Wednesday, April 30, 2008


As I was walking down Henry street in Carroll Gardens, this lady comes running around the corner at Degraw street, yelling, " call 911, he stole my blackberry."
Seconds earlier, this young Latino kid goes galloping by. Stunned for a second, I turn around, dial 911 and start chasing the guy, probably about 18 or 19 years old, maybe younger. He had snatched the woman's phone out of her hand while she was texting, several blocks away. Out of breath and giving details and a description to police, I lost him.

But, here's where it gets interesting. Minutes later, I mean like two, three, four minutes later, unmarked police cars are scurrying up and down the blocks with flashing blue and red lights in their engine grills. The woman, I forget her name, couldn't believe the police reacted so swiftly to what was essentially a purse snatching. I told her they were probably looking for someone else, a murder suspect perhaps. They weren't. Dispatchers had given the cops a description and they were scouring the neighborhood looking for the teen punk.

10-minutes later, one of the dispatchers calls me and wants the two of us to meet with a marked vehicle a block or so away. Cops tell us to hop in the car. We take a short ride to an area near the BQE, where those detectives in the unmarked patrol cars had stopped someone who fit the description. From the darkened windows of the patrol car, we tried to I.D. the kid. We both agreed, too black, too tall, no white t-shirt. Both of us figured he was about 5'7-5'9, Hispanic, wearing a baggy white t shirt, baggy jeans, over sized sneakers and carrying a zipper down red sweatshirt.

The 76Th precinct cops told us they had stopped another suspect, so we jet off to another location not far away. Again, we sat in the car and eyeballed the guy they were patting down. And again, too black, too tall. I'm pleading with the cops, "he's more light skinned, thinner. The victim's screaming, "where's the white t-shirt." Finally, one of the undercovers pulls up the red sweatshirt to reveal a black t-shirt. Not him! Not only that, he didn't have the face of the kid we saw running down the street. This process continued for a few more minutes and a few more stops.

Eventually, the cops dropped me off in the neighborhood and the woman was taken to the precinct station on Union street to fill out a police report. I don't know if they ever caught the kid, but let me tell you this. These cops busted their butts for us. They had no idea who we were. I could have been some big time radio news anchor in New York city. Hey, I am. She could have been some big mucky muck lawyer. Don't know. But, either way, they treated us with respect and they jumped into action in minutes. If you were a bystander in the neighborhood watching this unfold, you would have thought they were searching for a murder suspect. I'm not sure if it was a slow night or if this is the typical response to a report of a blackberry being snatched, but I can tell you this, despite the theft in a pretty upscale neighborhood, I feel much safer having these men and women in blue patrolling our streets. Imagine how they might response if there was a murder in the neighborhood. Better yet, a terrorist!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Not the kind of breaking news that flashes across the screen on the cable t.v. networks trying to make an old story sound fresh, but real breaking news. As a journalist, there's nothing more exciting and challenging then covering a breaking story, either as a reporter, anchor, editor or newsroom assistant.

Since I was laid off at WABC, I would listen and watch with envy as my fifth estate colleagues would dig into a big story. The last few weekends at ABC NEWS RADIO
have been kind of slow, until Sunday night.

A tornado had struck Virgina and early reports indicated widespread damage and perhaps hundreds of injuries. I have to admit, I was glowing....not at the destruction and desperation of those affected by the storm, but by what makes radio great, getting a big story on the air fast and covering all of its developments.
As the night went on, the editors and producers were constantly passing new information along to the anchors. The story got bigger. Now, it was THREE tornadoes that struck a wide area of South and Central Virgina.

Many of my friends think I'm sick when I get all giddy over a disaster. When I was in Denver at KIMN radio in the 80's, our radio station was located not far from the airport and we could watch the jets landing. On slow news days, we'd stand at the window chanting, "crash, crash, crash." Sick, I know. But, journalists are no different than people in many other professions.

Police officers, firefighters and paramedics will tell you of the adrenaline rush of racing to the scene of a major crime, big fire or terrible accident. Even accountants and stock brokers are like this. A ho-hum day on Wall Street is no fun. But, when there's a big rally or a major tumble, these suited geeks are in hog heaven.

So, next time you see a giddy news person talking with glee about a tragedy, you might understand what makes them tick. Oh, there was one day when this wasn't the case, when I wasn't giddy, when I wasn't happy to be covering a big story.

On this particular day, I was angry, saddened and scared. September 11Th changed my life forever.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I must spend up to six hours a day on my computer, but you don't hear the government trying to get me off that. Instead, like they have for plenty of years past, they're encouraging all of us good citizens to turn off the tv for a week. The Department of Health and Human Services believes National Turn-off Your TV Week will get our children fit. Makes sense. The longer they sit in front of the television, the less they exercise. The government estimates that, on average, children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend more than six hours a day in front of the boob tube.

I don't watch nearly as much television as I used to, primarily because of the computer. I record a lot of shows, like American Idol, 60-minutes and a few of the CSI shows.

Instead of pushing the exercise angle, these government folks should put a little more emphasis on the other benefits of not watching tv. For one, it's an opportunity for parents to spend more quality time with their children. They can play games, ready books, do some homework, tell stories and yes, even go on a family walk or bike ride. Bowling and fishing are fun, too.

I'm not going to tell you how to run your house, but may I suggest you start by allowing your children to pick one hour of tv viewing a night and don't buy them a tv for their bedrooms. Do the same with the computer, with the exception of school related research and work. Let's say two hours.

You put curfews on how late they can stay out, why not how much tv and internet access they have.

I have another solution, get rid of their modern radios and replace them with the kind that only pick up AM stations. (you can find some nice classics on Ebay) This way they'll be forced to listen to information, everything from political talk to all news. They may even learn how to polka by listening to that low watt radio station down at the end of the dial or listen to New York City's AM public radio station.

If you want to go one better, go out buy one of those old Crosley AM radio/record players from the 1930's. Go out and buy some albums of old radio dramas and just like they did in the 30's and 40's, the whole family can sit around the radio and relive what was once called "theater of the mind." Challenge your kids brains a little. And, hey, Uncle Sam, next year think about asking Americans to give up their computers for a week. See how that goes over!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Haven't you always wondered what it's like inside some of those old Brownstones and mansions in places like the West Village, Harlem, the Upper East Side and Brooklyn Heights. Me, too. I'm sort of a voyeur when it comes to those grand old townhomes and mansions.

Your curiosity stops here. Nearly every year for the past ten or so, I've been going on the Brooklyn Heights House and Garden tour, usually with my parents over Mothers Day weekend.

Another one is coming up on Saturday, May 10. The $30.00 per person donation gets you a map of this year's Five homes and gardens scattered around Brooklyn Heights. It's the annual fundraiser for the Brooklyn Heights Association. The map leads you to several stunning historic landmark homes. Volunteers are staked out on each floor of the homes while you take yourself on a self-guided walk through the homes.

I'm hoping this years tour features another walk through of one of those spectacular mansions that sit on the Brooklyn Promenade. A few years back, I was stunned at the beauty of one of those big houses and even more impressed by the spetacular view from three seperate balconies overlooking New York harbor and the downtown skyline of Manhattan.

If you'd like to find out more about this years tour and the Brooklyn Heights Association, you can go to their website at:



As a kid growing up in Philadelphia, I could play for hours with my Hot Wheels. Don't get me wrong, I like Matchbox cars, too, but the Hot Wheels were cooler. They came with race tracks that featured a steep hill to get the little metal car going. They still make Hot Wheels, but I doubt whether they're as sturdy as they once were.

Hot Wheels was just one of the many toys I grew up with in the 60's and 70's.
Silly Putty was probably my second favorite. Some freak of a chemist came up with this beige colored goo and put it in a little plastic egg for sale. You can still find Silly Putty. The brilliance of Silly Putty was its versatility. You can smush it on newspaper cartoons and pick up the image, you could form it into a ball and bounce it like a super ball and you could stretch it and shape into anything you'd like. I liked forming little air pockets and popping them at the dinner table, irritating my folks.

Surprisingly, most of the toys we all grew up with are still being sold today, although in more modern looking packaging. You can still buy Play Doh, Mr. Potato Head, Lite Brite, Legos, the board game Chutes and Ladders, G.I. Joe and for the girls, the Easy Bake Oven.

Below are just some of the many games and toys I had enjoyed as a child.


















Monday, April 21, 2008


My grandmother's name was Beatrice. Bea for short. That suited her just fine at the age of 65, but it's not the kind of name I'd want a child to have. When I think of cute baby names, I think of Josh, Annie, Sarah, Cal. There are just some names you can't grow up with and some names you just don't hear anymore.

Where have all the Gertrudes, Mildreds, Berthas, Ediths, Ethels and Hazels gone?. They were names of our grandparents or even our great grandparents. Parents just don't name their kids Thurston and Constance anymore and rightfully so.

But, children of the 60's weren't so lucky either. They got nature names. Think the late River Phoenix. His first name comes from nature. His last name comes from geography. Nature has spawned plenty silly names. Blossom, Dahlia, Basil, Cloud, River, Wren, Tiger (as in Woods, a double nature name), Meadow, Moon (as in Zappa's kid Moon Unit), Iris, Lilac, Storm (as in Fields, the weather guy), Sage, Clover, and even Stone (as in the news guy Phillips.)

Some parents chose to name their kids after gems, colors and spices like Cinnamon, Ebony, Fawn, Lavender, Scarlet, Auburn and Topaz.

When nature, color and old fashioned names just don't work, why not just pick a place. You've got Austin, Arizona, Cuba (as in Gooding), Aspen, China, Hudson, Kingston, Geneva, Odessa and Olympia (as in Dukakis).

Growing up, one of my next door neighbor kids was named Sissy. That's short for Phyllis (as in Diller), an old fashioned name. But, growing up Sissy isn't much fun. It's one of those names that sounds childish. Anything with a "Y" on the ends sounds juvenile. Sissy, Billy, Timmy (as in the kid from Lassie), Pippy (as in Longstockings) and Molly (as in Ringwold).

Nowadays, parents have turned to the Bible to name their kids. My sister and brother-in-law named two of their kids Joshua and Jacob. But, some of the other more popular names these days also come from the Bible, like Michael, Matthew, Daniel, Christopher, David, Noah and Jonah. Girls these days get names like Emily, Madison, Olivia, Hannah, Ashley, Sarah, Grace and Chloe.

My hunch is 50 years from now, all of those cool names will sound very much like Gertrude, Thurston, Mildred and Beatrice do to us now. I'm guessing in the year 2060 kids will be named after old toys and outer space. Think Tonka, Lincoln (as in logs), Putty (as in silly) Barbie, Slinky, Cosmos, Mars, Jupiter and Galaxy. Astro will no longer be popular among dogs, but people will be honored with that distinction as well.

For me, Bill or George. Anything but Sue!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Many of you know, I grew up in Philadelphia and really enjoy getting back and soaking in the sights and sounds. I was born and raised in Roxborough, a middle class neighborhood just West of "Center City" (that's what they call their downtown.)

But, as a kid, my parents and grandmother would take me on frequent trips to "Center City." We'd visit museums, walk the streets, eat in cheap, but expensive looking restaurants and always take the train.(SEPTA and the Broad Street subway) I love trains. (see earlier blogs)

I try to go back and visit a few times a year. My parents must think I'm cheating them out of a visit. They live in Pennsylvania, but not really close to Philly. So these trips are my own adventures. I like to relive the past and explore the current.

Rather than give you a boring travelogue, I thought I'd just post the photos and make a few comments on them to breeze you through my little overnight stay this April in the "city of brotherly love."

AMTRAK TO PHILADELPHIA. This is really the only way to get to Philly. If you take the high speed Acela service, it takes about one-hour out of New York. Spend a little extra money and go first class on the Acela and you'll be living in the lap of luxury. Gourmet meals( I had bay scallops over saffron rice) , free drinks, free newspapers, wide leather seats, hot towels, and impeccable service. Amtrak is really trying to make this a first rate experience and on this most recent Acela trip, the guys onboard out did themselves. It was the most enjoyable, speedy, one hour train trip in my life. If they keep this up, they'll have customers for life.

JIMS STEAKS. This is very debatable among Philadelphians, but since I was a teenager I'm convinced the best Philly cheese steak is right here at Jim's Steaks at 4Th and South streets. They do it right with the fresh rolls, lean, red steak and whatever cheese you'd like. Many go for cheese whiz. That's just gross. For me, it's American white cheese. They have a vent that blows the aroma of the steaks and grilling onions onto the street and you can smell it blocks away. Spend a few minutes longer inside to check out all of the celebrity photos and autographs of all of the famous folks who have chowed down there. They even have an autograph of that Asian guy from 21 Jump Street on the wall! Unfortunately, I did not make the cut. Oh, I thought about sending a publicity photo, but I can just imagine the locals looking at it and saying..."Who the F---k is that.?"

BEN FRANKLINS HOUSE. This is not to be confused with the Franklin Institute, which is by far one of the best science museums in the country. No, this is the site where Franklin had his home, his post office, his print shop, etc. Back in the early 1800's his family tore down the original Franklin home, but preservationists in the decades to follow found evidence of his home by excavating the site. Instead of reconstructing the entire place, they built a steel framework to outline where the house actually stood. There's a museum underground. It's one of the most spectacular, yet not so well known museums in the city, but it's a must do.

CHURCH OF CHRIST. I won't spend much time on this. It's just a beautiful old church, one of many in Philly. When you walk by a church and it says "First Church of Lutherans," it probably was . Same for "First National Bank." It probably was!

QUAINT COBBLESTONE STREETS. New York has its share of them, but in Philadelphia there are scores of them, but this one struck me as one of the prettier ones, just South of Rittenhouse Square. Some cities try to "replant" the cobblestones, but in Philly, they're the real deal.

CONTINENTAL DINER. This is the real deal, as well. It was an old diner, but they decided to go trendy and make it a diner slash martini lounge. Great vibe, awesome food and you can find it at 3rd and Market.

MR. BARSTOOL. Like, New York, Philadelphia has its wholesale restaurant district (around the Bowery) and I just found the name of this place funny.

BARACK OBAMA. Hillary and Obama debated the night I was in Philadelphia and their foot soldiers were out in full force all over the city. I found this portrait of Obama on the side of some municipal mechanical device in the Northern Liberties neighborhood.

DEAD PEOPLE. Philadelphia has oodles of old churches and attached to many of them are old cemeteries that date back to the 1600's. This is one such place. Eerie and beautiful at the same time.

NORTHERN LIBERTIES. Like SOHO or better yet, Williamsburg, this is one of those neighborhoods that's feeling gentrification. It's where Olde City meets Northern Liberties, in the heart of Philly. This area is full of old warehouses and converted lofts and chock full of galleries and cafes. This was just one of those perfect shots.

WILLOW CREEK. There's no longer a creek here, but back in the day, a tiny stream ran through the center of Philadelphia and what is now part of the National park system. This is somewhere in the middle of the expansive Independence mall area of Center City. An artist outlined in white spray paint where the creek once flowed. Hey, maybe this is where Franklin flew that kite!

SOCIETY HILL HOTEL. This is where I stayed. It's located in Olde City at 3rd and Chestnut. It's a bargain at $90 a night and it's right in the heart of everything. It's much better known as a bar and grill, which is located on the first floor. The drinks are strong and the food is great. The rooms upstairs are kind of small, but well equipped, but don't worry, they're undergoing a renovation, which means in several months rooms will probably go for $200 a night.

TEACH NYC. So, you're a school teacher in one of the worst, most depressed school systems in the country and you spot this sign. Who's thinking...."Hmmm, I want to move to a crummier school district for just as much pay and be mugged and beaten." Not quite sure, but I'm thinking they might have better luck placing these ads in Pierre, South Dakota or some other tiny town in the middle of nowhere, where teachers are making $16,500 a year.

LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN. So after that bridge collapsed over the Mississippi, states began extensive inspections to insure their bridges weren't falling down. We often complain in New York, that some of our oldest bridges are about to collapse into the sea, but take a gander at this span across the Delaware. Does this look safe to you?

THE BETSY ROSS HOUSE. Back in the 1700's, Betsy Ross lived on tiny Elfreths Alley in the Olde city section of town. This is where it is believed she sewed the first American flag featuring a star for each of the 13 original colonies. The street scene is as cool as the tour of the house itself.

THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE. This is Philadelphia's science museum and one of the premiere museums of its kind in the country. The exhibits are constantly changing, but some staples not to be missed include a walk through the giant human heart (you can hear it pumping) and a ride on an old steam locomotive. This monstrosity is parked on rails and the engine is actually fired up so you can ride a foot or two.

AND ONE FINAL SNAPSHOT, THE PHILLY SKYLINE. Up until about 20 years ago, the city wouldn't allow anything to be built that was taller than "Billy Penn." Nothing could go over the 26 stories of city hall, which features a statue of of Pennsylvania's founder, William Penn. Then, as businesses began moving out of America's 4Th largest city, councilmen decided to amend city laws to allow buildings to go higher than the hat of "Billy Penn." (his hat had long been an observation deck.) Now, 60-80 story buildings grace the downtown area, making it one of the most spectacular downtown's in America. So, I leave you with this view.