Friday, December 30, 2016

A SUGGESTED NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: “ONE MORE”



Growing older may have its benefits (supposedly, you gain wisdom… I’m still waiting) but there are a lot of negative aspects of aging that go way beyond the normal aches and pains.
 
Specifically, you start losing friends and loved ones. And in the past few years, I’ve lost some very close ones.

When friends you’ve had more than thirty years pass away, it takes a while to sink in. You think they’re still around, and then it hits you that they’re gone. Little things remind you of a certain loved one (don’t laugh, but whenever I see artichokes in the grocery store, I think of my mom, who absolutely loved them.) If I’ve watched a great Mets game I still reach for the phone to call my old friend Harvey, the most rabid Mets fan ever… and then feel sad knowing he’s no longer there for a chat. I see a sci-fi movie I know Dan would love… and wish he was sitting next to me in the theater.

When loved ones leave us unexpectedly, you tend to kick yourself, wishing you’d had one more chance to share something with them. In Dan’s case, he took his own life… and I can’t help but think that one more phone conversation might have talked him off the ledge. Then again, I had no clue he was in pain because I hadn’t talked to him in a long time. If only…

One more.

What wouldn’t I give for one more trip to the casino with Mom. Or one more night at the racetrack with Dad. Shooting one more news story with Steve. One more board game of Risk with Mike. One more day in the kitchen with my hilarious Aunt Mary.

In Steve’s case, we often got together for lunch, and did so a few days before he passed. So I didn’t feel guilty about that one. I’d had my “one more” with him.

In Harvey’s case, I can’t help but think of him often since the Mets have a pitcher named Matt Harvey and his last name is on the back of the uniform.

So I started looking up old friends in the hopes for one more… something. Sadly, several of them were gone. But the opportunities were there for one more with those who were still around.

Is there someone you would desperately miss if they were suddenly gone? Of course. So pick up the phone, send an old fashioned letter, do a video chat, get in the car and go for a visit. Reach out.

If you need a New Year’s resolution, consider taking advantage of the “one mores” you still have. Because once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

Friday, November 25, 2016

How to do laundry in a Samsung washing machine

Dear Samsung,

Thank you for sending the enclosed stickers for my washing machine so that I will always be reminded that doing laundry can kill me. I know this sounds like a sensational local news sweeps series ("spin cycle of death"), but obviously you have a real concern that the lid of my washer can become detached and fly off at me like Odd Job's hat in "Goldfinger", taking my head off while flinging underwear onto the ceiling fan where it will dry the old fashioned way.

However, you forgot to include the new directions for doing a load of laundry in a Samsung washer, so I'll share my method as a public service:

1. Load clothing into washer tub.
2. Add detergent.
3. Very gently close lid, using salad tongs.
4. Put on safety goggles, football helmet, and body armor. Hold metal shield at chest level with one hand and baseball bat with the other. (Remember, should the lid ever fly off at you, block with the shield and swat it away with the bat until it's dead. Always block and swat, not the other way around.)
5. Hit the "start" button, using the end of the baseball bat.
6. Run like hell.
7. When laundry cycle is complete, throw laundry room circuit breaker turning off all power to the washer. It is now safe to enter the room.

Again, I feel much safer now knowing that washing dress shirts rather than taking them to the dry cleaners can place my life in peril.

By the way, I hear you guys make a cell phone that is simply the bomb.


 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Books for Republicans who like happy endings

I have a pen name for my political thrillers, writing as Nick Harlow. About four years ago I wrote a novel about a reality show celebrity running for President. My former agent read it and told me it was "way too over-the-top and totally unbelievable."

Have I mentioned that I can predict the future?

Needless to say, the book started selling this year. 

ENDGAME 


Earlier this year there was talk of a "brokered convention" when it looked like candidates of both parties might not have enough delegates to win the nomination. What might have happened?

THE BROKERED CONVENTION 


My best-selling book this year which has been in the top 100 political novels chart on Amazon is definitely the most fun. "Hit List" is the story of how the Mafia gets so fed up that the entitlement society has destroyed disposable income that they decide to get the most flaming liberals in the country "out of the way"... but not by killing them.

HIT LIST



There have been plenty of administrations in which the President and Vice President did not get along, and, in some cases, actually hated each other. In "The Race" there is so much animosity that the Republican President and Vice President run against each other.

THE RACE 



Finally, a change-of-pace book set far in the future after liberalism goes off the rails and the resistance finally gets fed up.

(Really, I should buy a lottery ticket)

THE ASCENDANT 




Monday, September 26, 2016

In honor of tonight's debate, some tales of what politicians are really like...

As someone who spent my career as a TV reporter, I had the opportunity (excuse me, cross to bear) to meet and interview local and national politicians. Most made me want to take an immediate Silkwood shower.  But at least they gave me plenty to work with when writing political thrillers. And right now two of my books are in a bundle with some other terrific authors:

https://storybundle.com/politics

Recently another author who reviewed one of my works in progress asked me if one of my characters needed to be so unlikeable. While I never base a character on anyone in particular, throwing together a good composite from my personal experiences often results in a character who makes Lord Voldemort look like a choirboy.

The vast majority of politicians I've encountered are phonies, egomaniacs, rude, and often not terribly bright. All, regardless of party, have the same common denominator. Their number one priority is getting elected.

But I always have a good political character to balance things out. There are a few out there in real life.

So I'll share some of my favorite stories about real politicians as you get the popcorn ready for tonite's debate:

-She's in a better place. Really.
The mother of a candidate I'd been covering passed away, and I thought I would drop by the wake to offer my sympathies to the guy. Upon arriving at the funeral home I found the candidate, along with a few other politicians, talking strategy about the upcoming election. About three feet away from his dead mother's open casket.

-The honey-do Senator.
I was assigned to produce a live shot for Meet The Press with Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and told to do it from his home. So I arrived at his house and realized we could never get a live shot since there were so many tall trees. I knocked on the door and was greeted by his wife. "Saxby will be right back. I sent him to the grocery store for ice cream." Now in the annals of reporting that would seem to be an incredibly lame excuse to get out of an interview. But thirty seconds later, the Senator pulled in the driveway and unloaded a few bags of groceries from the trunk.

-Well... at least he's honest. 
Me (on the day a man with no political experience announced his candidacy): "What would you do if you're elected?"
Candidate: "I have no idea."
(He won in a landslide. It helps to be rich.)

-Forget Paris.
During a debate, a candidate for the House of Representatives says that unless drastic steps are taken, America will turn into a third world country. Like France.

-Long time no talk.
At the 1988 Democratic convention I was walking down the stairs and Senator Paul Simon of Illinois was walking up. He locks eyes with me, smiles, sticks out his hand and shakes mine. "How are you? You're looking so well! Great to see you again! (I had never met the man.)

-I never had sex with that woman, part deux. 
I cornered a gubernatorial candidate who was rumored to be having an extra-marital affair and asked him about it. He gave me the death stare, said, "I won't even dignify that with a response" and stormed off. The day after he lost the election his wife filed for divorce. 

-World's cutest entourage.
I'm producing a Sunday morning live shot with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He talks tough during the entire interview. As soon as we wrap up, the door opens and a bunch of little kids run in and grab him yelling, "Grampa! Grampa!" He immediately turned into a regular person. (By the way, he's funny as hell off camera. Who knew?)

-And yes, these people can vote.
During a political forum, a man with wild eyes steps to the microphone and begs the politicians for help, since he feels he is in danger of "being deported to Hawaii."


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

THE BEST TV SHOW YOU MIGHT NOT BE WATCHING... AND THE EMMY GOES TO...

The Goldbergs!

What? You haven't heard of this hilarious show? Well, for some bizarre reason, the powers that be at ABC don't do much to promote its best sitcom.

So I guess I'll have to do it for them.

Tonight marks the fourth season premiere for this very unique show, based on Producer Adam Goldberg's VHS home videos he shot as a child. Normally I don't review anything, but this is one of the few bits of "appointment television" in our home. It's so different, so fresh, and manages to combine hysterical plots with sentimentality, making it the perfect family show.

America needs to discover this show if it hasn't already.

Set in the 1980s (my favorite decade) the show's focal point is smothering mother (or "smother") Beverly Goldberg, played by the brilliant Wendi McLendon-Covey. (You know her from "Bridesmaids.") She makes today's helicopter parent look like a paper airplane by comparison while maintaining a PhD in guilt. But always on the lookout to make sure her kids get a fair shake. She's a lot like the Jewish mothers I knew growing up... always hovering but maintaining strong unconditional love for their children.

But this is not a typical family sitcom as a few things make this show special. Each episode starts out with gut-busting humor, then shifts seamlessly into sentimentality while an appropriate song from the eighties plays in the background. Few shows can be sweet and hilarious at the same time, but The Goldbergs manages to pull it off. You start out laughing your ass off and end up wiping a sentimental tear. (We often have to hit the pause button until we stop laughing.) And just when you think the plots are so outlandish they couldn't possibly have happened, a thirty year old VHS clip pops up to serve as living proof.

Want more proof? Check out the real Beverly Goldberg on Twitter, who occasionally dishes out electronic guilt to her children with the simple phrase that can push any son's buttons. "Call your mother." (Full disclosure: I'm an only child with an Italian Catholic mom. I oughta know.)

The cast is perfect, from Jeff Garlin's get-off-my-lawn father to George Segal's "Pops" to the young actors playing the children. But Wendi McLendon-Covey steals every scene she's in. The writing is sharp and wickedly funny.

Back to the original promotion thing: why this show seems to get no love from the network is beyond me. While I didn't watch the Emmys (if I wanted a political and social lecture from elites I'd go back to college) I did read that the cast wasn't even invited. Neither the show or the cast received nominations, but these days you kinda need some sort of agenda to get love from Hollywood. To be honest, I'm sick of shows that try to push their beliefs on me, and that's one reason The Goldbergs is so different. No agenda, no shots at a certain political party. It's just damn funny.

The Goldbergs premieres tonight. Check it out. But I warn you not to drink any liquids while doing so, because you'll laugh so hard you'll spit them all over the floor.

 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The "God works in mysterious ways 9/11 story"

My late mother told me this story about a friend of hers and 9/11:

Mom's friend had a son with a very rare health problem. He was born with some sort of fatigue syndrome, always tired. But the kid was brilliant, always top of the class.

His mother always wondered why God had given her son such a challenge, why He had put such a brilliant mind into a body that wasn't normal. It bothered her a great deal. She constantly wanted an answer to the question... why God had done this to her son.

The son had a knack for finances, and got a job in New York's financial world. Luckily he had an understanding employer who realized this was not a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 employee and he could not work two days in a row. So they worked out a deal letting the guy work every other day. He would come to his office in Manhattan on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, using Tuesday and Thursday to rest.

His office was in the World Trade Center.

September 11th, 2001, was a Tuesday.

His fatigue syndrome had saved his life, as he was home resting on that fateful day.

His mother finally got her answer.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

HOW STAR TREK GOT US IN TROUBLE WITH THE NUNS 50 YEARS AGO



Back in 1966, kids were starved for good science fiction. We were stuck with junk like Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which used the same monsters since they had the same cheap producer. Outer Limits and Twilight Zone were in reruns.


And then NBC ran a promo for Star Trek, calling it “adult science fiction.”

Which meant every kid had to watch it.

We were instantly hooked after the first episode. The girls were drooling over William Shatner and the boys liked the uniforms on the female crew members. The schoolyard was filled with discussions on the show every Friday morning.

Then the episode “Where no man has gone before” aired, about a guy who developed supernatural powers and took on Captain Kirk. The schoolyard discussion on that one spilled over into the classroom, with the girls passing notes.

Which brings us to Sister Dionysia, one of the best teachers I ever had. A kindly nun who never used a ruler and was always available for extra help. But like all nuns of that era, maintaining discipline was very important to her.

The one thing that ticked her off… passing notes in class. (Yes, kids, there was a method of communication before texting.)

But Sister didn’t make you stay after school if she caught you. The punishment was much worse.

She would confiscate the notes and read them aloud in front of the whole class.

A couple of girls got caught the Friday after the third episode of Star Trek. Sister grabbed the notes.  “Well. Let’s see what’s more important to you girls than history class.” She marched back to the front of the room, and peered through her bi-focals. 

She unfolded the note. 

Now, imagine a 60-year-old nun in an old-fashioned habit reading this: “Captain Kirk is sooooo cute. Sooooo cute!”

The two girls turned beet red.

And then the recap of the episode got to something that crossed the line.

“Gary Mitchell developed supernatural powers--”

Uh-oh.

Sister’s death stare appeared as she looked up at the class. “Humans do NOT have supernatural powers. Only God has them.”

“But Sister, it’s fiction. It’s just a TV show.”

A wave of the hand. “Doesn’t matter. You kids shouldn’t be watching this stuff. Humans do NOT have supernatural powers.”

(Sadly, the Flying Nun premiered a year later, or we would have had somewhat of an argument.)

After that, we kept our Star Trek discussions confined to the schoolyard. Every once in awhile on a Friday Sister would ask if we’d watched anything interesting on TV, but we saw through that ruse.

Fifty years later, it’s still my favorite TV show. Passing notes evolved into writing, as my first professional fiction sale was a Star Trek short story.