Trumped Up!

July 27, 2015


Allow me to get political for a moment.

Donald Trump is the type of person whom I am trying to decide whether he is absolutely nuts or if I actually like him. Admit it America you’re all waiting to see what he will do or say next. It’s OK, so am I. It’s about time a Presidential candidate appears on the scene who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. I’ll admit I was not happy with his disrespect of John McCain, but there are worse things he could have said.

It’s refreshing to see that Trump doesn’t need any campaign contributions. In a recent article his net worth was revealed to be around 8.7 billion dollars. So you won’t be getting any pesky phone calls from his staff asking for contributions.

The majority of Americans complain about “politics as usual.” There is nothing usual about Donald J. Trump. From his hair, to his net worth, to his television shows, to his name all over buildings in New York City. This guy is anything but a typical politician. In fact he is NOT a politician at all, he is a business man. That in itself makes the American political machine nervous. He doesn’t have to adhere to the political rule book.

Let him say what he wants. Let him insult minority groups and war heroes. Let him exercise his freedom of speech. The First Amendment is a beautiful thing as you’re not stupid enough to believe that you can say whatever it is you want to say. Donald Trump is not stupid. You don’t acquire 8.7 billion dollars by being stupid. He may be crazy but he’s not stupid.

From 1952 until 2004 with the exception of 1964, there has been a Nixon, Dole or Bush on the Republican ticket. Think about that. For over a half a century only four men have consistently appeared in one of the two top slots of the Republican ticket. Time for some new blood.

Now for arguments sake let’s say Jeb Bush receives the 2016 Republican nomination and Hilary Clinton is the Democratic choice for President. Welcome to the 2016 Presidential Election or the 1992 Presidential Election Part II (only the first names have changed). Are Jeb and Hillary REALLY the best choices America has to offer? This is like saying, “Hey America we want you to eat healthy but your only choices are McDonalds and Burger King.”

Why isn’t Joe Biden throwing his hat into the ring? Why wouldn’t a two term Vice President want to run for the top job? Where the hell is Al Gore? He’s an intelligent guy, and we haven’t heard much from him lately. On the Republican side, it seems every day a new candidate is announcing his or her run. At present there are 33 confirmed Republican candidates and two potentials. That’s more than a Major League Baseball roster.

Sure it’s early and anything can happen, but this is kind of fun. The Democrats have pretty much given Hillary the nomination and Trump is currently leading the vast GOP field. Personally I don’t think Trump is going to last but stranger things have happened. Remember in 1972, American knew about Watergate and as a nation was tired of the quagmire that was Vietnam. So what happens? Nixon gets reelected in a landslide. Nixon won every state with the exception of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia which went to George McGovern. To paraphrase the great Dennis Miller, “I didn’t even run that year and I almost tied McGovern.”

In 2000 and 2004 it was nice to finally see some close elections. The 2000 election has become infamous for too many reasons to list here. Supposedly, George W. Bush was an idiot (this is NOT my opinion but the consensus of the liberal media) yet he was elected to two terms. Truth be told he was an average student at Yale. Through his first three years at Yale, Bush’s grades averaged out to 77 on a 100-point scale. He only received one D during his college career, in an astronomy course his freshman year. His 2004 opponent, John Kerry, also went to Yale. In Kerry’s freshman year the future senator tallied four D’s. Bush’s cumulative average of 77 was a point higher than Kerry’s! I didn’t attend Yale and my GPA was 3.8. I beat them both!

The 2016 election is a little over 15 months away, which in politics is an eternity. Anything can happen. Hillary is set to testify in October before the House committee investigating the killing of four Americans in a 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, when she was Secretary of State. That should have some interesting results on her campaign as well as her credibility.

As for Trump, I can’t wait to see what he says next. Go Donald, Go! Enjoy it while it lasts, America.


Under the 59th Street Bridge

July 15, 2015

59thstreet I spent quite a few summer afternoons and evenings at a baseball field on the corner of 59th Street and York Avenue, under the bridge. At this time in the mid-seventies, the “baseball field” was actually a tennis court in the winter time which was converted into a ball park in the spring and summer. The field itself was horrible, it was this reddish/brown clay and bad hops were common place. I once saw a kid playing third base about to field a ball when at the last moment the ball took a nasty hop and hit him in the face breaking his glasses. Fortunately he had plastic lenses and no serious injury was done to his eyes. The lighting was also horrible as it was difficult to pick up the ball as it was being pitched in the night time. However my memories of 59th Street (that’s what we called it) are still all pretty positive. I was far from the best player on my team, as a matter of fact if where were 12 guys on my team I would have probably been ranked 13th. One year I didn’t get a single hit, my batting average was .000. I made Bob Uecker and Charlie Brown look like All-Stars.

However I still went down there when I was supposed to, played my position and gave it my best shot. In 1975, my first year on the OLGC Angels I was sitting on the bench just waiting my turn to bat when a player on my team fouled off a ball, which caught me right above the left eye. I wasn’t paying attention to the batter and having a conversation with one of my teammates. I saw stars, my heart raced, I started screaming that I couldn’t see and that I was blind. I was scared shitless! Fortunately one of my teammates’ dads, Big Ray Zimmerman got me in a cab and took me to the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital. It’s funny that 40 years later I still remember the conversation. Ray said that he would take me to New York Hospital since it was closer. I told him that if we didn’t go to Lenox Hill Hospital my mother would kill him. He promptly told the cab driver Lenox Hill Hospital and make it quick.

After being examined, re-examined, examined even more and having lights shone in both my eyes, I was sent home. I was also given something to calm me down as well as an ice pack for my eye. Fortunately there was no damage to the eye itself as the stitching of the ball caught me on the eyebrow. I had not eaten anything since about noon and it was now close to 8 pm. When I got home my mother gasped at the grotesqueness that was her son’s face. When I went into the bathroom to look in the mirror my reaction was one of disgust. I looked terrible, I had not eaten anything in hours and I did the only thing I could do. I threw up into the sink. Looking back, I can say this was not one of my better days. Plus I never even got the chance to bat, as my accident happened in the first inning.

I missed practice that week as the swelling around my eye went down little by little. I definitely had the strangest black eye in history. Usually the blackness is under the eye. I had that, in addition to my eye lid being a mix of purple and yellow. I was not a pretty sight. I don’t think I played the following week, and needless to say I was a little gun shy after getting hit.

The following year I was on the OLGC Green Machine in the Babe Ruth League. This was the season of my stellar .000 average I either walked or struck out almost every time I went to bat. However I think my on-base percentage was about .500. One night my mom came down to watch me play. It was bad enough that I sucked at this game of baseball, now I had to have my mom witness it firsthand. I struck out in my first at bat. Then a funny thing happened in my second plate appearance. I drilled a pitch the opposite way. I swear this ball had double written all over it. What happened? The first baseman reaches out and makes one of those happy birthday catches and I am 0-for-2.

Later that year in the summer league, a coach from one of the other teams, Big Pete, calls time out while I am at bat. He calls me over and tells me, “I have been watching you a long time and I have noticed that you always step back when the ball is being pitched.” Being the good kid that I was and showing the respect that I was taught I didn’t have the heart or the balls to tell him, “Yeah well if you got hit in the eye with a batted hard ball you’d be a little gun shy and take a step back too.” He then told me to step into the pitch as I am swinging and just see what happens. With that little piece of advice in my pocket. I went to work. That night I hit two balls out of the park (both foul, but still…) and I also hit the bridge for the first time in my life (which counted as a no pitch but it was still a nice feeling that I got the ball up that high).

One of my best friends growing up was Paul Atkinson and he was an all-star down at 59th Street. This kid, who was at the time skinny as a string bean could hit pitch, run throw and pretty much walk on water when he was at 59th Street. And walking on water was sometimes a necessity on that field after a rainstorm. Paul and I have known each other since we first moved into the projects in 1965. That is a fifty year friendship. Usually when Paul would pitch he would often get the better of me. I admit it he intimidated me. But there is always that one out of ten times that a bad hitter will have a little luck against a good pitcher.

Paul, who threw right handed, just stared to play with curveball. So there I am batting against him and the first pitch is coming right towards me so I get out of the way. At the last minute it breaks in over the plate, strike one. Second pitch same result, ball coming at me, I back up, ball breaks, strike two. The old saying goes, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me a third time, I’m gonna kill you (I made that last part up). I call time out step out of the box and think to myself. He’s not crazy enough to throw a third curve is he? Baseball is a guessing game and batters are guessing all the time. My guess was that he would throw another curve so I would stand there and take it. If it doesn’t break and hits me I get to first base. If I wait on it and time it just right maybe I can hit it. Paul sets himself and lets the ball go, it’s coming at me I wait and wait and wait and finally swing — BOOM! I got it and sent a rope into left field for a base hit. This was much better and a lot less painful than getting hit by the pitch. While I was standing on first Paul just glared at me from the mound, sort of saying you weren’t supposed to do that.

As we walked home that night I told him, that he had got to learn how to mix up your pitches. “If you would have thrown me a fastball on the second pitch you would have had me totally off balance,” I said. “Then you could have set me up with the curve or a change of pace.”

For a while our coach at OLGC, Dennis Moulton, would have an Old Timers game at 59th Street, usually the last Saturday in July. This went on for a few years in the mid to late 80’s. Then as time marched on and players started getting married and moving away from the city, these games became extinct.

I met a lot of good guys and good ballplayers down at 59th Street, so I was sad to learn that baseball is no longer played there and that it is now tennis courts year round. Another part of my childhood is gone. 59thstreet2


R.I.P. Snake

July 11, 2015

Stabler in the Sea of Hands Game. And yes he completed that pass!

Ken Stabler is the main reason I have been an Oakland Raider fan since 1974.

In the early to mid 70’s, long before ESPN had round the clock coverage of the NFL, I had to depend on blurbs in the Monday papers to read about Stabler and the Raiders. There was also a once weekly show, This Week in Pro Football that would broadcast highlights of the previous week’s games on Saturday night. I would watch this program religiously, patiently waiting to see a few clips of my team and how they often destroyed their previous weeks’ opponent. Hosted by Tom Brookshier and Pat Summerall, it was all I had to actually see the silver and black.

At the time, Raider games were rarely broadcast in New York. There was no such thing as NFL Sunday Ticket and DirecTV. When they were featured on Monday Night Football it was like a holiday in my house. It was a rare opportunity for me to see Snake and the boys dissect an opponent. And given their record on Monday nights in the 70’s it was usually a great celebration too!

Unfortunately I never got to see Stabler play live, as I wouldn’t attend my first Raider game until 1983. In later years when I worked in sports I never had the opportunity to cross paths with him either. However a friend and colleague of mine worked with him in the early 90’s.

I asked this friend if he could get Stabler to sign the Sports Illustrated cover that I owned. It was a great shot of the Snake dropping back to pass against the Vikings in the Super Bowl. My friend was a little leery at first saying he didn’t like asking the talent for autographs, but that he would feel Stabler out, and see what he could do. He knew I was a huge Raider fan.

The next week my Autographed copy of Sports Illustrated arrived in the mail with a note from my friend saying that Stabler was one of the nicest guys he ever met! Stabled even personalized it to me with the inscription: To Tommy the Raiders #1 Fan, Ken Stabler. I immediately framed it and hung it on my wall.

Of all the stories I have read about Stabler since his passing yesterday, the consensus is that he was great with the fans and he would always take time out to sign an autograph. Even though I never got to meet him I have prove of his kindness.

Stabler was one of a kind. He was featured on the cover of the 1977 Pro Football issue of Sports Illustrated. Photos included him shooting pool with a cigarette in his mouth and another with a pretty blonde sitting in his lap and a glass of whiskey in his hand.

R.I.P. Snake. Heaven just got a really good and fun-loving quarterback.


Just a fun loving southern boy!


The Routine

June 10, 2015

This unemployment thing sucks. However, I have mastered the first rule of being unemployed and that is: GET INTO A ROUTINE! I have been down this road before so I know the drill. However during my previous tenures of unemployment, I didn’t own a house or have a family to take care of so the dynamic has obviously changed.

The two positive aspects of being unemployed are that I get to spend more time with my son and that I now have time to go to the gym. I must admit that I have been very dedicated and disciplined; I have been going to the gym four to five days a week since I lost my job.

I was speaking to a friend of mine whom was laid off in December and she said that the thing she missed the most is having a routine. I told her that she has to make her own routine and stick to it. Of course part of that routine has to be the job hunt, but let’s be realistic: no one can spend eight to ten hours every day looking for a job. A person would drive themselves insane if that were the case.

Instead of getting up at 5:30 as I was when I was employed, I now get up at a more reasonable 6:30 to 7:00. Not having to deal with an alarm clock and a train schedule is a bonus. I get my son ready for school by picking out his clothes, getting his breakfast ready making him brush his teeth and packing up his lunch. I them drive him to his before school daycare program.

After dropping him off, I head directly across the road to my gym. I’m still doing a workout my friend Scott built for me some 25 years ago when we first decided to join a gym in the city by our office. First up is getting the heart pumping with 20 to 30 minutes of running on the treadmill. The iPod is really important for this, as I have to have music when I am running. It is amazing what I have re-discovered among the 6,000 plus songs in my library:

I had almost forgotten how many great tunes Stevie Wonder has recorded. The first three songs on Exile are great to run to as are Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song and Out on the Tiles. The Grateful Dead’s Alabama Getaway and McCartney’s Junior’s Farm can get the blood flowing as well. Which reminds me, I have to make some more playlists, to get many of the song I mentioned above all in one place.

While listening to my music I am also watching the monitors of the dozen or so TV’s to see if anything catches my attention. When I see that the LIRR has delays, especially on my former line, I just smile and think to myself, “That used to get me aggravated.”

After working up a good sweat it’s off to the machines and free weights. As per the “Scott plan” it’s Bi’s Tri’s and Thigh’s (that’s biceps, triceps and legs) one day then shoulders chest and back the next day. So far everything has been working well. I have dropped 15 pounds since I started doing this in early April. I have two goals that I will not reveal here. When I achieve goal number one I will be very happy. If — no make that WHEN — I get to goal number two, I will be ecstatic. Then I will reveal what I have set out to do.

What I have noticed at the gym is that a LOT of people have tattoos and that there are people in all shapes and sizes trying to accomplish something. The majority of people there are quiet and keep to themselves. They are there to work out. There is one exception, the guy who walks around with his gallon of water and talks to all the women. Unfortunately for him, none of the women seem to want to talk to him. In the words of the Festrunk Brothers, “He is not successful in cruising for foxes.”

After the gym it’s back home for a shower, job hunting and phone calls. If the wife has left a Honey Do list I try and take care of that as well. Some days I just enjoy being in the house or in the back yard. Other days I need to get out and do some light retail therapy to take my mind off of everything. Recently I purchased a new pair of Nike running shoes and some tee-shirts. It’s the little things that make me happy. I figure I matters well look good while getting fit.

We have just purchased a new shed and a pool. In preparation for the new shed, I had to destroy the old one. I called a demolition company who quoted me a price somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,300 to demolish it and cart it away. Screw that! I tore that thing down myself using a saw, sledgehammer and a crowbar. It was therapeutic. With every swing of the sledgehammer I just thought of the nitwits that laid me off. I worked out a lot of aggression and that thing came down in about four hours. It did cost me $500 to have it carted away, but that still saved me $800.


My Handiwork. I found that I really enjoy destroying things.

For the month of June my son’s karate class is offering dad’s the chance to work out for free in honor of Father’s Day. So far I have taken three kickboxing classes and I have sweat off a ton of weight. I bought a pair of boxing gloves and I found out that I really like hitting the bag. I have also found a new found respect for boxers. Yes, it may look easy but it’s not. There is a LOT of training that goes into becoming a professional boxer. Fear not as that is not my goal; at 52 I think I am a little old to start training for the heavyweight championship of the world.

What I have learned is that boxing is just as much mental as it is physical. I have to remember that when I am punching with one hand the other hand has to be up protecting your face. Breathing is also very important. You have to get the oxygen into your lungs and through your blood stream.

The pay off for all of this hard work I have been doing with be well worth it as I will be one lean mean fighting machine for my next employer.



April 8, 2015


I was fired last week. There is no other way to put it. Yes laid off sounds less harsh, but I believe in being honest. My fellow employees and I were informed that our company had merged with another organization on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday afternoon it was deemed by the new regime that about half the staff was no longer needed. “Thank you for coming in, pack up your stuff, take this envelope and the guy in the black shirt and the yellow teeth will escort you to the door.”

I have run through a gamut of emotions from anger, devastated, fear, relief, optimistic, upset, depressed and excited about what the future will bring. I have spoken to friends and former colleagues and have begun the process of job hunting, which in 2015 is a lot different from 1993 when I first had to really look for a job.

Fortunately, I still have my freelance gig at CBS Sports. However, that ended with the Elite Eight and it won’t begin again until the NFL season resumes in September. Another positive is that my wife has good gig and she is well compensated. In addition, her busy time is around the corner. That will help as will the severance package that I received and the money I have been squiring away as a “just in case” this day came.

Right now everything just kind of sucks, there is me being honest again. I spent yesterday with my son whom I took to the movies and lunch. That is one of the positives of all this, I get to spend more quality time with my boy. However, I am an able-bodied intelligent person with good skill sets who knows he can be an asset to a company. On top of all that I WANT to work.

To my friends and former colleagues reading this, I will be reaching out to the people in my field, so please be kind. As one friend told me, “If you got fired 30 years ago it meant you were a screw up,” she said. “Nowadays everyone gets fired. I was fired three times last year.” NOTE: my friend has her own PR & Communications firm in the Midwest.

I have had my little pity party, I self-medicated with Guinness and Jameson’s during the evening of the Final Four with the help of my friend Dennis. So now it is time to get back on the horse and see what is out. Right now all I really care about is getting a job to take care of my family.

There are two people out there who I would be remiss without mentioning. Ironically I have never met either of them in person, but they have been influential to me. First there is Sophia in Chicago who has more balls then some men I know. Thank you for all of your good advice. Your iron fist with a velvet glove was much appreciated. For Cindy in Canada, your notes and phone calls have meant a lot to me. Jeff is a lucky man to have a wife as loving, kind and caring as you.

Yes you must be careful who you “meet’ on the Internet, however these two ladies are the best and I am happy and proud to call them friends. Someday I hope to meet them both. With that said, it’s time to get job hunting. I would like to put the last five years behind me and look forward to what I hope will be a bright and rosy future.


2015 NCAA Tournament Day One

March 21, 2015

For the past 16 years I have been working as a scorer/researcher at CBS Sports. Here is a little preview of day one of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Getting there is half the fun. I’d like to punch whoever coined this phrase. The agita set in early this year. I was up at 5:30 for whatever reason. My son was already up as I spotted the light peering out of his room. I guess my nervousness stemmed from the fact that I reserved a cab to take me to the train station. From what I have read about cab services in my neck of the woods they are not very reliable. I told the Dispatcher that I wanted to be on the 8:31 train. Actually I was taking the 9:11 train, but I am a firm believer in better safe than sorry.

The morning went OK with the exception of my son spilling his juice all over the rug. No worries I cleaned it up no problem. I told him that he has to focus on what he is doing. I am just glad the glass didn’t break and he didn’t get hurt. After dropping him off at daycare I waited for my car. I even called at 7:30 to verify and the dispatcher was courteous and said that he had me down and that the card would be there shortly.

Usually my cousin or one of my nephews or nieces will drive me to the station. This year everyone was working, so I had to spring for a cab. The reason I don’t take my own car is because I don’t want to leave it in an outdoor parking lot for four days. Additionally I like that it sits in front of the house with my wife’s car, this way it looks like someone is always home. Sorry that is the just the paranoid New Yorker in me.

Sure enough the dispatcher was right and my car arrived on time. I got to the station in less than 20 minutes and had time for breakfast in the bagel shop. One hurdle crossed.

Once settled on the train I received a text from Todd, who was on the same train. We decided to meet in Penn Station and share a cab up to the hotel. I have been working with Todd for more years than I can count and for the last 5 years we have been partnered up on the tournament. This year we are doing the Pittsburgh and Columbus regions.

As we walked to the studio from the hotel we spotted a huge line of people outside the Holiday Inn. I wondered aloud what they were in line for, when Todd said, “Charles Barkley must be having a meet and greet.” Todd gets the quote of the day and we didn’t even reach the studio yet.

First game up is the first game of the tournament: North Eastern and Notre Dame. This Irishman is glad he got to see the Irish as the first game.

Northeastern gave them more than they could handle, but the boys from South Bend prevailed. Next up Butler beat Texas in a game that appeared to move quickly. All of us in the research room love games like that. Good pace nice flow and not too many play stoppages.

Fortunately Todd and I had a break between games three and four so we each checked into our rooms and had our luggage delivered to our respective rooms. After a few phone calls and a quick power nap it was back to the studio, for Villanova and Lafayette. Everyone knew this was going to be a blow out and the Wildcats proved everyone correct. Games like that can get boring so you keep track of runs and big leads. I think the Cats were up by 36 points at one point.

Our last game for the day was LSU & NC State. Best game in our region out of the four. NC State was down by as many as 16 early in the second half and rallied to win by one point.

There were 12 other games going on as well, and Iowa State and Georgia State killed me and millions of others in office pools nationwide.

After all that needless to say I was beat. When I got back to the hotel room I did the only logical thing. I watched more basketball! When my roommate got back in we chatted a bit and finally I fell asleep around 1:30. Day one is in the books. Day two starts for Todd and I a 2:10 today. Unfortunately with the late start we don’t get a break between games two and three but we can handle it we are veterans at this by now. Besides we found out we have all day Saturday to ourselves, as our first game isn’t until 7:20 pm. I think I’ll take in the sights of NYC. Hopefully I won’t be doing it in the snow.


The 2014 Book List

January 14, 2015

It’s the post you all know and love. It’s the one you have been waiting for since this time last year. It’s the TC annual book list. A look at the books I read over the past year while riding the steel rails of the LIRR. Enjoy!

Pinstripe Empire by Marty Appel. Well researched (especially the early 1900’s stuff) and well written. This tome tells the history of the Yankees from their beginnings as the Highlanders through the glory years of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra and Mantle, through the lean years of the mid to late 60’s and the teams resurrection under George Steinbrenner.

Hammerin’ Hank, George Almighty and the Say Hey Kid, The Year that Changed Baseball Forever. John Rosengren. The 1973 baseball season in all it’s glory with an emphasis on Orlando Cepeda, Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. I will say one thing for the author he is the only person I have read so far that has correctly named the restaurant where the Yankees announced what they thought they would be their new manager, Dick Williams. It’s Terrace on the Park, NOT Feathers in the Park.

Time Change, Book 3: The Way Back – Alex Meyers. Jack Riggs is back to try and prevent the Civil War AND find his way back to his own time. I don’t want to give anything away but it seems that Riggs’ time leap has caused advances in communications, medicine and technology to advance 20 years. You would have seen that Apple Computer in 1964 instead of 1984.

Protect & Defend – Vince Flynn. The action starts in Iran where an undercover Mossad agent has destroyed the Iranian nuclear plant. Of course the Iranian Government blames the United States. However before Mitch Rapp can clean up this mess there is a little something he has to take of from the previous novel, An Act of Treason and that is to kill the bad guy. Once that is done it’s on to dealing with the Iranians, the Israelis and his own government. Of course Mitch saves the day.

Now It’s Funny: How I Survived Cancer, Divorce and Other Looming Disasters – Michael Solomon. I met the author as our sons were navigating the playground at a Long Island McDonald’s. We got to talking and he told me that he was in TV to which I replied that I also do TV work as well. He told me about his book which I jotted down and ordered for my Kindle. Cancer is not funny but Solomon takes you through his ups and downs that will have you laughing one minute and in tears the next. Thank God he came through this ordeal OK and is still around to talk about it. It’s been said that how you deal with cancer  ie: positive attitude is half the battle. Solomon really made it through with his sense of humor and a good spirit.

His Excellency George Washington – Joseph Ellis. A task I have assigned myself is to try and read a book about every U.S. President (and so far I am failing miserably). So where better to start than with number one, the Father of his country himself. Bet you didn’t know that Washington just missed being shot at 25 years old. Now imagine if that had happened. How different would American history be?

Crash and Burn – Artie Lange. Artie sort of got clean and then goes down the lonely road of drug and alcohol abuse once again in this follow up to “Too Fat To Fish.” Having met Artie a few times he is a likable guy I just wish he would clean himself up for good.

E Street Shuffle:The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Clinton Heylin. Having read many volumes on one of my favorite artists (Springsteen) I figured I’d give this one a whirl. Nothing new revealed here. I knew all the stories. Still a decent read for a casual fan.

Seinfeld: The Making of an American Icon – Jerry Oppenheimer. Seinfeld from his humble beginning as a standup comedian to his rise to superstardom of his hit comedy series and beyond. Having worked as a bartender in the Comic Strip where Jerry got his start, it was nice to see quotes from the former manager of the club, Lucien Hold. Jerry Seinfeld has led a charmed life and I am happy for all of his success, which he never really let go to his head.

Extreme Measures – Vince Flynn. Mitch Rapp’s co-worker and good buddy Mike Nash gets to share the spotlight in this one. Two terrorist cells have been thwarted but a third one is on the loose and it’s up to Nash and Rapp to stop them. But first Rapp has to be released from custody for violating a prisoner’s (read terrorist’s) rights.

Pursuit of Honor – Vince Flynn. 185 people are killed in Washington DC at the National Counterterrorism Center, including staff, cabinet members and senators. And as usual it’s up to Mitch Rapp to save the day. However Rapp is dealing with Mike Nash’s psychological scars from the previous book as well as one of the higher up’s at the CIA who want to bring Rapp down. With the self-named Lion of al Qaeda and his two dimwitted assistants running around America, Rapp has his hands full. It all come to a stunning climax at a national monument in DC.

The Last Man – Vince Flynn. One of Mitch Rapp’s colleagues has been kidnapped (or has he). Either way Rapp must muddle through Afghanistan to find the answers to some very disturbing questions concerning his buddy. Sadly this was the last full book Flynn finished as he died of cancer in 2013.

Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever – Jack McCallum. This is quite possibly the greatest sports book I have ever read up to this point. Author McCallum gets his subjects to open up about a variety of topics that went on while this team was in Barcelona for two weeks in the summer of 1992. Never knew about Michael Jordan’s dislike for Isiah Thomas or what a tremendous competitor Jordan really was until I read this one. The Larry Bird – Chris Mullin game of H-O-R-S-E is interesting to say the least. Bird and Patrick Ewing becoming friends is another interesting, if not odd finding in this book. Magic Johnson aka Majeek as he was called in Europe was and is still loved by his adoring fans. You have to respect what David Robinson has done after his basketball career ended by opening up a school for children in San Antonio. I loved the chapter on the scrimmage between Team Magic and Team Jordan, which was played July 22, 1992 the same day my Godson Andrew was born! Jack McCallum is the luckiest sportswriter ever to have had the opportunity to cover this team for Sports Illustrated.

Catch a Wave: The Rise Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson – Peter Ames Carlin. I read Carlin’s bio on Bruce Springsteen a while back so I thought I would give this one a go, borrowing it from my library. The word genius is flung around too often, but it is perfectly applicable to Brian Wilson. The leader of the Beach Boys overcame a rough childhood under the abusive hand of his father Murry to become one of the most prolific songwriters in American history.  If that sounds like high praise, it’s warranted. I especially liked the part when Brian was in India at the same time as the Beatles and Paul McCartney played him a demo of “Back in the U.S.S.R.” saying it was an homage to the Beach Boys own “California Girls.”

The Third Bullet – Stephen Hunter. Apparently JFK was shot from the Dal-Tex Building.Yes it’s another book with yet another take on the Kennedy Assassination. I am not apologizing for reading a lot about a subject I have been fascinated with for a long time. Having never read any of Hunter’s work before, I did enjoy this one.

The Hit – David Baldacci. I have read all of the Mitch Rapp books. Now that Vince Flynn has passed away, I went looking for a new undercover super secret agent to follow. I found him in Will Robie. This is the second book of the series, and I was a little upset that I didn’t read the first one first. However I did catch on right away. Our hero is being stalked by someone who has “gone off the grid.” This one was a real page turner with a surprise twist ending.

The Innocent – David Baldacci. So I went back and read the first book in the Will Robie series and got myself caught up.  Robie befriends a tough teenager whose parents were killed. They go on a wild adventure as they are both looking for answers. For the girl, it’s who killed her parents and for Robie, it’s who set him up.

The Target – David Baldacci. Third in what I hope will be a never ending series of Will Robie books. Will and his new “partner” Jessica Reel. Nazi’s and North Korea are just two of the villains in this one. Another page turner but I am getting tired of the kidnapping yarn. How many times can one person be abducted and rescued?  Over all I still liked this one and look forward to the fourth installment.

Surrounded by Enemies – Bryce Zabel. Yes it’s another “What if JFK Survived Dallas?” novel. Only this one has a twist. It’s told from the perspective of a group of reporter from a fictitious newsweekly, Top Story. Author Zabel, who is a producer and screenwriter makes the characters come to life. JFK was at the Ed Sullivan Theater in February, 1964 to see and meet the Beatles! I connected with Zable through Linkedin and told him how much I enjoyed the book and how I look forward to any future work by him. He is currently working on another alternate history: “What if the Beatles Never Broke Up?”

Waging Heavy Peace – Neil Young. The story of Neil’s rise to fame and fortune and his work with Pono a portable digital media player and music download service strictly for high-quality audio. As a fan of Neil’s work, I thought he was all over the place with this biography, as it’s not told in a linear fashion. Neil loves his son’s Ben and Zeke who are both afflicted with cerebral palsy. Ben usually accompanies his father on tour and Neil loves looking into the wings and seeing his son enjoying the show. Neil’s hobbies are discussed as well including his love of model trains and his car collection including the famous LincVolt – an electric converted Lincoln Continental that Neil himself designed. Along the way there is talk of Buffalo Springfield, CSNY and his solo music career.

When Giants Walked the Earth: Led Zeppelin – Mick Wall. Probably the most detailed book I ever read on Led Zeppelin. Author Wall gets into the psyches of all four members plus manager peter Grant. A whole chapter is devoted to Aleister Crowley and Jimmy Page’s obsession with the black wizard. Wall even deciphers what he thinks “Zoso” actually means! The band was at it’s zenith after the Earl’s Court shows in 1975, and after that is when everything began to unwind. The author pulls no punches regarding John Bonham’s drinking and Page’s heroin addiction – John Paul Jones actually produced “In Through the Out Door” as Page was strung out during the making and mixing of the album. One annoying part were the flashback sequences where Wall would spend anywhere between a page to a page and a half discussing Jimmy Page as a sessions man or Robert Plant seeing Elvis for the first time. It slowed down the flow of the book. Other than that a great read for any hard core Zeppelin fan.

I Hate the Dallas Cowboys – Thomas R Pryor. My friend and fellow Yorkville neighbor wrote this one and gave me an autographed copy over lunch one day. There are a lot of fun stories in this one that anyone who grew up in Yorkville will appreciate. Heck even if you didn’t grow up in Yorkville, but you were reared in a tight knit community with lots of friends and family you will be laughing at these stories.

Season of ‘42 – Jack Cavanaugh. Baseball’s in America’s first full year of World War II. America’s first full year of World War II and it didn’t look good for the allies fighting wars on two fronts. As for baseball there were Teddy Ballgame and the Yankee Clipper renewing their rivalry. Unfortunately the errors in this book were plentiful and too long to list here. I did enjoy one section about Coast Guard officer John Cullen (no relation) who spotted four German spies on the beach at Amagansett. I have heard this story before but it was nice to see it told again.

Republic: A Novel of America’s Future – Charles Sheehan-Miles. Seems West Virginia wants to secede from the union. Troops are called in, battles are fought and the rebellion is put down rather quickly. Author Sheehan-Miles drew up some characters that I really cared about. Lots of linked characters like the daughter of a general who leads the rebellion. She is also the assistant to a very powerful Senator who is up for re-election. I liked this one a lot and couldn’t wait to read the sequel.

Insurgent – Charles Sheehan-Miles. And here is that sequel. With the rebellion squashed, small pockets of resistance have popped up around the state. As it turns out the rebels are backed by a religious nut (aren’t they almost always) who wants to put his own man in the White House and he comes very close to achieving that goal. One side plot in this one that really made me like the book was a soldier — previously regarded as a screw up — who begins dating the mayor’s daughter. Unfortunately her uncle the mayor’s brother-in-law is on the side of the rebels.

Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream – Dinesh D’Souza. The author does not like President Obama, I get it. I don’t particularly like President Obama either. D’Sousa puts to bed the rumors of Obama not being born in the United States. He WAS born in Hawaii, he just spent a lot of time in Kenya and Indonesia, before settling in Chicago. Why Chicago? That’s where Saul Alinsky began his career as a community organizer. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was heavily influenced by Alinsky and his teachings. Chicago is also home to Bill Ayers, allegedly an Obama friend. Ayers was a founder of the Weather Underground. You remember the Weather Underground, a Communist revolutionary group whose contribution to society was planting bombs in buildings such as the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol to protest the Vietnam War during the 60’s and 70’s.

America: Imagine a World Without Her – Dinesh D’Souza. What if America didn’t exist? I shudder at the thought and you should too. The academic D’Souza brings up the fact that President Obama was raised by leftists and that his progressive agenda is destroying America. More of the same as the previous read. There is no way in hell this country can afford to elect Hillary Clinton as President in 2016.

What’s So Great About Christianity? – Dinesh D’Souza. As you can see when I get into an author I want to read a lot if not all of his works. This is probably the heaviest book – in terms of subject matter – that I have read in a very long time. D’Souza cites noted scientists, philosophers, Christian scholars and atheists to prove that God does exist. He actually answered the question I have always asked, “Well if God created the universe, what was he doing before the universe was created?” As for religion being the cause of almost every war or act of genocide, D’Souza points out that neither Stalin or Hitler believed in God. So I guess atheism was the cause for The Great Purge and the Nazi death camps…something to ponder. And oh yes I DO still believe in God. Never doubted his existence for a moment.

Obama’s Wars – Bob Woodward. After reading about how much Dinesh D’Souza really dislikes President Obama, I decided to go to my man Bob Woodward and see what he had to say. Why anyone would want the job of POTUS is beyond me. In this book, Woodward goes way behind the scenes with Obama, his cabinet and his generals and military to look deep into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with a whole lot of Pakistan throw in there as well. It’s Pakistan that is hiding and harboring most of the terrorists that want to do our country harm.  Strong look at what goes into the decision making of where to deploy our troops and how many to send into the Middle East. Look we are in two wars that we can’t win. Time to pull every American serviceman and woman out of the region and let these clowns figure things out for themselves. Easier said than done I know. This book was written before we killed Osama Bin Laden.

Let’s Spend the Night Together – Pamela Des Barres. After all the political stuff I have read the past few weeks, I needed to change course. This book was certainly a different direction. One of the original ‘60s rock-n-roll groupies, Des Barres travels around the country interviewing other groupies. Tura Santana, who claimed she taught Elvis how to swivel his hips as well as swing his junk leads off the tome. A lot of names I have recognized from other rock books I have read are mentioned here, Cynthia Plaster Caster, Lori Mattix (whose name I have seen spelled several different ways over the years), Sable Starr, Bebe Buell and the legendary Sweet Connie all tell their stories. We have all done wild and crazy things when we were younger but these girls took it to the extremes. After reading this book I felt like I needed a shower.

Legendary Sessions: Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited. Colin Irwin. Well researched book about Dylan’s making of the Highway 61 Revisited Album. Irwin goes through each song dissecting each session. Dylan a notoriously slow worker took his time with this masterpiece and it shows. Bob recorded Positively 4th Street during these sessions which he released as a single and kept off the disc. I would recommend this one to any Dylan fan who hasn’t already read it or even just a casual fan.

Up All Night – Carol Miller. Rock-N-Roll Disc Jockey Miller tells about her rise to fame on the New York and Philadelphia airwaves. She gets personal with her relationships and her battle with cancer which she has courageously won. I have been listening to Miller for years since her days at WPLJ when then actually played great rock-n-roll. After finishing this book I dropped Carol an email telling her of my fondness for Bruce Springsteen and the fact that the night that my son was born the doctor and I got into a discussion about Led Zeppelin. The doc told me that his brother attended the show at the O2 Arena in London, two nights earlier. Carol was also there. She was kind enough to write me a note back. I love Carol’s style and I wish her nothing but more success in her career.

The Drop – Dennis Lehane. at just over 200 pages, I breezed through this one in less that 24 hours. The book is about a mob bar, a heist and a second planned heist during Super Bowl Sunday. I loved the characters and look forward to seeing the movie when it makes it’s way to Netflix. It was the last film James Gandolfini made. I intend to read more of Lehane’s stuff as I like his style.

The Fifth Assassin – Brad Meltzer. Someone is planning to kill the current President. Apparently there is a link to all four past Presidential Assassins, John Wilkes Booth, Charles J. Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz and Lee Harvey Oswald. There is also some sort of secret society that some Presidents are sworn into. There were a couple of great twists and turns especially at the end. I look forward to reading the next installment. However,  I am going to have to go back and read The Inner Circle which is the prequel to this book, as the author doesn’t do the reader the service of updating what has already happened.

Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game and how it Got That Way – Philip E. Orbanes. What kid did not have a Monopoly game in his room while growing up. What kid doesn’t know that Park Place and Boardwalk are THE properties to own? Fun read regarding Monopoly it’s predecessors, history and it’s future. There are so many versions of this game in various countries throughout the world. I am looking for an Oakland Raiders or a Star Wars version of the game!

December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died – Keith Elliot Greenberg. Author Greenberg doesn’t really dig too deep into what happened on that day but leads us on a trail of the events leading up to Lennon’s murder. I did learn that President-elect Reagan was in New York meeting with Archbishop of New York, Terence Cardinal Cooke that day. The saddest part for me aside from John’s murder was that the piece of shit (I have vowed never to say his name)  that killed John actually went up to shake Sean Lennon’s hand call him a good boy hours before he killed his father. And like the Summer of ‘42 book above there was another Cullen (again no relation) sighting in this book. Police officer Peter Cullen was one of the officers that drove Lennon to the hospital.

Cosell: The Man the Myth and the Transformation of American Sports – Mark Ribowsky. I was taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone don’t say anything. I was also taught not to speak ill of the dead. Having never worked with Cosell (I began my career at ABC Sports in 1988 a few years after Howard semi-retired) but I have heard the wild stories. Here was a man that was very good at his job. Unfortunately his ego was too big for his body. What I took for this book: this was not a nice man. He would have made a great lawyer should he have continued along that career path. What really made me see what a jerk Cosell was, was when two daughters of an ABC Sports PR Man ran up to meet him introducing themselves as the PR Man’s daughters. Cosell’s response, “Who cares?”

Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath and Dixie’s Last Quarter – Randy Roberts & Ed Krzemienski. The story of Joe Namath’s years as the quarterback at Alabama. Interesting to note that Namath was at the school when it became desegregated. Aside from being a good football book this one also provides a history lesson. Namath actually witnessed Alabama Governor George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door attempting to block two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood from registering. The football team would not become desegregated until 1970. I found it strangely interesting how the demanding and intense Bear Bryant and the laid-back, party boy Namath got along so well. If you are going to read this one, I would follow it up with a book I read last year: Turning the Tide.

You Never Give me your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup – Peter Doggett. WOW! Did these guys really hate each other? Or was it the lawyers that made the fab four not get along? If you think you know everything about the Beatles, read this book. I guarantee you will learn a few things you did not know. Turns out John had a difficult time making hit records and while John George and Ringo were doing guest shots on each others albums, Paul decided to form his own new band and get on with his life. The amount of money that the four Beatles lost through Apple Corps. and other investment misadventures was staggering.

Legendary Sessions: The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet. Alan Clayson. There is really only one chapter in this tome that deals with the actual sessions regarding this great disc. The rest is all filler such as the bands influences, a history of the band and Brian Jones descent into drugs, despair and his eventual death. Jones contributed little to this album and would soon be a former Rolling Stone. The Dylan book in this series — that I wrote about above — was much better in my opinion.


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