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Originally posted on the website:

Do you like the thrill of being in a crowd? Are you in need of bodies slamming against yours? Do you like the rush that goes through you when a mass of people moves suddenly and you are lifted right off the ground and carried several feet before landing? Do you like the pleasure of a cute, sweaty girl jiggling all over you and her hair all in your face? (It’s no problem if you keep your hands up at least by your chest so you don’t inadvertently grab anything you shouldn’t, if you know what I’m saying. You need to keep your hands up anyway to protect yourself from the moshers.) If you are craving any of what I just described, than there is only one thing you need:

A Primus concert!

My good Buddy O, my son T, and I went to Roseland Ballroom in New York City to see Primus last night. (Yes, I’ve reverted to using initials instead of full names again. Remember, I’m incognito here.) Buddy O is a huge Primus fan and he’s a fantastic bass player. If you know anything about Primus, you know that their music is driven by the song writing and bass playing of Les Claypool. It is no wonder that Buddy O loves their tunes. He and I have played some of their songs together in the past. So, I knew that he would definitely appreciate going to this concert. And my son T, he likes Primus a lot too. See, I’m raising him right!

We three bumpkins from New Jersey attempted to use the trains to get into the city instead of driving this time. We took the Path train from Newark to 33rd St. in Manhattan. Then we got the R subway up to 49th St. From there it was just a short walk to Roseland on 52nd St. Once we figured out just how to use the machine to purchase Metro cards, the trip into the city was a smooth one. The subway between 33rd and 49th was completely packed at 6:30 when we got on it. We couldn’t even reach the bars to hold onto. We had to press our hands against the ceiling to keep our balance. There’s one problem being a tall guy. As soon as I lift my arms over my head, my armpits are right in someone’s face. Luckily for my fellow passengers, I had applied copious amounts of Ban deodorant to the old pits just before leaving home.

After a quick stop for a slice of tasty New York pizza, we arrived at Roseland to find a mile long line waiting to get in. There was a leftover hippie-type guy frantically canvassing the line looking to buy a ticket from someone. Too bad I sold an extra ticket that I had a few blocks before we got there. I should have waited and made a killing off the hippie! He probably would have paid me a pretty penny and maybe even thrown in his hemp bracelet and John Lennon glasses. Later I saw him inside making his way through the boisterous crowd, unaffected by the chaos. It must have been the mushrooms helping him.

The opening act of the show isn’t worth mentioning. They did have a unique creativity going on with two cellists and a drummer comprising the band. However, the singer’s pseudo-political comments before a few songs make the band unworthy of mention by name here. Buddy O even turned his back to the stage after one of her comments. That same comment prompted the crowd to throw things at her through the whole song. I just wanted to tell her she was a big, fat, pinko Communist. But that wouldn’t have been nice.

It seemed like it took an eternity for Primus to take the stage. It always feels that way when I’m waiting for a band I really like to come on. The stage hands tuned guitars and checked mic levels and all that jazz. Then they left the stage. People cheered expecting the show to start. But the stage hands came back. This happened several times. Once when the stage hands came back, a group near us started chanting, “You’re not them! You’re not them!” Finally they left for the last time and the house lights went out. That was when the crowd surged. I got shoved from behind and thought I was going to go down when my feet got tripped up. Then we surged backwards, then sideways. As soon as Primus began kicking out the riff to the first song, “Harold of the Rocks,” the place went berserk! People were jumping up and down, slamming into each other, screaming. There was nothing you could do to resist the currents running through the crowd. I soon realized that to try to stand still and hold my ground was a seriously faulty plan, especially when I was lifted right off my feet while wedged between several people. Then I thought that if I bounced and jumped a little like everyone else I would probably fare much better. But that activity became weird as soon as I realized that by jumping I was humping some sweaty dude in front of me! I stopped. I’d rather get plowed over and trampled into the floor than give any guy the impression that I had some kind of affinity for his cheeks. Yes, there were girls mingled into the whole mess. But while that was attractive, it also made things more difficult because I didn’t want to hurt any of them. At one point I felt someone’s hands grab onto my shoulders. I turned to see a girl hanging onto me and jumping her little rock-n-roll heart out. That was nice and all. But at another point, after getting slammed into pretty hard and losing my cool, I grabbed the people in front of me and pushed them forward as hard as I could, plowing them through a few rows of bodies. Then I realized that one of the people I had a grip on was a girl. Damn! I beat it out of there and hid in case her boyfriend was nearby. I didn’t want to get hurt. Wait. To be afraid of getting hurt by a girl’s boyfriend while in the midst of a frenzied mass of Primus fans where one was bound to get hurt anyway seems to be an unnecessary anxiety.

I did get kicked in the head by a girl who was crowd surfing over us. And a guy in front of me that was pumping his fist in the air along with the music whacked me in the forehead. But I didn’t get hurt too badly. My feet got the most abuse. Remind me to wear steel-toed shoes for the next Primus concert. I came close to getting hurt a few times by some guys that were doing some pretty violent moshing. One tough looking bald guy seemed out to intentionally hurt people by running into them. That wasn’t cool. It’s all fun and games until someone loses a head. Speaking of losing a head, one ingredient that the managers of Roseland Ballroom should have left out of the Primus mix was beer. People were trying to pass through that crowd with cups of beer raised above their heads. It was just my luck to get doused with beer at least three times. My shirt was soaked and dripping. I hate beer! Please, please, please! Pour rum on me! Spare me the beer!

There were two things about the show that disappointed me. The first was that the show had to be stopped after about 20 minutes because the crowd broke the barricade in front of the stage. The stage hands interrupted the band, turned the lights on and took 15 minutes to nail the barricade back to the floor. The second disappointment was that Primus only played for 90 minutes, including the down time for the barricade replacement and one short encore. When they walked off stage and the house lights came on, it just didn’t feel right. Everyone in the crowd just stood there looking at each other with a look on their faces that asked, “Is that it? What do we do now?” It was as if the lights suddenly exposed us in our foolish aggression and we all stood there with sheepish grins wondering if we should apologize for hurting each other. Then we made our way to the coat check, fetched our belongings, and five minutes later we were calmly strolling the streets of New York.

We entered the subway station at 49th St. at 11:30 to begin our journey home. We waited for the R train for over 20 minutes. Two N trains stopped and left during that time. Being the Jersey bumpkins we were, we didn’t know that the R doesn’t run downtown late at night. You need to take the N instead! Buddy O finally clarified that with a subway worker and we were able to get on the next N train. At 34th St. we had a little trouble finding the entrance to the Path station. So we took a break and bought hot dogs and beef shishkabobs from a street vendor. If one sees a street vendor after midnight, in a not so busy area such as we were in, one should question the wisdom of purchasing and consuming meat products from such vendor. Learn your lesson from me. Wait to get home to eat. After a wait that seemed longer than the wait for Primus to appear, the Path train to New Jersey arrived at the station. That was a long, sleepy trip to Newark. Buddy O was kind enough to give up his seat next to me to allow a tired but very pretty girl to sit down. I made sure to thank him for that later. But I bet this dark haired beauty wished she was standing on the opposite end of the train once she sat by me. I was reeking! I was covered with beer, smoked like a country ham by all the cigarette and marijuana smoke that surrounded me at Roseland and the residue of my own sweat and the sweat of a multitude was only beginning to dry on my skin. I was one sweet smelling bouquet. Let me tell you! I gave the girl a smile anyway. What the hell. Whatever she did in response wouldn’t be as bad as what I’d already been through that night. But damn! Don’t just ignore me, baby! Ouch! I’m tough. But not like that.

We got home at 2:30 in the morning after the 40 minute drive from Newark. Being the lazy bastard I am, I merely changed my shirt and jumped into bed when I got home. I know, “gross.” I wasn’t really lazy, just exhausted. Sometimes there’s a difference. To tell you the truth, 90 minutes of Primus was enough. I could use a good massage today. It’s not so bad when a band only leaves your ears ringing the next day. But Primus seems to be a full body experience. I can’t wait to see them on their next tour! I should be able to recuperate in a year or two! Mosh on!



(Originally posted on the website Heron Flight)

Once upon a time, in a lifetime faraway, my grandfather owned a diner. From the days of my earliest memories, Pop ran the diner. He rose at 4:30 every morning, without an alarm clock. He started the grills, warmed up the dishwasher, and welcomed the first customers at 6 AM. This was who he was. He made up for it with a daily nap in his downstairs office most afternoons.

I remember the office. It consisted of two small rooms and a smaller bath, or rather a “shower”. One room housed a desk with tumbling piles of receipts. The other, dimly lit, surrounded a double-sized foam mattress. Noxzema shaving cream and Close-Up toothpaste vied for predominance of the shower. It was only in dire cases that we dared tap on the office door to wake Pop in the middle of an afternoon.

My grandfather was a good man. He gave many people their first chance at a job. In addition to almost all of his grandchildren, Pop gave first jobs to many high school students in our town, one of whom was an old girlfriend of mine… story for another time. Beyond these many first starts, Pop was the helper of many a down and out fellow. From my farthest memories, Pop consistently hired men from a restaurant staffing agency out of Philadelphia. Most of these short-order cooks are now nameless faces, greasy-haired individuals apparently without house or family, soulless men of my childhood, smokers and drinkers all.

In addition to Freddie Schneider, flat-nosed out-of-towner who by miraculous length of days and despite steady streams of imbibed alcohol and cigarettes became a long-recognized pilgrim between the St. Cloud Hotel and the diner, there was five-foot-tall Tommy. Tommy was short but his heart stood tall. Tommy loved the bottled spirits. But he also loved our family. There were days when the bottle got the best of him. He would disappear for short seasons. Then I would come to the diner after school and Tommy would be back. Pop never condemned him. Tommy always returned loyalty and respect.

Tommy was the head evening cook during most of my high school days. I was the cashier and night “manager”, sixteen-year-old ruler of my female classmates who were fortunate enough to be hired by my grandfather… more stories for another time. When Tommy would vanish on one of his binges, I was the head cook, happy to exchange the handling of currency for the flipping of burgers.

Tommy had a woman. She was the widowed mother of one of the girls in my class. For easily deduced reasons, we mercilessly teased that girl with horrid renditions of “Hello Dolly”. She never saw the humor in it. Her mom was oblivious to her daughter’s hardships. Tommy loved her mom. Though I thought it was corny to see that short short-order cook nearly stand on his tippy-toes in order to put his arm around his girl, I now remember it as the act of a big man, and I realize that that’s as tall as a man gets. I still look up to Tommy in this respect.

As once-upon-a-time stories go, villains entered the plot, placid characters were disrupted and reality entered the scene. So it went with the story of Pop’s diner. One month after my high school graduation in June of 1981, Pop announced his retirement. The man was 81-years-old. He had served family and employees well. By the end of that summer, new owners had taken control of the diner, trampling freshly-painted stairs and unprepared hearts alike underfoot. I remember the non-English speaking chef plunging his nicotine-stained hands into bowls of macaroni salad. I remember the feelings of violation as Pop’s ways of procedure were carelessly neglected. I remember quitting my job at “my grandfather’s diner” and not being paid overtime by the new owner. I remember saying good-bye to Tommy.

As the world has a tendency to rotate and life has the impulse to move on, I worked at successive factories and then for the town road department after Pop laid the diner to rest. It was all new to me. I had only ever worked at our family business since I was 14. My early twenties was a time of blending into the background of our town’s economy. Once I was known as the grandson of the town’s best diner. Then I was just another blue-uniformed town road worker.

However, if the world has a tendency to rotate, it also has a tendency to come full circle. A moment of definition came one afternoon while I was standing outside the town garages. That day, under the hot summer sun, a small figure staggered across the parking lot through the heat waves. Stopping unexpectedly before me, there swayed Tommy. Most likely by the assistance of angels, the man was able to focus his eyes enough to recognize me. He stepped closer, managing to stop himself from tripping headlong into my chest. Gathering his intrinsic respect and sincerity, Tommy reached up and placed his hand on my shoulder. In that moment I was again Pop’s grandson. Tommy, setting the influence of alcohol aside, said, “Sammy, it’s me, Tommy. Remember me? It’s Tommy. Sammy, you’re grandfather was a good man. You are a good man, Sammy. I love you, Sammy.” Then the little man collapsed in my arms and I wish that I was still holding him these twenty years long. Tommy died suddenly from a brain tumor a few months later.

So, I ask myself, “Is this the way life goes?” Does a man live, despite his weaknesses of habit, to eventually make another man big by falling into his arms? Was the purpose of Tommy’s life to give stability to mine? Did he stagger into my arms to set my life in the right direction?

All I can say is, “Tommy, too early taken at the age of 50, I miss you. I love you too. My life was enlarged because of you. Thank you.”



(Originally posted on the website Heron Flight)

Of all days of this February, yesterday was perhaps the coldest and windiest day of all, the worst day to be strolling along the Hudson River. Not that we strolled much. We spent most of our time in the car. But the little bit that we spent outside walking was enough to turn our faces windburn red and make our little noses freeze. Yet, we ventured forth nonetheless. It was a day when the urge to explore was upon us. We could not be content to brave the day away basking in the warm glow of the dvd player. Hot cups of tea in stocking feet and brothy bowls of soup were not our course. We needed the satisfaction of adventure!

We went in search of Sing Sing. What better activity on a wind-worn day than seeking out one of America’s most notorious prisons? What better sight to warm the soul than that of “The Big House,” the house of murderers, rapists and other socially threatening individuals? With the breeze blowing fiercely south, we went “up the river”.

“Why?” you ask.

While in need of a destination, the idea of finding Sing Sing struck me as I did some reading for my current class. I’ve been studying deviance and have been required to read the book “Newjack” by Ted Conover, who purposely became a corrections officer at Sing Sing state prison in New York in order to write about prison culture. While checking a map yesterday to see exactly where Sing Sing was located, I noticed that it was just a few towns away from the legendary Sleep Hollow, the setting for Washington Irving’s famous story. It was there that the headless horseman haunted the dwellers of the riverside village. The combination of interest in Sing Sing and the curiosity of experiencing Sleepy Hollow was enough to impel Arissa and I to hop in the car and speed our way to New York in spite of the chilliness of the day.

Seventy-five miles later, we found ourselves on the Tappan Zee Bridge, spanning the churning brown waters of the Hudson River north of New York City. To our right, the George Washington Bridge crossed the same waters, the rising columns of Manhattan’s skyscrapers visible beyond its suspension cables. To our left, somewhere on the eastern bank upriver was Sing Sing.

Immediately after crossing the bridge, we exited the thruway to take Route 9 north. The first town we passed through was Tarrytown. There we were soon impressed with the stone church building of the First Baptist Church. Here we made our first exposure to the wind to take a few pictures of the church. We endured only long enough to click off a few shots and headed back to the car, happy for the shelter of my little Toyota.

Next we entered the village of Sleepy Hollow. I could see how this little town could be spooky as in the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. There was a cemetery there that stretched for nearly a mile along the main road. We came across a sign that signified the original location of the bridge over which the headless horseman traveled. I could just picture the fog coming off of the river, “spookyfying” the whole God-forsaken place.

A few more miles up the river, past Briar Cliff Manor, we arrived at Ossining, the home of Sing Sing. It wasn’t always called Ossining. Originally, it shared the same name as the prison, derived from the name of the Sint Sinck American Indians. Eventually, not wanting to be associated with the stigma of the prison, the town changed its name to Ossining. Construction of the original prison was begun in 1825. 100 inmates from Auburn prison arrived in that year to begin excavating marble from which to build their own cells. Each cell was only three feet, three inches wide, seven feet deep and six feet, seven inches high. Three and one half years after arriving, on November 26, 1828, the inmates were locked into the cells they had built. The next day, a Bible was provided for each of them. (Click here to read more about Sing Sing on Wikipedia.)

I have to say that Sing Sing prison is the best kept secret of any town in North America. There was not one sign anywhere in the town of Ossining that pointed us in the direction of the prison. When first entering the town, we thought, “It’s a maximum security prison. It must be pretty easy to see. Right?” Wrong! We drove through the town and back again without finding the prison! I remembered that Conover, in his book, mentioned that you could not even see the main gate of the prison from the town because originally they brought the prisoners to the prison by way of the river. The main gate faced the river. I remembered that he said that only a few sides of the high prison wall were visible from the town. Eventually, quite by accident, we came across these walls on State Street. The cold, windy climate of the day was a quite fitting setting for our first encounter with the wall. It was high and cold. No life passed through that wall. There was no escape from it. The whole prison sat below the edge of a hill along the river. Moving further uphill along a side street did not provide anymore of an expansive view of the prison complex. It was virtually cut off from the town proper, imprisoned between State Street and the cold rough waters of the Hudson.

We clicked off some photos after finding the prison walls, before noticing the signs that said “photography prohibited”. (I have since uploaded them to my website. Deviant? You know it!) Then we began looking for a place to eat dinner. We drove around Ossining, back and forth a few times. We discovered Main Street. Then guess what we found. Another entrance to Sing Sing! Off of Main Street, we went down Hunter Street and suddenly found ourselves in front of an employee parking garage! Straight ahead of us there was a guard tower visible behind razor wire. There was a sign that said “Visitor Parking.” We followed that driveway for a few dozen yards, just enough to click off another illegal photo of one of the brick prison buildings. Rather than come within sight of the armed tower guards again, we u-turned our way out of there and made for dinner once again.

I have to say that at the point of seeing the cold Sing Sing buildings, I felt completely disconnected from the atmosphere that Ted Conover described in his book. While he described situations in which correction officers sometimes had containers of urine thrown upon their faces, I sat in my car comfortably listening to classic rock on Q104.3. While he wrote of his continual fear that prisoners might become violent, and described how in his early days on the job he was once unexpectedly punched in the side of the head and nearly knocked unconscious, I held hands with my girlfriend just outside of the cement walls of Sing Sing. Even while stepping outside of the car to snap a photo, all was silent but the wind. We saw no sign of life whatsoever in the prison complex. It was an imaginary world that existed only in old movies and Conover’s book. Certainly, my comfortable, middle class, white New Jersey life had nothing in common with the harsh daily experience of the 2,000 plus inmates and the lesser number of officers responsible for their charge just beyond the wall in front of me. The wind effectively carried their voices of complaint, sorrow and turmoil out across the river yesterday. The prison was a ghost town, as far as I could tell.

We didn’t spend much time around the prison. Though my car is small, it is not inconspicuous, being RED! We figured it was best to high tail it out of there and make our escape back to “civilization”. Dinner had become a necessity.

Unable to find anything appealing in Ossining (while we enjoy Mexican food, we just weren’t in the mood to stop in any of the several restaurants that presented themselves), we turned our way south toward Sleepy Hollow in search of food once again. While the Headless Horsemen Diner was cute in a classic literary kind of way, it wasn’t all that appealing to our bellies in a satisfactory kind of way. We continued back down Route 9, eventually finding the Eldorado West Diner. Though you would think that “one could not go wrong with meatloaf,” you would be sadly mistaken in this case. When all else fails, resort to filling up on the complimentary breadsticks and crackers. Such was our dinner.

Soon thereafter, we raced our way across the Tappan Zee, through the crosswinds and the hauntings of Sleepy Hollow and Sing Sing, back to New Jersey, back to the comfort of the familiar. Ichabod be damned! We were home! Wind at our backs, prison behind us, we were home! The familiar and the comfortable.





(Originally posted on the website Heron Flight)

Whoa! Check out the shirt!

Can’t you just hear the bagpipes playing in the background? Here comes William Wallace now!

Someone commented that I looked like I should be working on a farm. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea!

Hey, I got the shirt for $5 at J. C. Penny’s. What can I say? (When I wore the other $5 shirt, someone else said I looked like I should be wearing snakeskin boots and working in a rodeo.) The only days in my life I am caught wearing a shirt like this are Fridays, “Casual” Fridays.

“And here’s Sam coming down the red carpet, casually sporting a traditional Scottish print top by Tommy MacHilfiger and the consistently popular and corporately acceptable navy blue Dockers by Levi McStrauss.”

“Ah yes, Joan! And what better day to be in such befitting attire than today, Flag Day!”

Wait… Flag Day?

Yes, that’s what the calendar on my desk says. Check it out:


But what does the “M” stand for? Where is “M”?

Let us consult Google…

Here is a list of “M” countries, along with images of their flags:

  • 22px-flag_of_macedonia-svg – Macedonia
  • 22px-flag_of_madagascar-svg – Madagascar
  • 22px-flag_of_malawi-svg – Malawi
  • 22px-flag_of_malaysia-svg – Malaysia
  • 22px-flag_of_maldives-svg – Maldives
  • 22px-flag_of_mali-svg – Mali
  • 22px-flag_of_malta-svg – Malta
  • 22px-flag_of_mauritania-svg – Mauritania
  • 22px-flag_of_mauritius-svg – Mauritius
  • 22px-flag_of_mexico-svg – Mexico
  • 22px-flag_of_micronesia-svg – Micronesia
  • 22px-flag_of_moldova-svg – Moldova
  • 22px-flag_of_monaco-svg – Monaco
  • 22px-flag_of_mongolia-svg – Mongolia
  • 22px-flag_of_morocco-svg – Morocco
  • 22px-flag_of_mozambique-svg – Mozambique
  • 22px-flag_of_myanmar-svg – Myanmar

So, which one? Is it chocolate Malta? Smoking Mauritania? Maldives in your Cosmopolitan? Micronesia, when you can’t remember the small things? Macedonia nut?

I like Madagascar. That was a funny movie!

So, happy Flag Day to the Madagascarians! (“Madagascarians” – container toting, angry motorists who ran out of gas?) Wear your colors proudly!

One final word, courtesy of Dove chocolate… I found this inside one of their wrappers today:


Awww! Thanks! How sweet of you!

Me and my plaids are outta here! Bye!