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Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...

Didn't watch a lick of the Murkin Football this weekend. Care less than two shits once the Bills are out of it, as they always are by Christmas.

After an abbreviated workday today- two meetings, one with a client who doesn't need my services and two others in need of me finishing them for them- I left home with the Sabres game on the radio.  Somehow the NHL has decided that MLK Day matinees are a historically appropriate Thing- because what honors a non-violent icon for African-American civil rights more than getting to watch a bunch of mostly Canadian white guys getting into fights with each other?

Oh well- it was a nice diversion- especially since the Sabres won, and quite handily at that- over the Dallas team coached by their own former player and longtime mentor Lindy Ruff.  I am not going to review the game or the season here- suffice it, we still gots a lot of work to do on that rebuild- but the day did bring a reference to the most famous Buffalo Sabres draft choice who never lived.

Yes, never.


Fake athletes, or even whole teams, are occasionally invented by journalists or other wags.  I had a friend in high school who would call in fake scores to the late-night sports desk at the local paper just to see if he could get the team name into the agate-type lists in the early edition. (One I remember, perhaps apochryphally, was "Oklahoma Sooners 37, Tennessee Laters 14.")  When he got to college, he faked an entire sport for the college weekly: ice tennis.  Literally cutting and pasting photos from the tennis and hockey teams, Dennis described the rules, reported the team's recent results and, of course, announced open tryouts at the school gym. Crazy people with racquets and skates allegedly showed up.  (And of course, since the Internet is basically run by an infinite number of monkeys who will create everything eventually, this "sport" actually began existing in 1998, 20-odd years after he made it up.  Just think of the missing royalties.)

Injecting actual personalities makes these fakes more convincing- and of course more fun.  Perhaps the most famous of these, or at least closest to my own heart at the time, came in Sports Illustrated's April 1, 1985 issue.  Legendary writer and impostor George Plimpton created a phenomenal new pitcher for the Mets named Sidd Finch. It later became the basis for a novel by Plimpton, and long after yet another fabulous 30-for-30 from ESPN.  Given a Tibetan background and an option for becoming a professional French horn player instead of joining the Mets (an easy call- go with the orchestra;), George and the magazine convinced thousands of Mets fans that their years of suffering would soon be over. Which they were a year later, but thanks to the likes of the real Sid Fernandez and not the manufactured Sidd Finch.


And this has to do with hockey, what?  Because the Sabres may have been the only professional team to not only inspire one of these fakeries but to have created it themselves.  For this one, we need to go back even earlier to the Bad Old Days of the hockey league wars of the mid 1970s.

A rival league had taken off (eh?). The World Hockey Association was offering contracts to both current NHL stars- Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull jumped, as did many others- and up-and-comers like Wayne Gretzky, whose first major league hockey experience was with the short-lived WHA franchise in Indianapolis.  The New York Islanders exist solely because of this rivalry- NHL officials wanted to keep the new league out of the newly-built Nassau Coliseum, and plopped a second franchise in the metro NYC area just to tie up the building.  Eventually, four WHA teams, three from Canada, would be subsumed into the NHL, but in 1974 the war between the leagues was still at full fire.  Among other things, the NHL tried to limit its rival's knowledge of what new players were being drafted by the league's teams- presumably to make it harder for the WHA to poach them.  So instead of the NHL Draft being the multi-day, multi-media show it now is, the draft was conducted in near-secrecy over the phone with the 18 general managers rotating in and out of a dumbass conference call.

Back then, there were over 20 rounds to the draft- there are now only seven- and there were far fewer players than now taken outside Canada and (to a much smaller extent then) the US.  With only 18 teams and a short supply of talent, GMs often had little hope of ever developing any of the players drafted beyond the first few rounds. By round 11, as I look over the choices, I do not recognise a single name who went on to success in the league; rather, only one ever cracked an NHL lineup, and for all of eight games:

(The "Flin Flon  Bombers" is a great name for a junior team, though.)

Not all teams had picks in the eleventh round- but why is number 183 missing altogether?  Because he didn't exist- and darn it, he became a Buffalo Sabre, yeah yeah yeah. The source of this sucker "Punch" was the team's first-ever coach and general manager:

Courtesy of George ‘Punch’ Imlach, the first player selected from the Japanese Ice Hockey League lives on as one of the most peculiar storylines to ever emerge from the NHL draft:

Up until 1980, the event was a closed affair for the general public with only General Managers and League officials allowed to be present. Teams would either meet at designated hotels, or the NHL would conduct the draft via conference call – as was the case in 1974.

At that time, with only 18 franchises in the League, the draft was permitted to extend beyond nine rounds (it was eventually reduced to seven rounds in 2005) if teams continued to select players.

As the 11th round rolled on, Imlach had had enough.

Bored, and exhausted with the tedium of looking at players that had a slim chance of ever making the roster, he decided to pull one of the more creative pranks in Sabres history.

Sending a secretary to find some common Japanese names, Imlach soon came up with the imaginary Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas - literally translating to the Tokyo Sabres (Katana is a type of Japanese samurai sword).

When NHL President Clarence Campbell asked Imlach for his selection, he was met with laughter from around the League. International scouting wasn’t as prevalent as it is in the NHL now, and drafting a player from Japan wasn’t exactly a common practice.

But Imlach carefully spelled the name of his invented centerman, which was printed in every record book and media guide in the League.

Legend (at least Wikipedia legend) says a Sabres underling got the last name off a store sign on the road to Olean where he traveled to scout St. Bonaventure college games- and that the store's Japanese owner tipped him to what a plausible first name would be.

When the league found out, they were not amused. Taro was scrubbed from all of the league's official draft records- but not the annals of the Sabres.  He appears to this day in media guides and is the stuff of legend in the cheap seats- where "We Want Taro!" remains a cry of hope or derision (depending on the score) even over 42 years later.

I wonder how he would have been at ice tennis.

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On January 15, 1981, five days before Ronald Reagan's inauguration- an event I viewed at the time with almost as much trepidation as what lies ahead this week- a weekly drama premiered on the then low-rated NBC network. I didn't begin watching until probably later in 1981, but Hill Street Blues changed the hourlong cop show, and eventually the entire concept of televised drama. There was no named Star: no Rockford, no Ironside, no Cannon or Mannix. For the first time, it was an ensemble, of mostly unknown actors; I'd only heard of one, Ed Marinaro, and that only because he'd been a football star at Cornell a few years before my time there. The show put women and people of color into strong, equal roles.

The creator, Steven Bochco, was New York born but had been in LA for years, writing for many of those Star Cop/Detective shows for Universal in the 70s.   But he connected with the gritty, Rust Belt atmosphere of the unnamed Everycity the show was set in. Just as improbably, it was a pair better known for comedy- Mary Tyler Moore's studio, and her former husband Grant Tinker who was then rescuing NBC from late 70s disasters like Supertrain- who gave this concept a place to film and a home to be seen.  Despite early low ratings, the network stuck with it, and it was a staple of my first years in Buffalo, watching it for its finer police-procedural points, but also because several of the writers and producers had Western New York backgrounds and would work in distinctly B-lo street and place names into the episodes- "Hertel," "Ferry," "Memorial Auditorium" and even bars like Cole's and Mulligan's got name-checked.

The cast stayed remarkably coherent for most of its run- with one sad exception. Michael Conrad, second-billed and probably the best-known actor in the ensemble from years of supporting roles, died during the filming of the show's fourth (third full) season.  He was replaced for the rest of the run by Robert Prosky- just as tough and just as Polish in character, but never the same kind heart in the squad room.  Phil's tagline at the end of every roll call- "Hey! Let's be careful out there!"- yielded to Stan's somewhat scary-in-hindsight "Let's do it to them before they do it to us!"

Few of the lead actors moved on to film or even bigger shows after their seven years on the Street, but several wound up on the other side of the camera- Betty Thomas, who played Sergeant Bates, has directed numerous films, and Charles "Renko" Haid is a regular tv director including of many more recent police procedurals.  Of the recurring characters, probably the most famous was Jeffrey Tambor's rise from a sleazy lawyer/judge to Arrested Development and Transparent.  But the one who's likely made the most millions is the one I have always loved and associated with the show more than anybody probably ever does.


My favorite recurring character who I doubt anybody else remembers was played by Dennis Dugan, an underrated character actor who did a few M*A*S*H episodes but on Hill Street played a somewhat psychotic "superhero" (in his own mind) named Captain Freedom. He'd introduce himself with his own ta-duh-duh-DAA! entrance: "Captain Freedom! The earth quakes, and bad men wet their pants!"

Before that, he'd also done a few guests on Rockford Files, and even got to star in a short-lived spinoff of that show called Richie Brockelman, Private Eye. Bochco and crew also put him in a later PI series of theirs called Hooperman. He's since gone to the other side of the camera, partnering with Adam Sandler for some movies that are probably funny if you're not an old geezer like me.

His closing scene as the Captain is included on this Variety piece and might, or might not, embed below:

(Thanks to fellow EMHS alum and Facebook friend Howie Weinstein for marking today's anniversary and reminding me of this:)

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Last night, I got through the ninth of the first-season Sense8 episodes.  It was perhaps the first one without the extreme violence that marked its predecessors, so I felt comfortable sharing some of it with Eleanor, who hasn't the stomach for such stuff.  There's a lot of introspection going on in just about every interaction- among the cluster members and between them and others, sensate and otherwise.  In one scene, though, they bring up a historical event from the worlds of art and supposed philanthropy.  You can view it with this clicky (the link is cued to the scene in question) if you don't mind the crap on the screen trying to steer you to probably a porn or malware site.

In short: the Mexican-based sensate Lito is talking- with SF-based Nomi and in flashback with his then-BF- about an artist named Diego Rivera, who was commissioned by John D. Rockefeller in the early 1930s to paint a mural for Rockefeller Center.  It was apparently too worker-friendly for JD's pals at the Club, so he asked him to change it- which Rivera did, putting Vladimir Lenin right into it. That led to Rockefeller having it destroyed.  (NPR's confirmation of the story can be read here.)

While this is a fascinating tale in and of itself, I found it even more telling in that the next generation of Rockefellers produced the same artistic homicide a generation later.  Once again, I tripped over this story which I'd never heard before back last April, when my Opening Day visit to Flushing, Queens took me on a detour onto the 1964-65 Worlds Fair grounds and my feet across this odd medallion on the path:

I wasn't aware of Warhol's connection to that Fair or its builder. When I got home, I quickly learned. The parallel is striking and a little chilling, as this 50th anniversary retrospective of it explains:

Though Andy Warhol was an outsized public figure, he created just one piece of public art. Chances are, you’ve never heard of it.

Fifty years ago this month, for a little over 48 hours, that Warhol mural—called “13 Most Wanted Men”—hung on the side of the Philip Johnson-designed New York State Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, New York. Its subject—agreed upon by the Fair committee a year in advance of its creation—was a series of enlarged mug shots of the New York City Police Department’s most wanted criminals of 1962, arranged in a checkerboard on the building’s concrete wall.

Yet when the faces of those alleged murderers and thieves, with their swollen eyes and shifty expressions, were no longer an idea but a 20-foot-tall mural on the side of a promotional building, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, readying the launch of a presidential campaign and in no need of bad publicity, swiftly demanded they be whitewashed—or, in this case, silver-washed with the metallic paint Warhol favored.

Powerful billionaires exercising censoring authority over free expression.  Good thing THAT could never happen again in this Great America of ours, right?


By the time I finished Episode 9, I was finally somewhat more sensate myself about another parallel which I'd totally missed up until then: the striking similarity of the arcs of this show and Orphan Black.

Granted, they tell the story differently- the Wachowskis and JMS with multiple actors in multiple venues- but the story is largely the same: Very different personalities, from all over the world, born on the same day and made self-aware all around the same time. They learn of each other, how to communicate with and bond with each other, and, little by little, of the backstory of how they came to be.  What nails it in episode 9, after initial confirmation of the concept in the previous one, is, well, we're getting spoilery here....

Read more...Collapse )

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(No, that is not the worst earworm of all time. This is. Don't blame me if you clicked either of those.)

The workweek ended with Teh Sick finally contained enough to get out for a more-or-less full day of both work and workout, but the subject of much of the morning was the means of transport, old and new.

As I was heading out the door, Eleanor's phone rang. I heard, "Dad's leaving but he needs to hear this...." That's when I noticed I'd also gotten (and missed) a call from the kid. Emily's car was not starting. No specific sounds or other symptoms she could report that I could ID it as "Oh, it's this" or "Just flick that switch."  So the only advice I could give was "Call AAA." So you wait.

And when it's a hybrid which won't start, as she now has, you worry.  They have two batteries: one, similar to those in all-gas vehicles, runs the lights and radio and the other small stuff.  The Big Guy, the one that you charge through deceleration energy and contributes actual power to move the vehicle, does not connect to the other battery, so its stored energy can't start the car if the little one is drained or dead.  It's also the ridiculously expensive one to replace if it goes.  So "won't start" could mean that either has shat the bed, with a range of cost from Near Nothing to Send it to the Crusher.

Meanwhile, I had to be in court, hence the "heading out the door" part earlier. After some fun times getting there which I'll get to, I quickly said my piece and saw Emily had texted me.  Then I got the verdict, and it was a good, if somewhat regretted one (by her):  it was the little battery, and it was the result of her having left the dome light on overnight after turning it on to find something in the dark car.  She could stand to replace the little battery and will, but it's not a major issue, so yay. She also got to an important appointment on time, which she (and I) had also been stressing about.


Then there was the drive there.  I'll just snip it the way I posted it on Facebook right after the experience, since I got to end it with what is now my favourite emoji of forever:

Eleanor's got him at the moment for errands; she didn't charge the electric one last night and it likely wouldn't make it on all her rounds.  I've got a few to run myself, plus the library just sent me the perpetually-on-hold ebook of Ron Chernow's Hamilton bio, the one LMM based the musical on.  I got about a third through it during the first two-week loan, and did find that much of the end is footnotes, so I think I'll finish in time this time.

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Day Four of the bug, if in fact the same one Eleanor got knocked down with last week, started improving today more or less right on schedule.  I got through the night without hourly wakeups- it helped that, unlike Tuesday-night-into-Wednesday, we did not have near hurricane-force gales out there- and with the help of several Psuedofeds and about a gallon of bottled water, got the symptoms down to a dull roar.

I had to be in Rochester both yesterday and today, and came home in between because I wasn't going to inflict this thing on the kids.  Fortunately, I didn't have to be back terribly early today, since I wound up settling the 10:00 a.m. court hearing I'd built my day. Less fortunately, I got to while away half an hour between Let Out Dog and Feed Dog with a wonderful game of Musical Checks.  Apparently, when I did last visit the kids early last week, I neglected to record any of Eleanor's receipts that come out of our checking account. No problem, though, or so I thought: several checks had been delayed in posting. Until yesterday. When I also brought the total balance down below 10 bucks in anticipation of both of us getting payroll posted into there today and tomorrow.  Unfortunately, both the big delayed checks both posted yesterday, bringing us six bucks to the bad. So far, they've only recorded one $34 overdraft charge.  Depending on how they count debit-card transactions, though, that number could go as high as five- and one of them might be for that stupid 3-cent snafu at Felicia Gulf the other day.

That would make me very angry.


Know what else just made me angry?  Goddam Adobe.

My laptop was running slow in the other office this afternoon, and I realized I hadn't rebooted it in awhile- and thus, there were likely definitely a bunch of updates clogging its memory.  So I took a few moments to clean up my real desktop while the Windows Update shit did its thing. Soon as it rebooted and went to desktop, though, Adobe Flash demanded an update.  I'm used to the nasties in these- trying to get you to install CrapAfee or the Ask Toolbar or Drumpf's Favorite Kinky Website- and unclick the "optional offer" without even thinking about it.  This time, though? After running the Flash install and then reopening Chrome, I got this:

Needless to say, I ignored the blue pill and clicked the white one.  Given their skeevy history with these other malware bundles, you'd think Adobe would be more careful.


One more day of Somewhat Sick- quick court appearance, afternoon appointment in the office here- and then two full days plus a quasi-off-day Monday to complete the recovery.
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My day so far in three words:

"No." First word out of my mouth once I woke up feeling crap, resolved not to go to work much less workout, and the dog barked at the back door for the third time since 4 a.m.  I know this Stupid Pet Trick: Ebony gets one of us up usually around an hour after when she's been fed and let out before 6, then turns from the back door and marches into the kitchen where the treats are. This time, I let her hang unattended for a good 20 minutes before finally getting up around 8, more or less for good, and ferrying her straight out the back door with no treat to follow.

"Sick." Pretty self-explanatory. Some is the bug; I've tried Sudafedding it but, with three straight days of contested court and appointments to follow, I've been biggest on just trying to get rest and down liquids.  Well, that and dealing with two real estate deals, trying to settle a case on very short notice and hearing from two out-of-the-blue crazy clients between roughly midnight and just a few moments ago.

So that leaves "Sherlock." I know I've got the wrong one in the icon, but Moff and Mark are going way more holding-an-axe violent in these first two than in most of their priors.  Eleanor even bailed on "Lying Detective" after one too many Creepy Toby Jonesy scenes. Anyway: I'm trying to see how many obvious things I missed now that I know who's who, who's dead, who's not dead and how many places to set at the Holmes place for their next family dinner.

Spoilers, obviously....Collapse )

Right, there's three hours to Adler my brain all over again.  See you back here Sunday.
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My day on the frozen tundra began with JARVIS low on fuel.  I got to the nearest station and discovered their outdoor card readers weren't working in this stupid cold; so I trudged into the Cage of Cigarettes and left my card, still not quite knowing how many gallons are needed to fill his tank.  Went back out, pressed UNLEADED (aka the cheap shit) and found PLUS (aka probably several bucks more for even his small tank) was lit up. I holstered and reloaded. Still PLUS. So I went back in to ask if they were out of the cheap shit.

All I was greeted with was the woman in the cage saying, "Three cents."  Yes, somehow in the process I'd run a microscopic particle of petrol out of the nozzle.  I made a face, demanded my card back and took three pennies out of the Leavea/Takea tray.  Finally filled up at Station the Second, where their card readers were also in a bad mood and ultimately rejected a third insert of my chipped card, but got it filled with an unchipped one.  By late in the day, I checked the first debit card online and, sure enough, was charged for the three cents.

Goodbye, Felicia.  Forever.


This would've been less annoying if my seemingly permanent winter cold hadn't ratcheted up into a sore throat and way more sneezing and snuffying before I even left the house.  I don't think it's the same thing Eleanor got knocked down with last week, but it was just annoying enough to put me in a mood.  Not helping, thereafter, were the following:

- Opening and emailing papers that came in on Saturday's mail run, which I refused to open because I knew they'd ruin my weekend. And they would have.  Mostly I get along with all of my opponents, but this guy, who I've never met in person, just seems to have a major grudge about me and my client.

- Getting almost sideswiped on the 33 coming home from late-morning court. A clean miss, but I could feel the draft pushing JARVIS to the right in his lane as this idiot (in a cab, of course) continued his three-lane weave. Oddly, he didn't even continue on to the airport but got off at an earlier exit more associated with Buffalo's central collection of cemeteries.  Hope your trip there is as quick as you want- as long as it's one-way.

- Not finding out that another opponent, who had over three weeks to file responding papers that were due today, finally filed them online until they did so past 5:30 this afternoon. Yes, that's within the rules but it's very bad form.

- Also getting a late email in response to my seemingly successful real-estating, in which THAT opponent- who really isn't an opponent as such but just the previous seller of a property we're now financing- didn't choose either of the two reasonable alternatives I proposed for solving an issue over a mortgage payoff, but essentially asked me to become a divorce lawyer and renegotiate an entire separation agreement between his client and mine. Ain't gonna happen, bro.

Fortunately, my midday was saved by two nice encounters.  One was getting an email from the singer Jen Chapin in response to my emailing her yesterday.  I'd just found out, during our Sunday Parp! run, that one of our regulars helps book folk concerts at a local venue- and that they were still looking for headliners for March and April dates.  Most performers book way further out than that, but Jen sounded receptive, especially if she could find another venue on her way from Long Island to make a multi-gig trip out of it.

I also got to convey this news to the hearing officer on my pre-almost-sideswipe court appearance.  M. is one of the nicest and brightest guys I ever get to deal with, and he was patient and kind with my hardscrabble clients and really made them feel good about how the process works and is going so far.  I've seen him at a couple of the shows at this folk venue, and he sounded pleased to hear that I might have helped them fill a date on their calendar.

The day then ended with the second Sherlock, which deserves its own post and a fair piece of hallucinogens to fully understand. Oh well, it is what it is.
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I blow-dried my car this morning.

There. How often do you get a chance to say THAT?

We had a late-morning errand- picking up some fresh whole chickens from a family that sells them at the nearby farmers' market until winter shuts down the market but not the farm- and I'd hoped the windshield squirters would've thawed in the garage overnight.  Physics tip: shit don't thaw at 24F, which is the best it got out there.  So yeah, there we were, hairdryer running from a heavy-duty extension cord, blowing hot air into the spigots.

Nuthin. So up came the hood. Or rather, down went the hood.  This is another of the Smart car's little tricks that caught me by surprise. This is not my actual car-

- but it does illustrate how the hood basically hangs from a couple of tie-down straps with the squirter hoses going into the top of that hanging piece thar.  I am SO glad I discovered how this works in a nice safe car park and then our own garage, and not in the dark on the side of an interstate; it's also a bit of a bitch getting his Tab "A" pieces back into his Slot "B" pieces to shut the damn thing.  Eleanor's original salesperson explained this to her when she picked up Iggy; mine, not so much.

After a few minutes of stylin', we got the passenger side spigot working; that identified the clog as further downline, and moments later they were both clear and the hood back on.  Good tip from the missus: always give them a quick squirt before shutting down the car for the day/night, as the washer fluid is also at least a slightly anti-freezy liquid that should inhibit this next time.

We did our Chicken Run, then I ran some more errands, taking care of the tire pressure issue at the end.  I was not alone in this; lots more cars have those sensors and idiot lights now, and there was a bit of a queue behind me at my third try.  They're all blowed up real good now to door-side spec:)


Then there was mail.  In it, from my sister, was belated word that 2016 had claimed another victim in its dying days.

She sent a note along with a newspaper clipping- respectively, about and by a Binghamton journalist named Dave Rossie.  He is not to be confused with Dave Ross, a similarly snarky political commentator of the airwaves who appears on various radio shows and segments affiliated with CBS. He's still alive (though if I were him I'd check the driveway for guys in black hoods bearing farm implements).

I also always associated the localer, and now deader, Rossie with yet another journalist: Joe Rossi, the star reporter on the long-running Lou Grant drama. (He was played by Robert Walden, who was also still alive at last check.)  I'd see Dave Rossie's pieces in the Binghamton papers when I visited Donna, and they occasionally got syndicated to Gannett organs in Ithaca or Rochester when I lived in those places.  I did not know, until I got this note, that he specialized in writing about education- perhaps because he married a Long Islander from two towns over from where we grew up, and who even taught in East Meadow at one point. A Binghamton native, he was 87 when he died, and his former paper (now singular, and heading for about a third of its former self) has been rerunning some of his columns all month in his memory.  This is the one she sent me- a Christmas column he wrote in 1998, which really resonated with her first Christmases on her own in Binghamton, living in an apartment I vaguely remember in the shadow of the Binghamton Plaza that he refers to near the end:

Fresh in mind, although it was at least 25 years ago, is a Christmas incident I witnessed at the Binghamton Plaza. I was loitering outside one of the stores, waiting for my wife to emerge, when I became aware of two young boys who had stopped in front of me.

They were about 8 and 10, respectively. Their shoes were scuffed, their hair sorely needed cutting, and their pinched faces suggested that neither of them was guilty of overeating.

The larger of the two was carrying a shopping bag that contained a few packages.

"How much have we got left?" he asked his companion, who promptly reached into a pocket and withdrew a couple of crumpled bills and some change, which he counted and reported.

The larger boy's face lit up. "Oh good," he said, or something like that. "That means we've got enough left to get something for (I can't recall the name he used) and then we'll be done."

I remember that moment, not because of what was said, but because the boy who said it was wearing a coat that was about two sizes too large for him and was held closed by a safety pin.

He was a pauper, but for that brief moment, at least, he didn't know it. He had discovered the spirit of giving, the spirit of Christmas if you will, and it had transformed him.

Rest in peace, Dave. You had spunk. And unlike Joe Rossi's boss Lou Grant, we LOVE spunk:)

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People ask (one just did), So, how's that Smart car handle in the snow?

To which I happily reply, Just fine. Traction control, ABS, the works.  Just don't pull out of the driveway too slowly after the town plow plugs up the apron.

Now what they SHOULD ask is how he is in the cold. To which I'd have to reply, Meh.

I left way early today; Ebony got me up when Eleanor started running a bath, and she and the kitzels would all be annoying the shit out of both of us if I stuck around. I knew Eleanor was calling in sick from something that felled her yesterday, and figured I'd be less of a noisy bother if I just got out. So I hit the office here by 7:30, with a workout to follow at 8:15,....

and with JARVIS's tire pressure warning message going off.

This was no surprise, really. The day I picked him up, a similarly stupid cold day, it did the same. Eleanor's had it happen on her Smarts in the real brutal cold, as well.  So I hoped it would clear once the temperature went up- as it might have, if the damn temperature ever did.  Even though the sun's out, it's still reading 20F on the dashboard thermometer, and the code's still there.  Kermit did this a lot in this kind of weather, as well; and I hate that even though the sensor knows damn well which tire(s) popped the code, the display doesn't tell you, so you have to check air pressure on all four.

Thus suitably annoyed, after the workout I headed over to Wegmans and wound up being cashed out four times in under half an hour.  First was for breakfast; second was to pick up a scrip; and third was for a new digital thermometer to bring home since the old one's battery died, OF COURSE!, as soon as Eleanor felt a fever and turned it on for the first time in weeks or longer.  (They didn't have the replacement size, and even if they did it likely would've cost almost as much as a replacement thermometer anyway.)

I got out to the parking lot and texted if she wanted me to bring it home right away. No, she said, but could I pick up some ginger ale and Saltines. Yes, it's one of those bugs.  No rush, she said, but as I backed out and turned on my wipers, I knew I'd be heading back to a register for a fourth time: JARVIS was out of washer fluid.

Really?  You'd think those anal Germans would've made sure a car with 29 miles on the odometer would be sent out with a full reservoir.  Grumbling, I found a gallon of the stuff in the backest corner of the store (the usual mountain in the vestibule having been picked clean and/or replaced with Valentines Day decorations), filled the rest of the Care package order, popped the car's hood for the first time, and saw, what else?, a full reservoir.

I tried clearing snow off the squirty things. No luck.  When I got home, I toothpicked them. Still none.  They were, and still are, clogged, leading to this text exchange between me and the missus; she begins talking about the tires:

Barum bum.

I'm finishing up a day that fell in between Wednesday's Talking-To and Thursday's Semi-Redemption.  I have court hearings every day next week, counting one that I think is just a control date I can call in on.  Here's hoping I'll be able to see where I'm going the whole time.
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Today went much better workwise.  Maybe my post from last night got 2017 sufficiently Scared Straight.

There were three major platey things for me today: two real estate and a bankruptcy.  I plowed into the first of the first as soon as I got in, knowing full well there was an unresolved issue that might scuttle the whole damn thing- but by noon, when one of the two clients came in to sign, there was hope that it would be resolved by the end of the week.  I then got a phone call from her husband, going out of his way to thank me for how responsive and prompt I've been about the whole business in comparison to other lawyers he's hired.  That means a lot.

The second, which came in too late for me to even bitch about to AD2017 yesterday, also turned out to be okay.  There was an unresolved tax item from 2008 showing up, but some quick calls revealed it had been cleared in 2009- just nobody had bothered to make it official.  One small check and a stamp will take care of that.  The rest of it was as we expected, and I should have everything back in the client's hands tomorrow.

The bankruptcy was one of those Gotta Do It By This Afternoon So Hey! Here's This Morning! kinda deals.  Once I focused and typed, it went quickly.  Then the trustee called; he'd been out of town on other hearings, was driving back to Buffalo and was hearing (and eventually seeing) that the weather was getting shittier as he headed south.  Would we like to just put the whole thing off until Monday?

That freed up my entire afternoon, which got my business bank accounts balanced, some deposits made, and even left before Northtowns traffic got stupid due to the snow to the south.  I picked up dinner fixins (Eleanor having succumbed to a bug and come home and into bed) and watched about half of a Sense8 doing cardio before getting home at a decent hour.

Tomorrow, no fixed appointments out of the office.  The next two weeks will be bitches and bears, but for today, I'll take the relative peace and quiet:)
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Yes, you. "Anno Domini 2017." There, I even used your middle name so you'll know this is serious.

You've been talking to your older brother, haven't you?  I didn't have to sit HIM down and have The Talk about his behavior until the last day of January, 2016, and yet here you are, on the bench outside the principal's office not even four full days in.

The concerns aren't the same- yet.  My big deal with Big Bro was his whole thing with the scythe and the sackcloth right from the get-go; as I summarized soon after he nuked Alan Rickman midway through the year's first month:

Not just Rickman, of course. Bowie. Monte Irvin (a Hall of Famer from 50s baseball and the third to follow Jackie Robinson across the color barrier). Jim Simpson, who along with Sandy Koufax broadcast the first World Series I ever watched on television in 1967.  Ted Marchibroda, who essentially designed the offense that put the Bills in four straight Super Bowls.  In the music world, Bowie was followed by local country legend "Ramblin Lou" Schriver, Glenn Frey, and just the other day, the heart and soul of Jefferson Everything, Paul Kantner.

That doesn't even mention Abe Vigoda, who died five days before that post and who generated the biggest surprise in that he hadn't died 20 or 30 years before that.

So far, I don't recognize a single one of your victims in that department- more a function of only settling up four days into the year-  but already you're getting on my nerves both nationally and personally.


I know, any Oran-gitas I have about the impending doom of 20 January is your brother's fault.  But it only took three days on your watch before his minions in Congress started serious fucking about. First they tried to eviscerate a key ethics function within the Capitol, only to have Drumpf issue a "tweeto" to stop them from doing so- for now. (The message, essentially, was "not when anybody's watching.")  Then one of their craziest members introduced a bill to prevent the Supreme Court from recognizing its own precedents in any case involving Obamacare, which they are determined to push off a cliff regardless of the inhabitants of the village lying directly below.  Great thinking- why not ban the SCOTUS from citing to Roe v. Wade, or Loving v. Virginia, or Brown v. Board of Education while you're at it?  That'd REALLY make America great white again.


In my own closer-to-home life, today was the first to produce genuine suckage.  The client who I spent much of Monday writing for, and almost all of yesterday organizing, filing and serving for? Turned out today to be the subject of a perfectly clustery fuckup.  The judge's clerk called: I'd submitted an unsigned affidavit for the client- one of two prepared for the task.  Barely 24 hours before, I'd literally pointed at the signature lines on the TWO of them, grunted, and said, "Sign. Sign. Notarize. Notarize."  By the latter, I meant "take both across the hall to BE notarized, since I don't have my stamp."  Sure enough, in the intervening 20 feet, the client only signed one and handed over one to be notarized- even though the notary specifically asked if that was it.  No, it wasn't; and now I have stamp ink egg on my face as a result.

Not satisfied with fucking up my litigation, you then toyed with my real-estating.  A much-struggled client's refi was finally cleared to close- yay!  All they needed was a payoff from the previous mortgage!  Which I asked for right after talking to the clerk in A-One-and-a-Two-A-ffidavit-gate.  Instead, by day's end, two brand new roadblocks had popped up. One, an old credit (not title) item from 1998, involving a student loan debt, which were invented by Sisyphus and are as hard to push over the top of the hill; the other, a PITA payoff department involving the old mortgage which is turning up its nose at being paid in full because, hey, late fees and other charges are much more fun!

Plus, the decision from December 22 that I wound up losing, and the closings I can't get put on record, and the et cetera and the et cetera and the et cetera.  That's why I left work early today, because when you can't say something nice,... blog about it later:P


OK, it hasn't been ALL bad.

I got off a visual joke on the missus on New Years Day (Observed):

Various friends who've seen that have suggested Bible passages I should've opened it to: Romans 10, the Sermon on the Mount, and my personal choice of the 23rd Psalm ("my cup runneth over but we have a drain below the bar").

You've also given us a nice film to watch (La La Land) and a forgotten Sherlock episode to finish (including this recap making clear that Moff and Mark are messing with the concept of "jump the shark").

And little snow, a relatively clear calendar for at least the rest of this week, and no DEATH. Yet.

So press on and head for Portugal better results from here on out. We'll be watching.
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Emily turned 25 today.  There aren't "milestone birthday" cards for that age at your nearest Wegmans, but it's still pretty significant. By the time I was 25, I had passed the Bar (though I wouldn't know it for another month), started my first "real" job, and was finally, permanently, in the region I still call home.

My workday began early and was destined to bring me back here before the end of the business day, as I needed to assemble, execute, copy, file (in Rochester) and serve (in Buffalo) a stack of documents that took up a good chunk of my "observed" New Years Day yesterday-plus take care of some other filings in both places.  Fortunately, I had nothing else planned, so just as I was ready to leave the Rochester office, I thought about heading out to see the kid, and she sealed the deal by texting me about it just then- shortly before noon.  Did I say something previously about coming out there? Did she just assume it? Whatev.  I had just enough time, and after a Wegmans stop to pick up lunch for the two of us (she was stuck at her office) and some cards (birthday and gift), we got to spend some time in her office on her quarter-century day.  She even contributed the needed heavy-duty staples to the papers I'd spent the morning before that putting together.

By the time I made my stops to file and serve said papers (all of it in a driving rain) and got home, I was pretty exhausted.  Eleanor, likewise, by the time she got home. Dinner consisted of leftovers and Sherlock.

So. The Six Thatchers (with spoilers....)Collapse )
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Welcome to the New Year (Observed). We're hit the year that's 40 years beyond my high school graduation, 30 away from a certain online sequel to a canceled TV show (note how thanatos_kalos and I have been totally scrubbed:P Also, this), and dead-on for a certain apocalyptic Billy Joel song that seems to have timed the Dystopia just about right:

Like Christmas 2016 (Observed), Eleanor worked an ordinary Monday.  Also like a week ago, I worked as well- just not as much. Today's task was drafting additional documents, due Wednesday, for a case where my first effort from the middle of last week earned me the "homicide by pen" accolade from the client.  Today's were just as snarky- I cited one of my opponent's attributions "as he sneers in the previous paragraph"- and were soundtracked by assorted reports from Buffalo Bills Locker Cleanout Day, where the most dysfunctional team in all of sports got to tell the media why shit like this wasn't ALL that bad:

Sigh. At least pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks.


Now home, I'm continuing to read a mystery from yet another writer from my high school. Lara is a little older than the cohort I knew at the time, but this, her first novel, is loosely based on her own experiences (other than presumably the crime) -

I've had a couple of nitpicks- for one thing, it's LAWN Guyland- but am enjoying it overall.

Then, when I leave here for cardio shortly, my accompaniment will be the early first series of Sense8- the scifi piece by the Wachowskis and JMS.  The latter had a lot of influence on our scripting of 2047, so in a sense (heh), we come full circle to 30 years from now. I love the writing and characters so far; it's a little too violent at times and dark at more times to share with the missus, but I should be through the season and into last week's Christmas episode before long.

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2016 ended with a shitty bang: God took William Christopher, M*A*S*H's Father Mulcahy. When you're resorting to offing your own priests, your status as a deity takes something of a hit.

We both turned in early, but I woke to my usual Sunday alarm for Dog Church.  Our usual congregants were absent, but we got there at the usual time, finding the Parp! passageway looking more suited to pond hockey than puppy paws:

At least it was warmer: the crick wasn't frozen over, and the buttholes in the water surface were gone, perhaps because the sun had returned for the first time in days:

There was a pack of pups who we eventually let lap us; they included "Neutoric Greta," a Shepherd who kept barky-baiting Ebony to play with her when she wasn't humping her human for treats; and said human's two Dobermans, one of whom is clearly ADD and chases all over the park at top speed.  I talked with the human: Boy Dobie gets wound up as soon as they drive through Tim Horton's, which is the trigger for much greater happiness.  He also marches all over the car and can even operate the down-window button so he can stick his head (and sometimes more) out the window. His female Dobie companion from today is much more mellow, but I caught her in a touching moment, guarding not one but two tennis balls near the park entry/exit. Daddy explained: her older brother used to be a major playah of catch and keepaway, but he passed from cancer last year. So they still bring three balls every Sunday, and she makes sure both are well protected.

I found myself totally loving a dog I never even met:)


Eleanor headed off to chant soon after we got home, and I worked in a workout, a fish cleaning, a nap and a wholly disgusting Bills recap, by mid-afternoon.  Then we headed out to the cinema for La La Land, which is in five acts, beginning in Winter and passing through the remaining three seasons before ending in L.A. Winter again (with maybe five degrees variation in temperature).

Ok, it's schmalz. (There's even a guy named Schmalz in the credits.) And they should put water buckets at the end of each aisle so you can deposit your brains in them for some of the suspended-disbelief moments. But even though other films have made me laugh more, cry more, think more and get angry more, I can't remember the last film I sat through for over two hours with mostly a smile on my face.

The local indy cinema chain now has the recliner thing going, but unlike AMC, they don't have reserved seating.  So when we got there, the only adjacent recliners were too close to the screen, and just like our honeymoon flight to London, we had to talk our way into sitting next to each other in the back recliner-less row, but pulled it off.

We ended the night with a Branford Marsalis CD we haven't listened to in years- Ryan Gosling's character's love of traditional jazz would have approved- and also had Beauregard join us for New Years dinner. B is the stuffed gorilla who lived with Eleanor in Penfield, and came over with her when she moved into my condo 30 years ago today; I was deathly ill from a terminal condition called "a cold," and she brought him over to comfort me, as he still does, all these years later:

May you guys also find the Gorilla your dreams;)
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In about 13 hours, another calendar year of my life is consigned to history. (Major obscure-lyric points to anyone who can source that line- I'm betting on one of you:)  The bad and ugly have taken up much of the past several weeks, and while there was plenty to go around of each before November 8th, the year's had some good moments, monumental moments, transitional moments that at least deserve some bullet points.

On second thought, given how busy DEATH has been and continues to be even this week (stay away from Betty White, yo:P), I think I'll go with just asterisks.

* Firsts and Foremosts.

In more-or-less order: I got to see Springsteen for the first time in my life; attended my first Mets home opener; resolved my biggest case of the year (and in years); shepherded another refi of our home that went somewhat more smoothly than the previous one; walked into the Valley of the Shadow of Death that is Yankee Stadium for the first time ever, immediately before that took a journey 35 years into my past which led to a nice exchange of correspondence with Harry Chapin's daughter; attended my first TED talks, left town overnight with Eleanor for the first time in ages to see RENT from essentially the front row; got to hear the first of several Distinguished Speakers at UB including, three Fridays ago, my first-ever live taste of Albatross!; and, just over two weeks ago, bought my first new-and-for-me car in over 20 years.

That's a lot to put in the ol' bucket.  In between, 2016 brought us a lot of laughs, if with more than the usual amount of stress, but in the end, as it ends, it brings us what a certain Princess just reminded us:

What Is It They've Sent Us? Hope.


* Ends.

Ah, those words came from a Princess who was played by an actress who was taken from us just this week- with her own mother following a day later, and with such a progression of talent and goodness before that.  You know of them all, and your reactions to them all- wiki "2016 deaths" if you need reminders- but for us, the two of greatest significance are ones that did not make the papers or cause the interwebs to explode.

In mid-April, just shy of his 17th birthday, we said farewell to our oldest kitty.  Tazzer had been failing for weeks, becoming increasingly hard to care for, and with no reasonable prospect of his having a quiet normal life without major investigation and intervention.  Once the decision was made, it went quickly; the remaining three are doing well, and as two of the three turned 14 this year, we pray there will be no such calls to be made for some time.

Right after we cleaned up the house after his passing, God took another smiting shot in our general direction: Two days later, our dear neighbor Betty found out that a tumor, previously diagnosed as benign, was not. Several weeks of chemo and discomfort followed before she and the system, in some combination, made the choice to stop fighting it. She passed this fall, and we've become close with her closest relative- a niece- who is tasked with sorting everything out, both physically and legally. (Turns out I know the lawyers Betty used for her estate issues- they work in my old office and Shelly's known one of them since high school.)  We're continuing to do everything we can to help her, and them, in getting her estate settled and the house maintained until it can go, we pray, to the right people at the right time.


* Transitions.

Biggest here were in our faiths.  Eleanor began and has moved on in a complete transition from traditional liberal Protestant Christianity to a practice of Buddhism that she's finding meaningful and helpful.  I haven't gone there, or really anywhere, other than to finally and formally end one of my ties to the official structure of Methodism that I've now picked up and dropped twice in my life.  The closest thing to religious experience I have these days is Dog Church- a tongue-in-cheek reference to several of us who value Dog over God on Sunday mornings and let them romp and butt-sniff in a county park set aside just for them.

Our family is also finding new boundaries.  Emily has begun getting help with the two things that we learned were causing her (and Cam) the most consternation in their lives; one of those was tied to my car purchase, because that freed up my older, paid-for car for her to use in hopes of finding a better work situation.  They're also joining us in the effort to make the Big Holidays less of a trigger for emotional stuff coming out.

On the bigger level, of course, a transition was formalized on Election Night that had been slowly creeping up throughout the year(s) before, leading to an influential minority of voters handing unlimited power and nuclear codes to the most unqualified candidate I have ever seen stand for any office. I listen to the calls for resistance; they largely sound futile.  I will just continue to be as kind to as many people as I can in as many ways as I can, and use my words, my funds and when necessary my license to help them.  I will also continue to talk about a grass-roots effort in this state that will come to a vote next November, to reform the dysfunction that has turned Albany into an even bigger swamp in need of draining than D.C. ever was.  If that vote succeeds, there will be more to talk about, and more for me to get actively involved in, as we head into 2018.

Hopefully with fewer deaths. And hopefully ending on an up note next December, with Carrie Fisher's final screen performance giving us all we need of that one word we associate so much with her.

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The business year that is 2016 is essentially over. A bit past 3 p.m., when my phone hadn't rung for close to an hour and the complete lack of mail was confirmed, I shut it down and headed home.  I may work on a few things tomorrow, but as of midnight tomorrow, 2017 and all its uncertainty take over.

I usually end the year with a review of sorts- and I probably will, tomorrow at some point. But the past day or so provide a nice microcosm of the good, bad and ugly that will likely be in that post:

First, the good:

- By the time I got home last night, Eleanor and Emily had mostly worked out their differences, which came to a head so scarily on Christmas Eve.  More is to follow from them, and to some lesser extent with Cameron and I contributing, but they've found their way to a good place and I am pleased to see them there.

- Because the workdays of this week have been quiet- some enforced (state courts are essentially shut down), the rest by choice- I've been able to tackle some extended projects that needed undivided attention.  One involved a Rochester client in an insurance dispute; other than the vagaries of the Post Office getting mad at me for daring to send a BigAss package of discovery documents with stamps rather than metered postage on it, I got it sent to them for good today.  Then, yesterday, I turned to another Rochester client in an insurance dispute- with a different company but the same law firm on the other side.  I'd begun drafting her papers two weeks ago today when I was having Kermit's killer airbags replaced, only to have the session interrupted because the replacement took less than an hour.  I finished the main document for the case yesterday, and sent it off for review- which produced the nicest compliment of my writing I've received in quite some time:

I think we're going to win. You could commit homicide with a pen.

- Despite some late-night interruptions (more about that to follow), the aminals let me sleep in until 6- and when I couldn't get back to sleep after that, I just stayed up, got up, cleaned up in the kitchen and got in an hour-long workout at my usual place.  I would return later for, um, a shorter one.


Next, the bad. Ish:

- About those interruptions: Ebony was more restless than usual during the night. I can recall letting her out at least twice in the wee smalls, plus she needed to go out right before feeding time.  Then I discovered why: on the living room rug was the evidence.  She'd horked a big one, but a surprisingly, shall we say?, consistent one. In fact, it was mainly fabric.  Once I got into up-up-up(chuck) mode, I investigated and realized what she'd done.  For weeks now, if we're out of the house for much of the day, she's been raiding hampers when made available to her and using our dirty socks and undies as chew toys.  We usually find the evidence in random corners.  I've been shutting the closet door that keeps her out of my unmentionables, so left with no other choice, Ebony got a hold of one of my ratty old hand towels from the CheapAss Cardio Gym™ we both belong to and, seeing it was too small to chew a piece of, she proceeded to swallow the whole damn thing.  We are very lucky that it came back out the same orifice it went in through, and apparently with no ill effect on the dog herself.

- Speaking of gyms, and this isn't bad so much as weird: four hours after I went over for a real hour-long workout, I returned.  My old office still gets mail for me way more than it should, and my best friend over there is the one who usually looks out for it (and me). She called to tell me a client had received a substantial check in today's mail.  To thank her for her effort on this occasion (and many others), I decided to go with a theme present:  we have a running joke about the time she brought a water bottle to cardio, took her first sip, and quickly found out that she'd used it as a vodka vessel the night before. The vodka part of the gift was easy: there's a new liquor store in the Wegmans building next to my workout studio. But I then walked over to pick up an Orangetheory water bottle for her.  She loved the joke, but an hour later, the joke was on me:  my car was apparently close enough for their Bluetooth to pick up my heart monitor in my gym bag- so what shows up in my email but a workout summary for the two minutes I was in there:

God help me if I ever have to run in there to use the men's room; I really don't want to hear how many "splat points" are associated with THAT:P


Finally, the ugly:

- Carrie Fisher and her mom a day apart, God? Stop it, the fuck.

- A local Republican wackadoodle, his party's 2010 candidate for Guv of this state, raised eyebrows and ire over the weekend when his published comments to a local alt-weekly basically wished death upon Barack Obama and just as bad things upon and about the First Lady.  Crazy Carl has spent the ensuing week backtracking, doubling down and fauxpologizing, but yesterday the snit hit the fan when six of his eight fellow elected members on the Buffalo City School Board (his next race after losing the Guv race in a landslide- "dog catcher" was apparently not on any intervening ballot) voted to demand his resignation.  Naturally, he's refused, and just as naturally, his apologists are playing all the usual games- Denial, You Don't Get Our Jokes, False Equivalance- to justify some of the most shameful behavior I have ever seen from anyone in this area code. It's not like his vote on the school board has any significance- he's in a 6-3 minority with only the redneck districts of the city returning him and his other two minions to office- but it just reinforces the notion of this area being hopelessly stuck in the 18th century when it comes to how to treat people.


Sometime tomorrow: my Bucket List moments from 2016, along with any number of Fuck-It moments.

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(Has anyone ever mashed up an REM song with one by Amanda Marshall at all, much less this obscurely? I doubt it;)

There's been an occasional theme here in the past year about me and the Big Guy- sometimes writing pieces overtly questioning the formal faith which I was led into, and which eventually I at times led others in and with, for almost all of my sentient life. In other writings, as in my most recent post here, I just poke at the celestial bear a bit.

In this year that is now almost, blessedly, over? Eleanor has found a completely new path to express her need for belief in something beyond the known and knowable.  I've mused, and explored, and given my lifetime home base of Methodism more chances than there are books in the Bible- eventually wandering outside and spending a few Sundays with another local church denomination that talks a good game of inclusiveness but still left me feeling like an outsider.

The closest I've come to the missing Feels is a rather poopy form of animism: joining friends and their dogs with me (sometimes us) and ours in a Sunday morning hour of conversation, nature appreciation, photography and joy from the pups that knows no doctrine or even dog-ma.  But that doesn't entirely satisfy my need to give back.  I've joined the official Friends of Ellicott Creek Bark Park for a modest annual membership, but these dogs are generally healthy, happy and well cared-for.

As the year winds down and I get to my last-minute tax planning, I both need and want to contribute to something that maybe fills the emotional place of an offering plate.  Whenever I have attended a church in the past year, I've contributed, but nowhere near (and with no pledge to confirm) what we've traditionally given. When I found both my attendance and contributions to be way lacking at this time last year, and again just now, I came to the same conclusion both times: donate to supporting the one thing I always have and always will believe in above all things: The Truth, as only true reporters can and do report it.


A year ago, this giving was directed out of a combination of good intentions and a broken heart. Friends of mine, of the never-really-met variety (though I remembered them both from Cornell-era media), awoke just before Christmas weekend to the darkest of tragedies. Their daughter/step-daughter, a recent journalism school graduate in her first "real" job, had perished in a car accident.  Within those short and unbelievably sad days, my friends, with the support of her father by birth (who I also vaguely remember from back in the day) and other media professionals, had established a scholarship fund through the New York Press Club to honor her memory and help pave the way for other young journalists to follow in those difficult shoes (you should see some of the heels;).

You can donate to it, too.  Late last year, I did. An amount that must have seemed like a lot but really only represented week after week after week of missed Sunday services, of broken hearts and closed doors in the place of my own lifelong faith.

I thought of donating again to that cause, and ultimately I did- to the same sentiment, but in a different place.


The Cornell Daily Sun is no longer Daily- at least not in the ink-and-paper sense that had carried it to Ithaca doorsteps and newsstands for over 130 years. The decision to cut back physical production- implemented this past May, 35 years after my graduation on its centennial Editorial Board- reflected the paper's need to find its way in an age where the paper-paper had passed its main audience by.  This followed earlier decisions, by The Sun and its nominal "competition" in the local daily news market, under which it was no longer "Ithaca's Only Morning Newspaper." The first blow was when Gannett put the Ithaca Journal (also a shadow of its former self) into morning distribution; even sadder was when The Sun became a free-pickup publication; the first media home of E.B. White and Kurt Vonnegut and Dick Schaap was now the same price as the Pennysaver.

But the need is as great as ever.  Universities are now the homes of bigger money, bigger influence and just as much controversy as when our reporters were there to keep the administration honest.  The house-organ Cornell Comical isn't about to go beyond the serious journalism level of press releases.  With assaults on the "lamestream media" and the rise of "fake news" hitting its pinnacle (nadir, actually) in the final months of 2016, young journalists are needed more than ever to learn as we learned- to question, to verify, then to write it out quickly, clearly and on deadline- and to keep the needs of the business department completely separate from their concerns.

The Sun and its charitable alumni organization are persistent but not nagging in their pointing out the paper's financial needs to us.  Not to pay the student journalists, duh (what do do you think we were, college athletes?), but for upgrading the technology to keep The Sun relevant in cyberspace, for maintaining and improving the building which now serves as its permanent home, and for making the paper's 130-plus years of history more accessible.

A letter from the non-profit Sun alumni group came in the fall, another just last week.  As I again struggled with my question of faith, and with which, if any, faith communities to support with my charitable dollars, it became clearer that the answer was in front of me in black and white- and read all over.  The Sun got my offering plate funds this year.  If you care to go there as well, here's the link.

And so, before I report on my most meaningful and memorable experiences of 2016, I offer #cheerstojordan. And to #kurt and #ebwhite and #yourCornellkidhere, who hopefully some day will be following in their footsteps up the hill back to campus after putting the paper to bed. As Vonnegut told us at the end of his 100th anniversary speech in my presence in 1981:

I am an atheist, as some of you may have gleaned from writings. But I have to tell you that, as I trudged up the hill so late at night and all alone, I knew that God Almighty approved of me.

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Not my Methodism- not by a long shot. Just faith in Things, generally.

I was home most of the morning while one of a client's electricians installed a new outlet in the living room to replace an extension cord I'd tripped over dozens of times, then headed downtown for an overdue dose of Dino.

That's the barbecue chain's Buffalo home- restoring, as they usually do, a classic old building. Here, "Universal-Inter" is what's left of the Universal International logo; the building had been a film vault in the days when "Shea's" was a chain of multiple theaters and each carried a feature, newsreels, cartoons and shorts.  Now, it serves craft brews and pulled pork to perfection.

I mentioned to the guys what I was heading to do after that: a client had a judgment taken against her, which was proving tricky to get information on. The attorney who took it has been disbarred; the successor attorney (supposedly) had nobody answering his phones; and the creditor itself showed no online presence to speak of. So I told them I wanted to check if Bad Attorney had screwed up in filing this thing.  One mentioned that a relative of his had gotten a cash settlement on account of one of BA's skeevy filings, and that many had been ordered removed on a mass basis.

That sounded promising, so I pulled JARVIS into a way-too-small-for-anyone-else spot outside City Court and went to review the papers.  Bad news: closed files from 2010 are in the basement. Better news: the judgment was coming up on their computer as satisfied.  In full.

(The tl;dr on why that didn't show up on her real estate title: some judgments, and any dispositions concerning them, automatically show up in land records as soon as they're taken. But others, from lower or further courts, only become judgment liens on real estate if they're "transcripted" to the land recorder's office. Simple form- 6 bucks to obtain, 10 to file. )

Whoever, or whatever, had satisfied this one in the lower court never took the necessary step to take that evidence "across the street" to where the land records are, so for a mere six pictures of George, I would solve my client's problem!

I had five. 

My pay draw's Friday, and between taking Emily to breakfast yesterday and buying a beer at the Dino (mainly for the two extra quarters to save myself a beaucoup parking ticket), five was all I had left.  No checks- I hadn't expected to be paying for anything.

The clerk, bless her, handed me a dollar. I don't know if it was from an overpayment or her own funds.  But she knew enough about BA to know that a dollar shouldn't stop my client from getting, literally, satisfaction.

Now we may be able to close as soon as tomorrow:)
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Some "day off."

It wasn't, for Eleanor. Both of my offices were closed, and I'd made very clear to clients I would not be working-working either Friday or today. All I planned was a noon workout (evil) and to finally sit and write an outline for a seminar I'm doing in February.

Usually, I just cut and paste from previous ones I've done for them. But this one really tried to "jiggle the handle" on the designated topics, and my outlines for two separate hours of speaking time wound up taking me about six hours to organize, cite to and write. (That's actually right for how the Bar gives you credit- triple the time for each hour you "prepare," although you don't get the extra hour of credit for standing there for each of them when you present.) Between that, the workout and Wegmans run and, yes, a geezer nap, it was pretty much a 9-to-5 day.

Then I headed to the kids (I have to be in Rochester tomorrow), laptop at the ready to share last night's Doctor Who Christmas special.

This one was about as one-off as you can get. Relatively little of the decidedly Christmassy content of some recent ones; no Nick Frost Santa-ing about or Christmas crackers with the Ponds. Rather, the Doctor managed to pull off in 61 minutes what no force- human, superhuman or alien- has managed to do in my recorded memory....

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That's my Christmas entry in the legendary (it turns out urban-legendary) six-word-story contest that Ernest Hemingway won with "For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn."  It has just as much emotion and sadness pent up in those fourteen syllables from the past fourteen or so hours and a period like it a month ago.

The days to get it down to 363 are the last Thursday in November and the 24th of December- each the culmination of modern-day morphs of traditional harvest and solstice festivals, all co-opted by retail and media into virtual orgies of conspicuous consumption.

For anyone, it's got to be difficult.  For those of us- as did both of us- who came from families with emotional issues surrounding these holidays, it's far worse.  We've passed it on to our daughter as certainly as she got my blue eyes and Mom's artistic skills; and it's magnified (as in setting-ants-on-fire magnifying) by her boyfriend coming from his own two semi-families who mess with his head as well as Emily's around these times.

At Thanksgiving, they brought it in with them.   You may have read the whys and wherefores of it elsewhere; they're not necessary to you understanding the pain everyone felt.  Eleanor and I took major steps over the ensuing month to help Emily deal with what she was feeling and needed to do. We are continuing those efforts. By the time they left last month, all was well.

Until it wasn't- and another round of Holiday Emotional Roulette began last night. We all said, did or didn't do things that are now regretted.  Again, you may see greater specifics, but you don't need to. By mid-morning, kinder words had been exchanged, Eleanor and I recommitted to helping Emily understand and respond to what has been going on, and for now, all is calm, all is relatively bright.

And there is one thing all four of us have absolutely agreed on: these days have got to go.

I thought we had this.  By eliminating the demands of the days- no food-coma dinners, no decorations, no deals (big) being made- could we get through these pages of the calendar without driving each other crazy?

Answer: no.  So here's the new plan- to simply make the question go away.

Beginning next year, Eleanor and I will avail ourselves of a simple, if local, solution to the triggers and traumas of Turkey Day: it's called Canada.  They have their harvest festival over a month earlier on our Murder of Indigenous Peoples Day weekend. Their last Thursday in November is, well, the last Thursday in November, eh?  One border crossing, a nice dinner out for the two of us- of something other than an overstuffed poultry with all the trimmings- and then a movie or show of some sort.  The kids can do their own things and, if they need to escape the other rents' holiday issues, our home will be here and quiet for them to retreat to.

Christmas Eve?  Out to a Chinese restaurant and a cinema.  Just like Jews will have been doing for over 4700 years;)

The other 363 days of the year, we will be here, and here for them.  But we can't continue these family traditions just because Hallmark and Wal-Mart are pushing us to.

Enjoy your own celebrations, however and however big you wish them.  Please be understanding of our need to be a little different, though. 
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