Sunday, August 18, 2019

I LOVE THE EXPERTS

If you watch TV occasionally, you might tune into two shows that make me crazy. One is the Dr. Phil Show and one is Jeopardy. The hosts of the respective shows are Dr. Phil McGraw and Alex Trebek. I guess you could call them either educational or informative.

Everyone enjoys the challenge of Jeopardy because the things they ask about that you phrase in a question challenge or test your knowledge. This is fun and I love fun. Then there is Dr. Phil with his expert hold on his audience that can generate cheers for himself anytime he pushes the button.

I have issues with both gentlemen. Alex all too often sounds like he knows all the answers to all the questions presented and if a contestant misses he acts as he knows. I would love to see the show change the format. Alex Trebek asks the questions and a respondent waits for a bell that certifies the answers with a voice over giving the correct answer. This takes away the pretentiousness of Alex Trebek.

To me, Dr. Phil is a self-serving shrill for his books, his son’s publishing company and his wife Robin’s cosmetic company, all subsidized by Dr. Phil. The bad taste that is left in one's mouth by the overt selling of Robin’s cosmetics at the last ten or fifteen minutes of the show s she tries to leave an impression that she is some kind of cosmetologist.

I don’t put on the Dr. Phil show, I rather watch Ellen Degeneres than Dr. Phil and Steve Harvey in Family Feud than listen to Trebek come off like he isn’t.

 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

WHEN WE CLOSE OUR EYES

Recently, I found out that another classmate from high school passed away. He died after a long illness and that happens to the young and old alike.

Dying is not something I fear or look forward to, it is final and it is part of the timeline of one’s life. What I find hard is the realization that those I know and love will at some point either before or after me, pass, too. I think of all the students that graduated in that high school class of mine wondering; are there more alive than dead or the reverse? As the numbers increase that pass are we who survive for the moment in the minority now?

It seems to disturb me that this last classmates’ death occurred. He was a gentleman, civic-minded, a wonderful husband and father. He was a good kid in school and was respected by everyone as he was in his final years. That says an awful lot about anyone.

John Matuszak was a simple man, no-frills, no pretentions, and certainly never any excuses, just a humble guy who lived each day honestly, quietly and above all showed respect for all.

Many classmates have passed these last ten years, some I knew about and some I learned from others, but this one was a little hurtful, he was a good man and that is the best we can say about anyone. Often we build a case for someone when they pass, saying how good he was and go on when nothing was ever said while he lived. His living was the case that said it all!

Sleep in peace John, don’t worry about your legacy, instead, let those that loved and know you keep it safe. It is one of my deepest regrets that I didn’t know you better than I do, but I can say I know you and that enriches my life.  

Friday, August 16, 2019

SOMETHING FISHY WITH THE WINE!


Dad was a softy, he never liked to see people unhappy or struggle. When it came to his own family, he was particularly diligent and aware of everyone's aches and pains. In the early 1950s, Dad decided to book a little fishing trip, with Grandpa and me.

Getting grandpa out of the house on Fulton Street in Brooklyn was a major effort, Grandpa didn't like to go anywhere that required his traveling for more than 15 minutes, and that had to be round trip.

Being how we were living on Long Island Dad decided one summer to get grandpa out of the house in Brooklyn and take him fishing;

"We have to get Grandpa out of the house!"

We went to Mastic Beach on a Saturday and rented a rowboat, got a few rods and reels and bait, and set out to fish. Oh, Captain, my Captain!

My thinking was that was all the equipment we would need since we were fishing and could eat what we caught, build a fire on the beach and cook our catch. Dad and Grandpa both seemed perplexed by my plan, and since I was only 11-years old, what the Hell did I know. The problem with the plan was there was a huge package coming on board the ride to the beach, it consisted of three Italian heroes, packed with peppers and eggs, and a chunk of provolone cheese and a Genoa salami, along with a gallon of Grandpa's homemade wine, courtesy of grandfather's bride, Grandma Francesca.

Being the ‘city type', both Dad and Grandpa dressed for the occasion. Dad wore his shorts, sandals and black dress socks, while Grandpa never changed. Grandpa wore his wrinkled work pants, brown unpolished shoes, and white dress shirt, along with his fedora, which he camped under come rain or shine, baptism or wake.

Dad became the grand admiral, directing me, the only crewmember that showed up that day to man the oar, bait the hooks, keep those sandwiches dry, and full steam ahead.


As we set ‘sail', we each had our position on the boat, Dad sat upfront with his rod, tossing it in into the drink (literally), and I trying to get the hook that caught me in the neck was sitting mid-ship so to speak, while Grandpa sat in the back, legs crossed serenely holding his rod, eyes closed, dreaming of home.

Suddenly Grandpa caught a fish, then another, then still another! Dad was still fishing with his rod, and I was almost done getting the hook out of my neck and ready to fish.

After a while with Grandpa's success, I asked him how he was able to catch so many fish.

Grandpa looks at me, squinting in the sun and says: "A SSSHHH".

I looked at him and he says, "A SSSHHH, thatsa how you catcha da fish!!"

As we floated along the Great South Bay, Dad and Grandpa had their wine, and it seemed fine until we reached the shore to unload the boat. When Dad stepped off the boat, he suddenly looked like he saw a ghost stopping in mid-stride to catch himself. Sitting at the edge of the dock with his head in his hands, Dad had too much wine! Grandpa, however, stepped from the boat onto the dock and fish in hand looked at Dad and said: "Tony, prendi il tuo tempo." (Tony, take your time.)


Drinking on the water didn’t make you drunk because of the movement of the rowboat, but step on land and goodbye, or in their case, Ciao!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

KEEP IT SIMPLE AND I WILL COME

A great place to eat!
Went to a breakfast Tuesday with some old high school classmates at a popular spot on the golf course in Bellport. The name of the place is Peter’s On the Green and it has the usual clubhouse fare for both breakfast and lunch, having eaten there a few times now I anticipate things to always be up in the air when it comes to the menu.

I like to try things that are somewhat different, not radically different because I compare and get disappointed with what I have or am used to. This particular morning I was in the mood for some old-fashioned pancakes with syrup and butter. This is a very simple thing and an occasional craving I have.

I look at the menu and find Honey Whole Grain Pancakes; Whole wheat batters mixed with oats, pumpkin seeds, craisins, walnuts, and drizzled with honey. Don’t even ask me where they got ‘craisins’ from, let alone why they would put them in pancakes. I can be daring and have bananas with or in or on top of my stack, this is allowable for me. But when you start putting craisins and with whole grain batter, pumpkin seeds, (Yes, those very same pumpkin seeds the ballplayers spit out while the camera is on them), then they don’t spring for the butter but instead give you honey, uh uh! No way will I eat what they have leftover in the pantry and try to call them “pancakes”.

So I ask for some simple pancakes, you know the ones that Mom used to make and too, the Little Woman? Breakfast should be tasty and simple, not a convolution of strange concoctions that the chef thinks will get him past the security at the Culinary Institute of America. In my simple request, I state that I want butter on the side. What do I get? Oh, I got my pancakes alright, but the butter on the side was these damned little plastic packets of butter that take forever to open and apply to the pancakes. After you open a couple, the pancakes are cold like my joy-filled heart at the moment!

WHY THE HELL CAN’T THEY GET RID OF THOSE STUPID PACKETS AND GIVE ME SOME LOOSE BUTTER?

Ever go to a deli or hamburger joint other than the usual chains and order a hamburger with fries? Out, comes this delicious looking hamburger with fried that are dry, too large and too dull to eat. This is so the restaurant can move all the ketchup by having you slop it on the fries.


 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

THE NEW MELDING POT

It is not so new as it seems old by now. What am I talking about, the gradual surge of mixing Italian food with American food as to become almost a new category? The ingredients of both pallets seem to mirror to some degree each other. To me, the time has come and it is great. But that cultural renaissance does not stop there, no, with the trend of Asian ‘Fusion’; it now ties into Italian/Asian fusion, a wonderful blend of ideas that is making strides. I guess for an appetizer you could do some Asian inspired mini pizza or, eggrolls stuffed with Italian inspired flavors like a spinach/ricotta mixture maybe? I'm a big fan of Asian food so I could probably have many more good ideas, I'm afraid.

Italian food like Asian is so full of options and wonderful flavors like no other cultural foods on Earth can claim. That is why they are both so popular in this country, and why we see many Italian restaurants overseas, outside of the Italian border.

Mexican also has a trend heading in the direction of fusion inspiration, and can easily be adopted with Italian or Asian foods. You must admit, taking the best culinary traditions and marrying them is just what America is all about. I married an Irishman, am happy to this very day, I’m sure many of you have married other ethnicities and thrive in your lives. We as the younger Americanized generation realize they are all good people and we are now more educated and mixed in with other nationalities, and what a great gift we are giving to our children.

The French claim to cooking is that they learned from the Italians, mostly the northern Italians. When the French occupied Italy way back in the 1700 and 1800’s they learned the local ways of cooking, and since there is no ‘real’ Italian cooking per se, it is regional and adapts to what ingredients are on hand. The French too, have a wonderful culinary tradition that lends itself to both Italian and American fare. This is Italian style cooking, taking what you have in your pantry and “Throwing something together”.

But being Italian I love to eat, I love the old dishes as well as the new I want to experience everything, that is the artist, writer and Italian in me. The comfort foods of Grandma and Mom still linger in the heart and mind, but most importantly on my tongue.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

MARRIAGE, IT HAS ITS hicUPS AND DOWNS!


I was watching the Dr. Phil show one morning in my daughter’s room at the Medford Multicare facility where they leave the TV on all day. I don’t pay attention to it, as I don’t care to watch a show that is moderated by a thumb. Let’s face it he looks like a thumb.

As I waited for the nurse to suction out the phlegm from Ellen’s trachea, I turned my attention to the TV where Doctor Phil stated: When as soon as you marry all the nice leaves the relationship. (Something like that)

I thought about that and realize it is true, you do become somewhat critical of each other and sometimes it takes a while to re-find each other as you once thought of your new spouse with corrections.

My immediate thought when this happened years’ ago was how could she? How could she think of me as imperfect? Me, high on the social ladder of mediocrity, me, the mountain of mundane attempts at trying to get up out of bed in the morning, let alone communicate intelligibly?

I would love to say there is no ‘I’ in marriage but alas there is unless I can misspell it. But if I do that the wife will correct it!

Monday, August 12, 2019

ANGUISH, A TWO-WAY STREET!

Every morning as I enter my daughter Ellen’s room at Medford Multicare I look apprehensively at her to read her face how she is doing. In the many weeks she has been residing here I can count on my fingers the good days that they are so few.

This morning she was in clear agony, her face was contorted and she thrashed about in her little prison they call a bed, looking at me with pleading eyes imploring me to do something. Despair and anguish are all I now have, so little hope that that little girl I once held and soothed when she cried may not be with me much longer.

I know that the life of her anguish will cease at some point and I hope it is soon. Her life is nothing but pain and loneliness in spite of her Mom and Dad being with her as long as we can. Understanding that life is a fulfillment of time played out by all of us, that we all live and die slowly as we travel the road. I wish it was me and not her suffering as I would wish for all my children, I know there is nothing I can do about it and that for Ellen, the final act come as soon as possible.

Having a child that is slowly deteriorating is nothing new to me. Having lived through a similar crisis for 8 weeks when my son Joseph passed away in 1981, each day was a series of hope and despair, like a rollercoaster, never-ending violent turns and feeling the world flipping upside down, then the inevitable descent toward the end, because it is what life is.

What I can’t understand is why. Why her? She was born with Angelman’s syndrome and never uttered one unkind word, never hated anyone, never raised her hand in malicious intend and always exuded love and a smiling face. She, is made to suffer for no reason other than to put in question the existence of a God, one who is benevolent and loving?

Under these circumstances, both my wife and I die a little more than usual each day. We have no recourse as we watch her suffer from God’s will.

Sometimes I receive in the mail a solicitation from a religious group asking for money, some set of friars or nuns or some propagation of the faithful, and it does not ring true to me. In their attempts to sway me to give I wonder how with all the stickers with my name on it, the cost of personalization and amount of paper they expend they don’t put that money to good use. There are poor and starving people in pain that have no money, no hope, no tomorrow, why not give it to them in the name of God instead of soliciting in the name of God?