Monthly Archives: May 2013

Tales from a wedding (my own): As wonderful as I had hoped.

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Saturday was the greatest night of my life.
I know I’m prone to hyperbole on this blog, but this time I’m not exaggerating.
Surrounded by 200 or so family and friends, I became the luckiest man in the world by getting married to a most special woman.

The whole day rolled by like one long highlight reel movie, from waking up and realizing “Holy cow, I’m getting married TODAY!”, to lunch with my groomsmen and Best Man, to a quick game of bowling (hey, we had time to kill), to all that came afterward.
As you might expect, amid the revelry and joy and love, I was taking mental snapshots throughout, and while I don’t have much of a voice left to say lots of these things, that’s the beauty of the page.

So before I jet off on our honeymoon, a (somewhat) brief collection of thoughts from the Big Day:

— First of all, I want to come back as a guest at my own wedding. While I only had time to sample a few of the many delicacies, the one overriding comment everyone kept telling us all night was a variation on “Man, this food is amazing.” Hey, I did what I could, I told everyone there that the sweet potato fries drizzled with molasses were the best thing ever, and they were.

— I know now why people have their wedding filmed: It’s so they can see what the hell went on. We were dragged every which way so often that for the next two days people told me stuff that occurred and I had no idea about any of it. I had a hell of a time, but apparently I missed a hell of a time, too.

— So bizarre seeing all my “worlds colliding” over the weekend. One time during the rehearsal dinner I saw a friend from college talking to a childhood chum’s wife, with my mother leaning in and listening, too. It’s so strange seeing all the important people in your life in one place.

— Funniest comment by far of the entire weekend from one of my friends: “Now that I’ve met both of your parents, I don’t understand at all why they got divorced. They seem like the perfect couple!”

I laughed so hard people at the next table looked at me. My parents are fabulous, the best ever parents, but the perfect couple, they were not.

— Proud to say I broke the glass as per Jewish tradition in one foot-stomp. Didn’t need a second or third try.

— One of the only disappointments Saturday night, and really it’s a minor one, was what happened with our “First Dance.” My beloved bride and I had taken dance lessons, and choreographed a whole beginning, middle and ending. It wasn’t “Dancing With the Stars”-worthy, but we worked hard on it.
Thirty seconds into our little routine, the band leader (who was otherwise fantastic) invited all other couples onto the dance floor, and there went our little routine. Oh well.

— One of my favorite writers, the great Joe Posnanski, once said that for one day in our lives, we get to feel like Brad and Angelina do every day: our wedding day. And he was right: It’s incredible to have a day where you’re the stars, everyone wants to take your picture and steal a few moments of your time. But I completely understand how it could get exhausting if your every day was like that.

**Finally, as you might expect, this blog will go dormant for a few weeks; Wednesday morning my new bride and I begin our two-week honeymoon, and I sure as heck don’t think I’ll have time or the inclination to be blogging.

But I promise to return on June 17, assuming I don’t get eaten by a shark while swimming on the beaches of Hawaii.

Good News Friday: A small tribute to the woman I’ll be marrying tomorrow

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I know I usually feature good news going on in the world in this space on Friday, but today’s Good News Friday is highly personal.

It’s about my incredible fiance Shelley, who tomorrow around 7 p.m. will become my wife.

I am the luckiest man in the world; I really am. On August 22, 2011, I met the most amazing woman. We were fixed up by a mutual friend who told me she knew a girl from college who was single, had a successful career, was very pretty, and had an outlook on life that matched mine.

I had just started dipping my toe back into the dating pool, six months after my divorce. I had no idea if I was even ready for a relationship.
Little did I know that a five-hour first date that included walking along the NYC High Line, a couple of bowling games (I was prepared to let her win, but she beat me fair and square), and a nice dinner would lead to all this.

My bride is amazing in so many ways that to list them all here would take a few hours.

She is the kindest, most compassionate person I have ever met. Since our first date she has always tried her hardest to consider my feelings, but I realized early on that I’m not special in that regard; she does that for everyone.

There’s not one person in her life without a story of how Shelley once was kind to them, above and beyond what was called for. I know this because they’ve told me these stories, and they always make me smile.

She’s a beautiful woman, inside and out. Her smile could melt an icecap, and her warm heart just gives and gives and gives.

My bride is smart, she’s insanely fun to be around, and some slightly bad taste in TV shows aside (seriously, how much “Castle” can a person watch? It’s the same plot every episode!), I could not have met a more perfect match.

I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with her, because whether we’re curled up on the couch watching reruns of “The West Wing,” or doing something slightly scary like para-sailing in Mexico, she makes every day so much fun.

I love her so much, and I will pinch myself every day that she has, for some reason, agreed to marry me.

And that’s the good news on this Friday: Tomorrow, one extremely lucky man will get hitched to the greatest woman in the world.

The hilarious tale of the 2nd black baseball player in the big leagues. An awesome impersonation of the Big 4 in Tennis. And the craziest stop-smoking technique ever

With all the attention that the new Jackie Robinson movie “42” has gotten, it’s easy to forget that Larry Doby was just as much a pioneer as Robinson was.

Doby broke in with the Cleveland Indians in July of 1947, just a few months after Robinson broke the major league color barrier by suiting up for Brooklyn.

Doby had a fine career and it’s a shame he’s been overlooked by so many simply because Robinson’s historic feat was first.

Now, to right this wrong, a clip from the W. Kamal Bell show starring “Larry Doby.” (OK, full disclosure; no wrongs are righted, I just thought this was hilarious. Hat tip to friend of the blog Sanford for sending me the clip. Watch until at least the 2:15 mark and I guarantee a few laughs)

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**Next, I have no idea who this guy Josh Berry is, but his impressions of the Big 4 in men’s tennis (Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic) are absolutely uncanny. The Nadal and Murray ones are scarily spot-on.

**Finally, I’ve heard of all kinds of ways people have to quit smoking. Some of them work, some of them … not so much.
But I think a woman in California has come up with the craziest, most ridiculous way to quit her addiction ever.
She decided that the only way to cure her nicotine fix was to get arrested.

Etta Mae Lopez stood outside a Sacramento courthouse 10 days ago waiting for a sheriff’s deputy to come out. When he did, Lopez slapped him across the face.

“She knew that the only way to quit smoking was to go to jail because they don’t allow tobacco in the jail,” deputy Matt Campoy explained. “She waited all day for a deputy to come out because she knew if she assaulted a deputy she would go to jail and be inside long enough to quit her smoking habit.”

Lopez got 63 days in jail, and Campoy got a great new nickname from his buddies on the force: Nick O’Derm.

The Rangers show no life, and their season is pretty much over. A wonderful surprise from Oklahoma. And the great Mike Veeck, at it again.

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Well that was a sucky way to spend an evening.
After a pretty good day of teaching, I came home to watch my beloved hockey team play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with all the heart and intensity befitting a September exhibition game.

The Boston Bruins dominated the Blueshirts, though the score was only 2-1. It was a disgraceful effort from the Rangers, as the Bruins, who were already up 2-0 in the series, completely showed more hustle, desire and just plain skill, to be honest, than the punchless Rangers.

Look, I knew this team wasn’t winning the Stanley Cup. They had a mediocre regular season, and barely beat a flawed Washington Capitals team in the first round.

But as a fan, you want to see your team go down fighting, throwing everything they can at the opponent. And the Rangers did none of that Tuesday. Henrik Lundqvist did all he could in net, and a few other guys made some plays, but overall it was just a terrible performance.
So the Rangers go down 3-0 in the series, needing a miracle comeback. Not looking likely. Dammit.

**With all the devastation in Oklahoma right now, we all could use a little bit of good news anywhere we can find it there. So here’s Barbara Garcia, who lost her home and possessions in the storm, getting a wonderful little surprise. Watch this video and see what happens around the 1:35 mark; I predict it’ll bring a big smile to your face.

**Mike Veeck is one of the great innovative minds in minor league baseball, a fun-loving son of former big-league owner Bill Veeck who knows how to make attending a baseball game fin.

Mike Veeck has come up with such wonderful ideas as VHS tape Demolition Night, and a Salute to the Cardboard Box, and my personal favorite back in the 70s, Disco Demolition Night, when fans burned horrible disco records.

Anyway, Veeck is at it again with another brilliant promotion; a few weeks ago he wanted to spice up an exhibition game between his St. Paul Saints and the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore Rail Cats, Veeck held an Umpire-Free game.
Instead of having men in blue call balls and strikes and “Safe” or “Out,” kids from a local Little League had placards and help them up on close plays. (Catchers called their own balls and strikes.) The call with the most votes won, naturally.

I love this idea; it totally should catch on elsewhere. After all, with the shoddy umpiring we’ve seen in the bigs this year, could the crowd-sourcing of calls be any worse?

A terrific book about the slums of India. The greatness of Doc Emrick. And the awful tragedy in Oklahoma

bookcover3dSad note to pass along today: Zach Sobiech, the 18-year-old I wrote about last Friday whose song “Clouds” became a YouTube hit and was recorded by celebs, died of cancer on Monday.

When a non-fiction book about a place that rarely gets written about is composed so beautifully it feels like a novel, it deserves to get major kudos.

And ever since Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” was published last year, it’s gotten all kinds of love from awards committees and readers alike.

Telling the story of three years in the life of a slum outside Mumbai, India, the novel is heartbreaking, amusing, thought-provoking, and maddening all at once.

Boo moved to Mumbai and lived in a slum called Annawadi on and off for three years, and she brings to life a cast of characters that I would love to hang out with.

In Annawadi, some inhabitants lack any shelter and sleep outside. Rats commonly bite sleeping children, and barely a handful of the 3,000 residents have the security of full-time employment. We meet Abdul, a 16-year-old school who scavenges and sells any garbage he can, to give his family a little bit more.

There’s Asha, a woman with a little status as a dealmaker and “slumlord,” and her daughter Manju, smart and compassionate but stuck like the rest of Annawadi in a cycle of false hope and dashed dreams.
Your heart breaks for little Sunil, another scavenger desperate to be loved, and for Mirchi, Abdul’s brother who would love to help the family but just can’t.
In writing about these remarkable, ordinary millions of desperately poor people, Boo shines a bright light on a corner of the world we don’t hear much about. The simplest things in the lives of these people (running water, having enough food) is so far away, and their lives so miserable, that you wonder how many of them have the strength to go on (and one character memorably takes her own life).

“Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is no breezy summer beach read. But it’s an absolutely wonderful book you won’t soon forget, if you’re interested in a glimpse of India that gets lost in all the CNN stories about “progress” there.

**You would think the poor people of Oklahoma have suffered enough, after the bombings in 1995 and the annual devastating storms that tear through their state with regularity.

But every year they seem to get slammed worse and worse with storms, and Monday saw the deadliest twister in a long time. It tore through an elementary school in Moore, Okla., killing seven children, and 51 people in all as I write this late Monday night.

Watch the video above to see the storm in horrifying action. Prayers and thoughts go out to all the victims.

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**Finally, Monday night saw a terrific hockey game between Detroit and Chicago, made all the better by the man calling the action in the broadcast booth, Mike “Doc” Emrick.

Hockey fans don’t get a lot of respect in the U.S., and we’re often made fun of for how little mainstream attention our sport gets. But one thing we can be proud of is that the best sportscaster in any sport chooses to do hockey. An Emrick broadcast is filled with humor, wit, intelligence, and outstanding play-by-play, with his voice rising and falling at the perfect times.

Emrick is a national treasure, so I was thrilled to see my favorite sportswriter, Joe Posnanski, write a profile of him the other day.

“The Great Gatsby” movie: Pretty good but too long. The most pretentious salesperson ever. And a deer jumps through a bus window

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“The Great Gatsby” was one of my favorite books I ever read as a kid, and a few years ago I re-read it to see if it still held up in my mind as one of the best books I had the pleasure of reading.
Happily, it did. The terrific writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the drama with Nick Carroway and the Buchanans and the rich, mysterious fellow named Gatsby were just as fantastic as they were when I was a teenage.

I was worried that the new movie starring Leo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire wouldn’t live up to the book. And it doesn’t, exactly. But that’s a really high bar to set.

I saw the flick Saturday night and liked it quite a bit. Three stars, I would say. DiCaprio, who’s good in everything, was a bright, vibrant Gatsby, full of color and charm. Visually the movie was mesmerizing, the colors jumping off the screen and smacking you in the face, and I thought the supporting characters were well drawn and for the most part, pretty faithful to the book.

But the movie was at least a half-hour too long, and if you hadn’t read the book there’d be plenty in there that would leave you scratching your head (How Gatsby truthfully got all his millions is pretty muddled in the flick.)

Still, I had a good time and left the theater smiling that I got my money’s worth. Which is all you can ask for.

**So you may have seen this over the weekend; it’s a pretty remarkable piece of video. A white-tailed deer jumped through the roof of a moving bus in Johnstown, PA and was completely freaked out.

What’s amazing, and what made me at first think this was a fake, was that the deer didn’t seem to get hurt.

I dunno, I would think going through a windshield would’ve left some blood, but apparently not.

My favorite detail about this whole bizarre incident is this sentence: “The driver then stopped the bus and let the deer get out.”

Well sure, if he pushed the button asking for a stop, the driver had to stop.
Best bus-driver video since this scene (“You kept making the stops?”)

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**Finally, a quick story about a really, really obnoxious salesperson. I don’t go clothes shopping much, so when I do, I like to buy lots of stuff so I don’t have to go shopping again for a while.
Last weekend my almost-wife and I realized we needed some shorts, bathing suits and shirts for our impending honeymoon, so off to one of the biggest malls on Long Island we went.
After hitting a few other stores, I wandered over to J. Crew, a store I love for many reasons, but mostly because they are just about the only brand of pants that fit me right. I’d say 80 percent of my pants I wear regularly are from J. Crew, even though they’re more expensive than they ought to be.
So anyway, I head into J. Crew and gather a few shorts in my arms and then go looking for pants. I need a nice pair of black pants, and I explain to the 20-something sales dude name Justin that I know it’s mid-May and everything, but do you have any black pants I could see?
He gives me a brief look of disdain and replies, “Yeah, we don’t really carry black pants much at all. See, J. Crew’s a real preppy store, and black is so not a preppy color, ya know?”
He paused, waiting perhaps for a nod of agreement from me. When I just stared at him blankly, he continued and made me hate him instantly.
“It’s like, black just isn’t something I’d wear when I went to Martha’s Vineyard, ya know? I just wouldn’t ever wear black like that.”
I stood there wondering if this was indeed the most pretentious salesperson I’d ever met, or if Justin was merely in the Top 10.
Believe it or not I DID find some black pants in the store, as apparently Justin hadn’t had time to burn them all or convince the higher-ups at the company how un-cool they were.
Ah, Justin. I really hope you and your pretentious friends have a wonderful time wearing white pants at the Vineyard this summer.

Good News Friday: Celebrities pay tribute to a dying 17-year-old. Jimmy Kimmel has fun with the Collins twins. And a homeless man’s dog gets saved.

A young man named Zach Sobiech, 17, was recently diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma, and doctors have told him he has only weeks to live.

Not exactly sounding like a Good News Friday story, I know. But stay with me. Zach’s a musician, and as he faced the end of his life way too quickly, he wrote a song called “Clouds” that became a bit of a hit on the Internet.
Now, a whole bunch of celebrities have decided to honor Zach in a meaningful, beautiful way: They’ve recorded his song in a YouTube video that has gotten even more play.

Please watch Brian Cranston, Sarah Silverman, Jason Mraz, Ed Helms and others maybe put a smile on the face of a dying teenager.
I watched it three times and smiled each time. Live your life as if each day is going to be the last.

**Next, as  you probably remember, NBA player Jason Collins made big news a few weeks ago when he became the first male professional athlete in a major team sport to admit he’s gay.

Collins has gotten a lot of attention since, and deservedly so, and he and his twin brother Jarron went on Jimmy Kimmel the other night and did a very funny interview (Click here for Part 2)

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Kimmel got Jarron the above shirt so people can tell them apart from now on…

Again, it’s such a big step that Jason Collins has come out, and that people for the most part are not flipping out about it. We’ve come so far as a society in this area in just the last 20 years…

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**Finally, we have some good news about a man and his dog. An L.A. area homeless man named Charles Gilliam was distraught over the serious illness suffered by his companion Big, an 11-year-old mixed retriever/terrier.
He had taken Big to a vet who told Gilliam that the dog had an inoperable brain tumor and should be put down.

Gilliam then went back to the streets and asked people for a donation to help save Big, and an animal rights activist got involved, and the story has a very, very happy ending.

Click here to read the details. Again, just a small bit of human kindness goes such a long way.

Angelina Jolie and celebrities who “get” it. Jimmy Connors: Still a jerk. And the very first episode of “Sesame Street” unearthed

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I may be one of the six or seven straight males in the world who never found Angelina Jolie gorgeous.

Oh, I always knew she was beautiful, but I never got what the whole craze over how sexy and awesome and hot she was. To me, Eva Longoria or Nicole Kidman or Ashley Judd were infinitely more attractive.

So I never paid Jolie much attention when she just seemed like the latest in a long line of vapid movie stars, someone who would clearly fade away when her looks did.

But Angie has turned out to be so much more than a vapid movie star. She and her husband (some dude whose name I forget, Brad something or other) do excellent humanitarian work all over the world, and this week Jolie wrote a beautiful, moving essay in the New York Times revealing that she recently had a double mastectomy due to doctors finding she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

Jolie came public not because she had to, but because she wanted to help other women who may be fearful of the disease.

“Life comes with many challenges,” she wrote. “The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”

Bravo to Jolie for “getting it,” and realizing that her celebrity affords her an enormous platform to do good.

**Jimmy Connors was known for a lot of things in his tennis career, but being a jerk was always one of them. Connors was mean to chair umpires, surly to other players, and overall just a bad dude.
There are numerous, numerous examples of this, and it’s quite clear that Connors still hasn’t learned any manners or tact. In his new autobiography that Jimbo is now hawking everywhere, he strongly, strongly implies that an impediment to his relationship with Chris Evert in the 1970s was her decision to have an abortion.

Connors writes he “was perfectly happy to let nature take its course and accept responsibility for what was to come.” He bitterly writes to Evert in the book, “Well, thanks for letting me know. Since I don’t have a say in the matter, I guess I am just here to help.”

Connors never had the decency to tell Evert he was writing about this in his autobiography, and this was obviously a very private matter to the tennis legend. She angrily responded to Connors, but that hasn’t stopped him from talking about Evert in all the talk shows he’s been going on.

What an absolute schmuck Jimmy Connors continues to be.

**Finally today, in the middle of a post on Andrew Sullivan’s blog about how the name “Sesame Street” came to be, there was this fantastic clip of the very first episode of the show we all grew up on, which aired on November 10, 1969.

Here’s the opening scene (above); I always smile just hearing the theme song, don’t you? And I love the opening Bert and Ernie scene (starts at the 3:30 mark).

The Obama administration stomps on the First Amendment. A 10-year-old who’s seen way too much heartache. And if Facebook updated your real life

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You know, for nearly five years now I’ve been telling myself that the Obama administration is light-years different from the horrendous era that preceded it  in the White House.
And in some ways, it is. But then I see something repulsive like this phone records seizure from one of the largest media organizations in America, and I get as repulsed as I was when Cheney and Bush were lying like Pinocchio on steroids.

If you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about, a quick primer: Last May the Associated Press printed a story about a foiled terrorist plot, and had some super-secret sources providing details, very likely sources from inside the government.
This leak ticked off the Obama Justice Dept. something fierce, and to help expedite their investigation, they decided to secretly obtain phone records from last April and May of more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to the AP and its journalists.
According to this story, “the records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.”

So to recap, the U.S. government, where last I checked the First Amendment was still being enforced, decided to secretly spy on one of the nation’s most trusted and important news organizations because it was unhappy with a story they printed.

A story, I might point out, that the AP actually held for a while, it says, because the government asked it to out of concerns for national security. But nope, that wasn’t enough; ole’ Eric Holder and Co. decided to trample on press freedom (something Obama speaks about often, and eloquently) and basically eavesdrop on reporter’s calls.
The ex-journalist in me is outraged. But the U.S. citizen in me is just disgusted that this administration that promised transparency and sunlight and respecting boundaries continues to run afoul of the law, and common decency, yet again.
Hilariously, the U.S. attorney general claims he had no idea about this while at the same time defending his dept’s practices.

Just an awful mess. Then there’s this IRS/Tea Party mess, as Jon Stewart eloquently talks about here, validating so many of the nutjob right-wing conspiracy theories.

When do we get the administration we were promised in 2008, Mr. President?

**Next, we’ve all used Facebook, and most of us get frustrated at the site’s constant changes and supposed “upgrades” to its site.
So this really cool video spoofs what it would look like if Facebook updated your life.
I laughed quite a bit.

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**Finally, a beautiful and heartbreaking story about a 10-year-old New Orleans boy named Ka’Nard Allen, who in his brief life has been shot twice, and seen two relatives killed as well. Ka’Nard was injured in the Mother’s Day parade shootings in New Orleans (which got very little play in the mainstream media, probably because it didn’t involve missing white women), and he’s finding it really, really hard to be a kid.
Reporter Danielle Dreilinger does what great reporters do when dealing with a story like this: Get out of the way and just let the facts, and the boy, speak for himself.
A wonderful story that made me want to buy this kid some ice cream and give him a hug.

 

An African-American doctor shares his challenges, movingly. The Rangers dominate Game 7. And the crime boss who also does kids birthday parties.

 

One of the many things I love about NPR is the way they take large issues and tell great stories in small ways.

Recently the network asked listeners to contribute their stories to the “Race Card Project,” asking them  “to think about their experiences, observations, triumphs, laments, theories or anthem about race or cultural identity. Then they take those thoughts and distill them down to one six-word sentence.”

Last week the network aired a fascinating story, off the six-word sentence by an African-American doctor named Gregory McGriff, who submitted this:

“55 mph means you black man.”

Now, that could be interpreted in many ways, but McGriff explains it’s not nearly as controversial as you might think. It’s all about going slower in everything he does, because as an African-American male he feels like he needs to.

Take a listen to this short radio story for a really interesting slice of life in America.

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**The Rangers. I mean, wow. If you had told me what were 1,000 likely outcomes in Game 7 Wednesday against the Capitals, I never would’ve come up with “Rangers dominate, score five goals and Lundqvist pitches another shutout as Caps fans stream out of the arena in the 3rd period.”

But that’s what happened. In their best game of the year, my beloved Blueshirts destroyed Washington, actually scored a few goals, and the best goalie in the world pitched another shutout.

So proud of them. And they play the Bruins next, who completed an impossible comeback in Game 7 against Toronto, rallying from three goals down in the final 11 minutes and then scoring the game-winner in OT. (People of Toronto, I have a feeling there’s gonna be a whole lot of Molson’s being drunk in the next 24 hours. Just an all-time gut-punching loss.)

Rangers-Bruins. Pumped. I ask only that they not play a game on my wedding day; don’t want to have to make that choice, you know?

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**Finally, this is my favorite story in a long, long time. And of course, it comes from the great state of Florida, the best weird news state in America.

In West Palm Beach, a man who was a major participant in a violent Central American gang was arrested two weeks ago after federal agents discovered he was in the country illegally.

But what makes the story great is what Dilbert E. Coreas did in his spare time when he wasn’t killing people or messing with drugs:  He ran “Itza Kidzworld Party Planning and Rental,” a business selling Bounce Houses and pony rides for children’s birthday parties.

I mean … I don’t even know where to start. First, did he ever confuse his two businesses on the phone? “OK, you want five kilos of cocaine and three ponies for that party? Oh, I got it, you wanted THREE kilos and five horsies, I gotcha.”

According to this story, Coreas’ Facebook page advertised $85 Bounce Houses, and $70 pony rides.

Mr. Coreas, I don’t care what kind of a drug kingpin you were; getting parents to fork over nearly a hundred bucks so tykes can bounce around for a few hours was your greatest act of robbery ever.