Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Special Angels

Do you believe in angels? For many, an angel has religious connotations. Whether the religion is Christianity, Judaism or Islam, an angel is a spiritual being. As a youth, I learned that God created these spiritual beings to serve him and watch over the human race. These angels protect us from danger and deliver God’s message. I believe in these spiritual angels. However, the spiritual angel is not the only type that I am thankful for. 

Let me explain with the New Oxford American Dictionary definitions of angel:



1. A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe.

2. A person of exemplary conduct or virtue.

The second definition of angel provides for a wide range of possibilities. I am sure that growing up, all of us have had an adult that made a difference in our young lives.

It could have been a relative, teacher or even a coach. Maybe they helped you with something you could not comprehend or helped you to develop a skill. Maybe they just helped you to fit it.

Now as adults, this type of angel may be someone that has an impact on your life in other ways. Often times, this valuable type of angel comes in the form of a friend. Personally, I am fortunate to have a number of friends whom I consider to be angels.

Last night, I was singing the blues about some bad luck that caused me to be quite crestfallen. I whined and felt sorry for myself most of the evening. Right before falling asleep it finally dawned on me that I was blessed with three very special angels that care about me.

What makes these three angels so special is that I have never physically met any of them. And they are as different as night and day.

One is Catholic, another Muslim and the third isn’t a churchgoer. One angel lives less than an hour from me, one is on the other side of Lake Michigan and the third is across the Atlantic Ocean. That angel talks funny.

I have known my first special angel for nearly two decades. I would tell you how I met this angel, but then I would have to kill you. That’s a story for another blog. I speak with this angel on the phone at least two or three times a week.

Last year I realized just how special this angel was to me when she took ill and was laid up in the hospital for about a week. That didn’t stop us from talking on the phone. After numerous prayers, this angel made a miraculous recovery and things are back to normal. Whatever normal is. I’m just relieved that she recovered and is able to return to her angel duties.

The second special angel has been a regular part of my life for over six years. She is the only one of the three that I have “met” face-to-face, conversing five or six times a week on Skype. The only drawback to these visual encounters is her constant reminders for me to shave.

This angel came into my life when we met playing an online game in Pogo of all places. Every day I thank God for Pogo because I don’t know what I would do without this special angel. There is a void in my day whenever she goes on “holiday”.

I have known the final member of this special trio of angels for about two years. Over the past year we have become increasingly close and “talk” to each other on a daily basis in facebook. Okay, make that on an hourly basis. It amazes me how well she knows me.

It is ironic that while this angel is the closest to me geographically, we have never even spoken on the phone. Yet. We have discussed the possibility of breaking bread at a local pizzeria in the near future. It would be wonderful to actually meet one of my special angels in person.

Skeptics may ask why do we need angels. To be honest, I don’t know. God can deal with us any way He pleases. Maybe it’s as simple as that – it pleases God to have these angels minister to his children. That sounds good to me.

Whatever the reason, I am thankful to have been blessed with my three special angels. They are there for me without being asked and I love each of them dearly.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely believe in angels.

Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lineups Please…

My obsession with television is legendary. I’ve been a fan of TV since I was little, um, okay, young. While I don’t remember when we got our first color television set, my recollection of the programs is fairly solid. Sitcoms were my favorites. Shows like Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke and Beverly Hillbillies come to mind. I also remember being titillated as a 10-year old boy, watching Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne gyrating on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. On any given night you sit down to a lineup of quality programs.

What makes this so remarkable is back in those days there were only three networks to choose from. Because the programming was so good that you didn’t need a remote control. It wasn’t unusual to tune into one station and leave it there for three straight hours.

When the ‘70s began, there were televisions in 59 million households. At the end of the decade, there were 75 million. By the end of the ‘80s there were televisions in more than 90 million homes and cable television was exploding.

Out of curiosity, I called Time Warner Cable to find out how many channels I have available to me right now. A customer rep named “Daniel” informed me that with the current plan, I have over 275 different channels to choose from.

Wow!

No wonder there is such a plethora of reality shows being produced today. It would be safe to say that the Kardashians would not be millionaires back in the ‘60s. I’ll take the girls from Petticoat Junction - Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo over Kourtney, Kim and Khloe any day.

When you factor in the exorbitant cost of today’s cable with TV being completely free back in the days of only three networks, there really is no comparison in value. The lineups back then make those of today pale in comparison.

You don’t agree? I did a little bit of research and came up with my top three TV lineups from the days of free television. Take a look at these schedules and tell me that I am wrong.

Number 3 – Friday Nights in ‘71-‘72 on ABC:

7:00 – Brady Bunch
7:30 – Partridge Family
8:00 – Room 222
8:30 – Odd Couple
9:00 – Love American Style

Nice, huh? Leading off it was Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, although I definitely preferred the much underrated Jan. Next up was Shirley’s talented brood, featuring David Cassidy aka Keith serenading you each and every week.

In the third spot you had Karen Valentine portraying teacher Alice Johnson. She made all of the young male students drool, me included. In the cleanup spot was the classic battle of neatnik vs. slob with Felix and Oscar as the main combatants.

The night ended with Love American Style, which featured several tales of romance with a humorous spin. Recurring guests included Phyllis Diller, Milton Berle, Rich Little, Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, Soupy Sales and Tiny Tim.

That was only my third favorite lineup. It gets better.

Number 2 – Thursday Nights in ‘84-‘85, ‘85-‘86, ‘86-‘87 on NBC:

7:00 – Cosby
7:30 – Family Ties
8:00 – Cheers
8:30 – Night Court
9:00 – Hill Street Blues

Right off the bat, you had Heathcliff, Clair, Sondra, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy. When dad was an obstetrician/gynecologist and mom a lawyer, you knew that you could count on hilarity on a weekly basis.

Family Ties was a hit from ’82-’89 and I feel it would be just as popular in 2012. Imagine liberal parents Steven and Elyse bringing up the über conservative Alex today. We wouldn’t need Michael Moore and Sarah Palin.

At 8:00 you got to go where everybody knew your name. Whether it was Coach or Woody pouring you a cold one, you knew there was going to be a laugh. I wasn’t a big fan of Rebecca, though.

After you left Cheers, the gavel went down and the laughs continued. Lasting nine seasons and three bailiffs, I will always remember the Halloween episodes on Night Court. Public defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post) always wore outstanding costumes.

Finally, Thursday nights wrapped up with Hill Street Blues. The extensive cast included Kenosha’s very own, Daniel J. Travanti as Capt. Frank Furillo. It was one of the first shows that conveyed good guys having flaws and bad guys possessing redeeming qualities.

Believe it or not, there was one lineup that I felt was even better.

Number 1 – Saturday Nights in 73-74 on CBS:

7:00 – All in the Family
7:30 – M*A*S*H
8:00 – Mary Tyler Moore
8:30 – Bob Newhart Show
9:00 – Carol Burnett Show

This lineup is so strong; how do you comment on its’ greatness? Well, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…

You saw Archie and Edith at the piano singing off key, you knew it was time for All in the Family. Next, when the helicopters flew overhead to the strains of “Suicide is Painless”, it was M*A*S*H  starting.

Mary Tyler Moore followed when she cheerfully tossed her hat into the chilly Minneapolis air. A simple, “Hello” as Bob Hartley answered the ringing telephone on his desk, signified that the Bob Newhart Show was beginning.

Sadly, when you heard Carol Burnett sing, “I’m so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh, or sing a song. Seems we just get started and before you know it comes the time we have to say so long”, you knew the greatest lineup of television programs had come to an end for another week.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Congratulations!

Don’t you just love it when someone you know accomplishes something major in their life? It’s wonderful to see them reap the benefits of years of hard work. Perhaps I’m just living vicariously through them and I'm a little weird. But to me it doesn’t matter if the person is a family member, a close friend or even someone that I just know casually; it makes me smile when they succeed. Recently I had cause to smile when someone I know made a significant accomplishment and he deserves congratulations.

This guy is one of the hardest working people there is. Growing up he had a few obstacles to overcome but he got by them and landed a job with a major Milwaukee corporation in 2005. That same summer he also got married and started a family.

He had a strong work ethic and busted his hump, steadily moving up the corporate ladder. Before long he was not only one of the top performers for the small company in Wisconsin, but was also among the best at his position in the entire country.

His career has been marked with numerous awards and commendations, some coming at the national level. To go along with these professional accomplishments was the addition of two sons. The rambunctious youngsters are now his pride and joy.

Over the past seven years, this fellow has climbed to the top of his field and has become a man with strong family values. This past week he was rewarded for all of his effort and dedication.

He was offered a job with a new company. His position would essentially be the same, but he would receive a considerable pay increase. It was a wonderful opportunity but not without drawbacks, the biggest being he would have to relocate.

The new job was still in the Midwest, but he had come to love the city of Milwaukee and it’s people. He had also developed close relationships with many of his coworkers and bosses. It was a tough decision.

After much deliberation and discussion with his wife, he finally decided to take the new job and move his young family to Detroit, Michigan. He bid a fond farewell to his old boss, Mr. Attanasio and was welcomed by his new boss, Mr. Ilitch. His hard work had paid off.

Congratulations, Prince. Good luck with your new job.

Until next time…from the booth.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jackie Cut Her Finger Off!

As I diligently plowed through the mountainous pile of paperwork, I glanced at my watch. It read 6:30 PM. “Wonderful, at least it’s Friday”; I thought out loud, “48 hours down and only 15 more to go.” Such was the life of a second shift production supervisor at American Air Filter in Zion, Illinois. I let out a deep sigh as I reminded myself that at least I had a job, it could be worse. Ten minutes later this self-fulfilling prophecy came to fruition with five words.

“Jackie cut her finger off!”

Those chilling words would turn a tedious and mundane evening into a hair-raising night of drama and mayhem. But not initially.

When Kathy burst into the small cramped office and shouted those horrifying words, I looked up from my work and said, “Kathy, don’t f*ck with me, I’m in no mood.” I honestly thought she was messing with me. Perhaps subconsciously I didn’t believe her, knowing what chaos would ensue if it was true.

She then shrieked a second time, this time much louder, “Paul, I’m serious, Jackie cut her finger off!”

Before I could respond, a quivering Jackie appeared in the doorway holding a blood covered left hand. A multitude of crimson splatters covered her white top and were an extreme contrast to the ashen hue of terrified face.

Evidently, while Jackie was adjusting the plastic film in a packaging machine, Kathy thought she heard her say to turn it on. When she mistakenly started the machine, the tip of Jackie’s left middle finger was chopped off.

I immediately guided the injured employee to a chair in the middle of the office. She was trembling and sobbing uncontrollably. Steve, my maintenance man, came rushing into the office and murmured, “Oh my God.”

As I attempted to get Jackie to hold her bloody hand above her heart, I told Steve to call 911. By then, a small crowd of employees had gathered outside of the office, trying to see what the commotion was all about. I quickly told them to take an early break.

Steve hung up the phone and told me that the rescue squad was on the way. Still doing my best to calm the panic-stricken Jackie, I directed Steve to go to the front entrance so he could direct the paramedics to our department when they arrived. As he was scurrying off, I barked, “Tell Victor to get over here!”

Moments later, Victor, the supervisor of the high-speed production area, skidded to a stop on his golf cart outside the office. “Holy shit” were the first words out of his mouth. My glare made him aware that I needed help, not added drama.

Kathy was providing all the extra drama I could handle at the moment.


While Jackie bawled hysterically and tried to catch her breath, Kathy was screaming at her, “It’s my fault, I turned the machine on!” Tears smeared her mascara as she continued to screech, “It’s all my fault, hit me, Jackie, hit me!”

Obviously this wasn’t helping the situation at all.

I instructed Victor to take the distraught Kathy to the lunchroom, get her a Coke or something and calm her down. I just wanted her out of there. Jackie was frantic enough without Kathy adding to the turmoil.

Thankfully, the paramedics showed up as Victor was escorting Kathy from the office. As one asked me for details, the rest of the emergency medical crew began administering first aid to Jackie.

As the EMTs tended to her severed digit, they also attempted to control her frenetic breathing. Seeing that they no longer needed my services, I grabbed a piece of gauze and I excused myself from the office.

As I briskly walked over to the machine where the accident had occurred, I kept my head down, eyeballing the shop floor. A quick inspection of the east side of the machine proved fruitless. Determined, I continued my search to the other side, just hoping…

Yes, there it was! I had found what I was looking for.

Bending over, I used the gauze to carefully scoop up the small portion of jagged pale flesh from the dusty floor. Wrapping it up, I noticed that the fingernail was still intact. Nice.

When I got back to the office, I asked one of the medical techs to step outside, making sure not to draw Jackie’s attention. She was somewhat more composed and I didn’t want to do anything to change that.

Outside the office, I discreetly handed the paramedic the small package containing the tip of Jackie’s middle finger. Somewhat surprised, he said, “Wow, you found it.” He then packed it into a small cup of ice and told me he would see what they could do, but it was probably too small to reattach.

Somewhat disheartened, I returned to the office. Jackie’s left hand was now heavily bandaged and she was being helped onto a gurney. Although her breathing was now under control, she was still trembling and had tears streaming down her freckled face.

As the EMTs wheeled her out of the office, Jackie asked me if I would go with her to the hospital and stay with her until Roger could get there. I said sure I would. Roger was her fiancé and worked in Racine, Wisconsin. It would him at least an hour to drive to St. Therese Medical Center where she was being taken.

The emergency people told me to follow them in my truck, that way I could return when Roger arrived. Before leaving I made sure that Roger was contacted and asked Victor to keep an eye on my crew until I returned. As harrowing and gruesome as this situation was, I was surprised that I had remained so composed.

That all changed the moment I got in my truck to follow the ambulance to the medical facility in Waukegan.

The gravity of what had just transpired finally hit me. It hit me like a brick. I didn’t cry. I didn’t puke. I didn’t pass out. But I did feel that I was about to do all three. I did hyperventilate for most of the 15-minute trip.

After I arrived, I was able to regain my composure and stayed with Jackie until her fiancé showed up. Thankfully, the remainder of the night was event free. On their way home, Jackie and Roger stopped by the plant to let everyone know she was okay. No one was happier than Kathy to see her.

Sadly, the doctors were not able to reattach the piece of Jackie’s finger that I had recovered. She did, however, receive a considerable compensation check from American Air Filter’s insurance company. Shortly after the accident, Jackie married Roger, albeit with a left middle finger that was now 1⁄4” shorter.

When all was said and done, I guess Kathy was right – Jackie cut her finger off.

Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Are You Ready For Some Survivor?

Gadzooks! It was only 32 short days ago that Jamie, Mary Beth and myself were posting the final Official Survivor: South Pacific Recap Trilogy for Season 23. Now, believe it or not, there are only 27 short days until the first Official Survivor: One World Recap Trilogy for Season 24 will be posted! That’s right, we’re getting the band back together for another season of irreverent hilarity. Did you miss us?

This morning, while doing my research (you don’t think I fly by the seat of my pants, do you?), I came across a short preview clip on CBS.com. As I frantically scribbled notes while watching those 166 seconds of video, I was flabbergasted.

Seriously. Here are some of the highlights of the cast:

A gay Republican, a “little person” sporting a Russell Hantz style hat, a woman billing herself as a triple threat based on her boobs, booty and ability to sing, the ubiquitous angry black woman and not one, but two competitors with Tarzan fetishes.

But wait, there’s more. There is enough cheesecake and beefcake for everyone! For the guys, the self-proclaimed triple threat isn’t the only lady with a bikini top filled beyond capacity.

Ladies, please don’t despair, there are also plenty of buns and six-packs for your viewing pleasure. Award-winning host Jeff Probst himself said they are all good looking.

This is your first look at the cast of Survivor: One World:

Here are the tribes and a bit of information on the contestants:

Salani Tribe (Women): Nina Acosta, 51, Clovis, CA, retired LAPD officer; Christina Cha, 29, West Hollywood, CA, career consultant; Monica Culpepper, 41, Tampa, FL, ex-NFL player’s wife; Kat Edorsson, 22, Orlando, FL, timeshare rep; Chelsea Meissner, 26, Charleston, SC, medical sales; Kourtney Moon, 29, Austin, TX, motorcycle repair; Alicia Rosa, 25, Chicago, IL, special ed teacher; Kim Spradlin, 29, San Antonio, TX, bridal shop owner; Sabrina Thompson, 33, Brooklyn, NY, high school teacher.

Manono Tribe
(Men): Jay Byars, 25, Gaffney, SC, model; Colton Cumbie, 21, Monroeville, AL, college student; Michael Jefferson, 30, Seattle, WA, banker; Leif Manson, 27, San Diego, CA, phlebotomist; Jonas Otsuji, 37, Lehi, UT, sushi chef; Bill Posley, 28, Venice, CA, stand-up comedian; Matt Quinlan, 33, San Francisco, CA, attorney; Troy Robertson, 50, Miami, FL, swimsuit photographer; Greg Smith, 64, Houston, TX, plastic surgeon.

Like in Survivor: The Amazon and Survivor: Vanuatu, this season will be a battle of the sexes. Although the men vs. women angle has been done before, there is a new twist.

Both tribes will be forced to coexist on the same camp.

According to Probst, the tribes can build one camp, two camps or no camps. He went on to say that men can sleep over with the women, women can sleep over with the men, or they can choose to not interact at all. They can do whatever they like. Hmm…

Another change is that after two seasons, the Redemption Island feature will not be used. This signals the return of reward challenges. It also means that when a contestant hears Probst utter those fateful words, “The tribe has spoken”, they are out of the game.

Something else to look for are what Probst calls “Do it Yourself Challenges”, which will be sprinkled throughout the season. These Probst-less competitions will take place at camp with tribes receiving materials and instructions informing them of the rules so they can conduct their own challenge. This could prove to be either very interesting or a big bomb. (See Redemption Island)

The final new twist is with the Hidden Immunity Idols. This season, there will be two idols hidden at the camp – one for each tribe, but finding an Idol doesn’t guarantee your safety. Instead of using it for yourself, you have to give it to someone from the other tribe. Let the politicking begin!

So, are you ready for season 24 of Survivor: One World? I know I am. The premier will be Wednesday, February 15 and I can’t wait. Oh crud! I missed American Idol. Ha!

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Get It

Yesterday the Green Bay Packers were defeated by the New York Giants in their NFC Playoff game, 37-20. By getting their asses soundly kicked, their quest for another Super Bowl ring came to a grinding halt. Guess what? I’m okay with that. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to see them win it all again. But they didn’t. Thankfully life goes on and I just have to find something else to occupy my time on Sundays. It’s not the end of the world.

I am not all torn up because they played like crap and lost. I know that it’s kind of remarkable that I feel this way. It even surprises me.

The Packers will get another shot at it next season starting in September. Most likely, I will watch every game. But I’m not going to lose any sleep in anticipation. I can wait.

I should have seen this coming. As exciting as last season’s championship run was, it wasn’t as special to me as the Packer’s triumph in Super Bowl XXXI. I can’t put my finger on it. It just wasn’t as thrilling.

This past season, I noticed that I was beginning to tire of the glut of Packer coverage, whether it was on TV or the radio. Nowadays, there are simply too many “experts” out there.

These “experts” come in many shapes and forms. Of course, there is the media. However, it’s not like the media of old. No longer is the media made up old jocks and guys that have been covering sports forever.

Those old school guys are now in the minority. They are being replaced with know-it-all women, snot-nosed kids and narcissistic media whores willing to say anything outlandish so that they get noticed.

The other group of “experts” is the fans. Because of the over saturation of media, there is a growing contingent of sports enthusiasts who think they know everything. The key word is think. The problem is they can only regurgitate the information they garnered from the new breed of 24/7 media, information that is often skewed.

Another reason I have lost some of the fire in my belly is the increasing amount of schadenfreude displayed by today’s fans. Schadenfreude is a German word meaning pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

Back in the day, I was as guilty as anyone when it came to schadenfreude. Nothing pleased me more to see the Cubs or Bears blow a game. I knew there would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth to follow. And I loved it.

Somewhere along the line something changed because I don’t get the enjoyment from a Chicago loss like I used to do. Sure, some of their fans still irritate me, but for every asshole there are five dear friends that happen to support the teams that I can’t stand.

Last night, after the Packer’s catastrophic loss, I don’t know what annoyed me more, the Bear fans that came out of the woodwork basking in the Green Bay defeat, or the Packer fans that were wringing their hands in anguish and despair. Both groups need to grow up.

Maybe that’s what it is; I am finally growing up.

Years ago, Dad would often tell me to calm down when I would start hollering and stressing out during a game. He would say, “It’s not worth getting sick over, it’s only a game.”

At the time, I didn’t understand his lack of passion. After all, it was the Green Bay Packers! I knew Dad loved the Pack just like I did; he brought me up watching them. I just didn’t get why he never seemed to get as upset when they lost as I did.

Well, now I finally do. Dad, after all these years, I get it.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Results from the Favorite TV Family Poll:

The Cleavers – 20%
The Keatons – 15%
The Andersons, The Bradys, The Flinstones and The Simpsons – 10%
The Barones, The Bunkers, The Clampetts, The Cunninghams and The Formans – 5%
No Votes – The Addams, The Arnolds, The Connors, The Huxtables, The Munsters, The Nelsons, The Partridges, The Petries and The Ricardos.

My friend Patty’s disdain for facebook’s new “timeline” is the inspiration for my new poll. Make sure you cast your vote before you leave. Until next time…from the booth.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

We’re No Angels


“If crime showed on a man’s face, there wouldn’t be any mirrors.”

~ Albert (Aldo Ray)
We’re No Angels (1955)

That quote is one of my all-time favorites from the classic movie We’re No Angels. I enjoy it so much that I posted it as my facebook status the other day. This prompted my friend Patty to comment, “It shows on MY face, believe me…” I replied that I thought she had a lovely face and that all I see is a wonderful soul that cares about others.

Patty, being the smart aleck that she is, remarked, “Oh sure, BABY pics!” After thinking for a moment, I told her that I found out a long time ago that once I get to know someone, they never look the same to me again. I only see what’s inside that person.

This may sound unusual, but it’s true. No matter how someone might look in a photo, I only see the person based on what they mean to me.

The first time this sensation occurred to me was with Denise, a girl that I was dating. Denise was my first official girlfriend and I thought that I loved her. Maybe I did or perhaps it was just infatuation.

Who knows?

That’s not really important now. What is important is that I cared about her and I thought that I had gotten to know her. When I looked at Denise, I saw someone that was special to me for a variety of reasons.

After dating for a while, I saw a picture from a wedding reception that we had recently attended. I did a double take. At first glance I wasn’t sure that it was the Denise I had grown so fond of. Somehow she looked different to me.

She dumped me a month later. Something about me caring too much…

Looking back, I realize that the reason Denise looked different in that picture is because I really didn’t know her. I was just thrilled to finally have a girlfriend. To be honest, I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know her all that well.

Since my experience with Denise, I have tried to be more cautious when evaluating people in general. I honestly do try to get to know someone before developing an opinion of him or her. Unfortunately, I’m not too sure how successful I have been in this undertaking.

According to my dear friend Bev, my efforts have been in vain. She often chides me for thinking everyone is nice. When I ask her to be more specific, her typical response is, “You never see bad in anybody.”

Oops.

If that were indeed true, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. However, I don’t totally agree with Bev’s assessment of my ability to gauge the quality of individuals.

While, I might tend to concentrate on people’s good traits, I am quite aware that nobody is perfect. There is good and bad in everyone.

In fact, that is what endears me to some people. It gives me great joy to know someone who is considered to be “rough around the edges” who also possesses redeeming attributes.

My penchant for this is evidenced in two of my favorite TV shows, Northern Exposure and The Wire.

On Northern Exposure, as vindictive and greedy as Maurice Minnifield was, he also had a heart of gold and a real softy deep inside. No one is totally rotten. Conversely, as charming as Marilyn Whirlwind was, her spiteful side would surface on occasion. No one is that sweet, not even Marilyn. I loved that show.

The Wire also had its share of enigmatic characters, the most notable being Omar Little. Omar was a gay stick-up man who murdered more people than I care to recall. Yet, he lived by a strict moral code and never bothered people not involved in “the game”. He also had a strong dislike for profanity. (Take note, Bev.) Omar is easily my favorite TV character of all time.

One final example of “bad” people possessing endearing qualities comes from We’re No Angels. Three convicts – Joseph, Albert and Jules escape from prison on Devil’s Island and arrive at a nearby French colonial town.

They go to the store of the Ducotels – Felix, Amelie and their daughter Isabelle, fully intending to rob them. However, the three felons have a change of heart and instead, end helping the troubled family with their problems.

In fact, they even fix them Christmas dinner. After which, Joseph says, “We came here to rob them and that’s what we’re gonna do – beat their heads in, gouge their eyes out, slash their throats. Soon as we wash the dishes.”

Of course they never harm a hair on the head on any of the Ducotels. Only Felix’s evil cousin, Andre and his creepy nephew, Paul feel their wrath. They both die.

But I digress. This blog began with a quote from We’re No Angels and evolved into me talking about being able to see the good in others. Along with a few other things. To wrap it up, I would like to quote that great movie one last time.

Because of their kind deeds, young Isabelle gushed about the convicts being angels. This caused Albert to say, “Even the girl called us angels.” To which Albert responded, “We’re no angels.”

No, Joseph, none of us are. But there is some good in all of us.

Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Decisions, Decisions…

Being a recovering TV addict, I face tough decisions every day of my life. There is the constant struggle whether to watch TV or actually do something constructive. Having a DVR only adds another element to the dilemma and complicates things more so. Now, not only must I attempt to avoid the temptation of excessive TV viewing, I must also resist the opportunity to record more than one program at a time. The lurid seduction of a potential multiple TV-gasm is something I that battle daily. Decisions, decisions…

Over the past few years I have been fairly successful in my endeavor to curb my exorbitant TV viewing. This was facilitated when my both of my favorite HBO series, The Sopranos and The Wire, came to an end. This enabled me to make better decisions.

For a while, my only television addictions were Survivor, Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and reruns of Match Game. My condition was steadily improving and there were fewer tough decisions to make.

Unfortunately, that has changed. My TV dependency reared it’s ugly once again and I am compelled to make more tough decisions. Again.

It started a few months back when my friend Jimmy G introduced me to the History Channel. I know, the History Channel doesn’t sound that bad. After all, history is educational. It is, isn’t it?

Well, it is. Sort of…

The programs that I became hooked on are Pawn Stars, American Pickers and American Restoration. I realize that these shows are not exactly documentaries about the Great Depression or the Roman Empire.

However, they are better choices than some of the other selections the History Channel offers, like Ax Men, Hairy Bikers or Swamp People.

So thanks to Jimmy G, I am now obsessed with Rick, the Old Man, Hoss, Chumlee, Mike, Frank, Danielle and Rick’s crew on American Restoration. Thanks a lot, buddy.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, another friend decided to muddy the waters by enticing me with yet another program.

For a long time my friend, Patty 4-Names, told me how I should watch That ‘70s Show. She said it was a wonderful show based in the same era we grew up in and on top of that, it was set in southeast Wisconsin.

She would frequently remind me when it was on and tell me that I should watch it. Despite her glowing recommendations, I never tuned in to the much-ballyhooed program, poo-pooing her suggestions. I had decided that I just couldn’t get fixated on another TV show, not even That Show. I was gonna be firm this time.

Ya, you guessed it.

I am now strung out on That ‘70s Show. Strung out bad. I can’t help it, though. Every time I change the channel it’s on. Today alone there are 12 different episodes airing. It’s on channel 24, MTV, Nick at Nite and the Family Channel.

There is just no way to avoid it.

The thing is, I don’t want to avoid it. It is a marvelous show. Patty was right. It does indeed bring back many fond memories of growing up as a teenager here in Wisconsin. Heck, they even mention Kenosha all the time.

Each afternoon, I can’t wait to tune in and find out what wacky high jinks Eric, Donna, Michael, Jackie, Hyde and Fez are going to get themselves into. Then I wait anxiously to see how Red, Kitty, Bob and Midge are gonna handle those crazy kids. The hilarity ensues.

Compliments of my friend Patty, it’s official. I have become a That ‘70s Show Junkie. Way to go, 4-Names, I hope you’re happy now.

There you have it, thanks to two of my friends, I am again required to make an increased number of decisions concerning my compulsive TV habit. Hopefully there is a 12-step program to help get this monkey off my back.

I need to get going. I have to decide which show to watch live and which one to DVR tomorrow night, American Restoration or Dog the Bounty Hunter. Decisions, decisions…

Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Survey Says

Regular readers of From The Booth are aware of the poll that I occasionally run. It is located just to the right of the blog, below my mug shot and the Blog Archive. Typically, the poll questions aren’t hard-hitting or earth shattering. Mostly they are light-hearted queries dealing with pop culture - Favorite Pizza Topping, Favorite Rock Group, etc. Depending on the topic, the response to the poll has varied greatly. Some questions seem to push people’s buttons more than others. The recently completed Favorite TV Mom poll was an example of one such question.

On Thursday, I decided to give the poll a plug on facebook. With less than a day left, the voting was fairly spirited, but I wanted to stir up a little more interest. With that in mind, I posted the following:

“There are less than 22 hours left to vote for your favorite TV Mom! Laura Petrie holds a tissue paper thin lead over Margaret Anderson and Clair Huxtable with Marie Barone, Kitty Forman and Donna Reed right behind! Cast your vote now! Make sure your favorite wins!”

There was a slight surge in voting, but it was the response on facebook that revealed the passion people have for their TV Moms. Here are some of the 31 comments made following my original post:

Survivor blog contributor Jamie, an obvious fan of Ritchie Petrie’s mom, started the ball rolling with – “Go Laura!”

To which Clyde responded – “I demand equal coverage for June Cleaver!” Beaver’s mom had a backer!

I reminded Clyde that there was still time and that he should get his friends to help the Beaver’s mom.

That’s when facebook legend, Patty 4-Names chimed in with, “Laura Petrie only had ONE KID! Sheesh! And Ritchie was always stuck in that mysterious room at the edge of the screen! Or in the bathtub! Or at Millie and Jerry’s!”

This caused Mary Beth, the other Survivor geek, to defend Laura with – “Yeah but Laura could host a celebrity filled dinner party, still look like a million bucks AND get up and do an impromptu song and dance routine at the drop of a hat! I’d like to see June Cleaver do that!”

The war of words was on. Clyde countered with – “June had those beautiful pearls around her neck at all times. Besides she was a domestic (always at home doing her thing) not a liberated woman at all. But she could do anything Laura could do if she wanted to! So there!”

That seemed to remind Patty 4-Names that June vacuumed in high heels. Or as she fervently put it – “She vacuumed in high HEELS! She VACUUMED!”

Not to be outdone, Mary Beth retorted – “I bet June couldn’t do the Twizzle! She didn’t have the mandatory-fringed sweater and stirrup pants! You have to have those to Twizzle correctly!”

My response to that was – “Stirrup pants. Mmmmmm…”

Patty 4-Names promptly called me a perv. Back to the Battle of the TV Moms.

Mary Beth’s love for Laura was further evidenced when she wrote – “June would also never dare to open Ward’s mail! That wouldn’t be right in those times! Laura couldn’t resist and think of the comic mayhem that happened when it turned out to be the inflatable boat!”

She went on to challenge anyone to think of one comic moment that was all June Cleaver. She dared anyone to come up with even one such instance.

Then Clyde tried to bring politics into the debate, lauding June as a true fiscal conservative, but Mary Beth would have none of it. She quickly brought up that June was spotted talking jive in the movie Airplane.

Pretty heady stuff. There were a few more comments.

Reggie from Arizona was incredulous that Margaret Anderson had more votes than June. He said, that while he voted for Mrs. Cleaver, he felt Mrs. Ingalls was “a far better mother than Mrs. Anderson.”

Toward the end, Patty 4-Names unexpectedly called for people to rise up and vote for Roseanne Connor. Her rallying point was that Roseanne was “the only one who even resembled an actual Mom!”

Clyde brought the lunacy to an end when he reminded those who voted for Shirley Partridge that she raised “a bunch of druggies”. Based on that premise, he implored people to change their votes to June Cleaver.

When all the verbal sparring had finished, the poll closed on Friday night with the following final results:

Tied for first with 14% - Margaret Anderson (Betty, Bud, Kathy) and Laura Petrie (Ritchie)

Tied for third with 10% - June Cleaver (Wally, Theodore), Clair Huxtable (Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, Rudy) and Donna Reed (Mary, Jeff, Trish)

Tied for sixth with 7% - Kitty Forman (Laurie, Eric) and Marie Barone (Robert, Raymond)

Tied for eighth with 3% - Roseanne Connor (Becky, Darlene, D.J.), Estelle Costanza (George), Marion Cunningham (Chuck, Richie, Joanie), Lois Griffin (Meg, Chris, Stewie), Shirley Partridge (Keith, Laurie, Danny, Chris, Tracy), Lucy Ricardo (Little Ricky) and Marge Simpson (Bart, Lisa, Maggie)

The following had no votes - Peggy Hill (Bobby), Carmelo Soprano (Meadow, A.J.), Carla Tortelli (Anthony, Serafina, Gino, Anne Marie, Lucinda, Ludlow, Elvis, Jesse), Olivia Walton (John Boy, Jason, Mary Ellen, Erin, Benjamin, James, Elizabeth), Norma Arnold (Karen, Wayne, Kevin), Carol Brady (Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, Cindy), Peg Bundy (Kelly, Bud), Florida Evans (Michael, Thelma, J.J.), Caroline Ingalls (Laura, Mary, Carrie, Freddie, Grace, Albert, James, Cassandra), Jane Jetson (Judy, Elroy) and Elyse Keaton (Alex, Mallory, Jennifer, Andy)

While most know the TV Dads that go with these TV Moms, what about their kids? That’s why I included the names of their children. Wow, Carla Tortelli was certainly the prolific breeder.

Now you have the entire family of your Favorite TV Moms. This is the perfect segue to the new poll that I posted late last night – What Is Your Favorite TV Family? Pretty clever, huh?

Make sure that you vote. Leave a comment here or in facebook, don’t cost nuthin’. Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A 400 Club Genesis

In 1976 a bunch of guys that I worked with at Koos Inc. decided to form a softball team. We played for The Sands. We were sponsored by Charlie Huck and played in the lowest city recreation League possible. The makeup of the team was quite diverse. There were a few fellows that could actually play softball, a couple of decent athletes, a bunch of guys that needed a new reason to go the bar and a catcher of ample proportions who ran things. That last guy would be me.

The season was a combination of competing against teams that were as lousy as we were and getting destroyed by a team called Tappa Hafa Kega Dai. It would be the first and last season of The Sands team. The players who just wanted a night out found a new reason to go to the bar. Meanwhile, the guys who could actually play softball wanted more, and under the guidance of the catcher of ample proportions formed the legendary 400 Club.

In 1977, we would play as The 400 Club in city league and as Koos Inc. at historic Finney’s West. Forrest McConnell initially sponsored our Koos Inc. team, with Peter Lederer filling that role when he took over the business. The 400 Club had only sponsor – the late Vern Ekern.

Vern Ekern was a barrel-chested Norwegian with hands that resembled old catcher’s mitts. Despite his incessant reminding of us to “stop down and spend a buck”, Vern was the best sponsor you could ask for. We always had full uniforms, complete with stirrups and entered all the tournaments we wanted. All Vern asked of us was to “stop down and spend a buck” and to throw an annual Beer Bust.

Throwing a Beer Bust was never a problem for the 400 Club team. Each year I would give every player twenty $2.00 tickets to sell. Being a control freak, I always worked the door and collected the money and raffle tickets. It was always a sellout and every year something “special” would happen.

For instance, it was during a 400 Club Beer Bust when I threw the only punch in my adult life.  An attendee who had signed his raffle ticket “Stormin’ Norman” was trying to become a bit too familiar with Vern’s oldest daughter Bonnie. Despite her polite rejections, Norman continued to accost Bonnie to the point that she finally requested my help.

Try as I might to explain to the slightly over-served patron that Bonnie wanted nothing to do with him, he persisted. Then he stepped over the line and grabbed Ekern girl by the arm. I grabbed Norman and pushed him toward the front door. Maybe I was being kind when I described him as being slightly over-served.

The man was drunk on his ass. That would be the only thing that could explain what he did next. After being shoved a good fifteen feet, he turned around and charged at me. Now I was by no means a tough guy, in fact I hated fighting. But I was eight inches taller and a couple hundred pounds heavier than “Stormin’ Norman”. And the knucklehead still charged at me!

After getting over my initial shock, I did what any gentleman protecting a young lady’s honor would do. I hit him. To this day I am not certain whether it was my fist or my forearm that connected with Norman. I am also not quite sure just where I connected on my intoxicated combatant’s body. What I am sure of is that he was headed toward the front door again, however this time he was air born.

Norman landed with a thud and was helped outside by a few of his friends who obviously had more common sense than he. With Bonnie’s honor in tact and her would-be assailant gone, the Beer Bust continued without further issue. 400 Club Beer Busts were always a highlight of the spring season.

In 1979 we finished second in the Rotary Club Tournament, losing to Valeri 2 in the championship game. Later that same season Margetson Construction eliminated us from the City Tournament in the Quarterfinals. Margetson would become a constant thorn in the side of the 400 Club.

Over the years, our team was successful in the city league and at one time had a streak of 38 consecutive games without a loss. Interestingly, the pitcher of the team that ultimately snapped our winning streak was Jim Nehls. This was significant because Nehls also pitched for Margetson Construction.

 
                                             *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Since my last blog was about the notorious 400 Club softball team, I thought that it would be nice to give a little more history about the team. The above was an excerpt from my book, Some Kenosha Softball, which is available at Sister Act on Roosevelt Road. I have knocked the price down to only $10.  Grab a copy now!

Until next time…from the booth.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Memorable Winter Meeting

In 1977 the legendary 400 Club softball team was formed with yours truly calling the shots as the manager. We started out playing teams like Kerry’s Kritters. Before long we were competing with the likes of Tirabassi’s, Finney’s and Pitt’s Decorating. Over the years, our team had its moments of glory, at one point winning 38 consecutive city league games. In addition to league play, our team also did well in tournaments, filling the trophy cases of tavern owner and sponsor Vern Ekern. The 400 Club was a successful team that had made a name for itself.

While the team made a definite mark on the Kenosha softball scene, it should be noted that it wasn’t only for their triumphs on the diamond. The 400 Club also had a reputation for being rowdy renegades.

We were the proverbial square peg in a round hole. There were several colorful characters on the 400 Club. We weren’t always the nicest team and had gained some notoriety as the Oakland Raiders of the softball world.

That being said, there was a reason our team was successful, it was well organized. That was my job. I made sure entry fees were paid, that uniforms were ordered, that beer busts were scheduled and, most importantly, made sure we had players that were of 400 Club quality.

Because of our rebellious reputation, it wasn’t always easy  attracting new talent to our squad of misfits. Not everyone was comfortable being a part of a team with a bad-boy image. The ideal 400 Club candidate had to have skills at the bar as well as on the diamond.

Acquiring just the right guy was much too big a job for just one man; it was a team effort. Since I wanted everyone’s input, this was a subject that was discussed at our annual Winter Meeting. 

That’s right, the 400 Club had a Winter Meeting each year. Typically, it took place near the end of January, but no later than the first weekend of February. After all, our beer bust had to be scheduled before the season started.

As you might suspect, the 400 Club Winter Meeting wasn’t all business. Adult beverages were being consumed while team concerns were being discussed. Then, once it was decided what new players we were going after and the date for the beer bust, it was time to start doing some serious drinking.

Given the track record of our group, it should come as no surprise that the Winter Meeting could turn into a raucous evening of partying. However, by 400 Club standards, most of these get-togethers were not very memorable.

However, one particular Winter Meeting does stand out from all of the rest.

There was about a dozen members of the team in the 400 Club on that Saturday night in late January. The only other customer was a guy who rented a room above of the iconic tavern. He was known as “Larry D” and sat in his regular spot at the far end of the bar and was nursing a tap beer.

It looked like a relatively quiet night for the bartender, Skip. He liked it that way. Skip wasn’t what you would call energetic. The less excitement, the better. He liked it quiet. Unfortunately for Skip, it wouldn’t stay quiet.

Not by a long shot.

The “business” portion of the meeting had concluded and the guys from the team were relaxing with a few cocktails. For a 400 Club team activity, it was relatively subdued. That is until the front door suddenly exploded open and Mark Ekern burst in. Without any warning, he jerked Larry D from his bar stool and threw to the hard tile floor. 

As a team, our jaws collectively dropped in astonishment. Mark was the brother of 400 Club stalwart, Glen “Munk” Ekern. Despite the fact that they were the sons of our sponsor Vern, they had nothing in common. Absolutely nothing.

Munk was, hmm, let’s see, I need to put this nicely. Munk was aggressive and loved confrontation. He was a big reason the 400 Club had the image it did. On the other hand, Mark was mild-mannered, unassuming and generally kept to himself. He didn’t seem to have a hostile bone in his body.

That was the reason we were so astounded. What could have possibly happened to provoke Mark’s physical attack on Larry D?

We got a clue when Mark hollered, “I told you to stay away from Bonnie, but you wouldn’t listen!” Bonnie was the eldest of Vern’s six daughters and a very sweet girl. Evidently, Larry D had persisted on hitting on her even though he was warned against it.

Mark had taken exception to this and let him know it in a very violent fashion.

The manner he used to express his displeasure with Larry D wasn’t for the faint of heart. He used his fists. He used his feet. He used tables, bar stools and anything else he could get his hands on. The enraged Mark didn’t give him a chance.

Larry D was helpless and could do nothing to protect himself from the onslaught. He was bounced off of walls and the bar, knocked to the floor, then picked up again so Mark could repeat the process.

It wasn’t pretty.

In fact, at one point, it got so ugly it prompted Red DiCello, no shrinking violet himself when it came to fighting, to ask me, “Shouldn’t we stop him, Paul?” Having a soft spot in my heart for Bonnie, I said, “No, not yet, let him go.”

Finally, when Mark began to ram Larry D’s head into the heavy wooden base of a video game, I told Red and the rest of the guys that now was the time to put an end to the vicious beat down.

After things had settled down, Mark left, but not before reminding Larry D in no uncertain terms that he had better “stay the f*ck” away from his sister. Larry D, broken and bloodied, could only nod his head as he slowly crawled up the stairs to his room located above the bar.

While we were picking up bar stools and getting the bar back in order, a visibly shaken Skip answered the phone. After a brief conversation, he hung up the phone and announced, “Vern said to get the guys a drink.”

The team roared its approval. Behind the bar, Skip just shook his head as he started setting up our drinks. Above the bar, Larry D tended to his wounds.

Yes, even by 400 Club standards, that was a memorable Winter Meeting.

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Beast Mode English Style

Back in August I wrote a blog about the Milwaukee Brewers’ new celebration titled “Beast Mode Brewer Style”. If you recall, after a big hit, players would turn to the dugout with their arms spread out like they were scaring someone. Prince Fielder explained that Monster Inc. was his kids’ favorite movie and they would imitate Sully doing “Beast Mode”. He thought it was funny, so he figured that he might as well do it, too. It became a tradition. 

On Christmas Eve that tradition crossed the pond to England.

My British friend, Jake Lammas celebrated his tenth birthday on December 24, 2011. Because he is such an avid sport fan, I decided to send him a Prince Fielder “Beast Mode” t-shirt as a present.

Not only is Jake a fan of sports, he is an accomplished athlete in his own right. The strapping lad from King’s Lynn, Norfolk currently competes in four sports. His favorite is rugby, followed by football, swimming and judo. He also enjoys fishing with his father, Scott.

Here are a few photos of Jake documenting his athletic prowess:


Jake posing with the Leicester Tiger mascot. The Leicester Tigers are a rugby powerhouse and are the equivalent of the New York Yankees. Jake played an Under-10 tournament quarterfinal match at Welford Road one week before his birthday.


Jake accepting his football award. The young Brit had the distinction of scoring a goal as a goalkeeper. His mighty kick went the length of the field, bouncing once before settling into the opponent’s net.



Jake, sporting a colorful hat, proudly displaying one of the many fish he caught this past summer.


Another proud moment as Jake holds his player of the month trophy for Judo. He would go on to earn his green belt competing against boys six years his senior. Notice he is wearing a Brewers t-shirt.


This is Jake wearing his “Beast Mode” t-shirt. It should be noted that the shirt is a men’s size medium. It’s a bit big for him now, but his mother Debbie said he will outgrow it. She added that when he does, she would wear it!

Prince Fielder and the Brewers may have originated “Beast Mode” here in the United States, but Jake Lammas is keeping the tradition alive and kicking – English Style.

If you haven’t already done so, please vote for your favorite TV Mom in my poll. Until next time…from the booth.