was the haven for all kinds of retro programming where I could re-live my 70's TV fixes. Then, this TV season the site exploded with now 9 of my favorite shows. Sure, I have to wait a day to watch them but with such variety it really doesn't matter and, just as with my TIVO, I get to watch these shows when I choose. Hulu has even been streaming the presidential and veep debates live so I don't miss out those.

I do miss some of my guilty pleasures like Mike Rowe and Rachel Ray (on mute....HEY, she's much more fun to watch then listen to!) and there is a website which gives a daily, detailed synopsis of the one soap I have been watching since the 5th grade, "General Hospital". Hulu also has a plethora of old TV; right now I'm have a grand time going through "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". With Netflix I get all the movie I want and some old TV stuff as well.

I am missing the final season of "Smallville". The only time I will really be Jones-ing for "live" TV will be when the concluding episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" finally air in January; but things should be more settled for me by then and I can catch up on "Smallville as well".

As for this season...let me go through some of my favorites and some of the new stuff.

It is probably one season too many for "Smallville"; although I hear that it has survived well without Lex.

While I am heartbroken that "Boston Legal" is in it's final season I am sure their finale will be one for the books. Christian Clemenson deserves an Emmy for his portrayal of Jerry Espenson.

"Heroes" is kicking ass this season even if all the twists are giving me a headache...it's a good kind of headache.

"Chuck" is back for it's second season and has gone and added depth to its characters. What a concept for television!

"House" has taken an interesting turn with the semi=departure of a major character. It will interesting watching this play out.

I was relieved to see "Pushing Daisies" renewed and even more relieved to see the writing keeping par.

I was intrigued to see that "Life on Mars" is a David E. Kelley adaptation of a BBC series of the same name. In the first episode it seems a thin twist on the show I was most sad to see go from last season, "Journeyman". I will give this a few more viewings to see if it gets any better. While I'm glad Michael Imperioli has a job...he's done better.

Christian Slater comes to TV with "My Own Worst Enemy". Question; why does every show on TV now have to have a "wild twist"? Don't get me wrong; this show is very strong right out of the gate. Slate is in no way diminished by being on TV and the premise is very well executed.


(heavy sigh)

Does JJ Abrams have to remake everything he like watching on TV when he was younger? I have high hopes for "Trek XI" and "Fringe" has grown on me. But, I still have my lingering first impression of this show; "X-Files" meets "Monk". That must have been what Abrams said on the pitch meeting. I'll probably keep watching just for Anna Torv and end up liking it by the end of the season.

I'll let you know.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Alcohol and I have a long and twisted history.

As part of the clean up of the house Dana came upon a cache of booze which had sat, untouched, behind a lock all year. I called dibs on an old friend, gin.

Gin was my first "legal" drink. My parents were great social drinkers. In the corner of our dining room was a fold out liquor cabinet which was the center of gatherings of friends. I can only really remember one time when I saw my folks something close to drunk. Actually, all they were was a little louder and boisterous than usual but I could tell what had fueled the noise.

So, alcohol was a part of my life and nothing I was shunned from or told was "evil". When I got into High School I was introduced to beer. Well, re-introduced, actually. There was a moment on a trip to Michigan when I was asked to take out the trash including a just finished bottle of beer with just a dribble left sloshing at the bottom. As I walked away from the house I looked back to be sure I was away from prying eyes and lifted the bottle to my lips. The moment the room temprature ale hit my tongue it was sprayed back out in classic spit-take style.

Five years later, however, it was good ole Miller High Life coursing through my system as I stood in front of my parents, swaying in an unseen breeze, asking for permission to stay out later with the cast of our Letterman's Follies. It was also during High School that my friend Mike introduced me to my first mixed drink of Midori and Sprite. I can still see us plopped down in from of the school administration building emptying the bottles and staggering our way back along Warwick Avenue. I can picture it, I just have no idea of how we got there or back.

I really liked that Midori and Sprite!

But still, I really didn't know much about the art of the drink. I had heard all these exotic names as I was growing up; Sloe Gin Fizz, martini, Highball, Manhattan and so on. However, I had no idea what they tasted like or what was in them.

I was out to dinner one night with my mother and sister Joan and her family at this restaurant along the water in East Greenwich. I was 17 and still under the leagal age to drink. However, since my mother was the one ordering she was allowed to let me drink it under her supervision. So, for the first time as an "adult" my mother turned to me and asked if I wanted a drink.

My mind froze.

I couldn't think of a single drink. All those years of hearing my dad ask friends what they were having and he threw them together like a master and I couldn't come up with a one. I had no idea what drink went with the food I had ordered. I didn't have a clue if I was going to be ordering a heavy drink or some frilly after dinner minty thing.

The only thing that went through my mind were the words to "Piano Man".

"I'll have a tonic and gin", I said confidently.

"He'll have a gin and tonic," my mother sighed as she corrected me and rolled her eyes in the direction of the waitress.

So here I sit 29 years later with a glass of "tonic and gin" before me. I'm sure I didn't mix it right as it doesn't have that same tangy taste I remember. Well, maybe that could be nostalgia creeping in on the memory.

I've drank lots. I've been drunk lots. I've been in two drunk driving accident one each as intoxicant and as victim of an impaired driver. I was dry for 7 years. I have been fall-down drunk, laughing loud drunk, blacked out drunk and depressed and lonely drunk. I enjoy drinking and it seems to enjoy me.

So I'll finish this glass and raise it to all those I've ever had a drink with. I'll raise it to my father with whom I never had a drink. I'll also raise it to my son with whom I will have a drink someday.

Suddenly.......I'm having a craving for Midori and Sprite!

Friday, October 10, 2008

"I'm just a soul whose intentions are good,
Please, Lord, don't let me be misunderstood"
The Animals

I have had a whopping slap of karma hit me in recent days.

If you remember back to the online disagreement I had with my son in which he was VERY pissed off at me over some VERY personal information I posted as part of my blog. I saw it as part of telling the story and he saw it as an invasion of privacy.

Last weekend after Dana's visit she blogged about the cleaning out of the house and her impressions of me and how I had kept the house.

I now know how my son felt.

While written very well and, in spots, humorously, I did take offense to the post. The major difference I had with the post is some of the conclusions to which she had jumped without the simply courtesy of asking a question or two. I have since ironed out these issues thru Jason and, being such good friends, this will soon be water under the bridge.

The major issue is how these blogs are seen on the other side of the PC. I sat down here 5 years ago and decided to spew my most personal thoughts as if I were writing only to myself. That has made for some very deep and thoughtful posts along the way. Yes, I have, at times, edited myself and NOT posted on certain issues; mostly work related. But, for the most part, it is still no holds barred.

But how does that play on your side of the screen? I walk away from posting feeling cathartic and sated that I have gotten a thought, issue, or problem off my chest; but what if it went off my chest and smack-dab on the top of your head?

Before confronting my friend with how I felt about his wife's blog I discussed it with a couple of friends. One of them asked, "Just how important is it, really? How many people read her blog?" My answer was "And how many people read my bog? Just as many, and it was important because of how John felt about what I had written".

Karma is a lovely thing.

Will I change how I write? I hope not. I have had comments and reactions from people I would never have imagined would be reading my blog. I set out to be honest here. When I sat down 5 years ago I decided to write the same way I did when I sat down with a composition book and wrote my "journal" when I was 14; just me and my thoughts. If I think of myself as a writer because of this blog, then I have succeeded because my writing evokes a reaction in the person who reads it. Even if I piss you off, I hope you like how I do it.

I will, however, be apologizing like nothing else the next time I see my son.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

An empty house is a sad thing.

My friend's wife came home this weekend to clear out all of their stuff from the house. We worked for hours each day with some help from some of her friends and got two moving pods filled. All that remains are some couches in the living room, a chair on the kitchen and the box springs and mattress on the floor in the master bedroom; the remainder of the house is bare except for my few belongings.

I had always held out hope that they were going to return to town after she was done with her traveling job. Even the presence of the gallows-shaped "For Sale" sign did not deter my hope that they would give up on selling the house and come back; that my friends would stay. But there is talk of the short sale and plans beyond that; either way they want to "get out from under this house".

I lived in the house I grew up in until I married at 26. I was only forced to move from there because my mother put it up for sale with, apparently, no intention of passing it down. I moved from my home of Rhode Island only because situations forced me to and would still be there if I had my druthers.

I can not imagine people who are constantly moving. Who have had dozens of houses. I have always wanted a HOME. I even walk this house and imagine all the memories that were built here; children, parties, holidays and more. When I left my house for the last time I hid a little note in a secret little cranny wishing those who followed before me would live up to the spirit of that home that had seen me through childhood. Heck, I'm even nostalgic, at times, for the trailer I lived in for 5 years before moving here.

I still want that home someday. Not sure if I'll get it, but I can dream.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This week I will be living in heaven. Weenie heaven, that is.

A department manager where I work is a fellow Rhode Islander and we have shared many stories of home and she is currently borrowed my copy of "You Must Be This Tall". She has had the movie for a month or two and was feeling guilty for taking so long to watch it. Today, she absolved herself by bringing me a week's supply of New York System hot weenies!

If you are scratching your head and wondering what a hot weenie is, then you are probably NOT from Rhode Island. Let me translate for those of you on a lower rung on the evolutionary ladder.

The hot weenie is one of God's great creations and are found almost exclusively in Rhode Island. These are a specific "RI Red Hots" brand of hot dog which are slow roasted on a grill while the buns are sitting in a steam cabinet for hours on end. The 4 inch slices of nirvana are covered in a Double Secret Probation Recipe of meat sauce which is a mix of spices and grease. The only way to have these is "alldaway" which is mustard, onions and celery salt.


The other enjoyable part of the hot weenie is ordering one. All it requires is a small amount of money and a strong voice. Any of the dozens of restaurants around the state are OK to go to but, of course, there is always the Mecca of the Olneyville New York System.

You walk up to the counter and bark out the number of weenies you want and how you want them: "Three alldaway!" The guy behind the counter then starts to work lining up the buns along his arm. He drops the weenie in the bun, slathers it with sauce, pulls a wooden dowel out of a tub of mustard and runs it over the weenie, takes forks full of chopped onion and sprinkles it down,finally topping them all with a shower of celery salt. The show continues by wrapping them, two at a time, in paper and then dropping them in a brown paper bag which is tightly closed to hold in the warmth and aroma. The paper bag was never strong enough and as you drove home the car would be wafting with the ambrosia-like smells.

I can remember racing to the car any time my father said, "How about some hot weenies for dinner?!" It was a right of passage when I was old enough to go in by myself, order and pay all by myself. The guy behind the counter would line up as many as he could and it would be an amazing feat of balance and skill when as many as 8 or 10 would defy the law of physics perched between the guys hand and elbow.

Long before Nathan's of Coney Island had their hot dog eating contest, my friends and I would see how many hot weenies we could eat at once. My record was 12! These were cheap and delicious. The ultimate comfort food.

My friend had presented me with a bag filled with weenies and sauce which had been driven back from Rhode Island packed in dry ice. While I was not able to steam the buns, a good 15 seconds in the microwave softened them enough to simulate the process. As I sat at my table in the lunch room giggling to myself like Dr. Frankenstein I carefully assembled my hot weenie as my friends looked on suspiciously.

"Jack, what the hell are you eating?"

"Manna from heaven!"

It looked right. It smelled right. The bread was soft enough. I closed my eyes and raised the hot weenie to my mouth and bit down. Suddenly, I was transported home. The strong bite of the celery salt and the warm greasiness of the sauce danced over my taste buds. I flet that if I opened my eyes I would be sitting in my 1972 Plymouth Valiant parked at the Oakland Beach seawall.


My friend had given me enough to last all week. Thanks to my gastric bypass surgery, gone are the days of a dozen weenie in one sitting; I was only able to eat two before my stomach let me know I was full. In my previous trips home I have always stocked up on Portuguese sweet bread and coffee syrup. Now I know that on my next trip I will get some dry ice and head for Widles Corner!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

There's an interesting little dynamic I recently noticed amongst the siblings in my family which gave me pause for introspection.

Lack of communication and a fear of confrontation.

Recently, I went to my oldest sister for some help in my recent problems. Did I call her and talk this out? Something this serious and intimate you would think could only be done on a one on one basis.

No, I faxed her a letter.

Call it passive-aggressive, call it avoidance, call it be chicken-shit if you want; but it ain't just me.

A year or so before my gastric bypass surgery, when I was still topping the scales at over 500 pounds, two of my sisters came to visit me. Everything seemed okay until about a month afterwards when I got a letter from them saying how concerned and worried they were over my health condition. Again, something so serious and intimate you would think could only be done on a one on one basis.

I can only speak for myself. I was 5 or 6 when my father had his strokes; two of them over about 18 months. While there was no physical or neuroligical damage there was a change in his personality. After his illness I was always told, "You can't do or say anything to upset Daddy" or "You can't bother Daddy". A genial man of good temper was turned into someone with a short fuse who would get upset at the slightest thing and emotion outbursts of your own would feed into his. I was trained to keep emotions in and, really in essence, not deal with them.

A perfect example is when I was around 9 my bedroom was on the first floor of our house and my parents' room was upstairs. I had some health issues due to my asthma and to make sure they could know immediaetly if there was a problem my father installed an intercom. I woke up sick one night long after we had all gone to bed and had to call out for my parents. However, I had been so conditioned only to bother my father when it was completly necessary that I first laid there getting sicker and sicker; not wanting to cry out for help because it would be "bothering Daddy". Then when I finally got up the nerve to call out towards the intercom I did it in steps of volume; first mouthing the words with no sound at all, then a whisper, a little louder, and a little louder building, finally to a cry for help.

So, I have never wanted to bother anyone. Because I was taught to avoid confrontations with my father I never learned how to argue like any normal person would. (My ex-wives might disagree with that one).

An odd offshoot to this is now when I am in a stressful or highly charged emotional situation I cannot bottle my emotions. When in a confrontational or emotional moment I cry way too easily. On the rare occasions when I do lose my tempter it can be a volcano exploding.

I don't know why my sisters, who are older than me and knew our father before his strokes, react the same way. Maybe now that I can finally see the history in my own life and identify it as some sort of a family trait that I might be able to find a way around the emotion potholes.

Phew.....that was cathartic. Excuse me while I go have a good cry.
Du'oh! Guess I still have some work to do!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Joan Winston has passed away and that makes me sad.

This is a total geek thing as Joanie was one of the original organizers of the first Star Trek conventions back in the 1970's. The last time I saw her was at Shore Leave in 2005 and it was one of my most prized memories.

I had first met Joanie at one of the last "original" cons in 1976 in New York City. She was on the committee but, at the last moment, had to cancel out due to an appendicitis attack and surgery. By Saturday night of the convention she had apparently told the doctors that she HAD TO be at the Statler Waldorf come hell or high water and rolled into the hotel in a wheel chair less than a day after surgery.

For those fans of today with instant access to knowledge and information on the net you have to understand what the stone knives and bearskins of fandom were at that time. There were three books that had told us fans anything about the making of the show; Roddenberry's "The Making of Star Trek, Marshak and Culbreth's "The World of Star Trek" and Gerrold's "Making of The Trouble With Tribbles". That was ALL we had for inside information. I must have read each book ten times over. In these there was mention of Joanie and "The Committee" who had the wild idea of getting together with some other Trek fans for a weekend and 15,000 people showed up. Joanie was like the Neil Armstrong of fandom; we wouldn't have conventions if there wasn't a Joan Winston.

So, here I am; a starry-eyed adolescent standing in the presence of a legend when she says that she would love to get around to all the panels and parties but would need someone to push her and she turns to me and says, "How about you, kid?" The next thing I know I'm Hoke to her Miss Daisy! "Gotta go here! Gotta go there!...Get me to this room!...Get me to that room!" We went to panel discussions, parties and just groups of people sitting in corners of the hotel singing filk songs until around 1AM.

I loved every minuet of it!

Then in 2005 I finally ha the chance to corner her say hello after all those years. I told her the story of how we had met and she squinted her eyes and looked off almost as if she were trying to actually see back that far.

"Oh, my goodness, YES!" She touched her hand to my arm gently, "I certainly ran you around that night. If I didn't say think you then, let me say it now; thank you!"

It was me who thanked her. Not only for that geek moment for a kid but for all she had done for fandom in general. It meant so much to me that she remembered; it showed what other fans meant to her. I was also glad my son was there for that moment; to see what an act of kindness can mean to a person even after the passing of decades.

I'll miss you, Joanie.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I miss running.

I saw a little kid running down the street the other day and suddenly realized that I could not remember the last time I actually ran. I can move quickly, yes; but I'm talking about a full bore, hair whipping in the wind, catch your breath run.

I miss the exhilaration of running. Feeling your blood pumping as the world whizzes past you. I miss the adrenalin rush of running on an uneven surface like the woods or a seawall of boulders.

My fallen arches and weak ankles have made running a thing of the past. I haven't really minded having to give in to wearing glasses (OK, damnit, BIFOCALS!) because it was my own choice 35 years ago to simply stop wearing glasses; so it was my own fault I ended up with them back again. But I would love to run again.

John Kennedy said "Old age is a shipwreck". I'm agreeing with him more and more as I get older.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Battlestar Galactica is 30 years old today! While I revel in the latest incarnation there is my love of the original. I had a Viper pilot jacket which I wore to school and if I could have afforded those biker boots they used on the show I would have worn then, too! This was right after Star Wars and before Trek had returned so I didn't see the campiness in it at the time. I walked around saying "Frak!" and "Feldergarb!" I was considered a geek already, so it came as no surprise to those around me.

I had tickets to see Richard Kiley in Boston in “Man of LaMancha” on that day. I was thrilled to go see the show with my mother and an aunt. We had these tickets for months in advance. Then I heard about the premiere of BSG……ON THE SAME DAY!!!!! Luckily, It was a matinee on that Sunday and I made sure with my mother that we would be back from Boston in plenty of time.

The show was terrific and Kiley was magnificent. The moment the curtain came down I said, “OK, mom! We gotta go so we’re home in time for Galactica!!!!!!” Our ride back to Providence was the longest of my life. I kept asking what time it was and each mile seemed to stretch on forever. We pulled into my aunt’s house five minutes before the premiere. Since I lived on the other side of town I knew we wouldn’t make it home in time so I begged and pleaded (whined was probably more like it) to stay there to watch the show.

My whining paid off as I sat alone in my aunt’s living room with dinner on a TV tray while she and my mother played cards in the other room, planted at a folding TV tray and dinner of what ever leftovers my aunt could find to watch the 2 hour premiere.

Richard Kiley and Loren Greene in the same day! Can’t get better than that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Last Thursday was our annual Talent Show.


We filled the Lyric Theater's 500 seats. It was amazing to play to a full house. We had a few new acts which added to the diversity of the show including our first member of senior management who has a voice which blew the roof off the place.

Our biggest mission of the night was to win over the new head of human resources. He comes with the new compant which bought us out and a talent show was not on his To Do Lost. However, a number of people made mention of it to him and rumor of an employee petition drive caused him to give in. Naturally, he was my first target of jokes for the evening. And it paid off! He was laughing his ass off and came up to me afterwards, hugging me and saying "You've got a fan!"

SOmetimes it's the small things which set off the evening. I scrambled just before going out the door the night of the show looking for some walk-on music for me and my co-host, Kenny. At the last moment I grabbed The Blues Brothers soundtrack and figured the "The Peter Gunn Theme" would work well enough. The music started, Kenny and I walked towards each other from opposite sides of the stage and hit fists together right on a music cue and the audience went crazy! It fit perfectly and set the attitude for the night.

I still get people coming up to me and commenting on the show. "You should be a stand up comedian!" "You should be in show business" "What are you doing wasting yourself here?"

They have no idea how many times I ask myself the same questions.

Monday, September 15, 2008

So...where have I been?

To Hell and back!

To give you the Readers Digest version; my car broke down, I had a financial meltdown, was without electric for a while, groveled to my sister for help and pissed her off, my aunt died, my friends have put this house back on the market and I got in trouble at work.

All within a three week period.

We call it Livin' La Vida Towaway.

And it's not just the big stuff; during this three week ride through the circles of hell there were little kicks in the nads along the way.

One night I decided to walk up to the local Chinese restaurant to get a meal. I waited for the sun to start going down so I wouldn't be as sweaty when I got there. As I walked along the darkest part of the side street a car came up behind me. I stepped aside to get off the road. Not seeing exactly where I was stepping I found the softest patch of sand, my foot twisted and I went down like a sack of wet cement. I just kind of laid there for a moment or two resigning myself to what had happened.

A few days later I decided to make the same walk. The entire day had been rather cool with clouds lurking around and a good, strong breeze. I, again, waited till later in the day so it would be cooler for my walk. The moment I stepped out of my neighborhood side street onto the main road the lurking clouds decided to unload their precipitation. Not just a light summer rain but a torrential, soaking Florida down pour. By the time I got to the store my clothes were plastered to my skin and my shoes squished with every step. I got what I needed and headed back out into the sheets of rain to walk back home. The moment I stepped off the main road and onto my neighborhood side street.....the rain stopped.

God has a mean sense of humor.

The topper was the night I borrow a large, super bright flashlight from my neighbor. With the flick of a button this would light even the biggest room in the house with no problem. I brought it onto the house and as soon as the sun went down I flicked the switch....and the bulb blew out.

Oh, there's more!

Later that night I couldn't sleep in the still warm and stuffy bedroom and headed out to the hammock which hung by the pool over the concrete patio; a good breeze promised a restful sleep. As soon as I settled in and put my head back on the pillow I started hearing a tearing sound. In the darkness I couldn't see exactly what it was but knew that the continued tearing sound would only end with me cracking my skull on the concrete under the hammock. Turns out, the hammock itself is intact but the lines that held the hammock to the post had started pulling apart. With the agility of the dancing hippos in "Fantasia" I was able to extract myself before injuring myself.

I am considering changing my name to Job.

There are some other things that went on during my recent absence and I will deal with those in subsequent posts. And don't feel guilty if you have been laughing at me while reading this post; I'm used to it by now. I've also discovered that it's only my real good friends that laugh at me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Auntie Anna has passed away.

OK, so she was 93. As I told my son; she had ran out her warranty. This passing, while sad and aggravating because I am so far away, brings back dozens of fond memories. She was a slight woman who always presented herself crisp and perfect. She had a thin, angular face and spoke with an old New England accent typical of her part of Rhode Island; something of a Boston Brahmin which, added to her appearance, always reminded me of Rose Kennedy.

She was my mother’s sister and they were very close. Many of my childhood memories are held within the walls of their house in Saunderstown. I loved their sprawling back yard (or at least it seemed sprawling to a 5 year old) and I can remember always wanting to go out in their garage. It had this double–sided three step landing with a railing and I would either jump from the top step or swing underneath the railing. Doesn’t sound like much but, again, to a five year old it was a jungle gym.

Then there was their basement. Half of it was fixed up as an apartment with part of the room was a parlor of sorts and, given my Aunt and Uncle were children of the 1920’s, was decorated with nick-knacks, bric-a-brac, chintzy wall hangings and antique looking furniture.

I almost burned down their house once.

It was on one of the antique end tables down in the basement where there sat a lamp. This piece also looked like a leftover set piece from “Bringing Up Father”; ceramic body, iron cast fixtures and a cloth lampshade stretched in a double layer over a wire frame. I might have been nine or ten and was at the “fascinated with fire” stage. I had been blowing up model kits with firecrackers and setting adrift model boats doused with WD-40. On one excursion to the basement I found a book of matches in an ashtray on the table. I lit one, blew it out and dropped it in the ashtray. I looked at the lampshade and a science experiment came to mind.

I lit another match and then passed it underneath the edge of the lampshade. It did nothing to the cloth. I pulled it back towards me and, still, nothing. Satisfied, I blew out the match. I lit yet another and repeated the experiment, only this time….slower. The first pass deposited a small tinge of brown to the fabric, but nothing else. “What an amazing fabric!” I thought and pulled the match back towards me. That was when the age of the fabric came into play and with a rush the flame lit to the edge of the shade and spread like a sprinting runner all along the bottom edge of the frame. I quickly tried blowing out the flame but that only spread it quicker.

I can still almost feel the wild rush of adrenalin and panic as I watched the flames move across the shade. I don’t know how fast I was moving or where the adults were at the time but I sill remember wondering how they had added so many steps to the basement stairs since I had gone down there because it seemed to take me forever to get up them to warn someone. When we all raced back down the fire had consumed the fabric which hung in charred, tattered strands from the blackened wire frame. I don’t remember what sort of punishment I received and I can vaguely recall my Auntie Anna almost laughing it off but I do know that I almost never went down in that basement ever again.

We spent every New Year’s Eve there; I sat in the living room watching Dick Clark while the adults played cards. There was this one item of “decoration” in that room I remember to this day. It was a simple little plate which looked like a clock but had nothing but “5’s” all around the face and in big letters said, “It’s 5:00 Somewhere”! To little a kid is was humorous because it was silly. There were cookouts and holiday dinners by the score. Even getting there was an adventure because many of the major highways were yet to be built and the route wound along Route 1 and then through a number of small towns and villages; to a little kid it took forever.

I traveled a lot with her. We went on trips to Alaska and Britain together. I can still hear her screaming in terror at the crazed London cabbie buzzed us through the crowded streets apparently making his own travel lanes and squeezing past other cars at high speeds.

I always knew to expect a birthday card from her and would call her on a regular schedule just to keep the contact. I spoke to her almost three weeks ago and the moment I said, “Hello” she knew it was me; she was sharp and her usually funny self right to the end.

This is the third aunt I have lost since being down here. I have a strong sense of family and it tore at me to hear of everyone gathering at the hospital to say their goodbyes. My sense of family duty is hurting knowing I should have been there to be a pall bearer. If there is something good that came of this I was able to reach out to my Uncle Elmer, her brother, and her granddaughter, my cousin, Melissa. I have had a strained relationship with him over the past 15 years or so and called him to share our grief. I took the opportunity to say to him that even through the times we might have not seen eye to eye that I loved him. We made promises to get together the next time he is in Florida. My cousin Melissa and I have just simply lost touch due to distance and time; a stupid excuse for two people who had been as close as siblings. She and I have a quiet competition to see who can hold the title the longest as Family Black Sheep and that has kept us close since we were kids. We are now back in regular contact.

When we were in London she bought me a cheap little souvenir which might have cost her $2 but I treasure. It is a simple piece of pressed wood painted and stained to look like an expensive piece of woodworking. Printed on it are words that mean more and more through the years and shows her sense of humor:

God gave us our family.
Thank God we can choose our friends.

Rest well, Auntie.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Believe it or not, there was a comical punchline to my post from yesterday about Julie.

After I calmed down I went to "The Other Person" to let her know what I had heard as she has been my own personal Dr. Phil though all of this.

A little back story on this; months ago I had loaned "The Other Person" a copy of "Animal House" once she had told me she had never watched it but continued to tell me about either not having anything to watch or the latest really bad so-called comedy the moment it was available on DVD. It's been so long since I loaned it to her I can't remember when that was and am sure it had dust settled on it. It has become a running joke. Anytime even the most passing reference is made to a DVD I will say something about "Animal House".

So, I told her what had happened and made the joke about "The Shawshank Redemption". She responded with, "You know, you could go Game Stop and get 5 DVD's for $10."

Seeing the opening for our running joke, "Next time you're there get "Animal House" if you see it."

"I already have a copy!" and then, without missing a beat, "Oh, did I tell you I was moving?!"

Ahhhh, friends!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The past 30 days have been a trip through hell and back again. Over the next few posts I will go through some of it with you. Some of it has been painful and I would just rather forget it. Some of it, just because I am 46; I have forgotten.

Of course, the first topic to tackle is....Julie.

A few days ago a friend came up to me at work and said she had met up with Julie and her kids in Wally World. She was there stocking up for her move back to Michigan that coming weekend.

My friend went on to tell me more about their conversation and I know that I responded as if I were still part of the conversation saying something like, "Well, I hope she's happy", but on the inside I was lost. It was like in the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" when the camera goes under the water; all sound is muffled and phased out as if heard from miles away and each sound is distorted. I know I was moving around the room and going through the motion of filling my coffee cup but it seemed as if I was reaching for a coffee maker which was miles out of my reach. Everything in my world was ripped apart as the sun imploded.

In the span of fifteen seconds I went through shock, remorse, anger, mourning and depression. Each of them jumped to the top of my heart at the same time each fighting to be the strongest and none of them staying for more than a second of two. The air was knocked out of my lungs and I staggered back to my desk. Eventually, I came back to clarity as I retied to calm myself. I was able to focus again but continued to be distracted by the news for the rest of the day.

I had just started to come to terms with the whole situation and was moving on. I resigned myself to the fact it was over and had a speech ready just in case she ever did manage to get up the nerve to call me.

Now, the cold reality that she was more than just gone but had left the state without as much as a good bye hit me like a ton of bricks. You will be happy to know that I did not fall into my usual pattern and well on the negative, self-blaming feelings I was going through but quickly went to completely blaming her. I had done everything right this time and yet she pulled away from what I had to offer and fell into her own pattern of co-dependency. She was part of an abusive relationship which fed upon itself an nothing I could have done, apparently, could have kept her out of the cannibalistic cycle of that life.

I am pissed off at her for leaving without saying goodbye. I am disappointed that she wouldn't give us a chance. I am mourning the loss of the relationship. I am sad that she is in a relationship that is only bound to hurt her again. I feel sorriest for and miss her girls. I am angry at myself for what how that relationship fed into the financial situation I am in right now.

The worst part of it......not only did she leave without paying back about $150 bucks I loaned her but she never returned some DVD's I let her borrow....including "Shawshank Redemption"!!!!!! SHE'S GOT MY FRAKKING COPY OF "SHAWSHANK"!....the bitch!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I had the longest hour of my life tonight.

I learned from my ex that my son has a very serious issue involving his relationship with his current girlfriend. I knew something was up because every time the ex would mention this girlfriend her voice would get as deep as mine.She and I discussed the whole thing and knew we were on the same page as far as the messages we wanted to get to him.

So, I picked him up for his stay here as we chatted for a while on basic, every day BS. Then, I let the bomb drop that I knew what had happened.

You could almost hear the oxygen get sucked out of the car.

He gave me monosyllabic answers at a volume only Superman could hear. He shut down completely. I tried drawing him out over and over again even turing the discussion away from the real topic and towards me.

"Are you annoyed I brought this up? Are you pissed off at me? Say SOMETHING!"


For 78 miles we just drove. No talking. No radio. Nada. He turned away from me and looked out the window. He didn't even use his MP3 player as a wall between us; he simply sat there and didn't utter a sound.

I did all I could not to cry.

When we finally got here I stopped him before he retreated to his room and told him that all I wanted to do was make sure he was OK and that maybe, through examples in my own life, I could help him avoid some of these problems in life and that I wanted us to always be able to talk.

I don't know if it was my own desire to want to get through to him or not but I thought I could see his eyes welling up a little with tears. Maybe I was finally connecting with him.

We'll see as the week progresses. One thing is apparent, though.....

I am the parent of a TEENAGER!!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My luck never seems to change!

Today was my first day back to work after my extended weekend in New York. As I was rushing around getting ready I leaned down to tie my shoes and suddenly a muscle in my back decided to have a little fun by going into a painful spasm! Suddenly I was doubled over in pain with what felt like a hot knife being plunged into my back.

As is laid there stooped over my bed I thought, "They are never going to believe me if I call out sick!" Add to that I am dangerously low on sick time as it is thanks to my extra day in New York.

Three Alleve later I hobbeled my way to my car and off to work. It actually didn't feel too bad; just another reminder that the universe has a really mean sense of humor.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I have been traveling on airplanes since I was 6 years old so, to have one cancelled flight which screwed up my plans isn’t really something to bitch about.

I am writing this as I sit in the Philadelphia airport waiting for my final flight back to Florida. I should have been making this flight a day ago, but the weather in Syracuse had other plans for me. I had come to upstate New York for the Starfleet International Conference. This is our annual Board of Directors meeting and, since I am a member of that board, I am mandated to attend. My region of chapters pays for my flight and room so it makes for a very inexpensive trip. As I have said before, being in a position of responsibility in Fleet has afforded me the opportunity to see some places I might never have even thought of going and Ithica is one of them.

I flew out Friday morning in a rushed state. I slept about 30 minuets later than I should have and the whole trip seemed rushed because of it. I rolled into the West Palm Beach airport on fumes and made it to my gate just as they were boarding. When we got to my connection in Washington, DC we had to wait 15 minuets on the tarmac for a gate to clear. Luckily, all I had to do was take five steps across the concourse to my next gate, walked on the plane an right into my seat.

My good friend, Lisa along with her little girl, Jillian and friend Monique were there to meet me in Syracuse and were shuttling me to the conference. We used the hour long ride to catch up and gab. I had missed the first half, and apparently long, boring and drawn out, portion of the meeting arriving just after lunch.

These meetings, and the organization as a whole, are an interesting thing. At our heart, this is a fan club. We do good deeds for our communities and for charities but also are a very dysfunctional group. While intentions may sometimes, not all the times, be good, many of these folks don’t know how to positively criticize and, instead, jump down people’s throats, antagonize, insult and berate anyone’s else’s ideas and opinions contrary to their own.

It was with this in mind that I was amazed at how the EBAC meeting went shorter than I thought it would and was nothing like the blood bath I expected. The “opposition” to our current leadership had barely given this team anything of a “honeymoon period” and have not let up. Granted, this administration has made some glaring mistakes which makes even me question them at times. However, this meeting went smooth and easy; almost congenial at times. We did get things accomplished but I was waiting for more. I have spoke to people on both sides and whether evasion was intentional of one side’s part or the other either never saw or was given the opportunity to bring up the controversial issues those issues will continue to play out over the next few months. IC always tends to energize people and it has done so with me. There are two issues in front of the leadership of our group which I have some clear ideas on and hope I will be able to add to the debate.

One of the surprises of the weekend was meeting up with an old friend, Robin Curtis. She was there along with another Trek actor John “JG” Hertzler. I had not seen Robin in about 2 years and caught her and John in the restaurant. I have known Robin for almost 20 years and we have kept in contact and retained a friendship outside of the fandom. We caught up and she was pleased to hear of my inroads to get into acting professionally. Talking “the craft” with John was also fantastic. He has a passion for acting and to be talking with the both of them like a peer was invigorating. During the Q&A session they did together I was able to coax a Shakespearean performance out of him which was amazing.

Robin has a one woman play she has been working on over the past few years which is a phenomenial piece of work. While her career was relatively short and a lot of “fluff” TV like “MacGyver” and “Airwolf” this piece that she has written is what real acting is all about, being truthful. It is sort of a personal “Vagina Monologues”. I even talked with her about the possibility of bringing it to Florida if she ever wanted to test it out. She has a new career in real estate and is giving that her focus of energy. I could still see, behind her eyes, that spark of an actor’s passion whenever she talked about it and how the itch to perform is still there under the surface.

IC is also a chance to meet up with other friends I have made over the years with this group. This weekend, especially, afforded me the opportunity to spend time with my friends Dave and Leslie. While they only live three hours away we hardly see each other and when we do, at most other conventions, it is hit and run. This time we shared a few meals and talked and laughed like old friends do.

It all came to an end and Lisa showed up to play chaueffeur again. We had more than enough time so she brought me to her house to see where she lived and meet her “significant other”, Howard. He grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and these things called spiedies. These are a simple marinated pork, lamb or chicken grilled and served on a single slice of Italian bread. I usually search out local foods and regional favorites but this one really could have gone unnoticed. For some reason, the locals in and around Binghampton, NY make a big deal out of these; going as far as having A Spiedie Festival. The major reason for this I found by driving around the area; the ain’t much frakking else to do in that neck of the woods! Thanks for making them, Howie but, really, get a regional food with some pizzaz to it!

After dinner we drove back to Syracuse. While I was ready to fly back to Florida, the weather had other plans. There were delays going up to 9PM which meant I would miss connections and eventually, after sleeping in an airport for up to 8 hours, back home late in the afternoon. I called Lisa and she came back to get me. I opted to take a flight out first thing in the morning which would put me back to West Palm Beach around lunch time. The best part of this is hat it gave me more time with Lisa. OK, so most of it was spent driving back and forth from Syracuse to Binghampton, but we had plenty of time to talk.

And yes; one of those topics was Julie. Lisa has seen me through many of these situations and is always able to give me the female perspective. She’s not always able to explain the why’s of how a woman reacts and thinks but she does give me an insight into the thought process. And she wasn’t the only one who weighed in and offered to come back to Florida to “have a talk with Julie”; I had three other readers of my blog come up to me and mention the situation. I want to thank each of you for not only reading this blog on a regular basis but for caring as well. It is satisfying to know that this blog isn’t simply my outlet for venting through my life but a way of connection with other people.

My flight should be leaving soon and I’ll be glad to get out of the Philly airport; it really ain’t the best I’ve seen so far. I’ll have photos posted a day or two after I get home. Hope you weekend went better than mine.