Sunday, May 22, 2022

okhel tatzipornaim (אוכל ת'ציפורניים)

My dad had some traits that I have made a conscious effort not to carry on. He was a bigot. He was a liar. He was minimally educated. I like to think that I have risen above these shortcomings, as I don't label or compartmentalize people based on outdated and unfounded stereotypes. I don't lie. I am a voracious consumer of knowledge. Not necessarily useful knowledge, but knowledge just the same.

My dad had other traits that, because of genes and DNA and other physiological make-up of which I am no expert, I inherited. First of all, I look like my dad. It was not so apparent when I was younger, but now that I am approaching the age at which my father passed away, I am startled every time I look in the mirror. When I am innocently combing my thinning hair (just like my dad's), I see his all-too familiar face starting back at me and it is very unnerving.

My father had a very distinct way of walking. My mom regularly pointed out the comical display of watching my dad and me walk together. She said it was like watching two intoxicated ducks, alluding to the peculiar way we both shuffled along, knees bent, throwing our feet askew — toes pointed out and to the side.

My father was a nail biter. A chronic nail biter. Either consciously or unconsciously, he would gnaw on his fingertips for hours. This was quite an accomplishment for him, because my father was a four-pack-a-day smoker, as well. But, somehow, between cigarettes, he managed to self-trim his fingernails down to grubby, jagged nubs. Unfortunately, I inherited this disgusting habit from my father. It was something I had no control over. Sometimes, I didn't even realize I was doing it. My mother would slap my hands away from my mouth and scold me. "Stop it!," she'd warn, "Take your fingers out of your mouth." I'd stop... only to find myself chewing on my fingernails within minutes of a recent reprimand.

Mine were worse.
To be honest, I was aware of how truly disgusting this habit was. Sometimes, I would chew my nails so badly, so deeply, that my fingertips would bleed around my cuticles. Sometimes, they would get infected. My mom would squeeze some kind of ointment on the affected area and cover it with a Band-Aid, thus preventing further chewing... at least until it healed. But, as soon as the bandage was off, that neglected nail was back in my mouth for an orally-administered manicure. In school, with no one to bother me, I would chew and chew on my nails all day... from the bus ride in to school, at my desk, at recess and on the ride back home. No one said anything to me about my nasty habit and my fingernails reflected it. When I got home, my mom would, once again, try in vain to stop — or at least curb — my ungual appetite.

As I got older, my mom just gave up. She tried for years to get me to stop biting my fingernails, until she finally gave in. She stopped cautioning me, hoping that soon a girlfriend or wife would take up the mantle.

Well, her wish came true. My girlfriend — who later became my wife, the celebrated Mrs. Pincus — was just as disgusted by my propensity to chomp on my digits. She was also just as determined as my mom (maybe even more so) to get me to stop. She thought nothing of physically pulling my hands away from my mouth. She routinely admonished my finger-in-mouth obsession, to little avail. My fingernails still exhibited the result of long periods of oblivious nibbling. Luckily, my son did not pick up my and my father's legacy. He did, however, join in the crusade to put a halt to my manual appendage munching.

Nice try, Madge.
One late evening, my wife and I were watching David Letterman's talk show. His guest that night was the one and only Madonna at the very pinnacle of her popularity. It was Madonna's first appearance on Letterman's show after a much-publicized pursuit. She took to a seat on the sofa alongside Dave, amid thunderous applause. I remember that she was very stand-offish and leery of Dave's infamous sarcasm. I also remember that she bit her nails profusely, often answering Dave's queries from behind a mouthful of hand. It was disgusting. I thought "Is that how I look?" After that show, I became very aware of when I was biting my nails... and I stopped.

Until I started again.

I found it very difficult to stop my nail-biting. I likened it to someone trying to quit smoking. Although I didn't smoke, I knew plenty of people who did. Some of whom successfully quit (like my mom) and some who half-heartedly quit, only to start up again (like my dad). I had been biting my nails for as long as I could remember, so stopping just like that was not going to be easy. Even Madonna was powerless to help.

I began to experience some dental issues, stemming from the hundreds of Snickers bars I consumed as a child. I was visiting the dentist on a regular basis to correct the damaged I caused. Some of my teeth were drilled and filled, others were filed and capped. All in all, my teeth were not as strong as they once were. While my dentist was doing her best to help my teeth maintain what little strength they had, it was obvious that a constant workout of chewing the alpha-keratin plates at the tips of my fingers had to stop. And — just like that, after decades — I stopped biting my nails.

But it doesn't end there.

Evidently, I don't trim my fingernails as often as my wife and my son would like. Yes, it's true, I no longer bite my nails, but the length at which I keep my nails is still an issue. While the nails remain — currently unscathed — at the tips of my fingers, my idea of a reasonable length and my family's idea of a reasonable length at which they should be kept differ greatly.

But, at least I don't bite 'em anymore. One battle at a time.

For illustration purposes only.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

buona fortuna, addio bambina

This story appeared on my illustration blog in 2020.

Sergio Franchi. What a melodic, romantic sounding name! It was very fitting for the Italian tenor with the robust voice and charming demeanor. Sergio Franchi! Throughout the 70s, he sang on The Ed Sullivan Show, filled the big showrooms in Las Vegas and toured the country, enchanting audiences that were mostly comprised of suburban American housewives looking to inject a little Continental excitement into their routine lives.

My mom was one of them.

My mom loved Sergio Franchi. As a teenager in the early 1940s, she was fan of big-band swing and was quite the accomplished jitterbug dancer. She swooned along with her contemporaries to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Eddie Fisher. She could be spotted at the famed Steel Pier in Atlantic City doing the Lindy or on the dance floor at Grossinger's in the Catskill Mountains "cuttin' a rug" with some guy whose name she barely knew. As long as there was music, my mom was there.

She always kept up with musical trends. She fell for Tom Jones in the 60s with his tight, high-waisted pants doing their best to contain his gyrating hips. She listened with heavy-lidded eyes to Bobby Darin and Mel Torme and Vic Damone. And then she discovered Sergio Franchi.

Sergio Franchi! Rugged, chiseled, Romanesque features. Barrel-chested and impeccably groomed — always sporting a simple yet elegant tuxedo, its bow tie usually undone by song number three of his repertoire. In later years, Sergio would display a trendy perm on his previously close-cropped 'do. His easy, but charismatic, personality and his wide smile entranced his audiences. And that voice! Magnificent, velvety tones that could handle popular tunes as easily as soaring operatic arias.

My mom never missed seeing Sergio Franchi at the Latin Casino when he came to our area. "The Latin," as it was colloquially known, was a very popular night club that moved from its original Philadelphia location to a larger venue just over the New Jersey state line. Despite its name, The Latin Casino was not actually a casino, although it attracted the same caliber acts that played the real casinos in Las Vegas. Frank, Dean, Sammy — they all performed there on nationwide tours that stopped in and around the City of Brotherly Love. Ironically, its downfall was the introduction of casino gambling in Atlantic City, putting a clause in performer's contracts not allowing them to appear with a certain radius of the seashore resort — a radius that included the Latin Casino. However, in its heyday, my mom would go with a girlfriend or her sister to see Sergio Franchi — but never with my father. He wasn't interested in going anywhere — especially to see some singer who wasn't Al Jolson. Good thing, too, because my mom was very uninhibited and I'm sure she offered her share of screams and cat-calls along with the other female members of the audience. One morning, after my mom had seen Sergio Franchi the night before, I came into our kitchen to find a red cloth napkin folded neatly on the kitchen table. My mom, with stars in her eyes, explained that Sergio had wiped his face with the napkin and handed it down to her at her stage-side table. It was as though the Lady of the Lake had touched Arthur's shoulders with Excalibur. In later years, Sergio Franchi moved his Philadelphia area stop to the Valley Forge Music Fair, a smaller, in-the-round venue just minutes from where George Washington led troops fighting for our country's independence. As far as my mom was concerned, they fought for her right to sit in the front row to see Sergio Franchi sing. In between songs, Sergio Franchi would address the audience, often remarking about the name of the town where the venue was located. "King of Prussia!," he would say, his diminished, though still present Italian accent rolling the "R". He'd gesture with his outstretched arm in a mock-majestic flourish as he repeated it "King of Prussia! I love to perform in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania!" He'd smile and the audience would giggle and sigh in unison, as though they had rehearsed

Surprisingly, my mom owned just one Sergio Franchi album... but she played it over and over and over again. It was a 1973 RCA Records compilation imaginatively titled This is Sergio Franchi. The cover showed two sketchy drawings of the singer — a close-up and a waist-up action pose — against a very generic 70s-style design and typeface. When she could gain control of the family stereo, she would blast This is Sergio Franchi the way my brother would crank the volume on Physical Graffiti. This is Sergio Franchi earned a place in our family's all-inclusive record collection, even if it looked out of place among the many releases by Queen, Springsteen and Elton John. (Oh, my mom listened to those, too.)

Sergio Franchi appeared on the popular morning talk show Regis and Kathie Lee in 1989. It would prove to be his final TV appearance. Afterwards, during rehearsals for a show at South Shore Music Circus in Massachusetts, Sergio Franchi collapsed on stage. He was hospitalized and the remaining dates of his summer tour were canceled. Testing revealed a brain tumor and, despite treatments including radiation, Sergio passed away in May 1990 at the age of 64.

My mom, who was fighting her own battle with cancer, was crushed when she heard the news. When she returned home from her chemotherapy sessions, she played her copy of This is Sergio Franchi until the grooves in the vinyl wore flat.

My mom passed away in October 1991.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

safety dance

In 1920, the Chicago Motor Club and the St. Paul, Minnesota Police Department each created a program involving elementary school children acting as crossing guards and safety monitors at the city's public schools. With more and more automobiles on the roads, children's safety was becoming a major concern. With strong support from the Catholic archdiocese in St. Paul, a small squad of young volunteers were outfitted with badges and Sam Browne belts and were stationed at various locations along common walking routes to schools. With instruction from working traffic police officers, the young charges were tasked with maintaining a safe passage to and from school for the younger students. They took their positions very seriously and the other students offered their respect and obedience to these new "authority figures." Within a few years, other cities launched junior safety programs of their own, with support and backing from local automobile clubs and police departments. By the mid-1930s, Junior Safety Patrols formed in municipalities across the country with membership numbering over 11,000. Currently, the program boasts participation from over 50,000 schools nationwide... and girls are permitted entry to the once all-male ranks.

Thinkin' 'bout the times
you drove in my car
In 1949, 11-year old Marvin Klegman was assigned to noontime duty at Lowell Elementary in Tacoma, Washington. As he walked to his assigned post, just before noon, he felt the ground begin to rumble. He spotted second-grader Myrna Phelps in the school yard and instructed her to remain still and stay clear of the school building. Marvin ran inside the building as an earthquake began shaking the structure. He found kindergarten student Kelcy Allen alone in a hallway. Marvin led Kelcy outside to safety, but was unable to make it clear of the crumbling building. Marvin lay on top of Kelcy, shielding him from the shower of rubble. Marvin was killed but Kelcy and Myrna were saved due to the young safety officer's direction and quick action. While undoubtedly stirring, this, of course, was not typical of the Junior Safety Patrol.

When I was in elementary school in the 60s and early 70s, of course, there was a Junior Safety Patrol. Perhaps you have visions of obedient, fresh-faced young men sporting that white Sam Browne belt accented with a shiny silver badge. Maybe you are envisioning a confident young man standing attentively at a busy street corner, taking extra care to ensure the safety and well-being of the tiny younger students on their way to another informative day of public school education. If that's the mental picture you have when you think back about the Junior Safety Patrol of your youth, then you probably didn't go to elementary school with me.

Cream of the crop
There were no "Marvin Klegman"s in my neighborhood. If there was, I'm sure he would have been verbally pummeled with the same anti-Jewish rhetoric I was subjected to. My neighborhood was chockful of street tough boys, just a few years away from a full-blown life of crime. They were sneaky, lying, deceitful little bastards who thought nothing of shoplifting, stealing a bike, or rummaging through Mom's purse for a few unaccounted for dollar bills. They would regularly pick fights with friends, throw snowballs at passing cars and spew a nasty stream of racial epithets when the mood struck. It was from this cesspool of humanity that my elementary school had to select members for their Junior Safety Patrol. Left with no choice, school officials weeded through the dregs of the dregs and came up with the least offensive they could find... like naming the nicest Klansman. Their final choices were unsavory little shits who, once adorned with a badge and a modicum of jurisdiction, became power-drunk enforcers wielding their minuscule authority as though they were sanctioned by J. Edgar Hoover himself. Some roamed the school hallways with their chests puffed out, their arms swinging at their sides and a snarl on their lips, silently daring anyone to challenge them. Others were assigned to "keep order" on the school buses on the morning commute as well as on the ride home in the afternoon. They would pace the center aisle of the bus, gripping the edge of every seat as they passed. They'd glare at the small, intimidated occupants of each seat with a beady-eyed threatening stare. Sometimes they'd stop at a seat where two trembling lower-class students were sitting. The "safety" (as they were colloquially named) would announce some trumped-up accusation ("You were talking too loud during announcements" or "You stood up while the bus was in motion"). As the scared student fought back tears, the "safety" would point an accusing finger in their direction and seethe though clenched teeth: "You're going up!" This was a threat that no one wanted to hear. "You're going up!" meant that once the bus arrived at school you would be taken straight to the principal's office — do not pass GO!, do not collect two-hundred dollars. It was a promise that was rarely — if ever — carried out. "Safeties" were just as scared of the school's principal as other students were. But, they didn't want you to know that. Instead, they behaved as though they were special agents, working on behalf of the principal's master plan of a tight grip on every student at his school. But, if the principal passed them in the hallway, they would choke up with paranoia just like everyone else. (Kind of like being followed by a police car and knowing you've done nothing wrong.) I don't know anyone who was taken by a "safety" to see the principal, but I witnessed numerous threats. (In reality, the principal was an easy-going, not remotely intimidating guy who enjoyed playing street baseball with the neighborhood kids, some of whom were my brother's friends.)

On the last day of school, I was riding the bus home for my final time as a fourth grader. I remained quiet for most of the ride. Suddenly a "safety" named Danny, an older boy from my neighborhood who — on several occasions — had levied some anti-Semitic comments in my direction, stopped at my seat and told me: "On Monday, you're going up!" My lower lip began to tremble and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. Just then, one of my older brother's friends reminded me that this was the last day of school and there were no more "Mondays" left in the year. He added, reassuringly, that there was no way Danny would remember his unfounded threat three months from now when school resumed. I sighed with relief. Sure enough, my first September as a fifth grade student was unspoiled by a trip to the principal's office.

However, years later, Danny stole my bike.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

trouble-free transmission helps your oil flow

I will happily and openly admit that I don't know the first thing about cars. Sure, I know how to drive a car and I know how to put gas in a car, but that's about where my knowledge ends. This, despite working in the marketing department of Pep Boys — one of the country's leading auto parts dealers — is the cold hard (and, yes, embarrassing) truth. Anything further than turning the key in the... the.... uh... key turner thing and fueling up, I have to consult an expert. 

A few weeks ago (it may have even been a few months ago), the MAINT REQD on my car's dashboard began a constant illumination after just merely blinking when I started by car for my morning commute or when I was about to drive home after work. So, like any other car owner who has been in possession of his car for nearly two decades, I ignored it. Every day, I would see that light — those nine glowing capital letters — in my peripheral vision. Taunting me. Mocking me. Forcing my mind to begin to conjure up horror stories about burning out my engine (that's a thing, right?). I thought I should probably get ready to begin thinking about calling my regular mechanic to schedule an oil change. This is some sort of regular maintenance that needs to be done to cars, although (as we have already established) I don't have the slightest inkling as to what is does. I do know that while my car is in my mechanic's shop, he always seems to find something else that requires payment above the forty bucks that an oil change sets me back. I shiver at the notion of dropping my car off the night before the appointment and make arraignments to drive my wife's car to work, leaving her without a car all day, until my car is finished being serviced, after which my mechanic will sometimes drop my car off at my house. Sometimes, he asks me to leave the keys in the car — unlocked — and he'll come by my house in the morning and pick my car up. I am not comfortable with leaving an open invitation to have my car taken for the convenience of my mechanic. Needless to say, getting service for my car is not a smooth task. It's a rather complicated and inconvenient one, as a matter of fact. To make things even more difficult, my mechanic's shop is not open on weekends. I don't like to be inconvenienced and I really don't like to cause inconvenience for my wife. (Plus, I really don't like driving her car.) I decided to make other arrangements for paying someone forty or so dollars to turn off the MAINT REQD light on my dashboard. Oh yeah.... and get an oil change while they're at it.

A quick Google search revealed a Jiffy Lube a short drive from my house. I had been to Jiffy Lubes (or similar establishments) before. The experience as I recall, was less than enjoyable. I remember being unjustly pressured and "upsold" on unfamiliar car components and services that exponentially increased the cost of the standard advertised low base price for an oil change. I remember sitting in their dirty little waiting room and being approached by a grease-smeared guy in coveralls wielding a soot-caked piece of equipment he had removed from my car. With stern yet plaintive eyes, he explained that this "cabin diffuser" or "air condenser filter" or whatever the fuck it was, needed replacement or my car would burst into flames upon the next start-up, much the way Michael Corleone's Sicilian wife met her demise in The Godfather. With no choice but to agree to a new do-hickey, another sixty-seven-fifty was added to my bill. Minutes later, the same guy would return with possibly the same dirt-encrusted part, only this time, he was calling it by a different name. After delivering the same spiel — word for word from the corporate playbook, Chapter 6 Paragraph 3 on "How to Convince a Customer to Buy Something They Don't Need" — another double digits were tacked on to my running total. By the time I got out of there, the introductory price was now in triple figures and I was late for work. Many years and many cars later, I was ready to give Jiffy Lube another chance.

This location's posted hours showed they opened at seven o'clock on Saturday morning. After a quick cup of coffee, I was pulling in to the driveway of Jiffy Lube a little after seven. Behind the large, windowed garage doors, I saw one fellow wandering around the service area. I waited. I didn't honk my horn. I just waited. I knew he saw me. I was the only car there. He apparently reached for a switch and came towards my car, ducking his head as he exited under the rising door. I lowered my window. The young man in Jiffy Lube-logoed coveralls explained that his boss had left to pick up other workers and that he was not authorized to bring customers into the building. His speech was polite and very rehearsed. He was a mechanic, much more accustomed to applying a wrench to a bolt or tightening a valve or checking a dipstick. He seemed uncomfortable using words like "authorized" and pronounced it as though it was the first time he ever used it in a sentence. I smiled and said I would be happy to wait, asking approximately how long he expected my wait to last. He shrugged, adding that his boss only left a minute earlier. 

My wait was less than ten minutes, during which I fiddled with my phone. Soon, several more coverall-clad men joined my first contact and I was finally directed into the facility with a silent series of hand gestures denoting steering adjustments to be made so as not to dip one of my wheels into the oblong hole cut into the cement floor that would allow some unseen technician access to the underside of my car. Once given the "open palms forward" universal sign for "STOP," another guy leaned into my open driver's side window and greeted me with a memorized and approved Jiffy Lube greeting. This fellow sounded equally as awkward delivering speeches as required by his employer, but he made the most of it. I was handed a rubber-insulated iPad into which I entered my name and addresses of both the home and e-mail variety. I was asked to release the hood lock and I watched as my car's hood was raised, thus blocking my view through the windshield. I was able to observe the ensuing service though the small space between the raised hood's hinges. I could see hands inserting hoses and funnels into unseen tanks and reservoirs within the bowels of my car's engine. I could feel my car shake and shimmy as someone below me was giving the underside of my car what could only be described as an automotive rectal exam.

I sat silently behind the steering wheel, only answering the one or two questions directed to me. The first was what sort of oil I preferred. Knowing full well that the answer better not be "canola," I stupidly asked what my choices were, as though an offered selection would mean anything to my limited automotive knowledge. One of the technicians showed me a screen on the iPad with pictures of different Pennzoil products — all in bright yellow containers. (Obviously Pennzoil is the parent company of Jiffy Lube.) I pointed to the yellow container with the lowest dollar amount printed underneath it. The mechanic acknowledged my decision and disappeared. The next time someone spoke to me was when I was asked to "Start my vehicle." This request came from my first contact who spoke the word "vehicle" in the same unsure tone he used when he said "authorized" earlier in the morning. [Can't I just say "car?" No! No! Our research has determined that customers feel more at ease and will spend more money if we call their cars "vehicles." So, you will say "vehicles." Never, ever use "the C word."

When the hood of my car slammed shut, I knew my service had come to an end. The second mechanic (who took my identifying information), told me my total. I replied that I had a coupon and fumbled with my phone to show him the screenshot that I had taken. I held it out so he could scan the barcode on the coupon, He wasn't interested. He just noted the $13 discount and reduced the bill accordingly. Well, things certainly had changed since my last Jiffy Lube experience. No more dirty waiting room. I never left my car.... er, vehicle. No more pressured upselling. No more displaying of suspect parts needing replacement. Just a flat $44 bill and I was asked to pull out of the building and my credit card receipt would be brought out to me. 

With a little direction for my first contact, I pulled out of the building and waited. The guy thanked me for my business. I quickly asked him if he was able to turn off the MAINT REQD light on my dashboard. After all, that was the real reason I just spent $44, a reasonable cost for eliminating that little annoyance. He looked at me and said: "YouTube." "What?," I countered, trying to confirm if what I just heard was, indeed, instruction to go to YouTube on my own. He continued. "There are so many cars and years and models. Just go to YouTube and find out how to do it for your car."

I sort of chuckled politely and said "Oh, thank goodness for YouTube, huh?," but I couldn't believe what I was hearing. However, I wasn't about to argue. That would be pointless. Obviously, he was not interested in getting that light turned off. Surprisingly, he pulled out his own phone and began searching YouTube for the proper instructional video himself. Just then, another mechanic brought out my receipt and asked his colleague what he was searching for. When he was informed of my simple request to turn off that dashboard warning light, he turned to me and, as politely as a first grader asking for permission to leave the classroom, he asked if he could sit in the driver's seat of my car for a brief moment. I relinquished my car to his mechanical expertise. I could see him making pressing and turning motions and not fifteen seconds had passed when he stood up and said: "All done. Thanks for coming in." I returned to my car and saw the light was no longer glowing. Mission accomplished. 

My newly oil-changed, MAINT REQD light-dimmed car took me home. In a jiffy.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

beach baby

In 1963, producer Sam Arkoff created the "beach party" movie genre. With inspiration from the popular Gidget films and the obscure Love in a Goldfish Bowl, Arkoff signed teen idol Frankie Avalon and Disney dream girl Annette Funicello to appear in the imaginatively-named Beach Party, released by Arkoff's AIP studios in late summer 1963. With the pre-established formula of teens, bathing suits, music and a simple plot thrown in there somewhere, Beach Party was a surprise hit. It spawned eleven more films using the same premise, if not the same locale. The action in most took place on the beach, but some were set in a winter ski lodge and others on the blacktop of an auto race track. However, all were chock full of hunky boys on surfboards and cute girls in bikinis (except, of course, Annette, under strict orders from Walt Disney). They featured music from the top trendy bands of the day, including Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, "Little" Stevie Wonder, Bobby Fuller Four, The Hondells and a slew of one-hit wonders. There was also a roster of popular comedians and actors known for their work in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Buster Keaton, Don Rickles, Keenan Wynn and even Oscar winner Dorothy Malone had no problem lowering themselves to the sophomoric level of writing and humor of these films. They were, indeed, a hoot!

And, boy, do I love them!

Of course, because Hollywood has a nasty habit of rehashing popular ideas, Arkoff's beach series gave other studios the cue to make their own entries into the genre, hoping to cash in on AIP's success. Just recently, I watched United Artists' attempt at making a "beach movie." The film — entitled For Those Who Think Young — is a mess. Just a mess.

Released in July 1964, between AIP's Muscle Beach Party and Bikini BeachFor Those Who Think Young wasn't really well thought out. Sure, it checks all the right boxes (Boys, girls, beach, music, Paul Lynde), but it lacks the endearing quality of the AIP films. Say what you will about the Frankie/Annette movies. They may be silly. They may have sub-par acting, but they do have plots. Paper-thin, yes, but plots, just the same. And they stick with those plots until the story is resolved. For a 90 minute feature, there is about 20 minutes worth of plot, allowing plenty of room for dancing on the beach, comical mugging from Buster Keaton and Mickey Rooney and a song or two from the two lead actors. But everything is neatly and satisfyingly summed up by the film's conclusion. And there's even enough time for another song and waving "bye-bye" to the viewing audience.

For Those Who Think Young
starts off with good intentions. Good-looking James Darren is chasing pretty Pamela Tiffin (obviously, Shelley Fabares wasn't available, so they got someone who looks like her), much to the dismay of her over-protective uncle. All that is laid out in the first five minutes. Then, somewhere along the way, the plot is abandoned. There is a disjointed subplot involving a romance between Bob Denver and Nancy Sinatra. Suddenly, a major shift is made that makes Tiffin's uncle, played by up-and-coming comedian Woody Woodbury, the lead character. James Darren and Pamela Tiffin disappear for long periods of time, taking their storyline with them. Meanwhile, Woodbury monopolizes the screen with a little help from Paul Lynde and a pre-Ginger Tina Louise as a stripper. As the film winds to a close, character actor Robert Middleton is revealed to be an underhanded villain of some sort. He is outed, disgraced and everybody sings... and drinks Pepsi. Yep, at the time, "For Those Who Think Young" was the current advertising slogan for the Number Two cola company. At times, the movie feels like an extended commercial for the soft drink, made apparent by the blatant product placement. See?.... a mess.

The actors are all fine. Bob Denver, just a few months prior to ingratiating himself as everyone's favorite hapless first mate, provides some comic moments as James Darren's valet. Nancy Sinatra, in a brunette wig, is a foil for Denver's antics, otherwise, she is essentially a prop. Claudia Martin (Dean's daughter) is included in the bevy of girls. I suppose when Dino heard that Ol' Blue Eyes' progeny was cast, know. Paul Lynde is... well... Paul Lynde. He mugs for the camera, chews the scenery and delivers his dialogue like he's giving an audition for his role as Samantha Stephens' "Uncle Arthur." (Ironically, the AIP beach movies were predominantly directed by Bewitched showrunner William Asher.) Tina Louise acts as though she is giving a performance worthy of Academy Award consideration. Woody Woodbury, the true star of the movie, is a typical hack comedian. He made a handful of movies after FTWTY and, at 98 years old, still offers a stand-up act in a Florida comedy club.

I usually have a high tolerance for bad movies. I can sit through some real clunkers. Some of my favorites are some really bad movies that I can watch over and over again.

For Those Who Think Young will not be joining their ranks. I have already deleted it from my DVR queue.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

a matter of trust

If you are an avid and long-time reader of this blog (and why wouldn't you be?), you know that I am not particularly fond of the word "amazing." Well, to be more specific, the overuse of the word "amazing." It's a perfectly good word when used correctly, that is, to identify something that is truly — as the good folks at Merriam-Webster put it — "causing astonishment, great wonder, or surprise." In my opinion, that really applies to rare and impressive feats of science, like open heart surgery or building and later docking at the international Space Station. Unfortunately, the impact of describing something as "amazing" has been diluted once it had been attached to a really good plate of spaghetti or your kid bringing home an "A" on a book report.

Well, in the roster of "Things That Bug the Shit Out of Josh Pincus," please add the phrase "trust me." I hate — I mean positively hate — when I hear someone say "trust me."

Trust is a very strong, yet very fragile thing. It takes years to earn someone's trust. First, you have to get to know a person. Know their personality, their way of thinking, their beliefs, their morals, their behavior. You have to understand the way they handle certain situations and only then can you truly trust them. However, once that trust is broken, it will take a very, very long time to reinstate it — if it is able to be reinstated at all. If you trust someone and you catch them lying — even it is about something not remotely related to your trusting situation, their trust has gone right out the window. You think, "If they lied about this, then what else are they lying about...and can I ever trust them not to lie again?"

With that in mind, I cringe when I hear a perfect stranger or remote acquaintance say "trust me." Sometimes a little knowing wink is added to seal the asserted trust. Are you kidding me? Why on earth should I trust someone I just met, don't know and is trying to sell me something or influence my beliefs? "Trust me" implies some expertise - presented without any sort of qualification - on a particular topic or item. Some inside information that won't be shared. Just accept the "trust me" diclaimer as a guarantee that this researched knowledge exists. That will suffice. 

I see the phrase "trust me" appear a lot on many Facebook posts regarding movies, restaurants, vacation destinations or any number of things where an opinion is more suited that a statement of unwarranted trust. "We went to this restaurant and you do not want to get the pineapple upside-down cake — trust me!" Why? Why should I trust you, person on Facebook? Perhaps I would like the pineapple upside-down cake despite the fact that you didn't? Why should this be a trust issue? Am I not permitted to form my own opinion? Do you need to have everyone heed your pineapple upside-down cake decree?

When I was a teenager, I went to Walt Disney World with three of my friends. Actually, I went with two of my friends and a guy who was a friend-of-a-friend. It was the first visit to the famed theme park for everyone except the friend-of-a-friend. He had been before and fancied himself the expert. He took this opportunity to appoint himself "Official Tour Guide," pointing out things we should not miss and things we should skip. As we approached to queue line for the Enchanted Tiki Room, he waved his hand dismissively and loudly stated, "Oh, you don't want to go in there.... trust me." So, we trusted him and continued to walk past the entrance. A year later, we went to Disney World again, this time with a different fourth person. It took a year before we were able to experience the joyful attraction where "the birds sing words and the flowers croon" — thanks to someone I didn't really know telling me to "trust" them.

It is interesting to note that the people you should trust are the ones who don't tell you to trust them. They don't have to tell you to trust them. They don't have to tell you anything. Why should they? Trust is an unspoken bond between people. Once you are told by someone to "trust them," a question of their trust immediately registers. Why? Why are you reminding me to trust you? Is there an issue with your trustworthiness? 

Think about who tells you to trust them...
  • Politicians - There's not a trustworthy one that ever lived.
  • Salespeople (specifically those trying to sell you a car).
  • A guy on TV telling you the kitchen appliance he's offering will replace every other appliance in your kitchen.
  • Restaurant waitstaff - A confidentially-imparted note of trust on a particular menu item usually means the kitchen made to too much and the waitstaff were given instructions to push it on customers.
  • Facebook "friends" you have never actually met.... and in some cases, Facebook friends you have actually met. In this instance, the tried and true process of gaining trust should be employed.

But... for goodness sakes.... don't take my word for it.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

i've been searching so long

Many, many years ago, when my son was little, he and I were in a nearby location of a local chain of home improvement and hardware stores. (When I say "many years ago," I am not exaggerating. My son is nearly 35 years old and the chain closed is last remaining store in 1999.) I rarely venture in to these types of stores, as I don't know the first thing about "home renovations" and "DIY" (aside from that song by Peter Gabriel). Anything more complicated than changing a light bulb will have me phoning someone who regularly straps on a toolbelt before leaving the house.

On this particular trip to the home improvement store, I was probably in search of lightbulbs. But, for some reason that I cannot remember, I was also looking for a simple wire fence that I could put around some flower beds in my yard. If I am not mistaken, Mrs. Pincus had seen them earlier in the week and described them in detail so I could find them in the store. The thing is, if they weren't front and center in a huge featured display in the front of the store, I was going to have a difficult time finding them. You see, I have a personal policy when it comes to shopping. I never — and I mean never, ever ever — ask any employee in any store where a particular item is located. My feeling is justified and I listed the following reasons when I imparted this code to my son.
  1. Employees in stores have no idea where anything in their store is located.
  2. Employees don't care where anything in their store is located.
  3. Employees in stores are not interested in what you are looking for and they don't care if you ever find what you are looking for.
However, after not finding the garden fence in question prominently displayed as soon as I walked through the front entrance, I spotted a young man wearing a nametag and a royal blue apron identifying him as an employees of the store. Against my better judgement, I approached him and asked if he could tell me where the garden fence was stocked, particularly and I launched into a detailed description of the fence, separating my hands to approximate the length and width of each fence section and noting that each piece was embellished with small plastic flowers. The nametagged-and-aproned young man stared at me with a lifeless expression, as though my entire dissertation was delivered in a language other than his native tongue. When I finished speaking, I waited — hopefully — for a helpful, informative response. One that would point me in the direction of the store's vast garden fence department. Instead, his slackened jaw opened just wide enough to say: "Uh, we don't carry that."

I looked at him. I decided not to repeat what I had just asked with even more detail, perhaps some more description that he may have missed in my initial explanation. No. I just walked away. My son and I were going to find the garden fence on our own. We wandered towards the back of the store and located a giant directional sign pointing the way to an outdoor garden department. When the automatic doors parted, the first thing we saw — piled to the ceiling — was an enormous display of the garden fence fitting the description of what my wife explained to me... and what I had just explained to the young man with the nametag and apron. My son and I marveled at the display, shaking our heads as we gathered a dozen or so sections of fence. As we headed to the cash register area, we passed the young man with the nametag and apron. 

"Hey!," I said to him, "The fence is back in the garden department." He looked at me as though he had not seen and spoken with me less than five minutes earlier. After looking at me — silently — for as much time as he deemed necessary, he disappeared down an aisle, no doubt in an effort to avoid any more human contact, be it customer or supervisor.

Yesterday, over a quarter of a century later, my wife went to kill some time in Walmart while I got my haircut at a salon across the street. She made a small list of some things that she knew — for a fact — could be purchased at the mighty retail giant because she had purchased those items there before. There was one item on her list that she was not sure if Walmart carried. Wandering around the store, Mrs. P asked a young woman in an identifying Walmart vest if she could help. She asked the young employee if they carried "craft glue." The woman stared blankly at my wife. "I don't know what that is.," she confessed. Now there are items that, I'll admit, are curiously named. A Philips screwdriver for instance. Explaining this to someone who is not familiar with tools could prove difficult. There are some plumbing components that have misleading names like a "j-bend," "p-trap" or the mysteriously named "ballcock." But "craft glue" is fairly self-explanatory if you understand the meaning of those two words separately... like "chocolate milk." My wife asked a more general question. "Does the store have a craft department?" The question was met with a puzzled expression from the employee. "You know," my wife elaborated, "like glitter and sewing stuff?" The young employee perked up, as she knew the answer to this one. "Yes!," she said, "Yes we do!" 

Well if you know there is a craft department and you just heard the word "craft" in the name of the thing I am looking for... oh never mind.

Mrs. P found the craft glue on her own.

My policy stands firm.