Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, August 20, 2005

What A Fetching Critter 

Sloppy Dawg is the host of the 14th Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers. Git over there.

Yea Turnpike! 

A couple years ago at the Worlds Largest Garage Sale in Warrensburg, NY (plug for my friends Steve and Sandi), I came across a guy with a box of eighty or ninety of these old pennants from all over the country. It was late in the day so he wanted to dump them for only, I think, fifty bucks. For the same reason I was short on cash and had to settle for three New Jersey themed examples.

If you want to know who would have a New Jersey Turnpike pennant on their wall, that would be me.

And an Ocean Grove pennant:


Friday, August 19, 2005

The Agenda 

I've got two and a half weeks off starting tomorrow, but the first week is going to be taken up with household projects. With the help of a knowledgable and princely neighbor I'm going to start sanding and refinishing the floors of the upstairs bedrooms tomorrow. There's a possibility I may have to come in to work one or two days next week, but if not, I may also start putting up shelving in the living room for the 30 boxes of books that have been in attic since we moved in almost five years ago.

Then its ten days in a rented cabin on Lake Wallenpaupack in the Poconos. We were in the same place last year and it's where Grace acquired her taste for piscicide.

If I was a small mouthed bass I think it would be time to start getting a little nervous.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wages Of Sin 

Down The Shore has a post about Wesley Lake, seen at right, which divides Asbury Park and Ocean Grove, it's deterioration and plans for redevelopment.

You see the little bridge in the background? I had a friend in high school who went to St. Rose in Belmar. He came up with the idea for us to post ourselves on the Ocean Grove side of the bridge late at night on weekends. We would wait for tipsy Methodists to come stumbling from Sin City to their (dry) home town and panhandle their asses. His theory was that guilty consciences would make them empty their pockets for a couple of kids trying to make bus fare back to Philly. I actually went out with him one night to test his theory.

Didn't work. Unfortunately, cheapness won out over guilt.

Litigation As Sales Technique 

I was vaguely aware of the NIT's lawsuit against the NCAA, but the letters N I T in combination create a sort of force field that prevents conscious thought. If you put a 'Women's' in front of it, it prevents consciousness. According to USA Today:
A four-year effort to portray the NCAA as an
organization guilty of federal antitrust violations
ended abruptly Wednesday with the sale of the
preseason and postseason National Invitation
Tournaments — to the NCAA.
So basically, they wanted to be put out of their misery and the lawsuit was just a way to up the price, madame.

Of course, I'm currently of the mind that anything bad that happens to the NCAA is a good thing (Go Seminoles!), but I have a feeling they're probably very pleased with yesterday's outcome.

To further plumb the depths of my ignorance, I had no idea that the NIT was owned by five New York schools; New York University, Manhattan, St. John's, Fordham and Wagner.

No wonder they settled. You don't want Wagner on your case.

Ballerinas and Cowboys 

Can't sleep. Haven't been able to for three or four nights, now. The girls are in the city for the week and everything goes all wonky.

I was laying there thinking about ballerinas.

It's interesting, to me, that they go through a selection process more rigorous and demanding than a pope, a prize-winning orchid and a Nobel physics winner combined. I think that holds up even if, like me, you've dated a few dancers, known a bunch and are aware that they're not necessarily intelligent, modest or saintly.

First, they're selected by body type. A ballet master or teacher can look at a group of 100 little girls and eliminate all of them, and the next group of 100 and probably a few more before they see someone interesting. All of the proportions have to be perfect. All of them. The width of the hips, the projection of the buttocks, the carriage of the neck, the length of the arms, the curve of the back. Hips to knees, knees to ankle, all in proportion to the height.

From the tiny group of survivors they are selected for talent. Athletic talent. Flexibility, agility, coordination, strength, grace, balance. Also fearlessness. And it requires the aggression of a wolverine and Lance Armstrong's imperviousness to pain.

We've got a very small group, now, and they are going to be selected on artistic merit. Sensitivity to music, imagination, acting skills. And, finally, you're either a performer or you aren't. You can either take all your preparation and skill and your intentions for a particular piece and throw it out there across the footlights so that thousands of people know instantly, intimately and thoroughly what you are trying to do -- or you can't. That's true of a polka band, a standup or a ballerina.

And it doesn't hurt if you're pretty.

All of these qualities (except being pretty) are quite rare in the amounts required for a great ballerina. That there are several of these creatures who combine all of them almost every generation I think is remarkable.

Hold on, now, we're going to be going around a curve.

One of the first jobs I had when I came to New York out of college was in a warehouse on West 14th. We provided furniture and set decoration for the soaps. Also commercials and features, but mostly soaps. If you wanted a bathroom for a 1920s farmhouse, we had the tub, the sink, the mirror, the towels, the toothbrush. We had the wall hangings for a Wild West saloon or a medieval chapel. If your pain-in-the-ass designer insists on a caribou head over the Italian Renaissance fireplace we had a wide selection of both. There are similar facilities for costumes, but ours was a tiny office, three floors and a loading dock.

There was a guy named Carter who had worked there forever and knew where everything was and I was taken on as his assistant in the fond and deluded hope that they would come back in forty years and I would be passing on the torch to another nitwit.

A designer, or more likely a set decorator, would blow through, picking out items. Carter and I would mark them, load them on the elevator and wait for the truck.

I started doing shows right away, though, mostly showcases, and when I went away for six weeks to do a show in Virginia they knew they'd have to make other plans. That's when they hired The Cowboy.

I don't remember his name, but it was a Western cliche -- Buck or Bo or Tex or something like that. A good looking guy, in a rough hewn kind of way, with a great rodeo-style body. Hard, ropey, slender. Very funny and quick witted, he was a guy with a lot of natural charm and a calmness that drew people in. Even better, he was tiny. I mean Robert Redford tiny. He had the perfect physique for movies, large head, wee tiny body. For some reason, the cameras love that.

He got to town one day, had this job and an acting coach the next day and was doing a commercial in less than a week. I thought, man, if they're looking for long term help they better keep looking because this guy is going somewhere.

After a couple of months, though, something started happening. He stopped being funny. He stopped being charming. Without the twinkle he wasn't even that good looking.

He would spend hours at the warehouse staring out of the window facing the Hudson River. Every once in awhile he'd shake his head and mutter "This town is too big."

He was going somewhere, all right. Right back home.

If you're missing one of the ingredients you can still have a career as a dancer. In the corps or downtown on Broadway. Or you can go home and teach. The same is true for actors. There's always a few rungs below where you want to be. You can slide down there and people will be amazed by you and wonder why you're not a star.

At the highest levels, though, the one thing you can't do without is toughness. Resilience. Without that the business will chew you up and the city will spit you out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What? And Give Up Show Business? II 

The Goddess was pretty big in 1980s TV. She was on everything from Archie Bunker's Place to CHiPs to St. Elsewhere, plus playing Brad Davis' wife on Roots. Since then it's been less TV, more theatre, but mostly commercials. If you watch any TV at all, you've seen or heard her a thousand times.

On the other hand, I've done exactly two commercials. One was for a public utilities company in Montana. It turned out pretty good, actually, and ran for years. It was shot in a preserved placer's cabin in Helena and we dressed up 19th century and showed what a drag it is not to have electricity.

The other one I did when I was in North Carolina playing Cornelius in Hello, Dolly! I was also the company manager for an extra hundred a week. Had I known how troubled the production would become I wouldn't have done it for an extra thousand. It was a talented, but young and inexperienced cast. For many of them it was their first professional show and for some, the first time they had left home. The woman who played Dolly was manipulative and sneaky and wanted to be treated like a star. Since that wasn't going to happen she got bored and cross and devoted her energies to arranging cliques and setting them at each other. The boys in the chorus were devoted to her and, eventually, it got pretty ugly.

In the middle of all this I was approached by a woman who called herself 'Bootsie' and described herself as a talent agent. I don't know how someone makes a living in Raleigh as an agent unless they represent all the local weathermen, but she sure looked and acted the part. Short, florid, bulldog-like in demeanor, she shouted, rather than spoke and always stood too close to you. I doubt she's still alive, but I hope she made it to the era of cell phones because the first thing she always did when entering the room was scan around for the phone and then go stand next to it. I liked her.

She had a job for me doing a TV spot for a local car dealership. The pay was $200 which was a week's salary for me so, of course I'd do it.

I got a very bad feeling when we drove up to the dealership and someone handed me a clown costume. Someone started putting the clown white on me and I remember thinking 'Okay, I'm about to make a jackass out of myself, but on the other hand, no one will know it's me.'

I really don't remember the copy, but it went something like this: the owner of the dealership, complete with traditional bad hair piece and constant sheen of sweat, would set up in front of a car on his lot and do his spiel right into the camera. His signature line at the end included making a violent and curious motion with his arms and shouting something like "Big Bill's GOT IT!" At which the clown, set up behind the car, would jump into the air, throw confetti and do a joy dance. Then we'd do the exact same thing in front of a different car.

It was a hot day and we were supposed to do ten cars. I started running out of gas on car number two and both the director and the client began expressing their unhappiness with my performance. I don't know if you've ever seen Shakes The Clown, but that's where I was headed.

Finally, the director called a break and got right into my face.

"I'm paying you shit and I'm not getting my money's worth."

I wanted to strangle him. I wanted, actually, to kill everyone involved, including myself, but I just glared at him.

"Why the hell didn't you pay the extra hundred and get a monkey?"

He smiled as if all his well-earned contempt for actors had been definitively justified.

"We checked. The monkey was $500."

Taxi, New York Night, 1947-48 

How'd you like to have taken this picture? The guy who did, Ted Croner, died on Monday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I'm From the Government. I'm Here To Give You The Mother of All Hosings 

G.D. Frogsdong of Blanton's and Ashton's posted on The Corzine Connection that New London, Connecticut is moving against the people whose property they stole for back rent. That seemed almost unbelievable, but he has a link to the Fairfield County Weekly:
Those who believe in the adage "when it rains, it
pours" might take the tale of the plaintiffs in Kelo
v. New London
as a cue to buy two of every animal
and a load of wood from Home Depot. The U.S.
Supreme Court recently found that the city's
original seizure of private property was constitutional
under the principal of eminent domain, and now New
London is claiming that the affected homeowners
were living on city land for the duration of the lawsuit
and owe back rent. It's a new definition of chutzpah:
Confiscate land and charge back rent for the years
the owners fought confiscation.

In some cases, their debt could amount to hundreds
of thousands of dollars. Moreover, the homeowners are
being offered buyouts based on the market rate as it
was in 2000.
Left and right agree. It's the Party of Government that's off the rails. I wonder if any of the seven home-owners had a mortgage and if so, if New London is going to pony up for that for payments between 2000 and 2005.

Who You Calling A Benny? 

This is from The Glittering Eye. Just for the record, I don't think the North Jersey list is as good as the St. Louis or Pittsburgh list.

You Know You're From North Jersey When...

You live within 45 minutes of at least three different malls.

Someone at the beach once called you a benny.

You can see the New York City skyline from some part of your town.

You know what CCM is and a good percentage of people from your high school go there.

You've seen or been in a fight between a Rangers fan and a Devils fan.

You have or know someone with mafia connections too.

You think the New York Jets should be called the New Jersey Jets.

You have at least one friend who drives a truck.

You've been camping.

You've been in a town or city where Spanish is spoken more than English.

You can't remember when Clifton didn't win a softball championship.

You know where to get drugs in Paterson, Newark, or New York.

You've been to a party in the woods.

You've purchased fireworks in Chinatown.

You played in a P.A.L league.

You liked the Jets even before this season.

You know where to get a freshly cooked Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese sandwich at 2 a.m.

You've been to the Sussex County Fair.

You remember Action Park and may have been seriously injured there.

At some time you got on the wrong highway trying to get out of Willowbrook Mall.

Z-100 used to be your favorite radio station, now it's K-Rock.

You think people from South Jersey talk funny.

Every single place you've ever worked had a "back" that was entirely staffed by hispanic people with the radio blasting salsa music.

Most of your friends are at least 2 different ethinic groups (probably one of them being italian)

You'd rather be getting tortured in the jungles of vietnam than on ANY highway in north jersey at rush hour.

You think that even people living in South Jersey are hicks.

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from North Jersey.

Pick from the list at Blogthings.


Down The Shore has a nice post this morning about crabbing. When we first moved to New Jersey from western Pennsylvania in 1960 we used to go down Route 80 to the bridge over the Manasquan River, only about a mile from our house. We'd rent a rowboat, buy a bucket of fish heads, row out to the middle of the river, tie a fish head to a length of string and lower it down. You'd feel a little tug and pull slowly up to a foot beneath the surface and net them. In a couple hours we would have a bushel basket of crabs.

I went again a few years ago and spent all day catching three uneatable crablets. The marinas on both sides of the river have spread out until they almost meet in the middle so it's difficult to find a place to do it anyway.

Morning Business 

Two of our partners came to the legal profession after being sergeants in the NYPD. They're also two of the nicest lawyers in the firm. Don't know what that means, but it's interesting to me.

Shaking Spears was complaining a couple weeks ago that music doesn't swing anymore. I agreed with him, until this morning when the iGizmo threw up Wayne Hancock and Etta James on the way to work.

If you never heard of Wayne Hancock he does a barely modernized version of Western Swing, recalling Jimmy Rogers and Bob Wills, complete with yodeling. He swings and his band really swings, but he falls into the odd musical category including Sha-Na-Na, Little Charlie and the Nightcats and a bunch of dweebs playing early music on sackbuts -- meticulous recreations of antique music. Obviously it's a love of a particular sound that draws people to this kind of thing, but in Hancock's case it's also that he has the voice for it -- one of those piercing, flat, slightly nasal voices like Ralph Stanley's that you could use instead of Zip Strip. If there's the slightest pitch issue it's god awful, but when it's pure it's, to me, at least, kind of thrilling.

If you haven't heard of Etta James, what the hell's the matter with you?

Did you know we're losing in Iraq? Richard Cohen will explain it to you in today's column, Gaza: Tomorrow's Iraq. I continue to read Cohen because I sense that, rare among major liberal columnists, there is an essential decency there and often an honest effort to understand differing viewpoints. But when you come down to it, he never will escape the all-encompassing Viet Nam paradigm.
It is the solemn obligation of a columnist to connect
the dots. So let's call one dot Iraq and another the
Gaza Strip, and note that while they are far different
in history and circumstance, they are both places
where Western democracies, the United States and
Israel, are being defeated by a common enemy,
terrorism. What is happening in Gaza today will
happen in Iraq tomorrow.
This pointillist approach to foreign policy is a nifty way of grouping unrelated events. Why don't we just note the differences and leave it at that, Richard? Like the fact that we're killing Islamofascists far faster in Iraq than among the Palestinian Death Cult. And the fact that the project in Gaza is to bring the enemy to self rule and the project in Iraq is to bring the enemy to an early grave. There's also a difference between losing and sustaining casualties.

People like Cohen can never see past the helicopter on the roof of the embassy. We will lose because we deserve to lose and when the going gets tough it's time to quit.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tris McCall 

Tris McCall commits moldicide in his first entry to his new, um, journal, The Sold Coast. The, ahh, journal is a record of nested quests. New apartment, new relationship with his community. I'll be going along for the ride.

Ethics For Idiots 

I rarely pass up a chance to take a shot at Randy Cohen, the house Ethicist for the New York Times. We're to understand that ethics have changed; they're in transition, so guidance is needed in the form of an old fashioned manners or advice column. And who better to be our cicerone in the tangled weeds of the new ethics than the New York Times?

To be fair, Mr. Cohen often dispenses sensible advice with only slightly cloying humor. Yesterday, for instance, his first two posers are dealt with in a way any normal person would approve. Then, however, as is his wont, he goes seriously off the rails.

While visiting my girlfriend's grandmother, I discovered
her neighbor's unsavory habit of trapping squirrels --
they eat the fruit on his trees -- and drowning them in a
bucket. Ordinarily I'd call the A.S.P.C.A., but this man is
kind and helpful to the grandmother, and I fear
jeopardizing that. Plus, the family is uneasy about our
relationship, and I don't want them to resent me even
more. What's a girl to do?

Anonymous, New York

A girl is to phone the A.S.P.C.A. using a saucy French
accent. That is, report this to the proper authorities

(Is there some kind of squirrel hot line?) You can thus
serve both admirable goals -- preventing cruelty to
animals and preserving amity between the
grandmother and her neighbor.

Okay. This guy is dealing with varmints on his own property in his own way. Let's put aside the fact that in many precincts, getting animal control sicced on you means hefty fines and possible jail time. What it also means is that the guy will have to either call in a professional, who will either poison or shoot the squirrels, or he will have to suffer the continued depredation of his property. Either eventuality, is, presumably, okey-doke with Randy.

But the main thing is, his correspondent will be ethically in the clear by dropping the dime anonymously. That way, see, the neighbor will not connect his problem with the grandmother or the granddaughter or the granddaughter's girlfriend. Everybody's happy. Except the neighbor and he's mean to squirrels so who cares what he thinks?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Kid's First Yankee Game 

Grace was a little anxious in the fifth inning when the Rangers went ahead 3 to 2. I guess all kids are result oriented since they're still working through even the simplest processes. One of the most interesting things about watching a kid grow up is realizing that every cycle of life they're either oblivious to (sun coming up every day) mystified by (people, especially a parent, changing their minds) or very uncomfortable with (losing sometimes). Grace has no patience with the notion of losing. The process of trying to win, hoping to win, and being prepared to lose is so very hard for a kid. Grace believes she should win every time, which is good, but she believes she has the right to win every time, which is bad. Kind of a delicate thing to help her be a good loser without putting a dent in her extremely competive nature.

Dad's lost a few times. He's also been way behind and come back. He's a Yankee fan, but he also has a mortgage. The last time a baseball team really broke his heart was the 1991 Pirates.

Matsui's home run in the bottom of the fifth came down twenty rows below us and two sections to the right. She likes Matsui because he looks like her, but she will always point out to you that "He's Japanese. Not Chinese." It's the only example of her differentiating herself ethnically that she's ever verbalized. Except once or twice when she wanted her mother to feel bad and said she wished the Goddess was Chinese. That's always a good reminder that she may not want to talk about it, but she is thinking about it.

During the bottom of the fifth rally there was a lot of cheering and clapping and then boom Matsui hits his home run and the Yankees are winning and then the rain came down.

It's a bit much to expect an eight year old to sit still for a rain delay. But, while we were waiting, she did offer me this bit of wisdom: "Cheering helps."

We left just before they started up again. She was up an A-Rod t-shirt (she plays third in Little League), a dish of ice cream, a bag of popcorn and a soft pretzel. I was successful with my plan of getting her out of there without a cotton candy.

It's going to be two or three years before she begins to understand baseball. With her talent, though, by that time she's going to be pretty good. I think Grace was right, though. Cheering does help, in the same way as prayer. What do you think?

Gracie Goes To The Bronx 

Lot of excitement at the Sluggoterium this morning as I'm about to leave to take Gracie to her first game at Yankee Stadium. Hope to have some pictures to post this evening.

And, of course, the excitement is rippling up and down the state as The Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #13 is up at Riehl World View.
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