Thursday, May 26, 2011


Finally, the warm summer weather has arrived, just in time for Memorial Day. 

How does it know?

I don’t need to tell you that, for the most part, May pretty much sucked around here. I think we had 47,000 inches of rain, with an average daytime temperature of 26 degrees or something.  I believe there might have been several inches of snow as well. 

See how quickly we forget.

As a freelance worker person, who mostly works from home, you might assume that I’m pretty much unaffected by the weather.  But that would be a misconception.  Fact is, I am always, very concerned about the weather.  To begin with, dark, miserable days of any sort make it very difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning.  And I won’t even mention the toll it takes on my 6 step commute. The newspapers are often soggy and traffic really backs up by the coffee maker. As a result, my pot of Chock full O Nuts, which my wife turns on as she walks out the door at 6:45 AM for her “real” commute, is sometimes stale, depending on the length of my delayed arrival. 
Yes…I know.  But I never mention it, as I’m not wont to complain.  I’m just that kind of person.  But I’m just saying….
Snowy days are the worst since my wife has a love/hate relationship with snow. She loves it on weekends and holidays but hates it during the week.  I guess maybe because she has to drive through the slop, down to the Bronx and back, while I, as I said, have about a 12 step commute (notice it keeps getting longer?). 
 After a large overnight snowfall, she's been known to pop out of bed at 5 AM, speak in tongue, run down the stairs, grab a shovel, bolt out the door and immediately start shoveling, long before the sun comes up. 
But she really enjoys it…at least that’s what I tell myself…and my neighbors.


That’s the awful sound I’ve woken up to on many a frozen morning. Awful because I know I HAVE to get out there too. I mean I’m not a complete schlub.  And to be honest, I kind of like shoveling, myself…once in a while.  Not every other day. Not before dawn.
I usually get out there by the time she reaches the end of the front walk, which is moderately long. Sometimes she’s already made the turn and has carved a meticulously clean path half way down the sidewalk, as well. 
I’m usually greeted with, “You didn’t have to come out!”

I usually mutter something unintelligible in return and grab my shovel. 

Then she continues, in the cheeriest voice you can imagine, “I’m gonna  finish up here, make breakfast, do a load of laundry, iron, clean the bath tub…and then shower, dress and get to work by 8!  How’s your day look?”

It’s about then that I begin hacking at the wall of ice that the snow plow has left at the end of my driveway.

And bad weather is, well, bad enough, but the predictors or non-predictors of the weather make it even more so.  Have you noticed how off the weather folk are these days? It rains when they say it will be sunny. It’s sunny when they say it will rain.  It hails frozen locusts when they say it will be a great day for the beach!

And if I listen to 5 different forecasters, I’ll get 5 different forecasts. Kind of a multiple choice forecast, in which I get to choose the one that best suits what I want to happen.

And when the sunny day turns into the day of the locusts, they come back the next day and act as if they had been expecting the locusts all along. Or maybe they think we just forgot, what with all the locust shoveling.
And the smiles and “oh, what can you do” attitudes;  like this is the funniest thing in the world, these locusts.  Well, when I have a BBQ planned for 100 people (okay, maybe more like 20) and I’m expecting  a warm sunny day, but instead get locusts, I am not appreciating the smirks and funny “woe is you” exchanges. 


 But do I get it?  No...all I get, besides the locusts complaining that the onion dip is too bland, is 100 miserable people (okay, maybe more like 10) sitting in my house watching TV…usually the weather. 

So here it is, Memorial Day, 2011…and I’m writing about snow...and locusts.

Go figure.

I guess it's been that kind of year….

And really, what’s the difference between partly sunny and partly cloudy, anyway? 

Really, what?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

They Made Me Be The Judge!

To be honest, I feel a little bad for all the predictors of doom. How sad was that picture of the skinny guy in Times Square, who spent like $140,00 promoting this thing, There he was, looking at his watch, shoulders slumped, sporting a terribly disillusioned expression. A mob of jeering detractors, who let’s face it, fifteen minutes earlier probably had at least one shiver of concern, closed in all around him and all the skinny man could think of to say was, “I guess I was wrong.”   So there you go. Mistakes were made.  Let’s move on….maybe get a sandwich.

In case you forgot,  I recently promised to tell my court story so, for better or worse, here it is.  A while back I was summoned to County Court to serve my sentence...I mean duty. 

A very large group of us were brought up to a very large judicial room, with a very large judicial bench, at which a very large judicial judge eventually sat down.  We were shown a short video hosted by some actor whose name eludes me, but probably wasn’t Robert Blake, the former Little Rascal, and star of the mid 1970’s TV show Baretta, who was tried and acquitted of killing his wife in 2001. But maybe it was…

After the movie, we were then entertained by a raffle in which the prizes were apparently us. If your juror number was pulled from the rolling cage, you had to stand up and if you didn’t trip on the way down to the front of the room, you were awarded to the attorneys looking to seat a jury, and hauled away.  I figured, this was an excellent development since I have never won any sort of raffle in my life. So what were the odds?   

Right…on the very last number to be called…I finally win! An all expense trip to the jury room to be questioned as to my juror capabilities.  And then I win again, since after many questions and back and forth, I am also the last juror selected for this particular jury.

Despite our whining, we are congratulated for our civic pride and told to go home for the weekend, speak of our experiences to no one, and return on Tuesday, bright eyed and bunny tailed, since this was also Easter weekend and the bailiff was desperately trying to infuse us with holiday spirit.  I believe a secret handshake may have been involved as well.

So, on the appointed Tuesday, we find ourselves, civically proud, in County Court,  sitting in a small musty juror's room, waiting to be called in to render justice in the matter of an elderly woman who was being sued for hitting a younger woman with her car...or vice versa. The facts elude me at this time, as well as they did then, but I was not about to let that stand in the way of justice. I mean woman, old or young, versus car, made in the USA or import, it’s no contest, right?  I mean what’s the defense….”She had it coming, your honor…”?  The facts, muddled or not, were clear…at least to me. Even though I did know a few people that I would gladly…but I digress.

Sitting there, observing my fellow jurors while away the time, my mind begins to wander, as my mind is prone to do.  I am somewhat jealous of my mind in that regard, since as usual, I am forced to stay behind.  The next thing I know I'm sitting in the courtroom.  The trial has finally begun.

Hours passed, yet time seemed suspended as we focused on the case at hand.  It was only later that we were told that the official court room clock had been broken since 1962.

The arguments were coming at a fast and furious pace.  Our heads, bouncing back and forth like ping pong balls.  But then, suddenly, without warning, which would tend to indicate suddenness, in and of itself,  the judge gasps, grabs his chest, and plummets from the bench.


Everyone rushed to his side, because the very sound of the Italicized, Bold, Capitalized THUNK!  told us that this was indeed serious. However, we were assured by the bailiff that this was a common occurrence, especially on this bench, especially after post-holiday dinners featuring Fettuccine Alfredo.

A sigh a relief rushed across the crowded bench, but apparently the judge was finished for the day.

 A cloud of confusion descended on the courtroom. We all stood around and wondered how we could go on.  The Lawyers continued to argue, possibly about lunch, while the old lady grabbed the young girl, and tossed her to the courtroom floor, screaming, "I'll show you who’s got a bad back, now you little—!"

Anarchy ruled the day.  Something had to be done.  Luckily, my fellow jurors and I had bonded into a close knit group, having earlier defeated several of the other Juries in the Juror's lounge, in hotly contested leg wrestling matches. We had faced all comers and had proven victorious in all matches.

Naturally, my fellow jurors turned to me, in this hour of their most dire need, as I had proven myself to be the strongest and bravest of all leg combatants. It seemed reasonable to assume that I was naturally the wisest and, without saying, which I’m sure was an oversight, the most good looking of the lot.

"Please, wise and moderately handsome one," they beseeched. "You must lead us to a wise and moderately fair decision so that we may ultimately be set free.

Alas, I relented, how could I not, but with one non-negotiable proviso.  In order to add spice to the case I required that the attorneys must now present the remainder of their arguments in song and dance. 

My fellow jurors gasped in appreciation, as the testimony had grown tedious and dry.

So off to the judge’s chambers I was escorted, where I was given my Judicial robe to don.  I was not too pleased with the fit, which fell several inches above my knees, and the back constantly flew open as I walked, which normally would not have been a problem, had I been told that I was allowed to keep the remainder of my street clothes on.  Who knew?  But I suspect the female court reporter, and juror number 3 did not seem to mind as I took to the regal judge’s bench, sticking to the regal judge’s synthetic, Naugahyde chair. And the proceedings began.

I listened patiently for several minutes until at last, I gaveled the proceedings to a halt, saying that I had grown weary of these same old song and dance routines, and complained that the synthetic Naugahyde chair was giving me a very nasty rash. I directed the bailiff to procure me an ointment and ordered the plaintiff and defendant to continue their wrestling match to determine the outcome.  Two out of three falls was decreed.  

In the meantime I ordered the two lawyers to be sentenced to 10 years of jury duty and the wearing of judicial robes for several days, without pants. 

Court Dismissed… 

But in the real world, we waited quietly from 10:15 to 11:30 in the jury room outside the court room.  There, we sat, "Twelve Angry Men" (and women, except there were only eight of us) and we're told that this was our home until the case was decided.  Great, we thought.  Then the real judge came in wearing a sheepish expression.  He explained that the plaintiff was ill and that the trial would not start until Thursday.  Many looks of disdain flew around the room.  The judge then said, he would not expect any of us to be on call for that amount of time, and declaring himself a "juror's judge", said we could all be excused if we so desired and be exempt for the next four years.   We all looked at each other wondering what the catch was, and then, as a unit, bolted for the door.  The Marshall who was assigned to guard us asked, "Are you sure you all want to go?"

We were...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22…Uh oh…

So what now? 

Apparently it was all a mistake.  Someone forgot to carry a one.  Multiplied when they were supposed to divide. Misplaced a decimal or dropped whatever it is clumsy theologians drop.  Confused Isaac with Isaiah, which happens more than you’d think.  It’s not 2011…maybe its 2101!

Bottom line is: I’M SCREWED!  But maybe not as much as the poor guy who spent his life savings putting up those damn billboards all over the country.  I wonder if he budgeted taking them down. I’m guessing not.  I mean, why would he? 

In the end, The End of Days didn’t mean the end of the world after all; it only meant the end of my good credit rating. How much do you think the minimum credit card payment is on $750, 00.64?  How many months will it take me to pay that off, even if I never spend another dime on anything?  And please…don’t tell me until Kingdom Come.  I guess I’ll have to say goodbye to the llama, return the Ferrari and explain the odd smell coming form the back seat. Apologize to the French and replace my neighbor’s prize gladiola bushes, which the lama seemed to find particularly enjoyable. Anyone need a gently used Zeppelin?

Judgment Day, my…well, you know?  
I guess anyone can make a mistake. 
Live and let live…apparently. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No Justice…No Lunch!

So  all this talk of judgment day and  judges got me thinking about jury duty.  That and the fact that I didn’t want to waste this story.

My wife was just called for Jury Duty…again.  Her second time in the last 4 years. It’s like they were watching the calendar for the four year grace period to expire. Last time she sat for two weeks as an alternate on some sort of a fraud case, then was excused just as the case was turned over to the “real” jurors.  I can’t tell you how much that annoyed her.  Being a second string juror was bad enough, but more than that…she wanted her pound of flesh!  And, even MORE than that, she wanted her court ordered, but not provided, Santa Fe Grilled Chicken Salad (dressing on the side),  which she was not allowed to take home with her!  All I heard for weeks was “No Justice…No Lunch… No Justice…No Lunch!” So this time she says, “If I’m not starting, I’m not departing!” 

She’s also a fan of old baseball adages.

As for me, being a self-employed, freelance worker person was literally, in the past, a limitless get out of court card.  I always argued that I might be sitting around a month between projects, decide it’s safe to go to court, only to find twenty messages on my phone, from multiple clients, checking my availability to take on various projects. Then I would have to decide if it was better to bolt the court house and risk the US Marshall Service breathing down my neck (because that would be the best use of their time), or possibly lose what could amount to more than half of my income for the year. And it’s been my experience that clients don’t like to be turned down, so future earnings have to be factored in as well (hey…it could happen). So summons after summons all I need do  was send in the same exquisitely worded letter, over and over again, explaining that if I was in court, I wasn’t available to work, and if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid.  And that was that.

But then sometime in the late 90s they got wise to all the lame excuses and changed the rules. So despite my best efforts, I’ve already “served” twice in the last ten years; once in Federal and once in County.  It’s only a matter of time until the wheel comes around and lands on my number again. But I have to say it really isn’t all that bad.  Unlike the DMV, which has a whole department dedicated to devising new and better ways to make you suffer, the court folk actually make it a point, in a civil service government kind of way, to be nice to you.  They even show you a nice patriotic movie, featuring some trendy actor or actress thanking you for your service. They let you know how patriotic and essential you are.  They make you proud to be an American! And to be honest, if you’re a regular, paid employee, on staff somewhere, it’s got to be better than working.  And contrary to what some might tell you…bathroom breaks are allowed...but cell phones are not.

Sometime soon I'll tell you about my experience in County Court. Needless to say, it was one not to be least by anyone other than me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 21st-The End of Days! What Happens to the Nights?

I ‘m a freelance corporate writer, which means I create everything from promotional, instructional, training videos to interactive on line presentations for various corporations and health care companies. In that sense I guess you could say that I’m a “professional writer” since I do get paid to write, work from home and have lots of free time to myself. However, most of my neighbors think I’m retired.

In between mowing the lawn, raking leaves and shoveling snow, the stars will sometimes align in just the right fashion, and someone from a small group of “regular clients” that I’ve fooled into working with me through the years will pull my name out of a fish bowl and throw a project my way.  This usually entails coming up with and executing a clever idea for a “Team” of executives who are promoting a new initiative or product, but who are basically trying to impress their peers and their bosses, so that they can move up the ladder and assign this same task to the new“Team”, next year.   I also have to put on pants…usually.

My wife is a nurse who’s a cross between Florence Nightingale and Mother Theresa. She saves lives. 

I save the butts of mid-level executives.

Who do you thinks wakes up singing every morning?

But a peculiar thing happened the other day; I woke up feeling very upbeat and…dare I say it… “happy”. Borderline giddy, actually.  I even found myself humming. I was so stunned by this behavior that I texted a friend who’s familiar with my many, let’s say, negative moods, informed her of the situation and inquired, “What the frick is that about?” She texted back, “Relax, it’s probably temporary.” I replied, “One would hope!” then mused, “Perhaps the 5 cent drop in gasoline prices has finally hit me”. I went on to say, “I almost feel like putting on a flouncy dress and running through the park singing “The Sound of Music.” She responded in turn, “Just as everyone suspected!” which actually made me laugh, another behavior usually lacking in me before noon. This was definitely becoming problematic.

Later that day, the expected nose dive never came. I was still feeling oddly “up”, still riding this peculiar wave of optimism.  I had finished my foray through the park proclaiming that “the hills are indeed alive”, which apparently is frowned upon by the local authorities…however I did get several nice complements on the flouncy dress. After posting bail, I was still flush with goodwill, so I decided to drive up to a local garden center In Norwalk to pick up various flowers and tomato plants that I promised my wife I would attend to, facilitating our annual Spring planting ritual.  See, I really was in a good mood!  But then, on the way home, driving south on 95, I happened to notice a HUGE billboard announcing: JUDGEMENT DAY IS COMING, MAY 21st , 2011!!!  And I say to myself, “What the %$#@*&!  I finally start feeling "happy"and it’s all going poof in 10 frickin days?!”  But then I think, maybe that’s why I’m feeling so damn good.  No more pressure. No more impossible mountains to climb. No more Jersey Shore (the reality TV show, not the actual shore, which I happen to enjoy).  It’s all over a week from Saturday! So I rush home and do some research, and this is the real deal. I mean it’s on-line and everything…and don’t forget the billboard! Apparently the dead will rise and there is something about frogs, and evidently people with pink eye will be frowned upon.

So now I’m feeling even more excited about life, or I guess I should say, after-life.  I checked the whites of my eyes, which seemed to pass muster and figured I could get around that whole eternal damnation thing with a simple “Whaaaat…non-believer….me???  I was kidding!  You knew that all along…right???” And that makes me think, with all the excuse making that’s bound to go on, what about all the processing and paper work that’s got to be involved?  I mean, imagine the lines.  It really will be hell. 

So my plan now is to max out all my credit cards and really live it up, I mean, while I can. I’ve already fired off a whole slew of “in your face” e-mails to all the folks who have really ticked me off over the years, which as you can imagine is quite extensive. I’m also cancelling my ENT appointment for Thursday; I’m just that serious. So let the apocalyptic good times roll. And I’ve read that it will all be televised live, or whatever we’ll be calling it then.
Apparently TV people have no chance for redemption.