Sunday, December 25, 2022

revolution 9

I have become pretty active on Instagram. I've been active on social media for some time now, but recently Instagram has taken a big leap over my previously favored platform, the now-vile, politically-charged garbage heap known as Twitter. Sure, I spend waaaay too much time on Facebook (Hey! Who doesn't?), but Instagram has become more... oh, I don't know.... sociable?!?! I find it easier to post  and it's more receptive to creativity, specifically with its stickers and text and music accompaniments. I have been enjoying the enhancements that Instagram allows as far as posting my daily celebrity death anniversaries. And because I fancy myself as an artist (I know, some of you might debate that claim...), I'm always looking for new outlets for creativity. Plus, Instagram is the perfect forum to display my admittedly skewed sense of humor and my love of old television shows. So it's a win-win-win!

A few years ago, Instagram started this end-of-year thing where it allows — or even encourages — the posting of a nine-image collage consisting of one's nine most favored or "favorited" posts from the previous year. With the assistance of several third-party apps, a collage is created — available for downloading, posting and eager for comments. Other internet services have jumped on the "year in review" opportunity, with folks posting their annual granular breakdown of listening habits via Spotify, Pandora and other music-streaming platforms of which I don't use. (Yep, I still listen to the radio.) Instagram's "Best Nine" apps were clunky at first, but have since been reworked and a suitable-for-posting compilation is ready in just a few minutes.

I did mine for 2022 a few days ago and I am posting it here before I post it to Instagram. (Oooh!  JPiC exclusive content! And you don't even have to be a Patreon member!) In past years, I got just a random mish-mash sampling of disjointed and unrelated posts from the previous year. This year, however, I was intrigued by how spot-on my selections were. Of course, there are drawings. I suppose the majority of my Instagram posts are drawings. After all, I like to draw. But the five chosen drawings featured three dead celebrities and quotes from two that are still with us. If you have been following me for any length of time, you know about my affinity for dead celebrities and propensity to immortalize them in my little corner of the internet. Also two drawings are in black & white, two are in color and one is in limited color — a very accurate overview of how I work. 

In addition to the drawings, there are photographs. I post a lot of photographs on my Instagram account. A good portion of my photographs are freeze-frame screenshots if my television. I watch an inordinate amount of television and I see a lot of cool, interesting and unusual stuff (well... to me anyway) and I feel compelled to share them. In this year's "top nine," there are two pictures from television. One is from an old TV show and one is not. The former is a scene from a 1962 episode of The Andy Griffith Show. The scene features a young Barbara Eden, three years before her iconic role as the mischievous bottle-dweller on the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. I love to spot actors and actresses in unlikely appearances outside of a role for which they became famous. And I love to share them with the people who, like me, are fascinated by this sort of thing... all six of you. The other television photo is from a news report on CNN. I don't remember what the story was about, but I was startled by the fact that the reporter bore an uncanny resemblance to They Might Be Giants guitarist John Flansburgh. And that needed to be shared, too.

The two remaining pictures rounding out my "top nine" are a picture of our dining room table laden with a tempting array of home-baked goodies prepared by my wife, the celebrated Mrs. P. This picture, taken just prior to the onslaught of guests coming to our annual Night Before Thanksgiving Dessert Party, shows the results of a single day of baking (that's right! a single day!) and how Mrs. P makes it look so easy. (Spoiler Alert: It is not easy.) This photo is similar to other photos taken of past year's gatherings, however this one was snapped before our 38th one. These have been going on every year — uninterrupted, even by a pandemic! — for well over a quarter of a century.

The last picture is my favorite. It was taken at this past summer's XPoNetial Music Festival (presented by Subaru), a yearly outdoor music festival held over three days on the Camden waterfront — one of the few beautiful things about Camden, New Jersey. The picture shows me (uncharacteristically wearing a hat) with my two favorite people in the entire world — my wife and my son. And there's no one with whom I would rather spend three days out in the sun, listening to music and surrounded by thousands of people than these two.

I don't know why I was so taken by this little visual glimpse into the world of Josh Pincus. I just was. And, to be honest, it's hard to write a new blog post every week.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

pretzel logic

Recently, I was talking to a friend about our respective jobs. I noted that — after forty years — I finally have the job I was looking for. One that allows me to earn a living and not give it a second thought once I leave for the day. No pressure. No meetings. No bosses with nothing to do all day leaning over my shoulder. No unnecessary or unrealistic goals. No disruptive co-workers. Is it the best job I've ever had? (and I have had a lot!) No. That would be the first job I ever had.

After I had outgrown setting up a Kool-Aid stand on the cement apron of the driveway of my parent's house, I was recruited by my brother Max's friend Gerb to join the ranks of a little business enterprise he had started and was trying to grow. Gerb (that's pronounced with a hard "G") was a tall, lanky jovial guy with a giant shock of curly hair and a keen entrepreneurial mindset. Max told me that Gerb had a crew of kids about my age (that would be 14) set up in various, carefully selected locations throughout Northeast Philadelphia, selling soft pretzels. Soft pretzels are a staple food in Philadelphia, so they would — no doubt — sell like hotcakes! (Is that what they call a "mixed metaphor?") To this day, I still describe Philadelphia soft pretzels as "my kryptonite." Many people in the City of Brotherly Love feel the same.

Without even asking, Max volunteered me to join up with this little venture. Honestly, I didn't object. School was out for the summer and, at 14, I certainly could use a little extra money. After all, comic books and pizza didn't buy themselves. So, it was settled and I was officially among the gainfully employed. This was also my opportunity to help my brother out. He had been friends with Gerb for some time, but he didn't know his actual name. Everyone just called him "Gerb." Coincidentally, I went to school with Gerb's younger brother, who was also called "Gerb," but I knew that his real name was "Howard." I could only assume that the elder Gerb had a real name as well.

Early one summer Saturday, Gerb pulled up in front of my house in his tan Camaro. He honked the horn a couple of times and I bounded out of the house, ready for my first day of selling pretzels. I brought a big insulated jug of my mom's "world famous" iced tea to keep a potential mid-day thirst at bay. I also brought a peanut butter sandwich — in a bag stuffed in my pocket — that was in the process of being violently disfigured as I took a seat in the passenger's side of Gerb's car. Gerb — with a big grin on his friendly face — drummed on the steering wheel as he drove me out to my chosen spot. He explained the simple procedure of selling pretzels and how much to charge. "When someone asks the price," he began, "tell them 'four for fifty.' That way you have a better chance of selling four pretzels at one time." Always thinking, this guy Gerb! He gave me a stack of brown paper bags, the kind my mom would pack my school lunch in and the kind I was involuntarily mangling in my pocket at this very moment. I was instructed to fill a dozen or so bags with four pretzels each and have them ready to go for customers, the majority of whom I'd be doing business with through their driver's side window. You see, my little retail outlet was a card table set up on an eight-foot-wide median strip of a rather busy neighborhood thoroughfare.

Gerb pulled up to said median and set his four-way hazard flashers on. He hopped out of the car and I did the same, grabbing the flattened card table from the back seat. He popped open his trunk and removed a large plank of discarded faux wood paneling upon which rested a pile of soft pretzels, connected in the baking process in long rows, stacked on top of one another. I quickly extended the legs of the table and Gerb plopped the plank of pretzels on its surface with a thud. He jammed his hands in his pockets and extracted a fistful of change. "Here," he said, "this should get you started." He jumped back into his car and, as he drove off, he said, "I'll be back around three to pick you up. Good luck." And off he went.

And there I was.

I immediately started bagging four pretzels at a time, as I was instructed. Cars zoomed by me on both sides and it was a little jarring at first. Within a minute or two, a car pulled up and the driver barked, "How much?" in my direction. Startled, I meekly replied, "Um...four for.... um... fifty." I struggled as I tried to remember all of the simple directions Gerb imparted to me. "Gimme four," the driver said and he waved a dollar in my direction. I handed him a bag, took his dollar and fished two quarters out of my pocket from the supply of coins Gerb gave me. The whole exchange took about 60 seconds. Shit! This was gonna be easy!

And to be honest, it was.

In Philadelphia, pretzels practically sell themselves. Everyone in this city grew up eating them. For goodness sake, I loved them! They are delicious, convenient, easy to handle and available all over the place. And buying them from some kid standing on a median strip in the middle of Bustleton Avenue wasn't the least bit odd in 1975. That summer was great. Gerb picked me up every morning at my house and came by around three in the afternoon the collect me, the table and the empty hunk of paneling... because I always sold out. Always. The days were filled with an interesting assortment of characters, including my current Social Studies teacher (who, at first, scared me, but became a daily customer) and a driver from a nearby funeral home who stopped to inquire the price of my salt-and dough wares while transporting a casket in the back of his vehicle... with a long procession of funeral attendees behind him. I witnessed accidents, police chases, terrible drivers and even a fist fight. It was more excitement than a 14-year old could take.... and I loved every minute of it.

Before the summer ended, Gerb decided to move on to bigger and better pastures. He sold his business to Jeff, another one of Max's friends. I wasn't too keen on this new guy. He seemed to only be interested in the money, as the first thing he did was raise the prices a full quarter. This cut down on business and angered those regular customers who had been paying less just a day before. One morning when he picked me up, I told Jeff that this would be my last day.

After that, I worked in a slew of jobs in retail stores for bosses who were assholes. After attending art school, I worked in a slew of jobs in my chosen field for bosses who were also assholes.

I still love pretzels though and, every winter, I wear this scarf to remind me how much I do.

Available from your pals at South Fellini.

By the way, Gerb's name was Rob.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

i've got a lovely bunch of coconuts

I was a picky eater when I was a kid. My father would often accuse me of only limiting my food intake to pizza. (To be honest, he wasn't that far off.) My mother would regularly accompany meals with all sorts of vegetables. With the exception of corn and potatoes, I would not eat the vegetables my mother tried to push on me. Potatoes, in any form, were just mere steps away from French fries... and I loved French fries. Corn... well, corn was corn and as that young man in the latest You Tube viral video has confirmed "It's corn!" But, those others....? Yeesh! I wouldn't touch 'em with a ten-foot fork. No amount of butter or salt or anything would get me to like string beans.

As I got older, my eating habits changed. Considerably. I ate salad, something I would customarily slide over to my mother's side of the table when dining in a restaurant. I ate broccoli, granted it had to be mixed in a spicy sauce and served with a plate full of other chopped up ingredients within the cozy and mysterious confines of a Chinese restaurant. I still pick sliced tomatoes off of a hoagie, but I will happily consume the lettuce and onion, an act unheard of when I was a child. My wife often marvels at my evolved eating habits, commenting, "Your mother would be so proud of you!" I'm pretty sure she would.

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a pretty disparaging piece about raisins and my dislike of them. I was convinced that there was a universal conspiracy to get people to eat raisins. Not to necessarily like raisins, just to eat them. I observed that raisins were covertly snuck into various foods in a effort to get them eaten. They had to be hidden in bread and noodle casseroles and cakes. The name of a particular dish could not include the actual word "raisin," for fear no one would eat it. So, things like "cinnamon rolls" were never identified as "raisin cinnamon roils." "Coffee cake" was similarly ambiguous about all of its components. Even for the tiniest amount of raisins, they'll say: "You can't even taste the raisins!" It's like the people who say: "I know it's a Jim Carrey movie, but you'll like it." It's still has Jim Carrey in it! Only "raisin bread" appears ballsy enough to put its most reviled ingredient first in its name. Obviously, that was for those other people. You know, the ones proliferating the whole "raisin agenda." But, I hereby rescind my stance on raisins. I like them. I eat them. I concede that they are not among my favorite foods, but I no longer gag when I discover one in a bite of baked good, nor to I make a little pile of them on the side of my plate when politely eating something that contains them.

However, there is one food I will never ever ever happily eat. They say " never say never." Well, I'm saying never. And I'm talking about you, coconut. Coconut is horrible! Just horrible. I know, I know. All you coconut lovers will disagree with me. Look, I've had coconut. I believe I am still chewing coconut I ate when I was nine. It is a taste and mouth sensation on the same level as root canal. No, I take that back. I've had several root canal procedures. Eating coconut is worse. I have become so highly sensitive to coconut that I can tell if someone said the word "coconut" while they were preparing a dish I am eating. When I was a kid and would return from a night of Halloween trick-or-treating, I would pull out all of the coconut based candy from my bag and try to make trades with my brother (he actually liked coconut - eeech!) If a trade could not be agreed upon — fuck it! — I'd just give him the goddamn coconut rather that have it mixed in with my nominal candy haul. When I took my son out for Halloween, I taught him to say "trick or treat" and "nothing with coconut." When he got a little older and developed an actual fondness for coconut (whose kid are you?), my days of ransacking his Halloween spoils had ended.

Not a cow.

A few years ago, based on the advice of a doctor, I began eating breakfast on a daily basis. This was a meal that I skipped for most of my adult life. But after a series of vasovagal syncopes, my doctor recommended that I eat breakfast every morning to combat the feeling of hunger during the day, thereby preventing future fainting episodes. So, every morning, before I leave for work, I pour myself a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. Nothing extravagant and no actual cooking is involved. I always make sure there is milk in the house, a regular requirement that lapsed after my son moved out on his own. One day, a year or so ago, my son suggested that I switch to almond milk, citing its health benefits. He explained that dairy-based milk is passé. I was hesitant at first, but, once I tasted almond milk, I was hooked. The "unsweetened" variety has no discernable taste and, I believe, is lower in calories than the stuff that comes from mistreated cows. So almond milk it is... and has been for some time now.

Last week, after seeing that the current supply of almond milk was running low, I added it to our running shopping list. During the day, Mrs Pincus went to the supermarket and purchased everything on said list. The next morning, I began my daily ritual of turning on the Keurig, getting a bowl from the kitchen cabinet, getting cereal from a different kitchen cabinet and grabbing the carton of almond milk from the refrigerator. I grabbed the newly purchased almond milk, removed the safety seal and poured an amount over the waiting Honey Nut Cheerios in my bowl  just like I've done on countless mornings. I picked up the bowl and mug and headed upstairs for some classic TV reruns before I left for work. I plopped myself down on the sofa, flicked on the TV and put the first heaping spoonful of cereal in my mouth.

Something was..... off.

I looked in the bowl. Was the cereal stale? Had something gotten into it? Was this the same cereal I had yesterday... because it tasted okay then. Was the milk bad? Was it past its printed expiration date? I sniffed the bowl. I'm not sure was result I was expecting. I sure looked okay. I tasted it again. Yep. Still tasted... off.  I went downstairs to the kitchen to check the carton of almond milk. I bounded down the stairs. I opened refrigerator, removed the new carton of almond milk and examined the label. just under the word "almond" was the phrase "coconut blend." It was mocking me. I could vaguely hear that phrase laughing at me with the maniacal fervor of Cesar Romero's "Joker" from the classic Batman TV series. "HA! HA! HA! YOU CONSUMED COCONUT, YOU UNSUSPECTING FOOL!," it said, as I pictured Romero's lavender-gloved hands clapping with glee and his pancaked face grinning with malevolent accomplishment. And like a dejected Batman, whose arch-villain had just gotten the best of me, I silently fumed. I went back upstairs to  reluctantly  finish my breakfast.

That vile almond-coconut milk blend lasted about ten days. I was determined to use it up. Throwing it away would have been childish. I toughed it out. I hated it. Every minute of it. But I poured it over my cereal every day until the carton was empty. Every day, its repulsive taste of coconut ruined my cereal, filled my mouth and laughed like the Joker. But I was going to show coconut that I was the better man. And when the final drop of almond-coconut milk blend fell from the plastic spout into my bowl, I had won. It didn't kill me. It made me stronger.

And a little nauseous.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

liquored up and lacquered down

I don't drink alcohol. I used to, when I was much younger. I never used a fake ID, like a lot of my contemporaries. To be honest, I didn't think it was necessary, as the legal drinking age in New Jersey was 18 when I turned 18... and New Jersey was just a short drive and a ten-cent bridge toll from my house. Prior to that, I drank in several New Jersey establishments that almost never asked to see anyone's ID. As long as you laid low and didn't draw any attention to yourself, an underage drinker, like myself, could happily be served all the cheap beer they could consume. And — save for a few harrowing, cringe-worthy incidents — my friends and I knew our limits.

In the summer of  1979, I turned 18. Just after graduation from high school, a couple of friends and I spent a few days in Atlantic City. After securing a room in our favorite shitty rooming house, I headed out to make my first legal purchase of alcohol at a liquor store. My friend Alan would not turn 18 for another month and my friend Scott had to wait until the following January, but Josh was here to make sure their alcohol consumption was free-flowing  and uninterrupted. We approached the front entrance of Chelsea Liquors and I pulled open the door. Alan and Scott stayed behind, peering through the glass of the front window like two puppies waiting for their owner to return with treats. Chelsea Liquors was a long narrow store with a main aisle flanked by cases of beer and bottles of hard liquor. I slowly strolled along the aisle grabbing two six packs of Genesee Cream Ale (a favorite beverage at the time) and made my way to the counter at the rear of the store. Two older men, around my father's age and looking just as stern, stood on the other side of the counter giving me the once-over as I dropped the beer on the faux Formica countertop. One of the men muttered, "ID?" and I confidently pulled my little wallet from my back pocket, extracted my driver's license and presented it to the man to silently answer his inquiry. In my mind, I puffed out "Read it and weep, motherfucker. As of yesterday, I have graced this planet for eighteen years." In reality, I said nothing, as I was too nervous to form any words. Besides, no words would never make it past the enormous lump in my throat. The man examined my license from over the top of his glasses. He looked at me, at my license, at me again... then handed my driver's license back to me. I paid for the beer, grabbed my purchase and began to make the thirty-five mile walk back to the front door. I half-expected to be chased or have sirens go off or have the front door suddenly get blocked by automatic bars descending from the ceiling like in a James Bond movie. But — no — none of that happened. I was legally permitted to purchase alcoholic beverages in any amount under the laws of New Jersey. And that is exactly what I did. And from that point forward, I did it a lot.

On occasion, on a weekend evening with nothing to do, a friend and I would borrow my mom's car and drive across the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge with our destination being the reliable old Roger Wilco liquor store, a long-time fixture on Route 73 just over the Pennsylvania-New jersey border. Here, we would purchase a single quart of Ortlieb's Beer for eighty cents and return to my Philadelphia home to consume it. The whole deal,  including the 10 cent bridge toll in both directions, cost a buck. Not bad for a little Friday night entertainment. Yeah, yeah, I know, crossing state boundaries with alcohol is strictly verboten. But it was the 70s. We were stupid and, most importantly, we never got caught.

On the night before Thanksgiving 1983, I stopped drinking. By this time, I had reached the legal drinking age in Pennsylvania and took full advantage of the situation. My friend Scott and my friend Sam decided that we would see how much alcohol our bodies could tolerate. We found ourselves at the bar of The Dickens Inn, a British-themed pub in the historic section of Philadelphia. Here, we downed a few beers while we engaged in conversation with a couple of British sailors who were stationed on a ship docked on the Delaware River. We tried our darndest to keep up with their drinking, but our lightweight Northeast Philadelphia Jewish sensibilities were no match for their hard-drinking, seafaring ways. Soon, the bartender began plying us with shots of peppermint schnapps and beer chasers. Those sailor literally drank us under the table. I say "literally," because that where I ended up — under the table. To be more accurate, I wound up on my ass at the bottom of a flight of stairs. I was carried out of the place by Scott and Sam and loaded into Scott's car, but not before I was warned: "If you puke in my car, you are walking the rest of the way home." To Scott's satisfaction, I waited until I got home to throw up my guts. And with a houseful of people arriving for Thanksgiving the next day, I managed to crawl out of bed just as the last guests were leaving. I missed dinner while I prayed for sweet death to alleviate the throbbing in my head.

And I officially retired from the ranks of drinkers.

A few nights ago, Mrs. Pincus and I hosted the 38th annual "Night Before Thanksgiving" dessert party at our house. Over the years, the guest list has changed considerably from family to friends to our son's friends, most of whom seem to enjoy the festivities and being included more that anyone else. My son and his friends like to drink alcoholic beverages and, in recent years, I have purchased whatever was requested. This year, my son asked for a selection of Downeast hard cider, something I had to write down for fear I'd forget what I was looking for when I went to the liquor store. Since I work in New Jersey and pass the aforementioned Roger Wilco on a daily basis, I would pick up this Downeast stuff on my way home. A day or so before the party, I pulled into Roger Wilco's parking lot. I grabbed a shopping cart and entered the store. The place was enormous. Of course, I had not been inside since I purchased that eighty cent bottle of beer over forty years ago. There was an entire other room filled with Home Depot-like shelving stocked with beer, ale and cider in colorful packaging. It was very overwhelming. I asked a salesperson for the location of Downeast cider and he led me down an aisle past a few shelving units, pointing out the small boxes on an eye-left shelf. I would have never found it on my own. I loaded three 9-packs (who ever heard of a 9-pack?) into my cart and went back to check out. I snaked my way through the queue line and up to a young lady at a cash register. She greeted me with a half-smile and I placed the three boxes on the counter. Then, to my surprise, she asked me for ID. "Excuse me?' I said, knowing damn well what she just asked, but I needed to hear it again. I am 61 years old. I have a head full of.... well, not full.... but what's left of my hair is white. And sparse. And thin. Unfazed, she asked again. "ID," she said. I tried to stifle a laugh as I pulled my wallet from my back pocket and fumbled to remove my driver's license. Suddenly, I was transported back to Chelsea Liquors and that guy peering over the tops of his hornrims at my Pennsylvania-issued identification. That lump in my throat had even returned. I passed my license to the young lady — who couldn't have been older than twenty-one. Without even looking at my license, she handed it back to me and said "Thanks," punctuated by a snap of her chewing gum. Just like all those years back in Chelsea Liquors, I thought to myself: "ID? ID? Young lady, I am nearly as old as this building!" But, of course, I said nothing. I paid — a lot more than two six-packs of Genesee Cream Ale cost. I put my purchases behind the back seat of my car. Crossing the state line with alcohol is still illegal, though. 

But are they really gonna stop an old guy who doesn't drink?

Sunday, November 27, 2022

just dumb enough to try

My wife has been selling items on eBay for over a quarter of a century and, as I have said many times before, no! she will not sell your stuff for you. She has enough problems with unreasonable, dim-witted customers that she doesn't need to add to those ranks and receive just a percentage of the selling price for her aggravation. Get it? No? Here's some examples of what poor Mrs. Pincus deals with on a daily basis.

While Mrs. P takes great pride in her packing skills, she is still at the mercy of the simian-like handling of packages by the intrepid (or is that "inept?") United States Postal Service. While she goes to great lengths to make sure delicate and fragile items are secure and protected for shipping, things happen, especially when those things fall into the Neanderthal clutches of the unwashed cretins who are employed by the post office. Just a few days ago, a 
customer emailed Mrs. P explaining that their recent purchase of a ceramic bowl arrived damaged. This has happened on occasion and while it technically — is up to the customer to pursue filing a claim and getting a refund for damaged items that carry postal insurance, Mrs. Pincus is only too happy to assist in filing such a claim. This particular customer brought up the notion of filing a claim for the broken item, asking if said claim should be filed with the United States Postal Service, the entity responsible for delivery of the item (and whose carelessness caused the breakage) or UPS, a competing delivery company who, in this case, had absolutely nothing to do with the package. Mrs. Pincus remained professional and guided the customer to the USPS claims website to get the ball rolling. It's a good thing that this customer was not dealing with Mr. Pincus, as things would have taken a decidedly different, a decidedly more sarcastic and condescending route.

The very same day, another eBay customer contacted my wife with a question regarding an item that they had just purchased. Again, they already purchased this item, and were seeking some clarification after the fact. The item in question, as you can see from the eBay auction listing, is a vintage postcard from the Jewish Museum of London depicting a synagogue lamp from the late 1600s. As the listing title clearly states, this is a postcard, originally printed in 1980. The accompanying photograph shows the front of the card, a large photo of the ancient sacred object taking up most of its 4" x 6" image space. The second photo is the reverse side of the postcard, showing the descriptive text identifying the item, its age and a few more details including where the item is currently on display. This postcard is one of several of the same vintage from the Jewish Museum of London that Mrs. Pincus acquired and is offering for sale. She has sold a number of them already. I have circled the word "postcard" on a screenshot of the item listing, to note that this is indeed a postcard that is for sale, although it is painfully obvious.

But, apparently, not to everyone.

The person who bought this postcard (for four dollars and ninety-nine cents plus seventy-five cents for shipping) asked this question regarding the purchase...
Yes, my friends, this is a legitimate question from a buyer.... after... AFTER... making the purchase. This person actually would like to know if they just purchased a seventeenth century, museum-quality, religious artifact for just under five dollars (and less than a dollar for shipping) or... OR... merely a postcard showing a photograph of this item. 

I shit you not!

Did this customer actually think they were getting a three hundred twenty-eight year old synagogue lamp from Damascus for five bucks plus six bits to get it to their front door? Mrs. Pincus stared at the inquiry for a few minutes before answering in the most professional, most diplomatic, most unemotional, most undeserving fashion possible. She replied that this was a postcard, as stated in the title and auction description. Additionally, the item was already shipped earlier in the day and would be received shortly. (Mrs. Pincus is also very conscientious when it comes to expediting shipments in a timely manner.) She anxiously awaits the possibility of a unhappy buyer and the claim of "item not as described" complaint registered with eBay.

This is why Mrs. Pincus will not sell your items on eBay. This is also why I do not answer her emails.

Wanna check out Mrs. Pincus's eBay items? Click HERE.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

the future's so bright, i gotta wear shades

There's a scene in the 1957 film 12 Angry Men, where studious Juror 4 (as played by E.G. Marshall), weary from a day-long jury room debate, removes his wireframe glasses and rubs the bridge of his nose. The little indentations on either side of the bridge of his nose are noticed. Someone remembered that the key witness had those same marks on her nose, even though she was not wearing glasses. Suddenly, the accuracy of the witness's eyesight was brought into question. The room erupts in another heated debate. Lee J. Cobb yells at Henry Fonda, Jack Warden throws a crumpled piece of paper at an imaginary basketball hoop and Martin Balsam rubs his own nose and mutters: "Yeah, she had those marks! Whaddaya call 'em?"

"Nose pads," Martin. You call them "nose pads."

I was sitting at my desk at work when I felt something drop and ricochet off the top of my hand as it was poised above my keyboard. I looked around and discovered a small, yellowed piece of flexible plastic that, as a long-time glasses wearer, I identified immediately as a nose pad. If you have ever worn glasses fitted with these little doo-dads, you know that normally, you never give them a second thought. But, if one becomes misaligned or — even worse — breaks.... well your glasses are uncomfortable until it is replaced. Glasses sit funny on the bridge of your nose, affecting your ability to focus. If your prescription is for bifocals, it can be very disorienting. I know from past experience that getting one of these things replaced can be a breeze or it can be a long, drawn out, dreadful hassle. It was in the hands of fate now.

First of all, the place where I got my glasses is out of business. I got my glasses at the small optical concession at a nearby CVS Pharmacy. On a recent visit to this particular CVS, I was surprised to find the little area where my eyes were poked and prodded and put through a regimen of tests and, later, a technician adjusted the temple pieces on my new pair of glasses, was now filled with colorful racks of greeting cards for all occasions. It was as though the optical department had never existed. I had to ponder my next move. I could innocently wander into another local optical store like America's Best or Lens Crafters (if there is still such a place) and try to convince them to fit my glasses — that I did not purchase there — with a new nose pad. Or I could see if the Walgreen's near my house carried this item alongside the small assortment of non-prescription reading glasses that occupy a endcap of the first aisle near the antacids. Coincidentally, Mrs. Pincus and I had appointments at Walgreen's to get our eighth or ninth COVID booster shot early on Saturday morning. On the off chance that they didn't carry them, I would reluctantly employ my original plan of hitting up a mall optician.

That evening, after dinner, I logged onto an online eyeglasses website. I joined the ranks of thousands of other folks and made my first ever purchase of glasses via the internet. Sure, I'm late to the party, but when you're used to buying things one way, trying a different method can be daunting. This was not. It was easy and cheap and.... did I mention "cheap?" I ended up getting two pairs — a pair of sunglasses to supplement my new pair of internet-bought glasses. I may never set foot in a brick-and-mortar optician store again. Or so I thought..

On Saturday morning, the weather was nice, so Mrs. P and I walked to Walgreen's. While we waited for the slow-as-molasses pharmacy staff at the nearly empty Walgreen's to call our names for our shot, I perused the glasses rack. Nothing. Aside from a single repair kit hanging on a lonely hook, the display was filled with a selection of magnifying reading glasses in variety of frames. But, no replacement nose pads. I was disappointed but not exactly surprised. We got our shots and left the store. I was still wearing my glasses, even though they rested cock-eyed on the bridge of my nose. I remembered that in the small, never-busy shopping center across from Walgreen's there was an independent optical store — one I had passed by, but ever entered. We walked over and Mrs. P waited outside, allowing me to try this on my own. Usually, she is much better and way more persuasive than I am. I thought: "I'll just ask. The worst they could say was 'no' and tell me to get out of the store."

The store barely looked open. It was kind of dark and I didn't see anyone inside. I entered anyway, half expecting the door to be locked. It wasn't. There was a long glass display case that formed a sales counter. The walls were lined with Lucite displays of sample frames and huge photos of sophisticated-looking models looking at me from over the tops of their shiny designer frames. At the far end of the sales counter, an older man (I'm 61 and he was definitely older than I am) was seated at a computer. When I tapped on the counter, he eased himself out of his chair and  asked in a monotone: "Can I help you?" There were no other customers in the store. It looked as though there hadn't been a customer in this store for days or maybe months. I removed my glasses and explained my dilemma, pointing to the empty spot on my glasses where the missing nose pad once resided. The man took my glasses from my hand and shuffled to a work area beyond his computer. He began rifling through some boxes and drawers, but his back was to me... and I was without my glasses, so I couldn't tell exactly what was going on. So, I just stood and waited patiently. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and squinted. Although blurry, I recognized my wife. She asked in a low voice what was going on. I pointed in the direction of the "back room work area" and shrugged.

Within a few minutes, the man returned with my glasses. He said nothing as he handed them back to me. They sported a brand new clear silicone nose pad, proudly fitted into the tiny metal socket opposite the original yellowed and dirty nose pad that had been there since Day One. I slid them on and they felt like they did before this whole episode began. I asked the man how much I owed him for his services. He waved me off and grumbled "no charge" under his breath. I thanked him and I thanked him again. My wife spoke up, offering to pick up a cup of coffee for his trouble and generosity. Again, he waved his open hand and said "no... no thank you" in the same low voice. I said a few more "thank you"s as we made our way towards the front door.

While I was genuinely appreciate of this guy's kindness, I have never been in his store before and, in realty, I have no plans of ever going into his store again. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if he has closed up shop the next time I pass by, due to competition from bigger stores at the mall or unbeatable deals available on the internet. I wish he would have accepted a buck or two as payment to alleviate my guilt.

My new glasses arrive on Friday.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

unbroken chain

Andy Warhol once said: "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Well, this past Thursday morning, I overstayed my allotted time by a half hour.

Some time ago, my favorite Philadelphia radio station began a new feature on their morning drive-time show. Joining such popular features as Wednesday afternoon's "Worst Song in the World" and "The Fab Four," a four-song block of songs from the Beatles catalog, a long-time staple of the afternoon broadcast, the morning show introduced a fun little concept called "The Name Chain Game." The Thursday morning feature entails a little clever thinking on the part of listeners who plan to submit a contender for on-air play. The rules are actually pretty simple. It's a string of songs whose artists are connected by name. The last word (or part of a word) begins the first word (or part of a word) of the next song's performer. This continues for as long as you can. For example, an early submission in the games initial stages ran as follows: "Etta James" followed by "James Gang" followed by "Gang of Four" followed by "The Four Freshmen" followed by "Men at Work" followed by "Work Drugs." Five songs were played in a row and at the end the enthused host of the show reading the conglomeration as "Etta James Gang of Four FreshMen at Work Drugs." She chuckled. The morning news guy chuckled and the morning moved on. This little experiment gathered steam and strings of songs or "chains," if you will, averaged about four to five songs. On the rare occasion, some extended to six or seven. Additional rules allowed for dropping "the" from a band's name. Syllable pronunciation and homophones are permitted, in the case of a recent submission that included Donald Fagen followed by Against Me. 

Now that you've been properly intrigued and have subconsciously begun forming your own chains, let me tell you where Josh Pincus and my ever-so-brief fulfillment of Andy Warhol's prophecy fits into this. 

These go to 11.
Way back in January of this year, I sent an email to the morning show with my entry for the Name Chain Game. Keeping in Josh Pincus fashion to buck convention, my entry included eleven performers. Yep. Eleven. These were not obscure artists. These were performers who I had heard previously in the eclectic mix that is the loose playlist of my favorite radio station. I clicked "SEND" on my email and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And forgot about it. I should mention that my son is employed by my favorite radio station and is pretty friendly with the morning show host. I should also mention that that connection was in no way influential in the decision of whether or not my submission was played... or even considered. As a matter of fact, my son dismissed my submission, citing its cumbersome length not being conducive to the tight scheduling of a radio show. Hey.... what do I know about programming a radio show? I know about listening to a radio show. I've been doing that for most of my life. But, programming? I shrugged my shoulders at my son's viewpoint and secretly hoped to one day hear my Name Chain Game opus.

To my surprise, a few days ago, I got an email from the morning show host. She told me that she'd be tackling my monster submission this week. I made sure I was listening. The game usually kicks off at 8:20 AM on Thursday morning, but, as she explained, due to its unusual length, she'd be starting things just ahead of the scheduled news break. With a proper introduction and/or warning, the opening strains of "Playing in the Band" by the good old Grateful Dead got the whole affair started at 8:13.  At the song's conclusion, a short time out was taken for a quick news brief. The marathon restarted at 8:23 with "I Feel Love (Every Million Miles" by Jack White's recent supergroup Dead Weather. A little before 9 o'clock, the whole shebang came to a conclusion with the fade out of "Standing in the Shadows of Love" by The Four Tops. (How did I arrive here? I'll tell you in a minute.) And that was it. My name was announced and I was thanked. And the show moved on with an unrelated song by funkster Warren G.

Twitter alighted with a few congratulatory tweets and "likes" on the morning show's acknowledgment of the list of artists featured on this week's Name Chain Game. I got a few "likes" myself from a few followers who are local and listen to the station as well.

So, what was my chain? Well, like I said, it started off with The Grateful Dead and went like this...
Grateful Dead 
Dead Weather 
Weather Report 
Portugal the Man 
Man or Astroman? 
Man Man 
Manfred Mann 
Manhattan Transfer 
First Class 
Classics IV
Four Tops
I even made a few suggestions for songs, including First Class's one and only hit "Beach Baby," the sunny Beach Boys homage by an unlikely group of British studio musicians and one of three choices by Classics IV, the smooth, sophisticated jazz/rock ensemble that became the basis for the Atlanta Rhythm Section. (Their 1968 hit "Traces" was selected for play.)

And that was it. By 9 o'clock, my moment in the spotlight was over. As they say, "Fame is fleeting." That certainly is true. If this actually qualifies as "fame."

I don't think it does. But it was fun.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

there must be some misunderstanding

I rarely apologize, but I think I will now. Actually, I want to apologize for being a member of the human race, because, humans — as it turns out — really suck.

I have been a long-time fan of the game show Jeopardy!, even going back to its roots in the 60s when it was hosted by Art Fleming. But the 80s revival of Jeopardy! with host Alex Trebek has been a source of entertainment and an even bigger source of trivia for years. The random tidbits that I have picked up on Jeopardy! over the years have offered invaluable help in countless trivia contests I have played aboard cruise ships. I watch Jeopardy! every night and I even DVR the show in case I won't be in front of the television when it's on. To be clear, I watch Jeopardy! for the show. Not the host. Not the contestants. For the content of the show. Period. I stayed out of the whole "who will host" argument after the passing of Alex Trebek. I really didn't care who hosted the show however, I am glad that Mehmet Oz was not selected from those who were given a week-long trial run.

As far as the contestants are concerned, I really don't care about them. When I watch a recorded Jeopardy! episode, I skip the interview portion of the program. I am anxious for the continuation of the first round of Jeopardy! rather than hear about what some guy did on a college trip or how some woman's husband proposed to her. I respected a few of the extended runs that players like Matt Amodio, Amy Schneider, Mattea Roach and Philly's own Ryan Long enjoyed. They were exciting in a "how long will they last" sort-of way. However, I do not like when a particular contestant thinks it's their show, their five minutes in the spotlight. I don't like over-confident players — displaying arrogance, cockiness and unnecessary swagger. 

That was Rowan.

In a recent "Second Chance" Tournament, a group of smart-as-a-whip "also-rans" were invited back to Jeopardy! to compete for two open spaces in the upcoming "Tournament of Champions." Among those chosen to play was Rowan. While obviously smart and deserving of a spot in the tournament, Rowan was smarmy and brash and offered their answers in an "of course I know this" tone of voice accompanied by a palpable bluster and egotistic head-bob. During their interview (yes, I watched it live), Rowan was insufferable, as they told unremarkable tales of their everyday life. The further Rowan made it through quarter finals, semi-finals and, eventually, finals, the more irritating they became. Rowan screamed answers with an air of superiority. I'm surprised that the other, more humble contestants didn't take a swing at them. Much to my dismay, Rowan made it to the Tournament of Champions.

When the much-anticipated Tournament of Champions began, my wife and I watched as several familiar faces (as well as a few unfamiliar faces) popped up to compete for the $250,000 prize awarded at the end of the two-week event. On Day Four of the quarter-finals round, Rowan was pitted against two contestants, neither of whom did I recall from their initial run. Just before the game began, I tweeted this:
That's it. One tweet and I continued to watch that evening's episode of Jeopardy! as I have done countless times before. If you'll notice, that particular tweet got 47 "likes." Fairly high for me, just some nobody with 568 followers. My only motivation for this tweet was that I found Rowan to be thoroughly annoying. Their on-screen antics detracted from the actual game play. I couldn't imagine their decidedly childish behavior going up against the likes of proven adversaries as the aforementioned Matt Amodio or Amy Schneider, who plowed over opponents in a record 40-game run during the regular season. Rowan's smugness had the potential of making the final rounds tedious to watch. So, I wanted them out.

However, one Twitter user revealed the darker reason that this tweet received so many "likes." Someone replied to my tweet, saying "Ditto... bye to him, her, them and all the damn pronouns." I don't have time or tolerance for that shit. When I tweeted my sentiment, the thought of pronouns or who Rowan was as a person never crossed my mind. I simply found them annoying.  I blocked the Twitter user who replied to me in search of some comeraderie. 

Rowan originally appeared on the Jeopardy! Season 37 finale, coming in as a runner-up against the seemingly unstoppable Matt Amodio. As Rowan disclosed during their "Second Chance" Tournament interview, they identify as non-binary and they appeared under a different name on that show. Rowan explained that they used the consolation prize money to pay the fees required for an official name change, shedding their "dead name"* once and for all and choosing a sobriquet more suited to the person they are. Rowan continued to tell current host Ken Jennings that they are "back on Jeopardy! with a second chance, as my true self." It was nice little moment of pride. Of course, they went right back to being annoying as soon as game play resumed.

My tweet never mentioned any of this. For goodness sakes, it took me nine paragraphs to mention it. Why? Because it wasn't important and it had absolutely no bearing on my dislike for Rowan. I found Rowan to be annoying for the reasons I noted earlier. That's it. Nothing to do with who they love or where they shop or what movies they like or what's their favorite color. I don't care about any of those things. I merely found Rowan's personality to be grating.

But in these times — these most polarizing of times — people are quick to point out differences between "us" and "them," with unclear boundaries determining who is "us" and who is "them." The internet has become a festering cesspool of bigotry and separatism with people using the anonymity of a Twitter handle to voice their vicious opinions. People are jerks and they continue to show themselves as jerks any chance they get.

I maintain that my original tweet was meant as a condemnation of Rowan's irritating manner of answering questions on a game show. It was essentially a joke. Pretty much, everything I post on social media is a joke.

Until it isn't.

* the birth name of a transgender person who has changed their name as part of their gender transition. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

dance with my father

See that guy? That's my father. My father was the greatest Phillies fan ever! I mean ever! And he was the textbook Phillies fan as well. He loved them when they were winning. He hated them when they were losing. He watched Phillies games on TV and either cursed or cheered them, depending on how they were playing. He'd grumble and call them "bums." He'd cheer and proclaim "Never a doubt!" He'd fall asleep in the fourth inning and wake up in the eighth and start cursing (or cheering) right where he left off.

In 2008, the Phillies headed to the World Series for the first time since my father died. Just after my family and I watched those scrappy little bastards clinch the National League pennant, I wrote a piece for my illustration blog about my father and his relationship with his beloved Phillies. (You can read it HERE, if you like.)

Back in 2008, I was a rabid baseball fan. It was kind of strange, since I never had an interest in baseball when my father was alive. He used to take my brother to Phillies games at Connie Mack Stadium while I stayed home with my mom. As a family, we went to a handful of games on free tickets provided by my father's employer at the time. But, just a few years after my father's death, I suddenly developed an interest in baseball. My wife and I purchased a Sunday season ticket plan... and the games we didn't have tickets for? We never missed watching them on television. We even traveled to other ballparks in other cities. Our devotion to baseball lasted for nearly twenty years (or seasons, for the initiated)... until it was done. After we gave up our tickets, our interest in baseball waned. However, early in the spring of this year, while running through the hundreds of channels available from our cable provider, my wife stopped on a Phillies game and commented on how beautiful the ballpark looked in high-definition. So we watched. And we watched again the next night. We knew none of the players on the current roster, save for a couple of holdovers from the last game we attended a few seasons ago. Soon, we found ourselves buying tickets to a game, a result of looking for outdoor activities in the still-iffy clime of a post-pandemic world. Then we bought tickets to another game. And another. We traveled to Nationals Park in Washington DC. And we went to a few more regular season Phillies games. And our affection for this scrappy band of underdogs grew. At the beginning of the season, we knew none of the players. Now, names like Kyle Schwarber and Ranger Suarez are spoken with the same familiarity as Chase Utley, Steve Carlton and even Richie Ashburn.

My father saw the 1950 Whiz Kids, a scrappy bunch of underdogs who won the National League pennant on a tenth inning homerun by Dick Sisler on the last day of the season. Sadly, they got swept by the mighty New York Yankees in four games. My father saw the infamous "Phold of '64," when
that year's team of scrappy underdogs held a healthy 6 game lead headed to the close of the season. Unbelievably, they lost ten games in a row and finished in second place, just one game behind the pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals. My father saw those lean years of the 60s and the glory years of the 70s right up to the 1980 World Series — which the Phillies won, I might remind you. My father died on October 13, 1993, the very day that the Phillies — that year's group of scrappy underdogs — beat the Atlanta Braves, entitling them to another trip to the World Series.

Just a few hours ago, the current crop of players taking to the grassy diamond under The Philadelphia Phillies mantle won Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, securing themselves a spot in the 2022 World Series. This bunch of shaggy, swaggering kids aren't old enough to remember the soul-crushing home run that Joe Carter hit to seal the fate of their '93 counterparts. That doesn't matter. That's ancient history. This new generation of scrappy underdogs calling themselves The Phillies are going to the World Series.

And I can only think of how proud my father would be. My father, the greatest Phillies fan of all time.

(By the time you read this, two games of the 2022 World Series will have been played. My father would either have been cheering or cursing... just like you.)