Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Officially Annoying

Its official ….I’m annoying.

At least to one official I am.  And Z of course…that goes without saying.

And most of my friends….

Last week, I wrote a story,  a gentle criticism as it were, of some of the decisions that are made at our local beach and the thinking that goes into them.
Primarily the need for patrons to wear uncomfortable, gaudy, wrist bands...supposedly to keep all the good, God fearing patrons safe from all the bad, non-God fearing ne'er-do-wells who would defile our precious beach by not paying. 

Apparently ne'er-do-wells have an aversion to uncomfortable, gaudy, wrist bands.

 Which then, by definition, would make me a ne'er-do-well…as well…because I really hate the things. 
Except I pay; I don’t sneak.

So maybe that makes me a ne'er-do-not so well. 

But I’ve been called worse.

Aside from posting the story here, last Monday, the 22nd, it was previously published in the August 18th edition of our local newspaper, The Westmore News, for whom I sometimes write a column, providing the Hardware store isn’t running an ad that week and there’s enough room for my silliness. It was also posted on The Rye Patch late that Tuesday.  

Anyway, I guess I got the attention of the powers that be, because last Wednesday evening, after returning from an outing with Z, I was perusing some of the Patches to see if there were any comments on whatever I had posted at the time—hey…It could happen. So there I am perusing away, when suddenly I look up and see what appeared, at least to me, to be a 6 foot tall headline in the featured story box of the Rye Patch that shouted something along the lines of:  “Director of Rye Town Park responds to Blogger Brian…” 

It was so frickin big, they had run out of headline room, so there I was for all of, well I guess Rye, or at least some of it, to see.

 Blogger Brian…

It kind of makes me sound like a character on Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Blogger Brian…

Not only that, while all of the other surrounding Patches were sporting REAL headline stories like “Hurricanes Bearing Down or ”Woman Knocks Man’s Eye Out With Potato”  they all regularly post the main headlines of the other area Patches in little interactive boxes located at the bottom of their home pages; so there I was again…all over the Sound Shore….

Blogger Brian…

Fortunately, when you actually opened the story, the full headline, with my full name appeared, which, while still disconcerting, was a little better than…

Blogger Brian

But still….

I immediately called down to Z, to come look, and her first reaction was, “Great, now we have to move!”

Z, as I've said before, is nothing, if not supportive.

Then she read the Director’s letter (sounds a little Orwellian doesn’t it?  .—“The Director”) and decided that he didn’t really skewer me, which to be honest, I did to them…a little…but with much good humor—sort of— and points that I still feel are valid. 

His letter, which you can read if you click on this link, was also published in this weeks newspaper and is basically an explanation of policy, but not, at least in my opinion, the questionable logic behind it, which is what I was…well, questioning.

In fact he took all my kind words, of which there were many, and thanked me, several times, which was very nice.  But I guess that’s the art of Irish Diplomacy, which is, “The ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip…”

And I am!

In fact I’m already packed!

Anyway, while I don’t think there were any issues resolved or answered, at least to my satisfaction, I had my say and he had his. 

And I really do appreciate the fact that the powers that be felt I deserved a response; at least I was heard…and that’s all you can ask.

So that’s that.  The two points of view are out there, so let the readers decide.

One thing I’m not is a crusader.

Plus I don’t want anybody asking me to serve on any committees. 

Those people work hard….

I’m a Freelance Writer…enough said.

But those wristbands…really…wristbands...on a beach????

Blogger Brian….?

Monday, August 29, 2011

So I'm Told...

There apparently was some BIG storm, that has everyone talking; but believe me it doesn’t take much to get folks around here talking.

Apparently, I’m told, we survived, said storm, but apparently I missed the whole thing, concentrating as I was on this week’s blog posts...apparently.
I do and I do…I give and I give…I know…I’m told.

You’d think someone would have mentioned it.

So that’s what all the flashlights and candles were for.  Good thing we had them since I’m also told we've been without power since 2 PM Sunday; this after thinking we had made it to the clearing.

I’m told…

But usually we’re left with about 4 inches of water in our basement…and we weren’t because the power didn’t go off until well after the rains had ceased and desisted, following orders given by Z.
I’m told….

You don’t want to mess with Z’s orders.

Believe me…you don’t.

So no water, but no power either or a promise of power until….wait for it…11:59.PM…Sept. 1st.

Which to some is next month…I’m told.

So I’m picking up my Unc’s generator…again...and hopefully the cable and internet will be up and running again by this afternoon, one way or the other…I’m told.

And Z is trying very hard to not let loose her “I told you so” face.

 But not too hard…

I’m told…

This has been a special Retort...from The Freelance Retort
We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

Cablevision...Again - "I Owe" TV

Ahhhh...the final chapter to the Cable trilogy. 

I know you've been waiting.

Last one...I promise...for now.

So far, faithful Retorters, we've picked apart Cablevision’s News 12 Westchester as “Loco-Local”, News, Traffic and Weather (Ha...that still cracks me up!)

And pointed out the old Game Show Network switcheroo .

And I'm still connected...go figure.

The thing is...I’m actually a BIG Cablevision promoter.

Believe it or not…I am.
If friends tell me they’re thinking of switching to Verizon FIOS, I ask them WHY...why would they want all the bother of going through all that rigmarole; for what? Because they like the Red shirts.
It’s just more of the same. And to be fair, Cablevision’s internet and phone service, especially the phone pricing, is way better than anyhting Verizon ever offered in the last thousand years, before they decided to go into the Cable TV/Internet buisness.

Still...having said were going to delve into all those little fees Cablevision tacks on to our bills every month.

I’m not talking about taxes and such; I’m talking about all the little add-ons that come with your IO TV service.
IO TV—isn’t that a great, ironic name for a pay TV service...I Owe” —seems to be the biggest money pit for the consumer. And part of the reason, Cablevision says, is because they are strapped with outrageous fees, themselves, from the program providers.

And I give them that. That’s fair.
I don’t even mind (too much) paying $82.95 for my Silver Premium Package (hmmmm, maybe I do), which includes basic family cable, a $16.58 value, plus HBO and some other movie channels and stuff I rarely watch.

I’ll buy that…and believe me I do…every month.

But Cablevision, in my opinion, did a "questionable" little thing along the way to boosting this Silver package by 20 bucks or so over the last few years; they also switched out HBO for Showtime for new subscribers. So while I, personally, can still get HBO in the package, since I already had it, any new customer adding this package now, who really wants HBO, has to either bump up to the Gold package, for $103.95 a month or buy the Silver and HBO separately for $14.95, which basically means that for around another $6.95 you can get it all with the Gold package.  So why wouldn’t you?
(Note: Silver and Gold packages have again been re-configured in the past year since this was first published)

You will...and that's how they get you.
And if I, he who is still HBO'd, should ever drop the Silver package, even to upgrade to the Gold package, and then decide to go back to Silver—I know I know I know. My brain hurts too—I too would then have to pay extra for HBO, also.

Again…genius marketing.

If you want to record this stuff you hardly watch anyway, in HD (which I should point out is provided free of charge), you then have to pay $10.95 (I love the 95 cent thing by the way, it makes me feel so much better) for DVR service, not to mention the $6.71 you already pay for each cable box you have, on top of that.

And just to make you feel better, if you live where I live, and have more than one box…you pay another $1.50 for what they call an “additional outlet”.

Kind of like going to the grocery store, paying your bill, and then being charged extra because you bought more than one can of soup.

I mean if we’re paying for all those box “rentalsand don’t forget the remotes for another 24 centsshouldn’t we get a discount or something for being such “good” customers.

I mean, at least you can eat the soup…or drink it…whatever you do with soup.

In some places, like Connecticut, Cablevision now “requires” you to have a cable box in order to get any sort of signal on your TV at all. You can get the basic service if you’d like, which is nice of them…you just can’t watch it.

And I’ve been told by a Cablevision customer service rep that this will soon be taking place in Westchester, also. (Note: Took effect May 8, 2012)

This has nothing to do with the digital conversion, either. This is just more Cablevision marketing, because after a year’s grace period, where they generously provided the boxes for free, to those who didn’t have them, they now bill for them, same as here.

It seems to me, however, if Cablevision is providing a service, where a piece of equipment is essential in order to receive this service, shouldn’t that equipment then come with the” service” fee you pay?

It’s kind of like if the water company charged you extra to rent your toilet every month…kind of.

Or if the electric company charged you for your toaster or magic fingers massaging pillow.
They say we have options now when choosing a communications provider.

The only option we have is which devil we want to dance with next.

I should have taken those fliers they used to hand out in the drive in movie theatres in the 60’s more seriously.

Beware of Pay TV!” they screamed.

I should have listened.

We all should have listened.

Okay, Cablevision, that’s it…I’m done nitwit picking you.

Gotta go…Sports Center is about to start on ESPN.

I guess I could DVR it…but I’m DVR- ing that movie on Starz and that Combat Related Sports special on Showtime.  Maybe the DVR in the basement is free….


The Cablevision Trilogy
Click on any link below

Note: Some of the packages and pricing referred to have changed in the past year. What hasn’t changed is the level of frustration consumers must endure.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Perspectives- Redux

Originally posted - June 15, 2011

I don't consider myself an artist but I do think I have an artist’s soul.

I mean literally...I think I have some if not all of van Goh' s soul.

We were born on the same day 101 years apart, I'm very protective of my right ear, and I have an acute aversion to crows and fields of crows. Even the Counting Crows.

And I have to tell you, he left it in pretty piss poor condition, this soul. I've spent most of my life trying to patch all the holes in it.

To an artist, the world is all about perspective.
The unique way of interpreting what you see and how you see it, that nobody else in the world sees exactly the way you do.
Shadow and light, size and distance; even where, when and how you stand at any given moment…all affect perspective.
Everyone has their own perspective, though not everyone realizes it. Some realize it, but don’t believe it’s important enough to mention. Some realize it and believe it’s important enough to mention, but have terrible memories and forget to mention it or forgot how to mention it, or where to begin.
But the artists, be they writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, photographers, nurses, teachers, doctors, masons, carpenters, laborers, accountants, lawyers (okay, definitely not the lawyers and I’m on the fence about the accountants) not only recognize their own perspective, but NEED to express it to the world in whatever unique way they can, in a way ONLY they can.
Except, like I said, the lawyers, who’ll happily express themselves, anyway you'd like them to express themselves, then send you a bill.
And life—your life…their life—is all about perspective, as well.
The places we were born; Port Chester or Rye Brook, White Plains or Harrison, Greenwich or Stamford....

The way we were nurtured, educated or not educated.

Whether or not we were forgotten and left behind in a rest room on I-90 when we were only 8 years old….
The friends we have, the friends we had, the friends we wish we didn’t have.
The people we love. The people we don’t. The people that don’t love us (as foolish as that sounds).
Even our favorite ice cream or peculiar aversion to corn niblets, despite the fact that we love corn on the all figures in.
Perspective…it’s ours and only ours.
Most think we all live in the same world. I think we all live in different worlds. In fact, I think there are as many different worlds as there are people, and as many different universes as there are worlds...and so on and so on. And I know many of you are thinking right now that you’re relieved that you don’t live in mine.
I think we sometimes get upset with our boss or our spouse or our kids or our friends because even though we are all looking at the same issue or thing, we're all looking at it from a different place, from a different time…from a different perspective.
Sometimes, what makes perfect sense to you is lost on me and vice versa…and versa vice.
But nobody knows exactly what’s going on in your head (let alone mine) at any given moment, or what occurred in the past (and yes, I did say I was getting out and going to the bathroom!) that affects your perspective. But we, too often, make the mistake of assuming that everyone does or should know. And that’s how we get into trouble. Nobody sees your perspective, not all the time; only you.
Yet, sometimes we do. Sometimes we click, and share part if not all of our perspective with someone else, and then we create Harmony, which is a beautiful thing, and should not be easily dismissed.
Unless, it’s this woman, named Harmony, I once knew in Cold Spring, whose parents were old hippies and well…let’s just leave it at that.

So there you go. Something a bit different.
Maybe you agree. Maybe you disagree.
It’s just my perspective….

Friday, August 26, 2011

A House is Just a House

A friend of mine is picking up stakes this weekend after nearly 20 years of living in the same place, same town, same everything.  Well, everything except for her phone service provider, which she changed about a half dozen times, whenever there was a deal.

Actually she's only moving out this weekend...but not actually moving in for another couple of weeks.  So I guess she's just gonna drive around with the moving guys for awhile, giving them wrong directions for as long as she can get away with it.

Hopefully two weeks.

Believe me, if any one could pull that off it's her....

Anyway, I'm sure it has to be a difficult time since the place she's moving from is the place where she raised her kids, created classic holiday cinema and ground beef public service announcements, entertained her friends and pretty much wore the place out.

In addition to picking up stakes, I believe she’s also picking up some chicken, a ½ lb. of baloney and some fresh zucchini squash, but only if it’s on sale.

Hey…moving is hard work and one tends to get hungry.

I tell her how impressed I am by the courage she’s shown; taking a deep breath and plunging into the darkness with nary a light.

Braver than me; braver than most people I know.

It got me thinking about our own move, Z and I, into this house just about 10 years ago to the day.

10 years…already…how fast.

At the time it was our own little plunge into the darkness; but we had each other to help light the way.

Having gone through the experience herself a couple of times before, this friend was also very helpful back then; lending support as well as advice, providing encouragement, voicing approval or caution, whenever it was needed for this and or that.
There were times when I listened...times when I didn't...and times when I wished I did....

So now it’s my turn; I want to return the favor in whatever way I can. She’s going through this all on her own now, though she does have her daughters, two shining stars in their own right, to help light the way.

I remember so clearly, at the time of our own move, when I was down to my last thread of sanity, not to mention my hair, standing in the midst of all the work that needed to be done and all the disruptions inherent in that. All I kept thinking, kept wishing for, was to close my eyes and when I opened them it would be ten years in the future and everything around me would be familiar, comfortable and old. 
Now…here we are; ten years gone by. The wish has come true.

Now I’m wishing by year twenty we’re all still here, still familiar, still comfortable…and decidedly old…or older…ish…preferably with a nice tan and two working knees.

Plus, I’m looking forward to my new Holographic TV with Smell-a-Round-Sound!

When it comes right down to it, the real truth, at least to me, and I hope to you…is whoever said “A House is not a Home” was right.

A house is just a house and it’s never more apparent than on moving day, when it’s emptied of all your stuff, all the things you identify as you.

On moving day it’s just a bunch of empty rooms that can’t even muster a goodbye, let alone a thank you.

The things that are really you are always on board, packed away with all the other important stuff in your own little personal cargo carrier inside.

The laughter of your family and friends at Christmas. The fireworks on the 4th of July. Even the tears from the day you thought was the saddest day of your life…but knew deep down, it probably wasn’t.  

These are just some of the things that make up a home among countless other ethereal possessions.

The memories that are forever and can never be lost or left behind.

A house is just a house…even if it does have central air, which is always desirable.

It’s the people and things you carry in your heart that will always light your way….

That’s your home, that’s your life…no matter how many times you move.

Crap…the kitchen sink is leaking again!

This @*%^&$  HOUSE!

10 years and EVERY-frickin-THING is falling apart!!!!

Where’s Nardi’s number????

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Death Be Not Cheap....

The cost of dying is going up...and the dead aren’t happy. 
Are they ever? 
The whiners….

A recent story in the Journal News  states that costs at many New York cemeteries are rising at the alarming rate of 20-36% and many of the dead are looking to relocate to more hospitable climes; preferably close to an Applebee’s

According to the article, burials are way down as more and more dead folk are opting for cremation, a less costly option.  Plus, clothing's optional and you can re-purpose the casket. 

I hear they make excellent beverage coolers for large summer BBQ’s.

The head of Cold Spring Cemetery said his longtime grave digging “contractor” suddenly resigned, forcing the cemetery to find a new contractor who charged double the price.

Needless to say, you just can’t expect to walk out onto the moors and stumble on a good grave digging contractor anymore; not like the old days; not since they unionized. And forget about one with a hump who eats bugs.
Those are the first to go....

The official, whose small rural cemetery had up to 100 burials annually five years ago, went on to say, "Last year we did 60, and this year we're only at 24.  It's because of the high cost of dying."

The head of the larger, more prominent, Kensico Cemetery, located in Valhallanaturallysaid their burial census is also down, from 2,200 three years ago to only 1,750  in 2010.  

For those who don’t know, Kensico Cemetery is also the afterlife home to baseball legend Lou Gehrig.

True to his “Iron Horse” reputation Mr. Gehrig, who now considers himself “The luckiest man under the face of the earth” is said to have his eye on the “Most Consecutive Days Dead” record, but acknowledges he has quite a long haul ahead of him, not to mention competition.

His streak currently stands at 25, 635 days and counting. 
Actually, I’m not sure Lou really gets it, but we’re all rooting for him. I think he’s even doing a blog about it. It’s a little dry, but so is Lou. 

In order to counteract this downward burial spiral, cemeteries around the region are said to be considering several clever marketing ploys. These include: Two for Tuesdays, Ladies Night Wednesdays, Pet Night Thursday, Swinging Singles Weekends and the popular, Share Eternity with a Celebrity Monday.

I’m sorry…Carrot Top is already spoken for…twice.

Not all local cemeteries have been able to recoup costs with these large rate increases, however. 38 nonprofit cemeteries in New York, fall under state control and are only allowed what are referred to, curiously enough, as “Cost of Living” increases. 
Enough said….

The article also goes on to state that funerals have gotten more expensive as well.

According to the 2010 National Funeral Directors Association's General Price List Survey, the average cost of a funeral in 2009 was $6,560, compared with $5,180 in 2000 and $3,742 in 1991.

So sooner, rather than later, is the way to to speak.

 In addition, these costs don't include flowers, the monument, grave marker or the burial…but apparently do provide for a park bench and a bag of peanuts to feed the squirrels as they feed on you.  

I don’t know, burial, cremation, cryogenics, space the final frontier…what’s it matter?

Dead is Dead. Who cares how you spend eternity? 

Unless of course you’re stuck with the Carrot guy.

I’m just hoping for a great next life, where, hopefully, all the ills of this life have been corrected, or at least passed on to some other stressed out Blogger.

I’m also hopping for a Subway around the corner. The Sandwich shop, not the transportation.
I’m not gonna let all those Free Sub Cards I've been collecting go to waste....