Monday, September 29, 2008

Yin and Yang.

I always find it a tad remarkable how life's moments sewing back and forth from sorrow to joy, suffering to rapture, in just the span of a few days. This past week was certainly a prime example of this, and it just cements the idea in my brain that I don't worry about going to hell or heaven in a world to come. They are right here, on earth, and we live these moments every day of our existence.

The beginning of last week, as you might have read, was punctuated by the sudden death of a 27 year-old co-worker; the reasons for which are still unexplained as of today. It was the low point of the week, and I was truly looking forward to attending the professional conference that I signed up for a couple of months ago, not only to learn things, but to put my brain on a different course. While one of the sessions went slightly over my head , (it revolved around editing in MS Word and the use of macros) the rest of the sessions gave me excellent insights into what I need to do to ramp my business into high gear.

The toughest part of this endeavor has been getting my brain to think in a business-like manner. I have never had to do that before, to think and be a businessman. Now, I know that can have some negative connotations, but it is a discipline I will need to develop if I want to make a true go at this. There was one speaker whose public speaking style needs refinement, but, gave a lot of valuable information on this very topic. He's a six-figure freelancer, and he didn't get that way by sitting on his ass. The only thing that I disagreed with him on was that in order to succeed, you need to think of yourself solely as a businessman, not as a craftsman, or an artist. I think you can do both, be a businessman when it is called for, and an artist or craftsman (as this is what a writer is) when one is writing. I always keep a saying from "Finding Forrester" in my head. Sean Connery tells his young pupil, "You write your first draft with your heart, your second draft with your head." This I think is the balance one needs if one is to succeed.

Oh, and on top of all this, an absolutely fantastic thing happened to my theatre this week. I am not at liberty to talk about it just now, but will in the coming weeks, maybe even the coming days. It is something we have been working on for about the past year, and will greatly impact our future. I promise not to keep you in suspense too long.

So, I started today on my first step; getting my home office organized, and setting realistic goals. Let's see what happens tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I'm attending a professional conference here in Rochester for freelance writers and editors, be back Monday. Until then, talk amongst yourselves...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Death and taxes.

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin, 1789.

First, thanks to all who left notes of sympathy regarding the loss of my co-worker and friend, Devin. It was greatly appreciated.

Devin's wake was held yesterday, and as was expected, the outpouring of grief was overwhelming. This was not surprising of course, given his age, his large family, and his large circle of friends. There were many people from work that came around the same time I did, later in the afternoon around 4 pm. The emotional toll for many was too much to bear.

If you have lived long enough, eventually you experience the loss of friends in your age group. My own experience has led me to believe that this can be even more overwhelming than the loss of a relative, with exceptions of course. The loss of my father was a truly horrific experience. The loss of several friends that I have known was, in its own way, just as devastating. For many of the young people at the wake, this was their first time experiencing death in this way. It is a right of passage in the course of being a human being.

I was there with a friend, Sarah, and she was upset for another reason. We had been there about an hour, when she turned to me and said, "I don't know why I'm not crying?" I just smiled at her, and told her that everyone deals with death in their own way. Grief is something that manifests itself differently from person-to-person, and she should not feel guilty about it. When the time comes for her to let out her emotions, she'll know when it is right.

Sarah is 25, and this is the first time she has dealt with the death of a friend. I think confusion is a big part of the grieving process, and this is something that she will need to sort out as well.

What came as a real shock was finding out that Devin's parents were on a much anticipated trip to China when this all happened. Devin's sister had the task of tracking them down, and then they had to endure a 20 hour flight back, not knowing much of anything. They didn't get to see him until yesterday, shortly before the wake began. Devin's sister is very nice, and is holding up well, given the circumstances. When this all hits her, I hope that she has someone to lean on, as I suspect she will go to pieces. Apparently, her and Devin were very close.

Taxes can be deferred, reduced, or avoided altogether. As life teaches us, death is never avoided. This is a hard lesson, but one that the young people at the wake are just beginning to realize. The Buddhist First Noble Truth is: "All life is sorrow." It would not be life otherwise. In order to be life, pain, death, loss are all part of the experience. Accepting this however, is the hardest lesson to learn.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I'm not going to be able to get to that meme that Jay tagged me with for a few days, as I am dealing with the sudden death of a co-worker. The wake is today, the funeral tomorrow. He was only 28, and we're still waiting on the autopsy results as to why he just died in his sleep. I have my suspicions, but I don't really want to talk about it just now.

He was one of the 2 or 3 people that I truly respected down at work, and he was taken far too young. I cannot even imagine what his family must be going through.

"Of all the money that ere I had, I spent it in good company.
And of all the harm that ere I've done, alas was done to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit, to memory now I cannot recall.
So fill me to the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.

Of all the comrades that ere I had, they're sorry for my going away,

And of all the sweethearts that ere I had , they wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise while you should not,
I will gently rise and I'll softly call, "Goodnight and joy be with you all!""

Rest well Devin.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


It's been a busy weekend, and it has no intention of slowing down. The script read went very well, and Ali's professors gave some very good constructive criticism. It is an excellent story, though some more development is needed. The website for the film is here. It is in pre-production, and casting will begin soon. It is partially funded at this point, and as soon as all of it is complete, he should start shooting around May of next year. Ali has already invited me to Turkey to watch the shooting, and while I don't know if I could swing it financially, I'd love to try.

So, apart from that, I spent most of yesterday playing tour guide at my theatre. The Landmark Society of Western NY has these neighborhood tours every year. We participated in one back in 2005, and they asked us if we would do so again, so I volunteered to act as a guide, and give a history of the theatre to people coming throgh it. I had no voice left by the end of the day ,and my knees were aching.

Today is going to be just as busy, lots of house stuff to do, then work tonight. Ugh...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Please pass the script and the couscous.

I was overjoyed when I received an e-mail from a student director that I have worked with in the past, telling me that he was back from Turkey to finish his Master's degree in film direction, and that he wanted me to be part of a script-in-hand reading of his thesis. In this program at the Rochester Institute of Technology, (RIT) the thesis is a full-length film that he will eventually shoot in his native Turkey, but he needs to have it read in front of his professors first as part of the process.

Ali Vatansever is an incredibly talented guy. I worked with him two years ago in a short film he made during his first year as a grad student, then did a voice-over character for one of his other films. He and his sister have their own film production company back in Turkey, and his story about how he got to RIT is really something.

Ali was originally slated to attend the University of New Orleans in 2005. Hurricane Katrina forced him to change his plans, and as he was studying on a Fulbright Scholarship, this was something that had to be done quickly. He chose to come to Rochester, and talking with him a little over a year ago, he told me that in many ways he was glad he wound up here instead of New Orleans.

Apparently, if he would have gone to N.O., the number of foreign students attending would have been significantly less. RIT has a large number of students from other countries in attendance, and Ali feels pretty good about that. Also, he is incredibly impressed with the acting talent here in Rochester, which is no surprise to anyone that has lived here for some time. As I have mentioned before, the theatre community here is quite extensive. He has been able to accomplish things that he might not have been able to do elsewhere.

He will be returning to Turkey, and his dreams are to make his home country the next Bollywood, without, as he puts it, "all the glitzy stuff," and make "serious films." I feel very privileged to be part of it, and hey, if he needs an American for one of his films, he's got my number and e-mail.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As if things weren't bad enough.

It has been an eventful week in the investment world. Like many others, I have stock investments, and have been riding the rollercoaster for the past few years, but the what has happened in the past few days has been like nothing I have ever seen. I can't help but wonder if this is a taste of what my parents and grandparents experienced when the Great Depression hit, sans the bread lines.

I am not suggesting that we are headed for the Great Depression Part Deux, but it certainly is causing a lot of nervousness here. What is even more troubling, is the government stepping in and taking over what once were private financial institutions, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I keep reading in so many places that this was the right thing to do in order to stabalize them. But now comes this news, and I really wonder if it is a good thing that the government is stepping in a taking over. While it is not a nationalization of hte banks, they are going to have a huge stake in them.

Let me state for the record that I am a card-carrying capitalist, though not in an Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged sort of way. Her methods were far too radical. I shudder at the idea of the government taking over what were heretofore private financial institutions. (Update on this point: have to wonder if that is a slippery slope. I see Greenspan's point about taking it over then re-sellling them in chunks as smaller insitutions, but one has to wonder if the government would be willing to give up control of these institutions once they have them. I'm glad they let Lehman Bros. go under. If they screwed up, then it is their mess, (Lehman's) and they should fix it.

I don't pretend to be an economist, a banker or anything even remotely related to those professions. Hell, if I can manage my Quicken, I'm having a good day. It just seems a little odd to me that these banking and insurance behemoths would not have a better grip on reality. The housing debacle that seems to have started this mess is certainly a major culprit, but I am forced to wonder why there was no one in these companies that couldn't see this coming a mile off. Isn't this what they are schooled in? Don't they have enough savvy and experience to know when a bad investment is staring them in the face? This is the type of unbridled, Ayn Rand style capitalism that I don't agree with. There has to be accountability and responsibility to more than one's self.

The rest of us here in the trenches are left to just sit and wonder when the other shoe will drop.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gone to the Great Gig In The Sky....

A sad day this is, as Rick Wright from Pink Floyd has died. He was, imho, an underrated musician, and was part of one of the bands that shaped my life as a teenager. Before Roger Waters co-opted the band for his own selfish reasons, Wright was a major contributer and songwriter. This was a short, sharp, shock, and he will be missed by all of us that loved this band.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I revel in unspectacularlessness.

Okay, I don't think unspectacularlessness is a word. I can't find it in my Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, but I'm going to use it and hope the spelling police don't hunt me down and kill me.

Thanks to Violet Sky, who played "tag, you're it!" with me, I shall now list 6 unspectacular things about me, whether you wanted to know them or not. Make sure you take your anti-boring pills prior to reading, lest you fall asleep from the sheer unspectacular nature of this post.

1. I talk to myself, sometimes incessantly. I really get this way in private, especially when I am writing an article.

2. I hate strawberries. They are the most vile tasting things on the planet, and I just don't get the fascination about them that some people have.

3. I am very physically inflexible, the complete and total opposite of Bendy Girl. If I tried to sit in a lotus position, I would need to be taken to an orthopedist afterward.

4. I get obsessed with a particular style of music, performer, or group and play them incessantly until my ears bleed. (Well, not literally of course.)

5. I got over my fear of heights by learning to rappel from the Niagara Gorge back in the 80's. This led to rappelling off the dorms at SUNY Buffalo, where I was going to college at the time.

6. I have to constantly tilt my head so that my right ear is pointed more towards the person I am speaking to, at least when there is a lot of ambient noise around, as I am 65% deaf in my left ear. Of course, this means I won't see them, as I am blind in my right eye since birth from a congenital cataract.

So there it is. Let's see. I tag:

1. Bendy Girl = Because I have never done her before...I mean, well, you know what I mean.

2. Guyana Gal - To help her get back into the swing of blogging.

3. Bina - Just to prove to her that she does not suck as a blogger.

4. Ryan - So He will get off his ass and blog again.

5. Peter - Just because he is, well, Peter.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Baseball - The All-American (British) game?

There is an old saying here that goes, "As American as baseball, mom, and apple pie." How about this one on for size: "As American as Baseball, mater, and mincemeat pie." No? Doesn't have quite the same ring to it? Well, if this story is to be believed, then instead of hot dogs, Yankee Stadium may have to start selling bangers and mash. Now, being the the harbinger of useless knowledge that I am, I do know that baseball is actually a meshing of cricket and rounders, with rounders being a child's game in the UK. I was advised by my former paramedic colleague from England that baseball was 'a kid's game being played by overpaid adults." Clearly he didn't understand the esteem that our national pastime is held in.

Then again, with this new finding, he may have been on to something.

I wonder how this will change the face of our blessed game? Here are some possibilities. Feel free to suggest some more. (I'm sure my UK friends will be more than glad to chime in...)

1. Teams will now be required to wear all-white uniforms. No individual colors will be allowed.

2. Players will be required to respond with the phrase "Yes, guv'nor." to all requests by the manager.

3. "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," the traditional baseball song, will be replaced by either the pub song of choice, or possibly "God Save The Queen." The "Star Spangeld Banner" will remain the opening song of the game, as it is derived from a drinking song anyway.

4. The "Seventh Inning Stretch" will be replaced with the "Seventh Inning Tea Time."

5. The World Series, a.k.a. the "Fall Classic," will be replaced by a series of test matches that will go on for at least 2 days minimum.

If you can think of anything else, let's have it......

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The boy, the GameBoy, and the Shawshank Redemption.

The boy was about 11 or 12 as my memory recalls. Time has pushed back his exact age to the point where I can only make an educated guess. He lived in Bushwick, a section of Brooklyn known for some very good Spanish restaurants, a small Italian section with a particular coffee shop that made a mean espresso and cappuccino, as well as some incredible pastries. Bushwick was also known for the squalor in which too many of its residents lived. Such was this boy's situation.

It was around the holidays in 1995. A medic I worked with had become involved in the Santa's Workshop project with the Post Office. You've probably heard of this. Kids write letters to Santa at the North Pole, the P.O. collects the letters, and then volunteers take them and try to grant the wishes of the kids who wrote them. the letters range from the predictable to the heartbreaking. Kids who want toys, to kids who want their mom or dad to have a job. My co-worker brought in the letters, and let us choose which ones we wanted. For some reason, this one kid's letter hit me.

It seemed like a simple and predictable request. The kid wanted a Nintendo Game Boy, something that was all the rage at the time. What struck me though, was the neatness of the handwriting. it wasn't the usual kid scrawl. Something told me that this kid paid attention in school. I couldn't say what it was exactly, just intuition. I was the end of the letter though that raised my eyebrows a bit: "My mom can't afford presents this year." I decided that this was the kid I wanted to help out.

I bought the Game Boy after much scouring, as he had a specific type in mind. it was such a hot item that year, it was almost impossible to find, and as the Web was just in its infancy, was not an option. I finally found the one he was hoping for, and wrapped it up along with a card from "Santa." While I would deliver it personally, I would not be telling him it was from me, though I am sure his mom would know it was me that bought it. Dad it seemed, was not in the picture, not an uncommon occurrence in this area of Brooklyn, where the family unit was often supplanted, or replaced entirely by gangs. I don't know where this kid stood in relation to that, but for now it seemed as though he was still on the straight and narrow, or at least I hoped so.

I got out of work a little late on that night in December. Don't ask the exact date, as I can't remember it. Driving to Bushwick was pretty much out of the way for me on my usual route home. I knew the street where the kid lived, having responded into this neighborhood on a regular basis. I parked the car in front of the brownstone building that had stood there for probably a century. The building was a memory vault. One could imagine hoards of kids back in the Depression playing stickball in the street outside of its entrance, or stoopball on its steps. Milkmen delivered their product to the apartments, when milk came in glass bottles, and you needed to skim the cream off the top of it. The building had seen better days. Now, it looked far more worn, and there was evidence that its upkeep was not something the current owner was overly concerned with.

The current owner installed an intercom system, and I rang the apartment buzzer that had the last name of the boy on it. A woman's voice answered, a heavy Hispanic accent with traces of suspicion. I just said "EMS," as anything else might have resulted in my not being let in. I was in uniform, as I didn't always change in the locker room, but wore my uniform home so I could wash it along with the others, especially if it was the last day of the work week.

I walked up to the second floor where the boy's apartment was, knocked on the door. I could see the inside cover of the peephole in the door sliding back, then the clacking sound of a police-style "Fox lock" being unbolted. The door opened a crack, and a thin Hispanic woman peered out. I introduced myself, and asked if she remembered her son writing to Santa at the North Pole. A bright smile then came over this face that appeared to have known nothing but hardship and sorrow and in mildly broken English, she told me she did. I told her, whispering as I didn't want her son to hear, that I had the Game Boy, and asked if I could give it to him? she called his name, and out of a back room came this slightly pudgy, animated boy.

"I understand, " I said without telling him my name, "that you made a request of Santa for a specific present."

Slightly bewildered, not quite sure of what I was getting at, he shook his head and said, "Yeah."

"Well, Santa has instructed me to give this to you, but not to open it until Christmastime."

The look on his face was only surpassed by the quiet "Oh wow" that came out in his astonishment. He thanked me, along with his mom, and I left, Lone Ranger-like, with my work there done.

Now, you may be wondering why I am relating a holiday story with almost three months to go until then.

A friend lent me the book, "Different Seasons," by Stephen King. In it is the novella "Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption," which the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" was based on. I had only seen the movie in bits and pieces, and wanted to read the novella first. I always enjoyed most of King's work, but enjoyed his non-scary pieces even better. This was no exception. "Shawshank" is a masterful story of the human spirit, and how kindness in the most terrible of circumstances is often repaid in ways we don't always anticipate. Such was what happened with the boy and the Nintendo.

In the novella, Andy Dufrense was in a physical prison as well as a mental one, and learned to break free of both. Such was the same in many ways for me while working in Brooklyn. While I could go home at night to the comfortable surroundings of my Westchester apartment, mentally I carried around Brooklyn at all times. Giving that kid the Nintendo was one way of dealing with that, and hopefully rendering a kindness at the same time. Dufrense escaped his insanity when he knew the time was now or never, and I escaped from the insanity that I found myself in as well.

I only hope the screws don't find out about me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stuck in neutral.

I don't know what it is about the past 2 weeks, but it seems as though motivation has not been my strong suit. While I was in NYC, I made a point of telling myself that when I returned home I would go full-bore into working towards my goal of becoming a full-time freelance writer by next year. I already started my course in proofreading, just had an article published in July, and I thought that at the very least, the thought of returning to this mindless excuse of a job would provide motivation enough. So why is it that these last 2 weeks have been among the least productive I have experienced for quite some time?

It is not as though I haven't been working towards that goal at all. It just seems that for the past two weeks I have been in a veritable fog, unable to motivate myself. I want to do this so badly, but for some reason the brick wall of "Who gives a fuck?" has reared its ugly head. I know this will pass, it always does. There is a conference I will be attending at the end of the month that is sponsored by a local professional writers organization that should lift my spirits. It is specifically geared towards building a freelance writing business, and will have presenters that I have read about that I have come to respect.

I know this may be part of my own insecurities, wondering if I am up to this task. I will be the first to admit that I never really had a great head for business, and there is a lot to absorb. I just want to be free of the yoke of working for someone else so very badly, and have control over what I earn, and how I earn it. I suppose I will just have to learn to push past this moment, and get back the drive that I know I have somewhere inside of me. I just want to be able to do it without grinding the clutch.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I am NOT a morning person!

One of the yearly rituals that I undertake is a visit to the transplant clinic to let them poke, prod, and give me the the general once over. It's a bit like taking your car in for a yearly overhaul, though in this case it involves an early morning start, like at 7 am. This wouldn't be so terrible, except for the fact that I get out of work at 3 am. Yes, I do telecommute, but it's still oh-dark-thirty, which means that going to the lab to get bloods drawn before the actual clinic appointment was going to be an effort. Oh, I should clarify. I need to be at the lab by 7 am so that the test results will be at the clinic by 9 am.

So, I get out of work Wed. at the appointed hour, and I can't get to sleep. Nothing. Nada. 3:45 am rolls around, and I am finally getting sleepy. I'm thinking, "This is going to be fun. I'll probably fall asleep while they're putting the needle in my arm." I make an executive decision, and opt for more sleep. They'll have to deal with the the possibility of the results not being ready when I get to the clinic.

I wind up at the lab at 8 am, wait about 20 min to be seen. A good looking blond phlebotomist does that voodoo that she do so well, and then I grab a bagel and coffee at the stand in the hospital lobby. The clinic itself is actually part of the University of Rochester Medical Center, where my transplant center is. All my bloodwork needs to be done as a fasting one, especially now since I was diagnosed with diabetes last year from the long-term use of my transplant meds. Food in hand, I amble up to the clinic waiting area, along with a Stephen King book that a friend lent to me. It is 'Different Seasons," the series of novellas that he wrote that includes "The Shawshank Redemption." Now, if you live here in the States, and get TBS on your cable or satellite system, you know that the movie version of this is played endlessly. Seriously, I am surprised that no one has simply started a Stephen King Channel, all Shawshank, all the time.

I wanted to read the original version, as with most books, they are usually better than the adaptations for movies. The movie itself I have only seen in bits and pieces. I know this is going to be a long haul, and since it is a novella, only just over a hundred pages, I figure I could get a good hunk of it in before I get seen. It was a good choice. I arrived at the clinic promptly at 9 am, and settled into the waiting area.

Thursday's are for the post-transplant people like myself, with Tuesday's being reserved for the pre-transplants. They are the ones who are just being evaluated, or already accepted as transplant candidates and are being followed by the team. Us post-transplants, with the exceptions of the ones that are fresh out of transplant, generally don't take as much time being seen. People like me who are far out, (not in a hippy-dippy weatherman sort of way) usually take even less time. Still, I didn't get called in until close to 10:30.

In many ways, I am glad that they made this change some years ago, making the pre-, and post transplant people go on different days. It was sometimes difficult prior to that, when we would all go on the same days. Looking into the eyes of those pre-transplant folks, the desperation on their faces and those of the relatives that brought them brought back some difficult memories. Of course, at the same time, when they would ask me if I already had my transplant, and I would say yes, that got their attention. When I would tell them how long ago I had the operation, there would be this look of astonishment, then followed by the peppering of questions. They were scared, and rightfully so. However, I would always ask the patients one quesion:

"What are you prepared to do?"

The sad fact is that while a tranplant can save their lives, they have to be willing to accept certain things, and understand that the idea of a "normal life" is going to change forever.

So, they call my name, I get weighed and have my vitals taken. All good. then I wait again for either the transplant surgeon or the nurse practitioner to see me. In this case, it is a nurse practitioner that I know well. All seems to be in order, and lo and behold, my bloodwork actually turned up. My liver numbers are slightly elevated, but they have been this way since my little stint in the hospital last year. They don't seem to be too concerned, as they have remained steady, have not spiked, and it is only some of the numbers that are up. The rest are right where they should be, my kidney function is perfect, and my blood sugar is right on the money.

I get a physical exam, and she comments on how well my scar healed over the years. We make some small talk about some people we both know, and then I am on my way. Come back in another year. I still get bloods drawn once per month to check liver functions, and the level of anti-rejection meds floating around inside of me. This is one of the trade-offs, and what I was referring to before about "a normal life."

Back to the car, and life goes on. Oh, the story was fantastic! I will Netflix the movie now, but the stroy was just so well written, as many (but not all) of his things are.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Comedy About Bad Habits.

My friend Matt Ehlers' first feature film, "Smoking Laws," will have a series of screenings starting this Sunday here in Rochester. You can see the trailer here. So if you're around, come and catch it. I am helping him promote it, and...I am in the flick. You can also see me in the trailer, if you can guess who I am. ;-)

Matt's company, Eggwork Productions, can be reached here, where you can access his award winning short films that have been screened at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Road Well Travelled Pt. 4 - The Food's The Thing. (En Fin)

So when we last left your intrepid traveler, he was just leaving his old place of residence, feeling both mentally exhausted, but better for the experience. Of course, it was not quite as adventurous as Quarsan, Zoe's favorite twat, (see his recent post on her blog regarding Tanzanian butchers for further details) but the one thing we had in common was the search for food.

However, continuing my walk back to my mom's building, I came across a sight that pushed my spirits up. You will recall that I found the site of my old "thinking tree," the enormous willow that stood in the empty field across the street from my building. Apparently, there was more than one willow that suffered the same fate. I came across one such willow, right next to the former baseball field where I played Little League baseball as a kid. It is now paved over, the big field known as "the Greenway" being used as a parking lot while all the parking garages were being rehabbed. The word is that since the garages are all opened again, that the Greenway will be returned to its former state at some point. One can only hope.

This tree however did not suffer quite the same fate as my willow. It was still intact, rooted in the ground, but only a small fraction of its former grandeur. That said, looking at I had a sense of hope. It was coming back from the near-death experience it seemed to have suffered. There was life sprining forth from it, and the branches that came out of it formed a small canopy that maybe, with time and caring, will envelope another kid, and let him or her think underneath it.

A small explanation is in order. (Claudia, you may wish to take your anti-emetic before reading further.) White Castle. Home of the "murder burger," the "belly bomber," or my personal fav, the "rectum rocket." All misnomers. A storied hamburger. One only need rent "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" in order to understand its appeal. Before McDonald's, Before Burger King, before Wendy's, there was White Castle. Small burger, you can eat 2 or 3 at a shot. Some of the best onion rings around, and their vanilla thick shakes are heaven. I don't eat a lot of junk food. If I go every 2-3 months, that is a lot. This however, was a trip down memory lane, at least those that involved copious amounts of recreational pharmaceuticals. My personal best is 8 cheeseburgers at one sitting. Ah, those were the days.

Food is an important part of any New Yorker's upbringing, that is to say, knowing where the best places are to eat out. There are so many eateries, restaurants, etc. in a city of almost 9 million, that one needs to be choosy. Growing up in the Bronx however, one has an extra added benefit.

Off the mainland of the Bronx is City Island. Originally a small fishing village, it is now a mecca for seafood lovers all over NYC. The only section that rivals it, IMHO, is Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. The island is crammed with seafood places up and down, from begining to end. My personal fav, and known to all in the Bronx, is Sammy's, a City Island institution. We took my mom there last year for her 75th birthday, and it had been a number of years since I was there. The food was as delicious as ever. However, as Sammy's is on the expensive side, and I was treating my brother to lunch, another place two doors down filled the bill.

Tony's is the last restaurant on the island, and was one of the more inexpensive places. Still, it was cheaper than Sammy's and the food was good, though not as good as I remember it. Back in the day, the boats use to pull up to Tony's and dump their catch right on the dock next to the restaurant. Talk about fresh catch of the day! My brother and I dined on some excellent New England chowder, frogs legs and clams.
City Island also does not feel like NYC. It provides a bit of a respite from the high energy that one usually finds in other places in the city. From the gulls that amasse on the pier, to the sailboats that lazily make their way to the mouth of Long Island Sound, this is a quiet place in a very noisy city. I do miss it.

And that, as they say is that. All-in-all, a good trip, mixed with good and bad, joy and sorrow. Let the next time be all joy.

It's coming, I promise......

Pt 4. of my NYC journey is coming...I swear. I've just been running about everywhere this weekend. I'll finally settle down some tomorrow, but after I've cleaned out my garage which needs it desperately. Until then, a little tease:

Got these where you are?