Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Fishing Trip

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fishing trip
That started in Fort Lauderdale
Upon a deep-sea ship

The Dad was a mighty sailing man
(Korea, U.S.N.)
His son was just a landlubber
To sea he'd never been

(Sung to the tune of "The Ballad Of Gilligan's Island", as if you didn't know. There'll be more later, if that will keep you reading.)

See that chubby kid holding up a fish? That's me.

(I wish I had been more svelte when I was ten. This is the only existing photo of me that makes me look fat. I was a skinny kid before I was ten-years-old, and I became a skinny kid again when I hit puberty. But, for a period of about a year-and-a-half, I was El Chunko. Unfortunately, today's story takes place during the time period when I was stress-testing shirts. Everything in that photo is conspiring against me. Horizontal stripes? What was I thinking?)

The person standing next to me is My Dad.

(He was prone to fat for most of the time I knew him. He loved this photo. I think it was because I made him look relatively thinner.)

The two of us are standing poolside at The Escape Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My Mom took the photo.

(She has never been fat, in case you were wondering.)

The fish is a red snapper. I caught it earlier that day.

(Not being a fish, I can't tell you if the fish thought it was fat while it was alive. I can tell you it weighed about four pounds, and it is the biggest fish I've ever caught. That's because it is the only fish I've ever caught. And, having given you some prologue, we will now leave the land of parentheticals and get on with the story.)


My Dad was employed in the airline industry for the greater part of his adult life. At the time of this story, he was employed by the now-defunct Eastern Airlines. As an airline employee, he enjoyed some perks. Employees and immediate family flew free, on a space available basis, and the space available was always in first class. That meant first-class service, of course. To give you an idea of how nice our travel was when I was a child, I had no idea why comedians joked about the hideousness of airline meals. I had never had anything aside from filet mignon, lobster, or chicken cordon bleu. There was always room to stretch out, and the ex-beauty-queen stewardesses made sure we had anything we wanted, whenever we wanted it. Life was good.

Since travel expenses weren't an issue, we vacationed as often as possible. In addition to flying for free, airline employees also received significant discounts on hotel rooms and rental cars. This left meals and sightseeing as the only full-price activities.

Did I mention that life was good?

For a few years, on an annual basis during the winter, we went from the cold and snow of Boston to the sun and fun of Fort Lauderdale. We always stayed at The Escape, a lovely retreat with huge swimming pool, pitch-and-putt golf course, ping-pong tables, a gym, tennis courts, and other amenities that made it seem like paradise to a ten-year-old kid.

[Image from a seller on E-Bay. Buy it!]

There was an in-house nightclub for my parents to enjoy, and a top-shelf restaurant, poolside, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Great place, gone the way of the dodo, at least as a hotel. While researching this piece, I discovered that, after falling into serious disrepair and closing its doors during the 1980's, it became an assisted living community, known by the locals as "Club Med For Seniors". It is now slated to be re-built as condominiums.

[The restaurant is to the right, bordering the pool. Photo from Fort Lauderdale 60's]

I could go on for some time with stories concerning fun times we had at that hotel, but this isn't the place. Our main tale for today occurs at sea.

During one of our Florida vacations, My Dad made reservations for he and I to go out on a deep-sea fishing boat. It was a relatively small craft for such an excursion. I would guess, from memory, perhaps 30 feet. As I recall, 8 or 9 were in the fishing party that day, with five serving as crew.

It was a nice idea for a father-son outing, and I was excited at the prospect. I had never been out to sea, and my fishing experience, to that point, had been limited to a couple of times on the weed-filled shores of Turner Pond, a silly little smidge of water near our house that reputedly had trout in it, though I had never seen anybody catch one. I saw my friend, Jimmy Murphy, catch three or four tiny sunfish one day. They were so unspectacular and useless, he threw them back.

(Come to think of it, maybe he just caught the same stupid sunfish over and over. For all I know, it may have been the only inhabitant of that pond.)

My Mom, finding the prospect of a day out to sea with scaly things (aside from her husband and son) unappetizing, stayed at The Escape.

It turned out to be an overcast morning, with strong wind gusts, and when we arrived at the pier, I was somewhat taken aback by the whitecaps on the water and the way the boat was pitching at the dock. But My Dad, being an old navy man, reassured me that it was nothing to worry about. He had been on seas much rougher than these, he said.

After all were aboard, we cast off. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the first spot that the captain chose as propitious enough to drop anchor and try our luck. All of us were provided rods by the crew. Those of us without much experience were helped with baiting our hooks, and given some rudimentary fishing lessons.

We all stood at various spots along the rail, with our lines in the water. By this time, a storm had blown in and the boat was rocking quite a bit. The crew walked the deck and gave each of us a rain poncho to put on, which helped a bit. There were no nibbles, though, so the captain decided to up anchor and try another spot. We lurched forward, swaying side to side on the by now roiling sea.

The boat motored on, bobbing up and down over the whitecaps and tilting side to side. I was enjoying the roller coaster aspect of it for a while (I also liked it when airplanes hit turbulence) but then I began to feel a bit queasy. Apparently, so did some others. Many faces had turned pale, and some of the tourists were already hanging over the rails.

The captain decided we had had enough storm-tossed fun for now, so he dropped anchor again. The boat still swayed, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...

My Dad and I had both eaten substantial breakfasts at the wonderful restaurant at the hotel; plenty of eggs, bacon, sausages, fried potatoes, tomato juice, toast with huge gobs of butter and jam...

The weather started getting rough
The tiny ship was tossed
So were the cookies of the dad and son
Their lunches were now lost

I was the first to give it up. I staggered to the rail and, while My Dad held onto my belt for fear that I might go overboard while upchucking so violently, I deposited my breakfast into the sea. I slumped to the deck, but I felt a lot better.

Not so My Dad. Despite having been in the United States Navy, and sailed the high seas during the Korean conflict, he let go of me and started his own heaving.

You have to understand, at this point, that My Dad had false teeth. In the nick of time, a split second before he puked voluminously into the waves, he spit his teeth out into his hands. Had he not had the foresight to do so, and just let rip, he not only would have lost his breakfast, he also would have sent his choppers on a trip to Davy Jones' locker. It would have turned into a very costly fishing trip indeed, and whatever had been saved on airfare and hotels would have gone toward re-furnishing My Dad's mouth (not to mention that he would have had to spend the remainder of the vacation toothlessly gumming his dinners.)

Following our eruptions, the storm abated, the seas calmed, the sun came out, and we all resumed fishing.

Now, I don't know if fish are particularly attracted to half-digested breakfasts, but it was almost immediately after I had deposited that disgusting chum into the water that I caught my red snapper. My Dad - who didn't catch anything that day, other than his teeth - helped me reel him in. The crew seemed genuinely excited at my catch. Maybe they were just glad we had something to show for all of our misery.

The rest of the day was uneventful. As we returned to port, I sat on the deck, drinking a grape soda, and dreaming of how My Mom's eyes would bulge out when she saw how great a fisherman I was.

That night, after taking the photo, we gave the fish to the head chef at The Escape, who cleaned it and cooked it for us (for me and My Mom, actually, as My Dad couldn't stand fish.) It was absolutely delicious.

Thus ends the tale of Suldog
And his deep-sea fishing joy
He gave his breakfast to a fish
But that fish fed the boy

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, March 26, 2012

This Sort Of Thing Is Why, Despite So Much Crap In The World, I Remain An Optimist About People

WARNING: Some of you will get a few paragraphs into this and say, "Sully, I don't give a damn about baseball cards. I like you, but..."

I understand, but this isn't really about baseball cards. Trust me.

It will hardly come as a shock to most of you if I say there are lots of nice people on the internet. Many of us have been recipients of small favors from our friends who blog (if I start mentioning the folks who sent me fruitcake, or who sent stuff to Dorothy, or from whom I've received cards, prayers, photos, encouragement, prizes... well, see, we'll be here all day. Suffice to say if you're one of them, I love you and I've kept you in my prayers.) When two folks who previously knew each other only via their writings finally have a face-to-face encounter, the postmortems usually make note of a pleasant time had by all.

(Perhaps the bad meetings aren't written about as often. I suppose if someone showed up slathered head-to-toe in possum fat, wearing nothing but a strategically-placed "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" button, and the first thing he said, upon meeting you, was, "Wow! Your rack is even bigger in person!", then you might not consider it a highlight. Lime was OK with it when we met, but we shouldn't be taken as the norm.)


Anyway, what I want to tell you about is something truly unique and wonderful done for me recently by a blogger.

The blogger's name is Jeremy Scott, and he writes at a couple of locations. His main blog - the place where he chronicles bits of his life - is called No One's Going To Read This Blog. I'm hoping you'll visit there and make that title a lie. It's worth the trip just to see his header.

(Go ahead. Click on the link. I'll wait for you to come back.)

See? Now that's funny!

A photographer by trade, most of Jeremy's writing concerns his passion for baseball cards and other such collectibles. I understand this may hold little appeal for some of you, but I find his approach interesting. While he has specific favorite players (a fondness for Oklahoma athletes is fairly apparent - and also understandable, as he is located in Norman, ...


... the home of the University of Oklahoma) - his bigger concern is the aesthetic of the cards, rather than the specific athletes pictured. He'll offer a critique of the composition, cropping, background, airbrushing, and other details that the usual fanboy collector would hardly notice. He also branches off on small digressions now and then, concerning things other than cards, and I've always been a fan of digression.

(For instance, did you know that there used to be such a thing as a blow-up bra? Here's photographic proof!

Maybe there still are such things. For all I know, there's a huge blow-up bra industry [and if there is, and there are openings for blowers, I think I'll update my resume, because Lord knows I have enough hot air], but this is the sort of thing you might come across while reading Jeremy's posts about baseball card collecting.)

His other blog is VERY baseball card specific. It is named No One's Going To Trade For This, and that's where I first encountered Jeremy.

I'm not sure how I came to be there. I like baseball cards, and I must have been searching for something about them, but I'll be damned if I can remember what. In any case, I landed on his blog and I saw that he was trying to acquire some 1973 Topps baseball cards. I recalled having a box full of them gathering dust in my basement, so I wrote to him and said I wouldn't mind sending them his way. It seemed much more sensible to have them in the hands of someone who really loves them, and who would treasure them, than to leave them sitting in my cellar entertaining no one.

We traded e-mails. I asked him to give me his address so I could ship the cards to him. He inquired about what I might like in return. I named a few athletes whose performances I've enjoyed through the years, but I basically told him that whatever he felt like sending me would be fine. I wasn't looking to acquire anything when I offered him the cards, so whatever he sent back would be gravy. I expected to receive maybe 20 or 25 cards from him, and that would have been swell.

Jeremy sent me an amazing assortment of 200 Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and other awesome cards. I think there's little doubt that what he sent far outweighs, in monetary value, what I sent him. His generosity was spectacular. I was enjoying going through the cards he sent, admiring the artwork and having a few random sporting memories triggered, and I intended to write him a nice little thank you note concerning his largesse, when I came upon something entirely unexpected. And it just blew me away.

What I found, in the middle of the huge stack of cards Jeremy sent, was ME.

It seems one of the things Jeremy likes to do is create one-of-a-kind hand-drawn cards. During the time we had been exchanging e-mails, he had also been reading my back catalog, and he saw my posts about having played in metal/punk/rock bands during the 70's and 80's. And he took the time to create one of his very special cards specifically for me, a person he had never met and from whom he had yet to receive anything. And then, when he boxed up the cards he was sending to me, he inserted that card in the middle of the pack, with no forewarning, so that it would be a great surprise when I found it.

Did I say "a great surprise"? It was a singularly stunning surprise, one that knocked my socks off.

To be truthful, when I first saw it, I was clueless. I never expected to see my rock 'n roll past life on a baseball card, so my initial reaction was, "Oh, cool. He's included some sort of musician cards." Then I realized it was ME from 30 years ago. I sat there, open-mouthed and slack-jawed, for about five seconds. Then I picked it up and ran into the living room where MY WIFE was watching TV.

"Look at this!," I said, and I showed her the card.

"Where did you get that? Was it in the box of cards from your friend in Oklahoma?"

"Yes! Isn't it excellent?"

"It sure is! He drew it? Wow! That took a lot of work. What a nice guy! You should frame it."

That's exactly what I'm going to do. And the next time I find myself pessimistic concerning humanity, and perhaps thinking that we're all going to hell in a handbasket, I'll look at it and remember all of the nice things I've received, from so many of you, and I'll try to keep the thought that, yes, we are not wrong to rely upon the kindness of strangers.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Favorite Brand Of Chewing Gum As A Child

Told you so.

(I'll save you the trouble of searching for it. If you hit the link, it's in the eighth paragraph down.)

Anyway, we're all adults here, right? Or, at least, we're old enough to be. So, let's talk about chewing gum.

(I've already lost MY WIFE. She hates the stuff. I don't think it's the actual substance so much as it is watching someone chew it. She can't stand the lip-smacking and popping sounds some people make. I'm not fond of that, either, but I just close my eyes and imagine them doing something else while making those noises, although if they're blowing bubbles... wow, this digression turned out to be much more double-entendred than I thought it would be when I started. With luck, it will remain inside of these parentheses and not contaminate the rest of the post with childish innuendo. Knowing me, though, I wouldn't count on it.)

(Speaking of childish innuendo, did you know that the same guy who drew Bazooka Joe comics had previously drawn the hardcore pornographic comic strips known as Tijuana bibles? It's true. His name was Wesley Morse. I just learned that while "researching" this piece. And now, you know... the rest of the story! You're welcome.)

(I promise I'll get back to the subject of chewing gum any day now, but isn't it amazing how far we've come as a society? Those salacious comic books used to be the hottest thing a person might encounter before the age of 18, distributed under the counter by the sort of guy with rheumy eyes, a three-day growth of beard, and a few whiskey bottles that had been emptied while the beard grew, but now you can just put the term "Tijuana bible" in Google and come up with scads of them to read at your leisure, maybe even at your workplace while you're writing some tripe about chewing gum instead of doing what you're paid to do. And it's not easy laying off reading that stuff and coming back here to entertain you, so I hope you appreciate the effort.)

("I'll gladly pay you Tuesday...")

OK, enough! We're here to talk about chewing gum, dammit!

Since we already mentioned Bazooka Joe, let's start there. Or, rather, with the gum upon which Bazooka Joe comics were wrapped, which was, of course, Wrigley's Doublemint.
Nah, I'm kidding. I just wanted an excuse to put up another graphic before the one of J. Wellington Wimpy in flagrante delicto soiled your mind forever. Ah! Fresh and minty! Of course, as any idiot knows - I know it, so that proves it - Bazooka Joe was the spokesman for Bazooka Bubble Gum. Why a brand of gum was named after anti-tank weaponry is unknown, but it was the default bubble gum of choice for kids who grew up in the 50's and 60's. In some neighborhoods (or, perhaps, only mine) it became a generic term, much like Jell-O or Kleenex. "Let's go to the store and get some Bazooka!" we'd say, and then someone else would reply, "Yeah, and maybe the guy behind the counter will have some more of those dirty comic books!"

(Did any of you chew Bazooka? If so, did you ever send away for the premiums advertised on the comic strips? I must have chewed thousands of pieces over the course of my lifetime, but I never saved enough comics to send away for stuff. If I had, I would have ordered the X-Ray Specs. And been spectacularly disappointed.)

The only true rival of Bazooka was a brand called Dubble Bubble.

Dubble Bubble was a harder gum to "start" than Bazooka. That is, it was like chewing a piece of sugary pink whale blubber at first, whereas Bazooka was a bit softer and more quickly reached the bubble-blowing stage. This may not have been the natural state of things direct from the factory. I suspect that the Dubble Bubble in our region was stale, since it sat on the shelf until there was no Bazooka to be had and then we bought it while in the throes of tutti-frutti withdrawal. As was the case with Bazooka and Bazooka Joe, Dubble Bubble also came wrapped in a comic strip. We always considered it a second-tier sort of strip, though; not up to the high standards of Bazooka Joe. The star was Pud.

Bazooka Joe was cool. He wore an eye-patch and was usually the one who spouted the clever punchline. Pud was a dipshit. And he also had the misfortune of sporting a moniker that we Boston kids understood to be another name for "penis", so we would have been extra wary of saying we preferred Pud.

(By the way, the world can be divided into two classes of people: those who blow bubbles and those who don't. I personally feel that anyone who never blew a bubble as a kid should be ineligible to become president. Rick Santorum, of course, would limit the exclusion to those who prefer Pud.)

As preteens, bubble gum was our gum of choice, but if none was available, just plain old chewing gum would have to do. In my case, mint was the preferred flavor, and, more specifically, peppermint. I've always found spearmint just a tad too sharp, while peppermint has a warmer, more mellow flavor (but maybe I'm talking to a whole bunch of wintergreen lovers and the distinction is lost on you poor tastebudless souls.) While Wrigley was probably the king of chewing gum in most parts of the country, Beech-Nut was the one for we discriminating Dorchester youth.

(Nope. I haven't the slightest. Let's move on.)

My Grandma used to chew Beech-Nut peppermint gum while she smoked Winston cigarettes (which was almost assuredly preferable to the other way around.) I think that's why I now smoke menthol cigarettes. They combine both flavors into one utterly delicious cancerous package.

(I recall now that My Mom - as a matter of fact, most moms in the old neighborhood - preferred Chiclets. I enjoyed them sometimes. It had the novelty of being enclosed in a hard candy shell, making it crunchy for the first minute or two [and I could make some joke here that would bring us full circle to the Tijuana bibles again, but I won't.])

As I entered my teens, I tried expanding my palette. I gave some time to such then-stalwart brands as Dentyne, Clark's, and Beeman's.

Dentyne used to purport in its advertisements to actually be healthy for your teeth. Well, a kid who had as many cavities as I did could hardly be expected to pass up the opportunity to keep on chewing gum if it was good for his teeth, so I tried some. Of course, no gum is really good for the teeth; it can only be less harmful. Dentyne was good for your teeth in the same way that the budget proposals from most of the major presidential candidates will lower the national debt. If it helps, picture Obama as Bazooka Joe, Ron Paul as dental floss, and all of the others as Pud.

Clark's gum came in weird flavors. There was Cinnamint, Teaberry, and Sour Lemon. These days, both Cinnamint and Sour Lemon wouldn't be anything outrageous. When I was a kid, however, they were revolutionary. Young Boston Irish kids, for whom black pepper was a far out and wild spice, found Cinnamint entirely mouth-burning. And none of us could figure out why anyone would chew Sour Lemon gum. I think the only time I ever bought it was so I could offer pieces to my buddies and then watch the great faces they made when the taste hit.

Beeman's, however, became something of an obsession with me.

I was one of those kids who really enjoyed black licorice. When other kids would look to throw away the odd licorice candy that showed up in, say, Necco Wafers (which could be the subject of a whole 'nother post, and maybe they will be next week) I'd say, "Give it to me! I like those!" (which didn't help my rep as an oddball.) So, when I found this BLACK gum... well, to say it made me happy would be like saying Toddlers & Tiaras is slightly uncomfortable to watch; an understatement of vast proportion. As well as tasting good, Black Jack allowed one to work up truly dark and evil-looking spit, and I imagined I was fooling people into thinking I was chewing tobacco every time I gobbed on the sidewalk.

Beeman's other great product was NOT the clove gum. That had the same sort of appeal as an atomic fireball, which was to see how long you could keep it in your mouth before you just had to spew it out. No, the other delight was their pepsin gum.

Pepsin gum was touted as an aid to digestion. Since I had absolutely nothing wrong with my digestion, that wasn't the draw. Beeman's Pepsin Gum just tasted great! By the time I attended Boston Latin School, which I despised, the lure of buying a pack of Beeman's Pepsin Gum at Park Street station, on my way to school each morning, was sometimes the only thing that kept me on my way to school at all. It was that good.

(Beeman's should be paying me for writing this. Just in case you're wondering, they aren't. But, if they see this and want to send me a few cases, I won't let any sort of misguided principles get in the way.)

I suppose I could go on about gum (maybe I already have) reminding you about the pleasure of stepping in a big wad of it while walking down the street on a hot day, or maybe bringing to mind when you stuck it under your desk at school or something, but nobody is reading this. Everybody ditched me back at the link for the Tijuana bibles.

Soon, with more b...

(I forgot about Juicy Fruit. That was an excellent gum. I used to take a stick and put it under my armpit when I ran out of deodorant, and... Oh, screw it. I want to see more of those Tijuana bibles, too. Later.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

There's One Born Every Minute, So Take Your Time; No Need To Immediately Rob All Of Them Blind

[Photo from The Slots Guy.]

(I have never seen anyone look this way while playing slots. The person involved is usually glassy-eyed, surrounded by a haze of cigarette smoke, certainly isn't drinking champagne, and the diamond necklace would have been in hock. I suppose the above is theoretically possible, as is any staged advertising photo for a casino, but I wouldn't bet on it actually coming into your range of vision any time soon.]

I wrote an op-ed piece last week (in-between trimming my toenails and figuring the on-base percentages for my 1995 softball team) but despite the brilliance of my arguments, both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe rejected it. Having no other alternative (that is, not wishing to have my high opinion of myself dashed against any more rocks) I've decided to foist it upon you.

Some background, which I thought unnecessary if published in a Boston newspaper, may be helpful for those of you outside of the area.

For quite a few years, the Massachusetts legislature had debated whether to allow casino gambling. Somewhat recently, they approved it. No casinos have yet been built. Sites are being considered, bids have been made, and local voters and elected officials are hashing out whether they want such things in their particular communities.

Meanwhile, in other places where casino gambling has been up-and-running for years, legislation has been passed that protects the customers from being fleeced unmercifully. For instance, in New Jersey it is illegal to place a slot machine in play for the public unless it has at least an 82% payback rate. That is, of all monies shoveled into any particular machine, at least 82% must reasonably be expected to be returned to the gamblers over the long run.

(Although machine payouts may vary wildly in the short term, the percentages can be figured quite precisely over the long term. This is calculated via knowing how many combinations of symbols can appear on the reels - in reality, how many electronic "stops" there are, in these days of microchips and whatnot - and then dividing the total money played into the expected total payoffs. 100%, of course, would mean that all money put into the machine was eventually returned.)

In the case of a game that requires a skill component, in which category video poker falls, there are some machines that will return over 100% with perfect play, but learning that play can be quite laborious; usually more complicated than learning to count cards, actually, which is the other way, outside of cheating, to gain a slight edge on a casino offering the standard sort of table games and machines. It's always possible that a new game will be introduced which can then be exploited by those willing to do math that the casino failed to do, but that's a gambler's very rare joy. It's a wide-ranging subject, and in my opinion a highly interesting one, but that's more than you need to know for the following piece.

So there you have it. I hope you find this an enjoyable sort of mild rant. If not, any day now I'll probably be back to writing about my favorite brand of chewing gum as a child, or something else similarly intriguing, so please be patient. I still love you.

Here's the op-ed.


Do you know what constitutes a “full-pay” video poker machine? Are you aware of the differences in “hold” percentage between a blackjack table where a dealer hits on “soft 17” or stands on the same? How about the change, in average losses hourly, sustained over the long run by a slots player if the machine he or she favors paid back 85% of monies played rather than 98%?

Excuse the obvious wordplay, but odds are you don’t.

The people most likely to be hurt – the folks who will fill the pockets of the casino moguls via losses of mortgage money or meager savings - are likely to be ignorant concerning their chances. And the people who should be protecting their interests are either ignorant themselves or turning a blind eye to safeguards which should be in place prior to the gambling parlors opening their doors.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re for or against casino gambling in general. For what it’s worth, I’m for it. I think it can be a pleasant divergence from the humdrum. If the price isn’t too steep, indulging in a few dreams is OK. There are even those people who can turn the tables, so to speak, and make themselves the favorites to win against a casino. Witness the folks from MIT who trained themselves in the art of card counting.

The vast majority of gamblers, however, don’t stand a snowball's chance in hell. Casino owners aren’t clamoring to come here because they’re benevolent benefactors of the community. The places are built in order to siphon money from every person who walks through the doors, and the state will be complicit in this. Of course, those who do walk through the doors and gamble will not do so at gunpoint. Fine. Most everybody knows the story. So, how do we protect the innocent while still making this a long-term profit maker for the state and its casino partners?

Simple. There need to be decent minimum payout percentages, mandated by law, for all slot machines and video poker machines. There need to be liberal rules on table games, allowing for a greater possibility of payback to the players. There need to be laws put in place to disallow strongarm tactics that could be employed by the casinos to keep out smarter players. There need to be laws written that will make it illegal to place ATM machines inside these places.

All in all, there need to be more regulations on the books than have been written or proposed. I’ve read through the bills (H.1039, H.130, S.168, H.3111, among others) and found nothing protecting the suckers. The closest is Section 13 in H.1039, which calls for odds to be posted on electronic gaming devices. That doesn't guarantee any minimum payout, though. The best protection given the players who can’t afford to lose would be minimum payout percentages. A machine that pays back 98% of monies put into it provides entertainment at a fair cost. A machine that only pays back 80% (or 70%, or 60%) will bleed someone dry before they even have a chance to think about what they’re doing to their future.

Why would it be good for the state’s interests to not have a higher percentage flowing into the coffers right away? Why should they care about NOT taking as much as they can as fast as they can? Because a person who loses a little, but who has a good time, will lose that little bit over and over again, while someone who has a hideous experience is likely to never return. Word travels fast in gaming circles. If Massachusetts becomes known as a place giving a fair shake, it will draw more players from competing states. If we become known as a home of clip joints, the money will flow elsewhere.

This state has a choice. It can make lots of money in the short term, but have white elephants on their hands later. Or it can make a reasonable assumption of fair play the law, concomitantly resulting in more revenue in the long run. And, by choosing that latter course, they will also be protecting some of those citizens most vulnerable to the pitfalls inherent in bringing casinos to this state. Win – Win.

I hope the state gaming commissioners, and interested parties in the state legislature, will see to it that Massachusetts doesn’t slaughter the goose before it can lay a few golden eggs.

[Jim Sullivan is a former blackjack dealer, among other things. He may be reached at]


If you reside in Massachusetts, and you agree, you might consider printing this out and sending it to your state rep.

Soon, with more bettor stuff.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Bloggers Dine Together; World Survives

This past Friday, I met up with a fellow blogger. The problem with writing about such a thing is that the person you meet might write about it, too. With my penchant for exaggeration, this means that how we individually recount the events of the evening might come out wholly at odds. If, after reading what she might have to say about it, you then come away with suspicions concerning my veracity, I’ll say in my defense that you ought to know by now that I can’t be trusted, so it’s your own damn fault.

The blogger in question is not a small green citrus fruit, but she pretends she is for the sake of anonymity. Her real name, much like that of MY WIFE, will be withheld in an obviously fruitless attempt at protecting the innocent, of which there are none in this instance. She is sometimes known as The Queen of Memes when she is not describing herself as The Exalted Empress of the Universe (and if I haven’t gotten that title exactly as it should be, I hope she’ll just graciously correct it instead of pointing her finger at me and zapping me into a pile of smoking ashes.)

She is otherwise known as… Lime.

When she told me that she’d be making a pilgrimage to my neck of the woods, I was thrilled. The last time we had met (which was our initial meeting) she had gifted me with a pair of socks. I’ve worn them ever since. That was about three years ago. I was hoping she’d bring me another pair, as the originals have become somewhat moldy.

In case you’re seriously gullible, I’ll let you know that’s a joke. Ha-Ha. The socks were, in fact, tie-dyed by her. In honor of her return visit, I decided to don them despite the fact it would mean a serious fashion faux pas if I wore my usual top hat and tails for our dinner together, so I dressed down in chinos. I did wear my monocle, but I don’t think she noticed. Of course, where I was wearing it probably precluded that possibility.

Lest I give you the idea that Lime had made the trip north strictly to see me, I’ll let you know that she was actually visiting her cousin (whose name I would reveal, but she’s a nice person who lives relatively nearby, so I don’t want to trouble her with visits from the FBI, Homeland Security, Vinny “Red Clam Sauce” Marinella, or any of my other close associates.) Her cousin was either unable or unwilling to join us, and that was a shame. She’s almost as much of a hoot as Lime. Oh, well. I’m sure I’ll see her again someday, perhaps on-stage at The Golden Banana.

(That’s a cheap joke, and likely far too local to do most of you any good. I just threw it in on the offhand chance that Lisa from Brookline is actually reading this. Hi, Lisa! Since I’ve now given away your name and location, expect a visit from the Boston Police bunko squad. Tell them I’m in Buenos Aires. I’ll make it worth your while.)

Since I had to work during the day on Friday, Lime decided to busy herself in the hours before our meeting with a visit to The Museum Of Fine Arts.

(That’s what we locals call it when we don’t want someone to know we’re going to The Golden Banana. I’m surprised she picked up on that so quickly, being from out of town.)

(In the following paragraph, which concerns our subway system, there is a perfectly wonderful opportunity for me to have made some sort of joke using the word “vagrants”. I refrained, however, and I want credit for sparing you. That’s why I’m telling you now.)

Since Lime doesn’t know all the vagaries of The “T”, which is Boston’s public transportation system, I endeavored to help her get to the “museum” in the easiest possible way. I sent her the following extremely easy instructions, via e-mail:

Get off at Fenway (which is the last above-ground stop, so if you're in a tunnel you've missed it.) Exit the station on ground level (don't take the stairs) through the very big parking lot (which will be readily visible) and head for Boylston Street (I can't necessarily give you the best way to tell which one is Boylston, other than to say walk along to the end of the storefronts and then don't go left and it's Boylston (pronounded "BOIL-stn", by the way.) If confused, ask someone friendly-looking. Walk up to the first big intersection, which is Kilmarnock Street (Kill-MAR-nick) and take a right. Go all the way to the end, which is an athletic field I played on with The Flames softball team (ta-da!) and go all the way across the field (heading for the left field side of the far diamond) which will bring you to a small patch of woods and a friendly little bridge which crosses what some folks laughingly call a stream. It's just a thirty yard walk in the woods then and when you come out of the woods, there's the museum! You'll be at the back of it, though, so walk around to the right for the front or side entrance.

To my amazement, she actually made it there. Not only that, she backtracked to the station afterward. Since I wasn’t entirely sure she’d still be alive, imagine my amazement when she called me at work and told me she was at the train station near my office! I told her I’d be right over to pick her up.

We had a fair amount of time to kill before picking up MY WIFE downtown, so I took Lime back to Marketing Messages and introduced her to a couple of folks. I showed her my office, and a few other boring things, and then we got back in the car and drove to Watertown where MY WIFE and I live.

I’m not quite sure why I took her there. I knew I wasn’t going to invite her inside because the place was a mess. But I took a photo of her standing by our front door, so I’ll show you that for no discernible reason.

I told Lime I was going to tie her up and put her in the basement while I went and picked up MY WIFE, but she thought I was joking. It’s no fun being a homicidal pervert if your victim laughs at you, so I skipped it and we drove downtown. On the way, I regaled her with all sorts of questionable trivia concerning Boston. I told her about Beacon Hill having once been covered with whorehouses, but now there’s only one, the place with the big golden dome on top.

(The 19th century whores cost less, the clientele were more satisfied after the transaction, and if you wanted a smoke once business was done, it wasn’t illegal to light up in their chambers. Otherwise, we like the system now.)

After picking up MY WIFE, we drove back to La Casa De Pedro in Watertown. It’s a very nice Venezuelan restaurant. We often eat there before going to the theater located next door. Once we were seated, we all ordered mojitos (which loosened things up considerably, as you might imagine) and we laughed pretty much continually from that point on.

I asked Lime about her trip to the museum. She liked it. I told her my favorite part of the collection was the Roman sculpture because there’s one bust that’s a dead ringer for Curly from The Three Stooges.

(That’s true. It doesn’t have a nose – for some reason, folks seem to have gotten a thrill from hammering off the noses of statues back in the day – but otherwise it’s an uncanny resemblance. I just pretend he lost his schnozz when Moe whacked him with a crowbar or something,)

I then asked her if she saw the sculpture, by the side entrance, which looks like a big pile of dicks. She laughed, said she was sorry she missed that one, and then theorized that it might go well with some of Georgia O’Keefe’s stuff.

V-Day Flower by Georgia O'Keefe

(The sculpture may not be there anymore. I don’t know how you could miss it. Honestly, the first time I saw it? I felt utterly small and inadequate. The thing resembles nothing more than fifteen or twenty giant bronze schlongs all tangled together and aiming off in different directions. The artist gave it some title other than “Big Pile Of Dicks”, but almost everybody who sees it knows what he was thinking.)

We had some wonderful food and shared funny stories. Lime is one of the most convivial fools it has ever been my pleasure to break bread with. We didn’t mean to break it, and we offered to pay for it, but…

(Wait a minute. I think I made that same joke when writing concerning the first time we met and had a meal. If you’re dissatisfied and want your money back, see me outside after the blog.)

MY WIFE regaled us with stories of ill treatment by her family when she was younger, including wonderful games played by her brother and sisters, such as “Mean Hairdresser” (that one consisted of rolling up a brush in the hair and then yanking hard) and “Beat Up Day”, which, to be fair, was shared equally by all four of the children. Each of the siblings had one day when they could be beaten, unmercifully and without retaliation, by the other three. MY WIFE’s older sister, being the eldest, chose Leap Day. Her other sister’s beat up day was Labor Day, while her brother’s beat up day was Saint Patrick’s. MY WIFE’s was Sunday.

(I’m never quite sure how much of MY WIFE’s stories to believe. In addition, it just occurs to me that I should probably be worried what she says about ME when I’m not around.)

We were having such a good time, we forgot to take any photos. Just so you don’t get too bored, here’s one of what happened the last time Lime visited us and she ordered a glass of water with extra lemon.

After dinner, and while waiting for coffee and dessert to arrive, MY WIFE pulled some lottery scratch tickets from her purse. They were of a type called “Cashwords”, which basically… well, first it would help it you had one to look at for reference.

MY WIFE and I like to buy these lottery tickets because they at least give you a few minutes of entertainment before you lose your money. See the section marked “Your Letters”? You uncover one letter at a time and then, if you see that letter, you scratch it off in the larger puzzle. If you’re able to uncover three or more complete words, you win. The more words you uncover, the more you win.

Now, of course, you only get 18 letters in the “Your Letters” section, and the 8 letters you don’t get are generally the ones you need. However, it’s still fun because of something we’ve added to the game. When we uncover a letter, we verbalize the sound of that letter each time we find it in the larger puzzle. For instance, if I uncover an “A” and MY WIFE, on her card, uncovers a “T”, I go “Ayyyyyyyy, Ayyyyyyyy, Ayyyyyyyy” while I’m scratching off the puzzle letters, while she goes “Tih, Tih, Tih”, and it’s hard not to laugh because you sound like a couple of idiots.

We’ve bought these scratch tickets for other people occasionally and explained the rules about having to make the sounds as you uncover the letters, but nobody we’ve done it with has ever taken to it so quickly and with such gusto as Lime did. The three of us sat there in the middle of the restaurant going “Oh, Oh, Oh”, “Eee, Eee, Eee”, and “Guh, Guh, Guh”, and the totality of the sound was not unlike that which would have been made by three retarded nymphomaniacs. I’m not sure how this affected the other patrons, but it did us a world of good.

MY WIFE only ordered coffee after dinner, but Lime and I each had a flan. Mine was your standard issue, but hers was chocolate. We decided we’d each like a taste of the other person’s, so we fed each other some. It was somewhat embarrassing acting like a couple of 13-year-olds on a date while MY WIFE was sitting there watching us, but we’re happily married and so is Lime in case her husband is reading this, so, while it was somewhat titillating, it was entirely innocent.

Full of good food (and with MY WIFE having uncovered five words on her scratchie, so we were ahead of the game) we drove Lime back to cousin’s place in Brookline. Once again, it had been a great pleasure to share a day with her. She really does have a delightfully warped sense of humor, so despite my not having been able to tie her up in the basement and ravage her at my leisure, it was still an enjoyable evening. We hope to someday travel down to her area and do stuff. We like to imagine what she could possibly be like in her natural habitat.

Really, Lime – no joke – you’re one of the most pleasant and entertaining people with whom we’ve ever shared a meal. I think this photo, from our first meeting, says it all.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Tom Lehrer - An Appreciation

"If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while." - Tom Lehrer

If there is one thing I can point to in my childhood as having shaped my belief that the world is, at base, not quite sane, it is the playing of Tom Lehrer records by my parents.

For which I thank them most sincerely. Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Dad! You took my fragile childhood psyche and twisted it in wonderfully demented ways. Without your help, I wouldn't have become the bloviating ego-driven libertarian ex-stoner I so obviously delight in being today. The tool they used to shape me in such a profoundly discouraging (to my readers) way was Lehrer.

While My Dad bought the records, and is thus slightly more to blame, My Mom was entirely complicit (and she has reinforced the message throughout the years, first by bringing me to a performance of Tomfoolery, the musical revue based on his work, and then via purchasing a Lehrer songbook, with notation and full lyrics, as a later birthday present.)

(I assume some of you may already know Lehrer's work. For that matter, I suspect a few of you, as charmingly deviant as I, may revel in it, and will find much of what follows not only pedantic but wholly a waste of your time. Too damn bad. While I've always found a certain delight in preaching to the choir, this is about winning converts. So shut up and let the ignorant masses get some education.)

Tom Lehrer was born in New York in 1928. I don't hold that against him and neither should you. He migrated to Massachusetts, thus proving his innate intelligence, and studied mathematics at Harvard, earning his BA (magna cum laude) at age 19. He went on to earn his masters, and then taught at MIT, Harvard, and Wellesley. He did a stint in the army somewhere in there, rising to the rank of spec 3 (or, as Lehrer later described it, "corporal without portfolio".)

Meanwhile, he had begun composing satirical songs. The piano lessons his parents had begun for him at age 8 - classical, at first, but in popular styles after Tom expressed more interest in such forms - allowed him to accompany himself quite facilely. He performed the songs for his fellow students and teachers, at parties and other relaxed social gatherings, and found a good reception.

As requests for repeat performances of the songs became steady, he decided to finance a private pressing of a recording. He went into a Boston recording studio in 1953 and the result was Songs By Tom Lehrer (about as straightforward and earnest a title as could possibly be imagined for such a subversive recording.)

This was 1953, remember, so imagine the response to, say, "The Old Dope Peddler"...

When the shades of night are falling,
Comes a fellow ev'ryone knows,
It's the old dope peddler,
Spreading joy wherever he goes.
Ev'ry evening you will find him,
Around our neighborhood.
It's the old dope peddler
Doing well by doing good.

He gives the kids free samples,
Because he knows full well
That today's young innocent faces
Will be tomorrow's clientele.
Here's a cure for all your troubles,
Here's an end to all distress.
It's the old dope peddler
With his powdered happiness.

Or "Oedipus Rex" (and here you will get an actual performance, which is much more delicious than just a read of the lyrics. Lehrer had the perfect sardonic tone to accompany his perfectly sardonic lyrics.)

Lehrer pressed 300 copies of the record. He did a random sampling of his audiences, finding that figure to be about the maximum number he was likely to sell at three bucks a pop. As it turned out, though, the people who bought the record played it for their friends, who then wanted their own copies, and as students traveled back to their hometowns, orders started coming in for the record from across the United States (Lehrer had printed his home address on the sleeve.)

When all was said and done, that record sold 500,000 copies. All of this came about with almost no radio airplay. Lehrer's lyrics were considered too crude and/or risque by most media outlets.

He embarked on a few brief concert tours, most notably to the United Kingdom. He was received quite well there, where he was a bit more well-known due to less-stringent radio programming policies. His U.S. appearances were at hip nightclubs, such as The Blue Angel or The Hungry I in San Francisco. During this time, he recorded a second studio album, More Of Tom Lehrer.

Concurrently, he recorded two live albums which were exact replicas of the studio albums in content of songs. These were Revisited (containing the songs from Songs By Tom Lehrer) and An Evening (Wasted) With Tom Lehrer (which contained all of the songs from More Of Tom Lehrer.) The live recordings bring the added joy of Lehrer's spoken introductions to each song, which are easily as witty as the songs themselves. The obvious joy of the audiences is another bonus.

And the first cut on the above recording was the first thing I ever heard from the man. Any chance of my growing up to become a productive member of society was lost at that precise moment.

I was eight when I heard it. As a pre-adolescent, some of the more licentious bits of his oeuvre were entirely lost on me. Still, there was enough funny stuff there for a kid to latch onto and be marred forever after. Whenever my folks put the record on, I sat and listened to the whole thing. I became a proselyte without realizing it, playing it for my friends. They laughed, too. I memorized all of it, including Tom's introductions and post-song banter. A lovely side effect became an increased vocabulary, as Mr. Lehrer was one of the most erudite grammarians to ever write a lyric.

My Dad then bought the previously mentioned studio recording, Songs, and I fairly much memorized that one, too. It was business as usual: tremendously clever lyrics combined with sprightly piano, all of it with an air of unseemliness that was quite appealing to my rapidly warping mind.

In the meantime, Lehrer had stopped performing and recording. He was never overly fond of the concert stage, stating that he didn't enjoy playing the same songs over and over. He wrote them to amuse himself as much as any audience, and he just didn't get the same kick from them after repeated playings. He went back to a schedule of teaching math, which was his first love.

Then, wonder of wonders, after a six or seven year recording hiatus since An Evening had been originally released, a brand new Tom Lehrer showed up in the record bins.

That Was The Year That Was was a new live recording, containing 14 never-before-put-to-vinyl songs. Most of the material had been written by him for a short-lived TV show called That Was The Week That Was, although Lehrer had not performed the songs on the show.

(He decided to tour again, and record the songs himself, partly because they had been edited by American TV censors and he wished to have them in some form for perpetuity as they had originally been intended.)

American mores and tastes had changed a bit since his 1953 debut. Much of what had once been considered ribald in his lyrics was now quite acceptable. His songs began to receive some airplay here and there. As a result, this recording went gold with sales exceeding one million copies. Tom made the rounds of then-current talk shows - Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas - but, unfortunately for us, he had had enough. He once again returned to teaching, despite the monetary possibilities present for him as a performer.

The question his more ardent fans sometimes wonder about is, "Where the hell did I put those pills, and how did I get in the kitchen?"

Hah-Hah-Hah. No, the most obvious question is, "Why, Tom? The era was just warming up to political satire and you were at the very forefront. You probably could have made a career of it and gained considerable wealth. Why did we never hear more?"

The answer, supplied some years later by Tom Lehrer himself, was, "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."

In reality, he just liked teaching more than he liked performing. And he also found himself becoming mad, more than amused, when reading the headlines. He had found it easier to write his lyrics when there was something of a "liberal consensus" happening during the fifties and sixties (at least, in his circles) and in the post-Kennedy world, it seemed less and less humorous as the years passed. He found that instead of wanting to lampoon certain people, he wanted to strangle them. And whereas he could imagine his audiences being tickled by his sort of lyrical play in a simpler day, he now truly imagined that while part of his audience might enjoy a new song, another part of it might boo or even get up and fight with the people who were enjoying it.

And he felt that applauding a joke, which was becoming more the norm, meant that you were agreeing with the political sentiment, but not that you necessarily found it funny.

"With audiences nowadays," he says, "I see it with these late-night people, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and so on, the audience applauds the jokes rather than laughs at them, which is very discouraging. Laughter is involuntary. If it's funny, you laugh. But you can easily clap just to say [deadpan]: 'Ha, that's funny, I think that's funny.' Sometimes they cut to the audience and you can see they are applauding madly. But they're not laughing."

He didn't stop composing songs entirely. He wrote a few clever ones for the kid's TV show, The Electric Company. But his satiric and political output was at an end, at least for public consumption. He has said he still composes some, but only for his own enjoyment. He has no plans to come out of retirement at age 83.

It's a shame, really, as I consider him the greatest satirist of the twentieth century. Despite the fact that most of his recorded output happened over 50 years ago, the majority of it is still fresh. And much of the overtly political satire still applies. Sure, there's the occasional anachronism ("Whatever Became Of Hubert?", a song about Hubert Humphrey as Vice-President, would mostly be lost on anyone born after 1960, unless that person were a rabid political history geek) but "So Long, Mom" is still timely (unfortunately).

If you don't have his recordings, do yourself a favor and get them. Infect a young mind with them while there's still time to do some benevolent damage.

Amazon (from whom I am receiving no payment, by the way, but if they sell a couple and feel like tossing me a buck or two, I wouldn't spit at it.)

Oh, what the heck. One more.

Who's next, indeed.

Soon, with more better stuff (although that's an awfully large conceit when I've put so much of Lehrer's material into this. On the other hand, if you've been reading me for any appreciable length of time, you know I've re-framed his jokes occasionally, and otherwise plagiarized his style, so I can at least promise you more of that.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Political Home Run? Not Last Night. However, 30-Some Years Ago...

Ron Paul, Age 76.

I know. Yesterday, I promised you something aside from politics the next time we got together, but what follows is just too good to pass up. Stick around. Believe me, you'll get a kick out of it.

First, though, a small bit of got-to-get-it-off-my-chest.

(If you really can't stand any political talk, scroll down until you see the next photo. I'll understand.)

(I won't like it, but I'll understand.)

I was quite disappointed last night. I truly thought that Ron Paul might win a state or two - North Dakota, especially, and then possibly Alaska. It didn't happen. He finished second in four states of the ten up for grabs (which is almost more maddening than if he had finished last, since there were brief glimmers of hope that got shot down as the night wore on.)

I'm still proud to have cast my vote for him in Massachusetts. He is, in my estimation, the most honest and the most consistent of the four remaining Republican candidates. He is the only candidate, Republican or Democrat, whose budget plan will actually cut the national debt. He is the leading proponent for individual liberty and a restoration of true Constitutional government. He is the only candidate espousing a policy of bringing our troops home from overseas (immediately) and using monies currently spent overseas to get things done at home instead. He is the only candidate calling for an end to the ridiculous, wasteful, and entirely unconstitutional "War" on drugs. No other candidate is addressing the true root cause of so many of our financial woes - The Federal Reserve - and calling for a return to currency with true value, based upon the gold standard, as opposed to paper money printed at whim by government (no matter how much inflation it may cause down the road.) He is...


I say that with a proviso. He is unelectable THIS TIME AROUND. And, since he is 76-years-old, I don't think we'll see him making another run at it when he's 80. However, he has repeatedly said that, unlike the other candidates, his campaign is not about he specifically being elected to any office. It is, rather, about the promulgation and proliferation of ideas, of values, of things which, until he brought them up, were not being discussed by anyone else. He has brought those ideas to the table, they are now at least being discussed, and the hope is that other good men and women will step forward during future campaigns, champion those causes, and become the candidates who will be electable.

I rarely become as emotionally attached to a candidate as I have to Doctor Paul. That's mainly because I rarely find a candidate who not only espouses so many of my own ideals, but who also speaks his honest mind and let the chips fall where they may. He is the most amazingly unscripted, unpolished, unapologetic, and REAL person, running for president, I have ever seen in my lifetime. Even those who disagree with his proposals tend toward an admiration of those qualities.

OK, enough hero worship. I have something concerning Ron Paul that should tickle the fancy of most, no matter if you agree with him or not politically. Look at this:

Know who that is? It's Ron Paul, back in the late 1970's, taking part in the annual Republican vs. Democrat congressional baseball game. Look at that swing! It is classic. If I hadn't told you it was Dr. Paul, a congressman, you might have bought it had I said it was a professional, perhaps a Double A second baseman.

Here are another couple of shots of Ron Paul sporting the classic Houston Astros uniform of the day (his congressional district is in the Houston area.)

Can you imagine Newt Gingrich in a baseball uniform? It would look like five pounds of sausage in a four-pound sack. Rick Santorum? Maybe, but I get the impression that Rick was probably stuck out in right field if he played Little League. Maybe I'm wrong. And Mitt Romney? He looks utterly awkward and poseur-like wearing jeans. I can't imagine him in any athletic uniform other than, possibly, polo.

Ron Paul is the only player from either side to ever have hit a fences clearing home run in the annual congressional game.

Even if he wasn't such a magnificent candidate, as a long-time player of baseball and fast-pitch softball I'd still have to admire him just for that.

(Now, if anyone knows who he hit that home run OFF OF, I'd love to know.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Ron Paul

I'm back from vacation and the first thing I do is hit you in the face with politics. Sorry about that, but I can't help it. Every four years, my political urges become not unlike Mister Spock's once-every-seven-year mating frenzy.

(Great way to start a post. I'm going to tell you I voted for Ron Paul and I basically out myself as a geek.)

It's Super Tuesday, and Massachusetts has it's presidential primary today. And, as the feline I let escape from the sack already told you, I voted for Ron Paul.

I am not going to make a big sales pitch here. I have to assume that, if you care at all, you already know the candidates and probably have at least a strong leaning for one or another. If not, and if my endorsement can sway you, I'd appreciate you casting a vote for Dr. Paul. But, if you must pull the lever for someone else, I assume we can still be friends.

So, as I said, no sales pitch. However, I'd like you to answer a couple of questions, if you have the time. If you voted today (or if you voted in an earlier primary) for whom did you vote? If you wouldn't be uncomfortable doing so, would you tell us which state you voted in? Feel free to give a SHORT speech, if you wish (but, please, limit yourself to the absolute must-get-it-out-of-your-system stuff, and give others a chance.)

Above all else, I request civility. I never censor comments here, but today I reserve the right to pull those that make personal attacks. Argue policy and agenda, but no calling anyone a stupid poopyhead.

(I was exit-polled today as I left the voting place in Watertown. It is the first time in my life I was ever exit-polled. That's what made me think about doing my own bit of polling today. Thanks for taking the time to comment, whether you agree with my choice of Ron Paul or not.)

Soon, with less stuff about politics and more stuff about vacations.