Wednesday, March 22, 2017

1773 Park Avenue Doctors

STATE COLLEGE PA (Wessays™)  --  If you live around here, you know this place.  It is called the Park Avenue Medical Sciences Building and it shared by the hospital up the street and the local college’s dockery.  The only real science that goes on here is financial extraction.

This is where the local Park Avenue doctors practice. It is three stories tall and about as wide as the average Home Depot.  And after they had the first floor plans done right, the lobotomy kicked in and the rest of the place was designed like a fun house without the mirrors.

I’m coming out the front door and walking away from having my bum knee shot full of Miracle Cure and about where you see the lamp post on the right, is The Greatest Generation.

Now if you read Brokaw’s book, you know those are the people who saved us from the Nazis and Japan, imperfectly but close enough.  Robust, hard working, community minded, young and strong.  But the young and strong stay neither forever.  

And here’s the old sea dog, all maybe 5’ 4” of him, but he’s bent over so you really can’t tell.  He’s scraping along with a pair of those double crutches that grip each arm. We used to call them Polio sticks. He is moving with all the speed of a garden slug but none of the grace.  He’s wearing a World War II vet’s  baseball cap with the medals and stars and “US NAVY in letters big enough for the top line of the eye chart. It’s what the Greatests have so we don’t mistake them for track stars.

“Do you need a hand, sir?” (Watch. He’s going to smile and tell me go pack it. It’s a sure thing.)


“Yes,” he says.  I have to get to my skin doc and I’m having some trouble.”  Is that a tear in his eye or is it just a bit cold on this first day of Spring?

Okay, I steady him, grab his arm and our goal is the invasion of Normandy Bench.  You can see it there near the door. He makes it but it’s cold, “is there a bench inside?” Yes, but you can’t see it unless you’re right on it.

He makes it to the inner bench.  

“I can find someone who can get you a wheelchair for the rest of the trip.”  

“Nah. You have troubles of your own.” He points to my cane. “This is nothing,” he says. “I’ll rest for awhile and then take the elevator.”

You don’t insist. You don’t patronize the Greatest Generation. They’re the only reason we’re still here.   So he sits.  And the elevator will arrive and he’ll go to the third floor and search for the room number which is at the end of a maze that takes you the longest possible distance to the farthest corner of the building.

Once inside, he’ll find the route to the exam room is another maze.  By the time he gets to see the doc, he’ll be moving at the speed of growing grass if he’s moving at all.

Greatest was hurting and the dermatologist is a Brooklyn born and raised MD who closed his ground floor office on the other side of town and joined a group here.

Another of his patients once quipped “So if your ambition has always been to be a Park Avenue doctor, you’ve made it.”

His immediate rejoinder: “No. I never wanted that. I get enough grief from my patients here.”  But then he turned serious.

“A lot of my patients are seniors and some of them are going to have trouble getting up to this floor and then walking all those corridors into the exam room.”

And how right he was this day.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, March 20, 2017

1772 Remembering Breslin

Portable typewriter, case closed.

Jimmy Breslin died this weekend. Everyone who knew him and most people who read him thought he had anger management issues.

But they were wrong.  Guys like Breslin don’t have “issues” and don’t “manage.”  They have problems. And Jimmy’s wasn’t anger.  It was much bigger.  It was rage.

And that rage fueled some of the best newspaper work in New York, a town with enough newsprint star quality to fuel its own galaxy. At the time, anyway.

Breslin filled the room even when he wasn’t the biggest guy at the bar.  He filled it in a way that pushed movie stars and politicians and sports stars and clergymen and mobsters to the wall… just by being there.

Because this was the guy who was going to find out the truth about your dirty doings and write about them in long, run-on sentences and short paragraphs both of which he denied using, but did.

By now you’ve heard the stories because they’ve been circulating for most of the weekend. Jimmy interviewed JFK’s grave digger instead of the cluster of bigshots at the funeral.  He’s the guy who got Son of Sam the serial killer to cooperate and lauded the cops who stumbled over David Berkowitz and brought him down because of a parking ticket.

And there was “Un Occhio,” the one eyed king of “all organized crime” who operated out of the back room of a candy store.  And Mansion Murphy, the Long Island bishop who built a monument to himself out of a former convent.  Breslin was a Roman Catholic and Irish. But he always said the Irish church didn’t get it while the Italian church did.

He was a liberal in a liberal city but took on the state government of Gov. Hugh Carey -- Society Carey he called him -- when the rage hit him.

Good cops got the royal treatment.  Bad cops got a verbal Louisville Slugger to the jaw.

Jimmy didn’t like dogs.  He didn’t have much use for little kids, though he had six of his own, two of them long gone by the time he died.

So, yeah.  The stories.  Everyone knew the stories. Everyone saw him on Channel 7 and on Channel 4 and in beer ads.

A throwback.  A Queens boy with a Queens accent that was already a dead language by the time he was a grownup.

Rage.  He said it himself.  Someone who really was for the little guy and the losers and the nobodies and all the rest of us who don’t count.  No politician gets softballs from this guy. Just that baseball bat.

Rage. A guy who didn’t write his columns sitting in his living room wearing a bathrobe.  He went to the scene of the crime.

And the funerals. And city hall.  And it’s a good thing for the blobs in Washington that Breslin never learned to drive a car.  Because if he had been able to get there and back easily, there’s no telling the damage he could have done to the reigning princes of politics.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, March 17, 2017

1771 Your Car as Professor of Economics

Tell ‘em Groucho sent you

We have to go back in time for this, folks.  Back in the old days, you had a car that had a part that needed replacement, say a power steering pump.

Teddy the mechanic (they weren’t yet “technicians” in those days) installs the new pump.  And for awhile everything seems okay.  But a week later, something springs a leak and you rail against Teddy. “He must have screwed up something that will make me return for another repair.”

Yes, he did.  But it probably wasn’t his intention.  The vigorous new pump in an older car pressures parts that have grown accustomed to poor circulation or loose hose clamps. Something.

Everyone wins and everyone loses.  The mechanic gets an extra job.  But he loses some of his capitalist capital with the car owner.  The car owner gets a better running car.  But he loses some bucks. Sometimes more than a few.

The failed economic policies of the United States are just like Teddy and your car.  They fix something and immediately, the power of the fixed segment becomes too much for another part of the system to withstand and something else breaks down.

The right has long advocating lower taxes for the “job creating” upper crusties. A good idea.  Except for one part:  that’s not what happens.  What happens is corporations stage wholesale stock buybacks which generally cause a bubble on Wall Street.  When the bubble pops, everyone loses.

But one segment of the economy benefits: Yacht sales.  Create jobs?  Why? We’re getting all this free money and what better to do with it than shuffle papers to increase the appearance of the bottom line and buy mid-size ocean liners so we can cruise all the way from Moote Pointe to Fire Island.

The only jobs that are thus created are people whose lot in life is to say things like “Would m’lady like her drink refreshed?”

Which probably is a little less tiring and slightly better paying than the people whose lot in life is to say “You want fries with that?”

--The president’s proposed so called budget includes a $54 billion increase in military spending, thankfully with better pay and better treatment of veterans. But a lot goes to weaponry for which we have no use.  That’s putting the cart before the horse.

--That $54 billion has to come from somewhere. Reagan, patron saint of the modern mainstream conservative, did it the old fashioned way, he raised taxes. The current president will do it by gutting the budgets of agencies that protect the environment, work to improve the nation’s health and collect taxes.

--In a burst of fairness, the Deep State is developing new technology. Soon it will place a warning MP3 on the phones it taps.  It will say “this call will be monitored or recorded for training purposes.”

--Note to so called Secretary of State Rexxon Exxon. When you decline to talk to the press, you’re declining to answer questions for the American people.  This is the USA, not USA, LLP where you can get away without filing information.

-“                               ”--Secretary of State Rexxon Exxon answering a question about… anything.

-When you finally get customer service on the phone, start the conversation by saying “this call will be monitored or recorded” and see how Bombay Bobby and Milly Manila on the other end of the line react.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

1770 Down in the Mine: the View from Urbia

How the government decides things

It was just an ordinary apartment house.  Six floors.  Fewer than a dozen apartments on each of the top five.

Now and then, the coal truck appeared and stuck a long chute into a basement window and the coal would come rumbling down.  The only other time we thought about coal is when they rolled big ash cans up to the sidewalk for collection.

Ash cans. A once common term but one you hear rarely these days.

In the warmer weather the kids would go up on the roof… we called it “Tar Beach” and come down filthy.  It was tar.  You got dirty. But we could get a bit of sun and a nice view.  And no grownup came up to bother us.

Nothing much up there.  The elevator mechanism, chimneys.  That kind of thing. Television was just getting popular. People in the building were buying sets.  The sets were attached to antennas on the roof using long flat brown wires.  

The wind turned the antennas.  The adults came up to adjust them and came down filthy.  It’s a tar beach, right? But the dirt wasn’t tar.  It was soot from the chimneys.  And that’s how we all learned what coal was doing to our lungs, our skin, our clothing, our faces.

At some point they converted to oil.  No more soot. No more coal deliveries. No more rumbling down the chute. No more ash cans on the sidewalk awaiting the carter trucks.

As building after building changed heating fuel, mine after mine closed.  People were thrown out of work.  But New York is a lifetime away from West Virginia and Pennsylvania and Kentucky.  So we didn’t much notice that.  And those of us who did couldn’t do anything about it.

Coal disappeared from houses, from railroad trains, from just about everything but Con Ed plants.  

Now a pinball machine of a federal government wants to bring all that coal back.  It’ll create thousands of jobs, we hear.  Great. Meaningful jobs.  Big bucks jobs.  A pipe dream that can be made real only by gutting the Environmental Protection Agency.  

No problem these days. Just put in an administrative  head who wants to eliminate the agency and give him a jump start by cutting the budget by 25 or 30 percent.

The mines will open. New jobs galore. And lots of yummy soot.

How to fix the problem? Leave that up to the public private partnership that no doubt will arise with the pinball model.

Uh oh! The pinball machine blinked “tilt” and went dead.  OK. Just leave it for the next guy with some pocket change.

-“If I cross a kangaroo and a turkey, can I stuff it from the outside?” --Lonnie Donegan

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, March 13, 2017

1769 Cassius Clay, Jr.

1769 Cassius Clay, Jr.

Three obviously dangerous men. Muhammad Ali, Jr. (l) Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson. Daily Mail photo.

Welcome to Washington, Mr. Ali. Now please step off the line and come with us.

Yes, yes.  It’s almost sacrilege and fully demeaning these days to refer to Muhammad Ali by what he called his “slave name,” Cassius Clay, abandoned in 1964 when he converted to Islam.  

He was one of the best and most important athletes in American history, and certainly one of the best known.

In fact, it’s almost impossible to find anyone -- even now -- who doesn’t know Muhammad Ali.  With two exceptions.  Two agents for the Homeland Security Farceagency.

Ali, Jr. is a pleasant looking middle aged man who resembles his father, though not as much of a visual stunner. But that name?  Well, it’s gotten him taken off boarding lines at airports twice now, the latest last Friday afternoon in Washington where he had testified before congress about the first time.

So… not only did the TSA guy at Reagan Airport not know the name, but evidently hadn’t heard the story of how he was detained in Florida last month.
According to the Census Bureau, there are more than 40-thousand men named Muhammad Ali in the United States.  One of them’s a cabbie in Manhattan. Another is the manager of a Halal meat market in Chicago (patronized by both Muslims and Jews.)  A third has just gone into the bottled water business in Flint, Michigan.

Most of those guys don’t travel a lot, at least not long distances.  But you have to wonder if they’ve undergone the same kind of emotional roughing up that Junior has.

So, Mr. Ali, for use in airports (and maybe on the highway or walking down a street dressed in a navy blue hoodie and encountering the square badges) may we suggest some form of photo ID that calls you by the name you never had and that your father abandoned more than half a century ago.  Cassius Clay, Jr. may be demeaning.  But better demeaned than trying to educate the airport knuckle draggers and security guards with guns.

Look at the bright side: At least your name isn’t Osama.


--Money- losing Staples says it will close another bunch of stores, while co-owned iHeartRadio tries to cope with unpayable debt equal to the gross domestic product of Slovakia and no visible means of paying.  And here we thought private equity funds were run by Masters of the Universe. Someone’s getting rich… but it ain’t the stockholders.

--When Preet Bharara refused orders to resign as US Attorney for the southern district of New York, the acting assistant attorney general fired him.  He’s made things too hot for crooked politicians of all major parties, for the snakes of Wall Street and other assorted miscreants.  Next stop is probably Harvard Law where he’ll become the new Dershowitz.

-I can spell Bhararararara, but I don’t know when to stop.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, March 10, 2017

1768 Thinking About Joe

Don’t straighten up, I’ll never find anything.
Joe Franklin didn’t make it to his 91st birthday party yesterday, but we celebrated anyway.  A nice little gathering, though it’s gotten smaller for each of the last three years.  

After all, when the birthday boy is upstairs cavorting with Marilyn Monroe, Walter Winchell, Jolson, C.B. DeMille, and anyone else who was anybody in times gone by why come back down to mingle with us?

Joe’s last assignment was with the radio program “Bloomberg on the Weekend,” which was carried in 18 time zones, many of which had few if any speakers of English.

So around this time of year the question always come in: “What was Joe really like?”  There’s a question anyone who ever heard his radio shows or watched his TV shows can answer as well as any of us who worked with him.  What you heard and saw is what you got.

Joe was the most unpretentious household name any household in America has heard or seen.

A small guy with a big heart.  Already old while still in his teens.  Limitless enthusiasm for the good bad and ugly of show biz.  Famous, infamous, people no one ever heard of but with something to offer.  Joe found them all.  Or they found him.

He said he interviewed hundreds of thousands of  people in his decades on the air.  True? Who knows.  It’s a high number in any case.

He’d come into the building and stash some free snacks in his attache case.  Too poor to buy them? Don’t be silly.  The first rule of performance is if someone offers free food or drink, take it.

His six minute and 20 second segment on the weekend show generated a lot of mail and phone calls.  People wanted to know about Debbie Reynolds’ disappointment in Eddie Fisher.  They wanted to know about the new Corvette Jack LaLanne bought himself on turning 90.  They wanted to know whether Liberace wore a toupee… if there were ghosts in the WOR newsroom.  We answered them all.

Joe had the last rotary dial telephone in Manhattan.  And the last radio show that didn’t sound right without static.  And the last TV show that didn’t look right without snow on the black and white screen.

We miss him still.

--HBO is going to make a mini series about the 2016 election.  They expect us to pay to see an event in which we’re still living?  Open auditions coming soon, with special consideration given to talking Cheetos, pumpkins and Alec Baldwin.

--The current political climate with its higher than ever lie count, the Trumpcare debacle, the Russia connection, the wire “tapp” and so on make us long for the good old days when the worst among us worried about kiddie car crises like the John Birch Society, the Dulles Brothers and missiles in Cuba. Today, we’re getting ready for a new affliction.  It’s called Pre Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

1767 Kill the Credits and Other Time & Space Savers

When a live TV show runs out the clock and they just have to get in that last 30 seconds of Martha’s “How to Barbeque Asparagus” segment, they make time and space by dropping the credits scheduled for the end of the program.

No one reads them anyway.  Except of course second assistant boom operator Harvey Finklestein’s mother.  If the program is recorded -- most of them are -- they split the screen and run the credits at mach speed on the lower quarter while starting the next thrilling episode of Honey Boo Boo on the upper ¾.

In print, when a last minute fender bender with no injuries takes place on deadline, they “spike” some other item, like the fight that broke out at a ham pot pie fund raising dinner for a returning soldier. The story that was ready to print but didn’t make it is called overset.

By the time the next day’s edition goes to press, the fund raiser for Pfc. Finstermeister is outdated and unless a crazed gunman opened fire and destroyed the kitchen at the Legion Hall there’s no follow up.

And even that depends on whether Clark Kent got there with his notepad and iPhone before the Fairborn, Ohio SWAT team arrived, restored order and returned to police headquarters along with the “overset” unsold ham pies that somehow became evidence.

Popcorn sales at the moviehouse rise sharply as the credits roll.  So does the number of moviegoers falling asleep.  So why bother with them?

Sometimes it’s “in the contract.”

But mostly, it’s ego.  Ego. In show business?  Who knew?

So a small suggestion for writers of short stories and novels and who have trouble coming up with the names of characters.


Freeze the TV during the credits and write down names before pushing “play” again.  Repeat.

Before long, a list appears in your notebook, first and last names.

Here are two from the movie Cloud Cult:
Propmaster: Ray McNeill
Assistant Production Buyer: Alexandra Marden.

Take one from column A and one from column B and you get Ray Marden.  Sounds like a good hero.

From another movie where the standby property assistant was Lydia Farrell and the property petty cash buyer was Carly Parris, you can get the name of your damsel in distress by naming them either Lydia Parris or Carly Farrell.

So there’s use for Ray, Alexandra, Lydia and Carly beyond their mommies.

Granted it’s an obscure use.  But it’s still a use. (And what is a “standby property assistant?”)

The number of people it takes to make a movie is startling. You wonder if they have to rent a stadium to hold staff meetings.

--Final Credit: RIP, Freddie Weintraub, 88, a hero to those of us who picked and sung at his “Bitter End” on Bleecker St. during the New York folk scare in the early 1960s. The club was one of the most important talent incubators of its time. When he’d had enough of the Village idiots, Weintraub went to Hollywood where he made a star of Bruce Lee.

--Here at the secret mountain laboratory, we’re working on a filing system that combines the best of the old and the new. It’s electronic -- the new. Here’s the old: the files eventually turn yellow and you can set the percentage of items that get lost, and when you lose them.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, March 06, 2017

1766 Self Driving Bagpipes and Other Drones

Time was that “drone” was associated with bagpipes, banjos, Senate filibusters, Uncle Al’s war stories and professor Hildebrand's lectures on the pre-Caesarian epic poetry of Nagadocious Depresum.

No more.  Now drones are everywhere. It’s not just the pipes that don’t change notes on the bagpipe or the short string on the banjo.  Now “drone” is used to describe unidentified flying objects, crewless warplanes, motorized kites and self driving cars.

Those cars are just around the corner.  But the corner they’re talking about is on Neptune.  The unmanned planes we have pretty much down pat. The unidentified flying objects… ahah! There’s the problem.

One of these, reports the Associated Press, flew through a 27th floor window in a Manhattan apartment building.  Fortunately the window was closed at the time thereby slowing the aircraft and preventing more extensive damage. Other than the flying shards of glass and the overturned Ming vase now in pieces on the slightly scratched parquet floor.

Another one, this one launched by the army, freelanced a rogue flight from Arizona to Colorado where it crashed into a tree.  No one hurt, but the damage was estimated at $1.5 million not including the tree, says PC Magazine.

How long will it be before a flock of drones flies into the engine of a jetliner on takeoff from Starling International Airport causing it to crash into the south Pacific and forcing the Perth Olympic Long Distance Swim team to dogpaddle to shore?

How long will it be until Little Billy’s drone runs out of juice over Yankee Stadium and plummets onto and destroys Mickey Mantel’s memorial buried flask at third base?  Or even worse, crashes into Mrs. McGinty’s lap, spilling beer and hotdog chunks across the ten contiguous seats.

The recreational drone flyers will have to face off with the recreational kite flyers in mini dog fights.  It’s Snoopy and the Red Baron or the skiers vs. the snowboarders all over again.

As for bagpipes and banjos… you can authentically reproduce the sounds of either or both on one of those computers that masquerades as the keyboard of an organ.

And some of them, the Yamaha Tyros 5 first among equals, can be made to play both at the same time.

--Ratings for the Tonight Show “Starring” Jimmy Fallon have fallen 18% since inauguration day while Stephen Colbert’s Late Show’s are skyrocketing.  Fallon is the least funny guy ever to host NBC’s 11:30 broadcast and Steve Allen, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno are rotating (even though Leno remains on the up side of the daisies.)

--The White House has become the poster child for finger pointing, ignoring one of the main ideas of the Republican Party, “take responsibility for your decisions and actions.”  Nothing ever is their fault.  What is it like to live a life of blamelessness?

--A major international auto company with an unmatched reputation for unreliability is developing conjoined twin mini-cars.  If successful, when (not if, when) one breaks down the driver can switch to the other.  One remaining hitch: the prototypes’ shared electrical system is inclined to blow fuses which causes the cars to stall at the same time.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, March 03, 2017

1765 Attack of the Killer Pollen

Dept. Of Homeland Security Illustration

You getting that tired rundown feeling?  You blaming Trump or overwork or lack of sleep or traffic jams or long lines at the checkout register?  Or your blood pressure meds, antidepressants, your idiot boss, your idiot spouse or your idiot children?


The allergy season has begun.  And with the spring-like winter we’re having in much of the country, you have lots of company.  

Is there a way to differentiate between the “normal” tiredness of winter and the early onset of the sneezies?  No.  Not until you do something about any of those factors, eliminating one at a time.

But allergens -- pollen, dust, mold etc. -- conspire. Yes, we’re endorsing one of the least known but most realistic conspiracy theories ever.

These little grains, hardly big enough to see until they coat your car and windows in yellow are out there no matter what the pollen counters and pollen forecasters tell you.   A good wind gust and your breathing mechanism is disabled for 12 hours.  And usually that happens when it’s way too late in the day to take the non-drowsy pills and risk a sleepless night.

These mini terrorists can slip through a window that’s open only a crack.  And you feel silly wearing a construction mask around the house, let alone while you’re out walking the dog.

Nothing close to an extended winter frost this year at least in the eastern third of the country. And that means not only more and stronger pollen but more and stronger insects.

Winter often keeps much of the bug population from ever getting out of the egg stage.  This year, your little crawly friends will be an army that could conquer the entire country if it only could get organized and read maps.

If this goes on for more than one season, Old Man Winter is going to have the biggest fan club since Elvis or Sinatra in their primes.

But for now, he’s charged with pollenius assault.

Today’s Quote:
-“Of course not, dear.”  -- The only acceptable answer to your wife’s question “Does this outfit make me look fat?”


--Beauregard Sessions has recused himself from investigations of the Trump campaign.  That means there probably really isn’t anything to hide or maybe anything that is insufficiently hidden. Alas.
--The Washington Post, the newspaper that took down Nixon, and has won almost 50 Pulitzer Prizes, has a new earth shattering controversy in its crosshairs. It is the leading source for information on a story almost every other news outlet has missed. Wessays (™) takes a stand now, by saying Garfield the cartoon cat is male, not genderless, thus echoing the character’s creator, Jim Davis.

-First Lady Melania Trump read some Dr. Seuss books to kids at a hospital in New York, and at no time claimed she wrote them herself.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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