Friday, June 28, 2019

Fifty Years On

Last weekend, I went to a lovely party celebrating the 50th anniversary of two of my friends from high school. This was an all-girls high school, so they weren’t celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Rather, they were marking fifty years on as a couple.

Friends in high school, they became a couple in college, when Kathleen transferred schools to be with Kim. They’ve been together since, and were married in June 2004, shortly after Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage. I was at that celebration, too. (In fact, I did a reading at it. (Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments...I free-lanced a bit at the end - I never writ, nor no man – or woman -  ever lov'd. I don’t think The Bard would have minded.)

And then there’s today, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall Rebellion, when those brave gay, lesbian and trans folks decided they were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore. So when the cops raided the Stonewall Inn – those raids and arrests were the norm back in the day – the patrons who were about to be rounded up fought back.

This pretty much kicked off the gay rights movement. Which meant that, 35 years later, in 2004, my friends Kathleen and Kim could get married. (Big anniversary week: Wednesday was the fourth anniversary of the SCOTUS Obergefell decision, legalizing gay marriage throughout the country.)

We have, indeed, come a long way…

I’m not quite sure when I became aware that there was such a thing as a homosexual.

I am sure that, by the time I was in high school, I knew there were men who were “different”: swishy, sissy, limp-wristed, lispy – all those gay male stereotypes. And I’d read some Oscar Wilde.

But I didn’t know that women could be gay until Sister Catherine Patrice talked to our homeroom about our class’s unexpected and “odd” SAT results.

Although the math instruction at my high school was generally abysmal – as opposed to English, which was generally excellent – most of the girls in my class scored higher on their math SAT’s than they did on verbal. (I was one of them.) Anyway, Sister Catherine Patrice confronted the issue head on:

“Girls, just because you did better on your math college boards, doesn’t mean you’re a homosexual.”

Huh? Who even knew that women could be such? Not me, anyway.

Then things started to fall in place: those tough women you’d see in downtown Worcester, the ones wearing dungarees and sporting slicked-back DA (duck’s ass) hairdos. Oh.

Sister Catherine went on:

“Girls, what can you do with them? You can’t put them in prison. They’ll be with their own kind!”

This was pretty much the extent of sex education in my high school, by the way.

The summer after high school, Kim and I worked in a shoe factory in Worcester. (This was way before there was such a thing as a fancy internship, and before our pre-Vietnam War consciousness was raised. We made combat boots, including jump boots for the South Vietnamese Air Force.) Kim was a heel podder and I was a trimmer, working at tables near each other. Kathleen joined us most days for lunch at McDonald’s. I didn’t think twice about it. We were all friends…

When I was in college, as far as I could tell, very few people were out. But I did know a couple of women who were lesbians.

I think the first gay man I ever met who I knew was gay was a Harvard student who worked as a busboy at the Union Oyster House the summer my roommate and I waitressed there. Joyce and I were pretty friendly with Dick, and at one point he asked us if we were members of the Daughters of Bilitis. We had no idea what he was talking about. There was no Google back in the day, so we must have asked Dick what the DoB was. Turns out it was a lesbian organization. Okay, but, no, we weren’t members.

But we were pretty sure one of the waitresses was “of that persuasion”: a no-nonsense woman who had been a WAC and who wore one of those downtown Worcester DA’s. (Jeanie was pretty much the nicest waitress of the lot.)

Anyway, it was a pretty big deal for people to “come out” back then.

Even in the early 1980’s, to come out at work was only for the brave. Someone you got friendly with would decide that you could be trusted, so they told you.

And then, all of a sudden, a lot of people were out. Pictures appeared in offices, boyfriends and girlfriends showed up at the company holiday party.

And all of a sudden, one of my best friends was gay. Peter and his long-time partner were also married in 2004. Peter and Tony haven’t been together quite as long as Kathleen and Kim, but I think they began dating in 1982. I remember when Tony showed up in the office for one of their early dates. Yowza. A gorgeous Greek god in a black turtleneck and jeans. (Funny story: one time Peter and I were talking about old TV shows and I mentioned that, in junior high, I’d had a crush on George Maharis, one of the stars of Route 66. Turns out, Peter had had a crush on him, too. Turns out, Peter was right.)

Being gay – at least a gay male – became a scary thing during the AIDS crisis. One of my work friends contracted AIDS, and I was part of the support group that helped Jose, his partner, and his family (when these incredibly sweet and loving people came to Boston from Puerto Rico during Jose’s final days). Jose and Larry’s commitment ceremony was the first gay wedding (or as close to a wedding as you could get, back then, if you were gay) I attended.

Fast forward: Larry – a Unitarian minister – helped me figure out my husband’s memorial service. And he and his husband came up from Philadelphia for it.

A few weeks ago, I ran into my friend Tim-from-the-Gym on Charles Street. It was the day of Boston’s Pride Parade, and I tagged along with Tim to watch it. (It runs quite near to my house, so I usually see part of it.)

Tim – who is a couple of years younger than I am, but of my generation – was lightly grousing about how corporate the event has become, and how much he missed the parades in the good old days, when Boston’s parade had quite a raunch element – plus a handful of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) members and a few Unitarian churches. Nary a corporate sponsor in sight.

Nah, I told Tim -  who, of course, has his own story of coming out as an Irish Catholic from Boston’s Dorchester section – all these corporate sponsors, the churches, the schools, the organizations that march in support are a good thing. Think of the young kids, grappling with their sexuality. How affirming it is to see employees from all these companies who are out. And all these other organizations. And all these folks celebrating their pride in who they are.

You know, a lot of people are down on the Baby Boomers, and it’s hard to blame them. But we did accomplish a few things, and one of them was helping make it a lot easier for gay folks to be accepted.

Anyway, fifty years on, congratulations to Kathleen and Kim. And thanks to those people at the Stonewall Inn who decided it was finally time to stand up and fight back.


After I wrote this post, Kathleen sent me a link to a Boston Globe article on her and Kim. Here you go:  They Loved in Silence.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Encore, encore! Everett needs a new pair of shoes.

Last Sunday, a new luxury hotel/resort opened in Everett, a gritty, down at the heels, blue collar town just outside of Boston. Of course, no one in their right mind who knew anything about the area would brand something as Everett. So Encore is going with Encore Boston Harbor. To quote Stanley Kowalkski/Marlon Brando/Tennessee Williams: “And do you know what I say? Ha ha! Do you hear me? Ha ha ha!”

Okay, Everett is part of the Port of Boston. But when I think Boston Harbor, I’m thinking Boston’s waterfront, which has become the “it” place over the last couple of decades. All the $10 a day, sandlot parking lots have been done away with, and in their place are office buildings, and upscale condos, stores, and restaurants. Plus an admittedly nice harbor walk.

When I think Everett, I’m thinking offloading LNG tankers. Admittedly, you can’t see the offloading LNG tankers in this picture, but does that look like a harbor to you? Or does it look like a backwater?

But harbor or backwater, Everett is now the home of Encore Boston Harbor “a $2.6 billion five-star global destination gaming resort.” (Source: Encore)

It’ll be interested to see how that $2.6 billion “global destination” pays for itself. Maybe there are enough tourists and conventioneers who’ll be drawn by the idea of gambling, watching a prize fight, or “high energy nightlife.” (The only nightlife they’ve got coming up that I’ve heard of is Shaquille O’Neal, former NBA great who’s apparently a DJ now.)

Or maybe there are enough locals who’re sick of trekking to Connecticut to Foxwood or Mohegan Sun, the two resort casinos there.

Anyway, Encore BH opened to great fanfare.

I’m not sure how many folks showed up, but they anticipated a crowd of 50,000. (Yes, you read that right!) And people – from the looks, mostly gawkers -  did wait 3 hours to get in.

I found all the hoopla a bit embarrassing. It seemed more like something that would happen in Worcester if a “global destination gaming resort” opened in The Heart of the Commonwealth. Rather than in The Hub of the Universe, where you’d think we’d be a bit more sophisticated and jaded.

Anyway, the TV stations all gave it breathless near round-the-clock coverage. (You’d think it was a blizzard or something.) And I believe that The Boston Globe live tweeted it for 24 hours.

Thus,I know that there were four opening day arrests: one for trespassing, one for 2 a.m. disorderly (was alcohol involved, I wonder?), and two for cheating at roulette.

As for glitz and glam, I don’t know. I just don’t see Boston as a glitz and glam kind of place. Of course, it wasn’t when I moved here 50 years ago. It was somewhat dumpy, somewhat dowdy. The “best” restaurants were a few mediocre seafood places and the stuffy and venerable Locke-Ober’s, where women were only welcome in the dining room on the Saturday when the Harvard-Yale Game was played here.

Now, Boston is hipper and more happening. Young folks want to live here. Techies, biotechies, and financial types make a ton of dough, bidding up housing prices. (Which I will one day thank them for.) I don’t see these as the sorts who’ll flock to Encore, but what do I know?

Will I be flocking there?

I don’t gamble, but I told my friend K – who does like to – that I would be interested in popping over with her at some point. I also told my niece Caroline that I’d go with her. (Aside to others in the fam: any interest? LMK.)

At Encore, I plan on moseying around and checking out the sites – like the $28M Jeff Koons statue of Popeye. (Encore’s owner, Steve Wynn, is an art collector.) I will do my usual “spend $10 on the slots” and call it a day. But I understand it’s all electronics now, so no more roll of quarters. Alas! It’s pretty easy to know when your roll of quarters is gone. I’m guessing it’s a little easier to keep playing when you don’t actually have to physically put a coin in the slot.

But I will not be paying $68 for a lobster roll, nor will I be eating at an Italian restaurant called Sinatra, no matter how wonderful it is.

I hope this pans out for Everett. That town could use a new pair of shoes.

I hope it brings about the town’s hoped for renaissance. Or naissance, as I don’t think they’ve had one that they can re-up. I hope that a lot of those promised good jobs go to folks who need them.

I hope that it brings Massachusetts all the tax revenue promised. That there’s some entertainment I’d actually like to see. That the surrounding area gets beautified. (Encore is really plopped in the middle of ugly old post-industrial nowhere. To get there, you can drive in through crowded urban roads; take an Encore shuttle bus from the Sullivan Square T-stop (or risk life and limb dodging traffic in Sullivan Square if you care to walk); or take a water ferry from Boston Harbor – a pretty enough prospect when you’re in Boston Harbor, but once you turn the corner and are getting closer to Everett, not so much.)

I’m not a big believer that casinos turn out to be the miraculous economic engines they’re always supposed to be. Sure, it worked in Las Vegas, but how’s Atlantic City doing? And all those casinos and river boats that were supposed to make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs and provide alternative employment to recycling heaps and prisons? How’s that all working out?

But, hey, most of those other places aren’t “a $2.6 billion five-star global destination gaming resort.”

Still, Boston is a place that people come to for college, for hospitals, for sports teams, for history. Gambling and big name, Vegas-style entertainment? I’m scratching my head on this one.

That said, Steve Wynn must have made a few good bets along the way if he can afford to pay $28M for a statue of Popeye…

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

For shame! (Or not.)

Boston recently went to a BYOB – bring your own bag – system. I’ve been mostly BYOB-ing for a few years, so it hasn’t been a big deal. Occasionally, I’m caught bag-less, out for a walk and forgot to stuff a roll-up bag in my pocket when I realize I really could use a couple of items from the store I’m passing. So I end up buying a bag.

Which I don’t really mind, if it’s a paper bag from Roche Brothers, as these do come in handy on occasion. But I do mind if it’s one of the new CVS bags, which aren’t quite as useful as the old plastic CVS bags. The old ones were good for scooping up loose garbage from bags that had been gnawed through by rats or raccoons, or for picking up the occasional dog-crap-on-the-sidewalk that some scofflaw leaves behind. The new CVS bags may be recyclable – I’m guessing they are – but they’re stiff and unwieldy and less good for picking up the odd dog crap.

Mostly, however, I bring my own: a backpack if I’m buying heavy-ish groceries, or one of the many rollups I try to remember to keep my pockets and pocketbooks stocked with.

There are plenty of good reasons for moving away from plastic bags. Plastics are creating those giant garbage patches in our oceans, and some of what makes up those patches are plastic bags. Those plastic bags are clogging our drains, polluting our rivers and riverbanks, waving from the branches of our trees.

Of course, there are a lot of other wasteful use of plastics out there.

Sure, I throw them into the recycle bin, but those flip-top plastic boxes my blueberries come in? Didn’t those blueberries used to come in green cardboard-y boxes that screamed biodegradable?

If I buy nuts at Fastachi’s they come in a paper bag; when I get them at the grocery store, they’re in a plastic container.

I like watermelon, and I should be embarrassed to admit that I buy chopped up chunks. In a plastic box.

Then there’s all the plastic that encases everything from toothbrushes to electronics.


Plastic waste has become so prevalent that tales of dead whales found with pounds of plastic trash — including shopping bags — in their stomachs have become commonplace. In April, a pregnant whale washed ashore in Italy with more than 48 pounds of plastic inside the animal.

Humans, too, are ingesting plastic, but on a microscopic level, according to a study released this week from Australia’s University of Newcastle and commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund. Every week, people could be consuming approximately the weight of a credit card — 5 grams, or about 2,000 tiny pieces of plastic — mainly through water containing microplastics, the research found. (Source: NY Times)


When – 50 years ago now - the fellow in The Graduate gave Benjamin professional advice by telling him “One word: plastics,” he wasn’t kidding.

Anyway, encouraging people to use less plastic is a good thing, so I’m all for making the modest effort to bring my own bag. And maybe I’ll start buying a small watermelon and slicing it up myself.

Canada’s getting into BYOB, too. Our Neighbors to the North are looking to get rid of single-use plastics – those inglorious CVS bags! – within the next couple of years.

One Vancouver grocery store is getting into the act early. They’re encouraging customers to BYOB by charging them a nickel (Canadian, so not a real nickel) for a plastic bag printed with a supposedly embarrassing message:

Dr. Toews’ Wart Ointment Wholesale

Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium

The Colon Care Co-Op

The fine print on the bags read: “Avoid the shame. Bring a reusable bag.”

As so often happens with the best laid plans of mice and marketing folks, this one has somewhat backfired.

“Some of the customers want to collect them because they love the idea of it,” David Lee Kwen, the owner of the store, Vancouver’s East West Market, told The Guardian newspaper.

And they’re expressing their love of the idea on social media:

“I would 100 percent not use reusable bags, just to see which awesome bag I get next,” one commenter wrote on Facebook.

“Now that the entire region knows they are purposefully embarrassing, I’m even more inclined to get one. I might even buy extra bags to give to people,” a Twitter user said.

Methinks those “embarrassing” messages were a bit too funky, a bit too unreal, to actually embarrass anyone. Maybe if they’d featured adverts for products that someone might actually find embarrassing to purchase  – Preparation H, Beano, Depends – the campaign might have been more effective. Or maybe something that stated outright: This is a douchebag for someone who doesn’t care about the environment.

Points for trying, I guess.

Of course, they – and everyone else – will need to do more than just discourage (or not) people from using bad bags:

Even the Vancouver store that was trying to shame its customers into shunning plastic bags uses copious amounts of plastic packaging. Recent photographs of the store’s wares on Facebook show figs, mangoes, minicucumbers and sweet red peppers all for sale while wrapped in plastic.

Wrapping a minicucumber in plastic? One step forward, two steps back.

Come on, we can do better than this.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A fly went by

For the past few weeks, I was plagued by a fly.

It could, of course, have been far worse.

I’ve had mice on occasion. Mice, of course, don’t make buzzing noises in your ear. But no one wants to hear one scratching in the wall, or spy one – EEK! – scurrying across the floor. Let alone fine those tiny little scats, or buttons that have been dethreaded.

And this is the city. It could be – even though I’ve only seen them on the outskirts of my building – a rat.

One of those sightings was recent.

I was taking my trash out at 6:30 a.m., trying to make sure that those nasty nocturnal rats wouldn’t gnaw into it. I tossed my bag on top of the pile o’ bags from our building, and out sped a rat that hadn’t gotten the message that rats are supposed to be gone by dawn. If you’ve ever asked yourself whether rats can climb trees, the answer is yes.

It could have been a bedbug. Having suffered through a bedbug scare a number of years ago – my husband and I came back from a trip to NYC with what looked suspiciously like a couple of bedbug bites on our legs – I don’t want to go through that again. Fortunately, we didn’t bring any back in our luggage. We chalked it up to this kind of seedy French bistro we used to go to whenever we were in The City.

It could have been a snake, which I hadn’t thought of as much of an urban possibility until recently. I.e., when I saw on the news that a giant but fortunately non-venomous snake had slithered its way into someone’s kitchen in the ex-urb but quite urby town of Medford and bitten their 9-month old.

So, yeah, it could have been worse than a fly.

But this was no ordinary fly.

I swear, it was the size of a sparrow. Or a hummingbird at least. Truly, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find Jeff Goldblum’s head on this beast.

And for such a big sucker, it moved pretty fast.

The first time I saw it, it buzzed me in my den while I was sitting there making myself crazy watching MSNBC.

By the time I got up and grabbed my can of Raid and my flyswatter, it was gone.

A couple of days later, it came roaring back into the den. By that time, I had the Raid near at hand. So I sprayed a tiny bit, closed the door, and left it to rot.

But I never did find the carcass, and surely the carcass of a fly the size of a sparrow hummingbird (with or without Jeff Goldblum’s head) would be findable.

Anyway, it did seem to have disappeared.

But, no.

There it was again. Upstairs, when the flyswatter and Raid were downstairs.

I chased it around with a towel for a bit, but it never lit anywhere. It just buzzed off, I’m guessing through the HVAC ducts. (No open windows here, other than in the kitchen, and they’re screened.)

Then the nervy bastard was back again. In my bedroom.

I was reluctant to spray Raid in my bedroom, but did so anyway. Desperate times, desperate measures and all that. I sprayed directly at it.

Impervious to the poison that was gagging me, it buzzed right by my ear, took a sharp right out the door, and flew into my office, a tiny little room where I trapped it.

Again, I sprayed Raid directly on it, and it made a beeline – flyline? – for my face. And then it seemed to drop midflight.

I haven’t looked all that hard, but I haven’t found the carcass quite yet. I’ll give it a few days to dry up before I search again. I really am pretty sure that, this time, I really got it. When I find its desiccated little corpse, I’ll let you know if it looks anything like Jeff Goldblum.

Monday, June 24, 2019

GE: we bring a hilarious tutorial video to life

Instructional videos on YouTube are often quite, well, instructional. In the good ones, someone who knows what they’re doing patiently and step-by-step walks you through a process that you would never, ever, ever in the whole wide world have figured out for yourself. I’m not exactly Ms. DIY, but I’ve looked to YouTube experts to show me how to do stuff like bait that new-fangled mousetrap and how to fold a fitted sheet. (Note on folding a fitted sheet: you’d have to put an awful lot of practice on this one to make perfect, and it’s just not worth it to me. So I’ve still got the lumpy, weird fold thing going.)

But the GE YouTube that demonstrates how to reset your lightbulb is in a league of its own.

We’re not talking about a plain old screw-it-in bulb. Or even one of the newer pin sets.

No, what apparently needs resetting is a General Electric C smart, Bluetooth-enabled bulb that lets you do all sorts of nifty smart things like schedule or voice activate it.

There are, of course, any number of relatively straightforward ways to turn a lightbulb off and on.

You can do it the old-fashioned way and flip the switch, press the button, or pull the chain.

If you’re too lazy for that, or you want the lamp lit when you walk in the door in winter, you can put it on a timer. The bulb will brighten right up at the appointed hour.

Or you can get yourself a Clapper. You remember the Clapper, a product right up there with the Snuggie, the Ginsu knife, and SNL’s Bass-o-Matic. All you need to do to get it to work for you is clap on, clap off.

Which is a lot easier than the rigmarole you need to subject yourself to in order to troubleshoot your GE smart bulb so that you’ll have it at your beck and call.

First, according to the narrator, turn off the lightbulb for five seconds.

Then turn it on for eight seconds.

Then turn it off for two seconds.

On for eight more seconds. Off for two more seconds. On for eight seconds. Off for two seconds. On for eight seconds. Off for two seconds. On for eight seconds. (Gasp!) Off for two more seconds.

Now turn it on, and it should work.

If not, maybe you missed a second or two somewhere. It’s unclear how much of an effect that would have, but GE does recommend counting using the “Mississippi” method — one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi and so on.  (Source: WaPo)

99.9999% of the time, I’ll go with the written word over the video, but in this case, the written word does not do this process justice. You really do need to see for yourself. (Wish I knew how to embed a video in my blogging app. Maybe there’s a YouTube instructional video for that…)

And once you’ve seen for yourself, spend a few minutes grazing through the comments. Some of them are priceless. Here’s an especially good one:

“This video made me forget about my soulless existence and feel alive for 8 seconds, then dead for 2 seconds, then alive for 8 seconds, then dead for 2 seconds…”

Others wondered whether the tutorial was a parody. Compared it to their sex lives. Or were tempted to buy the lightbulb “to see whether these instructions are real.”

Oh, they’re real alright.

Asked whether the video was intended to be comical, Mary Ann Milo, a spokeswoman for GE Lighting, said only that the company created it to help consumers reset the C by GE bulbs.

“We are aware that the current reset process for our smart bulbs is not ideal. We are working on simpler methods to reset products. We appreciate our consumers’ patience in the meantime,” Milo said in a statement Thursday to The Washington Post.

I’m not someone who believes that, if God had wanted us to have smart light bulbs, he would have had Thomas Alva Edison invent them for us.

Smart technology is not going away, and it’s not all overkill (smart fridge alerting you to buy OJ) or just plain useless.

Some of it’s really and truly smart. Not that I’ve bothered to program mine yet, but programmable thermostats, yay!

And even smart lightbulbs will have their day.

Some twenty years ago, I went to a Microsoft partners conference out in Seattle.  Bill Gates gave the keynote and spoke about smart tech, and how one day, lightbulbs would be smart enough to tell us when they needed to be changed. Or something like that.

And smart building technology is really great, making buildings more energy efficient and all that good sort of stuff.

But for us mere civilians, it’s not all that onerous to turn on the lights. Or to figure out when a bulb’s out. It doesn’t turn on. And, once you unscrew it, a quick shake will tell you if it’s a goner.

Anyway, the GE video is really worth a look.

Truly, no amount of expected value would be worth going through a factory reset of your lightbulb.

I’ve seen some pretty awful product design in my life. And I must confess that I have written a few step-by-step tutorials in the pre-video era that helped walk hapless customers through use of poorly designed software. But this GE video is really a doozy.

GE used to say “we bring good things to life.”

With this video, they’re bringing awareness to a bad product design, and an unintentionally hilarious video to life.


I was considering a post on this, when an email from my brother-in-law Rick convinced me to Pink Slip it.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Now, for some fun news on the baseball (sorta) front

Assuming the rain clears, tonight I’ll be going to my second game of the Red Sox so-far-so-not-so-good season. My first game, on Patriots Day, was a complete fiasco. Things have turned up a bit since then, but still, things have been lackluster. There still my boys, however, and I’m hoping for something better this evening.

Anyway, in honor of my coming trip to Fenway Park, I had planned on writing about just how costly taking oneself out to the ballgame, taking oneself out to the crowd, has become.

No surprise that, when it comes to paying for a seat and buying some peanuts and Cracker Jack, it costs more for a family of four to watch the Red Sox (average price: $351) than anywhere else in baseball-dom. (Runners up: Yankees at Yankee Stadium at $337, and $300 for the Cubs at Wrigley.)

In my post, I was going to lament the high cost of baseballing, and compare and contrast today’s fees with the good old days, when my father could cram a bunch of kids in the car and a trip into Fenway (including gas, Mass Pike tolls, parking, bleacher tickets, and peanuts all around) might have cost $20.

Ah, the good old days.

And then, thanks to Carolyn Ryan (@carolynryan) on Twitter, I found a quite wonderful baseball-related (tangentially) article by Anthony Attrino on

The article is about Lenny Dykstra, a former major league baseball player, most notably – from the perspective of a Red Sox fan – with the 1986 NY Mets who screwed the Olde Town Team out of a much-deserved World Series win, causing us to wait an additional 18 years to reverse the curse.

So, pitooey on Lenny Dykstra.

Since retiring from baseball, Dykstra has had quite a career for himself – a career that included trying unsuccessfully to flip a mansion he’d bought from Wayne Gretzky; running car washes; and spending time in prison for bankruptcy fraud.

Anyway, because the article is so wild and interesting, even if you’ve never heard of Lenny Dykstra, I’m presenting the article in full:

In the long list of bizarre Lenny Dykstra stories, spending 9 hours dumpster diving outside a Jersey Mike’s Subs shop may not even rank in the top 10.

But that’s what happened over the weekend. And, of course, the former Phillies and Mets star chronicled his latest misadventure on Twitter after a trip for a sub in Linden turned into a denture debacle.

“The bread is so hard on those subs,” Dykstra told NJ Advance Media on Tuesday. “I took my teeth out and put them in a napkin, folded it up and forget them there.”

Dykstra left the restaurant which is about two miles from his home and later realized he’d forgotten his teeth in the napkin.

“When I went back, the workers said they threw all the napkins in the garbage,” Dykstra said. “I told them there was no f---- way I was leaving without my f---- teeth.”

The dentures are specially made with bone marrow and valued at $80,000, he said.

Dentures “specially made with bone marrow”? Huh? Not porcelain? Not resin? Not plastic? Bone marrow? I can’t imagine what this means, but I guess if you’re talking about dentures that cost $80K – now that’s a mouthful – anything goes. Luckily, I haven’t had the need for dentures, but as it turns out, this morning I’m having appointment number one for a new crown for a cracked tooth. It will cost plenty, but nowhere near $80K. I will be asking my dentist about that bone marrow thing. (In a baseball-denture related side note, my father had a partial denture, a “bridge” between two teeth to replace a missing tooth. The tooth had been knocked out when my father, as a 10 year old kid, was coming home with his buddies from a Holy Cross baseball game, and was imitating a great catch that Chick Gagnon had made when he ran into a hydrant. And lost a tooth. (Chick Gagnon was a Holy Cross great who had a modest pro career with the Tigers and Senators.)

For the next nine hours, Dykstra said he and a friend – a tag-team wrestler who goes by Sprinkles the Clown – dug through the dumpster behind Jersey Mike’s.

I’m quite certain that if I had lost $80K worth of dentures, I’d be willing to spend a few bucks to get Task Rabbit to do some dumpster diving for me. Perhaps that’s because I don’t have a tag-team wrestler friend I can call on to join my search party. (Bonus points for a tag-team wrestler called Sprinkles the Clown. I don’t even want to think about where that name came from. Being a clown is quite terrible enough, let along being a clown with a creepy-even-by-clown-standards moniker.)

Shortly after 11 p.m., the friend took to Twitter to ask for help. “You want to come help me and Lenny Dykstra look for his dentures tonight? Or does anyone? This is a serious question...”

Dykstra said he found his teeth early Sunday, Father’s Day.

Happy Belated Father’s Day, Lenny. And here’s a point of interest: one of his sons is married to Jamie Lynn Sigler, who played Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow. Is this a New Jersey story or what?

“I was there for nine hours. I thought the cops were going to arrest me for trespassing,” Dykstra said. “I wasn’t leaving my teeth there in the dumpster. No way was I leaving them.”

Dykstra, as it turns out, has a bit of experience with cops. And it’s experience that seems far worse than what a normal, run-of-the-mill white collar bankruptcy fraud ex-con would have run in.

In his autobiography, “House of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge,” Dykstra wrote that he lost his real teeth after jail guards in Los Angeles beat him in his cell and again in a hospital. The damage was so severe that his remaining teeth had to be removed, Dykstra has said.


Kearny-based Perfect Pawn owner Dan Risis, who is Dykstra’s close New Jersey friend, said he arranged for a dentist and a baseball fan in Minnesota to make Dykstra’s dentures – free of charge – about a year ago.

“When he loses these teeth (for good) I’ll arrange for him to get more dentures,” Risis said. “I love the guy, but he’s Lenny Dykstra. He’s from another planet.”

So, they were actually free $80K dentures, not $80K $80K dentures. Plus Dykstra has a friend who (of course) owns a pawn shop who would have replaced those dentures if something were to happen to them. And not with dentures that had been pawned. Bless him…

Too bad The Sopranos is over and done with. If ever there were a plot that’s Sopranos-worthy. Lenny Dykstra. The dentures…The dumpster. The wrestling clown. The pawn shop guy. Not to mention New Jersey.


Thanks, Anthony Attrino for sharing.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Um. I’m not exactly a libertarian, but shouldn’t the market be taking care of this?

A new regulation just went into effect in the U.K., banning advertisements that use gender stereotypes.

So no more ads depicting:

Men unable to change diapers; women cleaning while men kick their feet up on the couch; women having trouble with parking:

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority said in a statement that it will also ban ads that connect physical features with success in the romantic or social spheres; assign stereotypical personality traits to boys and girls, such as bravery for boys and tenderness for girls; suggest that new mothers should prioritize their looks or home cleanliness over their emotional health; and mock men for being bad at stereotypically “feminine” tasks, such as vacuuming, washing clothes or parenting. (Source: NY Times)

The reasoning behind the ban is that gender stereotypes “can lead to unequal gender outcomes in public and private aspects of people’s lives.”

But the catalyst is said to be an ad for a weight-loss drink that showed a fetching young woman in a bikini and asked the question “Are you beach body ready?”

Over 70,000 folks signed a petition calling for this and other ads to be removed.

My thinking is that, if people felt the ads were sexist and offensive, why didn’t they just go after the company doing the advertising? Let them know you’re pissed, that you won’t buy their products. If they listen, great. If they don’t, well just don’t buy their products. And point out to the young folks in your life that the ads are sexist crap.

Personally, I don’t find beach-body-ready types of ads offensive because they’re sexist. I find them offensive when they overstate the benefits of using a product, which I’m guessing happens more often than not. And which – when it gets into outright-lie territory - ought to be regulated.

Other than ridding the airwaves of such outright lies, or pornographic content, and forbidding ads that condone/promote hate speech and violence, I’m not all that big a fan of banning advertisements.

Although they were some of the best ads on TV – the Marlboro Man riding around Marlboro Country to the theme from “The Magnificent Seven,” the catchy tune used in the Benson & Hedges ad “Oh the disadvantages…” – I’m just as glad that those ads are gone. Smoking serves no purpose other than to get people sick and killed.

But should they have been banned?

Did banning cigarette advertising help reduce smoking, or did smoking rates decline because people took the Surgeon General’s Report seriously? Because people woke up to the fact that ‘cancer sticks’ really were ‘cancer sticks.” Because a skull & crossbones warning on a cigarette package gave some smokers pause. Because government and public service programs aimed at stopping kids from smoking actually worked.

Curiously, drinking alcohol also kills people, but beer, wine and hard alcohol ads – often accompanied by “drive responsibly” messaging are allowed.

Go figure.

Then there are the ads for toys and other products aimed at kids.

B&W TV Saturday when I was growing up was a wasteland of bad children’s programming.

Forget anything as elevated as Sesame Street. We had Howdy Doody. And crappy half-hour quasi-Westerns like Fury, My Friend Flicka and Sky King. Interspersed within and between these gems were toy ads.

Every boy wants a Remco, toy. And so do girls.

Here it comes, here it comes, greatest toy you’ve ever seen, and its name is Mr. Machine.

You can tell it’s Mattel, it’s swell.

(Of course, our version of this latter on was “You tell it’s Mattel by its smell.”)

In any case, kids glued to the TV on those 1950’s Saturdays were inundated with ads for toys. And for sugary cereals (“I’m hungry, I’m hungry, for good things to eat. For Sugar Jets, Sugar Jets, candied and sweet.”) For sugary drinks like Kool-and Hawaiian Punch. For candy (“Charlie says, ‘love that Good ‘n Plenty”, and my own personal favorite: “Bit O’Honey goes a long, long way. If I had one head, it would last all day.” Of course, the reason why Bit O’Honey lasted all day was because it was practically inedible.)

I don’t know whether, in the US, ads aimed at the kiddos are regulated. I do know that there’s a fair amount of talk about it, especially w.r.t food marketing, given the rate of childhood obesity. So maybe ads aimed at the little ones should be banned. That or parents could develop the deaf ears that parents had back in the day when it mattered not how often you pestered your folks for Kool-Aid or a Mr. Machine. You weren’t going to get the object of your desire unless your parents wanted you to have it. Which was never the case.

In any case, I don’t spend a whole lot of time analyzing ads.

I do spend a bit of time making fun of them. Especially the pharma ads of the ‘don’t talk Taltz if you are allergic to Taltz” variety.

But I will observe that ads are less sexist than they used to be. That they’re less violent. (I can’t imagine that any toy company is running ads for a plastic Tommy gun.) That the people represented in them are more diverse than back in the day when everyone was a blonde, and the only persons of color were the Chinese laundry couple in the Calgon ad.

Ads are still, and likely always will be, annoying. But when there are ads that are truly repugnant (and sometimes just because some group chose to take offense to something fairly innocuous), I’m going to trust “the market” to pressuring a company to withdraw them. Do the Brits really need a big old set of new regulations here?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


I’m not sure when I first heard of Juneteenth. Probably when Ralph Ellison’s novel of the same name was published. That was in 1999. God knows, we weren’t taught all that much about black history when I was in school. Having gone to Catholic schools, the bias was towards elevating awareness of missionaries and other Catholics. (Did public schools focus as closely on Junipero Serra as parochial schools did? Does anyone other than Catholic school kids know that John Barry, an Irishman and a Catholic, is the Father of the U.S. Navy?)

Pretty much the only black history I learned was a bit about abolition, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and George Washington Carver.

In college, I learned a bit more. And read W.E.B. DuBois.

A couple of years ago, I finally got around to walking the Black Heritage Trail in Boston.

But Juneteenth? The day in 1865 (June 19th) when the last slaves were freed? Never heard of it until I was well into adulthood.

It’s been a long time since I studied history, but I’m guessing that it hasn’t improved all that much in terms of exposing students to the elements that are less than glorious in our history, that poke a hole or two in our scrim of exceptionalism. The treatment of Native Americans. Systemic racism. WWII internment camps. Turning away Jewish refugees.

Sure, there’s probably a bit more Rosa Parks and Tuskegee Airmen in the history books than there used to be. But probably not enough.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot of late, especially in light of the treatment of African Americans at the hands of the police, and/or at the hands of regular old civilians. Treatment that’s been going on for centuries, but that’s now being recorded and exposed thanks to smartphone cameras.

The latest outrage is a young African-American family in Phoenix who were pulled over for suspicion of shoplifting an inexpensive doll and/or a package of underwear from a Dollar Store. The family – pregnant woman, her fiancé, their baby and their four year old – were surrounded by cops, guns drawn, swearing at them, screaming at them, and threatening to shoot them. Etc.

Even after all we’ve seen, watching this video is a shocking experience.

And it reminds me that as brilliant and exceptional as this country is and has been – our legal institutions (still hanging on…), the freedom from tyranny and autocracy we have enjoyed (so far), our historic ability to absorb immigrants and turn them into Americans (including my very own Ellis Island grandfather who became a prosperous business and property owner, a Republican voter, and a baseball fan) – we still have plenty of work to do.

In a D-Day tweet, Mike Huckabee – former Arkansas governor and father of Sarah Huckabee Sanders – opined:

Must have been an "awkward" moment for Angela Merkel to sit in ceremony as the Allies commemorated D-Day that broke the back of Nazi Germany.

What a snide little clip…

If any country has owned up to its past, it’s Germany. They have acknowledged their responsibility for the Holocaust. They educate their students about it. They’ve made reparations and prosecuted war criminals. They’ve made their country a haven for immigrants. And they’ve built a robust and exemplary democracy.

Whereas we have never faced up to and faced down the racism in our history. Even worse, we have plenty – I’m looking at you, Huck – who glorify in the noble Lost Cause of the sketchy Confederate past. What does that say to our African American brethren?

Sure, we “celebrate” Black History Month. Teach kids about Emmett Till. Cry over those little girls slaughtered in the Birmingham church bombings. Revile Bull Connor and his police dogs. Hell, we even elected a black man. Twice.

But we’ve never done the hard work of grappling with what’s not so glorious in our past, and how it translates into what’s not so glorious in our present – especially if you’re an African American.

Nobody should fear for their life because their four year old may or may not have grabbed a 99 cent fake Barbie, or the man of the family may or may not have lifted a package of cheap undies.

So here we are at Juneteenth.

Not that I have a clue about what to “do” about racism.

But I know what not to do about it, and that’s to deny that it exists, to pretend that we’re in a post-racial society.

I’ve never celebrated Juneteenth, but today I’m ready to do something or other in honor of this day of liberation.

I’ve pulled Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad out of my pile of partially-read books. I had started in on it a while back, but had put it down as too painful. But it’s a must read. And I’m going to get back to reading it.

I plan on watching the second episode of Anna DuVernay’s When They See Us, her show about the Central Park Five. A painful but must watch.

And I think I’ll head up to Boston’s Museum of African American History and sit in the Meeting House for a bit. Trying to imagine what the American experience has been like for those who aren’t whiter than white.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Gaten Matarazzo is only 16, but it’s time for him to grow up

I don’t watch Stranger Things, which Gaten Matarazzo stars in, so I only know him as the astonishingly annoying smartest-kid-in-the-neighborhood trying to shame everyone into getting Verizon FIOS.

But he’s apparently taking further advantage of his moment, and building his brand, with a new gig as the host of a Netflix prank series with the hilarious premise of pranking folks who are looking for work.

I grew up watching Candid Camera, a show that caught people reacting to something mildly silly – say, a talking mailbox – or something mildly frustrating – say, a kid trying to pull a t-shirt with a too-small head hole over his head. The show was mildly amusing, and not especially mean. (Okay, it was mildly mean to give those kids the tiny-head hole t-shirts.)

But the ante has been upped over the decades, and prank shows have become edgier.

I never watched the Ashton Kutcher prank show when that was a thing, but I believe the schemes were fairly elaborate. What turned into Kutcher’s show Punk’d, in which his friends were pranked, started out targeting civilians.

Originally, Ashton Kutcher and MTV were developing a program called Harassment, a hidden camera show which would feature pranks on regular people. However, a January 2002 prank involving a fake dead body at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas backfired and the couple who were targets of the prank sued Kutcher, MTV, and the hotel for $10 million. (Source: Wikipedia)

Hope they won big! Because nothing says HI-larious like a dead body.

Then there was an Irish radio prank show I can’t recall the name of.

People set their friends and family members up to get pranked, with laugh-a-minute schemes like calling a bride two days before her wedding to tell her that the reception venue was closed, or calling someone with an expensive new car to tell him that it had been totaled.


In all these pranked shows, the target of the prank has the choice of going along with the laugh and playing the good sport, or doing what they really want to do, which is to start raging about assholes. Some choice.

There are some prank shows that meet with my seal of approval, however. I like the ones that target politicians, and put in a call in which someone pretending to be another famous politician – say, Vladimir Putin -  makes an offer to, say, dig up some dirt on an opponent.

Evil-exposing, gotcha pranks? I’m all for them.

But mostly I think the world is a mean enough place without deliberately contributing to making it meaner.

And Prank Encounters, which Matarazzo is both host and executive produce for, sounds really mean.

Each episode of this terrifying and hilarious prank show takes two complete strangers who each think they’re starting their first day at a new job. It’s business as usual until their paths collide and these part-time jobs turn into full-time nightmares. (Source: Deadline)

Terrifying? Yes. Hilarious? Doubtful. Mean? Absolutely!

Matarazzo is just a kid. He’s only 16. And props to him for the career success he’s built for himself. I may find him annoying, but he’s clearly got his audience. And I understand that he does a lot to raise awareness about and money for a genetic disorder – cleiodocranial dysplasia – that he himself suffers from. Good for him.

But a show targeting the unemployed? Time to grow up a bit.

Maybe Gaten Matarazzo doesn’t know anyone who’s just graduated from college with $100K in debt and is staring down the face of the gig economy. Maybe he doesn’t know anyone who’s been out of the workforce for a while – struggling with addiction or mental illness, trying to get beyond a prison record. Maybe he thinks tricking someone into thinking they’ve gotten work, when there’s really no job, is just great sport. He’s only sixteen.

But are there no adults in his life – parents, agents, whatever – who might had stepped in and said “nah”?

I’m sure the schnooks on the show will be compensated for their humiliation. (At least I hope so.) Nonetheless, this is a pretty awful premise for a show.

Sorry, that’s not entertainment.

And what’s next?

Telling someone who’s been experiencing homelessness that they’ve got an apartment, only to usher them into a 10 square foot place with noisemaking all night? Telling a patient with an incurable disease that you’ve found the cure, only – ha-ha – NOT?

Years ago, I read an interview with Chuck Barris, creator of such culturally enhancing shows as The Gong Show, The Dating Game, and The Newlywed Game. In the interview, Barris speculated that, in the future, there might be ‘how low can you go’ games in which the object would be to see how little it would take for someone to do something dreadful, like rip the cane out of the hands of an old lady.

Well, Mr. Barris, I’m here to tell you – or would be here to tell you if you were still alive – that  you weren’t far off.

Not that adults aren’t perfectly capable of being mean. And it’s likely adults who are behind the plot of Prank Encounters. But if the grownups aren’t capable of being the adults in the room, I’m afraid it’s time for Gaten Matarazzzo to grow up and put an end to this bad idea.

Monday, June 17, 2019

How the Millennials are making the world a better place. (Think bigger, move faster!)

I’m super-hoping that the millennials will save us from ourselves. That they will rise up and do something about climate change. That they will rid us of our turbulent government. That they will be willing to tackle Social Security and Medicare problems without going Soylent Green on us Baby Boomers.That they’ll be less racist and homophobic than their elders.

Save us, oh Millennials, and I’ll never breathe a word about entitlement, snowflakery, slacktivism or trophies for showing up. Promise.

It may take a while for the Millennials to start saving us on the macro front, but, according to Moneywise, this cohort is making some modest inroads on improving the world by killing some brands that, for the most part, deserve death.

Diet Pepsi’s “sales have fallen drastically in recent years.” My only disappointment here is that they didn’t take Pepsi Pepsi with them. Although most of my fizzy consumption is flavored sparkling water – Polar Raspberry Lime and LaCroix Orange flavor – once in a while I do want a Diet Coke. And that once in a while almost always occurs in a restaurant that’s Pepsi-only.

Moneywise is also blaming the Millennials for the decline of Crocs, even if the real drivers appear to be that they don’t wear out, and thus don’t need to be replaced all that often; they may, in fact, be “bad for your feet”; and there are a ton of cheaper knockoffs. I won’t be sad to see Crocs go. Just so they don’t come for my super-comfy Asics.

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually eaten Wheaties. As I kid, I of course wanted to eat my Wheaties. In the same way that I wanted a pogo stick, It seemed like the sort of thing American kids should do. Alas, my mother never bought Wheaties. Surprisingly, she mostly went with sugared cereals: Sugar Pops, Sugar Crisp, Sugar Jets. Rice Krispies were the only low-sugar cereal I remember at our house, mostly there so that my mother could make Rice Krispie Date and Coconut Balls. (Hmm. Haven’t had those in decades. They’d make a nice retro treat…)

Tiffany’s is apparently in freefall, and I can’t say that I’ll miss the little blue box. Other than a corporate award – a hideous engraved glass something-or-other that I left on my desk when I departed - the only Tiffany items I’ve ever had were a bookmark (a sterling women’s symbol, a gift from a friend for my 21st birthday) and a pair of glasses. So I’m not keeping them in business. But “American millennials have simply lost interest in the company’s signature rings, bracelets and accessories.”

Millennials aren’t the only ones giving Campbell’s Soup a pass. Although my mother made a lot of homemade soups, we often had canned soup for lunch, and I grew up on Campbell’s: Vegetable Beef, Chicken Rice, Vegetarian Vegetable, Scotch Broth, Tomato. I’m still a soup fan, but I find Campbell’s way to salty, so it’s Progresso for me.

Interest n Jell-O is waning, likely because everyone who made jell-o molds (i.e., my mother) has passed away. But:

Jell-O's owner, Kraft Heinz, is trying hard to win over younger consumers. It recently introduced Jell-O Play edible slime, described as a toy you can eat.

A toy you can eat?  I don’t know how good an idea that is…

While on the eating front, Millennials are turning their noses up at Chef Boyardee. I never had Chef Boyardee as a kid. When my mother – who, for a German girl from Chicago, made kick-ass spaghettis sauce – wanted us to have lousy pasta from a can, that lousy pasta from a can was Franco-American. But I have in my adult life – although not in years – an occasional of the Chef’s ravioli and, while it tasted nothing like real ravioli, I had a certain affection for it. Too bad for Conagra that the Millennials don’t.

SlimFast is losing weight:

The company was recently sold in a deal valued at $350 million — a far cry from the $2.4 billion that consumer products giant Unilever paid for the brand in 2000.

Wonder who okayed that purchase?

Budweiser is falling out of favor, thanks in part to the Millennials preference for craft beer and “hard seltzers, unique flavor blends and low-carb, low-sugar alcoholic drinks.” The King of Beers has been dethroned. No great loss.

I hadn’t realized that Kodak was now “dabbling in cryptocurrency.” The horror! Anyway, I don’t think you can blame the Millennials for Kodak’s waning fortune. Today, we’re all smartphone photographers. Who needs Kodak?

The young folks apparently don’t like Harley Davidson motorcycles much. They’re more into Uber-ing and public transpo – at least so far (i.e., pre having children and moving to the suburbs). In any case, they’re not revving along on hogs with the Boomers.

Elsewhere on the vehicle front, Chevy is “pulling the plug” on its electric car, the Volt. You’d think the Millennials would be all over an e-car, but maybe they really aren’t into vehicle ownership. Or like everyone else, maybe they just want SUV’s and pickup trucks. (Millennials apparently don’t like Fiats either.)

The Gap is fallen into the gap, as has its opposite (and underneath) number, Victoria’s Secret. Don’t even mention Sears. Or their appliance brand, Kenmore. I remember when Kenmore was the best thing that Sears had to offer. No more!

What else does Moneywise tell us the Millennials are doing in?

Twitter of all things, getting pushed out by Snapchat and Insta, and its own growing reputation as a source of evil. While I don’t tweet myself, I look at my Twitter feed all the time as my first line for news. But maybe it’s just on the way to becoming an other old fogey platform, like Facebook. I’ll miss it if it’s gone and I have to go back to looking directly at new sites for a head’s up on what’s happening, rather than getting an alert from Chris Hayes or Chris Meloni. Thanks, Millennials.

The final item that Moneywise tells us that the Millennials have done in is the iPod. The iPod is the only Apple product I’ve ever purchased, and I loved it when I was taking my several times a year drive to Syracuse. I wonder where it is, all loaded up with Bruce Springsteen and Mary Black. As happened to Kodak, I’d lay the demise of the iPod to the advent of the all-purpose smartphone, rather than at the door of the Millennials. But what do I know? I’m the only person I know who doesn’t use Spotify or Pandora. I’m happy with my old-school CD’s.

Anyway, as consumers, the Millennials are doing some good. Now it’s time to get going on the bigger picture issues! Save us, oh Millennials.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Those oldies but goodies

While I was poking around to learn a bit about King Arthur Flour, which I blogged about the other day, I came across a piece on American companies that have been around for more than 150 years.

Here are my notes on the list:

Funny, but I always thought that Caswell-Massey (1752) was a British company. But, having been founded in pre-Revolutionary Newport, Rhode Island, it almost counts as stiff upper British.

The Hartford Courant (1764) also predates the Revolution. It’s got quite a history:

George Washington placed an ad in the paper, Mark Twain once tried to buy stock in the paper, and Thomas Jefferson sued the publication for libel and lost. The paper was also run by one of the country's first woman publishers, Hannah Watson, in 1777. (Source: Business News Daily.)

There are somethings that are always in my larder. Teddie’s peanut butter, at least a box or two of DeCecco pasta, and a package of Boston’s own Baker's Chocolate (1765). Because you never know when you’re going to need to whip up a batch of brownies. The founders of Baker’s were an odd duo: “a Harvard-educated doctor named James Baker and an Irish immigrant named John Hannon.” Guess that was before the Brahmins figured out No Irish Need Apply.

Ames (1774) makes shovels and other gardening tools. Its shovels were used to help build the transcontinental railroad, by 49ers digging for gold, and to prepare the foundation of the Statue of Liberty. Pretty impressive, no? (Too lazy to check and see whether the gardening tools I use a couple of times of year to tend my parents’ grave are Ames. Maybe that trowel, maybe that claw…)

King Arthur Flour (1790) was founded in Boston. Somewhere along the line it went west. And north. To Vermont. It’s the very flour I use when I bake my Baker’s Chocolate brownies.

Cigna (1792) began life as a marine insurance company. Who knew?

Sitting on the coffee table in front of me as I write this post is a book of sudoku puzzles. Tucked in between puzzle 184 and puzzle 185 is a bright yellow Dixon Ticonderoga (1795) No. 2 pencil.

It’s been many, many years (decades, even) since I’ve had a drink made with “brown liquor”. And my “brown liquor” of choice back in the day would have been Jack Daniels. But Jack has only been around since 1866, while Jim Beam has been in existence since 1795. And unlike a lot of the companies on the oldies but goodies list, it’s still a family-run business.

JP Morgan Chase (1799) began life as The Manhattan Company, a commercial bank founded by none other than Aaron Burr, who’s better known for having killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. (“The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft’ interred with their bones.”)

Crane and Co. (1799) makes the very nice type of paper that we used to print our resumes on, back in the day when we printed our resumes. They also provide the paper that our currency is printed on. I’m not 100% positive, but I think if you drive through Western Massachusetts, along the Mohawk Trail, you pass right by a Crane factory.

DuPont (1802) began life as a gunpowder mill. “Today, it holds trademarks on everything from Corian countertops to Teflon and Kevlar.”

I grew up in an Ipana house, but when it comes to toothpaste, I’m mostly a Colgate (1806) girl.

I don’t own any Pfaltzgraff (1811), and I go back and forth on whether I like it, but it’s certainly stood the test of time.

It’s no JP Morgan Chase, but Citigroup (1812) has been around pretty long. They’re my mileage card people…

Louisville Stoneware (1815) is one of the two companies on the list I’ve never heard of. Louisville Slugger, yes. Louisville Stoneware, no. So I googled. A bit Pfaltzgraff-y, but I like some of their designs.

Remington (1816) has been making guns for an awfully long time. But they also used to make typewriters. Something about the pen being mightier than the sword goes here?

I did a quick look through their list, and it looks like HarperCollins (1817) publishes a lot of stuff I just don’t read. But they do publish Hillary Mantel. So when will the final book in her Wolf Hall Trilogy be coming out? Soon, please.

Maybe I just don’t know enough about Kentucky, but the only company on the list other than Louisville Stoneware that I’ve never heard of is Atkins & Pearce (1817). But for more than two hundred years they’ve been producing textiles.

Last year, Brooks Brothers (1818) celebrated its two-hundredth birthday. And they did it without me buying a stitch of Brooks  Brothers clothing. When I worked full time, back in the era of menswear-for-women’s suits, I did buy some things there. My husband got most of his shirts from BB, and I’ve hung on to some of them. So, yep, there’s a Brooks-y shirt or two in my closet.

Macy’s (1843) replaced Boston’s Jordan Marsh. And Chicago’s Marshall Field’s. And a lot of other fondly-remembered local department store. Talk about survival skills. Anyway, thanks for the Macy’s Day Parade.

If I drank beer, which I seldom do, it probably wouldn’t be a PBR. But the Pabst Brewing Company (1844) has been in the suds for 175 years. Must be doing something right.

Altogether, an interesting list of companies. What they hold in common, I will note, is that most of them do pretty boring stuff – and none of them are especially trendy.  Maybe it pays to be boring.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Mukbang millionaire? The world has gone mad, I tell you, MAD!

Until my sister Kath sent over a link to a New York Times article on Bethany Gaskin, I’d never heard of her or the way she makes a pretty hefty living for herself.

Gaskin is a practitioner of mukbang, a “food video genre”:

…which involves scarfing down, on camera, more grub than should rightly be consumed in a single sitting. (Source: NY Times)

Like many a savvy social media success, Gaskin has chosen a spécialité de la Maison. Hers is the seafood boil.

On her two YouTube channels, Bloveslife and BlovesASMR Eating Her Way, Mrs. Gaskin chats up her audience while eating king crab legs, mussels, lobster tails, hard-boiled eggs and roasted red potatoes. The videos, produced in her Cincinnati home, have made her a millionaire, she said.

Gaskin, a run of the mill foodie YouTuber before she stumbled upon mukbang, has 1.8 million subscribers to her YouTube channels, and is nearing the 900K follower level on Insta.

It’s absolutely amazing to me that there are 1.8 million folks out there in Internet land who want to watch someone plow through an enormous pile of food, accompanied by all sorts of lip smacking and damn, this is good sound effects. So I went and took a look for myself. And there she was, Bethany Gaskin in all her glory, sitting in her kitchen in front of a platter full of food that was almost as big as she is. (She is peppy and attractive, and has the most incredible fingernails. That’s show biz, I guess.)

Not surprisingly, I am not about to become subscriber 1,800,001. The video I took a peek at runs on for over 30 minutes. I made it through 2, giving up few seconds after dipping sauce started running down her chin.

We have South Korea to thank for the binge eating genre.

Korean live-streamers often schedule their mukbang videos to align with dinnertime hours, so their viewers eating alone at home feel like they’re sharing a meal with a friend.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m sharing a meal with a friend, ain’t no one slurping and chawing their noisy way through mounds of food. (Maybe an occasional hmmm or teensy-tiny moan if something is particularly wonderful.) Nor do I make a lot of noise when I’m eating on my own. (Not even an occasional hmmm or teensy-tiny moan if something is particularly wonderful. Noise making while eating is definitely for sharing.)

Not that I don’t like to eat. I have very much been known to tuck in. Still, I don’t get making a big show about eating. And I don’t want to watch anyone else do it, either.

Mukbang, I guess, is just not ever going to be my thing.

I’m not into A.S.M.R., either.

Not that I’d ever heard of it before reading the Times article, but if you’re into A.S.M.R.(autonomous sensory meridian response), through which:

…viewers derive pleasure from the sounds created by extra-loud crunching, slurping and lip smacking.

I think I’m quoting my sister Trish here when I say W.T.A.F.

…people who enjoy A.S.M.R. experience a sensation of “sparkling brain tingles” while viewing “trigger” videos.

And with a separate YouTube channel just for A.S.M.R.-ers, Bethany Gaskin aims to please. For one of her ASMR episodes:

While nodding, she said, “Yup, umm hmm y’all, this is good.” She used slurping noises to indicate that something was juicy, followed by more head nods and “yup” utterances, as well as some vaguely orgasmic sounds. Dr. Richard [Craig Richard, 49, a professor of physiology at Shenandoah University and the creator of a website dedicated to the study of A.S.M.R.] said that these “mouth sounds,” in combination with Mrs. Gaskin’s “kind and positive disposition” and the abundance of the food, are textbook A.S.M.R. triggers.

Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

I’m happy for Bethany Gaskin that she’s found a way to make an excellent living for herself. Her husband has even been able to quit his job as a manager with G.E. to manage what’s become their family enterprise.

But if these are the jobs that the digital economy is creating, all I can say is that the world has gone lip-smacking, orgasmic-slurping mad.


A shout out to Kath for sending this one my way. And the next time I’m scarfing down a lobster roll at her place in Wellfleet, I promise to do so quietly.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

King Arhur Flour. Make that one king and a pair of queens.

I grew up in a Pillsbury Gold Medal home, but the flour in my cannister is King Arthur. And I can’t remember when that wasn’t the case.

I have no idea why I made the switch – maybe because it’s a local-ish (Vermont) brand? But there are other products of my childhood that I’ve stayed “brand loyal” to. I wouldn’t think of using anything other than Scott toilet paper. Why not Gold Medal? Maybe because it’s just plain better.

Anyway, I was interested to read an article I saw on Forbes on King Arthur Flour.

Why, you might ask yourself, would Forbes bother to use up ink on a story about a boring, low-margin commodity like flour?

They did so because King Arthur doesn’t just have one CEO. It has three: Ralph Carlton, Karen Colberg, and Suzanne McDowell.

The trio have been jointly running the outfit for five years now, and each brings their own specialty to the mix.

Carlton is also the CFO. McDowell serves as the CHRO. Colberg is CBO. I’m not quite sure what a CBO is. LinkedIn is silent here. But McDowell was the Chief Marketing Officer, so I’m guessing Chief Brand Officer. It’s that or Chief Baking Officer, a title I much prefer.

The three co-CEO’s speak glowingly of their ability to collaborate at the top. They’re together. The help their colleagues be “better versions” of themselves. They’re completely open. They’re transparent. A partnership.

Backstabbing and jockeying for power isn’t their thing.

Having worked in several companies where backstabbing and jockeying for power were pretty much foundational to the corporate culture, all I can say is ‘how refreshing.’ (The last place where I worked full-time was a poster child for backstabbing and jockeying. There were two factions: the tall guys (the most senior person in this crew was the COO, but he punched above his weight because his brother was a major stakeholder) and the short guys (headed up by the CEO). I was a step removed from this fray, but was in a catbird seat to watch it all play out. What a waste of energy that could have been used improving the business.)

Anyway, I suspect that the King Arthur triple header works because two-out-of-three are women. (Just saying.) And because they’re in Norwich, Vermont, which is just not as cut-throat an environment as, say, Manhattan. Being in a lower-key setting likely makes it easier to keep the old ego in check, and resist the urge to be the lone person at the top.

Plus it’s an employee-owned business, so there’s no Wall Street or rapacious investor pressure.

And it probably helps that the business is relatively small and pretty straightforward. Still, it’s a competitive and challenging one:

Global wheat prices have fallen nearly 7% a year for the past five years, while American tastes have shifted away from wheat to alternative flours and grain-free diets. And competition is tough in the roughly $10 billion domestic flour market, where King Arthur is up against giants like General Mills and artisan peers like Bob’s Red Mill. A company King Arthur’s size has to engage in a difficult balancing act: Keep doing what you’ve been doing and risk going by the wayside, or diversify through acquisitions—as King Arthur did many years ago—and risk losing it all.

King Arthur is holding it own, posting respectable growth rates and operating profitably, running a $150M business that’s committed to high quality.

Interestingly, when King Arthur decided to deploy the co-CEO model, they had a foursome. But one of them (the one who worked remotely, by the way) bowed out after a few months. And that was that.

The company has been around for more than 200 years, and here’s wishing them 200 more.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I left my bunk in San Francisco

If you’ve heard nothing else about San Francisco of late, it’s that housing costs have gone completely crazy, with little available between sleeping over a heating grate and renting a miserable studio apartment for $5k a month. Or something like that. The average price of a home is over a million bucks.

I haven’t been in San Francisco in a long time. Maybe 20 years. But I’ve been there many times, and my memories are of a vibrant, interesting and beautiful city. The Sausalito Ferry on a sunny day. Drinks at the Carnelian Room (long gone), watching the fog roll in. Grabbing a cable car (because walking up those hills is killer).

Whether there on business or pleasure, I never had a bad time in San Francisco. Even the time I had some crazy allergic reaction to some tree or another, and lost my voice for a week.

Today, San Francisco sounds like something of a hellscape, with tech youngsters stepping around the bodies of the drugged out and over the piles of their scat, as they make their way to their $120K starter-salary job. This is, of course, a job at some mostly nonsense tech startup they hope will turn into a unicorn and yield enough walking around money to buy themselves one of those million dollar plus homes and retire.

But until they cash out (or retreat to Des Moines or some other place that’s affordable), those unicorn chasers can rent a bunk bed for $1,200 a month, in a bunk room they’ll share with 11 other bunkmates.

Sure, it’s a lot better than the bedbug squalor of the bunkhouse on the Ponderosa with a bunch of cowhands who took one bath a year, but, hell in a handbasket, should any twenty-something be living in a place where they have zero privacy? It’s been a long time since I was in my twenties, but isn’t one of the things you’re supposed to be having at that age a sex life, not lazing around in a bunk bed starting at your flat screen TV?

Podshare cofounder Elvina Beck tells Curbed SF that staying in a “pod” is a way for renters to “experience a neighborhood or community before pulling the trigger on a longer term lease.” (Source: SF Curbed)

If I had to spend a night or two, I’d be pulling the trigger. Only it wouldn’t be “on a longer term lease.”

This setup is worse than those Japanese hotels that are more or less a bed that slides into something that resembles a morgue slot. At least there you’ve got some privacy.

I can see the appeal of micro units, apartments with small square footage that contain all the essentials. In my twenties, I lived in a small studio apartment, with a tiny separate kitchen, a little alcove nook that I used as a never-used office, a small closed off foyer area, and plenty of closet space – especially given how meager my accumulation of possessions was at that stage in my life.

A single person really doesn’t need much more than 400 square feet to get along just fine.

But that’s if they can call it their own, and aren’t sharing bathrooms with 11 other folks.

My “micro unit”, of course, lacked the amenities of the places designed for millennials. There were no communal spaces to chill or entertain or find hang-out companions. When I lived on Lime Street, I was pretty much the only resident of the building who was under the age of 70.

Other than my nosy neighbor Babby, the old geezers in my building - Charlie, Mildred, Jim – were very pleasant and nice. Babby, who was in his nineties, and somehow related to the foundersr of Babson College, and his live-in housekeeper would open his door on the conjoined kitchen dumbwaiter that we used to send our trash down to the basement so that they could listen in on what was happening in my apartment. Babby was quite a hoot. His housekeeper once reported to the super that they were concerned that they had overheard “tickling” coming from my apartment. One of my favorite games was listening for Babby & Company to start listening in, and quickly opening my dumbwaiter door on them. Caught!

See what these millennials are missing!

Unsurprisingly, Podshare’s marketing materials try to put a brave face on the setup, branding it as part of a Millennial lifestyle:

The future is “access not ownership” so we are establishing “access points.” [...] Millennials don’t own a gym at home, they buy a membership. We don’t subscribe to cable television, we watch Netflix. We don’t buy CDs, we stream music. American car sales are on the decline because we Lyft or Uber. We can rent a bicycle, get a degree online, have our meals delivered to us, and document our entire lives on social media.

Okay. But what about access to privacy?

It’s one thing to leave a scarf or tie on the doorknob when you’ve got one or two roommates. But when there are another 11 folks sharing your digs?

If I saw these bunkbeds in a dorm room, I might be able to convince myself that they were cool. But as the way to live adult life? I just find this completely depressing.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Happy Birthday, Hampshire House!

When I’m asked by a Bostonian where I live, I typically give one of two answers:

  • Just across the street from the Make Way for Duckling statues;


  • Cheers block, only other end.

Today is the 50th birthday of the Hampshire House, the home of Cheers.

What’s been Cheers for – yikes! – more than 35 years now, used to be a neighborhood pub called the Bull & Finch, known for its darts players. One of those darts players, although I didn’t know her at the time, was my friend V. In my twenties, I went to the Bull & Finch a few time, but don’t recall seeing a lot of women darts players, let alone a very pretty one with gorgeous auburn hair, who could really throw a dart.

While I did look in at the Bull & Finch on occasion, mostly, by the time I was in my mid-twenties, the spot in the Hampshire House – a turn of the 20th century mansion – was the bar/restaurant on the first floor.

While the Bull & Finch downstairs was singles, noise, and darts, the upstairs room was older folks and Gershwin.

What an elegant and lovely room that was. Gorgeous paneling, a view of the Boston Public Garden. It was especially pleasant to sit there looking out during a snowstorm. Pretty good food, too. (My favorite was a chicken breast in red pepper coulis. Yum.)

My husband and I, who went out to eat almost every night, ate there pretty often. Or just stopped in for a drink. We weren’t super regulars, but we were there pretty often.

There was a regular pianist, Selene, who was quite good, but who had the annoying habit – annoying at least to Jim and me – of walking around the lounge when she wasn’t playing and do “meet and greets.” (I just googled, and the write up on her death that appeared in the Boston Globe noted that she liked to “work the room.” I can’t remember why her working the room irked us so much, but it did. Anyway, Selene died at the age of 95, the year after my husband.)

Although we did see Joan Kennedy there once, the Hampshire House wasn’t a famous people scene. Mostly neighborhood types. (The evening we saw Joan, we were there with our friend Steve. Joan, who had had a few, walked over to our table, picked up Steve’s arm, looked at his watch, and then let his arm go. One way to figure out the time…)

Most of the time I spent at the Hampshire House was B.C. – Before Cheers.

Once that show took off, you couldn’t get near the downstairs pub, and the lovely first floor lounge was converted to a souvenir shop. Sigh.

(It is amazing to me that, 25+ years after the show went off the air, tourists still flock to the Cheers site.)

We went to Cheers a handful of times, mostly showing around out-of-town guests who wanted to see it. And on the day that we found out that my husband’s cancer was near terminal, we had lunch there. In the course of Jim’s illness, he was diagnosed with celiac disease, and he became very good about observing a gluten free diet. But when he found out he was a short-timer, well, to hell with that. What he really wanted was a hot dog on a hot dog roll, and we knew that the Cheers bar had pretty good hot dogs. So, we went straight from MGH to Cheers.

There are some nice function rooms in the Hampshire House – unspoiled by the nearness to Cheers - and I’ve been to a number of functions there over the years.

So, while my history with the Hampshire House is not 50 years long, it’s nearly there. And that history is a good one, packed with many memories of a lot of fun. (Even that post-MGH hot dog lunch had its moments.)

So, Happy Birthday, Hampshire House.

And Congratulations to owner Tom Kershaw, who bought it all those years back, and who lives on the top floor of what is truly his house.

Tom’s lucky day, of course, was the day the producers of Cheers walked in and decided to set their sticom there.

That lucky break brought wave after wave of tourists to what had been a successful but small neighborhood joint, and the windfall — sales of “Cheers” T-shirts and beer mugs went through the roof — gave Kershaw the financial wherewithal to open other restaurants, take important leadership roles at local and national hospitality trade groups, and become a benefactor to Boston Common, the Freedom Trail, the Beacon Hill neighborhood, and nonprofits throughout the city. (Source: The Boston Globe)

Tom Kershaw is an excellent neighbor, capably managing the hordes that have converged on his place over the years; keeping the ‘hood spruced up; paying for the Frog Pond (skating rink/splash pond) on Boston Common. (Is there are lovelier urban sight than skaters after dark on a winter’s night, especially if the Christmas lights are up?)

At the time Jim and I were regular Hampshire House goers in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s - as I said, B.C. – we were also regulars at a neighborhood Italian restaurant, The Charles, which, while plunked in the middle of ye olde quaint Brahmin Beacon Hill – was a hangout for off duty judges, on duty cops, and members of the Mafia. Quite a scene.

In the late 1990’s, Kershaw bought The Charles and converted it into a supremely wonderful neighborhood restaurant, 75 Chestnut, where Jim and I ate once a week. These days, I can’t say that I frequent it all that much, but I still manage to pop in a few times a year.

I don’t need to go to a place where everybody knows my name – or would know my name, if I’d taken Jim’s, which was Diggins: there are two places where I’m Maureen Diggins: 75 Chestnut and the dry cleaners on Charles – but it’s nice to go into 75 Chestnut and still be known if the long-time hostess is on duty.

The restaurant/pub business is notoriously a tough one, so kudos to Tom Kershaw for his success. Sure, the luck of the sitcom draw had a lot to do with it. Still, you have to give him credit for his savvy. (And thanks for his generosity to the ‘hood.)

In the Globe article, it mentions that, while today is the anniversary of Tom’s purchase of the Hampshire House, the Bull & Finch (now Cheers) opened on December 1, 1969.

So, it’ll be turning 50 on that date.

As it happens, that’s the date on which I will be turning – gulp! – 70!

Maybe I’ll stop in for lunch that day. A hot dog might hit the spot…

Friday, June 07, 2019

Who’s Tom Terrific? The Greatest Hero Ever.

If he’s not the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) among NFL quarterbacks, I’d like to know who is.

And when I watch him turn in yet another of his clutch performances, I am always in slack-jawed amazement at just how mentally tough this guy is.

But am I a big Tom Brady fan?

Not really.

Sure, he’s a great athlete. And he’s damned good looking. But anytime I’ve heard him speak, he comes across as just plain dull. This may because, as a celebrity – especially in these parts – someone that everyone wants a piece of – especially in these parts – he may just be guarded in his public pronouncements. Maybe IRL he’s scintillating, an interesting storyteller, a wit. But I’ve never seen it. So just plain dull is my story, and I’m sticking with it.

(The one aspect of his IRL that I do find mildly interesting, in a just plain dull sort of way, is his quirky diet. No white food, no nightshades…)

In addition to being a great athlete, Tom Brady is also a pretty savvy marketer. He does ads for upscale products, and he’s pretty adept at pushing his TB12 brand – 12 being Brady’s player number - which is slapped on clothing, nutrition (no nightshades need apply), and paraphernalia (like a phone case that has the TB12 logo slapped on the back of a goat).

Not content to own the TB12 brand, Brady’s company is now trying to trademark “Tom Terrific.”

The Washington Post reported that Brady’s company filed two applications last month with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. One covers collectible trading cards, sports trading cards, posters, and printed photographs; the other is for T-shirts and shirts, the Post reported. The applications, first publicized by Philadelphia’s Gerben Law Firm, were made on a 1B or ‘‘intent-to-use’’ basis, which means that the company is planning a line of products bearing the nickname, according to the Post. (Source: Boston Globe)

Tom Terrific? I beg to differ. And not because “Tom Terrific” is the name associated with Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. (Sadly, Seaver at the age of 74, is suffering from dementia and has withdrawn from public life.)

Yes, it would be nasty enough if Tom Brady were making a play for Tom Seaver’s nickname. In fact, there’s been plenty of outcry against the move from all sorts of folks, including a long roster of professional athletes, many of them football (not baseball) players. Not surprising, given that Tom Seaver is, as far as I can tell, pretty non-controversial and well-liked. Which can’t be said for Tom Brady.

Outside of New England, there are those who, while not being able to deny his obvious gifts and achievements as a quarterback, consider him a football-deflating cheater pants and/or the beneficiary of the Patriots vaunted football system, into which any old quarterback could be slotted and succeed. And there are legions of non-New England Patriots fans who just hate everything to do with the Patsies – from the team’s owner Bob “Massage Parlor” Kraft on over to Brady and onto all those Super Bowl rings. (Whoever said ‘everybody loves a winner’ didn’t know what they were talking about.)

Intellectual property lawyers have noted a number of reasons why Brady’s trademark application could fail: if it’s ‘merely ornamental’, or ‘merely descriptive’ or causes confusing with Tom Seaver-related usage or it’s ‘self-laudatory.’

Self-laudatory. Had to laugh at that one. Not our Tom…

But to me, Tom Terrific isn’t associated with Tom Brady or with Tom Seaver.

To me, there’s only one Tom Terrific,  and that’s the goofy little funnel-hat-wearing, shape-shifting boy who, along with his companion, Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog, appeared in cartoons on Captain Kangaroo in the late 1950’s.

I’m Tom Terrific, the greatest hero ever

Terrific is the name for me, ‘cause I’m so clever

I can be what I want to be

And, if you’d like to see,

Follow, just follow me

Tom Terrific, while plenty self-laudatory, could turn himself into anything he wanted to: an airplane, a diesel train, a bee, a tree. Which can’t be said of Tom Brady. Or Tom Seaver, for that matter. Why, I bet Tom Terrific could even turn himself into a nightshade, if he wanted to.

So Pink Slip’s advice to TB12? Enough is enough. Withdraw the application.


Yesterday, after I’d completed this piece, Tom Brady announced that his desire for a trademark on Tom Terrific was a defensive strategy, to prevent others from using it to hawk merchandise in his name. While this is a relief, I still stick with my position that the original Tom Terrific is still the greatest.