Friday, April 28, 2017
The Second Avenue subway vaulted Ms. Fitzsimmons onto the front page with her Second Avenue subway reporting. And as if that weren't enough, the recent track breakdowns in Penn Station that have placed the cojones of the LIRR, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, and their millions of daily passengers in a vise, is again front page news. The story from the tracks keeps getting uglier, and Ms. Fitzsimmons is there with her hard hat and Timberland shoes to bring us the story, even if she has to kick rats out of the way. Jimmy Breslin would have been proud of her.
And now there is the opening of the new Kosciuszko Bridge. That name that is one of the hardest to spell surnames in all of New York. My own last name is 12 letters and is completely Greek in origin, and it is not as hard to spell as Kosciuszko.
The opening of the new bridge finds Ms. Fitzsimmons in a supporting role, as David Dunlap, another infrastructure reporter, gets the front page nod to bring us the story, complete with schematic drawings of support cables. The design of the bridge is of the new style for suspension bridges, and gives everyone a preview of what the new Tappan Zee Bridge will look like.
A few pages from that story Ms. Fitzsimmons gets to share a byline with another reporter, Patrick McGeehan, on Amtrak's announcement that they are going to start repairing tracks "this summer," making everyone's life miserable, but leaving out just how miserable by not telling anyone the number of tracks that will be taken out of service. There are 21, serving three railroads. The long hot summer will be here.
Amtrak owns Penn Station. If anyone remembers the bankruptcy of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the demolishment of the old Penn Station, they will remember a process that kept bankruptcy lawyers employed for life.
The old joke about New York City was that it was a "nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there."
With Long Island City sprouting so many new towers that it seems as if the Brobdingnagians went on a building spree, the other phrase, "New York will be a nicer place when they get it finished" never seemed more appropriate.
It is a great time to be here from Texas.
The story wouldn't have had nearly the gravitas for United Airlines if they hadn't recently called the cops on a passenger they wanted removed because of over-booking, creating a scene out of a Jerry Springer show, and subsequently dragging the poor fellow down the aisle like a harpooned tuna. I think they even heard about that one at the Space Station.
The rabbit that didn't make it alive from Heathrow to O'Hare (I'm still laughing) was not just an Easter bunny pet of a child, but an example of a breed of rabbit, the Continental Giant rabbit, named Simon, He measured three-feet in length, and might possibly be descended from the rabbit that attacked President Carter's fishing boat years ago. No mention was made of that possibility, however.
Apparently, Simon was pronounced "fit as a fiddle" by a veterinarian just three hours prior to being placed in the cargo hold of the flight. You gotta love that too. A rabbit who is "fit as a fiddle" who is bigger than a cello.
Simon, the dead rabbit, was only 10 months old, and was expected to grow even bigger than his father Darius, the world's biggest, who grew to be 4 feet 4 inches. Darius I, the person, apparently was the third king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. So, Simon was descended from royalty. I never knew they purposely bred rabbits, like dogs and horses.
I've never been to a dog track, but they use a mechanical bunny that comes around on the rail and is timed to appear in front of the starting gate where the dogs spring from to run their race. The announcer tells the crowd, "Here's comes the bunny." It is doubtful they use a rabbit as big as Simon, or Darius, though.
The Continental Giant is Flemish breed of rabbit, said to be "a fantastic house rabbit," but apparently one that should be kept away from anything important in the house, because they will "chew to bits cables, wires, shoes paper, and anything important." That last warning sounds like legal boiler plate that comes from the breeder to protect themselves from lawsuits when your house bound Continental Giant rabbit turns everything in sight into rabbit food. Of course, these are just common sense warnings. You don't have to have the rabbit in your house. In fact, of course, you don't have to have a rabbit, period. But some people do.
Just the other Saturday TMC had the film version of 'Harvey' on. Anyone who knows anything about this Jimmy Stewart classic knows it is a story about a gentle, eccentric man who believes he is always accompanied by a rabbit named Harvey. Harvey is never seen, but his presence is always felt. 'Harvey' was first a play on Broadway, and somewhere in this house I have what passed for a 1940s 'Playbill' my parents brought home after seeing the show. This was after the war, but before I was born.
Now Jimmy Stewart was fairly tall, but Harvey was even taller, coming in at 6 feet 3 1/2 inches in his bare feet, as his tippling character Elwood P. Dowd keeps reminding us. Jimmy is always looking up to Harvey.
Simon's pop Darius was 4 feet 4 inches, and Simon, if he had survived the flight from Heathrow to O'Hare (you gotta keep laughing at that), would have grown even been bigger. Simon could have had Danny DeVito looking up to him in a revival of the play and film.
The missed opportunities.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
The announcement of the election of course puts the prime minister in front of cameras. And in Britain, all the prime minister has to do is stand in front of her front door at 10 Downing Street, approach the podium, and speak into the assembled microphones.
And as usual, Prime Minister May looks positively natty in her age-appropriate blue striped dress, perfectly complemented by her silver hair.
With this latest appearance, Ms. May has pulled ahead of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in the race for the 'World's Most Photographed Woman with Clothes On.' At the 3/8th pole Ms. May has inched ahead and is in the lead.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Once the shock of $7 parking was discussed and worn out, the chatter was strictly about who do you like, and why? Actually, no one really has to be forced to tell anyone who they like and why, it just comes out.
Bobby G. missed the first race, but arrived with a pressing issue: "Tell me the One won the first race." Yes he did. Bobby G. explained he put $14 on him from his phone through his account. The One went off as the second choice at $1.65, and paid $5.30 to win. Bobby G. was ahead and he hadn't even sat down yet. Sitting down, he explained later, was where he went wrong.
Johnny D's numbers were hitting, but the returns were paltry. Jose was up to his usual carpet bombing betting approach, having so many 50 cent, $1 and $2 win and boxed exacta and trifecta bets, that it was usually only with a reshuffle through his tickets after the race did he realize if he won anything. Sometimes he did. But a $9 return on a $20 series of bets will drain you of funds faster than the water goes over Niagara Falls.
Johnny M. was holding his own, but usually following Johnny D's bets, and neither was getting into the plus column with any rate of speed. It wasn't until the sixth race that the ground opened up. Or, more accurately, the volcano erupted.
A very popular bet at the track, aside from the multi-led wagers that can engulf two, three, four, five and even six! races, is the superfecta. Hitting it requires having the ticket that has the first four horses, in their exact order of finish. Its payouts can be startling, driven in value when a longshot either wins, or places within the first four, and the favorite doesn't win, or doesn't even make the first four finishers.
Most superfecta bets are "boxed" bets. This is a ticket that covers all the permutations of the order of finish for the four or more horses you select. The more horses you select, the more permutations, and the more the final bets costs.
String together four horses (the minimum) and then decide your wager. The popular bet for the superfecta is the minimum 10 cents. That bet wagers 10 cents per permutation. Since 10 cents is 5% of $2, when the payoff for the $2 price (the traditional minimum bet) is posted, you get 5% of that announced payout. "Boxing" four horses creates a ticket that covers the 24 permutations of those four horses in a finish. Bet 10 cents on a "boxed" four horse superfecta, the ticket costs you a measly $2.40. You get 5% of the $2 payout if your four horses finish as the top four finishers, no matter what order they're in. And since the $2 payout can be large, 5% of a large number can be a large number as well, all for a micro-bet of $2.40.
Jose loves to play superfectas for 10 cents per bet. But he also shuns the self-service betting machines, relying on the old way of telling the teller his bets. Because betting superfectas can be convoluted with "boxing" and "keying" (not discussed here), NYRA insists that the self-service machines be used for making the bet.
Since I use the machines, Jose will give me what his four-horse selection is, and choose to bet 10 cents per outcome, So, I write down his numbers and collect $2.40 from Jose and make his superfecta bet at the self-service machine, giving him his ticket before the race. His $2.40 ticket for a four-horse superfecta is actually twenty-four 10 cent wagers. The notation on the ticket acknowledges this by displaying the four horses selected, the "box" type of bet, and the fact that 24 bets are actually on the ticket. Have your four horses finish first through fourth place, in any order, and your ticket is good for 5% of the $2 payout. You collect. A feeling you never tire of.
Jose brings an aspect to the game of betting that I have called carpet bombing. Aside from giving me his superfecta bets, and I giving him his ticket, he will have made several other bets at the manned teller window. He boxes exactas and trifectas in the race he just bet a superfecta on. He'll make $1 bets and 50 cent bets. He might wind up with 16 pieces of paper before he's done and back at his seat.
There were eight horses in Saturday's sixth race, numbers 1-8. Jose gave me 1/2/6/8 to box for his 10 cent superfecta. He made an array of other bets, none of which we ever know the specifics of, and generally are outside even his ability to recall without looking at his tickets. Thus, when a race is over, and the order of finish is Official, Jose may be aware of one of his bets that came in, but not all of them. He doesn't really know if he lost all his bets, or, if he hit some portion of them until he dives back into his stack of tickets and reads his bets back. It becomes a paper shuffle.
The sixth race order of finish was 2/1/8/6, with a $35 horse winning, and a near 39-1 shot coming in third. The favorite finished 2nd and the second favorite finished fourth, Jose was in for a decent return for his 10 cent wager.
But it didn't stop there. A scan of his tickets revealed he had the trifecta as well, a ticket with the exact order of finish of the top three horses. Prices went up, and it didn't take long to compute that Jose's 10 cents superfecta bet returned 5% of the $2 payout of $2,967. No calculator needed. Ten percent is $296.70; and half of that is $148.35.
His trifecta bet was a three horse 50 cent "box" and he had the first three finishers on that ticket as well. Thus, he stood to collect 25% of the $2 trifecta payout of $1,007. Half of half of that is $251.75.
He's now up to a cumulative return of $400.10. He's gone through his rickets and created a discard pile. At the urging of The Assembled we insisted he go back through his tickets. Maybe he's got the exacta as well.
Yep, a second pass through the pile reveals a winning exacta ticket, for a $1 bet. Thus, Jose is in line for half the $2 payout of $124.50. This makes that ticket worth $62.25. Pile it on.
Finally satisfied that all the winning tickets have been culled from the sixth race pile, Jose goes to collect. Something no one ever gets tired of doing.
Money won is twice as nice as money earned, but even if you're only watching Jose win, you're having a good time.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Young Nicholas, at very little urging from his mother and grandmother, took to the microphone to tell the assembled a series of riddles--with answers--to the crowd that was seated in the dining hall of the yacht club, in attendance after paying their respects to Aunt Emma, 89, who recently passed away, and who left specific instructions with her daughter that her funeral was to be held on a Saturday, so no one had to miss work--or school. As if anyone amongst the 150 or so members of the sprawling Layton, Canty, Brennan clans was going to miss her funeral, no matter what day it was held on.
Young Nicholas is Emma's great-grandson, and is an apple that certainly didn't fall far from the tree of the certain outgoingness and warmth that were displayed by her, and by his grandmother and mother.
Did you hear the one about the pizza?
-Nah, it's too cheesy.
What do you call a cow with no legs?
How did the two oceans greet each other?
What do you call a cow that twitches?
How do you wake up Lady Gaga?
-You Poker Face.
What you call a cow with three legs?
Aunt Emma loved it.
It is fully expected that with only a little encouragement, Young Nicholas's comedy career will, in a few years, ramp up to stories about the priest, rabbi and minister who walk into a bar.
Aunt Emma will be waiting.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
In the era depicted in these movies, most people didn't have telephones. There might have one at the base of the stairs in the rooming house they were staying in, the one run by the nosy old lady whose house you were in, and therefore implicitly giving permission to being spied on, And she did.
A public phone booth was an actual structure where one could go in, sit down on a small seat, close the door, look up a phone number in the directory if it was still attached to the chain, and make a call, usually for a nickle, and eventually for a dime. Drug stores all had phone booths. Drug stores were the 7 Elevens of the era. They stayed open all night. They had a lunch counter and a soda fountain. You could eat there, have ice cream desserts there, and get prescriptions filled there. You could buy toiletries and Westclox alarm clocks. They were the original 24/7.
Now in a gangster movie there is always someone desperate to make a call. Luckily, they usually have the right change to do this, so they scoot into a drug store phone booth, never even bothering to sit down, they are so desperate to make that call.
There are those who don't want this person to make that call. "Drop that dime" on them and finger them for the job they just pulled, providing the DA with just the right amount of testimony that will result in their going to prison. They don't want this, so they fire a Tommy gun at the drug store window through which you can see the phone booth and the caller. It's curtains for the caller. The line goes dead, and so do they.
You might think with the disappearance of phone booths this scene would disappear from movies and TV shows. No. Last night on 'Homeland' we got the updated version when Carrie alerts the authorities to a house in Queens (an outer borough of NYC that the writers actually found, unlike the the NYT) that was being used as a black ops staging area and where there was a significant piece of evidence, a van parked in the garage.
There are police and FBI agents all over the place, inside, outside; there are other high-level government types as well; the Solicitor General is somewhere, and Carries needs to find him again.
She goes outside and there are a pair of agents ready to take a bolt cutter to a padlock on the garage door to get it open.
Now, the house has just been occupied by a team of men who are the equivalent of a Navy SEAL 6 Team. They know every aspect of commando warfare. They know about weapons, ammo and bombs. They are dangerous bunch if left to their own devices, and a device is just what they left behind on that garage door.
Carrie of course quickly sees the padlock, sees the bolt cutter work though the steel loop, sees the agents reach for the door handle to pull the door up when she yells to stop, "No."
A bomb causes more damage than a Tommy gun through the window, but the result is the same. Death. But not Carrie of course, or Quinn, who were just outside the blast radius.
Didn't those guys with the bolt cutter watch old movies?
Comic books gave way to adult comic books, magazines and newspapers. Look, Saturday Evening Post, Playboy, and of course The New Yorker . And any newspaper with an editorial cartoon, of which the New York Times has steadfastly abstained from having, but does do reprints of cartoons published by others in a Sunday section.
I distinctly remember waiting in my doctor's waiting room sometime in the late 60s and looking through Look magazine and coming across a Richter cartoon that showed two Arabs on a prayer rug in the desert, with one getting up and announcing, "Hold it, I think we're facing Israel." I tore it out of the magazine.
If you follow the genre of obituaries, you might be aware that it seems a good deal of the community of cartoonists who have been published in The New Yorker are now showing up dead. The obituary for the latest to pass away, Jack Ziegler, informs us that seven New Yorker cartoonists have died in the past year. What's going on? Are they being targeted by someone who hacked in the HR records and found out where they lived?
Of course not. Just as many scientists,writers, entertainers, and more, have passed away in the last year. As an occupation, being a cartoonist popular enough to rate a tribute obituary on the New York Times, means you probably did work that was published regularly in the New Yorker. The New Yorker being one of the last publications left that uses cartoons in their editions.
Editorial cartoons are my favorite. They skewer the days' events and the makers of the news, usually currently elected politicians. I've been given and bought many published cartoon collections. One of my favorites was Herbert Block, Herblock. When President Lyndon Johnson had gall bladder surgery he, for some reason, lifted his shirt and showed the press corps the scar from the surgery.
Herblock drew this, showing the president showing off his scar: an outline of a map of Southeast Asia, To me, that kind of cartoonist made me envious.
At times, I've thought in terms of an image with a tag line I've supplied. When my household was younger and filled with two kids in pursuit of competitive swimming, running, and my own pursuit of running, I imaged a Chon Day, or George Price cartoon of our front door being drawn as two gym locker doors, with our address as the numbers on the doors and two people coming to call, with one who says to the other. "This family is very into sports."
So, here we are this past Monday, with a four page spread of the Irish Sport Page in the NYT. There are even color photos. Mondays can be a busy day in the print section because the editor thoughtfully reprints obituaries that appeared on Sunday and that I only got to read online. Thus, when someone like Jack Ziegler passes away, there is a print copy that includes come examples of his work. Online, you got a nice gallery of 15 cartoons throughout his career, but you can't make hard copies that will appear with the obituary's text.
There are those who might recall one of my sentiments ts that the best we can hope for in life is to be remembered affectionately. Cartoonists are remembered even more fondly.
The soon-to-retire editor of New Yorker cartoons, Bob Mankoff, so deftly describes Mr. Ziegler and his work, that Richard Sandomir uses it as the last word: "This was an imagination off the leash."
It's no wonder I always wished I could draw.
So it was no surprise when Emma's daughter put the word out on Monday that her mother had passed away. Aunt Emma is really a cousin of my wife's; being a cousin of her mother. Emma was born as Winifred in 1928 in what was the a farming community of Freehold, New Jersey. She was the second youngest of six, and the last surviving member of the older Layton family tree. After being named Winifred she quickly became known as Emma for some reason that no one now remembers. Just a whim. Her youngest sister Helen also had another name at birth as well, Catherine. Her brother Herbert, the oldest and only brother, was named Joseph at birth.
Aunt Emma is survived by two of her three children, five grandchildren, one great-grandchild and enough nieces and nephews to qualify her for membership in the Kennedy clan, of which she actually became friends with.
Her marriage to John Canty put the rest of her life in Massachusetts, living in Sommervile, Buzzards Bay, and eventually Centerville, where her daughter lived. Her lifelong Catholic faith would put her in the Centerville Roman Catholic church, Our Lady of Victory, at the same time as when Ethel Kennedy was attending mass. They would talk, each a reigning matriarch of an expanding family.
She was a family favorite, who everyone liked and loved. 'Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee?' Applies to Emma.
Emma's husband John was a police officer, and eventually a fireman in Sommervile, and passed away in 2006. He last worked at Otis Air Force base as a maintenance worker, and, being a WW II veteran, is buried on the base.
The daughter Lorraine cared for her mother in her home after Emma was unable to care for herself, living in the house next door. Emma passed away at Lorraine's.
So, given the current means of communication, yesterday a notice was posted on Facebook, and emails went out. This is the email I got from my wife, who was at work when the news went out.
Lorraine contacted Susan grandma Em passed away this morning. As Lorraine put it the wake, funeral and party are on Saturday.
A subsequent email gave more details,
wake Sat 11-2 Funeral Mass at 2 the party at yacht club at 3
If you haven't guessed by now, you should be able to tell the Laytons and Cantys are of Irish ancestry.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
The ticket was a Christmas present, and put the elder member in the garden for a Ranger game for the first time since the latest renovation to the league's oldest arena, while at the same time the newest arena. The class of the Garden still holds.
I laugh at the architectural reporter for the NYT who every now and then suggests the Garden should move further west, and allow the train station below to restore the grandeur of the old Penn Station. I'm sure the Dolan family after spending $500 million on a two-year renovation, with $70 going to just the planning, that they're eager to move. The Times is on crack sometimes.
The elder spent ten years as season ticket holder, starting in the late 60s. His attendance at Ranger games started at the Old Garden in 1959, when Montreal's goaltender Jacques Plante wore a mask for the first time. There is depth to these Ranger memories.
Perhaps ironically enough, there was a ceremony recognizing the season tickets who've had tickets for 50 years. There must have been 15 people, all male, who were brought out onto the rubber, flanked by former Rangers Rod Gilbert and Adam Graves, to receive congratulations for their tenure as fans.
Quite honestly, not all the folks they introduced looked old enough to have been holding tickets for 50 years. One nonagenarian in a wheelchair, pushed out by his son was legit, but surely some of the others were in seats first purchased by the parents; the tickets stayed in the family.
One thing all the honorees had in common was that the 50 years of being associated with the Rangers has cost all of them their shirt. Every honoree was wearing a Ranger jersey. Whether this was their own, or provided by management, is not knows, but believe me, you would lose your shirt paying for attendance at 50 years' worth of games. Also, the management provided jerseys might have also covered up stray tattoos that had Potvin's name stenciled inside a heart. Not a night to remember the Islanders.
Our seats were at the same level my original season seats were at, Section 333, Row M, seats 5&6. We were on the other side of the ice, but still nearest the goal the Rangers would attack twice. The blue line, if it were to have been continued up through the stands, would have come between myself and my daughter Susan.
I had been to few home games years ago, so I knew the place would turn into a thumping rock concert. Attendance at some baseball games has given me a flavor of what the fan experience is like these days; what goes into entertaining.
What I wasn't ready for were the T-shirt throws during intermission. The strong arm throws from young male and female heavers, as well as the air pumped bazooka launches that made that looked like Ghostbusters had invaded the arena.
Okay, I've seen this at ball games, but what I had never seen were the four large rocket launchers arranged at center ice that fired a fusillade of T-shirts into the crowd from four directions. The place was being carpet bombed with T-shirts.
My hope is no one suffered PTSD over the military-style promotion, but when the white balloon, looking like a weather balloon drifted over the crowd powered by drone propellers, my thoughts were that either Google Earth was taking a survey, or we really were under attack. The place starts to resemble a military exercise. To think the crowd once entertained itself by batting latex party balloons and sometimes beach balls back and forth is to realize how far the need to keep people entertained has come.
And of course since I have watched some telecasts at home, I was in no way ready for the commercial breaks. There were always breaks for commercials, but they usually involved a prolonged wait at a face off circle for the puck to be dropped.
Now, the players head over to their benches and 10 guys in blue outfits come streaking out onto the ice pushing scrapers as they collect loose shavings and push it to either end where two other guys shovel the shaved ice into buckets. They they all scoot off as fast they came, and the puck gets dropped. It is a commando raid on the ice.
Of course there was a featured fan who danced. And he was in my section, who within 20 seconds of the opening face off was trying to get the crowd to chant "Let's Go Rangers." He was perhaps near 50, wearing a Kreider Ranger jersey, looking like an iron worker. During one break he was spotlighted at an entrance portal busting moves that could put him on a show, all to the thundering music and strobe lighting that was just for him. He used the aisle handrail like a stripper would a pole. A different gender and outfit, and he would have had U.S. currency tucked into his clothing when he was done.
The sound and light show between periods has the ice looking as it it is breaking up, global warming at its worst. The only thing you don't get a suggestion of is stranded polar bears. Simulated subways stream from one end to the other. Sensory overload. Oh, they play a game as well.
And it was a good game that the Rangers were lucky to tie with 12 seconds remaining, with the usual pull-the-goaltender tactic. This time it worked, sending the game into a four-on-four five minute overtime, that ended with no one scoring, despite a two-on-none Ranger breakaway. Now the shootout. Rangers lose, but still come away with a tie and a point in the standings.
My steadfast attendance did not coincide with seeing Wayne Gretsky play. I know he later played for the Rangers, but I never saw him play in person. But, Sidney Crosby is a new generation's Gretsky and I got to see Mr. C. make a ridiculous shot from the goal line, a 180 shot that he really had no business taking, let alone making by banking it in off the Lundqvist, who was otherwise sensational in goal and kept the Rangers in the game,
Bobby Orr of the Bruins changed the game for defencemen, and Wayne Gretsky changed the game for forwards, making seeing-eye passes and shots from completely unlikely angles--and scoring.
My guess is years and years ago coaches would have benched a player who shot at the net from a 180 degree goal line angle, or attempted to score while behind the net. But Gretsky showed how that could be done, and now Sidney Crosby is at it.
Crosby also scored a shootout goal that helped give the Penguins the 2-0 shootout victory. He's a league-leading scorer and earns the crowd's disdain. He's replaced Potvin, the derisive chant for whom was very hard to get started with a crowd that has little connection to the embarrassment years when the the Islanders humiliated the Rangers with their four Stanley Cups.
So, lucky to tie with 12 seconds left. Kissing your sister? Not really, with the overtime period and shootout opportunities that come after a tie. One year of my perpetual attendance the Philadelphia Flyers finished the season with 24 ties. They were known as the Philadelphia Tires.
Rangers tie. Pittsburgh wins. We'll be back.
Maybe I'll get a T-shirt