Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So, I'm walking through Midtown Manhattan and spot this SUV with a hand-painted FOR SALE sign on the rear window. I'm not really in the market for a car, but after seeing what was happening on the other end of the vehicle, I thought whoever buys this SUV is in for a lot of trouble.
The car was suffering from engine failure. In this second picture, a couple of guys are under the hood trying to re-start the clunker. Buyer beware!
Friday, December 26, 2008
I'm one of those people who gets cabin fever easily. I don't like being cooped up in one place for long periods of time. Like a kid, I'm fidgety. Even when I go on a vacation to some far away land, I can't stay there for more than a week. Five days is perfect. Eight days is too long. Even with cool tropical drinks, a sandy beach and beautiful women, I can only take it for so long.
This is why my trip home to visit my parents over Christmas was so special. I didn't suffer from cabin fever. I was only there for three days, but there were so many things that were so right about that visit. Aside from the fact that I adore my parents, It was just nice to escape the urban trappings of the big city and bond and share with my folks.
Sure, they nagged me about smoking, losing weight and drinking but in the kind of way you expect parents who love you to do. They're always right, you know. This doesn't bother me, because it serves as a constant reminder that some of my habits are just plain bad for me. So, you're wondering, if the parents are giving you a hard time about this sort of thing, why would such a visit be so rewarding and endearing?
I'll give you an idea.
A glass of wine in the living room, watching Christmas specials with the parents and laughing about life.
The sounds of a flock of Canada geese squawking over my head, with nary a sound of a honking horn or car alarm.
A lunch at Olive Garden with my Mom, Dad and wacky, but lovable Uncle Jim.
Doing magic tricks for my niece and nephews at my Sister's house and sitting down to a slightly over-cooked, but still yummy ham dinner.
Cuddling and playing with the children's two new kittens.
Watching the kids open Christmas gifts.
Attending Christmas eve services at my Sister's church and listening to my nephew Jake explain how he hates to get up and sing in choir, while watching his younger sister joyfully belting out a carol with the other kids.
Driving around looking at the elaborate Christmas displays on local homes. This one guy coordinated music to a light show and broadcast it over a small FM transmitter to passing cars.
Talking to the old man in my parents neighborhood walking his Terrier named "Kelly girl." The guy's last name is Kelly.
Mom once again being a back seat driver to my Dad's somewhat erratic driving.
Getting Dad's advice about finances.
The wind howling through the trees behind my parents home, as the faint sound of passing Amish horse and buggy nearby echos through the neighborhood.
My Uncle Jim explaining in a very personal way how God has touched his life in a time of economic strife.
Glancing out the car window, my Dad wondering out loud whether it was safe to eat wild duck, as they sip from a polluted pond.
Watching Mom dress one of my sister's kids for Christmas eve services.
Mom making a pumpkin pie and Dad proudly serving up his homemade turkey soup.
Helping my Mom organize the photos on her computer.
Watching the big smile on Dad's face as he opened several gifts emblazoned with his favorite baseball team, the World Series winning Philadelphia Phillies.
These, I suppose are some of my favorite things about Christmas. When I was a child, it was all about opening the gifts under Christmas tree. It's not that way anymore. I enjoy the subtleties of the holiday, the precious time I spend with my family and the glow I feel when I sit down at this computer reminding myself about those three short days at home for the holidays.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. After two small-ish storms and a couple of inches of snow, the outlook for a snowfall in time for Christmas looks bleak. In fact, in suburban Philadelphia, where I'll be spending a few days with family, the mercury is expected to soar to near 50-degrees.
That's okay. The snow we had this past week was fine. It put me in the Christmas spirit....and as much as I don't like hearing Christmas music before the eve of the holy day, it was nice hearing the tunes blaring from the speakers of the neighborhood Christmas tree dealers.
For me, Christmas is all about family. Sometimes I even get religious and go to church. If my family goes, I go. It's nice, despite my teenage hatred of the drama and minutia of the Catholic church. Too organized for me. But, then again, my parents kind of feel the same way and like my Sister and Brother-in-law, they generally attend non-denominational Christian churches. Hey, the music is better, too.
I'll be taking an early train back to Pennsylvania on Tuesday, hang out for a few days and then get back to the old, but still very rewarding grind of anchoring newscasts for ABC News Radio. I'll be back in a week or so. In the meantime, have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Friday, December 19, 2008
What'ya suppose will happen when Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and the two Bush's get together next month for lunch at the White House? Talk about an exclusive club. Obama suggested the get together during his most recent meeting with President Bush. Now, the date has been set and Mister Bush will host a White House luncheon on January 7th.
Sitting down in the White House dining room, the menu will include a mix of some of George Junior's Tex-Mex favorites: Ribs, potato salad and corn bread. The Bush's will wear little bibs and get messy. Clinton will complain there's no donuts. Carter will eat his ribs with a fork and Obama will bellyache about how Chicago soul food puts this crap to shame. They all drink beer. The Bush boys go out on the terrace to smoke cigars. Unable to quit smoking, Obama apologizes and lights up a Marlboro red. Clinton gives him a lecture. Obama says "At least I didn't accept a blow-j_ _ from that woman." Bush junior jokes, "You mean Hillary." The meeting goes downhill from there.
Besides wanting to get into their heads, Obama will get an earful of Presidential stories and anecdotes. Carter will probably talk about Amy running amok in the Oval office and rearranging the desk just to piss off Dad. Clinton will note there's a secret room just off the Lincoln bedroom where you can do all sorts of secret stuff. Daddy Bush will lean over to Obama and say, "Can you believe my son actually works here." His son will lean over to Carter and say, "My Dad's a prick."
This will prompt an angry outburst from Clinton, who's been listening to all of these whispers. He'll shout, "Shut up! Enough! You're behaving like children. We're fucking President's damn it." Bush junior chimes in, "Hey, Bill, you're right, how bout that." His Dad mutters under his breath, "No thanks to me, asshole." Clinton, known for his temper, tosses a half eaten rib at George W. who screams, "It's still my fucking White House, asshole." Obama suggests a game of basketball to cool things down. Bush Junior belts Clinton in the face, laughing, "I haven't done that since college." Carter has a heart attack.
The meeting ends with the Presidents leaving through the West Wing, undetected by waiting reporters. They're shuffled off with little fanfare. The next day, it's announced Jimmy Carter collapsed and died while building a house for Habitat For Humanity. Obama later says it was a "constructive, fruitful, learning experience."
The Bush's are at the Texas ranch watching Obama on T.V over a few beers. "W" turns to his dad and says, "Hey pops, I got Clinton good, didn't I." Dad nods in approval.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
BeQu on Smith St. in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn used to be called "Amazon Cafe." It was an eat-in and take-out healthy sandwich and soup place, popular among local police officers. But, for some reason, the name has changed. I'm not sure if its because new owners took over or because the old crew didn't like the original name. But, the new name sucks.
BeQu is supposed to be short for Beyond Quality. What's that mean? Considering how everything in Brooklyn revolves around the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), I would think a place named BQE would be a better fit. For instance, why not: Beyond Quality Eats or Beyond Quality Edibles, something along those lines so that you could call the restaurant, BQE for short. The old Amazon Cafe was a much better fit and it sounded yummy.
Not only that, does anyone really believe a name change will boost business. If you don't have a good product, and many complained they didn't, why not fix the food before you change the name. And, if you are going to change the name make it something snappy or at least something that fits. These folks need a lesson in basic marketing!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
They say this is a buyers market, but what I've found people selling in newspapers and online these days isn't very enticing. I've tried selling some stuff on ebay to make money, but no one was biting. I even had cool stuff, like a 1960's jukebox.
I've been scouring the classifieds for some of the best. Lots of big ticket items, like boats, appliances, living room sets and the like. But, there's stuff being sold that most people would just throw in the trash, plus a few unusual finds. So now, I present to you my Top 10 list of wacky stuff for sale.
Adjustable height. Metal crutches. Rarely used. LIKE NEW $10
(EDITORS NOTE: At what insurance companies charge, I suppose this is a bargain.)
9) BEETHOVEN BUST
17" h x 10" w x 7" deep. faux marble. 8 pounds. Moving, reduced to $40.
(EDITORS NOTE: Ugly, just plain ugly)
8) $38,000, BARBERSHOP FOR SALE
Extremely nice and new barbershop. Brand new handcrafted counter tops all wood. 52' samsung lcd 1080p, 26 samsung lcd 1080p in the waiting room.fully reclinable barber chairs. Flourescent lights throughout the whole cutting area(well lit). many walkins and train station travelers. New ceiling, walls and bathroom with tiled walls that is brand new. showcase window with old fashioned barber chair and old register etc.. its a must see. needs smart investor and barbers. thank you
(EDITORS NOTE: I'm guessing if this guy sold the place two years ago, it would have gone for twice as much.)
7) 2 FREE BOTTLES OF ACAI BERRY 500 DIET PILLS
I have finally hit my weight loss goal and no longer need these pills of acai berry 500. All I would like is $2 or $3 to help me out with shipping costs and you can have them. Contact me to set something up.
(EDITORS NOTE: FREE? What do you call that shipping charge?)
6) BREAST MILK FOR SALE
I am a healthy surrogate mother looking for someone to purchase my extra breast milk. I have had expensive medical testing to enter the surrogate program and I am disease free. I am a non smoker, I do not drink and I live a healthy lifestyle. I have found many places to donate my milk, but if I can sell some... why not? Just let the email subject be "breast milk". thank you.
(EDITORS NOTE: Ingenious, actually!)
5) BRASS DEER STATUE
Size: 6" at base (not counting head & antlers) Wt.: 1lb, 13oz Price: $35.00
(EDITORS NOTE: Can you say tacky! And why don't they count the height of the head and antlers?)
4) TIRES (4) $160,209
Very good 90% tread 195.59/r15 /falken Z1ex $160 209- 303-3341
(EDITORS NOTE: This price can't be right! I'm guessing the headline incorporates the $160 price and the first three digits of the phone number)
3) TIRE, SPARE, WITH 4 LUG NUTS
05/60/R15, usable tread $5
(EDITORS NOTE: Would you trust this tire?)
2) CEMETERY PLOTS
Washington Memorial Cemetery by Sea-Tac. Four family plots for sale in the Garden of Communion. Sec 15, Block 149, Lot A, Plots 1,2,3&4. Selling all four plots for $2,000.00 or $750.00 each. Normally sell for $2,995.00 each. Will consider any reasonable offer. These are available immediately. There is a transfer fee.
(EDITORS NOTE: Hmmmm. What happened here? Did the family decide NOT to die?)
1) 22 YEAR OLD MAN, TRAVIS
All I need is a confident, sweet girl!I know how to get down! Send a pic please so we can see what you look like. Listed at Atlanta, GA.
(EDITORS NOTE: Interesting, he didn't include a price for himself. Perhaps it's negotiable. But, what really impresses me is that he knows how "to get down." )
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Back when I was younger and sillier and doing a radio show in Denver, I decided I was going to reveal the "true identity" of Santa Claus. I explained that parents were starting an early pattern of lying to their children by suggesting there's this fat guy with a beard dropping down chimneys to deliver presents. "What? Does he go to the next house if you're unlucky enough NOT to have a chimney," I asked aloud. I also wondered why children and their parents didn't leave healthier food for the jolly ole elf, something like carrots or celery sticks.
This of course triggered a flood of calls from angry parents, upset that I was going to reveal the "true identity" of Santa or as I referred to it a few times, "the myth of Santa." It was a healthy debate. I explained how some friends of mine chose not to perpetuate the "lie." It was never a religious thing, I explained. I wasn't anti-Christmas. I was anti-lying. Some argued that their are certain types of "lies" that are okay. Fairy tales, they explained, were all lies.
Well, today, I'm reading on the popular New York Radio Message Board that one guy was upset that a talk show host on WFAN actually spilled the beans on Santa. This prompted outraged listeners to tell-off host Craig Carton. Here's the post:
"A caller on WFAN this morning called out Craig Carton for stating that Santa Claus isn't real on the radio this morning. The Caller had his two young kids in the car who were upset hearing this. The Caller and Boomer gave him the opportunity to backpedal on what he actually said. But in trying to make lite of the situation, he once again made the comment about Santa not being real. In addition he was trying to make tongue in cheek jokes about the Callers kids being anti-Semitic once the Caller explains to them that Carton is Jewish and doesn't believe in Santa. In all my years of listening to all types of radio shows, the DJ's and hosts (especially the ones on during prime slots that more kids would be listening)were always respectful about the reality of Santa. Carton has a trail of racist/sexist comments on his resume and the way he addressed and handled the situation this morning was to me unprofessional and disgraceful."
When I did the Santa riff on KOA in Denver, I never actually revealed "the true identity of Santa." Instead, we used the build-up as a talking point. This lasted for an hour or two. I thought it was pretty compelling radio, because in the end, I allowed the listeners to convince me it would be mean to blow the whole Santa charade. Keep in mind, I warned listeners all along, they might want to remove young children from ear shot of the radio. So, I probably could have busted the "myth." But, you know what, I didn't need to. It was much better radio this way.
Santa tells me this has been going on for years, but this is the first time in my 12-years in New York City, that I've actually witnessed the invasion of the drunk Santa's, more commonly known as SANTACON. The unorganized organization describes itself this way on its website:
"SantaCon is a not-for-profit, non-political, non-religious & non-logical Santa Claus convention, organized and attended for absolutely no reason."
This past Saturday, an estimated 3,000-6,000 people dressed as Santa and paraded through the streets of Manhattan, sharing holiday cheer in more ways than one. Besides "ho-ho'ing" and generally clogging up Midtown traffic, this was a frantic bar crawl. Several hundred of them swamped and surprised the only bartender at the Blarney Rock, just steps away from where the "convention" began at 33rd and 6th Avenue. James, the bartender tells me they rang up nearly $3,000 in just 90-minutes! Boy, can those Santa's drink. Still, there are rules, as evidenced by this list on the SANTACON website
* Santa looks like Santa. HOLIDAY APPAREL IS MANDATORY. A Santa hat is not enough. Get a Santa suit. Buy a Santa suit. Make a Santa suit. Steal a Santa suit. Get creative: be a Secret Santa, a Santasaurus, Candy-cane, a Reindeer, a Hanukkah Chicken, a goddamn latke, Stewardess Santa, Knight Rider Santa, Crusty Peace Punk Santa, the occasional Legless Reindeer, Hanukkah Squirrel, Emo-Elf, or the Santichrist.
Just don't wear your fucking jeans.
* Santa acts like Santa. Be jolly. Belly-laugh. Let people sit on your lap. Give out gifts.
* Santa doesn't seek media attention. "Ho-ho-ho" is good. "Publicity ho" is lame.
* Santa doesn't get arrested. Please remember the FOUR FUCKS:
1. Don't fuck with kids.
2. Don't fuck with cops.
3. Don't fuck with security.
4. Don't fuck with Santa. (it's okay to fuck a Santa)
One local T.V station reports that police made about a dozen arrests and handed out scores of tickets for everything from open container violations to urinating in public. I'm not sure if this Santa ended up in jail, but he sure looked like he was having fun.
But, that's not so bad considering how many Santa's descended on Gotham.
Back at the Blarney Rock, the jolly celebrants left behind about 60 cans of food. They probably just got tired of hauling them around from pub to pub, so I've arranged to get the food into the right hands. Coincidentally, the New York City Police Department holds its annual canned food drive this month, so I've arranged to get them to a local precinct.
Friday, December 12, 2008
I've had my ups and downs. In the past, I've often considered going to one of those credit counseling company's you see on TV. They fix your credit, right? Actually, this is an urban myth. There's no such thing as fixing credit, if you're credit is bad. You can fix it yourself, if the information is wrong. But, millions of Americans bite. Now, more then ever.
A few months ago, worried about my firing at WABC I bookmarked, United Credit Adjusters. Their TV ads were very convincing and they seemed like they were on the up and up, until I Googled them. I suggest you do this anytime something seems too good to be true.
United Credit Adjusters is a sham and when you read some of the letters written by customers, you'll be heartbroken. So, here are all of these people who are in dire straights, broke in many cases, borderline bankruptcy and these creeps are screwing them, big time.
"They have debited my account without my acknowledgment for services not rendered. They have put me in worst financial debt than when I started. They've hung-up on me and ignored my phone calls. It seems that this is a small office company where everyone are friends...there is no check and balances between management. Please beware. I am trying to get my money back now."
And, the horror stories continue. There were so many complaints against United Credit Adjusters that the Better Business Bureau not only delisted them, but sent out advisories that they are essentially a rip-off. But, it gets worse. Overwhelmed by complaints, the BBB alerted the attorneys general of several states, which began consumer fraud investigations. The result was a lawsuit. The first came from the state of New Jersey
"Attorney General Anne Milgram and the Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against United Credit Adjusters, a credit repair and credit counseling company that allegedly failed to provide such services to consumers despite its advertising claims.
The state's five-count complaint, filed in State Superior Court in Monmouth County, also names as defendants the following companies that are believed to be connected and/or related to United Credit Adjusters: Bankruptcy Masters Corp.; United Counseling Association, Inc.; and Credit Bureau Controls Corp.
The state alleges that the defendants required payment in advance during initial consultations and then, after receiving payment, failed to provide consumers with credit counseling, credit repair and/or bankruptcy services. Contrary to defendants' representations and advertisements, consumers' credit scores were not raised nor was negative information eliminated from credit reports."
The lawsuit came in October of 2008. But, as recently as November, people were still complaining about how UCA was stealing their money.
"It has been close to two months and I haven't herd since. After repeated phone calls and a number of messages that I left, I stopped payment to UCA. To be honest I'm not sure that's the right thing to do? I just researched UCA and read that NJ put a freeze on their assets. I'm writing this because I believe that UCA is not fulfilling their agreement that I am paying them for. I was extremely hopeful that UCA could have helped me."
He's right. The state has seized the company's assets .
"A temporary restraining order has frozen the assets of United Credit Adjusters, and three other firms thought to be related to it, following a lawsuit in which the state accused the companies of taking payment from consumers during consultations without providing promised financial services.
The temporary restraining order freezes the assets of the companies and bars the defendants from a number of actions, including the disposition of any assets and the altering or removal of any books or records that relate to the advertisement or sale of credit repair, credit counseling, debt adjuster and bankruptcy filing services, according to the division."
But, wait. It gets better. As the investigations continued, the flim-flam operation was turned over to local police departments. Boldly, they got involved.
"A former employee of United Credit Adjusters Inc. in Howell was in the Monmouth County Jail Tuesday on charges that he convinced a customer to deposit money directly into his own bank account in exchange for an easier time improving his credit score.
Daniel Rivera, 53, of Brielle was arrested last week and charged with theft by deception after a customer alleged he lost about $4,500, according to Howell police.
The arrest comes as county and state agencies investigate complaints that the company hasn't performed the work it promised or paid some of its employees. Company officials said they are being hit by the economic slowdown."
So now, you'd think, the company is gone for good. Shutdown. Right? Wrong! Not only is this company still in business, it's unscrupulous owner continues to take money out of the pockets of people who are down and out. The guy, Ahron E. Henoch, even went on line to defend his company.
"To Whom This May Concern:
I, Ahron E. Henoch feel that clients misrepresent allegations that UCA failed to provide services they signed up for.
UCA is in compliance with the law and does provide services it advertises.
The success of our program depends very much on clients' participation and I can assure you that we have thousands of happy clients.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are always two sides of the story. I would like my side to be heard as well."
This guy is in total denial. There are hundreds of letters of people who claim to have been ripped off. The stories are all the same, some more painful than others, including this one from a customer pleading for help!
"Hi my name is Emanuel Klein. I met with Ahron E. Henoch and his business partner and they had a lawyer at that time. I am going bankrupt and they gave me price of 10, 000 dollars. I paid them in full and Ahron told me by September they will start at 08/1/08 and be done by 11/01/08. I called them from 08/01/08 and nobody picked up the phone and they never filed my bankruptcy and they don't pick up my calls ,I called the office and his cell and there's no answer. Please help me get back my 10, 000 dollars."
Amazing, right. If you're broke and seeking credit counseling who in their right mind has $10,000 to spend? I don't. Let's review. One employee has been arrested and the company's assets have been frozen. Come on. That's the best the authorities can do? Toss this guy in jail and throw away the key. Listen, I'm a reporter and if I've been able to pull together this much information in an hour-long Google search, imagine what the cops could get on this guy, if they spent a little time. In this economy, what this guy is doing is just as bad as the people who preyed on September 11th or Katrina victims after those two disasters.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
This wasn't very nice. While walking around the West Village, I spotted this little gem. The police actually posted signs in the neighborhood trying to catch a petty thief. It's not like the guy stabbed or shot anyone or even harmed anyone. All this teenage thug did was snatch a cell phone from someone in the subway station. Nonetheless, not everyone appreciates what the police are trying to do, like the person who penned in "end police brutality" over the phrase, "help us help you."
At the bottom of the page, the word "death" is scrawled above "robbery squad." Nice.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I can't tell you the last time I bought a lottery ticket. It was probably a year or so ago, when the Mega Millions jackpot soared into the hundreds of millions of dollars. But, this week I spent $20 on twenty quick pick tickets. Hell, I'm only working part time, maybe my time has come to be America's next millionaire. There's 170 million dollars in this week's pot. If I take the cash option, I'd get nearly 100 million dollars. I can live with that.
But, I'm not the only one going lotto crazy. I've noticed the lines are longer than ever at the grocery stores. People, I think, feel any disposable income they may have might be better spent trying a one-in-a-50-million chance of winning a big cash lottery prize. There's this lady who always clogs up the line at the corner market in my Carroll Gardens neighborhood. She's the type who plays the same daily numbers every day. She has her list of numbers and recites them to the clerk who dutifully punches them into his computer. But, it doesn't stop there. She then proceeds to buy up a bundle of scratch off tickets, mixing and matching as she's randomly pointing to the dangling cards behind the register. I see the same people everyday, about the same time. This lottery ticket buying thing has become their daily ritual. But, I'm also seeing plenty of new faces, people who perhaps have taken pay cuts, lost their jobs or are just worried about the economy. Folks who expect in a fleeting momment that the lottery will change their lives for ever.
Gambling is a scary addiction. I know many people who play cards, the horses, football pools and the like. Some people I know do Atlantic City once or twice a week, often gambling away thousands of dollars at a time. I know these folks and I also know they're not rich. Rich people gamble because its fun and they don't have much to lose. Poor people gamble in hopes of becoming rich and it has become an obession, because you've heard the slogan, "you can't win, if you don't play." That's true, but playing these games every day is going to put you in debt.
Have you seen what gambling has done to the urban landscape of Atlantic City. Back in 1978, when Resorts International opened the first casino, they promised to pump money back into the economy to give blighted neighborhoods a make-over. That never happened. In fact, over the years, as poor residents looked to strike it rich at the newly opened casinos, they found themselves even poorer. Crime went up and so did the unemployment rate. Walk just a few blocks from the strip and you're in some of the worst slums in the country. Yeah, gambling really paid off for them.
I've decided if I ever won big in the lottery, I'd give back. I'd turn my blog into a gift giving machine. I'd grant wishes to needy people, after of course I spent some money on myself and my family. So, if you'd like to help me in my cause, feel free to send me some money, so I can buy lotto tickets and when I win, I'll "pay it forward," just like 12-year old Trevor McKinney did in the movie of the same name.