The famous Edison Holiday Inn story

AmazonLinkBelow is a sample chapter from “Put It In Your Act! ” (available on Amazon )

Location, Location, Location

It wasn’t until I was married that I actually enjoyed vacations.  You see, growing up, our vacations were not something that would make it on to an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  Exotic, hypnotic and lush were not descriptions often given to the hotels that we visited in the Amish country in Pennsylvania, or the Catskills in upstate New York or even the hotels in beautiful Asbury Park, New Jersey.  It’s not that the places my parents took us to weren’t fun; it’s just that the idea of a vacation was quite stressful to my father and in turn to the entire family.

My sister and I would usually get into fights in the backseat of the car.  These were usually caused when she crossed the imaginary line that separated our personal spaces.  My mom would yell and threaten that my dad would pull over.  He never did.  When we arrived at the hotel, my father would search our room for problems.  He would find a stain on the carpet, a fly in the room or the ever-present view of the generator.  He’d then focus on this for the entire stay. We once spent spring break in the Catskills, not realizing that the laws of Passover were in effect. The normally great food was lacking something.  That something was bread. The kid’s pizza was rather soggy when it was cheese and sauce on matzo. There weren’t any cookies, strudel or brownies to be had.  After a few years of unsatisfying family trips, Dad was convinced that we didn’t have to travel far for a vacation, for the best things were just minutes from our house.  Unfortunately that’s when the light bulb in his head went on.  “Family,” he said, “we will vacation next summer at the Edison Holiday Inn.”

At first we thought he was joking, for this hotel was only about a mile and a half from our house and even shared the same zip code.  He said it had a beautiful pool and a game room and there wouldn’t be any fighting on the trip there since it would only take three minutes to drive there (four if the light on Route 1 was red). Since we lived in the area, we knew where all the good restaurants were and he would be able to drive home everyday to get the mail and the newspaper.   Who could argue with this logic?

We checked in, went up to the room and unpacked everything into the dresser drawers as if we were going to live there for a month.  We were tired and hungry after the long drive (our version of jetlag).  We piled back in the car to venture out for dinner.  We arrived at Mama Maria’s Italian restaurant.  There wasn’t a close parking spot in front, so Dad dropped us off and went to park the car.  The hostess seated the three of us, gave us menus, bread and filled our water glasses.  A few minutes later, my dad walked in and said to Mom, “What kind of table is this?  It has a view of the men’s room.”  He summoned for the waitress and we made our way to a more pleasant table, each of us holding our own menu, buttered roll and glass of water.  This ritual was repeated at many fine dining establishments throughout the tri-state area.  We then decided what to order.  Dad proclaimed that he was going to have the veal parmigiana.  I said I would also have it.  My dad quickly changed his order to the veal marsala.  We were never allowed to get more than one of the same item.  The logic was, if one dish was a “loser,” we’d all be stuck with it.

We enjoyed our dinner and my folks asked us if we were enjoying our vacation.  It was a bit odd being at the same restaurant we’d dined at many times before, only this time, we were on vacation, but I didn’t dwell on that paradox.  The check came, and my dad (a Certified Public Accountant) examined it closely.  He always had to find the mistake that he claimed was ever present in a check.  As soon as he spotted it, he’d give me the check and say, “Can you find the mistake?”  I usually couldn’t and he’d exclaim, “They charged us for five sodas but we only had four.” or “That special was supposed to include soup.”  This time it was just a simple addition error of 14 cents.  It was rectified and he came out victorious.  We drove back to the hotel and my parents sat in the lobby and chatted, while my sister and I hung out in the game room.  This vacation was actually pretty fun.

The idea of staying local made sense to us, at least until we went out to the pool the next afternoon and my mom was chatting with another lady who was there with her kids.  She had just flown in from Ohio as they were looking at houses in the area since her husband was being transferred to New Jersey.  She asked Mom where she was from.  That’s when the embarrassment kicked in.  My mother sheepishly told the woman that she had lived in Edison for the past 15 years.  Yes, the same town where the hotel was located. She then confessed that her husband had just driven home to get the mail.  She hid the stack of “Edison Holiday Inn” post cards that she was in the midst of writing to friends and relatives.  When Dad came back four minutes later (yes, the light on Route 1 was red), we got out of the pool, dried off, packed, checked out and drove home.  It was good to be back home.

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Bird, Bird, Bird is the Word

I put up a bird feeder in my backyard so we can enjoy a bit of nature.  On the days I work from home I now remain calm while conducting hours of stressful conference calls since I have a bird’s eye view of the feeder.  There’s actually quite a bit to learn from bird-watching; way more than I have learned from the conference calls.  If you don’t agree with me, don’t get your feathers ruffled, just stop reading.

I seem to attract more visitors when I play some soft music.  They especially like the Yardbirds,  A Flock of Seagulls, the Eagles, the Black Crowes and of course the Byrds.

I learned that there’s lots of truth behind many of the common “bird” phrases. Some would argue that these aren’t phrases, but rather idioms, but I’m no dodo.

Birds of a feather do flock together – During the day, various species visit the feeder in groups.  The sparrows come early; the wood peckers come late in the day and the mourning doves visit (you guessed it) in the morning.

  •  There is a defined pecking order – Blue jays are at the top and easily scare away all the other birds.  The doves are on the bottom in fact they’re not allowed to visit the feeder hanging from the tree but instead just wait on the ground hoping that the other visitors will be sloppy and drop some seed.
  • Eat like a bird – I’ve experienced this to be a fairly true statement (said in a Mitch Hedberg cadence).

I’ve also observed a few exceptions, fallacies and inconsistencies such as:

The early bird gets the worm – It seems to be more about weather than time.  The bird that arrives when it’s raining usually gets the worm no matter what time it is.

  • You don’t shit where you eat – Most of my feathered friends do in fact poop all over my deck just a few feet away from their hanging dining room. (Please excuse my fowl language)
  • A little birdie told me basically nothing recognizable, just a bunch of chirping.
  • Kill two birds with one stone – two birds unfortunately flew into our window and met their demise, however there were no stones involved.
  • Pigeon-toed – Some visitors seem to have this trait, but I have yet to observe any so serious that they require white orthopedic shoes.
  • Polly want a cracker? – not so much, but sunflower seeds are quite popular.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – not exactly sure what sexual message this is trying to convey but I think it has something to do with the Birds and the Bees.

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Some may say my hobby is for the birds, but it’s very peaceful and interesting right here in my own back yard.  Who needs to schlep to Toronto or St. Louis when you can watch the Cardinals face off against the Blue Jays right here in Jersey?

Sorry for the lateness of my post, I would have posted this earlier, but my editor (Mark Fidrych) had trouble reading my chicken-scratch.  I got to go now; I think a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker just showed up for dinner.

 

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The Whispering Gallery

My son the college student recently informed me that the Japanese phrase for fart, is literally translated as “Beef Whisper”.  It seems although he’s only a sophomore  he is already reaping the benefits of a college education.  Equipped with this new knowledge, I began to think…

There is a secret acoustic phenomena occurring deep inside Grand Central Station in NYC.  Actually, it’s not much of a secret as most people are always in the archway trying it out.  If one speaks directly into the corner of the wall, it can be heard clearly all the way across the noisy hall (If you haven’t tried it, and plan to, don’t read ahead or you might never try).  I wonder what would happen if one farted directly into the corner of the wall?  Would the person in the opposite corner hear it?  smell it?  Maybe that’s why it is named, “The Whispering Gallery”

GrandCentralStation

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Personalized License plates

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I saw this license plate on the jeep in front of me this morning on the way to work.  I recognized the Yiddish phrase “Vilda Chaya” meaning literally a wild beast.  That’s what my Dad would call anyone that cut in front of him at a buffet.   I guess that explains why she drove 70 mph on the shoulder and pulled in to a Dunkin’ Donuts.  Anyone else spot any  funny plates?

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Such a Deal

ImageEverybody makes such a fuss about the huge savings they get at warehouse clubs and company stores or with frequent diner cards and coupons.  Then there are those familiar words, “I got a friend in the business”.   I’m a bit leery about all these savings opportunities.

Take for example Costco.  True they sell almost everything, but do people really need a ten pound bag of Craisins?  They now even sell caskets (and urns).  Personally, I’d be a bit embarrassed for the departed if I’m sitting at their funeral and the casket adorned with the name “Kirkland” passes by.  On Costco.com they have a number of different choices to choose from including a pricey model made of galvanized steel.  I don’t see many reviews, but I guess that’s expected.  I imagine you can always find a psychic to garner ratings and reviews posthumously.  The other drawback to purchasing caskets at Costco is that they come in a multi-pack of 8.  They must be a favorite among mass murderers looking to cut costs.  Maybe the police should do a background check – Buying eight caskets at a time should raise some suspicion.

My wife places monthly orders at her company’s e-store.  She regularly stocks up on children’s Motrin (even though our kids are teenagers and it’s recalled every other month).  She buys every kind of first aid supply available.  I found a box of 8 X 8 wound care gauze pads (first choice amongst stab victims).  Whenever I ask her why she keeps buying all this crap, she says the old supplies have expired.  Expiration dates on Q-tips?  We’d save a lot more money if she never bought anything at her company store (though the rolls of first aid tape were perfect when I used them to redo the lines on our ping pong table).

Then there are the ½ price sushi deals.  Why would a restaurant offer half price raw fish?  I don’t want to know.

Last year I jumped on the Groupon bandwagon and bought myself $20 of pizza at an acclaimed pizzeria in Trenton, NJ for only $10.  It just expired, as I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go to Trenton with me.  Even my family argued that it would cost more in gas than I’d save and we had great pizza right near our house without a 2 hour ride.

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The World Accordion’ to Larry

A friend of mine recently asked me if I want to join him in forming a Klezmer group.  He thought of me since I can play Jewish wedding songs on the piano.  The catch was that I’d have to learn the accordion since traditional Klezmer music doesn’t use pianos or electric guitars (the two instruments I can play).  It sounded like a quick fire challenge from Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” – “Today chefs, you will play Hava Nagilah using only an accordion and juniper berries”.  I was up for the challenge and was able to borrow an old accordion from a co-worker’s father.

I opened the case and a concentrated mildew smell hit me like a ton of musty bricks.  I was told the accordion was stored in a warehouse for a few years and might have endured some minor water damage (more like a few decades and the great flood).  I had to air it out for a week before I could even get near it.   When I finally was able to put it on, I realized how heavy it was.  The first day after playing it, my neck and back muscles were quite sore despite the fact that I work out religiously (once a month at our local JCC fitness center). Ok – Let me explain how it works.

There is a keyboard like a piano on one side and 120 chord buttons on the other side.  There are no labels or markings except for a rhinestone on one of the buttons, not that it matters since once you have it on, you can’t see anything.  When you squeeze the accordion it makes sounds and more of the musty smell blows into your face.  I downloaded some chord charts, but when I tried to practice in front of our bedroom mirror, everything looks backwards. Then I moved to the bathroom and tried playing with the mirrored medicine cabinet door opened and looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror; the perfect sweet spot; but it does get a bit cramped when I fully extend the accordion and our bathroom is too small to accommodate more than three people and would be a tight squeeze for band practice; one in the shower (playing bass), me standing in front of the mirror and the lucky clarinet player who get the room’s only seat. If I wear my bicycle helmet which has a rear view mirror clipped on each side, I can be mobile, but you look pretty strange just wearing an accordion let alone a bike helmet with dental mirrors clamped on it.

To overcome this problem, I now practice twice a week at the Men’s Warehouse at a local strip mall.  They have a bank of tri-fold mirrors and if I stand on the pedestal; I can see a full 360 degree view of the accordion.  And although they’re very accommodating, you do feel a bit obligated to buy something.  So far I’ve purchased 2 suits, 5 pairs of slacks, and 4 dress shirts and matching neckties. Not only is it getting quite expensive but it’s a bit unnecessary as we have a casual dress policy at work.

Surprisingly, I am really enjoying the accordion.  It’s got some great benefits:

When I play our piano or my electric guitar at home, my kids complain that it’s annoying and they run up to their rooms and close their doors.  The good thing about the accordion is that it’s portable.  I’m able to chase them around, while still playing and I get the satisfaction of annoying them for about 10 seconds longer before they slam their bedroom doors.  It makes for some good quality family time.

During a recent storm we lost power for about 5 days.  Friends of ours who weren’t affected by the storm invited us to stay with them.  I told my wife and kids that I’d still be staying in our house to weather the storm like a captain staying with his ship.  My family decided to stay with our friends.  They said it was so they could have heat, hot water and TV, but I think they just didn’t want to spend 5 days in front of the fire listening to me practice the accordion.

After practicing one night at the Men’s Warehouse I put my accordion in my car and went to grab a few slices of Pizza.  Upon returning to my car, I noticed it had been broken into. I looked in the back seat and saw two accordions.

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From the desk of Dora Sell:

To help our marriage last, my wife Robin and I do NOT share a bathroom.  I took over the guest bathroom to avoid the arguments over clothes on the floor (mine), creepy loofah sponges (hers), hair in the shower (ours), etc.

We each have a stylish digital bathroom scale in our separate bathrooms.  A few months ago, her scale’s battery died.  It was one of those flat disc shaped lithium batteries.  She put it in her purse so she could match it correctly with a replacement one at the store.

A few days later we had arrived in Montreal for a family vacation.  Robin is a very caring individual and always ensures that she has some spare change for those in need.  She doled out some dollars to a few homeless people that we saw in the city.  It wasn’t until we arrived back home, that she noticed she couldn’t find the dead battery in her purse. Those Canadians have some funky $1 and $2 coins and it seems that she must have placed the battery in a guy’s cup at the Central Train Station.  He probably thought she was just another cheap American.

The other day, I noticed that my scale’s low battery status was illuminated and I removed my battery and gave it to Robin.  She decided to go straight to Radio Shack and get two of them before it ended up in the helmet of our local firehouse’s charity drive.  That night I installed it in my scale and it still lit up LBS.  I told her that the battery isn’t working.  She explained that LBS is also the standard abbreviation for pounds.  I think the battery in my head needs replacing.

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