Monday, February 28, 2011
I grew up in Queensborough Hill, Flushing. If you wanted you could walk a mile or so to downtown Flushing or for a nickel take the Q44 bus or take the Rodman street trolley for the same price. The Lowe's Prospect was on Main Street right across from the Library and a block from the LIRR Station. On a Sat. for a quarter you could catch a double feature, the top bill was a first run that played two weeks prior on Broadway and the second feature was a "B" film that ran about 70 minutes, usually black and white. The Lowe's had the Pathe News Reel, coming attractions and a serial that played Saturday afternoon. But a half a mile down on Main Street and Northern Blvd. was the RKO Keith's that offered all this plus at least five cartoons and Bernie At The Organ. Half-way between on Main Street was the neighborhood itch called The Town which showed older movies. The Lowe's and Keith's had loges and a balcony where those who smoked could sit while The Town was only on one floor with a smoking section to the left. All theatres had a Matron, usually some bulky scary looking lady, that took care of the section where the kids were permitted to sit, usually to the side. She was there to keep order and wore a white type of uniform so she looked official and tough.
Taking the Q44 towards the south there was The Main Street theatre just off 73 rd. ave. in Que Gardens that played older runs like The Town but it had a balcony. Going further south into Jamaica right on Sutphin Blvd. and Jamaica Ave. was the Lowe's Hillside usually playing the same bill as Flushing's Lowe's Prospect. A left turn under the El was a theater on just about every block that played an older bill until you reached the Jamaica bus depot at 165 street where just up the block was the Lowe's Valencia which carried a bill that was to play in Flushing some two weeks later. The Valencia was a majestic theater that was similar to the RKO Keith's. Large and beautiful with chandeliers and winding steps up to the loge and balcony.
For a real treat your parents would take you into New York (Manhattan) to see a first run with a stage show at the Radio City Music Hall, The Roxy, The Strand or the Paramount which had a rising stage. Usually you had to wait on line inside AND outside the theater waiting for the show to end before you could enter. They had all the same things the local shows had except it was one feature with only one cartoon but it was all first run and it could take as long as a few months before the movie would finish it's run and work its way down to the neighborhood theaters. The stage shows featured big bands like Benny Goodman, Louis Prima, Artie Shaw with a name singer like Tony Bennett, or Frank Sinatra before they became mega stars. After the movie the theater would become pitch black, everything was quiet and at The Paramount you'd hear the Big Band playing and the lights would come up as the stage rose. What excitement! What a sound!
The availability was there for us at a reasonable price. We'd sit through four hours or so at the Keith's then run across Northern Blvd. to a Neadicks for an orange drink and a frank for fifteen cents. After that a few stores down on Main Street was Gould's record store where they'd let you play a record in a booth but you didn't have to buy it. We did buy most of our records there but we listened to all the ones we liked and couldn't afford and it was great. During the week we'd play what we saw in the serials or the feature or maybe a Boston Blackie, Chester Morris film about a detective We'd argue who would be the good guy and who's be the bad guy. There were arguments of who shot who and who was dead or not. All inspired by the movies we saw. Sometimes the arguments would get real heated and a real fight would break out but we were back playing very shortly because that's the way it was back then.
My heroes were Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Lindell among many from the sports world, Louis Prima, Harry James among many from music and of course, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and I fell in love with Barbara Stanwick, Lana Turner among others from the movies. I loved the MGM musicals, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor. Back then good always triumphed over evil, the good guy always got the girl and if you had a garage you could put on a mega show, just see any Andy Hardy movies for proof of that.
It is sad that today this experience is very hard to come by. Our movies are great, the acting is great, but the theaters are band boxes compared to what we had and sometimes the packaging enhances the gift. It is difficult to send your ten year old by themselves to a movie and God only knows what they might see. The cost is astronomical compared to what it was. Somehow TV, iPods and the like, such as digital games just don't seem comparable. I forgot to mention that the older folks, like my parents who were probably in their 30's when I remember them going to the movies on Sat. night. They were always dressed, Mom with her Sunday best all made up and Pop with his suit and tie and of course his Fedora. They were going to a place, they were going out, they were going someplace and they dressed for it. Today nobody dresses for anything unless it is overdressed like for the Oscars. Those were the days my friend. For a few bucks you could spend a few hours in fantasy land and escape the problems of the day by the beautiful people of Hollywood and the art form we call Movies.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Our people on the left at CNBC are really no better than the guys I have mentioned above. "Hard Ball" with Chris Matthews, the guy talks at 150 words a second. He asks the longest convoluted questions then shouts at the guy he's got on his show, if he doesn't agree with him, "Just answer yes, or no." When the guy tries to say a simple yes or no won't suffice Matthews jumps all over him many times shouting. This is idiotic. But get a guy Matthews likes and the treatment is entirely different, because the answer is framed in his question and he likes the guy's opinion. Lawrence O'Donnell is another great guy who brow beats the guy on his show and he entraps him. A little while ago He had a member from the House on who was a Republican who had different views than O'Donnell. Out of nowhere he entraps him by accusing him of breaking the law and knowing it by sleeping in his office and not reporting the gain he gets from that on his tax return. He called him a criminal, albeit a tax evader, but a criminal non-the-less. He yelled and screamed and threatened this young Republican member of the House so much so that I wondered why the guy didn't tell him to shove it instead of thanking him for having him on his show. They both were idiots. Rachel Maddow is very civil but she has a show which seems to be mostly her verbal essay and any guests are strictly echoing her viewpoint. CNBC ends with Ed, a radio talk show host who has made it to TV. Very Liberal and I share most of his views. BUT he too gets very hyper and over the top and tries to bludgeon his ideas into the viewer's heads. At least with Keith Oberman we had humor and more of a low key approach to sensible statements.
The earlier news shows on CNBC are much better starting with "Morning Joe" through the early afternoon. I can't speak for Fox. I find it difficult to tune Fox in because no matter what show I tune into they seem to be hammering home the conservative viewpoint, "fair and balanced" it ain't. I would like to see them all change the approach of spending ten minutes or less on each subject and then ending it by saying, "We're running out of time. We have only 20 seconds left.", and then ask the longest most convoluted question and expect someone to respond in 20 seconds or less. You may not agree with me on this but cable news is driving me back to network news and I've stopped listening to the Radio pundits altogether, including Immus in the morning.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
We do exist but in what form? It seems that there is a physical and, for my lack of a better word, spiritual existence. The physical is touchable, has a "feel" about it. The spiritual can be of two parts, one we can be sure of, our mind. The other can be debatable, the Soul. Some might want to join the mind, the thinking part, with the soul, that which lives on, and say they are one but rather than get into that argument I believe it can be agreed upon that the mind is something that can't be touched and is probably connected to our physical being in the brain. Damage the brain, the ability to think and act clearly is damaged if not destroyed but our bodies can live on. I would guess spiritual things are Ideas, emotions, the ability to love, experience joy and grieve. It is interesting that our spiritual being is determined by our awareness of such things that our mind creates. Also our physical being controls our spiritual being via nerves and chemicals. Chemicals become unbalanced, nerves get damaged and both physical and spiritual are greatly compromised. And even though we exist we only actually exist only for a brief second then what we experience becomes history and the present quickly becomes the future which quickly becomes the past and what we have left is only our memories. Our life goes on in such quick fashion that we can only fleetingly enjoy it as it happens but we can savor it by remembering.
There is so much we do not understand about our existence that many of us choose not to contemplate it at all and just let life happen. But, life doesn't just "happen", does it? There are things we must do or our existence comes to an end. Sleep is very important. It is needed to recharge our batteries so to speak. If we don't get the proper rest eventually we break down. We have to eat the proper foods or again our existence comes to an end. Some of this is understandable some of it isn't. Science still doesn't know exactly what happens when we sleep and why we need it. They know what happens if we abuse ourselves but they really don't know the "why" of it.
The other part of our existence is that we are part of a collective life, what we do and how we live has a ripple effect that can affect someone, or thing half way around the world. Yet our world is only a small box of what we experience and see. Yet we have a collective experience that we don't see, we aren't aware of, and in some way what we do and say keeps resounding through time. There was a theory that whatever is said aloud goes into the atmosphere and can be captured if we could develop the proper antenna. Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address could be heard, in his voice, under this theory. Pictures and sounds are floating all around us and when we use the proper tools we can access them, for example television and radio and telephone. Some theorize that we have some radio active qualities within us so that our images and words are released as energy into our world and with the proper tools we could see and hear Plato, Socrates, Jesus' Sermon on The Mount. All this plays into the question just what is the fact of our existence? Yes we exist but in what way? How do we fit into the collective existence of mankind? Can we contribute something to humanity or do we just go on and let life happen and be happy in our collective ignorance?
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Now I am getting more confused than ever, everybody (by everybody I mean our leaders?) is yelling CUT, CUT, CUT! The Sky Is Falling (the economic sky I guess?) and it is falling because we are running out of money. Now when I hear we are running out of money I figure "we" means everybody. It is true that Social Security has remained the same for two years or so while the cost of Medicare has risen (not enough according to some conservatives who would cut Social Security and raise Medicare premiums?) and believe it or not costs have risen even though they say inflation is flat. Have "they" looked at their heating bills lately? Have they checked the cost of fruits and vegetables not to mention meat? Or is it only in my neighborhood these prices have gone up? But then I get even more confused when I hear we are running out of money and look at something like the Super Bowl. Super Bowl XLV drew 103, 219 into the new Dallas stadium owned by Jerry Jones who is a very rich guy who got a $1.3 Billion new Stadium for his team that didn't do so well this year. By the way he was the beneficent of the tax cuts the Republicans said was so necessary before they started to realize we were running out of money and had to cut a lot of social programs Jerry Jones really doesn't need or want. However, I digress. According to Joe Thurman, of SB Nation, the average ticket on stub-hub was $3,678 (one ticket); one man paid $73,000 for a 15 catered suite; Craig List had a posting for a full suite with no hidden costs for $254,000. Then it even gets more confusing because with all this money disappearing from our country, Commercial costs were $3MILLION for a 30 SECOND time slot. They figure about 100,000,000 people viewed this great event (I admit I did view it and looked at all the commercials), therefore the cost per thousand (CPM) is only $30.00 CPM which averages down to three cents per person to see the commercial, which is pretty cheap. Of course to be this cheap per person you have to spend a lot of money By the way, Altius Directory lists NFL 2010 salaries for Green Bay at $94 Million and Pittsburgh at $129 Million. Of course these are the participating teams in this sports orgy which I am sure you know was won by Pittsburgh.
My point is if we are going broke Federally, and Statewise where the hell is all this money coming from for only one sports event and we have plenty more of this type of thing that goes on every day, every week. Each week Golf events pay over a Million Dollars to the winner. Broadway shows have tickets going for $125 each and with parking and eating, people go out and spend for a night out $300 or $400. If we are going broke and we must cut, cut , cut how the hell are so many people and living so well? If The United States of America can't afford heath care for everyone how can we pass tax cuts that benefit the rich. If the money is disappearing how can a child go hungry, and they do, don't let anyone kid you. It seems to me that the money isn't disappearing it is just ending up in some people's pockets and those "some" include our politicians at all levels of government. Take a good look at the suits the politicians are wearing, I bet most of us couldn't afford them. They are our new elite, new royalty and yes they want to cut, cut cut but not a one of their perks. Do I sound bitter? Well I am more confused than bitter. My question remains; If we are broke then where the hell is all this money that a lot of people seem to have and intend to keep, come from?
Friday, February 11, 2011
I watched it and Loved it.
But when I see Patrick Swazey I feel sad we lost him so young. Jamie Lee Curtis so sexy now she's concerned with ACTIVA and bowel movements. Time marches on and the money is good for a Fish Called Wanda. Of course we all forget just how good and skinny John Travolta was He's still good but fat and a Scientoligist to boot. A tragedy about his son. How can one follow L. Ron Hubbard? A sci-fi writer of fiction who is Scientology's founder. Many years ago I read his book on this and it was bad and fictitious. But then we believe in God becoming man and loving us. Knowing how bad we can be (not you) how crazy is that? I mean loving us. Of course Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly are the best of the best but when Donald O'Connor was young and in shape and not destroyed by alcohol , he held his own with the best. Remember "Be A Clown"? We forget just how athletic he was. AND speaking of athleticism how about Dick Van Dyke? Julie Andrews gets all the accolades for "Mary Poppins" which she deserves but every one forgets Van Dykes performance which was brilliant. Remember "the Chimney Sweep" scene? Not easy!
But America's love with the dance is brought up to date with "The Black Swan" Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" which is a psycho-drama but it brings Ballet into focus for it's great music and super dancing showing the dedication and focus needed to become a Ballet artist. "The Red Shoes", when was that?, 1960's may be the last great Ballet motion picture before "The Black Swan". I loved the picture even though I thought I would hate since I had no appreciation for Ballet, guys running around in pants so tight that their packages seemed strangled, not for me. But this picture changes my mind, although I will never try to even squeeze into Ballet tights. I have to admit that even though I loved the picture when it was over I wasn't sure of what I had seen. I'm still not sure but whatever conclusion I arrive at when I consider this great picture, I am satisfied, at least for that day.
Before I finish let me acknowledge that Patrick Swazey also did well in non-dancing roles. The one I shall always remember is "Ghosts". The scene with Demi Moore, doing some clay work to the great song of "Unchained Melody" remains as the most searing, sexual love scene I have seen. As I remember they kept their clothes on as they worked the clay and the melody played. I was sitting there in the movie house with my wife and we could feel the electricity flowing through our veins as that scene played out. As to what happened when we went home, I don't think I'll share with you.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Andy Pettitte retired. OMIGOSH, the Yanks pitching rotation has been thrown into a shambles. They have an ace followed by a guy who, if not holding such a large contract, should have been traded he was so bad, another guy who had half a good season and the rest all with a wing (pardon the pun) and a prayer. But then I saw an opportunity! They must be looking for a pitcher to fill the slot left open and I got a cousin who could do just that. Oh, yeah, he's a little old but we could fix that. I bet his arm is as strong as ever and what the hell, Pettitte could only throw around 82 mph and I bet he could throw faster than that without even warming up. We gonna' have to do something about making him look younger but that shouldn't be too much trouble. That SOB has a full head of hair, hasn't lost a strand! The only hair I have is what grows out of my ears, nose and every pore in my face but not a single one on my head. Bald as a cucumber, that SOB! Ah, but I digress. The problem is he's very grey, more white. What the hell, we'll dye it jet black that should take off 20 years. Now as to his walk and height. He's not as tall as he once was and he really doesn't strut like a peacock anymore and we all know all athletes walk like the world belongs to them. I just read about this machine that is called The Rack. They claim they can straighten out your spine and give you your youthful bounce back again. That should take off another 20 years. His wife may object. You see as she got a little older she got a little shorter and if we get him back to his youthful height there would be a foot and a half between them. But what the hell, they really don't go to many dances anymore. The money they throw at him will soothe her feelings. I've got to get an agent, maybe The Avenging Agent, Scott Boras, would be interested. First we'll strengthen his arm by having him throw about 2000 balls through a small carved out hole in a wooden board. I didn't bring a pen into the Throne Room with me so I'll have to jot down some notes when I leave and before I call him up with this proposition.
Then my thoughts drifted to Egypt. Boy isn't that a helluva thing going on there. Way back when a guy named Danny Skouras, related to Spyros Skouras of Prudential-Grace Lines and 20th. Century Fox fame and I went to a night club called Little Egypt. Skouras was Greek but he wanted to see Egyptian Belly Dancers. It was then that I found out that Turkish, Egyptian and Greek, It was so long ago I am not sure, all had different steps an interpretations. I liked what I saw but didn't quite buy the idea that the dance had something to do with childbirth. We, Danny and I and a few other guys were enjoying the show when Danny jumped up on the stage shoved a few bills in the top of the skirt and whispered something in the girl's ear. She signaled someone, in my mind Arnold in his prime wasn't as big, who came over and suggested we should leave. Danny became bellicose and we were going to follow in that manner until I saw the holster that carried a gun. This changed my mind. We, ushered Danny out and we left.
Later in my life I worked with an Egyptian who wasn't Muslim or anything religious. His main interest was the stock market which affect his work some what and led to his departure. But he always impressed me with his slight accent and seemingly knowledge of the market that I didn't have. I hear he got hurt badly in one of the downturns. The last encounter I had with an Egyptian of any kind was through a lady I know who married a Christian Egyptian who was very intelligent and warm hearted. Unfortunately I never met him but I bet I would have liked him if I did.
As I was getting ready to leave the Throne Room my thoughts floated to this winter we are experiencing in New York City's outer boroughs. I never liked Buffalo; never wanted to visit it; never planned to see it! Yet Buffalo has chosen to visit me. We've had 11 snow storms with more to come. There are piles of snow some six feet high at corners so that you can't see any cars approaching which is an interesting adventure since the ice seems to settle at the corners making stopping another adventure. On my block there are three cars completely buried and in Astoria one guy was in his car and died. He was discovered AFTER they dug him out. Except for the main streets all streets have narrowed because of the snow buildup, to one lane. Of course we New Yorkers play chicken especially at the end of a busy day. We who have dug out our cars never use them for fear that someone will take the space when we drive away. In any event, despite my decision to never visit or ever live in Buffalo or its environs, Buffalo has chosen to visit me and I resent that imposition greatly.
I left the Throne Room after washing up and took my seat in front of the TV. I tuned into The Weather Channel to see if Buffalo was going to visit me again. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I had to call somebody but couldn't remember who so I just relaxed, then tensed up as I heard that snowstorm number 12 was on the horizon with the promise of some 10 to 14 inches. I do wish I could remember who I wanted to call, and what I wanted to tell them.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
He had just returned from morning Mass. He was just about to turn 30 and he was a young man on the rise. The world was his oyster and he just loved life. The songs of Frank Sinatra that Jack O'Brien, the DJ of the early morning drive show on WEAF played were still in his ears. Life was good. His beautiful wife met him at the door and he took off his overcoat but kept on his suit jacket making sure that his white shirt, tie and neatly pressed suit didn't get a stain on them. All the externals were good. Feb. was as cold as it always is in New York City but the City was bustling, The World's Fair was a big draw, the new group named after insects were coming to town. There was a big hullabaloo being raised by the colored people, some were now referring to them as Blacks, over segregation in New York Schools. Baseball was going to start up pretty soon. The Yanks were still at the top of their game and the Mets were babies learning to walk.
He sat down at his usual spot at the kitchen table and his youngest son was to his left in his high chair. He noticed the quiet that filled the air as his four other children were upstairs , two getting ready for school and two others staying out of the way. His youngest was about six months old. He was a cutie, nice and round and chubby with a great smile. Five boys, what more could a guy ask for? Maybe a daughter. Down deep in his soul he was a little afraid of being a father to a girl. One has to be softer with a girl. She gets into trouble you can't tell her to go and punch the guy in the nose, can you? Then she grows up and if she is anything like her mother the animals begin to stalk her and she has to keep fighting to keep herself pure, he hoped. That's when she draws away from everyone and family becomes secondary. Boys on the other hand play ball, fight and always remember family, or at least that's what he thought. But that wasn't the problem this St. Blaise's day. He just got his throat blessed, received Holy Communion and lived in the greatest City in the world, was a man on the rise, had a beautiful wife and five boys. The externals were there. Life was good.
As he was eating breakfast he and his wife were having a conversation about nothing. She looked over to the baby in the high chair who seemed to be having trouble swallowing. They both looked and didn't seem concerned. Kids are always choking, aren't they? But this time he was having what seemed like real trouble. His wife rushed over to try to get him to spit up but he only gaged more. She called to her husband who tried to bang his back but that only seemed to make matters worse. Nothing they did helped instead the baby was turning blue and seemed on the verge of passing out. "He could die!", the husband thought. What seemed like a very long time but probably was only seconds, everything that seemed so great seemed like nothing. He was on the verge of seeing his youngest son die! The swinging town, the job that looked so bright, the house, Frank Sinatra, The World's Fair all the externals all for naught. It was if his life was passing before him; as though he was dieing; he was lost nowhere to turn. Then suddenly he yelled out "Saint Blaise Help Us!" and at that moment just as he finished his plea a piece of bread came flying, literally, flying out of the baby's mouth. The youngest son's eyes were wide open and he was crying loudly. He was breathing. He was alive. The mother picked up her baby and hugged him as she was in tears and the husband was exhausted, spent but happy beyond words. In his happiness taken up by the euphoria of the moment he said the next son they would have would bear the name Blaise she responded that it would be better to think about that since she was a bit tired having given birth to five children in the first six years or so of their marriage. Then he remembered that he promised Christopher as his next son's name but then there was always a middle name or more sons.
The years have passed by and they did have two more children, twins, the boy carried Blaise as his middle name and the girl, yes the girl, honored the Blessed Mother The fifth son was no longer the youngest son and the father found that having a girl while different than having a son wasn't so bad after all in fact it was a pleasant change. Most of all both parents realized the miracle bestowed on them through the intercession of St. Blaise their fifth son lived and through this miracle left them with the knowledge that the miracle of life is far greater than the externals. The parents loved their children deeply but differently. The mother was always the softie but the father always marvelled at his children's accomplishments as they made their way through life.
Life's roads are full of bumps that pop up at the most unexpected times but if we could just rely on that power that is beyond our limitations and cry out St. Blaise, you who work through and for God, HELP US. Then watch whatever is choking us be spit out so we can breathe again, and just like that baby cry and come alive again with the knowledge that life is still full of wonder and good surprises and really IS worth living for those trust and have hope.