Man of a Certain Age

We were sitting at Regal Colonie Center waiting for Zombieland to begin. That’s when they showed an extended preview of the new Ray Romano show on TNT, Men of a Certain Age.

“I don’t really get what that show is supposed to be about,” my 14-year-old son said.

I consider it one of my most important jobs as a father to explain things and offer some context.

“Well, when guys get to be my age they start to worry about things. Their job. Their health. You know. Getting old. It’s basically guys being worried about getting old.”

He was listening.

“Your body changes, people pass away, there are disappointments. Disillusion. And sometimes you might you start thinking that your best days are behind you. You know, you can’t do all the stuff you used to do.”

There was exactly one perfectly timed beat before he responded.

“You don’t need to watch TV to see that, do you?”

Tales From the Boys Room

Back in fifth grade me and my friends were in the boys room at Rushmore Avenue School in Carle Place. There we were lined up peeing when the principal walked in.

“Boys,” he announced, ” You should not stand so close to the urinals when you go to the bathroom. Back up so you don’t get splashed.”

We inched away until he told us to stop a foot or two from the fixture. This felt a little strange, but whatever. Who were we to question him? We figured he learned this in the military because all of our dads were WW II or Korean War vets and they were full of manly advice. After that he’d periodically stop in and do an inspection to make sure we were standing nice and far away when we peed.

OK, I’m not saying that Mr. X was definitely interested in looking at our little fifth grade units, but doesn’t this strike you as a little creepy? Imagine what would happen if your kid came home from school and told you this story.

We were just doing what we were told. And anyway, who wants urine splashed on their pants?

That’s Not a Knife…

I’m probably not smart enough to be the superintendent of schools in Lansingburgh, NY but I am smart enough to know that a knife with a 1-1/2 inch blade is not a weapon.

So what’s up with George Goodwin? According to an article in the Times Union, Mr. Goodwin, superintendent of schools in Lansingburgh,  recently suspended a student for 20 days because the young man had a keychain size pocket knife in his car at school.

The student is Matthew Whalen, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout and National Guard member. The high school senior plans to apply for an appointment to West Point, but now he’s worried that this knife nonsense could be a problem.

Was Goodwin worried that young Whalen would run amok in the school hallways slashing people with his tiny knife? Yes, it’s ridiculous to think that a knife this small is a weapon, but it would be way too easy for us to sit here and call Mr. Goodwin names. Just because it was a stupid decision doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a stupid man. Even the best among us sometimes do things that are hasty and shortsighted.

The only thing for George Goodwin to do now is to fess up and admit he made a mistake.

Why not tell him yourself. Here’s George Goodwin’s email address —and his phone number is 518-233-6850.

Nobody Goes Camping for the Food

MB_CookingA Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Culinary geniuses they ain’t.

After spending a weekend with my son’s Boy Scout troop on a tailgate camping trip I’ve decided that it will be my personal mission to see every one of these fine young men earn his Cooking Merit Badge. Hey, I’m not fussy -and I love bacon, hot dogs, hamburgers, runny eggs, potato chips, and donuts as much as the next guy- but it is my belief that an important measure of manhood is found in the kitchen.

Just stop by my firehouse if you don’t believe me. Cooking is a skill that’s rated very highly in the firefighting community. We’ve got plenty of guys who can throw a ladder or swing an axe, but if you can make dinner for forty people? That’s something special.

Boys it’s time to cook. And remember: this isn’t just about preserving the health of your adult leaders, it’s about impressing girls.

How Did I Get Here, Anyway?

When I was in fourth grade they took us on a field trip to New York where we toured NBC at Rockefeller Center.

It was awesome. We peered into the news studio, created frying bacon sound effects by crinkling cellophane, and saw where Johnny Carson presided over the  Tonight Show. We also got to watch DJ Big Wilson doing his shift on WNBC-AM. That did it. From that day forward I wanted to work in radio or TV.

The rest of fourth grade was all about broadcasting. I made several shoebox dioramas showing TV studios with cables of string and clay figures standing behind cameras. My teacher, Mrs. Rice, did not approve . Years later I got to read her notes about me and it turns out she made a big point of the time wasted on these projects. What could be worse than a fourth grader wasting time?

At home I would huddle in my room spinning records and recording myself playing DJ on a reel-to-reel recorder. I’d read stories from the paper in a serious tone like the newscasters on the radio. Little did I know that they swiped many of their stories from the same place.

It was inevitable, really: a straight shot that landed me at the radio station and TV studios of SUNY Plattsburgh. The internship, the job, the second job and 24 years doing what I wanted since I was eight-years-old.

But sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we’d visited a doctor’s office or law practice instead of NBC.

Child Stars

You learn quickly in local TV that casting your family and friends in spots is a great way to get things done cheaply. Over the years my boys appeared in many news promos, mostly for lurid (and sometimes stupid) sweeps stories.

Alex and Zack have been stalked by predators, hit by cars, addicted to violent video games, abused prescription drugs, improperly buckled into car seats, and lured into online trouble. They’ve played pyromaniacs, abused children, and teenage alcoholics. Based on their body of work, that they’ve survived until 21 and 14 respectively is a miracle.

In this spot Alex is the unsuspecting child playing innocently in a park. That’s me as the mysterious lurking man:


Hahaha. “Watch it with your kids. You can’t afford to miss it.”

And here we have little Zack getting into the household chemicals. I remember feeling a little funny directing him: “OK… now point it at your face…”


Many of these stories blow minor problems out of proportion —things that rational people really shouldn’t spend much time worrying about. TV news directors love that stuff and I gleefully went along for the ride.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

Some people claim that DVD players in cars have hindered communication between parents and their children on family trips.

To that I say, “Thank God.”

In my experience young back seat passengers have never added anything to travel except annoyances, particularly if there are more than one of them. DVD players and headphone changed this forever. Now if there’s a complaint about the length of the trip, I say, “Oh…well maybe you’d like to come up here and drive and I’ll sit in the back and watch movies.”

The DVD player is not without pitfalls. After repeated viewings of Jaws on the way to vacation my 13 year-old son Zack got the idea that there must be sharks in Lake Ontario. Even after I explained that there were no Great Lakes sharks he countered that they could swim up the St. Lawrence River looking for human prey.  “They could,” I said. “But they don’t.”

The topic came up again as we swam at a secluded beach. The water was crystal clear and there was a sandy bottom —perfect conditions to see the three foot fish that slowly cruised past us. Before I could say, ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat’, he was out of the water and standing on the shore.

I don’t blame him. It’s startling to see such a large fish swim past —I just hope he doesn’t see this story before our vacation next week on Long Island. Or this one.

The Final Frontier

It was a week for celebrating space milestones: landing on the moon, walking on the moon, planting the flag on the moon. But to me the biggest of these was getting the hell off the moon.

Yes, putting men on the moon was an amazing technological achievement but think about this: before Apollo 11 no lunar module had actually been tested landing on or taking off from the moon’s surface. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fired the rocket that would get them back to the Apollo 11 command module it was a first.

And if it hadn’t worked they’d still be sitting there.

This weighed heavily on my mind as a child. As a kid I was obsessed with space and I built a model of the Saturn V rocket. This thing was nearly three feet tall and could be disassembled into stages so you could recreate a full Apollo mission from lift-off to splashdown and everything in between. It was the most awesome toy I ever had.

When I was a slightly older and differently motivated youngster this model was systematically destroyed with firecrackers and lighter fluid  as I acted out a series of terrible space disasters. That’s what happens when hormones begin kicking in.

The Graduate

My son Zack is now a graduate of the eighth grade.

It’s a milestone because it marks the end of his tenure at the K-8 Catholic school he attends. All the kids will go their separate way so it’s different than just moving from the town’s middle school to the high school.

The staff and teachers did a great job of recognizing the student’s achievements and time together and capped it off with a nice graduation ceremony.

It was all well and good until somebody walked up and said, “Congratulations.”

Congratulations? I must have responded inappropriately because the person gave me that “You asshole” look that comes after saying something inappropriate. But come on —congratulations on making it through eighth grade?

Excuse me, but what is this, Arkansas —where graduating eighth grade is like getting your medical degree? So sorry if I sound like a jerk but you know what? You’d better graduate from eighth grade. Now go have a nice Summer.