Monthly Archives: October 2018

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.

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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.

Good News Friday: Little brother helps sister make a basket, and it’s beautiful. A grandma battling cancer gets to see her grandson play in the NFL. And a laughing baby argues with Mama.

And a Happy Friday, denizens of Internet-world! We are a mere five days away from Halloween, and while normally I don’t give a hoot about this made-up holiday, I am now legally forced to care since a year ago on Halloween a new human came into our lives and now lives with us and needs constant diaper changing.

Lots of good news to choose from this week, but I have to start with this video that melted my heart a little. It’s of a little brother and sister playing on a tiny basketball court, and the brother makes a basket first.

Then, his little sister can’t make her shot, and starts crying. The brother then does such a beautiful thing. And everything is instantly better.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little kindness.

**Next up today, from the NFL, another really cool human-interest story. The Chicago Bears have a linebacker named Danny Trevathan, who as many do, has a very close relationship with his grandmother, Dorothy McElroy. McElroy has been battling cancer for several years and had never seen her pride and joy play a game of pro football.

Well, last week the Bears flew McElroy to Chicago to surprise Trevathan, and surprised he certainly was when she showed up at practice.

The look on his face at the :39 mark is just priceless.

**And finally today, this video went viral this week and it’s pretty much awesome. A man named Paulo Humberto posted this video of a woman talking to her baby daughter, discussing world events (or food the child doesn’t want to eat) and it’s hilarious.

I first saw it on Upworthy.com, and as the writer of the piece says, you don’t have to understand Spanish to see how adorable it is.

A hilarious and accurate anti-Ted Cruz ad makes me smile. A student in California serves cookies with her Grandma’s ashes in them. And Vin Scully’s voice on the World Series (even though it’s an ad) is beautiful

Hi dear readers, a quick personal plug before we get started today: As some of you may know my grandmother, the greatest person I’ll ever know, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease before she died five years ago. My family and I are doing a charity walk with the Alzheimer’s Association here in NYC this Saturday, and we’re trying to raise as much as we can to help research a cure for this insidious disease. Any amount you could donate would be much appreciated. Thanks. Here’s the link if you are able to donate. 

OK, on with the show…

I guess it’s possible that if there’s a political figure in America I hate more than Donald Trump, it’s Mr. Ted Cruz, Senator from the state of Texas.

I’ve written many times before about my disgust for Cruz, a Harvard-educated elitist who pretends to be a “common man, man of the people” and that’s only one of many, many, many issues I have with him. He’s a bigot, he’s a xenophobe, and he’s such a nasty human being that literally no one else in the Senate, in either party, likes him.

Lindsay Graham, who before he got infected with Trump disease used to at least be a straight talker, once said of Cruz “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

Anyway, Cruz is a despicable guy, by almost universal account, which is why millions of us who live outside of Texas are hoping and praying Beto O’Rourke beats him on Election Day.

But until then, we can all enjoy this devastating ad, highlighted on John Oliver’s HBO show last week.

Just perfect. Go Beto.

**Next up today, file this one under “Be careful what you buy from schoolkids.” So a girl in California decided to bring in some homemade cookies recently to share with her friends.

These were special cookies, it turns out: they contained traces of her late grandmother’s ashes.
I’m not making this up. A student at Da Vinci Charter Academy High School in Davis, Calif. gave the cookies to classmates, then told them they contained human ashes in them, according to this story from KTXL-TV.

The school district refuses to confirm or deny the story or what has happened to the student, but apparently she told lots of kids the same story.

Wow. I mean, I’ve heard of liking Grandma’s cookies before, but this is going WAY too far. And if you always wanted to save a little taste of Grandma’s cooking, there are better ways to do it!

So many jokes, so little time…

**And finally today, Tuesday night was Game 1 of the World Series (Boo, Red Sox), and while I can’t say I’m enthralled, I did catch this commercial on social media and thought it was fabulous.

Not just because of the nice job by T-Mobile with the ad, and the donations, but because it’s voiced by the voice of baseball, Vin Scully. Those beautiful pipes, over these images, make for one hell of a commercial.

I’d listen to Vin Scully read anything, anywhere, anytime.

The most honest obituary of an addict I’ve ever seen. NFL Week 7 thoughts. And the new LeBron commercial gives me chills

There has been so much talk of the opioid crisis in America over the last few years, as it gets worse and worse, affects more and more lives, and nothing seems to get done about it.
Local and state governments talk a big game, and throw money at the problem, but never really do anything about some of the major underlying factors that put someone at risk of addiction (poverty, joblessness, etc.)

Sometimes you just get numb to it. But then you see this, the most brutally honest obituary I’ve ever read. It appeared in a small newspaper in Vermont, and it was for a young woman named Madelyn Linsenmeir, who was a young mom of only 30.

Listen to some of the words and phrases used by her family in this devastating, beautiful obit:

While her death was unexpected, Madelyn suffered from drug addiction, and for years we feared her addiction would claim her life. We are grateful that when she died, she was safe and she was with her family…

When she was 16, she moved with her parents from Vermont to Florida to attend a performing arts high school. Soon after she tried OxyContin for the first time at a high school party, and so began a relationship with opiates that would dominate the rest of her life.

And then this, gutting paragraph.

After having (her son) Ayden, Maddie tried harder and more relentlessly to stay sober than we have ever seen anyone try at anything. But she relapsed and ultimately lost custody of her son, a loss that was unbearable.

During the past two years especially, her disease brought her to places of incredible darkness, and this darkness compounded on itself, as each unspeakable thing that happened to her and each horrible thing she did in the name of her disease exponentially increased her pain and shame. For 12 days this summer, she was home, and for most of that time she was sober. For those 12 wonderful days, full of swimming and Disney movies and family dinners, we believed as we always did that she would overcome her disease and make the life for herself we knew she deserved. We believed this until the moment she took her last breath. But her addiction stalked her and stole her once again.

We talk about “the real face of addiction” and all of that, but listening to Madelyn’s family talk about her like this, it just breaks your heart.

Read the whole thing, it’s a fantastic, truthful story of a life lived, and one that ended way too soon.
(P.S.: Just found this equally great post, in reaction to the obit of Madelyn going viral, from the Burlington, Vt. police chief, about how it shouldn’t take something like this obituary to make people care. Really strong, wise words from chief Brandon del Pozo here.)

**Next up today, it’s obvious to my readers that I’m completely in the tank for LeBron James; I love the guy, everything he stands for and everything he’s done.

But it’s still nice sometimes, even though I’ve been watching him since 2002, to sit back and realize from where he came, and how far he’s come. Check out this new, beautiful Nike ad celebrating the now-Lakers star (man that feels weird to type, Lakers) and the kinds of things he said when he first came into the NBA, 15 years ago.

Really fantastic ad.

**And finally today, it was another wild day of NFL football Sunday. I really am trying to pay less attention every year because I have such conflicted feelings about pro football, head trauma, and supporting a league run by Roger Goodell, one of the worst commissioners ever in sports, but the games have been very, very compelling this year.

One game that was NOT compelling, which I’m glad I didn’t see any of, was my Jets, predictably, showing they’re not any good this year, just as we thought. The Vikings whipped up on my boys, Sam Darnold looked like a rookie QB (to be fair, all the Jets’ receivers are hurt and the O-Line apparently played terrible), and Minnesota is a good team who should beat the Jets by 20 (which they did).

— Can we just move ahead to February right now and play the Rams-Chiefs Super Bowl? Every week I watch highlights of their games and every week it’s clear these two offenses are incredible. They actually play in the regular season in November, that’s going to be fabulous.

— The Eagles… wow. A 17-0 fourth-quarter lead, at home against Carolina, and they blow it and lose. The Super Bowl champs are 3-4, and I’m going out on a limb and saying they can make other plans for Super Bowl Sunday, because they won’t be in it.

— Another week, another Cleveland  Browns epic. My second-favorite team played its FOURTH overtime game of the season Sunday, and predictably, lost. It took a 59-yard field goal by Tampa Bay to beat them, but hey, every week it’s something different.

— If there’s a more confusing NFL team this year than the Dolphins, I don’t know who it is. OK, maybe it’s the Jaguars, who seemed to be Super Bowl contenders heading into the year, but now are stinking it up.

— Finally, something incredible, amazing and unbelievable happened Sunday: Justin Tucker missed an extra point. The Ravens kicker has been Mr. Automatic for his whole career, like, he NEVER misses an easy field goal or an extra point. He was 222-for-22 on PAT’s in his career, and made 78 of 78 field goal tries from 33 yards and in (the extra point distance now), so he’d made 300 straight kicks from that distance or closer.

And then Sunday, with the Ravens just needing that point to tie the Saints and likely send the game into OT, he… missed. No, really, he did. I saw it with my own eyes.
It was shocking. It cost the Ravens the game. And Tucker, class act that he is, stood up afterwards and took the blame.
I still can’t believe he missed.

 

Good News Friday: A 107-year-old barber on the secrets to a long life. An English soccer team finds a unique way to deal with hooligan awfulness. And an NFL player raises a ton of money to help hungry people

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there, as we in the East dig our winter coats and hats out of the closet all of a sudden. It went from summer to freezing in like two weeks here. I guess I missed autumn.

Anyway, as I bemoan the hated Red Sox reaching yet another World Series (try telling a Boston fan in 2002 that they’d read that sentence from a Yankees fan i 2018), lots of good news going on as usual to take my mind off that.

First up, nothing more inspiring than people who refuse to let their age dictate how they live. Meet 107-year-old barber Anthony Mancinelli, who still works full-time at the Fantastic Cuts hair salon in New Windsor, N.Y.

According to this charming profile in the New York Times by Corey Kilgannon, Mancinelli started working in barbershops when he we was 11 years old. Warren G. Harding was the President then.

He still works five days a week, from noon to 8 p.m. This is a guy who was born before World War I started! And he’s still going strong.

“People come in and they flip out when they find out how old he is,” said the shop’s owner, Jane Dinezza.

“He never calls in sick,” she said. “I have young people with knee and back problems, but he just keeps going. He can do more haircuts than a 20-year-old kid. They’re sitting there looking at their phones, texting or whatever, and he’s working.”

Diet-wise, he said, “I eat thin spaghetti, so I don’t get fat.”

He has all his teeth and is on no daily medication. He has never needed glasses, and his hairstyling hands are still steady.

“I only go to the doctor because people tell me to, but even he can’t understand it,” he said. “I tell him I have no aches, no pains, no nothing. Nothing hurts me.”

Incredible. He’s 107 and has no aches and pains. I’m 43 and complain all the time about physical ailments. What a great role model for us to aspire to. Here’s a short YouTube video showing Anthony in action.

**Next up today, another tale of an NFL player doing good things far from the field. New York Jets offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum just raised $70,000 to fight hunger and support World Food Day. World Food Day is celebrated internationally on October 16th every year to honor the founding date of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945.

Beachum initiated a match challenge for five food banks across America that honor his hometown, his home state of Texas, and the cities he’s played in during his NFL career.

Beachum helped raise enough to serve 327,000 meals at the food banks he chose, a tremendous accomplishment.

As someone who’s worked at food banks and soup kitchens for a long time, believe me, those meals will go a long, long way.

Great job Kelvin.

**And finally today, this might be one of those stories where you question my inclusion of it into Good News Friday, but to me I think it really is a sign of progress, and a terrific idea.

So it’s no secret to most sports fans that British soccer fans can be among the nastiest, most boorish, racially-insensitive fans anywhere. Tales of racist, xenophobic, homophobic and any other cruelty you can imagine being yelled at athletes has been yelled by fans.

Well, the famous Premier League team Chelsea is trying new approach: It’s sending racist fans on educational trips to former Nazi concentration camps.

For real.

“If you just ban people, you will never change their behavior,” Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck was quoted as saying by Britain’s Sun newspaper on Thursday, providing details about a project the club announced at the beginning of the year. “This policy gives them the chance to realize what they have done, to make them want to behave better.”

Although similar visits organized by other institutions have yielded some positive results in the past, the effort can be risky. This is all part of a more concerted push by the club to tackle anti-Semitism. While club officials have repeatedly stressed that it’s about the rise of anti-Semitism globally, the club specifically has faced criticism for discriminatory chants by fans. The club is owned by Roman Abramovich, a Russian-Israeli Jewish billionaire. In November 2016, Chelsea fans made headlines when they chanted anti-Jewish slogans, targeting fans of rival club Tottenham Hotspur.

Besides the planned visits to concentration camps, Chelsea is also holding workshops and movie screenings at schools or during fan forums.

Look, do I think this will solve the problem of anti-Semitic fans? Not completely. But could it hurt to actually send these louts to Auschwitz and Treblinka and Dachau, and force them to see what actually happened there? No, it couldn’t.

I commend Chelsea for trying something here.

The strange new sensation I felt last week, when I fired someone for the first time. A 10-year-old rocks with Foo Fighters on stage. And looking back at the 1968 Smith/Carlos Olympic protest, with echoes of today

Have you ever had to fire someone? It’s kind of an unsettling experience.

I’m 43 years old, and until last week, I don’t think I’ve ever had to tell someone they were no longer needed or wanted, and that I or the company I worked for wanted them to stop showing up to work, because we’d stop paying them.

I mean, I’ve been a part of discussions about firing someone, but never had to actually do it.
And like most people, I think, I’ve been fired myself. Twice, actually. Th e first time was from a temp job in college that I hated, a telemarketing gig that I was just terrible at. After the third day I told my Dad I was quitting at the end of the week, and then on Day 4 they called me at home and said not to come in to work, I clearly didn’t have the knack for the job, etc.

I just laughed. I wanted to be all like “You can’t fire me, I quit!” but didn’t even get the chance, the guy hung up the phone pretty fast.

I was also fired from my writing/editing job at SLAM Magazine but after the shock wore off I realized I was happy not to be there anymore. I hated the job and it led to many much better things in my life.

Anyway, I’d never actually had to pink-slip anyone, until last week. When we moved to Long Island in June we hired a new part-time nanny, and we had high hopes for her. She had glowing recommendations, seemed great in the interview, and had no reason not to think that she’d work just well with our two boys.

But from the start, there were problems. Her English wasn’t great, which meant we had communication issues on a lot of things. She still, months after starting, was asking questions about basic things about our baby son’s routines, and a few times she outright ignored or didn’t do things I’d asked for.

So finally a few weeks ago my wife and I talked about replacing her, and after finding someone new to replace our current nanny, it was time to let her go.

All last week I rehearsed in my head what I would say, trying to get on auto-pilot like George Clooney’s character in the fantastic film Up in the Air. I also felt bad for doing it; this woman was trying her best, she just wasn’t doing what we asked. Like I said, I’d never had to do this before.

When last Friday came, after I thought I had anticipated all reactions I’d get when telling the nanny she’d been let go, I was surprised by her reaction.

She had almost none.

I said my little spiel about how it just wasn’t working out, and she said “OK.” And then “fine.” And a little while later, “OK.” (She also, oddly, asked if I knew anyone else who was looking for a nanny. Ummm, not sure I’d recommend to a friend someone who I didn’t think was good at the job we’d hired her for.)

There was no protest, no demands of reasons or specific details. Just OK, fine, and there was no anger or hard feelings at all.

The whole conversation lasted less than five minutes, she took the envelope I gave her with two weeks pay It was so simple, so easy. And so strange.

I’d never want to have a job where I fired people all the time. Too stressful.

But for my first time, it went pretty OK.

**Next up today, one more reason why Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters are awesome. The other night in a concert in Kansas City, a 10-year-old local music whiz named Collier got to go up on stage with Grohl, and play a couple of Metallica songs (including “Enter Sandman” which strangely and happily has become a huge favorite of my 4-year-old. I’m doing parenting right, I tell ya!).

The kid is a really good guitar player! And Grohl is a mensch for what he does at the end. Really cool stuff.

**Finally today, Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous moments in Olympic history, when U.S. sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised black-gloved fists in protest during their Olympic medal ceremony.

Carlos and Smith, channeling the Black Power Movement, were immediately criticized and ostracized here in America, with newspaper columnists, U.S. Olympic Committee execs, and so many others being outraged at the nerve of these two athletes.

Of course, what many others saw was two men using their moment on the world stage to bring attention to the plight of African-Americans in the U.S., where their civil and human rights were violated regularly.

Smith and Carlos, with a half-century’s distance, are now looked on by many as heroes for what they did, as they should be. Their powerful protest continued the grand American tradition of protest, and athletes making their stands today, like Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James, owe a debt to Smith and Carlos.

Amid the media coverage of the anniversary, I thought this was very interesting: Writer Andrew Maraniss posted a clip on Twitter of Howard Cosell, from 1968, talking about Smith and Carlos (hat tip to my friend Dave for pointing me toward this). As Maraniss says, change the names and this clip is extremely relevant still today. Pretty brave stance for Cosell to take at the time.

I finally see “Hamilton” and yeah, it’s as amazing as everyone says it is. And NFL Week 6: My Jets are exciting and don’t stink, while the Rams still rule and the Pats are back

About halfway through seeing the Broadway production of “Hamilton” last Thursday night, my wife saw me smiling and having a great time.

“But you hate musicals!” she teased.

“This isn’t a musical!” I declared. “It’s a history lesson with really good songs!”

Hey, I wasn’t giving in on that one. I’m not a big fan of musicals. But call “Hamilton” a musical, or a history lesson with songs, or whatever. Fact is, nearly three years after it debuted and instantly became a smash hit, and 10 months after I finally was able to get tickets to see it (seriously, I bought these babies in January), the wait was absolutely worth it.

“Hamilton” was sensational. Mind-blowing and fantastic. The performances, the lyrics, the costumes, the sheer energy of every single performer. I don’t care if it wasn’t the original cast, this group of actors and actresses absolutely put on a powerhouse show, one the likes of which I haven’t ever seen. (Here’s a clip from the show’s performance at the Tonys in 2016)

First, the song lyrics, as amazing as I thought they were, are even better watching them live, in person, sung out at full force. How Lin-Manuel Miranda came up with all of this, just boggles my mind. How he saw the story of Alexander Hamilton and imagined this entire, beautiful musical is kind of hard to fathom.

Lines like “Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry,” and “When I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m a compel him to include women in the sequel” are just magical.

I also loved “How does a ragtag army in need of a shower/somehow defeat a global superpower.”

I had to Google a few lyrics that I missed because the speed at which the actors spit them out is 10x faster than any Aaron Sorkin script, let me tell you.

But beyond the words, the story, and the performances, are so, so good. The characters of Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the others are so well-drawn, and easily digestible as history through entertainment, that I have no problem at all with millions of kids (and frankly, adults) using “Hamilton” as an educational tool.

The story of this brash young immigrant coming to America and helping change the world, and brush up against so many obstacles, has so many universal themes. Betrayal, triumph, infidelity… you name it, “Hamilton” covers it all.

The actors and actresses were terrific as well; the story of the Schuyler sisters is equally vital to all of the Founding Fathers stuff, and gives Alexander Hamilton even more dimension.

It was a thrilling theater experience, it really was. After hearing, and reading, so much about “Hamilton” for the past three years, to finally actually see it live let me truly understand the brilliance of the show.

If you live anywhere near a city where “Hamilton” is playing, I highly recommend it. I feel so lucky that I was able to see it.

Like so few things in life do, it lives up to the hype.

**Finally today, it was another surprisingly happy NFL Sunday for long-suffering Jets fans like me. Two wins in a row! A winning streak! A rookie quarterback who increasingly seems like the real deal in Sam Darnold.

I’m not getting crazy-excited yet, because the Jets did give up 34 points to a pretty terrible Indy team, but Darnold had a tremendously efficient game, and hey, 3-3 puts them right in the thick of things, playoff-wise, in the AFC.
The next two weeks will let me know if I can get excited for real; Jets play the Vikings and then the Bears. Win those games and my fellow Jets fanatics will be pumped.

— What a wild Sunday night game we had. Patriots-Chiefs gave us 83 points, and even though like usual I was pissed at the ending (at SOME point Tom Brady will retire and the Pats will stink again, right?) it was wildly fun to watch. If the Chiefs get ANY kind of defense, they can win the Super Bowl.

— So the L.A. Rams stayed undefeated, with the kind of win you need if you’re going to win a Super Bowl, a gritty, on-the-road, not-pretty victory, 23-20 over the desperate Denver Broncos. Not sure who the Rams will be losing to.

— Brock Osweiler is alive!!! Who knew? The left-for-dead QB who stunk it up everywhere he went in the NFL led the Miami Dolphins to a stirring OT win over the Bears. Brock, we always knew you had it in you.

— This cracked me up: Tarik Cohen of the Bears, whose surname makes him sound Jewish but he most certainly is not, was taken to a Jewish deli by the sports website Bleacher Report, and given a quick primer on Yiddish words. Stay with it until the end, absolutely made me laugh. Unrelatedly, I spent Sunday at a bat mitzvah and helped out on the chair lift as well. Always fun.

 

Good News Friday: A Carolina Panther with some amazing work after Hurricane Florence. Your periodic reminder that Steph Curry is pure, pure joy. And a man inspired by a teacher meets his hero once again

A couple of programming notes before we dive in to Good News Friday: 1, I don’t believe in my 43 years of life I’ve ever had a hurricane named after me, but Hurricane Michael is here and walloped the hell out of parts of Florida and Georgia, and on behalf of all Michael’s everywhere, we apologize.
Also, about a year after we bought the impossible-to-get tickets, the wife and I finally saw “Hamilton” on Broadway Thursday night. Mind-blowingly good. Like, “holy cow everything everyone said about it being amazing was an understatement” kind of good. Much longer blog post about it coming next week.

OK, on with the show…

We start Good News Friday this week with a story of a wonderful gesture from Carolina Panthers football player Julius Peppers. The longtime star defensive end is from North Carolina, and back when Hurricane Florence hit last month he immediately donated $100,000 to the relief efforts, and got teammates like Cam Newton to match that amount, too.

But Peppers didn’t just put up money; this week on his off day he went to the United Way headquarters in Robeson County early Tuesday morning to begin a day of service.

According to this story in the Charlotte Observer, he joined volunteers as they went through neighborhoods to speak with residents and see homes, and lend support as those affected told their stories.

“A lot of these people had to rip the walls out of their homes, throw out furniture and clothing, throw out everything that they had, all of their possessions thrown to the side of the road,” said Peppers. “Seeing those things, and the people telling their stories, it was an experience that I’m going to take with me and that I’m going to share with others as I encourage others to come try to help out, too.”

Peppers joined members of the Mennonite community as they served meals to residents affected by the storm in various neighborhoods in the county.

Then, Peppers and the United Way volunteers helped clean out and start repairs on the home of a policeman who couldn’t save his own belongings from the storm, because he was out in the neighborhood helping others evacuate.

Outstanding job, Julius. I like highlighting these stories because we hear so often about the Ray Rices and Greg Hardys of pro football, who have committed crimes, but not nearly enough about the vast majority of good humans who play in the NFL. They deserve praise, too.

**Next up, every once in a while I like to remind myself and others of how amazing Steph Curry is. This was just one moment in a meaningless pregame warmup to a meaningless preseason game.

But seriously, how cool is this shot? Watching Steph Curry is pure joy, man. Just pure, pure joy.

**And finally today, it was International Teacher’s Day last week, and while I think every day should be one we honor teachers, this one was special for at least one student.
Ian Wright is a former soccer player from England, and he told a story about his favorite grade school teacher, a man named Mr. Pigden.

Here’s Wright, in a short 2-minute video, explaining what Mr. Pigden meant to him, and oh man, get the tissues ready for what happens starting at the 1:20 mark.

Great teachers never die, they just live on in our memories.

The Minnesota town overrun with drunk birds. “This American Life” with an amazing episode about police indifference in a Long Island town. And a transgender student left alone in active shooter drill is disgraceful

A moment of silence before we begin for the 2018 New York Yankees season. I don’t follow baseball much anymore but I do get into the playoffs, and that 9th inning of Red Sox-Yanks last night was crazy exciting and tense. Ah well, great season by the men in Pinstripes…

Sometimes, you see a headline on a story and you know there’s no possible way you won’t be reading the whole thing.

Such was the case last week when I came across this doozy, in the Washington Post:
“Drunk birds are causing havoc in a Minnesota town. Police say they’ll sober up soon.”

I mean… you gotta stop and read that, right? So here’s the deal: In the small burg of Gilbert, Minn., the local police are receiving reports from locals about birds that are “under the influence” flying into windows, cars and acting confused,” according to Police Chief Ty Techar.

So what’s going on? Have some college kids been bring their Stroh’s Lights over to the birds and pouring them down their gullets? 2-for-1 night if you can fly over at the old local tavern? Are the birds just high on life? (Thank you, I got a million of these, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal).

Nope. Apparently an early Minnesota frost meant that berries had fermented earlier than usual, Techar explained, and birds were eating them and getting drunk. (Please, make your own jokes here about a spinoff to the wildly successful game, maybe called “Angry Drunk Birds.”

Incidents around town involving intoxicated birds appear to be more prevalent than in past years, Techar added, because many have not yet migrated south. “It appears that some birds are getting a little more ‘tipsy’ than normal,” he wrote. “Generally, younger birds’ livers cannot handle the toxins as efficiently as more mature birds.” (Well sure, that’s true of humans, too!)

Turns out the birds should sober up soon, and I love the Gilbert police department’s press release about this, ending with the statements that locals should call police if the see:
— Woodstock pushing Snoopy off the doghouse for no apparent reason
— Big Bird operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner,
— The Roadrunner jumping in and out of traffic on Main St.

Too funny. Be careful out there, our flying feathered friends.

**Next up, on a much more serious note, I’ve raved often in this space about the incredible journalism done each week on the NPR show “This American Life,” which has millions of devoted listeners like me.

The show has been on a fantastic streak of great episodes lately, none better (in my opinion) than last week’s show, No. 657, called “The Runaways.” It’s about what happened in a Long Island town when MS-13 gang activity picked up dramatically, and the Suffolk County police department’s woefully inadequate, downright callous and insensitive way of handling it. The episode tells the story of three Latino immigrant teenage boys, what happens to them, and the way the Suffolk PD “investigates” their disappearance.

Now, this one maybe hit close to home for me because I grew up in Suffolk, and the town this all happened in, Brentwood, was 15 minutes from my hometown of Commack.
But I don’t think you have to be from there to be outraged by the actions of the Suffolk PD, and to have your heartbreak for families like those of Miguel Garcia (above.).

Done in conjunction with the outstanding journalism think tank ProPublica, this episode is astoundingly good. Take an hour on your next commute to listen and download it; it’s devastating and great.

Made me so mad, how much some lives are valued, and how little others are.

**Speaking of that, this story made me shake my head, and honestly, I don’t know what to say about it.

A middle school in Virginia left a transgender student alone during an active shooter practice drill last week,  because they didn’t know where to shelter them.

Students were shepherded into the boys and girls locker rooms during the drill at Stafford County Middle School in Stafford, Va., while administrators and teachers debated where to put the transgender student.

From this story, according to Equality Stafford, an LGBTQ organization: The student was forced to watch the adults charged with her care, debate the safest place (for the other students) to have her shelter,” Equality Stafford claimed. “During this debate, she was instructed to sit in the gym with a teacher until the drill was complete, away from her peers and identified as different.”

The student was eventually told to sit in the locker room hallway, away from other students, for the remainder of the drill.

My goodness, what is wrong with people???