Category Archives: Free Association

Saint Patrick’s Day

The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City took place in 1766, and was organized by the Irish members of two British Regiments that were stationed there, organizing themselves into The Society of the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick.

Their observances included military men and civilians, who would toast the King (of England, damn it!), as well as the prosperity of Ireland — at least until the American Revolution started.

As the Irish population grew in New York, the celebrations spread to various parts of the city, and yes, to bars and taverns. The “Marching Tradition” took hold when different Catholic parishes around the city organized processions from their churches to the original Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which was downtown on Mott Street.

Interestingly, the old cathedral was once attacked by Know-Nothing nativists, which led to a number of riots and other physical exchanges. Part of what led to the friction was a book supposedly written by a young, mentally challenged woman (I’m not making this up), who had converted to Catholicism and purportedly was forced by nuns to have sex with priests for the purpose of providing newborns for some kind of bizarre sacrificial ritual.

Like the Know-Nothings of today, no evidence was required for believing these ranting, leaving them to conclude that the only logical course was to attack the cathedral. They didn’t reckon that the parish fathers might resist, which they did — firing their muskets through holes hastily cut through the church’s outer walls. To keep a watchful eye on the premises, soon afterward the Ancient Order of Hibernians set up headquarters across the street.

It was the Hibernians who In 1891 laid out the parade route that’s still followed, which runs up Fifth Avenue to Central Park, and passed in front of the new St. Patrick’s cathedral in midtown.

Even though there are no floats, autos or exhibits, over 150,000 people march. That would be like lining up every man, woman and child in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and marching them a couple of miles — many in bizarre costumes, some playing archaic musical instruments while others dance. To top it off: they get it done in about six hours.

I’ve gone to the parade before, but usually watched for only a little while because I was supposed to be doing something else — like working.

This year, I decided to make a special trip and bring the camera. The scale of the parade really is astonishing, and it’s amazing that it goes on while all other business in New York proceeds with little disruption.

This year it was very cold, and despite some shivering, I managed to get some interesting shots of the marchers, and a few of the LGBT protestors.

The parade allows no political groups to march, so in effect they ban any group that isn’t concerned in some way with Irish Heritage. I’m not sure they’ll ever change these rules (as the Irish are known for being a bit stubborn), but it is ironic that the parade has become as much a platform for dialog over inclusion, as it is for being a fine way of displaying one’s Irishness.

Here’s the slide show:

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Everything Reminds me of Something Else

I included a picture of New York City landmark bar, P.J. Clarks. Part of my plan was to stop in on my way home for a Pint of Guinness, which would be keeping with a tradition of at least having a pint of Guinness (but not necessarily at P.J. Clark’s).

Alas, the bar was packed to the rafters with similarly minded revelers and I just wasn’t in the mood for fighting my way to the bar. Instead I partook at another pub over on First Avenue, which I would not have done had I known that it would be served to me in a plastic cup.

A beautiful Pint

A beautiful Pint

Guinness Stout is never to be served in a plastic cup, but if there is one day above all others when it should not be, that day is St. Patrick’s day — and they charged me eight bucks, too, which really got my Irish up (which believe me, is none too fearsome).

Did you know that a true vegetarian will not drink Guinness Stout, no matter what kind of glass it’s in? It’s true.

When brewing beer, there’s a process called fining where unwanted solids are removed. To quicken the process, certain agents which are called finings are added to the brew (it’s done in making wine, too), which absorb these solids and are then filtered out of the final product.

I’ve written before how a recipe change can sink you in the brewing business, and this is especially true of a product like Guinness that has a near mythical aura surrounding it. Wisely, the brewers of the product are in no rush to make any changes, so they’ve been making it pretty much the same way since 1759.

The fining Guinness uses in its beer is called isinglass, which is made from dried swim bladder, which is an internal fish organ that helps the creature regulate its buoyancy in water. As a result, a really, really dedicated vegetarian will avoid drinking Guinness Stout.

It hasn’t kept me from having a Guinness from time to time (alright, probably a bit more often than from time to time), but I’m not a vegetarian. I try not to think about the isinglass, as its image wants to crowd out the normal, pleasant evocations brought forth by the black, white-foamed brew, and dampen them with disagreeable memories of cutting bait.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!


Spare Tires and Last Tangos in Paris

The car wasn’t rolling like it usually does, and it didn’t sound right. Just a half-block from home, I pulled over and did a walk-around. The front-right tire was nearly flat, but I got it home. Before swapping out the spare, I tried inflating it and was surprised when it stayed hard. I didn’t see or feel a nail, and hoped that that maybe a pothole or curb-strike was to blame.

Sunday morning it still looked fine, but after picking up some bagels, I came out of the store and saw it was dead flat. With no choice, I popped the trunk and went to work. I was a little surprised that I had a full-sized spare, an option that’s becoming less common due to weight and space requirements.

Only half the people who get flats actually endeavor to change them themselves. Usually they call Triple A or somebody else.

A lot of cars come with temporary spares, sometimes called “donut” tires. Am I being overly picky by observing that any tire could be so described? Doesn’t matter, but these kinds of spares are smaller and lighter, and can’t be driven for long.

Others cars are equipped with “drive-flat” tires, which as the name implies, allows for getting the vehicle off the road under its own power. This appeals to me as there are plenty of places where it is not advisable to change a tire. Sometimes it’s the neighborhood, but often its the proximity to speeding cars that don’t give a damn if they leave you as flat as your tire.

Another approach car manufacturers are taking is the tire repair kit. They used to sell products like this, with names like: “Spare in a Can,” or something like that, which I’m pretty sure didn’t work very well — if at all.

The new approach is that the kit includes a small compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter (God help you if your battery is also dead). It includes some sticky, rubbery spray that you squirt into the tire before using the compressor, which allows you to drive home, safe and sound.

It saves a lot of weight and space, is much easier than jacking up your car, but there is a significant drawback: it doesn’t work if the hole is too big or on the sidewall, which is about 15% of the time. So, you might want to keep that Triple A membership active.

Old school tire jack

In days of yore, a car would be jacked up by hooking a device onto its bumper. Trying something like that on a modern bumper would quickly result in a full reveal of what is hidden by what passes for bumpers these days, and a giant piece of cracked plastic that will cost upwards of $1,500 to replace.

The modern tire jack is much smaller and lighter, and slides underneath the chassis. It’s called a scissor jack, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because you raise it by turning a crank.

Scissor Jack

Scissor Jack

I admit, It’s pretty cool that you can lift a car by turning a crank, but the bad thing about it is that you have to get on your knees and align it at the right place under the chassis. If you don’t do this properly, you can mess up your car and really, really wish you called Triple A to do it.

Everything reminds me of something else

In 1972, Marlon Brando starred in a movie called Last Tango in Paris. It  was a worldwide sensation because it contained nudity and somewhat explicit sex scenes between Brando’s, Paul, and his costar, Maria Schneider. It was one of the first legitimate movies with a real star that ventured into such taboo subject matter. Schneider was 20 when she made the movie, which was the same age I was when I saw it. Brando was 48 and struck me as being pretty old — now, not so much.

Paul is a recent American widower whose wife has committed suicide. Schneider’s character, Jeanne, is a carefree Parisian girl who is soon to be married. They meet at an apartment that’s for rent and have a sexual encounter, after which they agree to return for ongoing trysts.

Paul is a sad and damaged person who is wracked by guilt and shame over his wife’s death. Through their depersonalized and often depraved sex, he vents his suffering and grief upon the inexplicably compliant Schneider, who seems an almost indifferent spectator of her own debasement.

Paul insists they keep things anonymous, to the point where they don’t even know each other’s names, another demand Jeanne goes along with — but in spite of the rule, they can’t help but reveal more and more about themselves.

There are quite a few interpretations of the movie, but one thing that’s pretty well agreed upon is Brando’s acting put him in the running for being one of the greatest screen actors ever.

Toward the end of the movie, Paul deserts Jeanne, but then returns, this time treating her much better and expressing his love and a desire to get married. He starts telling her about himself, and this is when he says something that the flat tire reminded me of:

“I picked up a nail when I was in Cuba in nineteen forty-eight, and now I have a prostate like an Idaho potato. I’m still a pretty good stick man, even if I can’t have any kids.”

What an odd admission! (The urban dictionary defines picking up a nail as catching a venereal disease, and I’ll leave the definition of stick man to the reader’s imagination.) Here’s the scene — I’m afraid you have to watch the commercial, but it’s not too long. To get back to this page, use your browser’s back arrow.

Me again

In the dance hall there’s a tango competition taking place and the couple gets very drunk. At first it looks like they’re going to end up together, but for reasons that are unclear, Jeanne decides she doesn’t want to see him anymore. Here’s the dance hall scene:

The movie is over forty years old, so there’s no harm in exposing that it ends with her shooting Brando dead — and it’s just after she tells him her name. As she waits for the police to come, she’s heard practicing her lines: saying that she didn’t know who he was and that he was threatening her.

All and all, quite a period piece from the seventies, and they sure don’t make ’em like that anymore.

All the best until next time.

Wild in the Streets

It’s fascinating how people who the gods smile upon sometimes reject the bounty the world is so eager to bestow.

Nineteen-sixties actor, Christopher Jones died this past January at the age of 72 from complications brought about by cancer. He bore a likeness to James Dean and is said to have been fascinated by him at an early age. I became aware of him when he starred in the movie Wild in the Streets, which is a low budge, bizarre film where the Jones character becomes President of the United States, after which he locks up everyone over thirty and forcefeeds them LSD — from water coolers! Here’s the trailer:

Shelley Winters, Hal Holbrook, Ed Begley and Richard Prior were in it. I didn’t realize it when I saw it, but the whole thing was more or less a total joke.

Christopher Jones was born in 1941 without any semblance of a silver spoon in his mouth. In Jackson, Tennessee, he lived above the grocery store where his father was a checkout clerk. His mother was a artist who was plagued by mental instability and ended up in a mental hospital when he was three — and lived there until she died in 1960.

He was sent to an aunt’s house, who later pawned him and his brother off to an orphanage in Memphis. He lived there until he was fifteen, at which time he took up with a married, eighteen year old woman with two kids. He said that he realized then that women liked him. What took him so long?


I realized women liked me

He deserted her after awhile, and joined the army — which lasted two days before he went AWOL. He stole a car and headed for New Orleans, and then New York to turn himself in. He spent six months in military prison on Governors Island off the tip of Manhattan.

When he got out, he took up with another married woman who’s husband was in jail for peddling marijuana. He began studying painting and sculpting with artist Edward Melcarth, who by then was a pretty notable artist and was almost certainly attracted to the younger man.

An actor friend introduced Christopher to Producer Frank Corsaro, who taught at the Actors Studio and had been a friend and mentor to James Dean. In 1961,Corsaro cast him in a minor role of a Broadway play he was producing, which initially starred Bette Davis, who was replaced by Shelley Winters, who also took a shine to Christopher.

Winters introduced him to Actor’s Studio Founder Lee Strasberg’s daughter, Susan, who he ultimately married, but it didn’t go well. He later admitted to hitting her — and then there was the accidental discharge of a shotgun in their apartment.

He got his first TV role in 1963, playing a member of a street gang in an episode of East Side, West Side, and by 1965, landed the starring role in the TV series The Legend of Jesse James. It lasted only one season because of ratings competition from The Lucy Show and Dr. Kildare.

Wild in the Streets (1968) was his breakout role, which led to another exploitation movie Three in the Attic. He did two movies in Europe before getting the lead in David Lean’s Ryan’s daughter, which began filming in March of 1969.

Filmed in Ireland, it took a year to make — which was twice as long as it was supposed to. There were reports of friction between Lean and Jones, and though it was panned by critics, it made money, which is all that matters in, well…everything.

At the top of his career, when he returned to Los Angels he quit pursuing movie roles. Except for a three minute cameo in 1996, he never got in front of the camera again. In later interviews, he revealed that he and Sharon Tate had had an affair prior to his leaving for Ireland, and her murder played a role in his having a nervous breakdown.

For awhile in the seventies, he lived in a hotel on Sunset Blvd. and could be seen slumming around the Sunset Strip. He had a house in the Hollywood Hills, and moved to the San Fernando Valley with another woman, with whom he had a child and devoted himself. He also refocused on his artwork.

In the 1980’s that relationship went south and he was set adrift. With his movie money gone, he was left to rely on his friends for living arrangements until he met Paula McKenna, with whom he had four kids. After ten years, he moved on once again.

Christopher Jones was one of those guys who got a lot of slack from everybody because he was one of those lucky, usually handsome and charismatic guys the world can’t get enough of — no matter what they do.

Everything Reminds me of Something Else

Me and a group of friends went to see Wild in Streets at the Bay Shore Theater (the one that was kitty-corner to Saint Patrick’s Church on Main Street). There used to be a guy who stood outside the theater and as people were leaving, he would ask them for a cigarette. I always thought that was an odd approach, since he probably would’ve done better if he asked for money.

Another thing I remember about this theater is a show that Newsday once put on there for all its paperboys, which I was for four or five years (girls were not yet granted the privilege of doing this crappy, mostly thankless work).

It was sort of a paperboy appreciation rally, where we could eat all the popcorn we wanted, and fill up on sodas and candy. They had a rock band, and the lead singer told us a joke that still comes to mind:

A guy is working behind the counter at a restaurant and a nasty woman patron keeps demanding, “Make me a hamburger. Make me a hamburger.” After awhile the guy — who unbeknownst to her has supernatural powers — gets fed up and says: “Poof, you’re a hamburger,” whereupon the woman is changed into a hamburger.

This joke was used to lead into the song Do you Believe in Magic, by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

At that time, Newsday cost a nickel each, and we only delivered it Mondays thru Fridays. They had a Saturday paper, but if you wanted one, you had to go buy it, probably because the carriers couldn’t handle the much thicker Saturday edition. Most of us had this kind of basket on our bikes:

bike basketWhen it was filled with papers, it wasn’t real easy to hold steady, and I remember falling over on many occasions, the worst being windy days when you had to get a hand on the papers before they blew all over the place.

It’s been said that doing this kind of work is good because you learn a lot about running a business. I don’t know about that, but I did learn one very important lesson and that is: Far too many people are no damned good.

How did I learn this? By the number of people willing to give me a quarter when I came to “Collect” for the week’s delivery. I mean, for Christ’s sake, I hand carried their paper to their front door five days a week! Isn’t that worth something extra?

Not to these soulless, pitiful mounds of flesh, who were only slightly more reprehensible than those willing to pry an extra nickel from their rusty purses and pay $.30. People who paid $.35 barely entered the realm of marginal acceptability. The truly admirable members of the human race were the ones who always paid fifty cents, usually with two fine looking quarters. They also usually gave me five bucks for Christmas.

May God have a special place in heaven for them.


Shaefer Beer

There was a joke that used to go something like this: What kind of beer did the Doctor recommend to the woman who was going to have twins? Answer: Schaefer, because it’s the one beer to have when you’re having more than one.

If you’re of a certain age and lived in the New York Metropolitan area, you remember this little bit of advice because it was oft repeated in highly polished ads like this:

In the nineteen sixties and early seventies, it was the rare New York bar, deli or restaurant that didn’t display a neon Schaefer sign. They promoted on television and magazines, using movie stars and celebrities. Schaefer sponsored the Brooklyn Dodgers before they left the borough, and there was even a Schaefer pavilion at the World’s Fair in 1964.

What happened to it?

Schaefer History

Brothers Frederick and Maximilian Schaefer started brewing in Manhattan in 1842. They started small, but stepped it up when they moved to what was then considered the “sticks:” Fifty-first Street and Park Avenue. In 1915, Maximilian’s son, Rudolf, realized they were sitting on a real estate fortune and sold the property — part of which was to become Saint Bartholomew’s Church, which is still there and became the focus of a high profile, potential real estate deal and ensuing controversy.

Schaefer built a new brewery in Brooklyn, but the passage of Prohibition in 1920 put a crimp in their plans. They kept the brewery running, producing “near beer,” and some other stuff like dyes and artificial ice — the latter being cited in most research articles about Schaefer, though how can you have artificial ice is? Isn’t all ice, ice? Just saying.

When Rudolph passed away in 1923, control of the company passed to his sons, with Rudolph Jr., eventually becoming president. When Prohibition was repealed on April 7, 1933, he had already launched an extensive advertising campaign that solidified the company’s dominance in the New York market.

By 1944, Schaefer was selling over 2,000,000 barrels of beer annually, which at the time was unheard of. Beginning in 1950, they expanded out of their home market with mixed results. Their most dramatic move was in 1971, when they built a ultra-modern brewery just outside of Allentown, Pa.

It was so efficient, they no longer needed their other breweries, which they began shutting down. The most noteworthy closing came in January of 1976, when they announced the shuttering of their Brooklyn plant, which brought to a close a 134 year association with NY City.

It was this decision that really sealed the company’s fate. New Yorker beer drinkers — like most beer drinkers of their day — were loyal, but not to out-of-towners. With the geographical connection severed, there was no longer any reason for their allegiance.

At the same time, there were tectonic changes afoot in the beer industry. Large regionals like Schaefer and Rheingold (and Piels, Schmidt’s, Hamms, Old Style, Lone Star, Blatz, etc.) came under attack by the growing national brands like Budweiser, Schlitz and Miller. It was grow or die, and Schaefer was fading. In 1981, Schaefer was purchased by a large Midwest brewer, Stroh’s, who hoped that together they could achieve the critical mass necessary to compete. Alas, it wasn’t to be and in 1999, Stroh’s was purchased by Pabst.

Still Around

Since the demise of Schaefer and others like it, breweries continued to grow larger through acquisition and merger, with their tentacles extending around the globe. Even US behemoth Budweiser wasn’t too big to get absorbed into beer juggernaut, AB Inbev.

At the same time, craft brewing exploded. Practically everywhere is a local brew pub that produces quality beer by the thousands — not millions — of barrels per year. It’s almost a throwback to the days when one of the joys of traveling in America was to sample the local brew.

Somewhere in the middle are the lost brands of yore. As it turns out, after purchasing Stroh’s, Pabst Brewing continued acquiring similar, regional breweries, and producing the beers with their original recipes.

Schaefer Coaster

Schaefer Coaster

Thanks to this company, a twelve-pack of Schaefer turned up in the cooler of my local liquor store, sporting its distinctive logo with the sprig of barely in silhouette in the background.

I made the purchase, noting that it was quite a bit less expensive than the heavily promoted national brands, and much cheaper than the imports and pricier new domestic premiums like Sam Adams.

It had been a very long while since I’d last sampled this once iconic brew, but if my taste memory is still in tact (and I think it is), it seems to me that they got it about right.

Everything Reminds me of something Else

Orig_Jones_BeachThe Jones Beach Marine Theater opened in 1952, and was one of Robert Moses’s pet projects. It was unique because of the moat that separated the stage from the on-shore audience. This arrangement allowed for “in-water” performances, but made floor seating impossible and created a distracting separation between stage and audience. The set-up was so impractical, actors and musicians were ferried by barge and dinghy to and from the stage.

It was conceived as a venue for musical plays, with music provided by Moses’s friend, Guy Lombardo and his orchestra. Guy was famous for his very square, televised New Year’s Eve celebrations, broadcast live from the Waldorf Astoria Ballroom. His final concert at Jones Beach was in 1977, and in the eighties, the theater evolved into the major Rock and Roll venue that it is today — newly branded The Nikon Jones Beach Theater.

I don’t recall what I’d gone to see, but it was a musical and Guy Lombardo was playing. This was in the early seventies, so the moat was still there. Even looking through youthful eyes, everything seemed too far away — I mean, the stage was on an island! But that was okay, because what I was most looking forward to was going to the Schaefer beer tent after the show, which was set up for the expressed purpose of dancing and drinking beer — and I repeat: after the show.

What you have to understand about the Jones Beach Theater is that it is on a barrier beach, accessible by crossing narrow bridges that connect to the Long Island mainland. I suppose some people arrived by bus, but my guess is that most theater or concert goers arrived in private automobile, which they would have to drive home after throwing back a few in the tent, and perhaps doing a little dancing to burn it off.

I don’t have an independent memory of actually drinking a Schaefer beer in their famous tent. I remember it being there, but I think it was closed for some reason. It would have been okay for me to order one up, as the legal drinking age at the time was eighteen.

new Jones BeachThe Jones Beach Theater changed a lot over the years. Firstly, the moat was filled in and orchestra seating was added. Secondly, an upper level was added, bringing seating capacity to 15,000. Huge video screens flank both sides of the stage, which is good because there is still too much space between the original seating and the stage. If you’re planning to go, I recommend paying up and sitting where the moat once was.


No one understands why or how, but occasionally large groups of people start doing the same thing, or liking it, or wearing it, or eating it, or believing it.

Beginning a few years ago, I noticed that when some people were asked a question, they started their answers with “so.” It probably started on the Sunday morning talk shows, and then spread across the rest of the broadcast media until you can now expect it if you ask someone for the time: So, it’s…eleven thirty.

There’s nothing new about using “filler” words at the beginning of an answer, the theory being that the speaker is stalling for time. It’s like the old grammar school ruse of beginning an answer by repeating and embellishing the teacher’s question.

Teacher: Mr. Nolan, can you explain the three primary exports of Bolivia?

Me: Yes. The three primary exports of Bolivia, a South American country whose climate is similar to ours, are : bauxite, fresh cut flowers and anchovies.

Teacher (shaking head ruefully): Please sit down Mr. Nolan.

(This shows that the slight pause only helps if you know the answer and just need a little extra time to dig it out of memory.)

The most popular filler word at the beginning of a sentence is “Well,” which doesn’t make sense when you consider that the word is meant to denote a favorable condition, state of being or outcome — or a place from which to draw water.

The people who write dictionaries acknowledge this in their most subordinate citations by saying: It’s employed when pausing to consider one’s next words.

True enough, but that could apply to any of the similarly used non-words, such as “Hmmm,” and “Uhh,” the latter of which we learn pretty early-on to avoid because there’s always some little prick eager to mock us by making us sound like Lenny from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

I asked around a bit to see if any of my acquaintances were aware of the “so” trend, and got the feeling that this change had passed unnoticed into the culture — but I was wrong. As far back as 2010, a few publications took note.

The New York Times article offered a few explanations. Linguistics scholar, Galina Bolden, opined that it’s about the culture of empathy, and its use signals that your explanation has been chosen for its relevance to the listener. Maybe for some, but I don’t think there are too many people thinking that much about what’s relevant to anyone except themselves.

Another theory is that it started in Silicone Valley and has something to do with how computer programmers answer questions, and the growing influence of our data-driven culture. The writer of the piece, Anand Giridharada, opined that it’s use has the “whiff of logic to relay authority,” and conveys an “algorithmic certitude that suggests there is a right answer, which the evidence dictates and which must not be contradicted.”

That sounds logical and leads nicely into what Ben Yagoda wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2011, that when people use it, the underlying message is: “I understand the question and how it displays your incomplete knowledge of the subject. What follows is an answer that will help you comprehend what’s really going on and, in addition, suggest a unified theory of the reality.”

I’m sure some people are consciously trying to impart such a message when they start answers with “so,” but most aren’t that guileful. I tend to agree with Doctor Penelope Gardner-Chloros, from the department of applied linguistics and communication at London’s Birkbeck College, who was quoted in the Spectator: “We accommodate, and converge with the group of people we want to belong to. Someone using “so” like this may well be doing it because they’ve heard other people doing it. It spreads like the flu.”

Pharrell Williams Hat

This hat speaks for itself

So, in other words, people do this for the same reason they do almost everything: they want to fit in. The way we talk has a fashion of its own, with phrases and expression going in and out of style. It’s no different than running out for one of those traffic-stopping Smokey Bear hats that Pharrell William’s wore to the Grammy’s. We have the idea that conformity is all that stands between ourselves and the acceptance of our peers.

Everything reminds me of something else

When we were kids, sometimes you’d say something to a playmate and they would answer: “So?” which was intended as an insult. For example:

Me: Hey, Steve, my uncle is going to take me to the Yankees game this Friday.

Steve: So?

This is kid-speak for “I don’t give a damn,” or “Who gives a you-know-what?” The best way to reply to this slight (even as an adult — especially as an adult!) is to smile and answer calmly: “Go sew your mother’s girdle.”

Of course, this is kid-speak for “F” You, and I so treasure the few opportunities I get these days to employ it.

One last thing, the cartoon above is from the film Of Fox and Hounds, which came out in 1940, which was voiced by Tex Avery and Mel Blanc. It’s the first time Tex Avery used characters based around George and Lenny of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

All the best,


Pizza, Lou Malnati’s, Facebook and the NSA

People get emotional over many things that have no bearing or effect on anything important. I have fond memories of heated, teenage arguments over who was better: The Rolling Stones or The Beatles. Many people self actualize through the performance of a favored sports team, even though its success or failure has no impact on their own.

Food’s another thing people get parochial over. Friendships have been terminated over who makes the best clam chowder, barbeque, gumbo, chili, pasties or chow mien. Disagreements over pizza have a tendency to get heated, sometimes with one party going so far as rejecting the very legitimacy of what the other guy claims pizza to be.

A Facebook friend posted John Stewart’s rant about deep dish pizza, making a mockery of how your stereotypical, outer-borough New York  character views the matter:

Pepsi paper cup

Most cones were white

I get this. I grew up on Long Island and for me, haute cuisine was two slices and a Pepsi, served in a cone-shaped paper cup that was stuck into a stainless steel base. (If this drink delivery system means nothing to you, you’ve missed out because it’s as extinct as the dinosaurs. The bright side?: you’re young.)

The paper cup was put in this pedestal

The paper cup was put in this pedestal

In and around New York, most pizzerias turn out a pretty consistent product because there are only a handful of companies that supply these restaurants with everything from dough, cheese, sauce, boxes, toppings, napkins and paper plates. I’m talking Pizzerias, not restaurants that also make pizzas and with straight faces offer abominations like goat cheese, hossenfeffer and horse radish pies — which, incidentally, is clearly not legitimately classified as pizza.

In spite of the consistency, many New Yorkers develop strong opinions about which of their local pizza places is best. Their loyalty is so strong that even late at night they’ll drive past more convenient parlors to get to their guy,

After watching Stewart’s act, I Facebook commented that while it is true that Deep Dish Pizza isn’t really pizza, it can still be good. I mentioned a chain in the Chicago Area called Lou Malnati’s, and how I usually try to stop by when traveling there. My friend came back and said that he agreed that it could be good, but repeated the “not pizza” stipulation. I resisted observing that since my friend had long ago moved to the Boston area, he had no pizza credibility because a sound case could be made that New England pizza isn’t pizza either. I bit my tongue.

Lou’s pizza is different. The somewhat watery sauce has pureed tomatoes in it, over which a ton of Mozzarella is poured and melts into a single, pie-covering, eighth inch thick cheese disk. On top of that go the usual suspects: sausage, mushrooms, etc., and New Yorkers will complain about their quality, especially the sausage and pepperoni, but that’s because they just don’t do that stuff the same way in Chicago. And yes, more sauce is added on top of everything, which is pizza heresy and should come with a prison sentence, or at the very least a public admonishment delivered by the a famous and very, very rich, faux news caster.

After this exchange, I briefly considered going online to order a pie from Malnati’s, which I’d never done before. The urge passed, but I would not be forgetting about Lou’s pizza. A few days later, I logged onto Facebook and after clicking around a little bit, an advertisement came up for, of all places:  Lou Malnati’s!

So, I thought, that’s how Facebook is monetizing itself. It’s a profit deal (enjoy Steve Martin in The Jerk realizing that a carnival weight guesser doesn’t care if he guesses wrong because the prize is worth less than the dollar he charges).

On some level I knew this was going on, but it was the first time I’d experienced it. It’s pretty clear that Facebook is scanning everyone’s posts and then running them through an algorithm that looks for matches with the names of companies that pay them money to direct traffic to their websites. Badda bing, badda boom, when a user clicks the website: cha ching!

What did you think, somebody was going set up this gigantic contraption for you to waste time on for free? Hey, this is America.

I guess the NSA doesn’t have anything on Facebook. Now all I have to do is figure out if this bothers me. I’m leaning towards: It doesn’t, but that could change.

Everything Reminds Me of Something Else

I went to collage in Northern Wisconsin and back then, the pizza places started their dough by running it through a machine that had rollers like a motorized, old fashion clothes wringer. To make it pie-shaped, a pizza cutter was run around a circular form, and the excess was “recycled” into the next pie. From there they would proceed in the normal fashion, first sauce, then cheese, and finally toppings, that would rightfully get you a good beating if you tried serving them in the New York Metropolitan area.

The sausage were little balls of greasy, grizzled mystery meat that was seasoned with fennel seeds, garlic and salt in depressingly excessive quantities. Onions, peppers, and mushrooms came out of a jar. The only topping I considered barely acceptable was the pepperoni, but only after I used a pile of napkins to sop up the slick of greasy oil that had been liberated by the heat of the oven.

And as bad as that was, I don’t think it would have left such a lasting negative impression hadn’t it been for what followed. Upon taking it from the oven, it was cut it into squares. Squares! I swear to God! When I first saw it, I thought I was the butt of a practical joke, but no.

It seemed to me that everyone knew that a round pizza — even one formed by a clothes wringer and a plywood die that was probably never, ever cleaned — was cut into triangles. Only a square pizza, which is known as Sicilian, was cut into squares. But no, I was not having a joke played on me. I was told that this “cut” wasn’t at all unusual, not just in northern Wisconsin, but all over the Midwest, even Chicago (which as it turned out, was no big ringing endorsement).

Another Pizza anomaly that I noticed was that pizza was not sold by the slice, which to me was comparable to offering hamburgers only by the dozen.

One of my friends, Hank, an easterner like me once engaged one of the local pizza merchants in a drunken, drawn out interrogation concerning why pizza was not offered by the slice. The merchant kept saying that the traffic wasn’t sufficient. Hank kept looking out at the street and the cars going by, and asking: “What does the traffic have to do with selling pizza by the slice. Most of the people who come in here are students and don’t even have cars.”

God, I miss Hank.

You’re Welcome

If you watch live news shows where people get interviewed, you may have noticed that most of them don’t know how to answer when somebody says, “Thank you.”

When an interview ends, the moderator will usually say something like: “Secretary Auchterturra, thank you very much for your time this morning.” Almost always, the good Secretary will pause, as if “thrown” by the comment, and then reply almost timidly: “Thank you.”

There are times when such a reply is called for. You would use it if someone gave you a vintage Corvette that they no longer wanted, and after you loaded it onto your truck they said: “Thank you for coming by and getting the Corvette.”

This is a clear case of the giver being way too gracious, and though you might reply with: “You’re welcome,” most people would consider it fitting if your benefactor reneged on his offer, or at least lamented his poor judgment in handing over his collectible sports car to an ungrateful imbecilic.

The appropriate reply is: “No, thank you!” and to emphasize “you,” to acknowledge your understanding that you have done this person no favor, and that it is they who are doing one for you.

The other time it’s appropriate is if you’re someone who is never asked for their opinion, or to give their side of the story — especially if wrongly accused. After going over the perfectly legitimate reason(s) why you were found walking naked through Grand Central Station at four A.M., and the interviewer thanks you for clearing things up, the only appropriate way to answer is to say, “No, thank you!”

In all other cases, the correct, well-mannered way to respond to someone saying, “Thank you,” is: “You’re welcome,” or something like it.

You might be thinking: Why isn’t it okay for anyone to say “Thank you” for being interviewed? Couldn’t it be said that they might also appreciate being given a chance to speak their mind, share their thoughts, show everyone how smart they are, etc.? It is, but not when you’re getting thanked at the end of the interview.

If interviewees have a great need to show appreciation, it should be worked into the interview itself. After the first question, they could say: “I am so happy you’ve asked me here to explain the benefits of again allowing cigar smoking on airplanes,” or whatever topic or cause you’ve been invited to comment upon.

People who are paid to answer questions or offer opinions should avoid thanking their inquisitors, even though this is the sweetest of gigs. When the Fox News producer calls and offers to pay you to go on air and explain why the pulse rates of Republican men increase when Sarah Palin wears a red leather mini-dress, you would be crazy not to emphatically thank whoever it was who thought to call you.

But after you dazzle everyone with your articulate explanation of RMRTRLDP (Republican Male Response to Red Leather Dress Psychosis), you will appear to be a little more credible and professional if you graciously say, “You’re welcome,” when thanked for such enlightenment.

The most confounding of unjustified thankers are famous or important people whose opinions are highly valued and often sought. When interviewers thank these people, it’s because they really appreciate their showing up. Usually they’re not getting paid, and are there because they genuinely believe their two cents might be of some benefit to some person, place or thing.

All have fielded the interview-ending “thank yous” before, but still seem unprepared. I have watched current and former presidents and vice-presidents fumble for an reply, as though they’d been asked to name and spell all the Balkan Territories. Secretaries of state, defense attorneys, murder suspects, congressmen and women, aldermen, sex offenders, political bloviators, leading men and ladies, dictators, despots and royalty, all similarly bumbling when faced with the simple social grace of being thanked for doing something.

It should not be this way and the solution is easy: Settle on something that is always offered when someone says: “Thank you.” For me, those words are: “You’re welcome.” For those who want to get creative, try: “My pleasure,” or, “Happy to.” It’s even okay to add something like: “I appreciate your asking me about this,” as long as it comes afterwards.

Except as noted, the only reply to “Thank you,” that makes a person look like an ill-prepared, dullard is: “Thank you.”


You’re welcome.

Junk Drawer

Since my Johnny Angel post, I’m more aware of things that are presaged or connected in some way to other things. Or could it be they’re happening more often?

There’s a drawer in the kitchen that holds various items, like tape, rulers, pens, pins, picture hooks, sticky notes, pliers, tape measures, screw drivers, etc. A couple of days ago I was in it because I needed a paperclip that I was going to straighten and use its tip as a probe to clean some built-up minerals from one of the drip holes in the coffee maker.

As I rummaged, I came across a box of staples, which I picked up and examined. The box was almost full. It’s there to supply the stapler that’s on the small counter above the drawer. I returned the box to the clutter, found a paperclip and went to work on the coffee maker. As it turned out, what I thought was blockage was just the reflection off a water droplet.

I walked upstairs to my office and started doing some work, which involves reading and writing emails. I still print out some of this correspondence, and occasionally staple related items together. I inserted a couple of papers into my Swingline stapler and gave it the light punch that’s necessary to seat a staple.  When I withdrew the paper, however, I didn’t see a staple in the upper left-hand corner. I was not overly surprised, as a staple is a pretty small thing. Maybe my eyesight was at a point where I just wasn’t able to see it.

But that was not the reason. I didn’t see it because it was not there. I had run out of staples — no more than an hour after handling the box from the junk drawer.

This is not the kind of coincidence that elicits cries of, “No way,” or “Hey, Martha, you’re not going to believe this!” For those, the tying together of incidents has to bridge greater degrees of separation.

Still, the events are more than casually connected because they happened in close chronological proximity. To illustrate the value of time to coincidence, imagine I go to the refrigerator and have an apple and a month later I read a report that refrigerated apples are not as good as ones left at room temperature. Chances are, I wouldn’t even make a connection between the two events. If, however, I see the same report while eating that apple, now it’s noteworthy, yes?

Skirting a cairn of cat turd

Yesterday morning I was reading a book review in the New York Times on my Kindle. The book was “Orfeo,” which was written by Richard Powers and reviewed by Jim Holt. In the course of the review, the following quote was called out: “skirting a cairn of cat turd.” The great thing about Kindles is that when you come to a word you don’t know, you can look it up by just highlighting it. I didn’t know what the word “cairn” meant, and went to it’s definition.


It’s a pile of rocks

The definition is: “n. A mound of rough stones built as a memorial or landmark, typically on a hilltop or skyline.” Okay, so I learned a new word, but I also noted that — uncharacteristically — the Oxford Dictionary of English did not include the pronunciation. I briefly held this thought: “It would be nice to know how to say it.”

I hit the screen to make the definition go away and continued reading from where I left off. The review continued as follows: ” — the full horror of which is apparent only if you realize that cairn is pronounced kern.”

Mmm. Do you think that’s a little stranger? I think it is, but I know a cynic would say that because of the great, untapped powers of the human mind, I had somehow “read” those words without being consciously aware that I had, and that is why I thought about it’s pronunciation. Maybe, but if I saw it on a subliminal level, then I would have known how to say it, so I hereby reject that possibility, especially since it is improvable either way.

What does it mean?

Whenever I think of this question, I’m reminded of the Underground comic by R. Crumb: Mr. Natural. In it, someone asks the bearded wise man what “it” all means, and he says that it doesn’t mean shit. Since this sardonic and cynical observation can be made about almost anything, it’s best not to give it too much weight, lest it drain life of all its joys.

So maybe in isolation these little things don’t mean you-know-what, but when taken together, I see them as evidence that something unseen is at work, and there exists connections and associations between events and people that no one understands.

Maybe that’s another way of saying they don’t mean shit, but I hope not.

Everything Reminds me of something else

When I was growing up on Long Island, occasionally I would take the Long Island Railroad to New York City. The train ride took us through Brooklyn and Queens, which were once huge manufacturing centers.

One of the building we passed was the Swingline Stapler Company, which had a gigantic neon sign with a stapler where the neon was rigged to make the stapler look like it was opening and closing. I was fascinated by this sign, and if you like such things, there’s a cool website called New York Neon, that catalogs it and other such signs.

Swingline NYT ArticleAnyone who traveled between Long Island and New York saw the sign many, many times, but it doesn’t seem like they took a lot of pictures. The only depiction of it that I could find was this old newspaper article from the New York Neon Website. The sign was put up in 1952, the year I was born. I mention this as an example of a low  grade coincidence that I would have remained unaware of hadn’t I started this article. While the two incidents have a small, imprecise measure of chronological proximity, there is nothing more that connects them. While I was fascinated by the sign, so too were millions of other people. If my research uncovered that the sign was formally dedicated on my birthday, or that my uncle helped build it, I’d feel differently (and curious about when it would be decommissioned).

vintage stapler

I remember the color of these

I was familiar with their product because every teacher in our school had one on their desk, which in my easy-to-impress view, were really rather remarkable pieces of equipment. I suppose that if you took care of a stapler, it would probably perform its function forever — as long as you could keep getting the right sized staplers.

For a while, the sign’s superstructure on top of the building was changed to advertise a bank. In 1999, ACCO Brands (the company that owns Swingline) decided to stop making staplers in Long Island City (and move production to Mexico). In preparation for the shutdown, the superstructure was dismantled.

Between 2002 and 2005, the factory housed the Museum of Modern Art, whose normal home in Manhattan was being renovated. After MOMA moved out, it was reported that the building’s new owners were successful in finding new tenants.

Coney Island New Year’s Swim

In New York, the last gasp of local holiday reportage is coverage of the Polar Bear Club’s annual New Year’s day swim at Coney Island. It’s up there with the Macy’s Parade, lighting the tree at Rockefeller Center and dropping the ball in Times Square.

My first memories of it are snowy black-and-white television broadcasts, or large-dot photos in the daily news, of a couple dozen people — mostly white, out-of-shape men — dashing into the water to casually splash themselves as a handful of onlookers watch and shake their heads at their craziness.

Not sure why, but I’ve been meaning to see this for myself, and 2014 was my year. I was surprised by what a big event it is — two or three thousand people, maybe more.

The actual swim starts at 1:00, but swimmers and celebrants start collecting on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue well before that — some coming off all-nighters in the City.

I hate to be the one to break the news, but if you have your heart set on joining the Polar Bears, there are no open positions for full membership. For a suggested twenty dollar donation (more if you wish), you can sign up to swim as a guest, and all the proceeds go to Camp Sunshine in Maine, which is a retreat for children (and their families) with life-threatening illnesses, a very worthy charity.

It’s a party atmosphere, with lots of costumes, and a fair amount of drinking, but nothing excessive. All age groups are represented, with a surprising number of families incorporating the swim into their New Year’s routine. There were a few really old people (over seventy is my new definition), who I thought might be there to check off a bucket-list entry. As I watched some of them come out of the water shivering and turning blue, I worried that I might actually get to see some bucket kicking. Luckily, there wasn’t any.

If you register, you’re assigned a group with whom you join in an en masse charge across a section of the beach that is marked for the occasion. My guess is that more than half of the swimmers registered, and for those that didn’t, they just congregated on either side of the reserved area and took their plunges when the time seemed right.

I took some photos:

The water temperature was reported to be forty-one degrees, which was better than the air temperature of thirty-four. Most of the dips are brief, and exits are hurried. Many bring thick terry cloth robes, which are quickly donned and provide adequate cover for removal of wet swimsuits. Others had friends and family hold up towels as they changed. A few were less modest and publicly stripped, but the change was performed quickly and drew little attention.

This year I was strictly an observer and have to admit to having a notion that maybe next year I’ll go in. Chances are good to excellent that I will not.

The Polar Bear Club was founded in 1903 by Bernarr MacFadden, who is considered by some to be the father of physical culture.

Everything Reminds me of something else

As a child I lived with my family in Brooklyn, and we took the subway to Coney Island a few times. It was the biggest and most wondrous place I had ever seen. To my inexperienced, five-year old eyes, the beach went on forever and was so packed with people, I would have believed that everyone in New York was there. There were these poor guys walking through the crowds in white suits carrying coolers filled with Ice Cream, shouting out the name of their products. I remember a guy calling out, “Hey Fudgie Wudgie,” over and over.

Before places like Disneyland, Coney Island was considered the world’s center for seaside entertainment. The streets that ran from Surf and Mermaid Avenues to the Boardwalk were lined with a hodgepodge of amusements and attractions run by independent operators. There were a couple of larger “parks” that offered rides, games and food. The two most famous ones were Luna Park, that burned down in the forties, and Steeplechase, that I went to before it was torn down in 1966 by Fred Trump, who is noteworthy for making a millionaire out of one of the worlds largest windbags: Donald Trump.

Coney Island HorsesSteeplechase was named after the ride where you rode on a wooden horse that ran around the building on an outdoor track. There was a leather belt that was supposed to hold you on, but it seemed to me that if you fell off, you would probably be run over by the other horses, of get dragged across the ground until you were a bloody mess. This ride and many others would be shut down in today’s litigious society — and it’s a damn good thing because they were unbelievably dangerous.

Tornado Roller CoasterWhen I was about five, I remember begging my mother to take me on the Cyclone, which at the time was one of the biggest roller coasters in the world. She refused, saying it was too extreme, but agreed to take me on the Tornado, which was pretty damn big, too. She warned me that once I got on, I would not be able to get off, and as evidence of how naïve (okay, stupid) I was, I took this to mean that we would be on the ride for the rest of our lives, which was perfectly fine with me. My mother taught me how to properly ride a roller coaster that day, which includes screaming and laughing, and holding your hands over your head when you’re on a steep decline.

When I was around twelve, I was a paperboy for Newsday in the Long Island town of Islip, NY, where our family had moved a few years before. The Paper would have contests to encourage us to sign up new subscribers, and a couple of times the prize was a trip to Coney Island. Once we caravanned to the place with parents of other carriers, and another time we took a bus. Both times we were let out to run wild, with a warning to find our way back to the arranged rendezvous at a specific time, or risk being left alone on the mean streets of Coney Island, into which we would almost surely disappear forever.

And that seemed quite possible, as there were all manner of creepy people wandering around, and there were plenty of dive bars and unsavory characters going in out of those places. One of the attractions were called “Fun Houses,” where you would walk through cramped, dark passageways and people would jump out from behind corners and scream at you — and they were terrifying! I was convinced that these were real ghouls, some probably off the street and getting paid enough for a beer to scare the punks from Long Island.

There was a penny arcade with a machine that even then was ancient, and for a nickel you would look in a visor as you turned a crank and watch a flip-card movie of a scantily clad woman who danced and flashed her breasts at the end. I kept waiting for somebody to stop us from dropping our nickels into the machine, but no one did. Part of Coney Island’s allure was an undercurrent of something a little illicit. Years before there was a place on the boardwalk where a blast of air would come from below when girls walked over it, which blew their skirts up in the air. Anywhere else this would have been scandalous, but at Coney Island it was okay, it was just fun.

Through a friend, I knew some guys who were a few years older than us, and they were pretty wild. One night they went to Coney Island and had their picture taken, all of them wearing leather coats, looking tough and holding liquor bottles. I didn’t know then, but Coney Island had long served as a Photo Studio for people of limited means. I found this out after being presented with this picture of my grandparents proudly holding their infant son, my dad, posed in a dinghy sporting a Coney Island pennant. Off to Coney Island

The Coney Island of today is barely a shadow of its former self. Steeplechase and Luna Park are gone. A minor league baseball stadium stands where Steeplechase was, and there are some pretty big empty lots abutting the boardwalk, for which there’s talk of development. There is a place with a bunch of rides that looks like fun, but the attractions that used to line the streets are gone. Nathan’s is still there, and the Cyclone, too. I am committed to taking a ride on it as soon as it opens in the spring — it’s looking a little rickety.

Cyclone Rollar CoasterHappy New Year


Johnny Angel

jacketsOn New Years Day I was watching the annual Twilight Zone Marathon and getting a familiar and increasingly uncomfortable feeling that I had never seen some of the episodes. After watching the show for — God, I hate to say this — nearly fifty years, shouldn’t I by now have seen every one? Well, I haven’t, and am starting to think that maybe this would make for a pretty good Twilight Zone premise. Something like:

Aging guy watches old TV show marathon and tries to convince others that someone’s inserting new, never-before-seen episodes, but can’t because everyone believes he is a doddering old fool who is losing his marbles and is no longer able to remember what he has seen in the past.

One came on that I remember, and it’s called “Black Leather Jackets,” with Shelley Fabares, who falls in love with a guy who turns out to be from outer space. Anyway —  and it’s what happens whenever I am reminded of or see Shelley Fabares — I began singing one of my favorite songs (really), “Johnny Angel.”

For those that don’t know anything about Shelley Fabares, when she was a teenager she was on the Donna Reed television show, playing an all American girl named Mary Stone, who was popular, extremely cute, nice to everyone, and owner of many American teenage boy’s hearts, including mine.

It ran from 1958 — 1966 and was set in a bucolic small town somewhere in America, where her father was a doctor who practiced out of his home, which in those days was pretty common. Donna Reed was her stay-at-home mom before there existed a need for such a term.

She was as perfect as her daughter — perhaps even more so now that I think about it. Involved with the school and community, Donna effortlessly fixed everything that wasn’t quite right. The family was kept running smoothly, all while Mrs. Stone looked very good in poufy party dresses, high heels and pearls. Did I mention she also did her own housework? She did.

William Roberts was the show’s producer and decided it would be good for the show, and Shelley, too, to become a popular singer. Thus, Johnny Angel was born in 1962. The record sold over a million copies and was number one for awhile, which indeed made Shelley Fabares a pop sensation. Here are some lyrics:

Johnny Angel, how I want him, how I tingle when he passes by

Every time he says hello my heart begins to fly

I’m in heaven, I get carried away

I dream of him and me, and how it’s gonna be

Other fellas call me out for a date, but I just sit and wait, I’d rather concentrate, on Johnny Angel…

Okay, there is something a little untoward about a grown man singing these words — in more ways than one I imagine — but exposing one of my harmless eccentricities for ridicule isn’t why I mention it. It’s what happened afterwards.

Minutes after seeing Shelley and launching into a Bill Murrayesque rendition of the song, I went to Walgreens for a few things. When I walked into the store, what do you suppose was playing over the store’s PA? If you guessed Shelley Fabares singing Johnny Angel, you guessed right!

Anyone would have to admit that this is really strange and well beyond the boundaries of normal coincidence — but it gets weirder. I left Walgreens and drove to Burger King and was listening to Cousin Brucie (who in the sixties was a big DJ in NY, and for a time considered to be very cool, something I’m still trying to figure out). Without changing his schtick, he has managed to land a show on satellite radio that centers around music from that time, and it includes interviews with people who were at the top of their game back then.

As I waited in the Drive-thru, he was talking to some guy who reminisced about the people he’d worked with over the years. If you are guessing that this guy said he’d worked with Shelley Fabares and was involved somehow with the recording of Johnny Angel, you are right again!

All of this happened within an hour. What are the odds against that? The connections were made first by cable TV, then me (remembering and singing), then Walgreens’ PA system, and finally Satellite radio. These sounds and images all found their way to one set of eyes and ears within an hour, traversing hundreds of thousands of miles.

When something like this happens, eventually I ask myself: So, what does it mean? I never come up with a good reason, though sometimes I think about buying a lottery ticket. I am pretty sure it means something, and that these odd occurrences stand as evidence for whatever that something is.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Being unable to explain or understand these things is probably what makes them so much fun. These are the real mysteries of our lives, ones where we play a role, ones whose explanations lie somewhere in the cosmos, or heaven, or…who the hell knows.

I have only a few of these (and treasure them), and will blog about them from time to time. In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear of similar instances, so feel free to send them along.

Happy New Year!


Everything reminds me of something else

Donna Reed and Jimmy StewardDonna Reed was in a movie entitled: It’s a Wonder Life, She plays Mary Hatch and has a scene with Jimmy Stuart (George Baily) that takes place in her mother’s house and is noteworthy for two reasons: First, she is beautifully photographed and is radiant. Second, it’s one of the most excruciatingly sentimental love scenes I’ve seen on film (or anywhere, I guess). It takes place when she is talking on the phone to Sam Wainwright. Pay special attention to how they look at each other, especially when Sam is talking.


Happy New Year!