Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh that Holiday Feeling

The lights are up, the tree is lit, the presents are wrapped and all is ready. I can hardly wait for that one special day. That’s the day I get to haul all this crap back up to the attic and have my house back to the way it was for another year. Every end table, every nightstand in our home sports some sort of winter scene. It’s getting so a man hasn’t a place to put his eggnog any more. All this merry making makes me crankier than my usual charming self.

Every Christmas we get a real tree and this year was no different. We bought a seven-foot Douglas Porcupine. All I have to do is walk by the stupid thing and I get hit with a handful of needles. It feels like a stapler exploded over our carpet.

And those songs. That endless stream of carols wherever you go. Why don’t they use that on the Taliban? I’m ready to give up every secret I have after spending just a few hours at the mall. The first one they need to change is the “12 Days of Christmas”. I wish a republican produced that record and it would be down to just 3.

 A fifty-something woman was screaming at a salesclerk because they ran out of a toy she needed. You would have thought she lost her civil liberties instead of some lead-filled trinket from China. I’m not sure about Santa, but Meno Pause is coming to town.

My daughter wants a puppy. Great, it’s the gift that keeps on shitting. While I’m sure to get the same thing I got last year, high blood pressure.

And speaking of gifts, I have a question for my Christian friends out there (if I have any left after this). Just what did Mary and Joseph do with all that gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Did they at least get an upgrade out of the stable? No offense, but Jackie Coogan’s parents handled his money better.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re just a Scrooge. I say let’s give that old penny pincher a break. Be honest now, who would rather have as a neighbor, him or the Cratchits?

It’s also the time of year that every old entertainer comes out of mothballs. I guess I could get plastic surgery and try to look younger too, but I find those marks and etchings of a distinguished life endearing and not a liability. People such as Einstein, Gandhi, and Amelia Earhart had interesting and often weathered faces. When did fish lips and skin pulled so tight you would think it’s to keep the contents fresh become appealing? I see Billy Crystal and think, “Whose birthday is it? The balloon arrived.”

And all this talk about a Fiscal Cliff just makes me want to be the first to push a congressman off it. What else should we expect from the Grayish Generation.

Sure I could be thankful for my health and my family’s health. I have a nice roof over my head, food in the refrigerator, and our bills are paid. My children are doing well. My wife loves me. Why just last night she pulled me back from walking into traffic. “Honey,” she said, “be careful. I’m not ready to start dating yet.” And I have great friends too. I even have a nice mother-in-law. But I don’t have a pony, and really what is life without your own pony? Besides, if I didn’t focus on all the negative things I wouldn’t have anything to write about and you’d be terribly bored.

So all that whining and crying is just my way of saying Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

PS: I self-published “Sidney” which is now a chapter book and will be available on Amazon starting next week. Now to sit back and wait for all those offers to come piling in. Don’t anybody use the phone. That could be Random House now!

Here’s a card I did for Hedgehog Development in New York. They are helping with the relief after Hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don’t fear the meatloaf

Lucky you. I decided to disperse some of my vast experience on a favorite subject, food, or more precisely, restaurant dining. I am amazed how many people have poor experiences when at most times these can be avoided. Here’s my Top Ten list for eating out in no particular order.

Rule #1 Never order Italian food at a diner.

Meatballs are not made to be larger than a quarter. Stick with an American dish such as hamburgers, toast, or eggs, but never order scramble. What most diners do is scramble dozens ahead of time and then place them in a container until someone orders them, often adding fillers as well. Other egg dishes need to be cracked fresh and you’ll see the yolk and white. Go for the meatloaf special.

Rule #2 Never eat at a national chain.

They are soulless entities that serve prepackaged and most times pre-cooked meals. I don’t know about you but I’m not paying $27.99 for microwave chicken. Family owned establishments live and die on their reputation. They can’t fall back on 150 other locations or mass marketing to help them survive.

Rule #3 Never send food back.

As an ex-member of the cooking community I have seen things…terrible things. That doesn’t mean that you should take whatever is put in front of you. Ask for a substitute dish and they will most likely not charge you for it. If it is really terrible then just leave. Remember, cooking is an art and often imperfect so be a little understanding.

Rule #4 Make it special.

Sometimes ask for something just slightly different than how it is listed on the menu. Your dish will get a little more attention. But don’t overdo it or make it too difficult or you’ll be back to Rule #3. When you do ask, be polite and respectful and accept the possibility of no.

Rule #5 Check the place out first.

Visit the restroom as soon as you enter, even before sitting down. Anything that makes you go ‘ugh’, leave. If there are no windows in the entire restaurant, leave. And if you make a reservation and you still have to wait more than fifteen minutes, leave.

Rule #6 Enjoy the local cuisine.

Ask the locals where they like to eat. I don’t mean the hotel clerk. They’re usually some kid in college that doesn’t know his elbow macaroni from his aspic. Ask a clerk who works in a local shop what they like.

Rule # 7 Order sauce on the side for fried dishes.

Doesn’t matter it its chimichangas or calamari, they get too soggy before you finish them.

Rule # 8 Tip accordingly.

I hate it when my dinner companions automatically leave large or small tips. Too large a tip and it encourages poor service. Too small and it encourages poor service.

Rule #9 Learn to read menus.

When ordering look for the section that takes up the most room, that’s there specialty. I have confidence in a restaurant that posts its menu outside as well.

Rule # 10 Avoid busy restaurants.

There’s an axiom in New York that says never go into an empty restaurant during dinner hours. There is something to be said for that but I have had some great meals in out of the way quiet places and some terrible ones in packed houses. For one thing, crowds usually mean poor service, long waits, and you struggle to hear the dinner conversation. If you want to try a popular spot don’t pick eight P.M. on a Saturday.

None of this should be taken too seriously. If your meal is disappointing remember to take solace in the fact there’ll be another chance to eat in a couple of hours. Please send your comments and your tips. Mangia!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ode to a Genre

I depart from my usual ramblings this time for a little fiction.

Our story takes place on the foxed pages of a comic book. The year is 1946. Entering our splash page we see a laboratory with test tubes, Tesla particle machines, and crackling electricity. In one corner of the room sits a large glass jar. Floating in that jar a human head. There is a man, or what is left of one, working the controls feverishly. His skin is yellow with pocked marks along his arms, his teeth dagger sharp with great spaces between. Underweight and over-aged his twisted body pulls levers and turns dials all while sporting a sinister smile. His Playtex green gloves conceal the horror that is left of his hands. The oversize skull holds a dark and evil brain inside while a pimply brow covers the outside. He goes by Professor Death, although I don’t believe that’s his given name or that he really taught at any school with the possible exception of Liberty University. His assistants are many smaller versions of himself, a scattering of which run about like roaches when the lights flicker on. They add to the chaos that is his lair. Pretty scary, eh?

But what our eyes rest upon is the figure of a woman, blonde of course, and beautiful. Her red dress is torn to a revealing length showing off her figure, full like a tank of gas before a holiday weekend. Arms above her head and held in bondage she lies on a wooden table unable to move. The horrible figure of Professor Death leers at her. Saliva drips from his mouth like a Saint Bernard in summer. Her name is Dolores, or Mary, or maybe even Alice. Names long ago forgotten. He speaks to her.

“You can scream all you want. Soon we’ll be in a place where no one can find you.”
“What do you want from me?” she asks with a twinge of hysteria in her voice.
“To stay with me forever!” he cackles maniacally.
“Good Lord,” she chokes.
“Yes my dear. You are to be my bride.”
“Wait, what? This is how you ask? You’re a sick bastard!” she yells at him.
“Silence!” he yells out. He throws a few more switches and the lights dim for a moment. “You will change your mind my dear after I inject you with my secret formula.”
“Only if it makes me go deaf, blind, and hard of smelling. Doesn’t this castle have any bathrooms?”

The little men stop and growl at her. Suddenly, there is a large CRASH! The cinderblock wall in the back is blown in. Standing among the rubble is a tall statue of a man. His hair is black with blue highlights. He is deceptively strong with arms and legs that look slightly plump. He is not at all effeminate in his blue and red leotards, or his black mask that barely cover his eyes. His name is Rex but while he is wearing this outfit he goes by Deluxo, Man of Might. A strange combination of bravado and modesty, he has never told Dolores, Mary, or Alice that he loves her. In his right hand he holds a huge gun pointed at Professor Death.

“Hold it right there Professor, if you really are one,” he calls out.
“Check my résumé if you don’t believe me, Deluxo.”
“I’m on a tenure track!”
 “Maybe an adjunct.”
“Silence!!” the professor yells out. “One more move and I’ll throw this switch.”
“Then what?” asks Deluxo.
“We will be catapulted into the future and your lives will be changed forever!” He finds this very humorous and laughs an unearthly laugh. He continues. “There in 1975 I’ll drive my flying atomic car and take off with my new bride to our colony on Mars.”
“I haven’t said yes yet,” says Dolores, Mary, or Alice.
"Listen you evil beast, you'll never get away with this," yells Deluxo.
"I'm not really that evil. It's just the lighting in here."
“Yeah, then what about that human head you keep in that jar?”
“Oh that. Well, that was here when I bought the place and I just haven’t gotten around to throwing it out. Now, as I was saying, don’t make me throw this switch!”
“You haven’t got the guts Professor.”
“Just try me.” And Deluxo does by taking a leap, a leap so large it’s spelled out in capital letters across the page. But he’s too late. Professor Death throws the switch and the room spins into a vortex of black and white spirals. Eerie music comes from an invisible pipe organ. Then, everything goes white…

When they regain their senses their world has changed. 

“What happened? Where are we?” asks Dolores, Mary, or Alice.
“It worked! My invention worked. We’re in the future!”
“Is that you Professor? You’ve changed.”
“My skin. It’s cleared up! And my teeth are human size. Even my scoliosis has straightened out. And look! All my henchmen have turned into grad students. My laboratory has Formica cabinets.”
“These aren’t my clothes.” Dolores, Mary, or Alice is now wearing a white blouse and a charcoal pencil skirt all neatly starched and trimmed. “Even my shape is different. I finally lost those ten extra pounds.”
“Who took my gun? I had it right here,” asks Deluxo. “Gee whiz Dolores, Mary, or Alice, look at my arms. I’m ripped!”
“Did you really just say gee whiz? And my name is Tiffany,” says Tiffany who use to be Dolores, Mary, or Alice. “Professor what has happened to us?” she asks.
“It must be because of the code.’
“Code? What code?”
“Yes, that’s it. The comic book code they were trying to pass. A group of 'concerned citizens' believed comics were the cause of all things wrong with young people. So they wanted to take out its teeth and sanitized the industry. Those fools. Meddling with creative freedom. Look what we have become, two-dimensional characters in a formulaic setting. What a nightmare. A horrible predictable nightmare.”
“I kind of like it,” says Deluxo flexing and looking at himself in a mirror. “I could never have a body like this back in the 50s.”
“Idiot,” mumbles Professor Death.
“I do have to get use to these smaller breasts, but it’s not so bad. I feel sort of —liberated,” adds Tiffany.
“It’s all gone,” he sits dejected on the linoleum floor.
“Don’t say that Professor Death. You know something, you clean up really well.”
“You think so?”
 “C’mon, you can buy me a drink,” suggests Tiffany.
“What about him?” The Professor points to Deluxo over in the corner who is still admiring his new looks.
“In all the years I’ve known him he never once tried to kiss me. I think he might be, you know.  Besides, you don’t find many men that want long-term relationships as badly as you do Professor.
“It’s Larry.”
“How much does a tenure track professor make anyway, Larry?” she smiles at him and he can’t help but smile back. This time, however, it’s not creepy.
“Okay I guess. The health benefits are good. Wait, what about all that creativity we lost? There must be a way to go back.”
“Face it. The future is going to come whether we like it or not. Larry. We’ll just have to make our own story as we go along.”

The end

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The joys of being terrified

Being the youngest of four I have had my share of standard childhood teasing. My two older brothers tortured me regularly while growing up, as older siblings are apt to do. My parents would leave them in charge when going out, because what father could resist free babysitting? My pleads went unanswered. Once the sound of tires on the Ford were heard leaving the driveway the lights were suddenly shut off. The only illumination emanating from our house came from our black and white television set. With only six channels to choose from my brothers had an uncanny knack of finding horror movies. With no remote to end my misery I was stuck to that blue glow like a flannel-laden moth too afraid to venture into the dark and what was hidden there. Lying in wait, for what seemed like hours, they would bide their time until the pressure was too much for me to take. Then like a couple of teenage jack-in-the-boxes leap out from a closet screaming in unison as I screamed in terror.

I did my own share of boyhood adrenaline induced yells. My first girlfriend at age four was Doreen. She lived just two houses down from me. Doreen was pretty and sweet and kind and I can’t count the number times I scared the crap out of her pretending I was holding a frog behind my back. She screamed and ran home every time. It’s little wonder that relationship didn’t work out.

When I was about ten I dressed up as the Wolfman for Halloween. With my rubbery hairy hands, lumberjack shirt, and latex mask I was a zaftig Lon Chaney. Unfortunately, it was also the hottest Halloween on record and rubber is not exactly a breathing fabric. The costume lasted about three houses. Without the mask I looked, and probably smelled, more like my Uncle Joey coming home from the docks. But I loved that mask and looked forward to the opportunity to wearing it again. To a ten year old that made sense.

It turns out it didn’t take long. The following summer our neighbors who were about five and four came over to see if they could play. My older brother, same fun loving guy previously mentioned, had the idea to scare these kids by having me pretend to be the real Wolfman. So I got my mask on and waited for my cue to come out. After a few minutes the two kids were on the edge of their seats listening to my brother spin his yarn. How he convinces them the Wolfman moved from Europe to Levittown I don’t quite remember. At the right moment I came running out onto our patio. The four-year-old girl screamed and immediately ran off. Her brother, determine to protect his little sister, stayed behind to fight off this monster. He was firing his toy gun at me at point blank range with no affect. To this day I can still see the terror on his little face through the eyeholes of my rubber mask. Tears streaming down his checks. I felt so sorry for him. That sympathy soon changed to fear.

Superman with George Reeves was a popular TV show back then. In almost every episode a crook fires his gun at the Man of Steel. When that doesn’t work he throws the gun at him in a desperate attempt to escape. It was a weak premise that seemed utterly ridiculous even to a ten year old. It turns out it’s not as unlikely as it sounds. For realizing the bullets were useless against this Wolfman wearing PF Flyers and an ice cream stained striped polo shirt, the little five-year-old boy made a last ditch effort of taking me down. Grabbing the gun by its barrel, he began swinging at me connecting with my knuckles over and over again. Now it was my turn to scream. At this point I stopped growling and started pleading with him to stop, but he kept on swinging away determine to destroy the beast. He threw the gun hitting me in the shins in which case I let out one more howl and he ran off never to be seen again.

My bruises lasted longer than the fight, even longer than my brother’s laughter as he rolled around the back lawn. Did I learn my lesson? I think the women in my life would have something to say about that.

Enjoy this Halloween and be safe.

After a year of plein air painting my work looks no different from when I started. Well, Christmas is coming so I'll have plenty of packaging material.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How I spent my Summer Vacation

For those of you who don’t know, I was busy working on a picture book this past summer, Little Trouble in Tall Tree. The final illustration was completed last week and an eBook is schedule to be released October 15th, a good day by my standards, with a traditional version later in the year. I wrongly assume everyone is familiar with the process of producing a book and surprised when asked about it. So the following is a description of this project.

Back in May, I received a call from a designer in California asking if I had the time and interest in doing illustrations for a picture book for grown-ups. She found my work on the Society of Illustrators of Los Angles’ website. The author hired her along with a public relations firm to head the project. They weren’t entirely happy with the two artists they hired and approached four more of which I was one. I was to produce two pieces and would be paid regardless if chosen or not. Many clients want you to work ‘on spec’ or speculation, which states you only get paid if they decide to use your artwork. This happens to many younger artists that need a break at the beginning of their careers.

While happy with what I submitted they wanted a third piece. After that was completed, with a few corrections, I was awarded the job. Next was my least favorite part of the process, the contract. This took some going back and forth. Someone at sometime posted the idea that all contracts with artists and writers should be a “Work for Hire” contract. In most cases this isn’t even applicable and can backfire against the client.

Work for Hire contracts state that the creative individual does not exist, has no rights, and has created nothing. (For a less jaundiced version go to Wikipedia.) WFH contracts are mostly for large projects with a team of creatives where the copyright cannot be shared, i.e.: compilations, films, atlases, and employees of companies such as Disney or advertising agencies. The alternative to this is a ‘transfer of all rights’ contract so the client can control the copyright in perpetuity but the artists (and I am referring to all creative types here) is still recognized as the creator. We finally agree on this as well as price, deadline and everything else. Now it’s mid July and the actual work begins.

To start the designer, along with my input, decide on the number of illustrations needed (nineteen in total, nine of which are black and white), and a breakdown of the book that includes the number of chapters and the art to go with it. Here is where the brainstorming of layouts and ideas come in to play. Artists need to communicate our ideas and be open to others, to put our egos aside and become collaborators and show ourselves as not just tool operators but visual problem solvers. To paraphrase one of my professors “Don’t fall in love with a layout. What’s pretty now can become pretty ugly.”

Let’s take our third piece that eventually became the title page. First, I did a number of pencil sketches to show my ideas. This one was one I liked, but they wanted to make it a spread. 

So I adapted it and once approved moved to an ink drawing. 

But the author wasn’t entirely happy with it and wanted some additional layouts. So I did a few more.

We narrowed it down to three.  

After some back and forth we went with a combination of A and C. From there I produced a tighter pencil sketch. 

Once this was approved I did a traditional inking. I usually work on Bristol board and use a Windsor Newton Series 7 brush, either size 1 or 0.  Then the art is scanned and brought into Adobe Illustrator where I add color. Notice the town is missing. In some cases I separate the art into multiple pieces if I think it will facilitate changes down the road. 

Illustrator allows you to work in layers and I take full advantage of that, turning some on or off while locking others. For instance the black ink work is on one layer, the town another, the color of the town a third and so on. This allows you to adjust, delete, hide, and work on sections without disturbing other parts.

Then a low-resolution version is emailed to the designer for approval. Often more changes are needed. Then it is off to the author for his approval. Then more changes. Luckily, the computer helps quite a bit in this area. I can’t imagine doing this using watercolors or gouache. Finally, a high-res version is uploaded to a site for the designer to place in the layout.

Multiply that by nineteen and you can see why I have turned into a modern day troglodyte. I worked in my cold basement wearing sweats even though the temperature was in triple digits outside. Then I emerged like an art lizard to warm up in the sun during lunch, shedding clothes along the way. Then back down for the rest of the day and most nights to work again.

Was it a lot of work? Of course, but aren’t all great jobs? Look for it soon on Facebook and

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What a racquet

I came up with the perfect crime…I mean business. It’s simple really and yet I’m surprised no one has thought of it before. Selling fake IDs to seniors. We are all familiar with phony IDs for teenagers trying to sneak in a bar or purchasing a beer or two. Instead of adding on a few years I want to take some off. 54 becomes 49, 63 turns into early fifties. There’s a gold mine in silver seniors. With the graying of America, there is a new niche to fill. More and more seniors are trying to look younger. Slogans such as “fifty is the new forty,” will only get you so far. Mine is an inexpensive alternative to plastic surgery. For those that are trying to find love the second or third time around, this may just be the arrow in Grandpa Cupid’s quiver.

            At last, my Photoshop skills can be used for evil and actually make me some real dough. And while cops are only too eager to pull a teenager over and check their driver’s license it will take one extraordinary patrolman to question a woman in menopause as to its validity. Will you be the one to suggest she needs to add a few years?

            It’s a natural progression. The older humans get the more likely they are apt to lie about their age. Darwin first wrote about it in his often-ignored book “The Deceit of Man”. Whether its dating, job interviews, senior discounts we all need to be either a little older or a little younger. I take the older route myself, and then hope someone will say “Wow, you look great for a man in his sixties.” Of course you run the risk of them not saying a word, in which case you confess and accuse them of ageism.

            While still working out the logistics, I joined the local men’s tennis team. I figured it was good training for dodging cops when this all goes horribly wrong. The last team I was on was the company softball team back in the eighties. I was working for a cable television company at the time in the art department. I was the staff illustrator and Associate Art Director. Of course, neither title of which had any pull when it came to the team. With a roster fill of installers, truck drivers, and deliverymen, I looked more like the team psychologist than the first baseman. My uniform was just as clean after the season as when it was first taken out of the box. At least I was easy to spot in the lineup.

            The tennis team, however, is quite the opposite. And still I don’t fit in, but it’s the opposite. Made up of local bankers, lawyers, doctors, and real estate developers, once again I am odd man out. Each week the team’s captain sends out emails to ascertain who will be available to play in a match. A flurry of replies would flash across my computer screen with such notes as “No can do…in Cambodia,” and “Sorry, have to fly out to Croatia tomorrow,” and “Be away until business deal gets done, Arrivederci.” I weakly and weekly reply “In my basement…is it nice out?”

            The ages of the players run from mid-forties to late sixties. My first reaction when meeting the team was do I want to play with a bunch of old men? Then it hit me. My God, I am an old man! But old men wear suspenders, and trousers. They say things like ‘when I was your age’ and ‘cat got your tongue’. When did all this happen? One minute I’m attending concerts and the next I’m one table farther away from the dais in life.

            What hit me most were all the arms, legs and joints sporting bandages. They all seemed to suffer wounds from past battles on the clay court. Our team had more wraps than a California snack bar. It was junior high all over again, and I so desperately wanted to fit in. This time instead of braces on my teeth I donned one on my leg.

            They turned out to be a really nice group of guys. With a record of 0-6 I’m more of a vestigial player. And yet when I mentioned I would be away in France (that felt good emailing) and miss two of the matches they were very supportive. They even offer to start a pool to extend my vacation. I explained how I would miss a third match, but they insisted. What a great bunch of fellows.

            The important question is has it helped me in staying or looking younger? Don’t be ridiculous. How can being beaten by a seventy-two year old dermatologist with a knee brace make you feel better? I feel worst now then when I started the season. It’s back to the drawing board, literally, and a new ID. If you want me I’ll be in ‘Botswana’, which is what I’ve been calling my basement these days.

Another nude I did from figure drawing workshop.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pardone M'Whaa

There is a show on television that simulates life on earth after the extinction of man. I think they’re pandering to the Mayan demographic. Left unattended the vacant buildings have all sorts of vegetation slowly overtaking them. After only being away for ten days my body does a good impression of those buildings. Things are growing out of inappropriate places. My bathroom cabinet resembles a tiny garden shed with all sorts of tools for trimming, pruning, and edging. It’s a constant battle of upkeep and my curb appeal is getting tougher to maintain the older I get.

The trip I’m referring to was to France, my first and hopefully not my last there, although, they may feel differently. When asked how I found the French I’d say “Easy, they’re all over the place.” (If you like that joke then look for my new book “The Wit and Wisdom of Popsicle Sticks” under my pen name: Earl Leon Dementia) In preparation for my journey I watched every Pepe Le Pew cartoon I could get my hands on and purchased a Marcel Marceau French Mime to English Dictionary so I could converse with the natives.

In fairness, I did try to speak the language but apparently they have an obscene word for every common one. When I ordered the duck it came out grilled assholes. My wife nearly died of embarrassment when I asked for the check but came out as if I was referring to a female body part. After a few days I gave up and resorted to my Inspector Clouseau impersonation speaking only English with a French accent. I was getting so use to speaking this way that when I came across another American I began to pretend I was French trying to speak English. When I moved my chair in a restaurant so a gentleman pushing a stroller could get by he said “Mare See Boo Coo.” whereas I responded, “Your French is most excellent monsieur.”

With the exception of the aforementioned dish, the food was phenomenal. My daughter had a hot chocolate and brioche with sugar every morning for breakfast. Although, memories of my mother kept popping into my head when she did. My mom was uncomfortable being treated and had to complain about something along the way to discount what you were doing for her. When taking her to lunch for her birthday one year she ordered chicken salad on a brioche. When the sandwich came she looked down her nose and in her best Edna May Oliver voice announced “That is not a brioche!” Where in the waiter skulked away as heads of other patrons turned toward our table. Will my lunch PTSD ever go away?

It was interesting being in a socialist country. I don’t know why everyone here is so afraid of it? Everyone gets paid well, has free health care, take six-week vacations, there is a more even distribution of wealth, and no one ever asks for a tip or expects one. The service was just as good if not better than in the U.S. too. Except for the cab drivers that is. They seem annoyed if you want to hire them. After getting off the train in Versailles dragging along our luggage we asked a cabby for a lift to our hotel. He began arguing with my wife in French. When I asked her what that was all about she told me he said “Why don’t you just walk? It’s only a mile and a half down cobblestone streets.” It seems they would rather just sit around and smoke cigarettes than do their job. Once you get in the cab they do their best to get you out as fast as possible.

Many of the tourist in our hotel, and I believe this is true with many Europeans, have no shame in their bodies no matter what condition they’re in. This is the part of Puritanical America that I appreciate. After walking several hours in the sun and seeing the sites of Aix-en-Provence, we went back to the hotel to relax by the pool. It wasn’t very relaxing to me, however. For lounging a short distance away was a rather old couple. He in a Speedo too sizes too small, and she a one piece that could have used one more. They started rolling around on the blue chaise lounge like a couple of teenagers. I remember it was blue because it matched the veins in her leg. His hands were all over her stretch marks like he was reading the sports section in a Braille newspaper. We traded the pool for gelato the following day and never looked back.

Being back home a week now, my body is fully recovered. I did some sketching while in France, but not as much as I’d have like. I am hoping to use my reference photos for a painting or two at which time I’ll publish them in a future blog. Below is one I did by a very different pool. Seems I spent a lot of time around pools. We most certainly want to go back someday. I hear they have some great museums there too.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

I often write these blogs late at night. In case you haven’t noticed, I often leave the grammar on the foam pillow

Sometimes I wish I believed in God. It must be a great comfort knowing there is a big dad up in the sky watching over us. I am being sincere. I envy people that live a pious life and go to bed knowing someone is watching over them. That you will be rewarded for being kind and just and living a good life. It is also comforting when things don’t always work out. The rational to say it is God’s way, like WWII and the Chicago Cubs. I worry about my children like most other parents and it would help to know God is looking out for them when I’m not around.

To me, however, there is no grand design to the universe. If there were, God would have better things to worry about than whether Larry and Steve in Dubuque, Iowa are having a go at each other, or whether the Nuggets can pull off an upset. Through all the planets in all the Cosmos you think he would care about that? How egocentric we are.

That brings me to another point on God. It’s been said, apparently by an anal retentive, that Godliness is next to cleanliness. To all the slobs out there, relax. He (or She ) is not as concerned with the roll of your socks as you may think. A much more appropriate statement would be Godliness is next to Motherhood. Mothers leave a huge imprint on our psyches, that more than makes up for poverty, injustice, education, and all the other ills of a childhood that we may endure. She can make a gifted child do more, an ordinary child feel loved, and a child with a disability, special. A mom needs to fill their child with confidence and nurtured with love. It can even be more difficult being the mom of a step-child or adopted child, when that love isn’t always reciprocated. “How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!.” King Lear, William Shakespeare.

Being a mom is not a job, but it is hard work. Your reward is seeing your child happy. I think how lucky my daughter is for having my wife as her mother. Cas learned it from her mother and it is a gift she is passing down again. Thank you to all the moms, step-moms, surragate moms out there this Mother’s Day that work so hard at making their children feel loved. 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Need Answers

Why does everyone dread jury duty? It’s the only lottery I consistently win. This time I was chosen for a criminal case. Here in Boulder, the courtroom was a relaxed almost congenial atmosphere. There were no armed guards in the courtroom. We were allowed to bring food and drinks while listening to testimony. Jurist wore whatever they wanted, which included Crocs and shorts. Outside the courthouse is bucolic Boulder Creek and just behind stand the Flatirons. We sat quietly for two days listening to testimony. Once we entered the Jury room everyone needed to talk at once. Coming from an Italian background, eleven people talking at the same time was nothing more than a typical Sunday dinner. It was no wonder I was elected foreman. After two hours of deliberations we reached verdicts on all four counts. Back east, we’ve had longer arguments on who should be invited to a bridal party. So why is everyone afraid to be called? Just think of it as getting together with relatives without the sauce.

With all this talk about the Titanic lately I have one thing to ask. Why didn’t the captain sail back to the iceberg and put all the passengers on it?

Pat Robertson and other religious leaders claimed Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005, was a result of God wanting to punish the U.S. because of our legal right to have an abortion. In 2010, Robertson said Haiti made a "pact to the devil" and that is what brought on the devastating earthquake. So why is God attaching the Bible Belt now with all these hurricanes?

Which are you more outraged about?
A) The Secret Service hiring prostitutes in Columbia
B) The GSA spending more than $800,000 on a junket

How is it possible that my wife is so bad with plants she killed our rock garden?

When I was young my hair was an unruly forest that got trimmed once every June. This way it had time to grow back in time for school. So why is it now that my scalp resembles a vacant lot in the Bronx I need to get it cut every two weeks?

And lastly, the Forest Service has a question. What do you do with six frozen cows in an abandoned cabin? Two hikers discovered them this week. The question is do they leave them and let nature take its course? Should they burn them? Or should they blow up the cabin with the cows inside? See, not all government jobs are boring. Kids, get your cameras ready!

Sidney, the chapter book, is almost complete. Here is another illustration during his couch session.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I ought to memorialize ya!

 As you might have surmised at this date another Mega Million Lottery has come and gone and my wallet is a few dollars lighter than I would have liked. So instead of driving my daughter in our new flying car to catch a movie I made her pack a bag of stale potato chips from home.

It’s too bad to since I had some mighty good plans for that money. For one thing I wouldn’t have fallen into that ‘buy an island’ crowd. The last thing I want to do is cook coconuts and clams for the rest of my life. Besides, I know how I can get on my wife’s nerves after a week’s vacation let alone a few months. It’ll be a remake of “The Shining” with sand and I’m Shelley Duvall.

I was hoping to make a bet with Mitt Romney for $10,000 on what weights more a bowling ball or Newt’s head. If it was a big enough payout I could write, direct, and star in my own movie. Then send a copy to Jerry Lewis with a note saying “See, this isn’t always a good idea.”

Or perhaps produce a calendar based on the work of Anne Geddes, but instead of photographing babies I would have senior citizens. Who wouldn’t want to turn to March and see grandpa lying on a rug dressed up like a box of raisins? Hey, the population is graying, why not an easy to read large type calendar to go with it?

We can all agree that those are great ideas. With such a big payout, however, I need a big payout idea. Which means I could finally start work on my magnum opus. I would open a museum dedicated to The Three Stooges.

The building would have three structures. The two wings would be dedicated each to Moe and Larry. The middle and largest of the three is constructed like Russian Nesting Dolls with four distinct sub-structures. The largest would be dedicated to (who else?) Jerome, Curly, Howard and down through Shemp, Joe Besser and finally Curly Joe DeRita. All four areas will show films exclusively to that artist.

The museum is free to get in but instead of paying you have to get slapped in the face. When the doors open each day you’ll hear “Hello, Hello, Hello…Hello in their best sing song voice. Larry will announce the floors in the elevators. Speaking if which, you will also need to push two buttons for each floor accompanied by someone plucking a violin. Each guard is specially trained to insult every patron so no one feels left out. “Hey porcupine, not so close to the exhibit.”

The cafeteria will serve chicken soup (pour through a real chicken) and of course clam chowder and coffee. The gift shop has everything you need to make your visit complete from a spinning bow tie to a pen the writes under whipped cream.

We can also arrange children’s party with their complimentary pie fight and the ultimate IMAX Stooge Experience Laser Light Show, with real lasers. Kids, cover your eyes!

With a Chrome Dome membership you will receive a singing telegram on your birthday PLUS 10% off from our interior design department by Omay.

Can’t you just picture it? It will be everything you always wanted in a Stooge Museum. You’ll want to come back again and again, once your face heals from all the slapping. And all it takes is a dollar and a dream.

Painting I did for a recent competition. Also, my website has be redesigned if you care to check it out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Deep Thoughts

It took me awhile to decide whether to hate James Cameron or not. I do. He recently took a one-man dive in a submersible 6.8 miles into the Mariana Trench. Cameron was quoted as describing it as “…a completely black void like being on the moon or the first 45 minutes of ‘Titanic’”. While it is true it was part of a National Geographic expedition, the real reason he made the trip was to find a place to store his extra ego that he no longer could contain.

Although it is admirable that he is devoting time and money to research instead of drugs, I do think he should have left the final drop to the poor bastards that devoted their lives to oceanography and without whose help he could not have accomplished this feat. You know, the scientists that aren’t named in any of the news reports. If it were me, I would have made the second descent, stopping a foot short.

It’s springtime here again in Colorado and that means two things. First, it is mating season for skunks. No I’m not talking politics again. These are the four-legged Pepe LePew variety. Love is in the air, or something like it, as our road-kill gives off an interesting aroma of romance and nausea. Everyone slows down to below the speed limit avoiding the necessity of digging chunks of skunk out of the groves of new Michelins radials.

The second is the wildfires, which is a much more serious topic. Growing up on the east coast, every season was just as malaise-filled as the previous one. But Colorado is similar to the Gulf States, where certain times of the year call for extra precautions. With winds blowing at 50 mph, and humidity around 23%, fires start and travel very quickly. You can’t fight nature but learn to live with it. It helps make a community what it is as everyone needs to contribute to the safety of the area. I have a real appreciation to those that battle the fires (I guess you can fight nature), and in the Gulf’s case, contain the floods. Thank you for doing a dangerous job and keeping us safe.

Now onto another topic…

I was sitting in a coffee bar last week eavesdropping on a family at the next table. The little boy asked his mom about reincarnation (this is Boulder remember) and if she did what kind of animal would she come back as. “I think I would like to be an otter,” she told her son. “What about you dad?” He answered “The kind that kills otters.”

Our dog is getting a bit long in the tooth these days. My daughter thinks we should buy pet insurance. “What for?” I asked. “In case she gets sick and needs medicine,” she answered. “Honey,” I said in my soothing daddy voice “the only medicine we’ll ever need for her is a shovel.” Now anytime I do any gardening she acts as chipper as a puppy.

Things have been busy around here lately. My daughter is off from school this week and my wife quit her job. She said she is taking the summer off. When I pointed to the calendar that still had March on it, she just laughed and said “Why don’t you make trout almandine for dinner?” I think I have my work cut out for me.

I am working on a painting for a local competition that is due in three weeks. So far I am pretty happy with the results, which is leading to endless anxiety-filled sleepless nights. I’ll post it when completed. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an inking I did from a model session.

One last note: I removed a filter from this blog so anyone can post a comment without the need for registering. This will make it easy to comment. And I just know those comments will be of a positive nature, right?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sidney Sees A Shrink

You might be sick of hearing about Sidney or maybe you have never heard of him before, but either way he is coming back. My picture book "Sidney Sees A Shrink" that I produced in grad school has gone through a transformation. Because of its wordiness and subject matter, I decided to turn Sidney into a chapter book for a slightly older audience.

I plan on self-publishing it sometime this spring, because we all know how much kids love to read in the summer. The story is finished along with fourteen of the twenty completely new black and white drawings. "Sidney Sees A Shrink" holds a place close to my heart, but north of my pancreas, and will be available through and I hope you can check it out.

Scene from Chapter Five.

While in the middle of group therapy the dogs are convinced there is a cat in the room.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Some tidbits and random thoughts

In 1864, Lewis Carroll asked John Tenniel to illustrate Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Tenniel accepted and was paid £138 or roughly $219. Today writers, and some publishers, seeking illustrators offer around the same amount to illustrate an entire book.

Rick Santorum's view on women’s rights dates back to the Middle Ages. If that is what he believes I can accept it, but who is voting for him? They can’t all be men. While a group of white middle-age religious men testified on Capital Hill about Women’s Contraception Rights, not one woman was asked to participate. In fact one was denied to speak.

Would someone look out the window and see if Superman is circling the globe backwards?

I was driving home from the local nursery, Strother & Martin’s, when I heard Governor Christie wants to lower the flags at half-mast for Whitney Houston. I would rather see them lowered for a sanitation worker killed in the line of duty than a drug addict. Celebrity you say? They weren’t lowered for Frank Sinatra or Lou Costello, both Jersey born, why her?

It has all become too acceptable for an entertainer to overdose. Maybe the industry should be regulated like sports. When players started receiving too many serious head injuries, the NFL changed the design of the helmets along with the rules. Instead of protecting entertainers the industry has these tributes that go on for days. It’s safer to be in porn than music.

I wish the producers of “The Bachelor” were involved in the Republican nomination race. It would go a lot faster. Mitt will you accept this rose?

The other day at a Chinese restaurant I got a fortune cookie that read “Your luck will change”. What the hell does that mean? Now it’s 5 o’clock in the morning and I can’t sleep trying to figure out whether I have had a good life or not.

The father of my daughter’s friend told me he is planning to swim the Straights of Gibraltar next summer. I told him it wasn’t necessary since they have a ferry system now, but he said its part of his bucket list. That’s the kind of people you find out here. My bucket list has ‘buy a DVR’, which I thought was a sure thing until I got that damn fortune cookie.

If you read my last piece I wrote about my Oscar picks, which will be televised this Sunday (The Oscars that is not my picks, although I guarantee they would go a lot shorter). I have to write an addendum. I just finished watching “The Help” a few minutes ago. By far the best picture I have seen in a long time. This film was beautiful, poignant, clever, funny, but mostly important. It showed a similar human spirit as “Schindler’s List”. I was very hesitant to watch it thinking it was a ‘chick flick’. Sometimes great films have awful marketing. That is the case here. It really was a great piece of filmmaking. I know I always have a least one thing to critique, and I do with “The Help” but unlike Minny’s pie recipe, I’ll keep it to myself.

By the way, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is circulating a petition about what happened on Capitol Hill if you are interested. Here is the link and yes I did sign it. Apparently, even though it is 2012 I still need to help protect my daughters’ and wife’s rights.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar

Yes the Oscars will soon be upon us and that means you are eagerly waiting to read what I have the say about them. I won’t go through all the categories in fear this will read like the show itself. Speaking of the show. Next year please get someone else to host rather than a balloon with a painted face. What is with old comedians and plastic surgery? Are they so desperate to get a laugh?

Best Picture

"The Artist"

This has a good chance for the title alone. Hollywood still thinks it makes art. But spending over $75 for tickets, snacks, and a sitter for a black and white silent film? I’ll wait for the DVD.

"The Descendants"

ehh, good not Oscar worthy.

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Too painful and released too late.

"The Help"

Seems like many African-Americans hate this film, so forget its chances. Didn’t see it.


Beautifully filmed. Marty will most likely win since he is passed due, although I have a few critiques. 1) While imitating French films the characters seems more like caricatures. Just compare an early scene with one from “Amelie”. 2) Borat as an inspector? Please. 3) Why does Hollywood use English actors to portray everyone from a foreign country? Not only would it feel more authentic to have them speak with French accents, but it would heighten Hugo’s isolation. Marty, for your next project, call me. Second half with Méliés was great. Yes, I said great.

"Midnight in Paris"

Beautiful charming film. Little overdone with the yellow filter. Owen Wilson looked like he was caught between his acting style and Woody’s. Won’t win.


See “Descendants”

"The Tree of Life"

Good time to catch up on that much needed nap.

"War Horse"

Remake of “Frances Goes to War” but without the laughs. Boring meandering plot. Only one decent scene with the cavalry charging the machine guns in an old world meets new. If Spielberg didn’t have his name on this it wouldn’t have made the cut.

My pick? “Thor”. Out of all the nominated films I couldn’t watch any twice. That’s the true test of an Oscar winner. Be honest, which of these would you watch more than once?

Actor in a Leading Role

Demián Bichir in "A Better Life"

Never heard of it.

George Clooney in "The Descendants"

I wasn’t sure about this pick until I talked to my wife. She was deeply saddened watching this film. Sad? Did we see the same film? Here’s a brief summation. Clooney’s character is married to a horrible woman that apparently is a crappy mother and is having an affair with Shaggy. She is in a boating accident and dies. The guy is a lawyer whose family owns a billion dollars of Hawaiian real estate, his kids start to love him again, he lives in Hawaii, AND he looks like George Clooney! And everyone feels bad for the guy? That, my friend, is acting.

Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"

I’ll get back to you.

Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"

Someone tell the academy remakes don’t win.

Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"


Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn"

Sorry but I just can’t see him as Marilyn.

Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"

Was he in this?

Nick Nolte in "Warrior" Really?

Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"

Chris is long, LONG overdue. One of the best actors around today.

Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Max is long, LONG overdue. One of the best actors around today. Wait, did I just…Aren’t they the same person?

Actress in a Leading Role

I didn’t see any of these movies, so I’ll just pick Michelle Williams since Hollywood loves Marilyn. Besides, everyone is sick of Meryl, “The Help” is too controversial, Rooney comes from money, and Glenn Close really is a man. Why do you think they call her Glenn?

Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs"

Viola Davis in "The Help"

Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady"

Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn"

Actress in a Supporting Role

I only saw “Bridesmaids” and comedies very rarely win. Besides, does anyone really care about this category? Can’t they move it to the technical night and make the show shorter?

Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist"

Jessica Chastain in "The Help"

Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids"

Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs"

Octavia Spencer in "The Help"

The saddest comment is the number of original songs nominated. Just two and they had to scrape iTunes clearance barrel for them. Maybe the Academy should just skip categories some years. However, I think it will be a big night for Scorsese who made a film the Academy can get behind.

Overall it promises to be one of the most mundane years ever. I think the only thing that will help is if Vegas sets some odds. What’s the over/under for GOP jokes in the monologue?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who Loves Ya Baby

I started a new workout routine and I am already filled with doubts and dubiousness. Over the years I learned that one of the important things when working out, dieting, or any long-term project is to have a goal. Number of pounds you want to loose, lowering your blood pressure, things like that. Mine was to best my personal trainer at arm wrestling. It might sound superficial, but it seemed like a good idea that was also achievable. After a few weeks on my new regiment I felt ready.

“Okay Nicole,” I told her, “you’re going down,” with an air of misguided bravado. Nicole let out a slight smile and was quiet as she placed her elbow on the padded bench her forearm poised her hand in an open grip. Bam! Over. You know those cameras that capture hummingbird wings flapping around a flower? Well, you needed one of those to capture Nicole’s victory in all its glory. What really was upsetting was her “In your face” taunts afterwards that rang through the gym as if from a cracked tin bell. It was briefly after this first humiliation that I was dealt with yet another.

While driving in the car with my youngest daughter she told me I should start working out. “But honey,” I said “I have been. In fact I go to the gym four to five times a week.” She couldn’t believe her ears and asked “Then why are you still fat?” I went on to tell her that stomachs are naturally round in nature. Flat stomachs are an oddity. Just look at our cousins, the orangutan. Besides, I added, I have a six-pack of abs. I just prefer to keep them in a cooler where they belong.

Let’s face facts. Most of us aren’t cut and can’t get cut to the point where strangers (and sometimes loved ones) want to look at us. It’s a myth perpetrated by the film industry using high tech computer software, a good deal of makeup, digital imaging and androids. These ‘humans’, if that’s what they really are, have it in their contracts to be shirtless in every movie they appear. Its reverse sex discrimination and I for one am very offended.

Movies are an escape. Instead they have become a sadistic minefield, selling buttered popcorn while images of superior body types flash before my wife’s eyes. Well, I won’t let them do that to her. I refuse to see any movie with George Clooney, Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Lautner (to be honest I wouldn’t see him in any movie), Brad Pitt, Josh Brolin, Hugh Jackman, Matt Damon, or Daniel Craig. Consequently, as a result of my boycott, I miss a lot of movies. But more importantly, they make me sick. From now on I only take my wife to films that star Paul Giamatti or Steve Buscemi. And who wouldn’t want to see a Philip Seymour Hoffman, or a Clint Howard in a romantic comedy? How about a remake of Valentine’s Day where a shirtless Drew Carey makes out with Linda Hunt? It may still suck, but I could leave the theatre feeling good about myself for a change.

Instead of excessive dieting and exercise what we need is a new spokesman for this generation. What Telly Savalas did for bald men in the seventies, Jack Black could do for the heavy weights now. Instead of ‘Bald is Beautiful’ (although come to think of it I could use that too), we can have ‘Pretty in Portly’, or maybe ‘Fat is Phat’. There was a period when beautiful starlets such as Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron donned ugly makeup for roles. I’m issuing a challenge to all those actors out there. If Salma Hayek is brave enough to wear a unibrow, why can’t Matt Damon? What’s the matter pretty boy? Afraid? Come on Hollywood, what about us regular guys?

"Who Loves Ya Baby"

An unrelated Harvester 1-12-12

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


When I was in school all those years ago I was your typical angry young man. I had to rebel against everything that was established in those days with my music, clothes, even my hair. Refusing to listen to parents about dressing properly for an interview or lowering the volume of Brain Salad Surgery on my Sansui 7070 when others asked only made me want to do it more.

Is it the perspective of age and a certain amount of sagacity over the years that I have learned to be more tolerant? Hardly. More likely it is due to having less to protest with since losing my hair and a good deal of hearing, Although, I think I still have those painter’s pants in the back of my closet along with a Jethro Tull concert T from 1979. But as any reader of these ramblings can tell you I haven’t mellowed completely over the years. I’ve gone from an angry young man to a complaining old one. Now I’m ready to turn another corner.

My first idea was to install a plaque on my front door. I got this notion when I went to the movies. The sign would read “Please refrain from using your cell phone and keep your voice down for the enjoyment of others.” These marketing people know what they are doing. But that didn’t go far enough.

I’ve entered the millennium last week (better late than never I suppose) with a purchase of an iPhone. Not the new one mind you, but the one you can get for .99, $1.07 with tax. It was a reluctant decision based mostly on the fact that the ‘6’ button didn’t work on my old phone. Not having a keyboard didn’t help either while trying to communicate with those accustomed to texting.

I resisted for as long as I could. But now that I own one my viewpoint is changing. I am now embracing the American art of marketing and advertising. The first thing I notice were all the alerts you can choose from. I want to incorporate them throughout my whole house. Who wouldn’t feel important when you open the front door to the fanfare of French horns from the ‘Sherwood Forest’ clip? I may just go in and out a few times each day to give my frail and tattered ego a boost. I plan on having all my entrances wired so they play different alerts depending who is there. I call it the iDoor. Now everyone can have his or her own theme song, just like Dick Cheney has Darth Vader’s. For my mother-in-law, what else but ‘Science Fiction’ to give me a heads up. ‘Suspense’ is perfect for strangers and bill collectors. I can even use the ‘Bark’ since my dog has become apathetic and doesn’t give a shit who is knocking any more.

Why stop at the front door? For those long dinners that need a little pick me up how about iTable? Have a very close friend that tells awful jokes? The ‘Cricket’ is perfect for those occasions. ‘Time Passing’ may give those never want to leave guests the hint. Introducing the iPet, a small CPU chip we implant in your pet so you can get them to behave the way you want them to. Hmmm, maybe an iSpouse? (Note to self: tell my wife I stopped writing this blog.)

And you people were worried now that Steve Jobs is gone. Tsk, tsk. Why I have a million ways we can push Apple to the next frontier. There’s the iBoss (be your own boss), the iGovenment (we can save a lot of waste here folks!) and the iI where eventually you can replace yourself. Yes sir, once again I’m hip and happening. It only took four decades. I only have one question. What are theses things called ‘apps’?

Just a couple of sketches I did on vacation before my pad fell in an ice bucket.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions? Really?

I suppose you want to read something all cheery and full of hope for the New Year? Well, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m still suffering the effects of my money hangover to be optimistic.

I started the year off in the right frame of mind but by the 2nd of January it was only a dim memory. You see for this year I made a whole list of resolutions that would bring great changes and much joy to my life. Oh they weren’t for me, but for my loved ones, family, friends, fellow motorists, theatre-goers, restaurant guests, and any strangers that I happened to meet along the way. For some reason, however, they were less than enthusiastic upon receiving my unsolicited advice. I haven’t seen such strong resistance since France in the 1940s.

And they weren’t just for my benefit. I have been exposed to enough bad habits, poor hygiene, misguided parenting, and mental disorders that could serve as the new lineup for TLC. And yet…oh well. That’s the last time I try to help. Well, maybe the second to last.

I do have one more resolution. This one is for the news media. It seems every year for as long as I can remember they dig up a story about a good Samaritan helping a family in need, getting them gifts for under the Christmas tree or paying off a much needed debt. And while these stories warm the cockles of my heart (yes I have cockles, but the doctor promised me he could get rid of them) it got me to thinking. Aren’t there any Jews, Muslims or, God forbid, atheists out there that could use some help? Don’t they ever have problems during Chanukah, Ramadan, or Festivus? Couldn’t the media show someone helping out a non-Christian for once? One of the principles of this country is Freedom of Religion, and that is with half the founding fathers as practicing atheists. I guess what I’m asking for is a little Freedom From Religion.

Even as I write this I can hear some of you saying, “Well, he’s going to Hell.” You may be right. Please believe me I’m not trying to be anti-religion. I just think sometimes we forget that we should love and show kindness to everyone, not just the ones that believe what we believe.

A fortune-teller told me a few years back that I'll probably die in my 50s or 60s. So I decided to enjoy what time I have left, to be less concerned about money, less critical, and be a kinder person (How am I doing so far?). If she was right I'll enjoy my remaining years. If she was wrong I'll be asking people if they want two percent or whole milk in their lattes when I'm 75 while trying to make ends meet.

And who knows. Maybe the Mayans will be right and we're all going in 2012. Although, why would anyone put much faith in a race of people that couldn't figure out how over one million of them could beat two-dozen Spaniards is beyond me. When the time comes and if there is a God maybe He’ll be a regular guy and say, “Well you are a complaining little bastard, but what the hell c'mon in.” Either way, I’m okay with it. And I suppose if I want to be a better person I should start now and wish everyone a wonderful 2012. I hope you receive all that you long for this year, unless of course you’re Mayan.