Friday, April 27, 2012
Gardening/Home:Lawn Mower App. This ingenious application is a throwback like those special photo apps that allow your phone or camera to take photos that look like ones from an old Kodak Brownie or Polaroid Land. Many of you will not even know that the best lawn mowers ever engineered did not require a purchase of petroleum products (except for very minor "4 in 1" lube of blades and wheels) and actually made a very pleasant sound as users pushed them across their own lawns. Not only that, but the patented blade hardware sliced the grass in a way that allowed it to release the lawn's secret fragrances into the air. Ah, Chanel Number Fifty! Cost: Free, if grandpa has one in the garage (may need lube), $8-25 at various tag sale sites, $99.99 new at SunJoe.com
Travel:Staten Island Ferry App: This is, without a doubt, the best travel value app for the New York metropolitan area, even better than the subway app and much cleaner. Many tourists, especially Europeans, when they could afford to visit back in the day before they imported American financial Not-Know-How and went broke, used to waste time and money on fancy-schmancy yachts, circling and circling. This wonderful application is super-efficient. In one roundtrip, you've got your close-up view of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn, Lower (and original) Manhattan from the harbor, the Hudson and East Rivers, plus the harbor itself...the whole shebang in an hour or less! And, we haven't even mentioned views of New Jersey and Staten Island, but why would we? Excited? Well, here is the best thing about this app. Cost: Free (not kidding, since 1997) from download site at Whitehall Street in Manhattan or St. George SI if, for some really strange reason, you must begin on Staten Island.
Travel: Mid-Town NYC Public Rest Room App: Venture Cap firms kept this one a big secret for years, since so many of them had trouble finding a place to do their business while in town on business. This app is, honestly, still not widely available, which makes the sites still so valuable. Also, since everything, and we mean everything in NYC gets politicized, even you know what, you will not see public facilities on the streets like in Paris, since the city has never been able to find a street-potty app friendly enough for heavy wheelchair use. Here is a sample: Site 1. Grand Central Terminal, Lower Level; be smart about this and use the one near the south east corner of the lower level; it is cleaner than the one on the west side, and the hand driers actually dry your hands. All European tourists, back in the day (see above), used this particular app site. Cost: free. Other secret private app sites available on special request, since this is a family-owned blog and can't sustain lawsuits resulting from well-intended but overzealous reporting.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
|Holier Than Thou?|
Maybe we think of a bunch of lazy people ripping-off the government.
Perhaps we see a group of twenty-something post IPO-gazzilionaire engineers, with their shirttails stylishly hanging out, grinning into the camera. Or, maybe we see the high-flying bankers following close behind with their tongues hanging out and their wallets open.
Or, maybe we should just look in the mirror, since entitlement seems so all-pervasive in our culture it threatens to dominate order and eliminate any sense of moral courage and/or outrage.
Today, for example, we learn that a major NY builder, Lend-Lease, systematically over-billed projects like CitiField, Grand Central Terminal, and Time Warner Center. Among other things, they billed for foremen overtime everyday despite knowing that the foremen did not work overtime. They even billed while the foremen were on vacation. Why? Because they could, and because the union foremen felt entitled to it.
We also now know that WalMart, the country's dominant retailer, which makes a lot of their money on the backs of the middle and lower middle classes, systematically and illegally bribed Mexican officials, in order to grow super-fast in that country. The chief-bribing exec was steadily promoted. The company's inconvenient inside probe was hidden in a drawer. Now they are back-tracking fast. Why? Are they sorry they broke the law, not to mention moral and ethical codes? No, don't be silly, their stock price is down.
Ah, you're also thinking about those Secret Service agents in Cartagena, who could keep a secret about as well as Victoria does. What shall we do while "off-duty"guarding the President of the United States? Well, let's go get some prostitutes and then let's argue with one in public about pennies for her services rendered. Entitlements.
And, what happens? Do they get fired? No, three resign so far. Does their boss get fired? No, he briefs the President of the United States. Millions of Americans have been fired for just showing up at work one day and having their job eliminated. The President of the United States is really mad. What does he do? He calls them "knuckleheads." Maybe they'll be spanked and sent to their rooms. Alone this time. Where is the outrage?
This reaction to Cartagena-gate is not about prudery; it is about stupidity. Americans should not like being represented around the world by really stupid people. These agents do not work for the President, any president; they work for us.
Not to be outdone, the General Services Administration, the very bureau tasked with making sure that our hard-borrowed money is carefully spent by federal agencies and contractors, likes to wake up in Vegas. They spent nearly a million bucks on a ludicrous team-building meeting. Was their chief fired? Of course not. She got to resign. What were they thinking? We're entitled, that's what they were thinking. Or, we earned this. Or, we deserve this. Please.
Again, we say, this is not about government employees having to be robotic. Citizens just get the feeling sometimes that the GSA or Secret Service must be using a Stupid Test to hire some of their employees. There are millions of smart people looking for good jobs. Why not hire them, if these federal positions really need to be filled?
|K's Shoe Thing|
Which, as it turns out, is a pretty damn good place to be or a pretty good place for the damned to be. Whatever. Just start praying.
And, what shall we pray for? An end to feeling Entitled to any thing that makes us feel good at the expense of every other person or semblance of morality and ethics. Just because we can.
Somehow we have survived many months of Republican primary blah-blah, during which not a single interesting word was uttered by anyone. Yet, in a matter of a few weeks, events occurring from Afghanistan (Koran burning, mass murder) to Bentonville AR (mass bribery), to Cartagena, Columbia (monumental stupidity and lower case cupidity)), have finally forced an election issue. It is not the economy; it is not jobs, and it is not healthcare.
The old Soviet, Mr. Kruschev, said, "We will bury you." He was wrong. If we don't wake up, we will just bury ourselves and save anyone the trouble. We better get going.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
But, then I got to thinking about phones and our sometimes less than brilliant age.
It's hard to turn on your phone in the morning and not see updates coming at you through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook telling you far less than fascinating details of your contacts' and friends' lives. Somehow we survived without this stuff for thousands of years. It makes one nostalgic for far away drum-beats, telegraphs, and the Princess Phone, one of which adorns our current bedroom (yes, it is pink), as it once did my Darling Girl's own girl-room.
Why would someone want a phone to be smarter than themselves? We were doing so nicely with those dumb (scusa, Principessa) things with the long squiggly lines that plugged into a wall. People whom you actually knew called you on those contraptions, instead of lunatics with "courtesy calls."
You know what would be really courteous, Bub? If you hadn't bothered to call me at all, that's what.
Why do we do these things to ourselves? We have become like comic book characters with those little speech windows above their heads, except that we turn every thought, however vapid, into a Tweet, an email, or a text. James Joyce turned these kinds of things into great art, "stream of consciousness" English Department twits called it. But, we are not James Joyce; we are not even up to being Beetle Bailey, one of my favorite comic book characters, whose thoughts would seem like those of Marcus Aurelius compared to some of the Tweets I see.
What do you expect from people whose phones are smarter than themselves? Soon, our refrigerators, TV's, furnaces, autos, even our coffee pots will be smarter than us. When a TV gets to be smarter than most people, that's the time to invent a different culture, since TV has decades of cumulative dumbness that would make even North Korean rocket-makers look smarter than Mr. Ed, which apparently they are not.
If he had bothered to pick up his smartie-pants phone to call me, I could have told him that we don't need to wait for the future; people do not have jobs now. Everyone is out there making a web site, creating their brands, becoming human apps, and sending us updates.
Have we yet considered that this might just be a zero sum game?
Gosh, remember back in the sixties, when so many of us ran for the hills away from working at IBM, Bank of America (the real one), GM, because we didn't think they offered us enough personal freedom and "space?" How did we know that the 20th Century American corporation was the most efficient job organizer in economic history! There is much evidence that millions of us now have so much personal freedom and space that we're like walking Wyomings, bits of true beauty and lots and lots of empty space.
What is your product? You. What is their product? Them.
Me, Myself. But why?
And, where is all this going?
Rembrandt perfected face-books a long time ago and, without even knowing it, created one of history's great brands. We can still read volumes in the painted lines of his own face, which tell us valuable things about what it means to be human, which is to say, partially divine. He was much smarter than his own devices: brushes, palette, canvas. We should love him for that alone.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Spring has sprung, with a vengeance, as if the Easter Bunny had been replaced by his/her cuz, Energizer Bunny.
Some might celebrate by teeing-off instead of being teed-off at winter. Others might attend an early season game at the ballpark, where their team, however woeful (you know who you are), is still hopeful far above its players’ or new big-talking manager’s true talents.Well, at least for a week or so.
Or, maybe you just want to wander down Manursing Way and gaze at the too-early blonde daffodils, lined up like contestants at a Gwyneth Paltrow look-alike contest, before packs of vegan wild turkeys gobble (sorry) them all up.
Myself? For fifty-five springs I’ve celebrated pretty much the same way. I check to see if the nets have pushed up through the court surfaces to cling to their net posts. True, in some of those earliest years I may have played most of my imagined sets against various brick walls or garage doors around the town where I was raised. The name of that place just happened at the time to be immediately recognizable around the world as a mecca for playing something called lawn tennis: Forest Hills.
What’s lawn tennis you say? An excuse to stand around daintily munching watercress sandwiches on little crust-less triangles of white bread? Wrong.
Way back when, lawn tennis, in case you never knew or have forgotten, had about as much to do with the slugfests that take place today on parking lot-like surfaces masquerading as real grass (Wimbledon), genuine clay (Paris), and, well, actual painted asphalt (the aptly named Flushing and Melbourne).
Each spring, no matter what court surface we choose, many of us celebrate Walter Compton Wingfield’s game that hit the market in 1874 as a boxed set with racquets, netting, and vulcanized rubber balls for anyone with access to a relatively flat lawn. Poor Walter, unlike Sir Thomas Lipton, he obviously did not know the value of brand consultants, since he called his game Sphairistike, which soon became known as “sticky.”
Sticky, anyone? Of course not. But, by 1877 certain English uppers attached a new brand name to this game, Wimbledon, which is why we do not get up early in July to have breakfast at Sphairistike.
Since tennis was my high school’s most consistently successful sport (not necessarily a hard thing to do), I must confess to having cheated winter back then by playing something called indoor tennis. There were very few “bubbles” at the time to cover courts, so we practiced after school in the cavernous armories of upper-Manhattan on dimly-lit, unvarnished wood courts. Once, we even played on linoleum courts. Fast? Returning serve, you began to understand how the number eight hitter felt facing Koufax.
But, let’s be honest, indoor tennis is often merely an act of desperation. Even the most fervent bubble-heads long for the first day of being able to wear shorts or skirts comfortably or to hit a very high lob which does not touch some plastic sky and come straight back down to you. Indoor tennis is just a way to get out of your house; you might as well be shopping at the mall or picking up the laundry.
The longest, hardest winter wait to play that I ever experienced was my first, when I was eight years old. In September, Ken Rosewall had won the US Nationals, forerunner of today’s orphaned Flushing Open, right across the street at The West Side Tennis Club, itself orphaned from its former home in Manhattan. “Muscles,” as his Aussie pals used to call him, had defeated his best friend Lew Hoad in the finals, preventing Hoad from achieving what only Don Budge had been able to accomplish up until then: a Grand Slam.
I attended the Quarter-Finals that year, 1956, and the very next day a friend of the family handed me his old Coronet Simplex gut-strung racquet, my first of many. I immediately began hitting balls against a wall in a small courtyard less than fifty yards from the WSTC entrance across Tennis Place. I could see the players, including that year’s champion Shirley Fry and her finalist opponent Althea Gibson walking into the grounds, who both signed a long-lost green leather autograph book.
|WSTC Club House|
I had immediately fallen in love with the game. It is almost impossible to convey the combination of athleticism, artistry, and passionate competition on display upon those lawn courts now. Today’s game, even at Wimbledon, bears only passing resemblance to the game as played on the soft and unruly turf at Newport, Longwood, Southampton, South Orange, Merrion and Forest Hills. Men and women players demonstrated a variety of styles and ventured fearlessly to the net on most points. There were always powerful players, but power only got you so far. Players who held to the baseline as to mommy’s hand at the crosswalk, spent their day futilely chasing their opponents cleverly angled volleys.
Was the game too elitist and private in those days? Not to a small boy with his new pre-owned racquet, PF Flyers, and wearing his “sharkskin” First Communion shorts, who desperately wanted to be a part of it all as soon as the next spring could come.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
|The Old Bailpark?|
Mets fans might cherish this 2012 moment.
I know about all this first hand, since I was there to see it happen; at least I was there for eight innings. A trip to Citi Field (shall we call it the old bailpark?) from my home should usually take about 35 minutes, and over an hour for a big game. Admittedly, that is hard to measure, since the Mets' truly big games lately have come down to...Opening Days.
There was a "disabled" vehicle at Roosevelt Avenue causing major mayhem and meltdowns out on 678, the LIE and the GCP, the major auto routes. I had allotted an hour and a half, but, with ten minutes to go before the first pitch, and having had to listen to the team's 50th Anniversary ceremony on AM radio, I had to do something. Suddenly, the Queens boy in me took hold, the same boy who had attended Opening Day 48 years earlier (smartly, by subway), and I swung into the left lane headed towards JFK, got off at College Point Avenue, went left then right, making my way back towards Arthur Ashe Stadium and the Tennis Center, where a thousand other cars were trying to buy parking from two busy attendants; and I swung a U-ie and cut the line like Mookie Wilson hook-sliding into third.
Then, I walked well over a mile to my seats in the seventh row overhanging left field along with a bunch of thirty-something guys wearing faded jeans and hoodie sweatshirts, who looked like they'd not seen a gym since high school PE class, and might still be living with mom. In other words, typical Mets fans these days: and sons of Mets fans to boo-t.
While stuck in traffic, I did not think that I was alone in thinking the Steinbrenner Yankees, faced with an Opening Day disabled vehicle would have handled it differently. They would have called Police Commissioner Kelly, who no doubt was already at The Stadium, and that vehicle would probably be in Panama by now, or it might be a chunk of metal in a Spuyten Duyval scrap heap. For Yankeedom runs like Singapore, while MetsWorld runs like, well, like Flushing.
Recently I have written about the possibility of these Mets finding their own Jeremy Lin, as the previously woeful Knicks did this season. But, that appears to have been premature, since Lin's coach, Mike D'Antoni, has been vanished by Assistant Owner Carmelo Anthony and Lin is out for the season with an injury.
Several years ago, the Mets now departed GM, Omar Minaya, made a concerted effort to find and sign Hispanic* players to take advantage of the huge Hispanic population in the city, especially in the communities spread out along Roosevelt Avenue and the Number 7 elevated line. The newest GM, Sandy Alderson, might do well to try looking for fans in the other direction, east towards downtown Flushing itself, which has evolved into Little Asia.
Ah, Jeremy! Do you have a shortstop cousin who can hit dingers over the new 358 ft sign in left, understand the coach's signs, and run the best route to that liner to center?
On Thursday, all that didn't matter. Johan Santana, the best left-handed pitcher in New York that nearly nobody ever talks about, pitched five more than adequate innings, his first since 2010 after surgery. It is uncharitable but worth noting, that Santana is the only Met who could start for the current Yankees. Actually, he's one of, perhaps, two or three Mets who could even make the current Yankee roster (Note: Yanks are in last place after their opening debacle in Tampa).
The Mets newly-built bullpen shut-out the hapless-looking Braves for four more innings, holding the tying run on third at one point, and the Mets took a strangle-hold of first place.
The run they scored began as a walk to Andres Torres, their promising but questionable new center fielder, who came over from the Giants in the off-season. He was driven in by the Mets only everyday- playing near-star, David Wright. Small ball Manager Terry Collins beamed in the dugout, knowing that a walk is as good as a walk and much better than a 356 foot fly-out to left, like the perennially luckless Jason Bay made.
Will young Kirk Niewenhuis be able to transcend AAA and spark a "Linning" streak filling in for Torres? Will newly signed lefty Jonathan Niese rise above his 11-11 record in, naturally, 2011? Could Santana's new arm allow him to pitch with only two days rest? Will the Mets hit a home run before the All Star break (note: they hit three in game two)?
Good questions, but, for now, we rest assured of holding a perfect record into Game Two on Saturday afternoon.
As Ernie Banks might proclaim, if he was a Met on Collins's team, "Let's play one! At a time."
* Ed Notes: 1) The terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" are confusing to some mere mortals. Generally speaking, they refer to the same demographic group of people from Spanish-speaking countries or people with a Spanish-speaking cultural background. In the eastern US, Hispanic is more common; in the west, Latino prevails. 2) Accounting: StubHub tickets $114; Parking $20; Program $5; Large beer, two small dogs, peanuts $25. Total $164 plus tolls.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Some early springs on Saint James, the weather is so perfect, 80-85 with a few well-dispersed clouds and a light breeze from the east at the ocean or from west across the bay, that a beach-nik will have to choose the beach over walking the flats for boneys, especially if, honestly speaking, you haven't managed to land your first one even after a few years of trying.
Our friend, Herman, was eighty-two this season and has been fishing the local deep water and flats for nearly all of those years. Herman knows fish like Buffet knows tax loopholes; and, both take as many as possible, because they're there and because, well, from their expert points of view, what else would you do with them?
I had not been out bottom fishing with Herman for some years and never without other family members, including our professional fishing guide son, who has pretty much and somewhat annoyingly at times been family "high-hook" since he was four years old.
Next morning, on one of his strolls past our house, which sits about a shortstop's flip to second base away from the bay, Herman told me to get my flyrod right away; he'd just seen a boney by the short dock at a nearby house called Blue Dolphin.
I did as commanded. Luckily, I had carefully rigged my rod days before, using the Orvis guide I keep in the house to remind me about the intricacies of proper knot-tying and the most effective casting technique. I was able to wade into about two feet of water directly across from the house within minutes. I passed up the Blue Dolphin dock in favor of a closer crumbling cement one, figuring that the bonefish already sighted were well on their way towards another dining experience.
I saw the first one within ten minutes, about thirty feet to the north in front of me and to the right; it cruised by, not ten feet away and I held very still waiting to see which way it would go so that I could make a relatively short 20-25 foot cast out in front of what I imagined the course to be.
|"Saint James" flats|
In a short while I saw two more swimming together to share a morning repast in the warm water. I let both pass about twenty-feet away, and then casted ahead of their path, then slowly retrieved the flyline and fly with my left hand, the heavier yellow part of the line falling into a pile atop the water by my left leg. I continued to focus all attention on the spot where I could still see one of the fish, who are the Guide Michelin reporters of the fishy set; they are very choosy, one might even say a bit snooty, about when, where and on what they dine. This, naturally, makes certain of us want them even more.
Since this all occurred on our next to last day, I was watching the clock, so that we could get to the beach, and it came down to one last bonefish, who soon meandered into sight thirty feet away, with the browned coast of Eleuthera in the background.
I headed to the beach, one more boneless season under my belt. But, this one was decidedly different. My knots were more secure, my casts were more efficient and shorter, I had learned to wait for the fish to come by and to focus on getting the fly out ahead and retrieving it into the fish's course. All of these details had given me a chance, as the great angling writer Thomas McGuane calls it, "An Outside Chance."
I've turned a corner on bonefish; now I know that it's only a matter of time, and one more season in the flats of Saint James.
Ed Note: Curious "anglers" looking to find "Saint James" in the Bahamian waters will search maps and charts in vain, as it is a fictitious island with only a coincidental passing resemblance to certain other islands you might have heard about. I highly, highly recommend Thomas McGuane's An Outside Chance, one of my top ten books of all time: http://www.amazon.com/An-Outside-Chance-Classic-Essays/dp/0395500842 or, better yet, go to: http://www.wfuv.org/ and use the amazon link at bottom on right for an automatic donation to NY's finest radio station.