Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An Evening with Tony

  I caught up with my old pal Tony Isabella last week and we had a great evening. Wives Laurie and Barb had a good time together as well, deciding (probably wisely) to take a walk together after dinner and leaving the guys to talk comics and "the old days."
  It's been a particularly good week for Tony as his years-long battle with DC over Black Lightning seems to have been settled quite nicely in his favor, including a TV pilot for Fox that is in the works. (Coincidentally, I found out about that the night before via a Google Alert.)
  Our paths don't cross often, but I told Tony I'd love to be part of Driveway Con if he decides to have one next summer. Tony held a Driveway Con in the summer of 2014 as part of his garage sale. (Read about it here, here and here.) Something for all you fans of old comics guys to look forward to.

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Alex Anecdote

  In mid-August, while Laurie was in Australia with Sammi, Chuck and Rebecca asked if I could babysit Alex overnight so they could go to a nearby convention. As my little buddy and I seem never at a loss for things to do, I said okay.
  I drove to their house and they took the car to drive to the con. Since it was brutally hot, Alex and I spent most of the time in the air conditioning, playing and doing activities. One scenario involved the "rescue squad" chasing a bad dump truck who had stolen lollipops from the other trucks. (A helicopter grabbed up the lollipops with a grappling hook and flew them to safety.) We painted, we made things with Play-Doh, we read books, and we did much more.
  By mid-afternoon, we were both more than ready for a nap.

  After naptime and an afternoon snack, Alex said, "Papa, we should go to the Liberty Science Center."
  "We can't. Mommy and Daddy took the car."
  "It's okay. We can walk to the light rail." The light rail is about half a mile away.
  "It is too hot to walk that far."
  "We could take the stroller."
  Instead, we went outside to the sandbox where he got frequent sprinklings from the hose to stay cool.

  When Laurie and Sammi Skyped in the late afternoon and Laurie asked Alex what he had done all day, he said, "I watched some videos."

Camp Papa & Grandma

  Alex came and stayed with us for the better part of a week in August. During that time, in addition to the usual playing with every toy in the house, he attended two programs at the library, had two lunches at McDonalds, and a personalized visit to the local fire house.

Poolside with Papa
  In addition to his new favorite thing to do -- "driving" the convertible -- he had swim time in the pool with Papa, chalking the walk with Grandma, and picking vegetables in the garden (and then eating them).

Enjoying a snack

Fireman Alex drives the truck

  While I called it Camp Papa & Grandma, one of Laurie's friends said it was more like "Alex on a Cruise."  After all, there was unlimited food, plenty of on-board activities, a variety of excursions, and he couldn't leave the "ship" without an escort.
Showing off his work with Play-Doh
  When it was time to take him home, rather than get in the car, Alex walked back to the front door and said, "I want to stay here." Small wonder, eh?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


  This morning I made my 250th platelet donation at the New York Blood Center in Massapequa. As usual, it was a "triple," meaning they got three donations worth of platelets out of me.
  I made my first platelet donation on May 25, 1991, a little more than twenty-five years ago. Each donation takes about two and a half hours from beginning to end and I've watched a lot of mindless morning television in that time. (I've also eaten an awful lot of Lorna Doones for breakfast!)

From the website of the American Red Cross, some Fun Facts to Know & Tell:
  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.
  • Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.
  • Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
  • The number of whole blood and red blood cell units collected in the U.S. in a year: 13.6 million
  • The number of blood donors in the U.S. in a year: 6.8 million
  • Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, less than 10% of that eligible population actually do each year.
  • Blood cannot be manufactured – it can only come from generous donors.
  • There are four types of transfusable products that can be derived from blood: red cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate. Typically, two or three of these are produced from a pint of donated whole blood.
  • A single donation can potentially help more than one patient.
  • Donors can give either whole blood or specific blood components only. The process of donating specific blood components – red cells, plasma or platelets – is called apheresis.
  • One transfusion dose of platelets can be obtained through one apheresis donation of platelets or by combining the platelets derived from five whole blood donations.
  • Most donated red blood cells must be used within 42 days of collection.
  • Donated platelets must be used within five days of collection – new donations are constantly needed.

  In addition to the platelet donations,  I've donated 7+ gallons of whole blood since 1982, so there's a little bit of me in an whole lot of people.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Still More Tales of CTY Summers

And still more tales of CTY Past...

Pi Day: It has long been said that three weeks of CTY is like a year of school. Based on that theory, the first weekend is Christmas vacation and the second weekend is Spring Break. Taking that one step further, for many years the math classes (joined by the Writing & Imagination and Drama classes) would celebrate Pi Day on the second Friday.
Each student in the math classes would have a number taped to his or her shirt and, when in a proper order, they represented pi to however many digits they were able. (The most coveted spots were the decimal point and the "..." at the end.
In the afternoon, the math classes would sing "Oh Number Pi" (to the music of "Oh Tannenbaum"), the Writing classes would present their Pi-Koo poetry (poems about math that had 3 syllables, 1 syllable, 4 syllables, 1 syllable, 5 syllables, 9 syllables) and then the instructors and TAs would put on a performance of Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi. Despite having played the title roll for a long stretch of years, I never managed to learn my lines. Well, except for "Pie with an E is for eating; pi without an E is the name of the number for all things round!"
And then we all ate pie!

"How old were you when you were 16?" I am sure that I am not the only one among us who has had the students trying to guess their age. These days the kids just Google me and read the Wikipedia page, but before they had ready access to the internet, it made for an amusing guessing game. One class, determined to figure it out, tried by asking the question at the beginning of this paragraph.
  For many years, I told the kids that I had charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt back in '98. They assumed I meant 1998 and it did not seem to bother them when I would say, "Yup, he became President and I came to CTY." 
One year, a students was skeptical and said, "Mr. R, if you were really at San Juan Hill, what did you see there?"
"A lot of Spaniards with rifles," I replied. 
"Hmm, maybe you really were there!"
I finally stopped telling that story after I mentioned it to the parents on Opening Day and one mother said, "Really? That must have been something!"
  Since then, I've told the students that I was the one who told Thomas Jefferson to buy Louisiana because, "Tom, we've gotta get those Frenchies out of there." Tom said we didn't have much money and I said, "Yes, but they're having a war, so I bet you can make them a crazy low offer and they'll take it." And they did. And that's how we got Louisiana.
As usual, there was one skeptical student, who asked, "Mr. R, was it really your idea or were you just in the room?"
"No, it was my idea. If you doubt it, remember that one of the states in the Purchase was named in recognition of my part in working the deal:  The French called me 'Missour R'."

Merry Crabmas: Back in the days when not every meal in the dining hall consisted of chicken and potatoes, the Crab Fest was a night shared by the entire CTY community, including all the kids. Some of the kids who came from the area knew what a treat the crabs were, others were willing to try, and some just took a couple and dropped them at the table where their instructor or TA was sitting. 
  Well, in 1999, there was a bushel box of crabs left over and, since CTY had paid for them, site director Tim decided to stash them in one of the instructional dorm refrigerators. Whether he never mentioned them or the people he told just forgot about them has never been established, but they remained there until the final Friday night of the summer. Now, despite refrigeration, after ten days or so, these were no longer something anyone wanted to eat.
  Enter Lincoln, the Science & Engineering instructor, better know to us as McGyver. He is the one who took apart and reassembled his car engine in the parking lot on Intersession Saturday. He is also the one who used another car engine for a lesson, had it put into the storage unit, and wanted CTY to ship it to him when he was teaching in California the following summer. (They didn't.) Confronted with this large and pretty smelly box of crabs, Lincoln had a brainstorm and said, "Does anyone have any dental floss?" Once he had obtained a roll -- cinnamon-flavored, by the way -- he dragged the box of crabs from the dorm all the way to the crosswalk on the county road that bisects the campus.
  Once there, Lincoln proceeded to create a diorama of crabs, crawling from the box, down the sidewalk, climbing the pole to push the crosswalk button and lined up waiting to cross. (He even added one stuck on the yellow line in the middle of the street.) While he was doing this, his comrades-in-crabbiness proceeded to string crabs and sprigs from the evergreen bushes across the walkway, giving the festive occasion its name. Then, once the diorama was complete, the staff members wandered back to their dorms.
  All the while that this was going on, one of the campus security guards was sitting across the street on his bicycle watching. Once everybody walked away, he went into a nearby dorm, where the residential staff was having their own party (blissfully unaware of what had happened outside) and yelled at them!
  Finally convinced that the res staff had no idea what was going on, the security guard pedaled his bike over to the dorm where Ted, the site coordinator from Baltimore, was sleeping. (It was, by now, about 1:30 in the morning.) Lincoln and company, back to sitting outside their nearby dorms, realized that the guard was going to wake up Ted and moseyed over. Ted, totally baffled by the guard's tale of crabs in the crosswalk, looked at the staff members and said, "I don't know what you did and I don't care who did it, but go clean it up." 
  Lincoln and company made their way back to the crosswalk and, now under the watchful eyes of two security guards, dismantled the entire scenario. (There were photos taken at the time, and they are probably still out there somewhere in the ether but, alas, search attempts have been fruitless.) Once all the crabs had been deposited in a couple of large trash bags, the staffers were escorted to the dining hall dumpster so that it could be assured that the crabs had been disposed of. 
   And that, my friends, is the story of Crabmas. Oh, and by the way, in the aftermath of the event,  an unwritten rule was made that leftover crabs were never to be given to CTY staffers again.