Thursday, October 28, 2010

One BIG Flashback

It was the great 20th Century poet Samuel Hagar who once said, "only time will tell if we stand the test of time."
Even though I was much more of a David Roth guy, I did always love that line.
And how true it really is.
I used to LOVE the show CHiPS.
I challenge you to watch it now.
I used to LOVE the music of Kajagoogoo.
Used to.
One of my favorite movies of all-time is Midnight Run with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin.
I can remember howling out loud in the theatre, thinking it was one of the funniest movies I had ever seen.
And that is so true.
It WAS one of the funniest movies I had ever seen.
When it came out in 1988.
I watched it again with a couple of friends not too long ago, when I was looking for a few laughs.
And that’s exactly what I got.
A few laughs.
Sure, I laughed.  
A few times.  
Maybe even a bunch if times.
But "one of the funniest movies EVER".... not so much.
Last weekend with my family visiting the Big Apple we took a stroll near Central Park.
We checked out The Plaza Hotel, the 24-hour Apple Store and we made a return trip to FAO Schwarz, the world famous toy store.
I actually missed their first trip to FAO earlier in the week, so this was the kids’ opportunity to show me all of the toys that they REALLY wanted.
Wow, what a place.
I had been there as a kid, several times, but as a grown up the store looked so much clearer.
I  was actually able to see the $900 price tag on the stuffed giraffe.
And I was actually able to figure out the magic trick the guy was doing at the top of the escalator on the second floor.
What I didn’t understand is why a mother picked the wide-open middle of the Barbie section to breast-feed her child.
Even though my kids had been to the store just once before, they seemed to know the place like it was home.
We saw legos and race tracks and dolls and games and electric cars and muppets and stuffed animals.
And stuffed animals.

And stuffed animals.
The pressure to purchase got so bad for my seven-year old that at one point, she finally gave in...
“We don’t have to get anything at Toys R Us if you get me this stuffed animal.”
How sweet.
Actually it was sweet...  for us.   We got her the $10 stuffed turtle she asked for.
And that was it.
FAO Schwarz for $10?
At one point during the tour, we stumbled upon a room with a large floor piano.
It is probably twenty feet long, sitting flat on the ground.
It is built so that you can run around on it, playing the keys with your feet.
Price tag:  $250,000.
It comes with a choreographer who gives you lessons.
Such a deal.
It is called the big piano.
Actually, the BIG piano.
As in, the piano that Tom Hanks made famous in the movie, Big.
Big was one of my favorite movies when it came out in the summer of 1988, five weeks before Midnight Run.
Hanks was brilliant in the movie, where he played the role of a 12-year old boy in a 30-year old man’s body.
The scene with the corn is one of my favorite of all-time.
At least it used to be.
I wonder if it still holds up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Star Trek

If you could have dinner with any three people, who would they be?
I’ve always loved that question.
Honestly, I’ve never put my list together, but I love the possibilities.
Some more obvious than others.
Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr.
Buddy Holly, Jackie Robinson, John Steinbeck.
Not so much.
Robert DeNiro, Mel Brooks, Lucille Ball.
Order an extra dessert. 
I’m not sure which three it would be.
But I’m pretty sure it would include someone from sports, someone from politics and definitely someone from music.
Or maybe all three would be from the music world, as long as they brought their guitars.
But as much fun as it might be to meet one of my heroes, it is also something that I’m totally ok if it never happens.
Just imagine if you met your idol and he or she was a jerk.
I’ve never met Bono or Dylan or Madonna.
And it’s probably better that way.
It’s definitely better for them.
My friend David met Bruce Springsteen at a bar in LA.
And Bruce was.... great.
David has a picture of the two of them in his living room.
My other friend David delivered pizza to Wayne Gretzky’s house.
And he got a signed pizza box.
And a nice tip.
Sunday I got a chance to meet one of my musical heroes.
Up close and personal.
For at least five seconds.
More on that in a moment.
With my family in town this weekend, we did quite a bit of traveling around Manhattan.
They wanted to see Times Square and the Empire State Building and of course, FAO Schwarz.
Check, check and check.
Sunday, our big stop was a meal in Little Italy.
So we took the E train to Spring Street.
It was about a ten-minute walk through SoHo to get to the world famous Mulberry Street.
Along the way, we did some window shopping and food cart smelling.
As we approached a main intersection, we noticed a group of five singers and a stand-up bass player making some incredible noise.
From the caddy corner, we could hear them singing, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” loud and VERY clear.
A song, my seven-year old was hoping to hear on Broadway at the stage version of The Lion King.
“Um, sweetie, how about if we hear five strangers singing the same song on a street corner instead?”
For free.
So we followed our ears and headed that way.
We heard them sing that song and about five others, dropping some appreciation in the tip jar along the way.
Midway through the set, a lady walked right up next to us.
Within a beat or two, she started singing to the music.
Well, actually whispering to the music.
As if she didn’t want to be heard.
And based on the baseball cap pulled down over her eyes.
And the sunglasses covering them.
She didn’t want to be seen either.
Sorry ma’am, if you’re trying to fly under the radar, you’ve just landed on the wrong runway.
I looked over, about five times, then whispered to my wife...
“That’s Melissa Etheridge.”
Now that may not be a big deal to you.
And if it is not, you’ve never heard her music.
“Yes I Am” is one of the greatest CDs of the 90’s.
“Like The Way I Do,” is one of the most powerful songs in the last 25 years.
I own all of her records.  
I’ve seen her in concert several times.  
I have been inspired by her more than several times.
But I wasn’t about to be that guy.
She clearly didn’t want to be recognized.
So I didn’t recognize her.
Until she started walking down the street, away from the crowd.
That’s when I walked up right behind her and mumbled, “Melissa?”
She turned and said, “Yes.”
“Melissa, I just want to thank you for your music.   You have truly inspired me,” I said.
“Thank you.  What is your name?”
Melissa Etheridge just asked me my name.
What the hell do I say?
After what felt like a long pause to me, I told her my name.
She then shook my hand and informed me that it was nice for her to meet me.
It was nice for HER to meet ME?
Honestly, I could care less if that exact line came from page 93 of the “How Celebrities Should Deal with Stalkers” handbook.
Melissa Etheridge just shook MY hand and said it was nice to meet me.
How cool.
Sitting here now, several hours later, I have about four million things I could have said. 
But about one milli-second after she let go of my hand, she went her way and I went mine.
That was it.
My family came up to me seconds later and asked how it went.
“Great,” I said.  “I now have a blog for today...”
...And a moment I will never forget.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Walk on the Wild Side

There are about a buzillion things I love about living in New York.
The energy of the city.
The weather in October.
The food on every street corner.
This week I’ve had a chance to show off all of those things to my wife and kids who are in town for a visit.
There is however one thing that in the immortal words of The Fine Young Cannibals, is driving me crazy:
Sidewalk traffic.
We don’t come from a place where people actually walk much, at least not on the street, so this has been quite the experience.
I am totally cool with the fact that 1.6 million people live in the 23 square miles of Manhattan.
And I am totally cool with the fact that those 1.6 million people own at least 2.4 million cell phones.
But do they really need to use them while they are walking?
Shouldn't they pull over to the side of the sidewalk to text?
Oprah, can you write up another petition please?
And as for those people who prefer to walk at a pace like they are doing an audition for Chariots of Fire, The Prequel....
Speed up or get off my sidewalk!
I understand that my quick pace of walking is not shared by all, but these slow walkers make me loco.
And I really love the people who walk right in front of you....
.....And stop.
Stop cold!
And I really love the people who stand in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of... a building.
Google Images people!
I always loved watching Barry Sanders play football.
He'd run right at a traffic jam.
Evaluate the smallest hole he could fit through.
Stop on a dime.
Spin his body around.
And run for a score.
Of course, if I tried any of those moves on 6th Avenue, I'd instantly tear my ACL.
But if you want to be successful walking on the streets of New York, you’d better apply the same concepts.
One of the true rewards of walking in New York is the sport of jaywalking.
Red light, schmed light.
If you don’t see a car coming, start moving.
If you do see a car coming, move faster.
I’ve noticed that the taxi drivers like to speed up when they notice a pedestrian walking across the street when they are not supposed to.
And everybody does it.
If New York really wanted to fix the budget crisis, they’d start handing out jaywalking tickets.
They’d have like 19 trillion dollars by Tuesday.
My wife is a very cautious person.
But not in New York.
Sure, she’s still careful, especially when she is with the kids.
But this week I have definitely noticed her becoming quite the daredevil.
At least by her terms.
That little sign that tells you when it is ok to walk is about as useful as a calorie counter at a Baskin Robbins. 
Everybody sees it, but nobody pays attention to it.
New York is the first city I’ve ever lived in where you don’t really need a car.
In fact, when you factor in the traffic and the outrageous parking prices, not only don’t you need a car, you don’t want one.
That was definitely not the case when I lived in LA.
Take your car away and they might as well take your feet away too.
The public transportation in Los Angeles barely exists.
Living in LA without a car is the fastest way to a nervous breakdown.
The second fastest is having a car in LA.
There were days, plenty of them, when my 25-mile commute would take close to 90 minutes.
And that was 90 PAINFUL minutes.
Stop and go, the entire way.
With a whole lot more of the stopping then the going.
But with the help of the traffic helicopters in LA, I was usually able to adjust and try a different route.
Maybe that's what New York needs...
...sidewalk traffic reporters.
I can hear it now.
"For those of you headed uptown this morning, you may want to consider the right side of Madison Avenue.  There is a mother with twins on 5th Avenue and the double-wide stroller is not letting anyone pass."
Or perhaps.  
"If you are headed Eastbound on 27th street and in need of some caffeine this morning, head two blocks south.  The Starbucks on 25th Street has a shorter line than the Starbucks on 26th or the seven Starbucks on 27th."
I think I’m onto something.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Idiot Wind

If you have read seven or more words from any of my previous 172 blogs, you’d probably have a pretty good idea that I love music.
I'm not totally sure where my love of music came from, but it has been with me forever.
I saw my first real concert in 1979.
It was Robert Palmer opening up for Heart.
Or was it The Babys opening up for Styx?
Either way, one of those was my first real concert, the other was second.
I guess if I said "I remember my first concert like it was yesterday," I'd be lying.
My love for music continued from there.
As a pudgy 12-year old Jewish kid, I learned all the words to Rapper's Delight.
It was beyond adorable.
If you were into West Coast Bar Mitzvah Rap.
In 11th grade, my English teacher introduced us to poetry.
He featured two poems from a great Jersey writer named Springsteen.
Bruce Springsteen.
The poems were titled Jungleland and Born to Run.
The words were cool, but when our teacher played the soundtrack that went with it, it became amazing.
In college, I was the lead singer in a U2 cover band.   We called ourselves, Me2.
Crazy college kids.
But even with all of that, one of my true downfalls in music is understanding what the hell a song is really about.
She-Bop by Cyndi Lauper.   No idea.

Little Red Corvette by Prince.  Must be about a fast car.
Fast Car by Tracy Chapman.  No idea.
I can remember falling in love with a great song by a great band, 10,000 Maniacs.
But even after listening to it 10,000 times, I could never figure out that "what's the matter here?" was about child abuse.
I can remember singing these words, like it was yesterday:

  If you don’t sit in your chair straight
  I’ll take this belt from along my waist
  And don’t you think that I won’t use it

My fingers were snapping and toes were tapping like it was a Dr. Seuss nursery rhyme.
Finally somebody clued me in.
Boy did I feel stupid.
I could give you some more examples of my lyrical lapses, but the hard drive on the internet is not big enough.
So I will fast forward to my latest duh moment.
Saturday night, with my wife and kids in town for a visit, I took the two older kids to their first broadway play.
My wife took our 7-year old home for a little R and R.
With a million and one choices on the board at the TKTS 50% off place, we zeroed in on "American Idiot."
That's the play taken from the music of the last two Green Day albums.
Even with all the profanity, the music is so good, I decided to introduce my kids to those CDs when they came out.
Those four-letter words were nothing different than what they hear at the breakfast table.
Father of the year, I am not.
Those records are among the best I've heard in years.
I've listened to those songs so many times, I  know all of the words.
Even if I have no clue what they mean.
I knew that there was a theme to the albums.
And I knew the theme had something to do with a love story.
And I knew that the music sounds amazing.
But I had no idea what the play was about.
I guess I should've known something was up when the ticket taker said "you are aware of the content, right?", as the three of us entered the theater.
Um, no.
But I am aware of how much these tickets were -- even at 50% off.
And we are going!
Within about one second of the curtain rising, I put my seat belt on and prayed that child services had the night off.
For the next 90 minutes the three of us watched a show about young men and women doing drugs, drinking alcohol and having sex.
Did I mention they were doing drugs?
I peaked over a few times to make sure my 13-year old daughter and 11-year old son were having fun.
Which they were.
After the final musical note of the night, I gingerly turned to my kids and said, “so, how'd you like it?”
Dramatic pause.
“I loved it,” they each said.
Ok, so far so good.
I figured they liked the music and I know they liked the show, but how about the story?
Well if this means anything, before I even asked, my son informed me that the play had a great message.
Don't do drugs!
That was worth the price of admission.
Now if he could only explain to me the meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yours, Miners and Ours

It's been 59 days since I boarded the plane and left my wife and three kids behind.
This Friday we will be reunited.
And it will feel so good.
Even if only for a few days.
I have spent much of those 59 days thinking of my family.
Texting with my family.
Skype-ing with my family.
Missing my family.
I have also spent much of those 59 days enjoying life.
Doing what I want.
When I want.
Where I want.
As much as I miss them and as hard as this has been, I have nothing to complain about.
Not when you compare my life to the 33 brave men and their families who have captured our hearts from across the world.
Watching the incredible images of the last few days from Chile has served as reminder #5397 just how lucky I am.
Like me, they too have been separated from their wife.
And their kids.
And in some cases their mistress.
Them, not me.
They left for work 70+ days ago.
Today, they are home.
It is impossible to comprehend what life must've been like for them.
True, I may, possibly, be able to relate on some tiny level to how much those men have missed their wife.
And their kids.
And their dog.
But that's where the comparison stops.
For the last two months I showered every day.
Twice if I wanted.
I eat three meals every day.
Four if I wanted.
More if I wanted.
I also could watch any reality show I wanted.
I wasn't forced to live one.
Like millions of people around the world, I watched as the hype built for this rescue attempt.
You couldn’t help but recognize what was about to happen.
But honestly, I had no idea how amazing it would be.
The first miner to reach safe ground was exciting.   
So was the 2nd.  And the 3rd.   And the 13th.   And the 19th.   And the 26th.   And the 28th.    And the 32nd.
And finally, the 33rd.
It never got old.
With each man brought back to earth and brought back to his family, the story got even better.
Seeing the reaction of the men who were rescued and the reaction of the men doing the rescuing was truly inspiring.
But to see the reaction of the family members waiting to hold their hero was overwhelming.
I don't do very well watching other people cry.
I usually join in.
You should’ve seen me at the movie Ghost.   It was ugly.
For anybody who was able to watch the rescue in Chile and keep a dry eye, shame on you.
This was a real life miracle, unfolding right in front of our eyes.
These things just don't happen.
Ok, Capt Sully might disagree.
But with all of the bad in this world and all of the stories that seem to gobble up our attention, this was one for the good guys.
This was truly must see TV.
Just imagine if Survivor, Amazing Race, Fear Factor and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Outta Here got mixed into one. 
Come on -- 33 miners trapped nearly a half a mile underground.
They survived by eating one spoonful of tuna every two days.
17 days later, they get a note out that they are ok.
Oliver Stone, is that you?
Then, with more camera angles than a match at Wimbledon, we watch these men take a 2,200 foot ride back to safety.
In a capsule the size of a New York apartment.
If you want to see a story like this, it usually involves George Clooney or Matt Damon.
Not Florencio Avalos Silva the first guy to be brought back.
Or Ariel Ticona Yanez, who became a father while being trapped underground.
Or Jose Henrique Gonzalez, who has been married for 33 years, worked at the mine for 33 years and was one of 33 trapped men.
I wonder if he’s heard of Larry Bird?
Perhaps the most shocking part of this story was how good these men looked when they got out of the capsule.
Especially after what they’d been through.
What was in that cave after all?
They were all clean shaven.
Hair and makeup was perfect.
The clothes were dirty, but not messy.
Nobody was hungry.
It was exactly like a Hollywood set.
Which is exactly where this story is headed.