Sunday, September 25, 2016

we're two ships that pass in the night

I met Jonathan three times. 

The first time I met Jonathan was at the end of February 1982. I was an art student, working at my cousin's heath food restaurant in Center City Philadelphia. Jonathan came in to the restaurant with a date. His date would become my wife two years later. Jonathan and the future Mrs. Pincus were close friends growing up. Their parents were friends. Actually, the first time young Mrs. P laid eyes on him, she was head-over-heels in love. It was a strange bit of "kismet" that Jonathan chose to bring her to the restaurant where I worked on that particular evening. I didn't really have too much to say to Jonathan. I remember he was a good-looking guy, but I was too busy chatting up his pretty companion. She, however, thought I was the most obnoxious person she ever met. I know this, because she told me so. Right then and there.

The next time I saw Jonathan was in 2001. My wife, my son and I attended the bat mitzvah of a classmate of my son. The young lady, Gabby, was Jonathan's niece. After the service, we mingled among the guests. Jonathan approached us. My wife smiled at Jonathan, although he didn't look at all familiar to me. He and Mrs. Pincus embraced. He shook my hand and turned to my then thirteen year-old son and introduced himself. "I'm your mom's first husband.," he said, with a wink. My son, a bit panicked, turned to me and cocked his head in confusion. (Just a note: That is not something you say to a thirteen year-old.) We explained that Jonathan was an old friend and he was, indeed, kidding.

I saw Jonathan one more time. It was a week or so ago, just after Labor Day 2016. Actually, I saw him at the same synagogue that our paths crossed fifteen years earlier. This time, however, it was not for a joyous occasion. We were joining hundreds of other mourners at a post-funeral shiva for Jonathan's sister-in-law Linda, who had passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Mrs. P and I maneuvered our way through the crowd, shaking hands and patting backs, until we came upon Jonathan. Again, like they had done previously, my wife hugged Jonathan. Jonathan shook my hand heartily and said, "How'ya doing, buddy?" I don't believe that he remembered my name, but that was okay. He was friendly enough and exhibited no hard feelings that I was happily married to his one-time date for the past 32 years.

Jonathan took his own life on September 16, taking with him the opportunity to see him again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

say something, say something... anything

Once again, Mrs. Pincus and I attended the annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Cockeysville, Maryland, the three day gathering of vendors, speakers, authors, celebrities and various other purveyors of pop culture from days past. We have taken the two hour drive south on I-95 many times over the past few years to this show. But this year's show has the potential to be our last.

I like to go to this show to add to my ever-expanding collection of autographed celebrity photographs. Mrs. P, on the other hand, dislikes the ritual of lining up and fawning over an actor who hasn't had an on-screen credit in over forty years. She prefers to scour the vendor area, searching for that elusive treasure on which she can turn a quick profit on eBay. Every once in a while, this show touts an appearance from a celebrity that sparks a warm and pleasant memory from our past, making our anticipation a bit more antsy.

Months ago, The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. or MANC, as it is known to regulars, has grown exponentially since the first one we attended. It has noticeably gotten more crowded, probably due to the fact that show promoter and organizer Martin Grams Jr., has worked diligently to book celebrities that charge no more than $30 for an autographed photo. That is quite an accomplishment in the current trend set by such convention big-wigs as ComicCon and Chiller Theater, who have come to dictate the outrageous going rate of such memorabilia. Martin once told me that Adam West, TVs 1960s Batman, refused to budge on his $60 asking price and, therefore, would not commit to an appearance. Because MANC offers a more informal and personal atmosphere, as opposed to the rigid, cattle-chute, "get-em-in-and-get-em-out" procedure of other shows, its popularity has grown. It has also suffered somewhat.

Last year, Martin managed to book Lee Majors and Richard Anderson from The Six Million Dollar Man and Lindsay Wagner from The Bionic Woman. This was a major coup and the trio drew a lot more guests that would have normally attended the show. However, they also charged $40 each per autograph. Martin explained that he wrestled with breaking his own policy and regretfully consented because it was a "once-in-a-life" assemblage for fans. he promised to stick to his rules in future years. Mrs. P and I reluctantly shelled out $40 to Lee Majors, as my wife was a devoted fan of the show as a teenager. We did the same for Lindsay Wagner, who, disappointingly, came off as a stuck-up jerk.

This year's celebrity roster was announced several months ago and featured some enticing actors from beloved films and television shows from our youth. I was most interested in meeting Kathy Garver, best remembered as Buffy and Jody's big sister "Cissy" on the sentimental 60s sitcom Family Affair. I love Family Affair. There I said it! Also included in this year's group was Britt Ekland, the sultry Swedish bombshell and one-time Bond Girl (in The Man with The Golden Gun, reteaming her with her Wicker Man co-star, the late great Christopher Lee). Also included was movie and TV tough guy Robert Conrad, John Amos, star of Roots, Good Times and Coming to America, Debra Paget, the pretty diminutive actress from The Ten Commandments and Dabney Coleman, known for War Games, 9 to 5 and HBO's Boardwalk Empire. The real draw for Mrs. Pincus was Robert Fuller, rugged star of TV Westerns Laramie and Wagon Train. But to Mrs. P,  Fuller will always be cool Dr. Kelly Brackett on Emergency!, the original "Doctor Dreamy," nearly three decades before the moniker attached itself to Patrick Dempsey on Grey's Anatomy. (I was just informed that the character's name was "Doctor McDreamy." I never watched either show, so I apologize to anyone I may have offended.)

In the early afternoon, we parked in the Hunt Valley Wyndham Hotel's parking lot and followed the paved and landscaped walkway to the entrance. After handing over our pre-purchased admission tickets, we were unceremoniously informed that Dabney Coleman, John Amos and Debra Paget had all canceled. We were instantly disappointed, but still, we made our way though the aisles of vendors offering their pieces of the past. Mrs. P's interest was piqued by a few items, but nothing worth a full on negotiation. We descended a rickety escalator to the hotel's lower floor, where more vendors and the room housing the celebrities awaited.

I spotted an attractive, but heavily made-up older woman who I soon identified as Britt Ekland, seated along a row of tables. She was entertaining a group of fans, so I decided to press on and come back to Miss Elkand at a later time. At the end of the row was our old pal Geri Reichl, best known as replacing the uninterested Eve Plumb in the short-lived Brady Bunch Hour, a poorly-conceived variety show featuring America's favorite blended family. We have encountered Geri at enough shows that we have forged a budding friendship... an easy task, as Geri is a sweetheart. Seated next to Geri was Kathy Garver. She was surrounded by glossy photos highlighting scenes from Family Affair, as well as stills from her brief, uncredited appearance as a slave child in The Ten Commandments, guest roles in Adam-12 and Dr. Kildare, and shots of Firestar, the superhero character she voiced on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends in the 80s. Of course, we chatted briefly with Miss Garver about Family Affair, purchased a signed photo and snapped a photo of her holding our traveling buddy Pudge

Mrs. P was looking at some potential purchase as I made my way back to Britt Ekland, who, by this time, was sitting idly at her table, sipping a cup of coffee. I approached and offered a friendly "Hi Britt." She lit up, a smile stretching wide across her face. I told her how much I loved The Wicker Man and The Night They Raided Minsky's, two early entries in her six-decade career. I could have talked and questioned her at length about her interesting and illustrious life, including her four-year marriage to Peter Sellers, a longer union with Stray Cats' drummer Slim Jim Phantom and her notorious tryst with rocker Rod Stewart, which inspired him to write his hit Tonight's the Night in 1977. After signing a picture for me, she — not me — suggested I pose for a photo with her, directing me around the table for an intimate shot. As Britt was maneuvering her slight frame close to me, I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Pincus ten feet away, mouthing, "What do you think you're doing?" in faux jealousy. Britt laughed and purposely snuggled in closer. Once the picture was snapped by her assistant, she insisted I check it to make sure it met my satisfaction — something no other celebrity has ever done.

Out in a hallway, lines were forming for a chance to meet Robert Conrad and Robert Fuller. A group of show staff were furiously working to corral eager guests in an orderly fashion. We asked a staff member to point out the end of the line, but were informed that the line was now closed. Once again, we were disappointed, but now our disappointment was accompanied by anger. Our questions, "Will Mr. Conrad and Mr. Fuller be returning later in day?," were were met with shrugs. We headed back to the vendor room, determined to check back later for a shorter line. After an hour of perusal and few purchases, we returned to the Conrad/Fuller lines, only to be told that they were, again, closed and no more guests would be accommodated. Mrs. P fumed. "I'm done with this goddamn show!," she proclaimed angrily. We went to say our "goodbyes" to Geri Reichel and were delayed as Mrs. P vented her dismay to Geri's sympathetic ear. 

As we started for the exit, I pointed out show organizer Martin Grams to my wife. Mrs. P walked right over to him and laid in. She expressed her disappointment and frustration over three cancellations and continued with her further disappointment over how the lines for Robert Fuller and Robert Conrad were being maintained. Suddenly, Martin interrupted my wife's tirade with a gentle "I'll get you in. No problem." He silently led us to the outdoor waiting area and requested the staff member-on-duty place us at the end of the line. The harried woman attempted to argue, saying she had firm instruction to not allow anyone else to join the queue. Martin flatly repeated, "Let them in the line. This is my show." Without another word, we took our place as the anchor of the snaking line.

We waited nearly two hours, biding our time with conversations with other fans, until we were granted access to Mr.  Fuller, a tall lanky fellow sporting a large black cowboy hat. Mrs. Pincus gushed as she confessed her love for Emergency! and his character on the show. I offered Mr. Fuller a print of this drawing I did of the Emergency! cast. He marveled at the sketch and complimented me. Mrs. Pincus selected a photo for him to inscribe, then  he waved me off as I withdrew a $20 bill from my wallet and attempted to pay him. "I'm gonna get a frame for that drawing. You're a hell of an artist." he said. He rose to pose for a photo with us, still cutting a handsome and imposing figure at 83 years old, although he has trimmed back those awesome sideburns quite a bit. After a few shots were snapped off, he shook my hand and planted a long-overdue kiss on Mrs. Pincus's cheek. She was in heaven.

Robert Conrad, the dashing star of Wild, Wild West, Black Sheep Squadron and the one-time cocky and competitive leader of Battle of the Network Stars, has, unfortunately, been rendered partly paralyzed by a car accident in 2003. Once a righty, he now has to scrawl his shaky signature with his left hand with unsteady accuracy. He has not, however, lost his snide wit. He cracked sarcastic jokes and off-color innuendo to the delight of the fans awaiting a personal audience with the actor, At 81, he is thin and weathered, but his brash personality has not lost its edge. His endearing arrogance has not been tarnished by time or disability. He stayed until every fan was treated to the short tête-à-tête they had hoped for. I understood he did the same thing on the previous day.

Before we left, Mrs. Pincus and I stopped off at our respective restrooms in anticipation of the long drive home. As I reached out to push the men's room door open, I was met by Robert Fuller about to push the door as well. We each laughed and I respectfully allowed the venerable actor to enter first. I followed him into the empty bathroom and we each selected urinals on opposite ends of the far wall. And this paragraph is officially over.

Mrs. Pincus and I tracked down and thanked Martin once again for his thoughtfulness and for accommodating us above and beyond. We sheepishly admitted to expecting an angry confrontation, but we were grateful for the unexpected result. We told him we would be back again net year.

Maybe.

www.joshpincusiscrying.com

Sunday, September 18, 2016

one more for my baby and one more for the road

This will be my last post ever about Movie Tavern. I hope.

Mrs. Pincus and I, once again, subjected ourselves to the ordeal that is Movie Tavern. Boy, this is quite a change in feeling from our first visit to the movie/restaurant combo chain. We loved our first experience at Movie Tavern so much that we couldn't imagine ever going to another theater. It was that good.

Until our second visit.

The second time we went to Movie Tavern, we were anxious and excited to return. We, of course, were expecting the same impeccable, finely-tuned, precision service that made our first trip so pleasurable. Instead, we were subjected to confused waitstaff, crossed signals, multiple incorrect orders, an inaccurate check and unconcerned management. After a written complaint to the corporate office, we were enticed with free passes to give Movie Tavern another chance. It turns out that our first experience at Movie Tavern was the exception and mediocrity was the norm.

It's funny, after not going to the movies for years, Mrs. P and I have attended a half dozen first-run films this year. It's very uncharacteristic for us. Movie Tavern had a lot to do with that. We loved it the first time, but subsequent visits have been to use free passes, obtained either from birthday promotions or to make up for crappy service. We used our final complementary admission this past Saturday. After our server walked past us several times without saying anything.... After we never got the requested lemon slices for our water.... After our appetizer came well after we received our main course.... After our server picked up the check portfolio before I had a chance to total it up, Mrs. P asked me, "Do we ever have to come back here again?" She begged me not to complain about the service this time, lest we get more free passes and have to suffer though this again.

Earlier in the week, we took my in-laws to a regular movie theater. It was a pleasure. We bought tickets. We sat in comfortable seats. We enjoyed a regular experience at the movies, one that we had enjoyed many, many times before. And afterwards, we went to a diner and had something to eat. Like normal people. While we once admired the concept of combining the movie-watching experience with the dining experience, we decided the two should really be kept separate. Why are we in such a rush to kill two birds with one stone? Especially two things that are supposed to be enjoyed leisurely. We have such limited amounts of free time in our lives, why do we want to consolidate our free time activities?

Well, we won't anymore.

Goodbye, Movie Tavern. It's your final curtain call. Check, please.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

I count all the charms about Linda

On Sunday afternoon, I went to the funeral of a lifelong friend of Mrs. Pincus. She was a woman who my wife met when they were kids. They remained in and out of touch with each other until her death just this past week. I didn't know her very well. I only met her a handful of times, but she was always friendly and smiling and seemed genuinely happy to see me. I found out that she was more genuine than I imagined.

Linda was just 54 years old and ill for nearly seven years. However, as it was soon revealed, throughout the course of her illness, through the ups and downs, the gravity and relapse, she never complained. Never. She just lived life to its fullest and did all that she could in the time she knew she had left.

Linda's funeral was, easily, the saddest funeral I have ever attended. The funeral was arranged through the most prominent Jewish funeral director in Philadelphia. Mourners began arriving hours before the ceremony. By the time the 1 o'clock start time came, the chapel was jam packed. Every seat was taken. Guests arriving late stood and lined both side walls, as well as the rear wall. The lobby, too, was brimming with people unable to secure a spot in the main sanctuary. It was announced that the service would be broadcast into the lobby for the benefit of those gathered. The service itself – the requisite prayers and recitations – was brief. The bulk of the ceremony featured personal tales from family, detailing Linda's warmth and kindness. Everyone who spoke – a niece, her three brothers, her mother, her daughters – all uncannily expressed the exact same sentiment. Linda was truly a nice person. The nicest. She had the ability to make everyone feel like they were the only person in the world. The running – yet unrehearsed – theme of the day was: "Everyone was Linda's best friend." It wasn't just something she said. It was something she made everyone believe... because it was true.

After interment, the family and mourners returned to Linda's synagogue for shiva, the traditional gathering after a Jewish funeral. Linda's widower is the rabbi at the synagogue and he bravely led the service, in spite of being a mourner himself. Just before the final prayer, he opened up the floor to anyone who would care to share a story or anecdote about his late wife. Instantly, hands shot up throughout the packed sanctuary. The rabbi recognized and called on everyone one at a time. There were childhood friends, distant relatives, congregants, friends of her children, neighbors. Every story, every single story, shared the same common theme: Linda was a sweet, fun-loving soul who made everyone feel privileged and yes, even blessed, for knowing her.

My wife and I went to three evenings of shiva and, despite being on weekday nights after a long Labor Day weekend, the crowds remained enormous And the stories about Linda continued to be heartfelt, uplifting and truly inspiring.

It was a funeral and subsequent remembrance that we all wish for ourselves when our time comes. Few of us, however, will receive it. Or deserve it. 

www.joshpincusiscrying.com

Sunday, September 4, 2016

stopped in to a church I passed along the way

I am not a religious person at all. I find religion to be silly. I regularly make fun of all religions. If you find that offensive, I suggest you do not continue reading.  If you are Mormon, you probably shouldn't even have started to read this. — JPiC

A few weeks ago, my pal and co-worker Pat asked if I'd like to accompany him on a tour of the new Philadelphia Mormon Temple that recently opened in Center City (that's how Philadelphians refer to the downtown area of the city). The recently-built and newly opened temple is offering free tours of the massive facility to the general non-Mormon public for a few weeks before admission is limited to a select group of card-carrying Mormons  and that's not a joke. You, literally have to present a card to enter.

The Mormon temple is just a short walk from our office, but on the day of our scheduled tour, we got busy and had to reschedule. Then we got really busy on the rescheduled day, so Pat rescheduled again. On Thursday, Pat checked the calendar and noticed that the tours come to an end just after Labor Day, so our opportunities were running out. We were going that afternoon, no matter how busy we got. Around noon, we stealthily slipped out, along with two other co-workers, Junior and Sly (you remember Sly, don't you?) without telling anyone where we were going. The four of us navigated the streets and sidewalks of our fair city, most of which were under some sort of on-going renovation. Once we turned the corner on to 17th Street, we spotted the temple's slender spire soaring high above the bustle of the approaching lunch hour.

First we had to check in at the small meeting house across 17th Street from the actual temple. As we walked two-by-two across the gray, interlocked brick path, I feared the possibility of Sly and me setting off the "Jew alarm." I imagined being denied entrance and afforded the explanation that they didn't want their new carpet to burst into flames at the mere touch of our Semitic feet. We were, in fact, greeted by a pair of fresh-scrubbed young ladies with enormous grins stretched across their flawless faces. We were instructed to join a group that was just exiting the building to begin their tour. Circling outside again, we crossed 17th Street and entered the large, walled forecourt of the temple.

"Thou shalt track no dirt into
the house of the Lord."
The building itself, while neutral in color and plain in construction, is notably imposing. I understand that its design was inspired by the typical, historical architecture of Philadelphia. It was reminiscent of the type of movie set-like structures in Liberty Place at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, except true-to-scale instead of stunted by forced perspective. The courtyard was spotless and stark and dotted with gentlemen in suits and ties, smiling at no one in particular. Our cheerful (and smiling) tour guide informed us that, in order to preserve the floor and carpets in the new building, everyone would be required to wear disposable paper coverings over their shoes. She quickly added that the shoe coverings have no religious significance whatsoever. I whispered to my colleagues, "That thought never crossed my mind. If she's making a point to say that there is no religious significance to the shoe coverings, you know damn well that there is some religious significance to the shoe coverings." The queue line snaked past two smiling young ladies who were tasked with stretching the shoe covers snugly around visitor's feet. Judging from their smiles, they seemed to be quite pleased with this responsibility. Although, it was apparent that everyone associated with this place was smiling.

"Please have your IDs ready."
Finally, we entered. There was an eerie quiet inside, considering we were just a few feet from the heavily-traveled Vine Street Expressway, a major east-west thruway connecting I-76 with the busy Benjamin Franklin Bridge and all things New Jersey. The foyer sported an assembly of chairs on both sides of the polished marble floor. Straight ahead was a large, dark wood reception desk. Several smiling men and women were scattered around the room... just smiling. Our tour guide explained that once the temple opens, the public would no longer be permitted to enter. As a matter of fact, everyday, run-of-the-mill Mormons could not just enter. Only members "in good standing" (whatever that means) were granted access to the facility. Some mysterious identification card — the details of which were glossed over — must be presented to the Mormon-in-charge to prove "good standing" status. Behind the desk was a giant painting of a smiling Jesus. I would soon observe that Jesus was well represented in the temple's art collection. 

Our group was escorted out of the lobby to a long hallway that ended at a flight of stairs, carpeted and fitted with heavy brass carpet rods at the base of each riser. This was another obvious attempt to mimic the style of the authentic historical buildings that surround the temple. We climbed the stairs to the first landing. We were lead to a room where, again, two smiling young ladies invited us to take seats. They gave a rehearsed speech, mentioning "Jesus Christ" several times in the course of their brief recitation. (I am very creeped out if someone uses "Jesus Christ" more that three times in the same sentence. Sort of like "Beetlejuice".... but I digress.) Before the actual tour began, we were forced invited to watch a short film I think was called "So You Decided to Become a Mormon," though I could have gotten the title wrong. The room lights were dimmed and the ten-minute video began. It featured an abundance of smiling faces — young and old, male and female, white and white — all extolling the basics of the Mormon faith, or as they prefer, The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints. It was, by no means, an overview or introduction to the brand new temple in Philadelphia, the first one in Pennsylvania. No sir! It was a propaganda piece showing that Mormons are just like you, except smile- ier and Jesus-ier. A young couple in the film spoke about how Mormon families remain together forever in life and in death The woman of the couple explained that when a man and woman marry (she over-stressed "man and woman" so their stance on same-sex marriage was made perfectly clear), they will be together forever. This statement prompted her husband to practically do a double take. A confused look came across his face, as if to say, "Wait just a second! Forever? I don't remember signing up for that! Can I read that thing I signed again?" The scene quickly jumped to a wide shot of one of the other Mormon temples.

After the film, our actual tour began. The group was informed that photographs were not permitted. Photos, however, were available on the temple's website. A fervent rule-follower, I stowed my phone in my pocket. Except for two, the photos accompanying this post were culled from the Philadelphia section of curbed.com.

"On some nights, we dip twice."
The hallways were unnervingly sterile, all lined with smiling people. The Eagles tune "Hotel California" played in my head, specifically the line "You can check out any time you like/but you can never leave." There was something inherently cult-like about this place and we all felt it. We entered the Baptismal Font Room. In the center, surrounded by a circular banister broken twice to allow for small flights of tiled access steps, was a round turquoise-tiled pool, its crystal-clear waters faintly bubbling through an unseen filtration system*. The group filed in, each person taking a spot around the railing. Looking down, the pool was supported by twelve immense sculptures of oxen. The tour guide explained that the oxen represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Baptisms, we were told, are very important to Mormons. So much so, that a baptized Mormon can serve as a proxy for a deceased loved one or ancestor that never had the opportunity to be baptized. Without a baptism, you will be locked out of Heaven when you die. That's the Mormon rules, baby. There's evidently a sign on the front door of Mormon Heaven that reads "Your head must be this wet to enter." As we left the Baptism room, I asked Junior, "If you're building one of these places, where do you order a dozen huge ox statutes?" He shrugged his shoulders and replied, "I don't know... The Book of Mormon?" I looked at him. "I don't think that's a catalog.," I said.

We moved on, climbing stairs and parading into a series of brightly-lit, though plainly-decorated rooms. We passed several changing rooms where, as we were told, Mormons shed their street clothes to adorn themselves in plain white garments, so everyone appears the same in the eyes of Jesus. And speaking of Jesus, he was depicted in numerous paintings in nearly every room and hallway of the labyrinthine building. And he was smiling in every one. We were momentarily detained in a so-called Ordinance Room, where religious services are held. In a corner of the room, a large organ pumped out low, ethereal tones without the aid of hand on the keys. I was reminded of the player-less organ in Disney's Haunted Mansion. Pat joked, "There may even be a gift shop at the end of the tour." "I wonder," I asked,"if they have souvenir shirts that read 'I spent eternity with my family and all I got was this lousy t-shirt'?" I must have spoken too loudly, as Junior was forced to stifle a laugh.

Our next stop was the majestic, yet just as surreal, Celestial Room. Here, Mormons can quietly contemplate, reflect and pray while seated in one of any number of chairs and sofas that look like they came from your great-grandmother's living room. The high ceiling and colossal chandelier are supposed to remind Mormons of the peace and harmony of Heaven. It reminded me of the lobby at the place where my brother's Bar Mitzvah reception was held.

We ascended yet another flight of stairs. I speculated to my co-workers that, at the top of these stairs, there would be a glowing white door labeled in large, raised, gold letters: "God," and below that, in smaller type: "Private." A secretary would inform us that God is booked solid for the rest of the day and will be leaving early to beat the traffic. Even with pleas of "I'm sure he's expecting us!," we would be denied entry. I'm really surprised the Mormons didn't kick me out of this place.

JC and JPiC
After the tour and after descending all the steps we climbed, we departed through a reception area. There were more Jesus paintings and sculptures. There was also information available for signing up to become a Mormon, just in case the tour affected you in a way that it didn't affect me, I did, however, get my picture taken with the Big Guy himself. A little bewildered, as though waking up from a dream that didn't make sense, my pals and I headed back to work.

When I got home, my wife and I talked while we prepared dinner (read: decided which neighborhood restaurant to order from). "Guess where I was today?," I asked.

"I have a few things to tell you first." she said.

"That's okay," I said, smugly, "Take your time. You'll never guess anyway."

Mrs. P told me about an incident at the post office, a strange conversation she had with her parents and a few unusual items that she sold on eBay that day. I patiently listened and commented when appropriate.

When given the opportunity to guess where I was today.... well, she couldn't. Not in a million years.

No, make that an eternity.

www.joshpincusiscrying.com

* This thing could very easily double as a mikveh, except there's no way any Jews would be able to get past the strict "Mormons in good standing" policy.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

your circuit's dead, there's something wrong

Sometimes, I catch myself acting like a real idiot. Just this week, as a matter of fact, I behaved like an idiot of the highest (or lowest, depending on your gauge) order.

For years now, Mrs. Pincus and I have gotten into the habit of falling asleep with the television on... and leaving it on all night. At one time, we had one of the first televisions with a sleep timer. That was great. We'd watch TV. I'd set the timer on the remote to shut off in ninety minutes and everything was fine. After a while, I'd forget to set the timer. Then, the timer button on our remote stopped working altogether. Then.. ah, screw it! We just left the TV on all night. Surprisingly, it didn't bother us. We kept the volume low. The light from the television was better — and certainly more entertaining — than any nightlight. It got so we couldn't get to sleep if the television wasn't on all night. We didn't limit this ritual to our home either. We'd leave the television on all night in hotel rooms while on vacation. When we visited my wife's cousin Juniper in Virginia Beach, she graciously offered us accommodations in a spare bedroom in her apartment. While the room was equipped with a queen-size bed, alas, it was without a television. Talk about roughing it. It was like camping.

Earlier this year, we were introduced to Comcast's (or Xfinity or whatever they're calling themselves these days) fabulous and innovative X-1 platform, the greatest thing to happen to television since Morton Downey Jr. died. We bought a 32" flat-screen, high-definition television to replace the big, square dinosaur that previously was perched upon the high bureau in our bedroom. Now, my wife and I are gently lulled to sleep by the soft, panoramic glow of our Samsung Model UN32J4000AFXZA. Every so often, I wake up in the middle of the night and I'll switch the channel from the harsh reality of CNN to the friendlier tones of a fifty-year-old rerun of I've Got a Secret on BUZZR. Then, I'll just fall back asleep. 

Sometimes, I am awakened by the lack of sound. Startled, I lift my head from my pillow and, not wishing to feel around for my glasses squint at the silent television. I can barely make out a message on the screen instructing me to restart the cable box for a software update. I force myself out of bed, careful not to wake my sleeping missus. I unplug and immediately re-plug the power cord from the back of the box and, after a series of messages chronicling the status of service, my television comes back to life and I go back to sleep. This happened a few nights ago... with much different, much scarier results.

Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
In my sleep, I could sense an eerie quiet in our bedroom. There was the low, white noise hum emanating from the small fan on my wife's dresser. The television screen was bright but silent, an image of a local weather forecaster frozen in mid-point filled its oblong surface. I got out of bed and shuffled to the TV. I fumbled around for the connection at the back off the small cable box and yanked the cord out. The room was plunged into darkness. Again, I felt around and plugged the cord back in. The blue light on the front of the box blinked in an irregular pattern and the familiar and comforting "Welcome" message  appeared on the screen, as it had numerous times before after performing this simple procedure. I slogged back to bed and lay with my eyes closed, waiting for the sound of the television which should be arriving... any... second.

Nothing. A few minutes went by. Long minutes.

Still nothing.

Instead of the usual "Connecting to the X1 Platform" message that appears within a few minutes of powering up, my poor television had this splashed across it:

Did it, did it and did it.

Eeech! I don't want to see this. Instantly, I thought of a trip to the local Xfinity office to exchange my (possibly) faulty cable box. Would they be open when I got home from work? Would Mrs. Pincus have to interrupt her day to return the box? Ugh! I hate to be inconvenienced. I turned the TV off in disgust.

At this point, my alarm went off and I had to get up for work. I went into the den and hit the remote to turn the TV on. The screen flashed to life, displaying a frozen image of a CNN anchor, poised mid-read, her lips locked in an unnatural curl, her right eye slightly closed. I unplugged the cable box and exercised the same procedure on this cable connection as well. 

As part of my usual morning routine, I went to the third floor of my house, to our computers, to post the daily celebrity death anniversaries on Facebook. (Give a "like" to my Facebook page so you don't miss out.) With a touch of the mouse, my sleeping computer awakened to tell me there was no internet service available. I glanced over at the router/modem combination (a "gateway" is was XFinity calls it) and saw that the "online" light was out. Only the "power" light was lazily blinking at the top of the stack of indicator lights. No cable service at all? I panicked. I mean real cold sweat, throbbing temples, can't-think-straight, end-of-the-world panic! (Okay. I might be exaggerating, but not as bad as Ryan Lochte, but, I was really panicked!) I looked at the display screen on the nearby telephone and saw the "No Service" message. (We have the Xfinity "Triple Play" package and are forced to maintain a land line, otherwise our cable bill will skyrocket higher than the ridiculously high cost we are already charged.) No TV. No internet. No telephone. Oh my God! I was stuck on Gilligan's Island except there was no Professor to fix the problem with coconut shells and salt water!

I scrambled downstairs and checked the Xfinity website on my phone, reluctantly eating up precious data units on the 4G network since my WiFi was out. After logging into my account, I was told there was a full service outage in my area. The anticipated restoration of service was in the 10 o'clock hour. 10 o'clock? That was four hours from now. I ran up and down the stairs checking and rechecking all of my many cable connections. And then I checked them again.

I finally went downstairs and poured myself a cup of coffee and fixed a bowl of cereal. I carried my breakfast up to the den and sat in front of the giant screen of my cable-less television, staring at my own sad reflection in the black glass. The only sound I could hear was the crunching of Cheerios in my mouth and the occasional sipping of coffee. No local news. No Today Show. No iCarly. No television entertainment of any type. Time dragged. I sulked. It was pathetic.

Suddenly, the clock on the cable box activated on its own, displaying the correct time. I grabbed the remote and hit the power button. The huge television screen brightened and — oh yeah! — I was connected! Connected to the wonderful world of mindless visual stimulation! My cable was back!

I thought about this little episode and my ridiculous behavior. I played it over again in my head. Disconnecting the cable boxes. Running up and down the steps like my house was on fire. Checking all of the connections like I suffered from an advanced case of obsessive/compulsive disorder.  If I was being watched, I'm sure I would have come across as looking like an idiot.

Well, I may be an idiot, but, I'm an idiot with cable.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

nightswimming

The 2016 Summer Olympics just wrapped up for another four years. My wife is a fan of the Olympics and looks forward to watching. I, on the other hand, am not a fan. However, this year I watched more Olympic competition than I had in my entire life. Every evening, beginning with the head-scratchingly odd opening ceremony, Mrs. P and I sat on the sofa opposite our new, high-definition, flat screen TV and watched every prime-time broadcast. Actually, it was on the television and we glanced up when we heard cheers or gasps. Mostly, we fiddled with our phones. She played Candy Crush and checked the status of her various eBay auctions. I checked Instagram and tweeted sarcastic observations about the Olympics. Mrs. Pincus went to visit family in Virginia Beach during the second week of the Olympics and I didn't watch a single second of the games, choosing instead to catch up on a few bad movies I had DVRed. However, when she returned, we again watched together until the closing ceremony.

I'll tumble 4 U.
I am fascinated by women's gymnastics. I can't figure out how a young lady, standing barely four-and-a-half feet tall, can exert enough power to bound on to a "horse," launch herself into the air a distance of twice her height, spin around in all directions and land gracefully on her feet. Only to have some judge knock off a few points because her right heel stepped back three inches. Hey, I'd like to see the judge try that. We marveled as 17 year-old British gymnast Ellie Downie flipped and fell on her neck during her floor exercise performance, her head crumpling underneath the full weight of her body. (Granted, it's only 117 pounds, but — jeez! — it's still 117 pounds!) Obviously shaken, Ellie attempted to continue her routine, but was soon helped off the mat by her coach. Moments later, she emerged from the training room to participate in the vault. Her coach cautioned her to try one vault. She waved him off, explaining, "If I can do one vault, I can do two." Ellie Downie, despite her petite stature, can kick your ass.

All together now.
One evening, Mrs. P and I watched something called "men's synchronized platform diving." an event I didn't know existed until I began watching it. Two toned young men in skimpy bathing suits leaped from a cement platform, twisting, flipping and turning all the way down until they broke the surface of the water, creating only the slightest of splashes. The whole display reminded me of the famous Groucho/Harpo "mirror scene" from the classic film Duck Soup, only not nearly as funny. I noticed when the divers emerged from the pool, they made a bee-line for the showers situated just behind the tall diving platforms. Every one of them. They stood for a long time under the rushing stream of water, making sure every inch of their exposed skin was rinsed. Some massaged their own scalps rather vigorously. I didn't think too much about this until I saw that, over the next few days, the pool used for diving had turned a bright and nauseating shade of green. The official cause was... actually, there were several explanations offered and several fingers pointed. Everything from improper chemical treatments, to lack of chemical treatments to contractor issues. This is the Olympics, for crissakes! The world's athletic stage. NBC is sinking nearly 11 billion dollars into this thing. International companies are paying top dollar for sponsorship. Can't you get a guy with one of those long-handled nets and a bucket of chlorine to clean that shit up?

...and it was all yellow.
While looking up "Olympic swimming" on Google (I was sort of getting into this), I came across a very disturbing article. Very, very disturbing. Several swimmers, divers and other water-sports athletes were asked if they "pee" in the pool. The overwhelming reply was "yes." Wait. Let me amend that. The overwhelming reply was "Of course!" As though it was the obvious answer with absolutely no alternative. They said there is no time to constantly get out of the pool for a bathroom visit. It would drastically cut into training time and be detrimental to their performance. One Olympian even went so far as to say, "If a swimmer tells you they don't pee in the pool, they're lying," Didn't they listen to Mom? Or the lifeguard? Or the code of decency? Or common-fucking-sense? The question was answered with pride. Like peeing in a swimming pool was some sort of "rite of passage." That's not all. I found out, later in the same article, that the unmistakable smell of "swimming pool" is not the natural scent of chlorine (as we have always been led to believe). No. That smell is chloramines, which is created from a reaction of chlorine mixing with urine. Yes sir! People have always been peeing in pools! Chlorine has no smell. It has to be pissed on in order to smell like chlorine. Also, that burning sensation you get in your eyes when you go under water in a pool? Yeah, that's chlorine's reaction to piss, too.

Lie detector.
Recently, Mrs. Pincus and I returned from our fourth cruise in four years. While packing for each of those trips, I never considered taking a bathing suit. Hell, I don't even own a bathing suit. I haven't set foot (or any other body part) in a public swimming pool in years. Years! My feeling was: I wouldn't want to bathe with a bunch of strangers. When you think about it, how different is swimming in a pool from bathing? Some people actually feel that the two concepts are interchangeable. I always shunned swimming with the excuse: "There ain't enough chlorine in the world to get me to go into a pool with a bunch of strangers." Now that I know chlorine is actually the tattletale for pool-pissers, I stand by my reasoning. Except now, the reason has changed.

Still think a dip in the pool is relaxing?

www.joshpincusiscrying.com