The heartbreaking story of a local burger joint that got famous, then had to close. Remembering the late William Goldman, an amazing writer. And the N.Y. Tims with a fantastic video showing how Khashoggi’s murder was planned out

Admit it: There are times in your life when you’ve eaten at a restaurant because you were told, or heard on the radio, or read somewhere, that it had the “best” something in the state. Or America. Or the world.

You’ve done it, I’ve done it, everyone has. Quite a few times in my life, in fact, as I’ve lived around the country as a journalist, I’ve eaten “the best pizza in Florida” or “the best barbecue in North Carolina” and sometimes, yes, it’s been great, and other times, I was like “Meh. What’s all the fuss about.”

But what I never ever considered was what effect a restaurant being named the “best of” something had on it, financially and emotionally.

The best writing makes you think of things in a way you never had before, and I must tip my hat to e-migo and friend of the blog Luke for pointing me to this devastatingly awesome story by Kevin Alexander, who a year ago in an article for Thrillist.com anointed a small Portland hamburger restaurant named Stanich’s as having the best hamburger in America.

You would think that would be a hugely exciting development for Stanich’s, a locally famous, family-owned joint outside of town. But this one small article and honor ended up destroying the restaurant, and the man who runs it now, Steve Stanich.

Really in-depth story by Alexander here, talking to critics who must weigh the desire to highlight terrific food to others, and the fear that the publicity may be ruinous.

Read this story, it’s really gripping. And then go eat somewhere great no one’s heard of, and keep it that way.

**Next up today, it’s now become very clear that the man behind the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the Crown Prince himself, Mohammad bin Salman. The New York Times has done a pretty fantastic video presentation here showing exactly how the murder was planned, carried out, and who is to blame.

This is really, really great stuff.

**And finally today, a few words about William Goldman, whose death we learned about on Friday. A fantastic author, Goldman wrote the screenplays for some of the greatest movies of all time, including “All the President’s Men,” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Oh, and a little book called “The Princess Bride,” which was turned into one of the greatest, funniest and warmest movies ever.

Goldman was a storyteller, and could tug at heartstrings like few others. And if you don’t think after hearing he died that I went down a YouTube rabbit hole watching “The Princess Bride” clips, well then you don’t know me too well.

Here’s a great tribute to Goldman by his friend Mike Lupica, and of course, above, one of many, many incredible scenes from “The Princess Bride.”

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Good News Friday: An amazing new Elton John commercial shows the power of a gift. A 5-year-old autistic girl meets a real-life Cinderella. And recovering addicts run the NYC Marathon

Yesterday was November 15 and I made a lovely discovery here in suburbia:

I don’t own a snow shovel. This normally isn’t a problem on Nov. 15, but as it snowed a few inches yesterday here on the East Coast, and since buying a house I suddenly have to, you know, shovel a driveway when it snows, it’s suddenly a problem. (Add that to one of the many joys of being a homeowner)

But hey, I won’t let having to shovel-shop this morning ruin my mood! It’s Good News Friday, after all, and I’ve got lots of good stuff to share.

First off, this new advertisement from John Lewis Partners, a British company famous for their holiday ads, blew me away. It’s an incredible journey, starring Elton John, his piano, and the power of gift-giving. Truly one of the most amazing commercials I’ve ever watched. Enjoy.

**Next up today, what could be more heartwarming than a little girl meeting Cinderella, in real life? A 5-year-old autistic girl in upstate New York named Layla Lester loves princesses, as so many girls her age do. She loves Cinderella the most, and one recent weekend at a park near her house, she saw what she thought was a real-life Cinderella.

In reality of course, it was a local bride named Olivia Spark, in a wedding dress taking photos. But Olivia played along, and what started as “mistaken identity” has become a wonderful friendship.

Good on you, Olivia. What a sweet lady she is.

**And finally today, meet 81-year-old Louis Mapp, of Mobile, Ala. He’s a grandfather of eight and great-grandfather of two, but his main “job” for the past two years is to rock, feed and burp babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile. Every Tuesday, he drives 45 minutes to the hospital to help sick infants whose families aren’t able to be there 24/7. 

And oh yeah, Louis is quite wealthy, and recently donated $1 million to the hospital ward he’s come to know and love.

“After being there and seeing what a special place it is, and what an impact they have on people’s lives, my wife and I decided we wanted to do something for them,” Mapp told PEOPLE. “We have been blessed, and we said, ‘What a good place, to share some of those blessings, with the NICU.’”

“These babies are so precious,” Mapp told the University of Southern Alabama, “It’s just hard to put it in words.”

What a terrific man. Something so intimate and kind as helping rock and burp babies, from a stranger who just wants to help; those little ones don’t yet realize how lucky they are to have him in their lives.

 

There’s going to be a “Breaking Bad” movie, and I’m cautiously optimistic. The winner of the Grand Prix of Magic kind of blew my mind. And businesses are starting to hire “seat fillers” like at the Oscars, a truly idiotic idea

Lost to me in all the political news last week was a pretty huge development concerning one of my two favorite television shows of all time.

After years of denials and saying he wasn’t interested, the creator of “Breaking Bad”, Vince Gilligan, is reportedly making a movie based on the amazing television show.

Tentatively called “Greenbrier,” it’s set to star Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, one of the two major leads on “BB”,  picking up after the final episode when he (SPOILER ALERT) escapes and starts his new life.

I have mixed feelings on this, as I’m sure many “BB” fans are. First of all, as I wrote about when I watched it a few years ago, “Breaking Bad” is one of the greatest pieces of pop culture I’ve ever consumed. Incredibly well-acted by Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, and every other actor in it, it was also an absolutely gorgeous show to look at, filmed beautifully and plotted just perfectly.

It was as close to perfection, I think, as a TV show could ever get, and I was devastated when we came to the final episode and realized there’d be no more.

So on the one hand, just like my other all-time favorite show “The Wire,” I see no reason to do anything else here with “Breaking Bad.” It was perfect, the ending was perfect, and part of me is afraid picking up Jesse’s story after it ended, instead of leaving his future to our imagination, can only lead to disappointment. Why mess with a great thing?

But the bigger part of me is excited for “Greenbrier” and here’s why: Vince Gilligan has gone back to the “BB” well once before, and it’s been fantastic. I was highly dubious when they started “Better Call Saul” with Bob Odenkirk in a prequel reprising his fantastic Saul Goodman character.

But damn was I wrong. “Better Call Saul” is fantastic; really a worthy addition to the “Breaking Bad” universe, with the typical Vince Gilligan great acting, directing and plot.

So given that he’s involved, and Aaron Paul is involved, maybe “Greenbrier” will be fantastic. Maybe we’ll get to see the lives of some of the other characters we left off when the show ended, like Skyler and Marie and Jesse’s old pals Badger and Skinny Pete (who totally should’ve gotten a spinoff of their own; I’d pay good money to hear their stoner conversations each week) and maybe even some more of Tuco’s relatives are still around somewhere in Mexico.

No idea when “Greenbrier” will be out. But I am certain I’ll be seeing it. Vince Gilligan has earned my eternal loyalty for making something as epic as “Breaking Bad.” I’m sure he’ll do a great job, (in Jesse Pinkman voice) bitch!

**Next up, once in a while I stumble across a magic trick video and get blown away, and that’s what happened with this clip of Eric Chien, who won the recent Grand Prix of Magic with this routine.

Just… wow.

**Finally today, I always love it when a really stupid idea gets a “trend story” written about it, and before I go on let me assure you this not a story from The Onion, this is real.

So apparently some companies have noticed a problem: When they bring investors or other potential high-level employees to their offices for a look around, there are sometimes a lot of empty desks and cubicles. This is because either lots of people are working from home, are at lunch or in meetings, or more likely, the company is struggling and just don’t have many employees left.

So what to do, to make your office look like a busy hub with workers busily making deals and generating profit? Pretend to have lots of employees. By hiring seat-fillers. Like they do at awards shows.

Seriously. Companies have been hiring freelance “workers” to sit at desks and cubicles and fake like they’re doing work when they know outsiders are coming in to take a look around.

This is ALL kinds of ridiculous. First of all, what if one of your guests happens to strike up a conversation about the business with an imposter, then what? Also, and I can’t emphasize this enough, if you have too much office space and no employees to fill it, maybe you should MOVE TO A SMALLER OFFICE!

Seat-fillers in business. If only Kramer was still around to do what he did on that great “Seinfeld” episode where he “won” a Tony Award.

What a ridiculous idea.

 

The Jets hit rock bottom, and no that’s not the first time I’ve ever said that. A tribute to Veterans on Veteran’s Day. And my friend Jeff helps bring down a repugnant California congressman, proving one person can make a difference

As a Jets fan, you get used to misery.
It comes with the territory, like watching other teams celebrate, always having January weekends free from stress, and the sinking feeling that no matter what happens in the world, the Jets will always break your heart.

So it takes a lot, I mean A LOT, for Jets fans to truly feel like rock bottom has been hit. It’s been hit a bunch of times in my 37 years of fandom, with maybe the lowest of the lowest being the Rich Kotite era, that glorious stretch of the 1995-96 when the team won four games and lost, I believe, 324.

Anyway, back to the present. Look, we Jets fans knew this year was going to be a struggle, breaking in a rookie QB, with lots of young players on defense, not a lot of offensive playmakers (OK, zero offensive playmakers). But it’s been even worse than we could’ve thought, all leading to Sunday’s pathetic, miserable, disgusting, execrable 41-10 loss to the previously-hapless Buffalo Bills.

The Buffalo Bills! A team starting a quarterback, Matt Barkley, who hadn’t played in a game in almost two years!

The Bills destroyed the Jets every which way you can, and I’m thrilled that I didn’t watch any of it.

But one thing is certainly clear: The Jets need to fire head coach Todd Bowles. And soon. Like, today. The team is going backwards, he’s shown no ability whatsoever when it comes to game management, timeouts, when to be daring and when not to, and he seems to inspire zero effort or hustle among his team.

He’s had four years, and the team is awful. Fire the man and put us all out of our misery. So maybe soon we can inch our way up from rock bottom.

Sigh. Not easy being a Jets fan.

Some more quick-hit NFL thoughts from Sunday…

— Well, I think it’s fair to say there might now be three teams who are head and shoulders above the rest of the league. All year it has seemed like the Chiefs and Rams were playing on a different plane, but the Saints sure seem like they belong up there now. They destroyed a good Bengals team on the road, 51-14, and man is Drew Brees playing amazing. New Orleans is 8-1 and looking unstoppable.

— Remember a few months ago when everyone thought the Jaguars were good? They stink. Lost their fifth straight, now are 3-6, and look to be going back to the basement where they were for most of the past decade.

–Ladies and gentlemen, the Cleveland Browns! They’ve now won THREE games this year! Baker Mayfield and Co. beat up Atlanta, 28-16, and well, I just can’t believe the Browns have won three whole games. In the same season.

— Finally, the Patriots got their asses kicked Sunday in Tennessee and since you don’t get to say that that often, I just thought I’d point that out. It made me happy.

**Next up today, it is of course Veteran’s Day, a time to honor all of our amazing, heroic servicemen and women who have helped keep our country safe. Gotta say, I thought this response from “SNL” and Pete Davidson after his tasteless, awful joke about Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw, a war veteran, last week was handled perfectly this week, with an apology and a hilarious appearance by Crenshaw himself. Check it out here.

But of course the real heroes of Veteran’s Day deserve to be saluted; I ran the video above a few years ago in this space and it seemed like a good time to run it again, to thank those who served and sacrificed so much.

**Finally today, a few words about a pretty stunning election result in Southern California, and my good friend’s small part in it. A couple of years ago, in the wake of Trump’s election, my man Jeff Pearlman, as good a friend as I’ll ever have, decided he wanted to get involved, somehow, someway, to help affect American politics.

So as all politics is local, he looked at his Congressman in his Southern California district, the 48th, and saw Dana Rohrabacher. A 15-term incumbent, Rohrabacher was an entranched California GOP politician who didn’t pass much legislation, seemed to spend more time on TV than anywhere else, and had lots of ties to Donald Trump and Russia.

So Jeff decided he would help defeat Rohrabacher. He started a website, crazydana.com, which quickly grabbed attention from the media, and he put in the hard work, getting to know the candidates running to get the Democratic nomination, spreading awareness of all of Rohrabacher’s conflicts of interest and bizarre lack of interest in the job. He went to the conventions, put in the hours, and what do ya know, last Tuesday Rohrabacher’s 30-year Congressional career ended in defeat, to Harley Rouda.

It was beautiful to see. Jeff wrote a really smart blog post about the whole experience, definitely one I recommend checking out.

One person can make a huge difference; don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. Don’t just sit and complain about our government; do something about it.

Good News Friday: A kindergarten class sings “Happy Birthday” in sign language to a deaf janitor. Barbra, oh Barbra, does “Carpool Karaoke” beautifully. And customers at a donut shop do something beautiful for an owner and his wife

And a Happy happy Friday to all of you kick-ass readers out there. As we recover/rejoice/get depressed over this insane week of politics, with the Dems gaining a majority in the House (and still likely to get bigger, as more and more races get called), our President having a batshit insane press conference which led to his Press Secretary using doctored video to try to make a reporter look bad, and the world (God help us) looking at TWO recounts in Florida elections, let’s all take a breather and get happy.

(And by the way, don’t think it’s not killing me that I haven’t had the chance or the time to opine in this space about the Duke basketball team’s 34-point obliteration of Kentucky Tuesday night. Man oh man, if it hadn’t been an election night I might have subjected you all to a 1,000-word treatise on how freaking amazing this Blue Devil team might be. But, you know, I’ll save that for January or something)

OK, you ready for some Good News Friday? (Read that in a sports coach’s voice for the full effect). Of course you are ready for some Good News Friday, dadgummit!

OK I’ll calm down now. Let’s start tugging at the heartstrings with some amazing schoolkids. At Hickerson Elementary School in Coffee County, Tenn., there’s a beloved hearing-impaired janitor named Anthony James. He’s been there for 15 years, is described as “sweet” and “selfless” by the staff, and of course is beloved by the kids.

So for James’ birthday recently, the Hickerson kindergarten classes taught by Mrs. Allyssa Hartsfield and Mrs. Amy Hershman learned how to sign the words to the Happy Birthday song to surprise him. And surprise him they did.

Watch the fantastic video above, and realize just how easy it is to make someone’s day. Just pure joy on James’ face.

**Next up today, I am legally required as a Jewish person from New York to love and worship Barbra Streisand, but even if I wasn’t legally required to do so, I would. Barbra as a person is, well, complicated.

My two favorite quotes about Streisand from people I know have always been my father telling me, as a little boy, to listen to her sing “because it’s like a symphony, all in one person’s voice,” and a friend of my ex-wife’s once watching Barbra do a TV interview and then saying to me, “There’s no one in the whole world who loves themselves as much as Barbra does.” (She was right, of course, but the guy currently sitting in the Oval Office may have surpassed her by now).

Anyway, Barbra still has an amazing voice, and she went on James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” last week and was, predictably, awesome.

A nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn is still doing pretty good for herself, and that makes me smile.

**And finally today, another example of a small family of customers appreciating the small store they frequent, and stepping up to do something amazing.

For nearly 30 years, Cambodian refugees John Chhan and his wife, Stella, have been serving customers fresh donuts at their store, Donut City, in Seal Beach, California, near Los Angeles.

But a month ago Stella suffered a devastating brain aneurysm, and has been absent from the store.

Loyal customers originally wanted to set up a fundraiser for John to help with medical expenses, but John said no, he just wanted to spend as much time as possible with Stella.
And so to give John his wish, loyal customers have been showing up every day at 4:30 a.m. when Donut City opens, buying a dozen donuts at a time, hoping to sell out all of the store’s merchandise within a few hours, so John can go be with Stella in the hospital.

Stella is doing better, John says, recovering slowly but surely.

People helping people. If I lived anywhere near the shop, I’d buy a few crullers every morning.

 

The Election Hangover blog post: Dems win House (thank God), do badly in Senate, and I have no clue what to say about Florida.

Somebody cue up Etta James, please…

At last. At last we will have a check and balance on the most out-of-control, mind-numbingly arrogant and condescending, racist and xenophobic man to ever hold the office of President.

At last we will have investigations, a whole heap of them I hope, into Russian collusion, into Trump’s tax returns, into Don Jr. and Wilbur Ross and oh so many, many other people in this corrupt administration.

At freaking last.

Lot to discuss from Tuesday night’s midterm elections, which kept me up until well after 2 a.m. Eastern time, which is why this blog post isn’t going up until Wednesday afternoon (hey, a guy’s gotta sleep, ya know).

But the absolute, number one positive that came out of what was a pretty good night for Democrats (not a great night, but a pretty good one) is that finally, there will be some balance.

No longer will Trump get to run roughshod over the federal government, believing he’s the dictator-in-chief and can do whatever the hell he wants. We will see men like Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings and women like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who, look, I don’t want to make a huge deal out of it today but isn’t it maybe time she stepped aside and we had young, new fresh leadership on the Democratic side?) hold investigations and stop legislation designed only to punish and disenfranchise those who are not white men.

I can’t wait to see the subpoenas flying to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I also can’t wait to see the Mueller Report.

There is light now in Washington, and some disinfectant in one house of Congress. It’s a good start.

— Let’s talk about the good first, because as you know I’m an optimistic kind of guy. At least 28 seats in the House of Representatives have flipped to the Democrats, with some shockers (a Republican losing on Staten Island here in NYC is stunning, as is losses by Republicans in Kansas and Georgia districts that seemed safe) and some expected pickups.

I’m thrilled that real progressives like Antonio Delgado in upstate N.Y., Lizzie Fletcher in Texas, and Harley Rouda in California have scored big victories, and also encouraged that actual smart people like Tony Evers in the Wisconsin governors race and Laura Kelly winning the governorship in Kansas rose above the noise and won.

Lots of good, good victories for Dems last night.

— Sharice Davids (pictured above) in Kansas becomes the first lesbian, Native American member of Congress. What an accomplishment. Kansas is on its way back to becoming competitive again. And we get our first openly gay male governor in Colorado, Jared Polis. (Great Tweet from Reverent Jes Kast about that: “The Colorado cake baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple now has a gay governor.”

The walls, they be a crumbling down.

— More good news: Jacky Rosen wins a Senate seat in Nevada, and Kyrsten Sinema in a tough battle still in Arizona. Dems flipped seven governors seats, getting up to 22. Jon Tester looks like he’ll survive in Montana’s Senate race, too.

— And a new political star looks to be seriously, seriously born, a guy who lost his race. I can’t tell you the hysteria brewing right now over Beto O’Rourke, who scared the hell out of Ted Cruz in Texas before losing 51-48 last night.

I like Beto a lot, and doing that well in Texas helped others down the ballot. But there’s a movement afoot to anoint him as a Dem presidential contender in two years. And I’m just like, whoa, Nellie. He’s terrific, but he just, you know, lost. Plenty of other Dems I’d like to see on the ballot in 2020.

But I will say, Beto is one hell of an inspiring speaker.

— Last bit of good news before I move to the bad: People I’m most happy to see lose:
1. Scott Walker
2.Dave Brat, Virginia GOP Congressman
3. Dana Rohrbacher (who hasn’t officially lost in California yet, but is behind with a handful of votes left)
4. Kris Kobach, an absolute monster of a man who tries to suppress votes and screams about voter fraud every chance he gets. Glad he lost in the Kansas governor’s race.

— OK, now an interlude of joy: A child hugging strangers at a picnic at a public park.

— OK, now the bad news. Florida and Georgia broke my heart. Florida, oh Florida, how in the holy hell can you elect Rick Scott to the U.S. Senate? And make an empty suit Trump toady like Ron DeSantis the governor? (Update: Apparently the voting has gotten a lot closer in Florida governor’s race and Andrew Gillum may be getting a recount)

I will never, ever understand that state. As a friend of mine said last night, the state slogan ought to be: “Florida. We’re more racist than you thought.”

And in Georgia, Stacey Abrams looks like she’s lost to Brian Kemp, who oh by the way is the Secretary of State there and ran the election and oh yeah tried to bar hundreds of thousands of legal voters from voting. But, you know, nothing to see here.

— While we’re on it: The voting system in this country, my goodness, how broken is it? From having millions have to vote on a Tuesday (why can’t Election Day be a national holiday? Who’s against this? Oh yeah, Republicans who only win when fewer people vote), to voting machines breaking down, to one site in Georgia being out of service for four hours because of a broken power cord, to all kinds of delays and shenanigans in Tennesee and Arizona… it’s a disgrace to democracy how we hold these elections.

— More bad news: Claire McCaskill got crushed in Missouri. As did Joe Donnelly is Indiana. And Steve King, proud white supremicist, got re-elected to Congress from Iowa. Losing a few Senate seats doesn’t matter too much to me once it was clear the GOP was keeping the majority, because let’s face it, where ANY Republican senators crossing the aisle and going against Trump when it was 51-49? So none are going against him when it’s 53-47, anyway.

–And finally, let’s remember that we get a chance to do this all over again in two years. Register your friends, neighbors, anyone who stupidly didn’t turn out to vote in 2018, make sure you get them to the polls in 2020.

It’s this simple: When more people vote, Democrats win.

Election Day is almost here, and I’m alternately thrilled and terrified. And “SNL” with a great sketch mocking the caravan

Well, it’s finally here.

Two years after the most catastrophic Presidential election disaster in American history (and no I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic in saying that), we have a chance to change things. At least a little.

We have a very simple choice on Tuesday, November 6: We can allow this racist, xenophobic carrier of fear and arrogance who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to feel even more emboldened, and to allow his sycophants and bootlickers who are (ahem) elected Congressmen to continue to send this country down a path back in time, or slowly start to restore some sanity and decency to our national elected leaders.

I honestly don’t know which way it’ll go. There are so many signs saying tomorrow night will finally be a good night for Democrats, and that at the very least they will take back the House, thereby finally putting a check on the Orange Grifter’s rampage. And if there’s a God, maybe even Dems take back the Senate too, thereby hopefully ensuring Trump never makes it to 2020.

But I’ve been let down so many times in the past that I’m afraid to get my hopes up too much.
Either way, Tuesday night is like the Super Bowl for political nerds like me. A quick primer on some of the races I’ll be watching most closely, for many reasons: (oh and by the way, thanks, God, for scheduling Duke-Kentucky college hoops opener for Tuesday at 9:30 pm. My electronic devices and my TV are going to form a labor union, they’ll be so overworked Tuesday night.)

 

Senate:
 Bill Nelson (D) vs. Rick Scott (R), Florida: Rick Scott is a fraud, a former insurance scammer who somehow got elected twice as governor of Florida. I can’t believe this race is as close as it is, but somehow, someway, Scott always seems to win. Nelson is an old, experienced hand who might just lose. If Dems have any chance to keep the Senate, they can’t lose this one.

— Ted Cruz (R). vs. Beto O’Rourke (D), Texas: Maybe the most-talked about race in the country. Cruz is evil incarnate, truly a bad human being, who somehow has fully embraced Trump despite all the horrible things Trump said or did about “Lyin’ Ted” back in 2016, while Beto has taken his longshot candidacy and electrified millions. I’ve had my hopes dashed by Texas too many times to feel confident, but man, if Cruz could lose that would make my year.

— Jacky Rosen vs. Dean Heller, Nevada: Maybe the Dems best chance for a pickup. Rosen is smart, strong and Heller has waffled significantly in his support for Trump, which of course is seen by the GOP as weakness. This one is going to be super-close.

House of Representatives:
— Harley Rouda vs. Dana Rohrbacher, Calif. 48th: Rohrbacher is terrible, a smug, pro-Russia Trump defender who rarely has gotten challenged in Orange County. Rouda is a legit strong Democrat who could break the stranglehold. Hoping it happens.

— Randy Bryce vs. Bryan Steil, Wisc. 1st: This is Paul Ryan’s seat, and I think Bryce, a charismatic former iron worker, might’ve beaten the Speaker if he was still running. But since Ryan chose to retire to a life of sucking out people’s souls just by looking at them, Bryce has continued to run great ads and would be a big part of helping turn Wisconsin blue again.

Lee Zeldin (R) vs. Perry Gershon (D), N.Y.: I know you’ve never heard of either of these two guys, but my Mom has been volunteering for Gershon for months so I’ll be paying attention.

Hey, I said these are races I’ll be watching, right?

Governor races:

Stacey Abrams (D) vs. Brian Kemp (R), Ga.: This one has gotten so nasty and so vicious. Kemp is the Secretary of State who runs the elections, and he’s also on the ballot, and so of course he’s responsible for illegally purging 300,000 voters from the rolls, and made it virtually impossible for thousands of others to vote.

Abrams is trying to make history as the first African-American woman to be elected a state’s top executive. She’s smart, fierce and charismatic. This will be another razor-thin victory margin for somebody.

— Andrew Gillum (D) vs. Ron DeSantis, Fla.: DeSantis is a big a Trump enthusiast as you’ll ever find; Gillum is an African-American from Tallahassee who looks to be a future star in the party. Truly, I never have any idea what will happen in Florida, but this could be a huge pickup nationally.

**Finally today, “Saturday Night Live” is getting rightly criticized after a despicable, tasteless joke by Pete Davidson about a war hero Congressman who lost an eye in battle, but I have to give it up to “SNL” for a fantastic cold open, mocking the ridiculousness of Fox News and the right-wing media building up the idea that a “caravan” of illegal immigrants are coming to invade this country and destroy us all.

As I always say whenever she’s in a sketch I see, Kate McKinnon is a freaking national treasure.

A letter to my son Theo, on his 1st birthday

Dear Theo,

Hi! It’s the Daddy person here. You know, the guy who’s always chasing you around when you’re crawling saying “No no, don’t touch that!” and wiping your butt and occasionally getting that drool off your chin and onto your favorite blankie.

I know you’re busy right now looking for new and exciting toys to play with, or maybe just throwing small boxes out of the kitchen cabinets (you really seem to love throwing Mommy’s Keurig K-cups around these days) but I wanted to write you this letter since on Wednesday you turned 1.

And, well, see, I started writing your older brother a letter on his birthday when he was 1 and you are certainly worthy and deserving of the same treatment.

So from now on, every Halloween (yes that’s your birthday, and we’re sorry you’ll always have to share your special day with kids dressed in weird costumes. But I guarantee you’ll always get great candy on your birthday!) you will get a letter from Daddy.

It’s hard to believe that just a year ago you didn’t exist, because you are so much a part of our wonderful family now. From the day you arrived and we held you in our arms at NYU-Langone Medical Center in New York City, you have brought us nothing but joy and love.

A big part of that may be because you’ve been so loved, from the very first day, by your big brother Nate. To say he’s into you would be like saying Big Bird is tall.

Nate has been all over you from the minute he saw you, hugging you, kissing you, trying to make you laugh. For the first few months of your life I joked that your first words would be “restraining order,” or “Leave me alone, Nate!”

But you so clearly love having a playmate. You get so excited when he comes into the room to play with you, and Mommy and me love how quickly you’ve bonded, how easily you make him laugh, and we can’t wait to see how much fun (and trouble) you two will get in together.

But this letter is mostly about you, Theo, and how you are the happiest baby anyone’s ever seen. You hardly ever, ever get upset. Usually you only squawk when we aren’t feeding you fast enough, or you’re over-tired, or, as has been the case since you’ve started speed-crawling the last few months, when you bump your head on something.

You’ve changed so much over the past 12 months, but what has never changed is your happy, sunny disposition. You get so excited when we put your bib on and get ready to feed you: You kick your legs out over and over again and start giggling, knowing you’re about to get yummy food in your belly.

About six months into solid foods, we’ve yet to discover a food you don’t like.

Besides your happiness and your love of eating, you’ve become such a curious boy. You want to see everything and explore every corner of our new house, and lucky for you there’s so much to explore!

Your sense of humor is becoming evident, too. Besides Daddy’s “go-to” moves of knocking my head into your belly to elicit laughs, recently I’ve started dipping you while we’re dancing, and you giggle like it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. No matter how many times I do it, you laugh every single time. So I keep doing it, because your giggle, to steal a line from Mommy, “is the best sound in the world.”

What else… so much has gone on in your first year that I have trouble remembering it all. You learned to stand at about 10 months, your first teeth came in around then, too, and we’re still waiting for you to take your first steps by yourself. As of now you love speed-crawling, and pulling yourself up to a standing position, looking around for a few seconds, then sitting back down.

You’ve also just recently learned how to wave, which is hilarious, because you do it sort of halfway, like grownups do when someone waves at us and we’re not sure who it is or if we know the person.

But most of all Theo, this year has just been so wonderful not because anything you’ve done or accomplished, but because you’re such a huge, happy part of our family.

We’re a quartet now, and it’s hard to believe we were ever a trio. You have completed us in so many ways, and we love you so, so much.

I hope you have fun at your party this weekend, though there’s no way you’ll remember it, and here’s hoping you don’t get scared and cry when 40 people all sing “Happy Birthday” at you.

We love you so much, LB (Little Boy). And Happy 1st Birthday.

Love always and forever,
Daddy

P.S. This walking thing? It’s just putting one foot in front of the other. You can totally do it.

 

On Halloween, a hilarious “Curb” flashback, on being too old to trick-or-treat. A prisoner gets out and does the one thing he should not do. And a wonderful outpouring of love in Pittsburgh from the Muslim community.

Happy Halloween, all you ghouls and goblins out there. As I’ve probably said on here before, I’m a pretty big Halloween scrooge. I really don’t like the holiday, never got into it, never saw the point (except for free candy).

But now things are different this year. For one, it’s my second son’s birthday on Halloween, his first, so of course Oct. 31 will mean more to me than it ever did before (more on little Theo coming in Friday’s blog).
And two, we’ve apparently moved into a huge Halloween neighborhood here on Long Island; like, at least six people who live here told us, when we moved here over the summer “Oh man, Halloween is nuts there.”

So we’ve bought way too much candy and anything short of swarms of children invading our house for seven hours will seem like a disappointment.

If any of those children are old enough to drive, though, I may have to go all Larry David on them. I love to pull out and watch this “Curb Your Enthusiasm” clip, from one of my all-time favorite episodes, because I so am on Larry’s side here.
Enjoy (or cringe):

**Next up today, ah, I love me some stupid criminal stories. And here’s one of my favorites, the criminal who gets out of jail, only to go right back in right away.

Let’s go to the great state of Kansas, and Mr. Kevin E. Jones, of Topeka. Seems Mr. Jones was released from the Shawnee County Jail on the morning of Oct. 21. Out of jail and regaining his freedom, Jones decided to do what any stupid criminal would do:

He stole a car. From the parking lot of the jail!.

A few hours later Jones was apprehended and charged with theft of a motor vehicle, and criminal damage to property.

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. If you’re going to steal a car when you get out of jail, wouldn’t it make sense to at least, you know, get a few blocks away from the facility before doing it?

Stupid criminals. They make this crazy world more tolerable.

**And finally today, the one saving grace of tragedies like the awful Pittsburgh synagogue shooting is that oftentimes, you get heartwarming stories like this.

A crowfunding campaign called “Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue” has raised more than $180,000 to help the families of the shooting victims.

“We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action,” the donation page states.

According to this CNN story, the campaign page invites all faiths to contribute, and the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh will work directly with the Tree of Life Synagogue to distribute the funds to the injured victims and grieving families.

“The Pittsburgh community is our family; what happens to one of us, is felt by us all.” The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh said in a statement on this attack.

It was a despicable act of cowardice on the murderer’s part. So nice to see people of all religions come together to help with the healing. And makes a mockery of so much of the anti-Islam rhetoric and lies that pollutes our country today.

A mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and how can any of us feel safe? A drumming group from Harvard with a new twist on classic pop songs. And NFL Week 8 thoughts: The Rams might go undefeated

“They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.”

These were the words of a deeply disturbed man who Saturday morning, walked into a Jewish house of worship, a place of peace and light and hope, and murdered 11 people.

He killed a 97-year-old named Rose Mallinger, 88-year-old Melvin Wax, and 71-year-old Daniel Stein. He killed a pair of brothers, 59-year-old Cecil Rosenthal and his sibling, 54-year-old David Rosenthal.

This awful, awful man killed a couple that had been married since 1956, 84-year-old Bernice Simon and her husband, 86-year-old Sylvan Simon, and he killed Joyce Fienberg, 75, and Richard Gottfried, 65. Also murdered was 66-year-old Jerry Rabinowitz, and 69-year-old Irving Younger.

Eleven people were murdered on a Saturday morning, and those people deserve to have their names, and their lives remembered.

They were murdered for one reason, and for one reason only: Because they were Jewish.

The slaughter of the Jewish people is a story as old as time, and it’s not going away. It’s not going away because anti-Semitism is on the rise again, all over the world, and of course here as well.

It’s been getting worse and worse, the last few years: According to the Anti-Defamation League, the incidence of anti-Semitic attacks jumped by 57% in 2017, the biggest one-year increase since the group started gathering data.

It’s disgusting, and it’s awful, and it’s not going away. The hate and vitriol, spread by our President and so many millions of his minons, toward so many, is not going away.

And that this awful mass shooting happened just a few days after a dozen mail bombs were sent to major Democratic leaders and former Presidents, well… I don’t know how anyone can feel safe in America right now.

I’m serious. I wish I could say I was hopeful things would get better. But I’m really not.

“I just want to kill Jews,” the man said.

And he did. And now we wait for the next attack, praying and hoping it’s not us who are in the room when a sick person decides to act on their thoughts.

**Next up today, this made me smile. Back when I was a sportswriter in Daytona Beach, Fla., my sports editor’s son was a kid named Sam Markowitz. Polite and quiet, Sam would sometimes come into the newsroom after school and work on his homework. Seeing what he’s now become, I’m proud to say one day when he was about 9 I helped him with his math homework (4th grade math is about the last level of math I was good at).

Sam grew up, became an outstanding musician and scholar, and remarkably got accepted to Harvard, where he’s now a sophomore (Believe me, his dad Dave and I have made all the jokes about how it’s possible a sportswriter’s kid got into America’s most prestigious university.)

Anyway, Sam’s mom Kelly tipped me off this fabulous drumming group he’s a part of at Harvard, called THUD (The Harvard University Drummers). They do fabulous renditions of classic pop songs using something called a boomwhacker, (a boomwhacker is a stick which, when whacked, plays a musical note) and are so, so creative.

Here’s them (ab0ve) doing “Don’t Stop Believin,'” and here’s a link to some of their other terrific work.

How cool is this?

**Finally today, my usual Monday roundup of the wild and wonderful of the NFL on Sunday…

— The Los Angeles Rams might go undefeated. For real. They were totally bottled up for a half, at home, by the Packers Sunday, but still managed to score 29 points and win a squeaker, 29-27. Todd Gurley is unstoppable, Jared Goff has been lights out at QB, and they’re now showing they can win tight games as well as blowouts. They’re now 8-0, halfway to an unbeaten season.

— Halftime Sunday: Redskins 7, N.Y. Giants 3. Bears 7, N.Y. Jets 3.
Total combined points for the two New York teams at game’s end: 23.

Football season in New York baby, it’s fantastic! Man are the locals bad. At least the Jets have some hope for the future, with QB Sam Darnold, once he gets some weapons around him, possibly being a franchise QB.

The Giants? It’s been rare in my life that I’ve been happier to be a Jets fan than a Giants fan. This is one of those times. They look pathetic and lost out there.

— FitzMagic is back! Ryan Fitzpatrick, back from the dead just before Halloween, comes off the bench and leads a huge Tampa Bay comeback, only to fall short as the Bucs lost to the Bengals, 37-34. Fitz sure is fun to watch (as long as he’s not playing on your team).

— Two sneaky-good teams right now: Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers. I could easily see both of them doing damage in the playoffs.

— Adrian Peterson is good again? Really? Thought he was washed up about four years ago. Guy has resurrected his career, even if I loathe the kind of person and parent he is.

— Finally, can I just pay money to watch the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill run up and down a football field all day? Because I would. That man is so fast there needs to be a better word than “fast” to describe him.