Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LIFE 2 - CHAPTER 5; Laurelton Living - The Move, The Music, The Jorge


Laurelton is a urban neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. It is now a largely African American and West Indian middle class neighborhood. It is mostly made up of single-family homes. As I learned years later on the internet, the town got its name from the Long Island Railroad Station that is in the area along side laurels that grew there over 100 years ago.

It is also the place where Carmen found a “value”. A value for which I think all of us paid a dear price in the end.

The disillusionment of having been abandoned by my mother was just setting in as the decision to move out of Rego Park was cast in stone. And yes, when your mother ships you off to live with your father, without your permission, or even without your knowledge, you are being abandoned.

I had grown up in an African American neighorhood before. I was 3 years old, and largely sheltered by the confines of my own home and back yard. It would be much different this time around. Gone is the shelter of my home, for as a teenager I was expected to be outside of the home a lot more often. And just like I was sent without regard to live with my father, again, I felt as if though I’ve been sent, perhaps banished to a neighborhood whose culture was radically different than mine. A neighborhood where I would be in the complete minority. Where I would fear for my life every day I had to walk the two-and-a-half blocks to the Q5 on 228th and Merrick, and later again at the bus depot at Jamaica station. In short, I felt like E.T. after the mothership took off without him. Alone.

I will never know whether or not there was an ulterior-motive for Carmen’s choosing and eventual convincing of my father, to move to Laurelton. If I wanted to speculate, perhaps this was Carmen’s response to my father, when he summarily picked up stakes and bought a house 3 hours away in Ridge, NY, with little or no initial input from Carmen back in ’74.

Like I said above, she mentioned, that the home she found in Laurelton was a “value”. Surely any piece of property right in the middle of a high-crime area, like South Jamaica, Queens will be a “value”. It was a beautiful tudor home, no doubt. Attached home, but beautiful. I wished that my father had put his foot down and told her no. But he never did any such thing. When Carmen spoke he listened, or at least that was the impression that he gave me. In my mind, he was wimping out. That would be the first of many times, where he would let Carmen do whatever she wanted. Carmen is a great person, but at 29 years young, she still had to be naïve back then, and was never corrected for any of her ideas regardless of how insane they might have been.

The move out did not come long after my finishing up at Martyrs. We got a big truck, and along with the help from Alfonso, we moved everything down the stairs and onto the truck.


Our new address was 130-38 229th Street. Connie Vickers, a fair skinned greek woman, worked at Iberia Reservations with Carmen, and lived across the street from where we would live. Connie and her husband Manny, are like the salt of the earth. Two of the nicest people anyone could ever be proud to meet. During my years in Laurelton, they would come to realize my plight, and even openly criticize my parents for their apparent favoritism of my half-sisters over me.

As we drove away from Rego Park, I felt as if I was being led to an exciting place. I had no idea what I was in store for. All I kept thinking was that I would finally have my own bedroom, my own privacy. No more sleeping on a sofa. No more waking up and seeing a three-inch long cockaroach, that I had to take a beer stein and place it upside down over it, because I was too disgusted to smash something that big.

A few highways later, we got off and headed down Merrick Boulevard. The realization of where we were had not hit me yet. As we turned down 229th Street, I must admit I was impressed by the neat and clean look of the attached brick tudor homes. They all looked alike.

They all looked alike to my father too.

Connie, who was on her porch, looked at us as we drove the truck right past the house. It took nearly a half-a-block before my father realized, stopped and threw the gear into reverse, backing up the truck.

“There goes the neighborhood”, Connie joked.

As like most moves in my life, and there have been quite a few, the operation was grueling and never-ending. By the time we finished, I was barely even hungry for the pizza that my dad got. That oughta tell you something.

Carmen followed us in our family car, which at the time was a light blue Toyota Tercel. Good car. Tiny but dependable.

I don’t really think my father, or even Carmen for that matter, knew what they had gotten into. There is no racism in my family, but it is quite natural to feel out of place when you are in the minority. Outside of Manny & Connie, and the neighbors on the connected house to our left, Jack & Reba, there were no signs of any other caucasians at all.

I wanted to explore for myself, and I went walking down to Merrick Boulevard. It was a pretty frightening experience. And I suddenly realized to myself that this was not a good place to live. Of course, that was me talking as a 14 year old, but even today I would feel the same way. If I had to do it over again. I would not. Ever.

As for the commerce on Merrick Boulevard, it comprised of many family-owned shops. Besides that there were a lot of bodegas, check-cashing places, liquor stores, clinics (ie. planned parenthood), beauty salons (mostly by and for African-Americans) and many Popeye and Kennedy Fried Chicken stores. The pinnacle of commerce was the tiny West Indian restaurant right around the corner from 229th Street. It was called, “The Phenix Restaurant”, and no that is not a misspelling on my part. Education obviously was not a priority to all apparently.

What I was pleasantly surprised is that we were welcomed with open arms. And no not by Jack & Reba, or any of the other few light bulbs in the neighborhood, but rather by the little old black lady that lived to our right. She came over and gave us a home-made cake. We invited her in for coffee, which Gloria made of course.

Up until now, I really haven’t mentioned much about Gloria so here it is. Gloria Romero, is a dark-skinned Honduran, who came here legally, to support the 8 children that she had back home. Not much is known about her private life, except that she lived in East New York, Brooklyn. That, which arguably was and probably still the toughest neighborhood in all of New York City. I never really appreciated her strife and/or her commute when she lived with us in Rego Park. But she came to live with us permanently once we moved to Laurelton. Gloria was a saving grace to my sisters and I. As well as to my parents, for sure.

About the only time she got hot with my parents was with my dad. It was the following year, in 1980. My parents had been away on vacation. Over the course of the week, Gloria, had it in her mind to hang up the pictures in the living room. I was glad to help her, though I would take no responsibility later on for it.

By the time we were done, every single picture was hung up. I think it looked great, actually. But what did I know. I was just a teenager.

When my father walked through the door, he said in his heavy accent,
“What is this? I look like I just walked into a museum!”

“David, did you do this?” he yelled. As always, I was the first for him to blame.
“No Dad.” I responded disappointingly at him.

Gloria responded right away it was her, and a battle ensued. All in Spanish, of course, because Gloria could not speak a lick of English. She vowed from that day forward that she would never do anything to the house again. And she never did.

With her, Carmen was able to make herself entirely expendable as a mother and did so quite often. This is not so much a knock on Carmen, as it should be a compliment for Gloria. She did such a good job with us, that we really felt provided for.

Unfortunately, I saw through this, and wound up condemming my stepmother for her lack of involvement. Something for which I typically did all too often. While most kids yearned to be left alone by their parents, I actually wanted them to be more involved. Strange, right? Perhaps this was how I felt because of the lack of love I felt I had received from my mother. Pretty unfair to make my stepmother, who was all of 28 when I was dumped on their doorstep in 1978, to have to fill shoes for. At least Carmen tried.

But there would be a lot of fights, some classic, between my step-mother and I while I lived (or rather died) in Laurelton.

If there is one thing that I am eternally grateful to Carmen for is that she single-handedly made me a better speaker. I can’t imagine how many times I must have irritated her with my inaccurate talking. “Jimmy and Me want to go to the park”, or “I ain’t going to do it”. But eventually, she broke through. I listened. I learned. And hopefully, you won’t see too many blunders from me here to in the hopes that I have mastered the art of writing too.

And speaking of Jimmy..

As I had mentioned before, the neighborhood was 99.4% African American at the time.
The .6% comprised of our family, our next door neighbor, and Manny & Connie. That was until about a weekend later where the doorbell rang. Carmen went to answer it, and came upstairs looking for me.

Carmen:”David. David”
Alex: “What is it, Carmen.” I said from behind my closed door.
Carmen: “There’s a boy who lives in the neighborhood, who wanted to stop by and said hello.”
Alex: “Oh Brother.”
I was not amused.
Carmen: “Go on, David” she said as she opened my door.

I was laying down on my bed staring at my wallpaper of FLOWERS (would my torture have no end?) and listening to half of my Led Zeppelin – Physical Grafitti album. I say half because Robert Sjoberg stole it from the Record Joint on Austin Street, and lent me one of the discs. Fortunately for me, the one he did lend me had Kashmir on it. When I moved to Laurelton, it moved with me. Hey? What can I say? He stole it. I was only further liberating it from a thief!

Carmen: “He’s downstairs. You should go out. This is the summer. You shouldn’t be cooped up in here all the time.”
Alex: “But I don’t want to go out.” I said dreading the result of being OUT THERE again.

Carmen: “Young man. Get up!”

I could tell now she was getting angry.

So I did. And I went downstairs. We introduced one another. He came in and hung out in my house. I made a lot of excuses about how the wallpaper in my room was not my choice. He laughed, but that’s okay. In his shoes, I probably would have done worse.

James Quinn, Jimmy, as he like to be called was 100% Irish catholic. His father and mother had divorced a few years earlier. So he too came from a broken background. His father, John, continued living in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, which to this day is still a hardcore Irish community. He did not remarry, as I learned, but was living with another woman, who might have been Irish, but never did find out.

Ann, on the other hand, did remarry, and I am sure there may have been some talk about that one. Ann was skinny, with blonde hair and blue eyes, just like her sons. Her husband’s name was Walter. And he was African-American. He was also about one of the nicest people I came across at that time too. I don’t know what Walter did for a living, but this was clearly his house, and not because of the color of his skin, but because it appeared he was the one who came home dressed in a suit and tie.

Walter never gave the kids a hard time, but he generally had no control over either of his stepsons either.

I can still vividly remember to this day the first thing he said to me when he came upstairs to my bedroom.

“Thank God you are white.”

Apparently, he was feeling even more desperate than I was.

In the end, the whole perception of color was pretty stupid. Although Jimmy and Joe had more of a bias than I did (funny since their stepfather was black), I actually started forming friendships with people from the block. Still, I had a lot of hazing to contend with on the Q5, and many times walking home too.

The house in Laurelton consisted of two floors and a basement. To go in from the sidewalk you had to walk up a few steps and onto a porch. The front door was in the shape of an arch, made of a 2 inch thick, heavy wood. When you walk inside there’s a little mud room with a closet off to the right. Beyond that is a French glass-door. Open it and now you are in the living room which sprawls off to the left. The living room boasted a 10-foot ceiling, a fireplace, and stained glass windows lined with lead. They opened like narrow doors. The windows opened to the red colored cement porch out front.

As you walk past the living room, you take two steps up which puts you in the hallway, which is an injustice to call it a hallway. The open floor plan of this house allowed you to see the living room, and the dining room which is now to the left of the hallway. The dining room is separated not only by the two step height but also a wrought iron gate dividing the two rooms. Very pretty indeed. The kitchen was accessible through either the door at then end of the ‘hallway’ or, if you entered the dining room then made another quick right there was another door there too. The kitchen was nothing special. The appliances looked old. But it did have a window and doorway which led to the backyard, and a small bathroom just before it.

If you were in the hallway and decided not to go into the kitchen, you could open the basement door on your right which was directly underneath the staircase, whose base is another few feet ahead. Going upstairs, there was a small bedroom leading in from the top of the stairs. The girls had their bedroom, which is where Gloria slept as well. It was the largest bedroom. Further down the upstairs hallway was another bedroom on the left, which is where my parents slept, and at the end of the hallway, a fairly nice sized bathroom.

It wasn’t a bad house at all. It had a nice layout overall. I just wasn’t too keen on where it was located, that’s all.

JORGE THE PING PONG MASTER
Not long after moving to Laurelton. Lizzie’s parents had contacted my father. His son was coming in from Argentina to attend college in New York, and needed a place to stay for a few weeks, until he found himself a place where he could live on his own. Despite the fact that they were pretty well off financially, I’m sure that his father figured that Jorge would get himself at least a part-time job to help pay for the rent.

Well, Jorge did start going to Queens Community College immediately that September. But he never got a job. And his stay lasted until June of 1980, some 8 months longer than what my parents had anticipated. But that was my father. He was extremely generous (still is) and would go out of his way to help others in need.

For his entire stay, Jorge would sleep in my bedroom. My bed had another bed underneath that rolled out and popped up. Hi twin mattress was of equal quality of mine which was pretty good.

It was very strange having him stay in my bedroom. It was as if I suddenly inherited an older brother. Four years my senior, his interests laid in well pressed jeans, shirts, lots of cologne….and Hustler magazines that he kept in the suitcase and would share with me whenever I became curious enough, provided I did it discreetly outside of my parent’s knowledge. When I think back, I can’t imagine how anyone could live out of their suitcase for such a long time. Me? I would have already been jumping out of my skin to gain my freedom. Jorge did this for 9 months.

My parents never gave him any rules (at least none that I was aware of) but he seemed respectful enough of my parents good graces and never really did anything egregrious to upset them (except once).

Back home in Argentina, Jorge had excelled in playing tennis. He would tell me that he had hoped he could make the tennis team here in Queens Community. While I never saw him actually play, we did have a ping pong table downstairs in the basement. I wanted to play every day, and he obliged me every time. And why wouldn’t he? The beatings I got from him are still legendary to this day. He was merciless, routing me 21-0, 21-2, 21-1. Sometimes if I got lucky I’d either make it to 3 points, or we’d be interrupted by Gloria to come upstairs to eat dinner. It didn’t matter though. I was a masochist. Right after chowing down, we’d go back downstairs to finish my Dante’s Infernal matches with him. Why did I keep playing him if I kept getting beaten, you might ask?

It was a simple case of obsessive hopefulness on my part. I figured that if I played him enough times, that I might be lucky and pick up a thing or two along the way. One topspin here, one backhand smash there, and who knows? I might actually be a contender someday.

The whole concept of beating someone that beats you down continuously is wonderfully romantic when you think about it. Anyone would want to engage themselves if they knew that they were the David who would someday have a chance at overthrowing the Goliath of Table Tennis.

I even enrolled to be on the ping pong team at Prep. I figured that in addition to hopefully homing in on some of Jorge’s talents, that I might be able to do the same at Prep, to later use against Jorge. But I was someone mistaken. The kids at Prep were lousy compared to Jorge, and were of little match to me. Of course by then I had a couple of months worth of being intensely ass-whooped by my artificial brother, and it was at Prep when I started to realize how good I was becoming.

The confidence that I was getting at Prep, translated into an amazing transformation. Now folks, nobody probably gives a whoop about a teenage kid and his abilities on a ping pong table. But for me it was revolutionary because I had never won at anything in my life leading up to then.

Prep had standings based on points for winning matches. We were subdivided into leagues and everything. Pretty cool when you consider what “sport” this was.
The season did have an end. And then the playoffs came about. Suddenly, the caliber of play at my school started to rise significantly, as some of my matches were with those of people older than me. This meant nothing to me as Jorge was already in college, so I was used to the disparity in age/experience.

To make a long story about something as boring as Ping-Pong a bit shorter, I will simply tell you this: Not only did I win the championship in a single-loss elimination tournament, but I beat the defending champ from the previous year, an American-asian, who was now a senior, by the score of 21-10. A route if you ask me.

Long after Ping Pong was over at Prep, I still continued to play against Jorge at home. And I began to notice something somewhat ugly not just in Jorge but also in my Dad as well. They hated to lose. I had lost hundreds of games against Jorge, and I learned to be humble and not let it bother me. Over the course of time as I improved, the margin of victory for my opponents decreased. Those 21-1 scores, suddenly were 21-8, 21-12, 21-16, and finally 21-18 where I would be the one with 21. Suddenly, Jorge was no longer interested in playing me as much, and neither was I. I mean, what else is left after one climbs the summit of Mt. Everest right? My father could not believe how good I had become and we suddenly were arguing over borderline calls that were in my favor.

Ping Pong wasn’t the only activity I participated at while at Prep. And no, I did not join the chess club either.

When it came to Track and Field, I was in my infancy.

Ever since I was a little boy, I used to run. Like Springsteen’s greatest song from some years earlier, I was born to run.

The nice thing about him staying with us, is that I was left alone for most of that time. My chores were not being scrutinized, and I still was a good kid overall.

What could I say about Laurelton though that did not somehow involve music?
For those years where I felt imprisoned, isolated, misunderstood, unloved, trouble, etal, music became my true girlfriend. It was my escape route, my source of instant salvation. Whenver I wanted it, I go and get it, either at home, at my friend’s home, or any where where I could find it. I was a music junkie (and as I write this 30 years later, I still am)

My stepfather, George had a tremendous musical influence on me. I already had an affinity towards music with my love for the Beatles, and as I’ve mentioned in my first life, he built upon that in a big way.

Now as a teenager, I would start to expand upon my own musical horizons, discovering rock music new and old. With all the rock music already out there, it was an exciting time for me.

Once I decided to no longer go to my father’s office, but rather home directly from school, I began to take the Q76 bus that stopped right in front of my school. The bus would head south on Francis Lewis until it finally made a right on Hillside Avenue, towards Jamaica, and to where my connecting bus (the Q5) would come every 15 minutes or so.

The first time that I took the bus, I immediately recognized the area at the intersection of Francis Lewis Blvd. and Hillside Avenue. Queens Village, as you already know was where my parents last lived together until the separation. And that house 208-08 100th Avenue, was less than a ¼ mile from this intersection.

That intersection, featured (and still does) the same shopping center where I first remembered eating pizza for .25 cents a slice. And I noticed that there was a record store too. Back then, a record store to me was like a candy store. So, it wouldn’t be long before I would venture to prematurely get off the bus, to see the place.

It was like a palace of music, a Taj-Mahal of sounds.

I still recall purchasing my first Rolling Stones album here, “Made in the Shade”. It’s nice to have a school bus pass, too, because I could get on and off as often as I wanted to without having to pay any additional fees.


COLUMBIA HOUSE RECORDS
Before the disruption of the music industry from music files (ie. MP3), and before CDs, the vinyl record was king. People cherished albums equally to the way they did books.
Every week in the TV Guides, there were always promotional inserts from either the RCA or Columbia House Records music club. The deal was that if you were willing to buy 6 more records over the next 3 years, that they would send you 10 records right now for free. (Free until you received the records and realized that it came along with an invoice for the shipping charges, that is). RCA only required you to buy 8 more, to get 5 free, but their selection was not as good, unless you loved Elvis Presley or Slim Whitman.

I never would have joined these clubs, except for the fact that I was very mad about my parents throwing out my record albums. I had already built up a small empire of music, over 200 albums in all. And now they were gone. Didn’t they realize that I tried to run away because I hated them? What kind of insane logic could they possibly have used to rationalize that by throwing away my true love, that it would make me hate them less?

And then I saw the offer for the free records from Columbia House.

And so I thought to myself,

“This is war.”

Over the course of the next couple of years, I would be one of the most prolific subscribers that Columbia House Records probably would ever have. There is only supposed to be one membership per household, but Columbia either had bad record keeping, or realized that this was a good thing for them too. After all, when one signs up for nearly 100 memberships, legitimately completing and paying for all of them, you’d probably turn your head the other way too. Best part of it all was that I was a minor. Get busted? No big deal. I’m a minor.

I had a $10 dollar per week allowance, but it was my part-time jobs and such that paid for this entire scam. Still, I was not rich by any means, so in order to be able to recoup all of my lost music, I would have to be frugal about the way that I would acquire.

It all boiled down to the average cost per album. The first 10 albums came with a shipping invoice of around $4 dollars. Then, the next 6 albums cost me close to $15 each including the shipping. If you do the math, that’s $94 dollars for 16 albums, roughly $5.87 per record, and much cheaper than what I could get at a record store. But better still, was the offer Columbia gave to their active members. Sign up a friend, and get 4 albums for free without shipping costs. Now, were looking at 20 albums at a cost of less than $5 per album.

Columbia’s dirty little secret was that you would actually be punished for continuing to be a member. Even after you fulfilled your required minimum, they still charged you $15 or so per album, which would raise the average cost of your albums obtained. So I would sign up, get my free records, sign someone else up, get my free records, buy the remaining records, and immediately cancel the membership. I did this for over 2 years. Non-stop.

Of course, all of this had to be done “under-the-radar”. For over 2 years, I pulled the wool over my parents unsuspecting eyes. How did I do this? By using their failure against them. For all the times that I had condemned my parents for never being home, and never paying attention to me, unless it was to complain, yell and ground me, now I would cherish their absence.

I had at least a 2-hour head start on them when it came to the mail. It almost seemed like a daily affair, where I would come home around 3pm or 4pm (if I hung at Jimmy’s first) in the afternoon. I would know right away if there was a package for me. Either it would propped up to the left against the wall next to the French glass foyer door, on the table in the foyer, or Gloria would hand deliver it to me. Day after Day, Week after Week, all that kept coming were album shaped cartons bearing the blue Columbia House insignia at the upper-left hand corner.
Every package of music I received felt like I was receiving a Christmas present for sure. It was one of the few things that made me want to come home, one of the few things that made me happy in that house.

Several months after the run-away attempt, I made a remarkable discovery in the laundry room in the basement. You see, part of me believed that no matter how bad I thought my parents were, that they could not have been that heinous to actually throw away my music. So I searched. And I searched.

Finally, within full length make-shift closets insde the laundry room, I saw a couple of my father’s old Samsonite suitcases. Of course, I had seen these before, but as I moved them out of the way to look at what was on the floor beneath it, I realized what a struggle it was to move these cases. They weighed a ton! The suitcase was locked. Instinctively, and without even thinking of how wrong it was to do this, I didn’t even give it a moment’s thought. I raced upstairs to my parents’ room, and in my father’s night table I began to search for keys. Anything, that would match the lock of a Samsonite. There were so many keys, that I just grabbed them all in my hand, and ran back downstairs. I had a good instinct about this, which is why with my excitement I nearly fell down the basement stairs.

It took a few different keys, but I finally found the right one, and when I opened it, I let out such a sigh of relief that it was probably heard over in neighboring Cambria Heights.

“YES!!!!”

To make sure that they didn’t know. I locked the suitcase, returning the keys to its rightful place. Over the next year, I would get a little bit more lax about covering my tracks. It went from no longer locking the suitcase, to the playing my albums and returning it to the suitcase.

Eventually, my parents returned my albums to me. I was indignant at the affair and made sure that those 200 hundred or so albums no longer meant anything to me. After all, I had just gotten about 800 albums since then. Mostly through Columbia House Records.

Several month had ever had. After I had realized that I not only was grounded for trying to run away, but that my records were thrown out

MY SHORT LIFE OF CRIME
Jimmy and I had more than one reason to visit the Green Acres shopping center, which we would walk to all the way from our house. It wasn't just for the movies. There was a Sam Goody music store. And I hated Sam Goody, because their record collection sucked ass. Or at least this is the interpretation of what I had probably been thinking of at the time.

I had about $100 dollars, from various monies. I think it was from Christmas. I had gone to Sam Goody to cash in. First on the list? The Rolling Stones - Tattoo You. There were plenty of other records that I had picked up, but when I added them all up, I figured that I would be left with nothing. And just then, the thought came clear to me. Could these records be lifted?
I looked around. No alarms. No cameras (at least none that I could see). I was with Jimmy, and even Jimmy thought I was crazy. And normally, he was the crazy one. I don't know what it was that possessed me to do this. I am obviously not proud. Not proud for two reasons. One, because it is a sin to steal (Hey? Didn't your mother teach you that? Oh sorry, I was abandoned by mine) and second......because i was CAUGHT.

As I started to make my way out the door, with all the records under my oversized parka, the alarms went off instantly. They were loud, proud, and they morally shrunk me down to the size of a pea.

Jimmy, who didn't even want to know who I was, just stood, away from me, looking at me, as other strangers began to congregate around me.

Store Manager or some other mukety-muk: "Excuse me! Excuse me! What do you think you are doing?!!!"

THINK ALEX. OR RATHER DAVID. THINK DAVID. THINK!!!!!

David: "Oh My God, I can't believe it? How did this happen? I was in a rush to leave because I have to be somewhere in the next 10 minutes, and I totally forgot that I had these records."

YEAH. RIGHT.

At this point, I even didn't believe myself. Damage control was not working. This was going to get ugly, and fast.

Mr. Mukety: "Young Man, Do You Know What the meaning of the word "POLICE" is?"

At this point I did a 180 degree and basically pleaded at this middle-aged stranger with his bad toupe.

David: "I am sorry. I really didn't mean it. Look!" and at that moment I pulled out over $100 dollars in my pocket. "I have the money. I have the money! I will pay for it."

I guess the guy didn't really have a legally ground to prosecute. I mean I never crossed the plane. In other words, I never fully exited the store, so technically I never stole. While you know and I know that I was a bad seed that day, this was something that probably would never have made to juvee court. The guy knew it, I knew it. And when his facial expression changed from that of pitbull to resigned, I knew I had just gotten out by the skin of my teeth.

David: "Thank you, sir. Thank you!"

What a dope I was. To think that I was that stupid to think I was going to get away with such stupid shit was unbelievable. I had loved music back then to the point of committing a petty theft.

Did I say I was a dope? More like an idiot.

Jimmy just held his head in his hands and just shrugged.

Jimmy: "That (lol) was not cool Dave (lol) not cool at all......I will pay! I will pay!... You are ridiculous bro!"

That was the last time I ever attempted to single-handedly steal anything again.


MY FIRST CONCERT
With all the love of music that I had accumulated over my first 15 years, I had never been to a concert. And then came July 23, 1981.

Knowing how to hype something into a frenzy, Jimmy, and in his usual fashion, was all my ass the moment I got to his house.

Jimmy: “Yo Dave, You’re never gonna believe who we are getting tickets to see?”

Alex: “See?”

Jimmy: “Dude. I don’t care what you parents do or say. You are coming and that’s final!”
At this point I was cracking up, because I didn’t even know who or even what he was talking about.

Alex (Dave): “Coming? I don’t even know if I’m going?”

Jimmy: “Oh you are going alright! Ooooh!!!!! Damn Dave, this is going to be the greatest concert of all time. You’ll never guess in a million years who it is!”

The funny thing was that I guessed and guessed correctly. First try. After all, we had only played his Iron Maiden – Killers album over and over until the grooves wore down. This, one of the inherited benefits of being able to hang at your friends house for at least 2-3 hours before your own parents came home.

Alex: “Iron Maiden?”

Jimmy: “Iron Fucking Maiden, dude! Iron Fucking Mai-ay-ay-ay-dennn!!!!”
I swear, when Fast Times at Ridgemont High came out in ’82, I truly believe that someone saw us at a party. We were deadringers for Spicoli and Rat in every way; looks, mannerisms, and vocabufuckinlary.

Alex: “That is awesome, dude!”
Truth was, it was only so-so awesome. I did love Iron Maiden, but not as much as Jimmy. While he probably listened to Wrathchild about 751 times, I probably heard it only about 542 times. See what a big difference that makes?

But then the next thing he said shocked the shit out of me.

Jimmy: “It ain’t ovah, Dave. There’s more!”

Alex: “What do you mean there’s more?”
Jimmy: “Maiden is only opening the show. GUESS…..who the headliner is?”
The moment he said that, it sunk into me as to who he was referring to. I mean, who else could it have been, right? I went from a person who had never been at a concert his whole life, to acting like I was a regular concert critic connoisseur. And at that very moment, he finally got me going, going, gone.

Alex: “Holy shit! Holy mother-fuckin-shit!! It’s….”
And then we both yelled it out… “JUDAS FUCKIN’ PRIEST!!!! Y-A-A-R-R-H!!!!!”

I swear to you when I tell you that I don’t make this up. If my parents had seen the way that I acted when I was not around them, they would have had me committed.

Once the whole mania ended, then so did the fantasy. After all, how the hell were my parents going to allow me to go all the way into Manhattan, to the Palladium on 14th street to see a rock concert, no less?

Answer? Jimmy’s mother Ann had agreed to drive us there and pick us up.

What a lifesafer! By telling my parents that his parents were taking us and bringing us back, there would be no way that they would refuse me. Plus, they didn’t know what kind of rock groups they were anyway. This was a lock!

Later that evening:

Dad: “Wh-a-a-h-h-t? Judas Priest? What the hell is that?! Some kind of devil worshipping music, David???”

I guess it was not a lock. It took some convincing. I played up the part about Jimmy’s parents taking us over and over until they finally relented.

And so, that Thursday evening, July 23, 1981 my dream finally came true. It’s amazing what a dream consists of to a teenager. Most people dream of becoming rich, or owning a very large house in Port Washington. Others like philanthropists, dream of ending world hunger, or making sure that are no homeless people on our streets.

Me? I wanted to hear K.K. Downing’s chords from “Grinder” to destroy my Eustachian canal. And believe me it almost did.

Before it became a nightclub, the Palladium was a concert venue. Located on 14th and Irving, it was the home to many hard rocking venues passing through the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a very large hall. Perhaps as many as 5000 people were at that show that night, but it was not stadium-styled seating at all like you see nowadays. That meant that if you were in the back of the hall then good luck seeing the show unless everybody was sitting down properly.
Properly? Are you kidding me??? You had to see the “clientel” at the concert. The chicks and the dudes all wore leather. The girls had studded chokers, and piercings. The guys looked like they were about 2 seconds away from cracking your head open – and that was just for looking at their women (which, trust me, it was an everlasting vision of beauty that I will never forget). Leather mini-skirts, high spiked boots, tight blouses. I wasn’t sure whether I was attending a rock concert or a Frederick’s-Of-Hollywood convention.

The show got underway. And almost immediately the front section of the audience needlessly stood. That meant that the section behind them, had to stand on their metal folding chairs to be able to see the artists. And that meant we had to do the same, just to get a mere glimpse from time to time. Jimmy, Joe, a friend of his, and I sometimes he piled on top of one another just to see the insanity up ahead.

The music was wild and wonderful, exactly as I had expected it. Killers was only Iron Maiden’s third album released in the US. Their first album was barely a year old. “Eddie the monster” mascot stood about 10 feet high walking around stage. The crowd was loving that.

For me it was Judas Preist that stole the show, naturally. For as many times as Iron Maiden spun around Jimmy’s turntable at 130-68, so did Priest’s Unleashed In The East and British Steel spin on mine at 130-38. We were the only two white teenagers on the block, and perhaps in all of Laurelton, that actually listened to what we did.

When the show finally ended to thunderous cheers, the show never really ended.
My ears were ringing, a new dimension to me. They rang all the way while Walter, Jimmy’s stepfather drove us home, and even in bed. The next day when I got up, my ears no longer rang but felt like it feels when you put your head underwater for awhile.

All in all however, it was a wonderful experience. One that I will never forget.


MTVAlthough my parents refused to get cable TV, I used to go over Jimmy’s to watch MTV. In fact, in a totally unrelated event, I was sleeping over his house Friday night, July 31st. And unlike my parents, things were much more lax at his house.

It was around midnight, we had the TV on, and as he flipped through the channels in the dark, we stumbled across something that I had never seen on TV before. Music video. So, despite not having even WHT (Wometco Home Theatre) I did get to see the first ever music video that MTV ever launched, “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Buggles. The song was “ehhh” (though I like it a lot now), but it led the way to many mindless hours where we would watch music videos, while we ate, or drank booze, or did joints.
At least back then MTV was really music all the time.

DAVID VS. THE NOISEOne of the things that I was able to do when we moved to Laurelton was to be able to get my bedroom furniture, and such, from my mother’s apartment. To me the most important piece was my record center and the stereo within. It was made of wood, cheaply made and looked like the letter ;H; if you tilted your head. The stereo system was largely junkie, but I played the heck out of my music with it. One day though, as I was walking home from Merrick Boulevard, someone had thrown out a record player with speakers. I took it home, and gerry-rigged it to my stereo and played it. The record player looked like it was built in the 1960s’ but it was a solid piece of engineering, not the compact stereo center that I was quickly growing out of.

Now, and in addition to my room already being a mess, I had wires everywhere. And yes, I was yelled for this too.

As you wish, my master.

It wouldn’t take long in my house before my parents, especially my father, would barge into my room, and yell at me for having the music turned up too loud. Hey, I couldn’t help myself. I love it loud. I remember one time I even reasoned with him about this, explaining that Heavy Metal music has to be listened to as loud as possible so that all of the instruments can be heard. “Otherwise”, I added, “it will sound like noise”. His classic response was “Well, if you turn it up, the noise will only get louder!”

Whatever you say, Lord Vader.

THE MARSHALL-SOMETHING-TUCKER-OR-THE-OTHER-BAND-CONCERTSometimes the worst thing about getting high all the time, was not being able to know when you are having a good time. Never is the case as much as when I would go and party with the Quinn’s and with their friends. Mark had his infamous VW van, and I barely remembered all of the events that took place in that van. I can attest to one permeating fact however. That van had more smoke in it then London had fog.

One night I remembered all of us riding in his van to go to some outdoor concert in Long Island. Was it Freeport Stadium? Eisenhower State Park? Or somewhere else? Who knows. I was so stoned, I couldn’t tell you. It was my second concert ever, I do remember that much. I also remember running out of the van like flower children from the sixties, and onto a small grassy hill overlooking the stage fairly close by. I know that the music being played was country rock. I also know that we got there at almost the end of the show too. Pretty amazing back then was the fact that security did nothing about your unabashedly and brazen use of pot. The field looked like the van, full of smoke, and full of real dopey people wearing real dopey smiles.

I remembered that the It was straight out of a Cheech & Chong movie, and if you know who Cheech & Chong were, then you’re just as old as me.

JIMMY'S HOUSE OF MUSIC
When it came to listening to music at defeaning levels, I would go to Jimmy’s house. His house was laid out exactly like mine, except that he had the house on the corner, so it was a little bit larger and had property all the way around. The best house on the block if you ask me. I had to pass his home on my way to mine, so more often than not, I’d stop by there first. Often, Jimmy and I would listen to records together, and talk about girls. Other times we’d trade baseball cards, watch baseball on TV, or do stupid shit like playing football with his Nerf ball before his mother came home. That was if we weren’t outside playing catch, or whiffle ball.

I don’t remember exactly, but I think his mother was a teacher. Still, that was not a guarantee that she’d be home early, as I remember plenty of times where we’d get away with murder.

The funny thing was that Ann, his mother, didn’t mind having me over. She was always very open minded, and whle she might not always have been trusting of Jimmy, she thought that I was a good influence to him. Funny thing is that she was right. Despite how much of a punk I thought I was back then nowadays, I was usually an angel compared to him. Anne was very cool in my book. She was nothing like my parents, for whom I felt I had to lie about everything. Again, just one of the many misconceptions that I had making me believe my parents were less-than-that.

Every so often Joe would grace us with his presence too. He would come home, tune his guitar, talk about how good he was at it, and then either go to their basement to practice, cause trouble with his brother, or just leave (with guitar in hand). Joe was a year older than me and two years older than Jimmy. There were plenty of times where they would fight one another. Joe usually got the best of him early on in 1979-1980, but by the end of 1981, Joe had mellowed significantly, as Jimmy and I were now the troublemakers.

There were so many bands that we used to listen to. Typically, the harder the better. I was a little more eccentric, as I had a wider range of taste, whereas the Quinn’s only knew one brand of music. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Edgar Winter, Molly Hatchet, Led Zeppelin, Scorpions, Michael Schenker Group, and of course the big five, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Van Halen, and Jimmy’s favorite, AC/DC. We played his albums so much, that I didn’t even need a Sony Walkman to hear it when I’d lay down to go to bed.

What did I listen to? Everything above and more. Talking Heads, B-52’s, Devo, The Cars, Cheap Trick, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Stones, Blondie, Pat Benatar, The Beatles, John Lennon, Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, Pat Travers, Jethro Tull, The Doors, Rush. The list just went on and on.

Monday, March 30, 2009

REVERSE-O-WEIGHT-O. O-NO-O!

Over the course, I am going to attempt to amass a massive recollection of all of my memories at Laurelton. Different than before, I decided to put in a minor installment (see my blog-or if you are already on my blog-then look at the post below). It's really more about an admission from me that things that took place in the past are not necessarily the way I feel about them now (seriously), but to keep the authenticity, I write as if I were that same teenager back then. It's not all bad though, and if anything, it should show you that while I was a good kid, it seems that I remember nothing but hijinxs. Perhaps we are the sum of all this crooked? LOL.....

Anyway, I'm writing each event on a flash card right now. Once I am exhausted of ideas, then I will begin to put them in order of cohesiveness while trying to follow some form of chronological order. Afterwards I will write about each event, and eventually it will make it's way on the blog. Even this will be blogged!

Also, I plan not to keep more than 1 life alive. In other words, when my 3rd life begins, I plan to remove archive ALL postings of my 2nd life. I'm still debating whether or not to put an advance warning as to when the life will be taken off the air. Any ideas?

BTW, I am thoroughly disappointed tonight. I woke up this morning weighing 162. I had oatmeal for breakfast, a paltry salad from wendy's for lunch, and some chicken with rice tonight, followed by 1 hour of a vigorous workout at the gym.....and I am at 162.8. WHAT....THE....HELL?

LIFE 2 - CHAPTER 4: Laurelton Living/Plantings of Bad Harvest Part 1

Life 2 - Chapter 4 - Laurelton Living – Plantings of a Bad Harvest.

A lot has happened to me since the time that I lived with my father in Laurelton. And during those teenage years where I lived with my father, I remembered more than I had expected to. Unfortunately most of my memories were negative ones. This was pretty alarming to me because although I am the keeper of my own life’s experiences, I no longer am the person that I was back then. Back when I was a child, I could tell you that I was a perfect kid, and if I wanted to lie to you even more today, I could have also told you that I was wrongfully victimized by both my mother and father.

Yes. It’s true. I did not have an easy childhood. There are not many of us that have. Regardless of who we are, where we live, or from what financial ground we are raised from, there is no one that I know of that has had an easy time growing up. Still, the next few chapters of my life will be a bitter pill to swallow, because looking back at who I was makes me feel ashamed of myself. Ashamed primarily, because I now realize how much I, like so many of us in life, took things for granted. Back then, I never appreciated the things that I had. Instead, I was quick to judge for the things that I lacked.

And these things for which I lacked, or at least felt that I lacked, were things that I would later use to cement my reasons why I had continued to fail, why things got messed up afterwards and how convenient it was to push the burden of responsibility to others instead of accepting my failures as 100% my own.

Even today, it would be very easy for me to blame my past on my current and future failures. Sadly, I think I represent the majority when it comes to this type of thinking. Many people have used the expression ‘that the past comes back to haunt them’. I say that this is only true, if we allow it to be. For many years in my life, I’ve fallen, and have blamed the shortcomings of my parents as valid reasons, the vehicle if you will, for my own results thereafter. Nobody’s life is easy, regardless of the perception. I can tell you by looking back at my past, that it would seem that all my friends around me had it better than me. Perhaps. Or perhaps, I kept comparing my own situation to others until I found someone else who situation was better than mine, just to justify the persecution of my parents. To allow myself to wipe my hands clean of responsibility, as if the failures were beyond my control.

Regardless of whether my upbringing was somewhat less-than-stellar, it wasn’t all that bad. My parents tried. They are not perfect as they surely knew that I was not either. My father took me in when I was no longer wanted by my mother. He put a roof over my head, and he clothed me. He paid for my braces, and all of my medical bills.

What was lacking therefore, was perhaps the compassion to understand all the dynamics of my father and stepmother at that time. Unfortunately, compassion comes with maturity, of which I had neither. Instead, I put all my parents and step-parents in a glass house, with the anticipated expectation of failure. And of course, and in my mind back then, they failed miserably.

The cycle that ensued thereafter was vicious indeed. The more I felt they had failed me, the more I became intolerant of my situation. And the more intolerant I became, the more I was punished for my attitude. And the more I was punished for my attitude, the more I felt they failed me. It had no end, but mostly, it served no one.

Many times a lack of communication or a failure to listen or even plain ‘ole indifference will create that kind of an atmosphere. I was just a kid, but I was not a dumb kid. Even if I felt that my parent’s brand of parenting was insufficient, I should have played the ‘game’ at the very least, instead of being so blatantly opposed to the way of life.

Initially, I had thought to sugar coat my experiences by just offering you (the reader) the facts of what had taken place along with my explanation, i.e “outer-wrapping”, of what my parents were trying to achieve. But since this story is my story, giving you a guesstimate as to what others had felt would be speculative at best, and completely missing the point at worst. Regardless of whether my sentiments back then were justified or not is irrelevant. It is important that you see the cause-and-effect of those times, to see how I felt with the situation at hand. It is important for my character construction (or perhaps assassination), that you see what one’s feelings can lead to, good, bad, ugly, or otherwise.

But enough introspection. Enough with me explaining to you how I was wrong despite feeling righteous in reacting the way I did over things that “befell” me nearly 30 years ago. The forewarning of the dicey language and emotions that will be adorning the next few chapters or so will be on the borderline of the ugly, and sometimes beyond that. After reading you might feel a sense of anger, pity, sympathy, apathy, or even what-the-fuck?, towards me. Or perhaps all of the above. Like I said, I’m not painting anyone (especially myself) in any color other than the colors I saw to be true.

162 - Crunch Time.

Okay gentlemen. Start your engines!

I've got exactly ONE week to lose TWO pounds.
Sounds easy, right?

Truth is that it's going to be more than just a hill of beans.

But then again, this is my hill, and these are my beans!

In order to make sure, absolutely sure that I meet my objective, I am going to need to lose
5 pounds, really, and get to 157. This will eliminate any discrepancy between my scale and
my father's, plus any surplus clothing during the weigh-in.

I CAN DO THIS!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

160.2

I've made it! Technically.
I still have some time to go before my healthyweight weigh-in at my Dad's house.
The scale said 160.2 this morning. Since then I've had 2 fried eggs, 1 slice of bacon, 8 oz of chocolate milk, 2 slices of toasted potato bread with butter. And as you can imagine, that was just breakfast.

For lunch I went to Wendy's to have their "Premium Fish Filet" sandwich. I was not impressed. I got the combo, and for $6.81 the fish "burger" was the size of something that you'd see on the dollar menu.

Before going to the gym tonight, I went up to 161.2, which was not bad considering what I had eaten. I went to the gym and ran 5 miles. Afterwards, I had just 1 slice of pizza. I weighed myself afterwards and was at 161.2. So my workout earned me a free slice of pizza.

Monday, March 23, 2009

162.8

So yes. I fell off the wagon. Cuban Food followed by Baskin Robbins ice cream last night, and this morning I peaked up to 162.8. However, I did recover nicely. I had a salad I made for dinner with a chicken brest that I cooked on "George" and shredded over the salad. And after I finished, I ventured my merrry way over to the gym and did another 5 miles. Slow of course. No need to reinjure what is still healing (though it feels a lot better).

My weight now is 162.8. LOL. So I went up today, and then back down to the original.
These last few pounds are going to be challenging, and I need to ensure that I am at least 1 or 2 pounds UNDER 160 to make sure I don't lose this bet. I need to lose 5 pounds in the next 2 weeks. Can I do it?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

161.6

After a week of not exercising, I have been very lucky to have lost the weight that I have. Most of these past days I have spent my off time, converting my VHS tapes to DVD. Latest entry to the DVD was "The Notebook". It reminded me of a wild, yet short-lived wonderful moment in my storybook life. Opportunites not realized, still memorable all the same. I guess I'm a hopeless romantic. I believe that if one clings on to the past strong enough, it will all come back to life. But what does this old fool know anyway, right?

I'm going to be looking forward to seeing my father. In some ways, the advent of transportation in our civilization should be held in contempt. For without it, my family would all be within a stone's throw away. Instead, my daughter is 1300 miles away, and so are my father and sister too. My dad will be turning 68 this year. There's probably not a day that goes by where I don't stop to think of something memorable that happened while living with him. Now, as I look back to the present, it is almost implausible to see how quickly the sands of time have dropped to the bottom of my own personal egg timer. 25 years. 25 years since I moved out from my father's house in Hewlett. My parents only lived there for about two and a half-years, but to me, it is as fresh in my mind as the breeze which blew today through my hair as I walked down my street and into my home.

I have been seriously contemplating writing about my life, especially my last 25 years worth into a book someday. I’m not sure that anyone would care to read it. I mean, forasmuch as I may think I’ve had some real roller coasters, I probably have no better story to tell than the next “Alex”. But then again, if I write, it’s not going to be to win a popularity contest either. At the very least I would like to think of it more as a self-embracement of my valued life, and to the very most, perhaps a gift to my children for them to see who I really was.

I guess watching part of “The Notebook” gave me some added incentive to feel this way, but frankly, I’ve been feeling this way for some time now. I spent nearly 2 years writing, producing, directing and filming “Generations”. It was an 8-hour documentary mini-series about my great grandfather, my grandfather, and finally my dad. Well, perhaps now is finally the time to complete the circle by continuing with the story about me. There’s a lot of stories in me about me. Plenty good, and plenty not so good. I am sure that if I ever wrote an autobiography, that I will sound boastful, whiny, pensive, depressed, bitterly angry, and euphorically happy. In short, you’ll see all sides Alex.

Today, I ran for the first time in a week. I did about 5 miles on the “Nordic-Track” and ran 1 mile on the treadmill. I am not 100%, but I am getting there and feeling grateful for not having raced today, despite the lost entry fee, which they would not transfer to another race for me.

Not being able to run this week, made me fearful of gaining weight. I wound up eating a whole lot less than I wanted. When I got home from the gym, I weighed 161.6.

In celebration of this, I treated myself to a trip into Queens, to a restaurant well known in the Spanish community known as “Rincon Criollo”. It is a Cuban restaurant and it’s located on Junction Blvd. About a block south of Roosevelt Avenue, in Woodside. Despite it’s Cuban cuisine on the menu, the majority of those running the place were anything but. I would say that the waiters were probably Dominican, and the cooks are definitely Mexican (as it is everywhere it seems in NY), but the original Cuban owner was there, to show me to my seat. They were all splendid hosts.

I started off with a small cup of “Caldo Gallego”, which is really more a Spanish soup than Cuban, along with an order of “tostones” (fried & mashed slices of banana). Delicious. Then the main order came, a home-made Cuban sandwich, complete with pickle, along with a plate of white rice with frijoles negros (black beans). Absolutely delicious.

On my way back I hit Baskin Robbins and had a double scoop on a cone. First ice-cream in nearly 2 months.

Damage? It is 11:42pm right now. I just weighed myself and I am …… 164.6. I am always at my heaviest in the evening. Of course…the Cuban food did not help either.

Friday, March 20, 2009

162.6

The last two days have been great for my waist, but not for my brain. I have to come to grips that my mission statement of "1:17:20 or bust" for this Sunday's race is going to have to be "bust" instead. I heal pretty fast, but the extent of last Sunday's calf injury has proven to be more profound than I had originally believed.

I probably could have avoided injury had I not run on Sunday, but I could not help myself. Just like John J. Kelley, marathon legened, and winner of the 1957 Boston Marathon once said, "The things we do should consume us. If they don't, our lives won't have any meaning."

That said, once I start running again, I will be looking to increase my potato intake. Potatoes provide more energy-delivering complex carbohydrates than a cup of pasta. It's easy to prepare, and I digest it fairly quickly. I've even read somewhere that a good postrun edible, is a baked potato topped with low-fat chili. The chili provides a good and quick way to repair muscles, with the carbs of the potato acting as a carbohydrate accelerant and replenishment.

If I am feeling well enough, I just might trek out to Queens and run with the club on Sunday. Most on the club will do a slow trot, which is probably the most I will be able to do anyway.

It sucks to be out of commission like this, but what can I do? Better to repair now, than to further harm myself. Blech!

I forgot to post this yesterday, but I had gone down to 163.8 and today I am down to 162.6. It is amazing the amount of weight that I am losing despite the lack of exercise. I think I can attribute it to eating a whole lot less. Smaller portions, and tricking myself into trying to feel full.
My bet with my father (who, by the way, owes me like at least another 4 accolades!) was to get to under 160. My real ultimate goal is to get be between 150-155.

In other news...Work, Money and Weather permitting, I might venture this summer to Virginia Beach, and then the Outer Banks. I hardly can match with the big boys expense accounts to actually afford a summer house rental out there, but perhaps I can find some run down Motel that is "near" to places like Corolla, and actually see what the hub-bub is all about. Get some sand, see how the uppity-ups relax, maybe mingle with the single, and finally cross that damned Chesapeake Bay Bridge! :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Birthday....Spring time!

Okay Okay....I am 1 day early for Spring but I am trying to get myself in a cheery mood. Kinda hard when my right leg's bumming me out and I think I might miss the race. I am going to be off from work today but I am not going to be enjoying myself much outside of getting my car inspected and such.

In addition to this, all I ever hear about on the news these days are about the greedy people in this world. Especially....the bankers.

If it isn't already outrageous what executives in the financial industry make nowadays, then I have to scratch my head to think that they are oblivious enough to feel that they deserve it.
Yesterday, the entire world watched as Congress grilled the newly appointed AIG CEO about bonus monies that they received despite the sorry state that their company was in. The whole show before congress was a little disingenous if you ask me. Considering that our government probably had some knowledge of what was going on, my take is that they made this a spectacle to appease the public masses. Both past and present regimes must've known about these irresponsible payouts well before it became public, thanks to Andy Cuomo.

There's a great many people who are saying that what is worse than allowing these execs to get their bonus monies for a job poorly done is to have our government bailout AIG altogether. $170 billion dollars, which will have to be paid by long-time suffering middle class Americans like myself. Last night, and on CNN, Ben Stein commented on how having the government allow the likes of Lehman Brothers to tank was even worse. He did not go into specifics, but I did my homework a while ago on this subject. I agree this was a bad thing. Almost as bad as when Bear Stearns was gobbled up JPMorgan Chase. They came right on in and made a nice killing off of Bear's credit default swap mess. It was a bloodbath resulting in a lot of loss jobs, and probable cash pocket stuffing by the orchestrators at mahogany row at 270 Park Avenue. Who knows now, how long do we, the taxpayer, have to pay for AIG's mess? For all we know, they might still fail, and there will be more bailouts on the way. Where does it end?

However, I have even a more compelling argument....

Why did we (the American People, Government, etal) allow AIG to grow as big as they did? It is apparent to me now, that with over $1 trillion dollars in assets, and as the leading insurer in over a dozen different lines of industry (real estate, financial, hollywood, transportation, airlines, etc), that our government had NO choice but to bail AIG out. Shame on all of us for allowing them to get to the position of a monopoly. Another example of how it's big business (NOT BIG GOVERNMENT) which has hurt this nation in recent times. Even though AIG was shamed yesterday into giving back their bonuses it took a public outlash for them to do anything "decent". However.....what about the rest of companies that didn't perform and are getting bailout money?

I realize that I may sound like I am trying to launch some form of "Robin-Hood-like" crusade here. Let's get the pitchforks out and find Frankenstein! Attack! Attack! :-) Well, I am not. I am all for success in the workplace, and the greater good for the American people and to democracy. I don't get to write the rules, and I only have but 1 vote every four years for the top dog. Yet, this country has blessed me with the liberty to "opinionize" and free from persecution. And having said that, I truly believe that there should be a ceiling when it comes to compensation.

Last year, for example, Martin Sullivan, the then President and Chief Executive Officer for AIG, made $10,125,000 in cash. And that was just the bonus! All told, he made $35 million dollars in total compensation between 2006 & 2007. That amounts to 195 TIMES the compensation that I received. I may not have a PhD, and perhaps THAT is the reason I don't get to be as corrupt as these unsavory types are, but I sure as hell work my tail off.

Even companies that are doing well, the figures are staggering. Take Jamey Dimon for instance who is the Chairman and CEO for JPMorgan Chase. In 2007, he made a bonus of $14,500,000. These figures come straight from their website's annual proxy report. Apparently, they have no shame to advertise this. But it doesn't end there. His total compensation for 2007 was $27,797,275 and in 2006 it was $39,053,329. In all Jamey Dimon was compensated to the tune of nearly $67 million dollars, roughly half of the reported bonus monies given out at AIG to all 75 of its recipients, and 352 TIMES my total compensation.

How much money does one person actually need?

The JP Morgan chase annual proxy went on to show the earnings of their top 5 individuals. The other 4 were Michael J. Cavanagh, Steven D. Black, James E. Staley, and William T. Winters. All told, $217,332,104 were paid out in compensation to them over just 2 years. Let me repeat that...the top 5 people at JP Morgan Chase made $217 MILLION DOLLARS in 2 years time.

Are they for real?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

165.2 (boooooo-o-o-o-o-o) :-(

Like the stock market, it was inevitable. And no I am not talking about the recent revelation that the Federal Reserve Bank knew about the AIG bonuses 2 weeks ago (Bernake must go) either.

Not having run since Sunday, due to injury, and yesterday eating the filet mignon, which I carefully had prepared (not cooked) on Monday, meant that weight was coming back on.
I gained about a 1/2 pound. I have 18 days to lose 5 pounds, otherwise I lose this bet (hold on a sec....it's tough to write with one hand while I have pizza in the other).

I might have to go to the gym tonight, and do elliptical work. I need to do something that will not impact my right calf, and by the same token keep me in good enough shape, should there be a chance that I still race on Sunday. And that's looking about as good now, as the CEO for AIG does.

It has been a beautiful day outside. I'm sure it will be a beautiful day tomorrow too. Well, at least for some of us. Springtime is right around the corner (hence the banner change). I can't wait for it!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

HAPPY ST. PATTY'S!















For one (perhaps two) days out of the year, I trade in my Spanish shackles in favor of a wee 'o Irish one!

For today I am Alex O' Gonzo the Lucky Lindenhurst Lad!

I didn't run yesterday (injury) and with today being a 'typical' food fest of a day and all, might spell disaster for me. Must resist the temptation of a Guiness, for lo' the mind is weak and the thirst be quite the willful one.

Normally, I don't shameless plug the music I update from time to time, but for Irish folk and fans alike, I've put together a motley crue of music, from Ireland and/or from Irish musicians. There are classic songs in there like "Danny Boy" and "The Wild Rover" for sure, but you'll also see contemporary artists in there, plus a several clover-filled gems from U2 and company. YOU REALLY OWE IT TO YOURSELF TO ENJOY THIS GREAT MUSIC!!! Turn your speakers way up and enjoy the sounds on this festive day !!! :-)

HAPPY ST. PATTY'S!















For one (perhaps two) days out of the year, I trade in my Spanish shackles in favor of a wee 'o Irish one!

For today I am Alex O' Gonzo the Lucky Lindenhurst Lad!

I didn't run yesterday (injury) and with today being a 'typical' food fest of a day and all, might spell disaster for me. Must resist the temptation of a Guiness, for lo' the mind is weak and the thirst be quite the willful one.

Normally, I don't shameless plug the music I update from time to time, but for Irish folk and fans alike, I've put together a motley crue of music, from Ireland and/or from Irish musicians. There are classic songs in there like "Danny Boy" and "The Wild Rover" for sure, but you'll also see contemporary artists in there, plus a several clover-filled gems from U2 and company. YOU REALLY OWE IT TO YOURSELF TO ENJOY THIS GREAT MUSIC!!! Turn your speakers way up and enjoy the sounds on this festive day !!! :-)

Monday, March 16, 2009

164.8

I was rushing to get to work early today, and didn't get a chance to snap up a picture, but yes, I am down now to 164.8. Not a full pound, and this tells me that perhaps the water weight is ending and the real fat weight is beginning. For those out there who know how hard it is to lose fat weight, you also know that the amount for which I will be able to lose in 1 day will be diminished.

Also diminished will be the level of exercise. I hurt myself running yesterday. It's the right calf muscle (again). I stretch before and after, warm up and warm down too. But for some reason it's becoming a regular nuisance. I took a leftover painkiller yesterday which helped, but I'm still walking like quasimodo today.

Yesterday's run was great. I ran through my neighborhood of Lindenhurst. Predominantely Irish, it was nice to see all of the houses adorned with shamrocks, lucky leprachauns, and kiss me I'm Irish signs. I'm not Irish. Perhaps I should have a customized sign on my door "I'm Not Irish but kiss me anyway".

I ran all the way to Argyle Lake in Babylon and back. I got slightly lost along the way, and then remembered I had my i-Phone with the GPS system. It proved to be a lifesafer after all. All told I ran 8 miles. With a speed workout of 5K on Saturday, this was a pretty productive weekend.

Whether or not I will have to pull out of next Sunday's race will all depend on how successful I am in recovering between now and then. Here's hoping.

164.8

I was rushing to get to work early today, and didn't get a chance to snap up a picture, but yes, I am down now to 164.8. Not a full pound, and this tells me that perhaps the water weight is ending and the real fat weight is beginning. For those out there who know how hard it is to lose fat weight, you also know that the amount for which I will be able to lose in 1 day will be diminished.

Also diminished will be the level of exercise. I hurt myself running yesterday. It's the right calf muscle (again). I stretch before and after, warm up and warm down too. But for some reason it's becoming a regular nuisance. I took a leftover painkiller yesterday which helped, but I'm still walking like quasimodo today.

Yesterday's run was great. I ran through my neighborhood of Lindenhurst. Predominantely Irish, it was nice to see all of the houses adorned with shamrocks, lucky leprachauns, and kiss me I'm Irish signs. I'm not Irish. Perhaps I should have a customized sign on my door "I'm Not Irish but kiss me anyway".

I ran all the way to Argyle Lake in Babylon and back. I got slightly lost along the way, and then remembered I had my i-Phone with the GPS system. It proved to be a lifesafer after all. All told I ran 8 miles. With a speed workout of 5K on Saturday, this was a pretty productive weekend.

Whether or not I will have to pull out of next Sunday's race will all depend on how successful I am in recovering between now and then. Here's hoping.

Friday, March 13, 2009

165.6



Getting to bed earlier, works!

I was at Jeff & Mindy's last night. They needed a hand with getting their laptop optimized. In return, Mindy made a nice dish of grilled chicken with zucchini & squash.

It also didn't hurt that I ran another 2 miles this morning either. Fitness 19 was empty this morning, but the quietness came from the fact that their cable wasn't working. No TV. No Music. Nada. Nyet. Zilch-o. Maybe they didn't pay their bill, though by judging their attendance of late, I'd say it was probably Cablevision's fault at the very least.

.

.

Speaking of faults, it was nice to see Bernie Madoff admit to his before a court yesterday:

Madoff: 'I knew this day would come'

One of Wall Street's biggest swindles ends in guilty plea on 11 charges.

Judge orders him to jail.


See-Yah!!!!
It also went on to mention this...

He could face a maximum 150-year sentence. His sentencing was set for June 16.

Madoff admitted that he never invested his clients' money, and that he
deposited the funds into a "Chase Manhattan" bank.

"When money was
requested, I paid it out from the Chase account," he said.



No wonder JP Morgan Chase is doing better than the rest of the banks!

Anyway, the source for that article is here: (JP Morgan)Chase Manhattan bank acts as piggy bank for Madoff's swindling billions

What happened to the old days where we would look up to seeming cool dudes that had a way with money a/o women? It seems like nowadays they are more like the vagrants you'd see behind bars or homeless on the street. Essentially we went from Fonzie to Ponzie!! (and you knew I had to get that out!)

5.6 more pounds to go Daddy-O. I am ready and waiting for my next pontification from you!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

167.0

1 pound less on the nose!
I guess running another 6 miles like I did last night help quite a bit!

Ready for my next Wilt Chamberlain tribute, daddy-o!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

168.0

Somebody from Florida owes me an admission about who the world's greatest basketball player is.....

I lost 2 pounds. The bet called for 1 cantation per pound. Thus, he actually owes me 2 admissions right now!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Spider Was No Match For Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday is not a person. For old farts, and movie buffs alike, "Roman Holiday" was a picture starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. It was Audrey's first starring role, and in 1953, it was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture.

I got home after doing another 7 miles tonight. I was tired going into it, but felt glad for doing it.
I had to. I have a race in almost 2 weeks, and I now have this mini weight-off competition with Darth Vader (dad).

Dad, here is the proof of my weigh in today....




After I got home I jumped right into the shower. I was all but ready to wash my hair, when suddenly I noticed a fairly large (2 inch diameter) spider walking upside down on my ceiling. It wasn't a daddy-long legs however. It was darker, and it's legs had a little more substance to them.

I got out of the shower, dripping everywhere, I might add, and looked for the first thing I could find....and there it was....."Roman Holiday" on DVD and on loan from the Lindenhurst library. I ran back into the bathroom and wouldn'tcha know it? The spider had crawled his way all the way until he was right over my bathtub. Imagine how nice it would've been, had that little 8-legged bugger fallen, while I was showering, right onto my boys. I'm sure the screams would have been heard all the way to Port Washington!

Knowing, I had to do something and soon, I placed DVD flat onto my right palm. With a coordinated effort, I lept up and smashed the not-so-itsy-bitsy spider that was still on the ceiling, into oblivion. You could say I gave the spider an all-expense trip to Italy. For it's smushed guts, and it's semi-meaty legs, all dismembered, laid just beneath Gregory Peck's chin next to the Roman Aqueduct (see up).

Thank you Paramount Pictures.

Speaking of pictures, I kinda like this photo I took of myself below. It is my current "Facebook" profile photo. I am in there as "Alex David Gonzalez" in case any of my anonymous and notsonymous readers want to see.

Losing Means Winning.

With all the talk about my constant weight gain/loss struggles that have recently dominated my blog, my dad decided to throw the gauntlet down by proposing a challenge:

"Alex,
Considering that there are 28 days left for your trip and you must be by now about 10 lbs overweight, I propose the following:

1) Every 3 days you must lose 1 lb, so by April 6 you'll have lost 9 lbs.
2) For every pound you lose I will send you an email glorifying Wilt Chamberlain as the greatest ever. I know it will hurt me so much to have to lie and bring myself to such a low level of degradation, but it will help your cause. Of course, you better be telling the truth, because I can't see you.
3) If you've been lying to me about your weight my only condition to get compensated is to have you wear a Michael Jordan T-Shirt when you get here..


Deal... or no deal?"

So I responded with this:

In a message dated 3/10/2009, AlexGonzalez0709 writes:

"I weigh 169 now. So perfect. I will start today, and by April 6, I must weigh no more than 160. What kind of scale do you have? I would prefer a neutral site for weighing. Oh, and by the way, the 169 is totally bare. So I will say that with tshirt & shorts, and socks I am probably about 170, that would make me have to weigh 161 or less to win. I am going to the gym tonight. So get your homage to Wilt the Stilt ready!"

And then got this....

From: DAGONAZ To: AlexGonzalez0709: Re: INCENTIVE TO LOSE WEIGHT

"160 or less, or nothing. No clothes gimmicks or any other bullshit excuse...160 or less.
My scale is perfectly well calibrated and leveled. I don't cheat with my weight."


For all these years, I refuse to recognize Michael Jordan. I do this partially, because it drives my father mad. To me, Jordan's just that dude that paid Juanita Jordan like, what, $500 million for divorce? So, when my father challenges me the way he did, it's because he thinks that he has just as much a shot in winning the bet, as I do to show him up. Challenge accepted.

Further to that, here was a little IM exchange that took place since the emails...

AlexGonzalez0709: Hey, I got your response. Question....Is 160.8 considered 160? what kind of a scale do you have?
AlexGonzalez0709 is it a digital scale?
DAGONAZ: that's considered 161
AlexGonzalez0709 what about 160.4
DAGONAZ 160
AlexGonzalez0709 160.5
DAGONAZ 160
AlexGonzalez0709 160.51
DAGONAZ 161
AlexGonzalez0709 160.500000000000001
DAGONAZ 161
AlexGonzalez0709 okay so 160.5 or less
DAGONAZ ok
AlexGonzalez0709 that will at least take my clothes into consideration, as I am not going to weigh myself in front of your or anyone bareback!
DAGONAZ but my scale has to show 160
DAGONAZ digital
DAGONAZ no decimal shown
AlexGonzalez0709 okay
DAGONAZ ok
DAGONAZ get to it!
AlexGonzalez0709 thats not too fair though
AlexGonzalez0709 if i put something on your scale that weighs 6 ounces, i bet it wont say 0 pounds
DAGONAZ do you think it is fair for me to break my principles and admit that number 6 is number 1?
AlexGonzalez0709 6 OUNCES out of 16 OUNCES should round down to zero, otherwise I won't benefit from 160.5 being 160.
AlexGonzalez0709in other words, there is no rounding accountability without decimals
DAGONAZ anything under 1 pound ahows 0
DAGONAZ shows
AlexGonzalez0709 okay. so as long as you said it, you have certified it.
AlexGonzalez0709: anything else is a breach of contract
DAGONAZ: i am notary public. i cannot lie under the laws of Governor Chris
AlexGonzalez0709 The Challenge has begun and I expect your first homage to Wilt Chamberlain tonight when I come back from the gym!
DAGONAZ: we shall see if you really are telling the truth
AlexGonzalez0709 and if i lose 2 pounds in one shot, then you have to say 2 things about Wilt Chamberlain being the greatest basketball player ever. do we have a deal?
AlexGonzalez0709 i will take a picture of my on the scale before i go to the gym tonight.
DAGONAZ: no changing the rules. what it is its what it is.
AlexGonzalez0709 and post it on my blog. this will be a public challenge!
DAGONAZ: deal
DAGONAZ: then when you get here you can get back to pigland.
AlexGonzalez0709 hopefully not!
DAGONAZ: agree, but the temptation will be great with my culinary abilities
DAGONAZ: supported with cristina's cuban cooking
DAGONAZ: your determination will be tested.
AlexGonzalez0709 i will win.
AlexGonzalez0709 i will perservere.
AlexGonzalez0709 relentless!
DAGONAZ: Chicken Piccata, Barbeque, Spanish Tortilla, Cocido madrileño, etc etc
AlexGonzalez0709 i will just have to stay away from pizza. that's all.
DAGONAZ: bistec empanizado with frijoles and arroz blanco,mmmm!
AlexGonzalez0709 yah yah yah,. whatevah!
DAGONAZ: hahahaha
DAGONAZ: ok, now that you got a preview of your torment to come, i have to sign out

He is, of course, talking about the good Spanish and Cuban food that they make in their home.
My kids and I will be spending some time there coming up. Retired people love to cook. In a morbid way, I am challenging myself to lose weight now to , and as he has mentioned, put it back on later.

I am already off to a bad start. Lunch consisted of a bologna sandwich, and Breakfast a paltry bowl of Total with skim milk. However, 1 bag of cheetos, 1 package of Starburst, and 1 Milky Way bar. No doubt I will be hitting the treadmill tonight.....

Come back later for the picture of my feet on the scale prior to running tonight.