Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Non-Fiction stories and essays.

The Girl From Burnley and Her BMW Mini

Sharon is a petite, beautiful  28 year old, who lives in the Northern English town of Burnley. She is soft spoken and sort of shy. That is, until she gets behind the wheel of her BMW Mini, when she turns into the Burnley Road Warrior.

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Despite her young age Sharon has a high level position with Akcros Chemicals in Eccles. Every day she makes the dive from Burnley to Eccles, and God help anyone in her way, as she weaves in an out of the massive lorries at top speed with her foot on the accelerator and her hand on the horn.

Sharon hates to waste any part of her day, so she has a speaker phone hooked up in the mini, and conducts business call while she drives.

I have been on the other end of those calls on multiple occasions, and it is an event you will never forget.

On one such occasion, the Board of Directors was meeting in the U.S. They were in a big conference room and Sharon was joining them via speaker phone. She was on the road between Eccles and Burnley calling in from her BMW Mini.

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The Chairman of the Board was giving a very dull lecture about economic trends, when suddenly Sharon’s voice came through the speaker shouting, “You Stupid Sod! Speed it Up!”

A stunned silence fell on the Board Room and the Chairman of the Board said, “Excuse me?”

Sharon’s sweet soft voice came through the speaker saying, “Oh I’m sorry. Did people hear that? Someone just cut me off in traffic and I guess I over-reacted”

The Boards members, including  the Charmian all laughed, and the meeting continued.

About 6 months later I was in Eccles meeting with Sharon, and asked her about the time she yelled at the Chairman of the Board by mistake.

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She looked at me with her blue eyes and said with a smile, “What’d you mean mistake? Haven’t you ever once wanted to to scream at the Chairman when he was giving one of his dull lectures? I had the opportunity and I just couldn’t pass it up. I bet that really got his Y-Fronts in a twist!”

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Then Sharon kissed me sweetly on the cheek and headed off to her Mini for the drive home. I hope no one got in her way.

Is Jannik Schumann Alicia von Rittberg’s Boyfriend?

Alicia von Rittberg fans are always upset that she has been very secretive about exactly who her boyfriend is.  Lately, Alicia von Rittberg has been linked with the incredibly handsome German actor Jannik Schumann.

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Alicia von Rittberg and Jannik Schumann worked together on the film Barbara, where it was obvious to all that they were more than just friends. By the way, notice that in the publicity picture above, Alicia is wearing a lovely pants suit, while Jannik decided a sweatshirt and sneakers were good enough. Despite Jannik Schumann wearing clothing that looks like he slept in them, he still comes across and one of the best looking young men on the planet.

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When reporters asked Alicia if she was once again back with Jannik, she did not say yes or no. She simple smiled and went back to the ski slopes.

In the past, Alicia von Rittberg has been linked to Samuel Schneider and Elyas M’Barek. Has she dumped them to move back to to her old pal Jannik Schumann? Alicia will never tell.

Alicia von Rittberg in 2016

Fans of Alicia von Rittberg are in a panic that they have not seen her in 2016. Not to worry. This German beauty will be starring in the movie Our Kind of Traitor which premiers May 6, 2016.  Photographers are already speculating as to whether or not Alicia will wear the kind of jaw dropping revealing outfit she had on for the premier of Fury.

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In the meantime Alicia von Rittberg has been relaxing on the ski slopes, and managing to look gorgeous despite being bundled up from the bitter cold.

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Articles about Alicia von Rittberg continue to be the most read items on our website. Surprisingly, she has a huge number of fans in Indonesia and Malaysia. However many of them search using the keywords, “Alicia von Rittberg bugil” which translates to  “Alicia von Rittberg naked”.

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Once again, we will gave to say- sorry guys Alicia von Rittberg has never done a nude scene. There is speculation as to whether or not Alicia von Rittberg will appear nude on Game of Thrones when it returns on April 24, 2016.

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Of course, Alicia von Rittberg’s management continues to negotiate to buy the rights to The Naked Swim, in which Alicia von Rittberg would play the starring role of Jeanne Sedola.

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So fans of Alicia von Rittberg will be seeing a lot more of her in 2016. And remember to keep checking East Coast Stories for all the latest news on Alicia von Rittberg.

Alicia von Rittberg and her gorgeous smile

Alicia von Rittberg and her gorgeous smile

Free Books!

Libraries are doing something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. They are throwing out books. They are putting them on carts in front of the library and you can take as many as you want for free. If no one takes them, the library simply throws them out. Books are no longer needed in a modern library. They are being replaced by computers. No need to have stacks and stacks of books when they can be replaced by a few rows of computers that can access all the literature in the world instantly.

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I know it will make me sound very old and out of touch to say, but I find it almost sacrilegious to throw out a book .

The Library in my  home town of Basking Ridge New Jersey has  been giving away books for months now, and I have been gathering them up as if they are gems thrown in the garbage.

It is incredible what was being thrown out.  The Complete Works of Shakespeare, A Dictionary of Classical Mythology, a book with beautiful photographs of all the buildings ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There were also mystery novels, books of poetry and erotic thrillers. All of these items are now proudly on my den shelves at home.  My wife thinks I am crazy, but I can not pass up an abandoned book any more than she can pass up an abandoned bunny.

But some of the books have sadder stories to tell than others. Many of the books have inscriptions in them. Some of the inscriptions show that the book was donated to the library in memory of a loved one. How could a library throw that out?

Other books have things inside them that people left as bookmarks and then forgot to take out when they returned the book to the library.  One was a letter in which a woman had written down all the phone numbers for support groups for Military Moms.  Her son was fighting in Iraq and she was worried sick about him.

She must have tried reading a book to take her mind off her worries. I don’t think it worked. The fact that the paper was still there as a bookmark meant that she had never finished the book. I pray that her son made it home safely.

I love physical books and old time libraries and dens filled with them. Throwing them out seems like when all the old Vinyl records were tossed. It was only after they were gone that people began to realize just how much them missed them.

When the last book from the last library is gone and there is nothing left but rows of computers; the libraries will be more efficient and cost effective.

But something will be gone forever.

Why the Dutch Tell Germans to “Bring Back Our Bicycles” at Football Matches

https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B08DCWV981&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_1YkhFb61E8DR9Whenever Dutch football (soccer) teams play German teams, the Dutch fans taunt the Germans with big  signs that say “Bring Back Our Bicycles “. The Dutch go to the trouble of writing out these signs in German so that their rivals will get the message.

The Dutch love the joke and think it is a great insult. The only  problem is that except for the very old people in the crowd , the Germans have no idea what the Dutch are talking about. The Germans know it is some sort of insult, but exactly what is it?

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Well it goes back to the end of World War II. The Germans, of course, had invaded The Netherlands at the very beginning of the war, and it  was one of the very last countries liberated by the Allied Forces.

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By that point in the war, the German army was completely defeated and the Germans were retreating full speed as the Allied Forces approached. The Germans were using everything they could to get out of the Netherlands. They took trucks, cars,  motorcycles and tractors. When no motorized vehicles were left, the remaining German soldiers stole every bicycle in The Netherlands and rode them back to Germany.

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These events were 70 years ago, but the Dutch have never forgotten. They never hold up signs asking to bring back the cars or trucks or tractors. It is the bicycles they remember.

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The Netherlands is a nation of bicyclists. Children, businessmen, old people and beautiful young women all ride the big sturdy Dutch bicycles. In the pouring rain they ride them to work, steering with one hand and holding an umbrella in the other.

As time goes by and World War II seems more and more distant, the people of Europe will forget many things.  But the Dutch will never forget or forgive the theft of their bicycles.

The Boy Scouts Nuclear War Song

They’re rioting in Africa,

They’re starving in Spain.

There’s hurricanes in Florida,

And Texas needs rain.

The whole World is sweltering with hate and mistrust.

And I don’t like anybody very much.

But we can be thankful and tranquil and proud,

we have not been hit by that mushroom-shaped cloud.

But all of us know that one lucky day,

Someone will set the spark off,

And we’ll all be blown away.

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Editor’s note – This was a popular song in the Connecticut Boy Scout camp Tokowam in the summer of 1965.It sounds funnier when you sing it by a campfire and you are too young to grasp the true meaning. Lucky for us the World has learned from its mistakes and the threat of nuclear war  anywhere in Earth is long gone.

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 Be sure to read all our Nostalgic Stories.

The Girl From Greiz and Her New Trabant by Gregory Farrell

When a beautiful, tall German girl by the name of Dagmar Juettmann was 21 years old, world-changing events were happening in Berlin. Relations between East and West Berlin were improving. Many travel restriction had been lifted and there were even rumors that the Berlin Wall itself would be torn down.

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But Dagmar didn’t live in Berlin. She was hundreds of kilometers away in the town of Greiz, deep in the heart of East Germany. Dagmar found the events in Berlin to be an annoying distraction. She was focused on two major events in her own life. The first was working hard to pass her Accounting exams. Good jobs were hard to come by in East Germany, and getting her degree was essential. Dagmar was furious that all the other students wanted to talk about was Berlin and The Wall. She needed to study.

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The second life-changing event Dagmar was anticipating was getting a brand new Trabant. It was the only car available to East Germans of her family’s economic status and there was a 5 year waiting list.

West Germans made fun of the Trabant. West Germans had the Porsche, the Mercedes and even the Volkswagen, and they ridiculed the poor little  Trabant.

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There was a lot to ridicule about the Trabant. The car has a 2 cylinder engine that only produces 26 horsepower. Safety features  are non-existent. Rumors were that the body of the Tarbant was made out of painted cardboard. This was not true, but the body was made of a flimsy material composed of resin and cotton.  To top everything off, the gas tank of the car was on top of the engine. It was as if the designers had been trying to design a car with the most possible potential of catching on fire.

Still, Dagmar wanted that car. A Trabant would mean freedom and independence. With her new Accounting degree, a job  and a Trabant she would finally become an independent woman – at least as independent as anyone in Greiz East Germany could hope to be.

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The week Dagmar passed her Accounting exams with high marks, World events came crashing down to ruin her life. The Berlin Wall was torn down and the people of East and West Germany rejoiced. Dagmar knew that this was theoretically wonderful news, but like many East Germans she was scared of what it would mean for her personally.  What would happen to the economy in East Germany? Would all the communist East German companies collapse, unable to compete with the West? Would there be any jobs for a person with high marks in Accounting from an East German college? Dagmar was despondent.

Just as she was worrying about her future, her father came into her room with a big smile.  “I heard from the factory!” he said. “Your brand-new Trabant is ready to pick up. It is my graduation gift to you. I waited for it for 5 years and now it’s ready!”

Dagmar didn’t want the car. She knew it would be worthless when people could get a West German car. She wanted to tell her father she didn’t want the gift, but she just could not disappoint him. He had waited 5 years to give her this gift and it would be cruel not to accept it.

When Dagmar and her father got the Trabant she was feeling a little better. After all, it was shiny and new. It was fun to drive and it did mean she could go where she wanted.

As soon as she dropped her father back home, Dagmar took off in the Trabant to show it to all her friends. Despite the tiny engine, she was determined to see just how fast she could go.

Dagmar had only been driving the Trabant for about 1 hour when she took a corner too fast and the tires slid. She scraped the side of the car into a stone wall, and a rock punched a hole through the side of the car.

Dagmar knew she couldn’t tell her father. She spent the rest of the day diving the car all around Greiz to every place that might possibly be able to fix the hole. But they all wanted a huge amount of money.

Finally towards the end of the day Dagmar found a garage mechanic who took pity on her. She explained in tears about the accident and how she wanted to hide it from her father. The mechanic said that the hole had not structurally damaged the car. It would still drive just fine. He said the hole didn’t really have to be fixed, it just had to look like it was fixed.

He took some sort tape, covered up the hole and painted over the tape. He was a real artist. When he was done the car look as good as new. Of course, if you were to touch that spot, your finger would have punched a hole in the tape.

When the paint dried, Dagmar drove home very slowly. She was still worried about what the changes in Germany would mean to her future,  but she felt that, like the problem with the Trabant, somehow things would work out.

Editors Note: – I met Dagmar after communism had fallen and Germany was reunited. Dagmar has a good job in the Finance department of the Dutch chemical company Akzo-Nobel in Dusseldorf. Whenever possible she hires other people from Greiz.

Dagmar kept the Trabant.  Once Trabants were no longer being produced, they became collectors items.  Car buffs from all over the world wanted to own what was considered to be the “worst car ever made”.  Dagmar eventually sold the Trabant for many times more than her father had paid for it. She never told her father about the hole in the car covered with painted tape.

Alicia von Rittberg Helps Refugees

People have been asking where Alicia von Rittberg has been. Well, Alicia von Rittberg has been quietly working behind the scenes helping with the flood of refugees pouring into the EU and Germany.

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Alicia von Rittberg has been using her celebrity status to collect food, clothing and money to help the destitute masses coming into Germany.

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Alicia von Rittberg was quoted as saying, “my work on the movie Fury made realize that not so long ago we Germans were also cold and hungry and homeless. Now that times are good in Germany, we cannot just sit by and ignore others in need.”

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This remarkable young woman could have been partying in Berlin or Paris. Instead, Alicia von Rittberg had been handing out food and water to strangers from another land. We like her more each day.

Be sure to read all our Alicia von Rittberg stories.

Death To America Revisited

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently stated that when Iranians chant “Death To America” it is not really all that bad. He said, “we don’t mean death to the American people. It means death to U.S. policies and its arrogance.”

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We would like to thank  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for his new “kinder and gentler” Death To America slogan.

So we at EastCoastStories.com would like to respond with an explanation of our own.

When we say “Fuck You Ayatollah Ali Khamenei” we don’t mean that in a bad way. We are actually using the phrase “Fuck You” in the sense that we wish you a happy and satisfying sex life.

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I am sure that all of us in Iran and the United States feel so much better now that we have explained what we really mean.

Golshifeth Farahani

Golshifeth Farahani is the Iranian actress who played Pharaoh’s wife in Exodus Gods and Kings.   While not well known in the United States, she is a celebrity in France and infamous in Iran

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She has been told in no uncertain terms that she is no longer welcome in Iran, after posing nude for a French magazine.

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Exactly why she chose to pose naked is still a matter of debate. Some women applaud her independence.  However, some struggling  Iranian actresses are furious at her. They say she has made it much harder for all serious actresses trying to make a living in Iran, where some men in power already feel that all actresses are no better than prostitutes.

Golshifeth Farahani certainly did not need to pose nude to get attention. She is an accomplished singer and has appeared in numerous films. She also has one of the most strikingly beautiful faces on the silver screen.

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Even in traditional conservative Iranian clothing and headscafr Goldshifeth Farahani stands out. She did not need to get naked to prove her beauty to the world.

However, Golshifeth Farahani is not just another pretty actress looking for attention. She is using her celebrity as a way to expose the daily injustices and abuses that take place against women in Iran. She points out how women in the Islamic world are forced to constantly hide not only their bodies, but the very essence of who they are.

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Golshifeth Farahani says that , “I lied a million times from the times. From the time I first went to school I was forces to lie to survive.” Perhaps it is no coincidence that this photo of Goldshiefth makes her look very much like an Iranian Kainess Everdeen

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In her own very feminine way, Golshifeth Farahani is a true freedom fighter. She is what the Islamic dictators fear every bit as much as a team of Navy Seals. She is a strong free woman, not afraid to show the world exactly who she is.

I Was A Halloween Hooligan

When I was a teenager in Stamford Connecticut, every Halloween we played a very exciting and rough game with the police. It was a secret game, completely hidden from the parents of Stamford. As rough as it was, the Halloween Game had rules. The most important rule was “don’t tell”.  The police would not tell our parents what we were doing and we would not tell our parents what the police were doing.

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The objective of the teenagers was to vandalize as much property as possible on Halloween. Within limits, of course. We did not smash windows or set anything on fire. However, we did steal street signs, fill mail boxes with shaving cream, throw toilet paper in trees and egg everything in sight.

Now days, if a kid does that, the police will pick them up and possibly even arrest them. But that was not the way the game was played in the old days.  When I was a boy,  Halloween was a time for the police to have a little fun too. When I was a teenager, the Stamford police were all men who had seen extensive combat in World War II. Roaming bands of teenagers with eggs and shaving cream did not exactly frighten them.

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The cops patrolled in cars and looked for large groups of teenagers on Halloween. Especially kids who were way too old to be out trick-or-treating or were not wearing any Halloween costumes.

The police car would come to a screeching halt and the teenagers would scatter. Most were fast enough to get away from the cops, but a few slow pokes always got caught. The police would search them for eggs, and if any were found, the kids got an “egg shampoo”. That is, the copys would smash the eggs one by one on the teenager’s heads. I had that happen to me only once, but the disgusting  feeling of three egg yokes dripping down my face is something I will never forget.

If a kid was a real problem and got caught more than once in the same night, then the police would take the teenager on a “long ride.” That happened once to Tommy Bower. He got put  in the back of the patrol car and the cops drove him 5 miles or more from where he lived. Then they just left him there. He was too busy walking home the rest of the night to spend any time vandalizing anything. Despite the long walk, he later admitted that it was “really cool” riding in the back of the patrol car.

When we look at the problems between the police and young people today, it is hard to explain the way the relationship was in those days. The cops took it for granted that kids sometimes did stupid and even destructive things and they did not get angry about it. Being wild once and a while was accepted as a normal part of growing up.

As teenagers, we accepted that the cops liked to have a little fun too, and if the game got too rough then it was our own fault for deciding to play it in the first place. Looking back of course, I now realize that  it was a much more peaceful and innocent time.  The Halloweens of old had no guns or gangs or drugs or mace or tasers. Teenagers and police were all a lot safer back then.

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As Halloween approaches I remember the taste of free Hersey bars and even the dreaded Bit-O-Honey. However, what I remember most is the feel of three smashed eggs in my hair as a police car drove way with the two cops laughing hysterically.

9/11 and Christie Whitman’s Big Lie

We should never forget  all of those who needlessly died after the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. They died because of the Big Lie told by Christie Whitman, who was then head of the EPA. Within days of the attack Christie Whitman went on national T.V. and stated that the air at the World Trade Center site and in lower Manhattan  was safe.

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Because of this statement from the Environmental Protection Agency,  the construction workers, police,  and search teams all worked at Ground Zero for many months without adequate protective gear. Years later these people were dying of cancer, emphysema, and many other diseases caused by breathing in the toxic air at Ground Zero.

One of the saddest parts of this whole episode is that these deaths were totally unnecessary. Proper equipment was available for people to work safely at Ground Zero after 9/11.  Chemical factories, steel mills, automobile paint shops, all had specialized breathing and safety equipment they  wanted to donate to help the workers at Ground Zero. However, these companies were told that their donations were not needed.

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All of these companies had the equipment, and the trained workers with the skills to be able to safely work at Ground Zero, if only they had been asked.

The question  is why did Christie Whitman and the EPA lie about the safety of the air at Ground Zero? The reason seems to be that there was real pressure from top government officials to get the country “back to normal”. The top people also did not want to scare the general public.  The worry was that the general public would panic if for many months T.V. news showed all the people in lower Manhattan wearing protective gear like they were in outer space. That would look like the terrorists had won.

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This government view is insulting to the American public. People are are not stupid. Everyone knew that the country had been attacked and that the attack was a success. What mattered is that people responded with dignity and courage after the attacks. No one would have been frightened seeing workers in protective suits. No one would have panicked. The really frightening part is that Christie Whitman and the EPA chose to lie to the public they are supposed to work for.

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You may wonder why a web site that usually has short stories,  book and movie reviews chose to cover this topic. It is because  we have always been very  proud  of the way the people from this area responded to 9/11.  The little town of Basking Ridge New Jersey, which is the home of this website,  had 17 people die on 9/11. There is only one person from New Jersey who we are not proud of. That is Christie Whitman, the former Governor of New Jersey who was head of the EPA on 9/11 and told the Big Lie.

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A lot of people died after 9/11 who did not have to. With the right safety equipment these people would be alive today to watch movies, read books and spend time with their kids. At a time when it mattered  most they deserved the truth from their government. It is a shame they did not get it.

Misunderstood Bunnies – 3 Common Misconceptions

Domestic Rabbits are probably the most misunderstood creatures on the planet.  Here is a list of common misconceptions about these gentle souls:

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1. Bunnies are an easy pet to take care of. Nothing could be further from the truth. Domestic rabbits have a very delicate digestive system and take a lot of specialized feeding and care. Many people make the mistake of giving a rabbit to a small child thinking it will be an easy pet. Bunnies make much better pets for adults, who have the patience and understanding to care for them.

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2. Bunnies like to be alone. This is also wrong.  Domestic Rabbits are very affectionate and love to be petted. They will even play games with you once they trust you. It takes a very special person to earn the trust of a bunny. After all, they cannot protect themselves from cruel humans the way dogs or cats can. They love to be near you and enjoy hearing the sound of a gentle voice.

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3. They won’t mingle with your other pets. The truth is that  Rabbits can live in a house with a cat or even a dog, if the two pets are introduced to each other slowly. They can even become friends. Here is a picture of Sunshine the bunny playing with a Ragdoll cat that is twice the size and three times the weight of the bunny.

So enjoy your new friend, and your love will be returned many times over.

The Nostalgia Critic – 5 Reasons Why He is Great

Doug Walker is the Nostalgic Critic, the creator and star of an internet show which reviews and spoofs movies. He is funny, witty and we highly recommend his show.  In fact, here are 5 reasons why the Nostalgia Critic is great.

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1. He is proud of his hometown Chicago. The Nostalgia Critic is not trying to pretend to be a big Hollywood star or an aspiring New York intellectual  who has stooped to appearing on the internet. Doug Walker is a Chicago boy and he loves his city. He brings a Chicago point of view to many of his reviews.  In one review, The Nostalgia Critic noted how silly the sci-fi movie The Day After Tomorrow is. In the movie the weather suddenly turns frigid and the people have to huddle in a public library for warmth.  The Nostalgic Critic’s comment to that was:

“This movie says we’re supposed to be scared because a day starts out warm and then suddenly turns very cold. In Chicago we call that Tuesday.”

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2. He is a genuinely nice guy. Doug Walker wants reviews to be funny, but does not want to hurt anyone. He did a review of Thomas And The Magic Railroad In which he made fun of the bad acting of  Mara Wilson, who was 13 years old when the movie was made. Mara Wilson is now in her 20’s and she was very upset by the review. She said that she was in a very awkward stage at age 13.  When Doug heard about Mara’s reaction, he invited her onto his show and let her review a home movie he had made when he was 13.  He looked ridiculous in the home movie, in which he was trying to sing like a rock star. Mara had so much fun on the show that she and Doug Wilson became good friends.

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3. He is a great boss. The Nostalgic Critic show is a team effort, and sometimes they go on location in Chicago to film. In one episode they went to a park to film and after getting the whole team there it turned out the park was not going to open for another 2 hours. Instead of having everything sit in their cars and vans for the next 2 hours getting angry and bored, Doug took everyone out to a restaurant and treated them all to a huge breakfast. He runs a team of very diverse creative people who make very little money.  Yet they all have a great time and love working for him.  If he ever stops doing The Nostalgia Critic, Doug Walker could teach management courses  on how to motivate people.

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4. He admits when he makes a mistake. Being a low budget internet show , there are often production errors or factual mistakes. When this happens, Doug Walker admits the mistake and says that he made it. Doug does not blame it on someone else or on a computer glitch. He takes responsibility for his own errors. This is something that all bosses should do, but which very few actually do in practice.  At one point the team put together a tribute to Rachel Tietz, an actress on the show who left to go into main-stream acting. In post-production, Doug hit the wrong button on the computer and deleted the whole show.   Doug explained to the viewing audience exactly what had happened and why there was no tribute show.  Not once in the explanation did he try to shift the blame to another person or even to the computer.

5. He Loves his job. There is an old saying that states, “if you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life.” What makes the Nostalgia Critic so much fun to watch is that Doug Walker and his whole team really enjoy what they are doing. Even when they make mistakes, their sheer enthusiasm makes up for any lack of professional training, and makes the show fun to see.

We rate this show Five Stars *****

Words to Live by

As you go through life it is amazing how some advice turns out to be true and remembered forever. Here is a list of saying from family, friends, and teachers I have known throughout the years.

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  • “I get what you’re saying son, but I don’t quite know what you mean.” Savin Hoffecker

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  • “Smart is easy to find, but it’s one in a million to find Loyal.” Lou Romano

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  • “Never hit a man when he’s down. Kick him its easier. – Jack Reilly

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  • “Most people spend most of their lives trying to prove something to somebody – usually somebody that’s dead.” – Elsie White

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  • “When you get older you will realize that your family are the only people in the world who really care what happens to you one way or the other.” – Aaron (Woody)  Hess

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  • Never get romantically involved with a man who is better looking than you are – Susan Farrell

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Attack of the Naked Women

The stock market has crashed. The crime rate is rising. Racial tensions are high and police morale is low. The mass transit system is falling apart. So New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio  has decided that the top priority of his administration should be to protect us all from the “threat” poised by beautiful young women who pose semi-nude for the Tourists in Times Square.

Exactly why this is a police matter, de Blasio is having a tough time explaining. The tourists love the girls. This is exactly the sort of decadence they hoped to see when they boarded planes in the Midwest to come to the Big Apple.

No one who lives or works in New York is upset. That is because anyone who actually lives or works in New York City avoids Times Square at all costs.

The New York Supreme Court is not even concerned about the young women. It ruled more than a year ago that it is perfectly legal for women to be topless anywhere in New York at any time.

The Mayor’s brilliant plan is to arrest the women for illegally conducting a “business” since they take tips from tourists who take their pictures. When told that this might not fly legally, his next idea is that we should re-open the streets to traffic in Times Square. He would rather have the pollution, noise and danger of the extra cars, than risk seeing a female nipple.

The Mayor seems to be missing the point that Freedom of Expression is what this country is all about. After all, if a beautiful young woman cannot show her patriotism by painting her breasts Red, White and Blue and displaying them to the World, then the terrorists really have won.

Alicia von Rittberg’s Boyfriend

So who is Alicia von Rittberg’s boyfriend? The beautiful young actress from Fury  has been linked to Samuel Schneider and Elyas M’Barek. Take a look at the pictures and decide for yourself.

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Alicia von Rittberg & Christian Kurtz. Is that a ring he gave her?

Of course, Alicia von Rittberg has also be seen around with Christian Kurtz.

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She looks happy no matter who she is with.

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It seems to us that she is still playing the field.

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Of course, that means there is still a chance for some lucky guy.

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Be sure to read about Alcia von Rittberg’s upcoming movie, Our Kind of Traitor.

Alicia has also shown interest in starring in the film version of The Naked Swim;

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Will Alicia von Rittberg  really appear nude on Game of Thrones next season?

My Evening with Frank Gifford

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Frank Gifford. Most people knew him as a sportscaster on Monday Night Football. An older generation remembers him a fantastic player with the New York Giants.  However, I will always remember him as a great after dinner speaker.

When I met him, Frank Gifford was in transition between being a professional athlete and becoming a T.V. star. He was one of many ex-athletes who were competing for a very small number of openings on T.V. or in the movies. Some guys could make  the transition.  Most did not.

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Frank was taking whatever gigs he could get so as to get used to speaking to the public. When I saw him he was the after-dinner speaker at King School’s annual father-son dinner. The dinner was held at a restaurant called the Halfway  House which is on the Stamford-Greenwich border. This was so long ago that the term “halfway house” was not yet associated with ex-cons and drug addict rehabilitation. (The restaurant is still there, but now calls itself Twin Faces).

Frank Gifford could have just showed up after dinner, given his speech and left. But that was not his style. He arrived early, had drinks with the fathers and told funny stories to the boys. At dinner he sat at the front table with the headmaster Mr. Jackson and made everyone around him feel comfortable.

During dessert it was time for Frank Gifford’s speech. All these years later I can still remember it. He spoke of his days as a professional football player and the funny things that happened on the field and in the locker room. The man was a natural story teller, and the audience loved him.

The funniest parts of his speech were when he spoke about his days after football and his attempt to be an actor. With his good looks and athletic build, Hollywood tried putting him in the movies. For some reason they kept trying to put him in Westerns as a cowboy, even though he knew nothing whatsoever about horses

He told a story about one scene where he was supposed to pick up a saddle from a fence and “saddle up” a horse. No one had told him the saddle was strapped to the fence and you had to unbuckle it first. Frank went over to the saddle, grabbed it with one hand and heaved. This resulted in Frank falling flat on his back and ruining the scene. After that, directors had no interest in trying to make Frank Gifford into John Wayne.

After the speech, Frank stayed for the rest of the evening and everyone got a chance to spend a lot of time with him. Even then, we all realized that there was something special about Frank Gifford. He had a natural charm that came from the fact that he could genuinely connect with people. We knew that his career after football was going to be a success.

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It was only a few years after that when Monday Night Football started and Frank Gifford became a household name. I am glad he was such a success.

Goodbye Frank. Thanks for the stories.

Alicia von Rittberg’s New Movie

Alicia von Rittberg will be starring in Our Kind of Traitor which is scheduled to be released soon. This is a thriller based on the best selling novel by John le Carre. She will play the daughter of a powerful Russian mobster. Alicia, of course, is the beautiful German actress who had such a key part in the movie Fury.

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Alicia von Rittberg will also be beginning work on the film adaptation of the controversial book A Woman in Berlin. This book is a true story of the mass rapes committed by Soviet soldiers when they took over Berlin in World War II. When this book appeared after the war, it was so shocking and so shameful to both Germany and the Soviet Union, that the woman who wrote it had to publish it anonymously.

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In this movie, Alicia von Rittberg will have the lead role as a young German woman whose only thought is how to survive each day. In one of the most memorable lines, the main character looks back and states that ,” It is hard to believe that there was a time in my life when all I thought about every second of every day was how to stay warm and how to get food.”

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It is rumored that Alicia von Rittberg has been starving herself for this role to look more realistic for the part. Th movie studio wanted to use special effects, but Alicia insisted on the harder method, to prove to the world that she is indeed a serious actress.

A World War II Wedding

Elise White & John (Jack) Farrell

Elise White & John (Jack) Farrell

During World War II it was required that all all members of the military wear their uniforms at all times. That is why the wedding photos of my parents have them in uniform. My father as an Army Private and my mother as a Navel officer. (That’s right, she was the higher rank).

My mother was able to get special permission from an Admiral to be allowed to wear a wedding dress for the short ceremony. However, as soon as that was over she had to immediately get back into uniform.

And where did they fight the war? – in New York City. That’s right, New York. My father was in medical school, and the Army drafted the entire school and assigned them to keep taking classes. Many students, including my father, had been trying to quit medical school to join the Army so that they could fight in the war. However, the top brass in the Army decided that they needed new doctors a lot more than they needed new riflemen.  The Army solved this problem by simply drafting the entire medical school.  His whole life, Jack Farrell felt guilty about spending the war in school, even though he had been given no choice.

My mother, Elsie White, was actually the one with the exciting wartime career. She joined the Navy and due to her aptitude with symbols and puzzles, was assigned to a a secret code breaking unit.  It was in the sub-basement of a building on Church Street in New York. To even get to it, you had to go past Marine guards, down a long elevator ride to the sub-basement; through a steel door and past another set of Marines.

Once you got past security, you entered a long windowless room filled with rows of desks. There, men and women from all different backgrounds worked trying to break the numerous Japanese and German navel codes. Elise was the ranking officer, so she had the desk at the front and was in charge of the group.

In the back there was a tiny, shy woman who never spoke to anyone other than to say “good morning” and “good night.” The other people in the group thought of her like a little skittish mouse. One day Elise was sitting at the officer’s desk and the shy mouse woman came up and spoke to her in a voice so faint it was almost a whisper. “Excuse me mam. I think I just broke the Japanese code.”

It turned out that the little mouse-woman had broken a major Japanese Navel code  As a result, the mouse-woman got a promotion and the entire unit received a commendation.

On the same day they got their commendation, my mother also got an official reprimand letter, for not wearing her .45 caliber automatic while on duty. Fully loaded, it weighed 10 pounds, and she kept it locked in the desk instead of wearing it.  Her logic was that if the enemy got past the two sets of Marines, down the elevator and through the steel door, she was not going to be able to stop them. The Navy, of course, did not agree with this logic and the reprimand stayed in her file.

It was more that 25 years after the war before my mother was legally allowed to tell us any of these stories. That’s how secret her work had been. As children, my sisters and I still had a hard time believing her war stories. We saw a tiny 95 pound woman puttering around the house. We just could not picture her as the Officer of The Day, sitting at the front desk of the code breaking unit with a loaded .45 caliber strapped to her side.

King School Class of 1971

It seems impossibly long ago. In fact,  44 years ago. Rapidly closing in on a half a century. Yet somehow I remember everything from King School in Stamford Connecticut much more clearly than many events that have taken place since. The events of those years make a lasting impression on a person.

In fact,  I have written a number of stories on  this very blog about my time at King. If you click on the links below you can read some of them.

  • The Last Connecticut Gentleman is about  the real Merritt K. Sawyer. At school he was a feared tyrant. But I knew him out of school in quite a different context. (By the way, as our English teacher, Mr. Sawyer would have hated that I began the prior sentence with the word “but.”).
  • Running For Cake is the story of our wresting coach Aaron Hess (Woody) and his quest to turn us into Spartans.
  • Guns In The Attic is the story of one of my fellow classmates and the strange and wonderful air force in his attic.
  • Mr. Yang and the Electrical Banana is about our math teacher Jackson Yang and his struggle to make sense out of the incomprehensible lyrics of Donovan Leitch.

Of course, there are many other people and events that come to mind whenever I think about King. There was our Senior English teacher Mr. John Savin Hoffecker, whose love for teaching  was so great that  he gave up a successful law career in the South to teach English in Connecticut.  Savin felt that no class was complete unless he had told us a story about his days in the Old South. I don’t remember many of the books we read in that class, but I do  remember every one of his stories.

There was Malcolm Wilmott who taught Earth Science and who had been a race car driver  in England before becoming a teacher. He was always frustrated with being the person assigned to ferry students around in the school’s underpowered Volkswagen bus.

A number of people from King have written comments to this blog about  the King School stories, and I would love to hear from more. I was looking at the King website on line today and saw that it has changed tremendously, yet somehow remained the same.  It is now co-ed and combined with Low Heywood Thomas.  Some of the physical attributes of the place have changed, but the sheer youthful exuberance of the students remains the same.

When I graduated from King I was happy to leave. It was time to move on and find new adventures. Frankly, having gone there since sixth grade I was tired of the place. But now, when I look through the old yearbook I remember it for what a unique experience it really was.

In the movie Radio Days Woody Allen spoke about how he can still remember the old-time radio voices, but as he get older each year they seem to get a little fainter. I find just the opposite. As I get older, my memories of King seem to get stronger.

Now that I am as old as the most senior teachers were, I can somehow look back at the school with a different perspective and see it in its entirety.

The Real Candy Crush – The Port Chester New York Life Savers Factory

Have you ever wondered how Life Savers Candy is made? It is actually a fascinating process.  Long ago I worked at the Life Savers factory in Port Chester New York.  It was an old place even then. It was built just after the 1930 World’s Fair where Life Savers Candy  had been a huge hit.

In the center of the factory was a gigantic brass kettle about the size of a homeowner’s garage. The kettle is where Life Savers are cooked. That’s right; cooked. All the ingredients for the candy are put in the kettle and heated and mixed until it is almost at a boil. (You don’t want to burn it.)

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Then, when the consistency is just right, whistles blow and lights flash in the plant to warn the workers that the kettle is about to tip. A gigantic crane lifts and tips the kettle and the molten candy pours out  onto gigantic steel slides. The molten candy then slowly oozes down to the spinning machines.

The spinning machines take the molten candy and spin it into candy  “ropes”. Then comes the part that people find the most strange. Everyone always asks, “How do they punch the holes in Life Savers?” The answer is, “They don’t”.

There is no hole punched in a Life Saver. Instead, the candy rope is wrapped around a steel tube. The rope is then cut and the two ends of the rope are pressed together. Since the candy is still warm, the two ends melt into each other and a Life Saver is born.

All this is done by machine, and is almost too fast for the eye to see.  Thousands of Life Savers a minute are being turned from candy rope into little circles with holes in the middle. They come out of the machine still warm. The Life Savers then travel on moving belts all over the factory while they cool off enough to be put into packages.

Like most of the workers, I once and a while took a warm Life Saver off the belt to see what it tastes like.  It tastes great!

Now comes the Candy Crush part. The process of manufacturing Life Savers is a race against time. The whole process only works when the candy mix is still warm. From the second the big brass kettle tips the molten candy onto the slide, the candy is cooling off.

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The candy mixture keeps cooling and getting harder, until eventually it is so hard the machines can’t work with it any more. At this point the production process stops and “reclaim” begins.

On the metal slides there are now giant chunks of hard candy that cooled before they could be turned into Life Savers. Some are  four or five feet long. The workers use special clean tools to pick up and move all these giant pieces of candy into a room with the fancy name of “The Reclaim Room”.

The Reclaim Room is where these big blocks of candy get chopped into smaller pieces. Once the pieces are small enough, they can be added back into the big brass kettle, and re-melted for the next batch.

You probably think that the blocks of candy get chopped up by a specially designed machine – Nope. The scientific method Life Savers used was a guy we used to call Big Al.

Big Al was one of the happiest people I ever met. He loved his job. Every day, his job was to go into the reclaim room with a sledge hammer and smash the big chunks of candy into little bits.  His job kept him in fantastic physical shape, and it took out all his aggressions.

Al would walk into the room with his sledge hammer and just go berserk. No one was allowed to be in the Reclaim Room when Al was there. It was just too dangerous. He would charge around the room swinging  his sledgehammer, until the candy chunks had been reduced to fine powder.

Outside the Reclaim Room Al was the nicest guy in the World. Whatever anger or disappointment or frustration he had,  he worked out by smashing candy with that sledgehammer.

When Al was finished, other workers came to the Reclaim Room and shoveled the candy powder back into the big brass kettle, to be re-melted and start the whole process again.

So that’s how Life Savers are made. At least, that’s how they used to be made. The Port Chester Life Savers plant closed years ago. The operations became too old-fashioned and the manufacturing was moved to a giant automated  factory in Puerto Rico.

The red brick Life Savers factory by the Port Chester train station got converted into condominiums. The giant Life Savers signs in front of the factory were donated to the city for a museum.  The big brass kettle was sold for scrap metal.

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And what happened to the people who worked at the Port Chester Life Savers factory? They went out with a sense of pride. Even after the announcement that the plant would be closed, they continued to work hard and put out a quality product. The production and quality levels in the last month were as high as they had ever been.

On the last day of production, Big Al did something he had never done before. He turned over his sledgehammer and  let each worker take a turn in the Reclaim Room smashing up the giant chunks of candy.  One by one, workers entered the room, smashed the candy for a while, and came out with a smile.

At the end of the day, the lights were tuned off and one of the last of the old-time candy factories became a part of history. Of course, Life Savers Candy is still around and still tastes great. I heard that the Puerto Rico plant has a special machine that reclaims the candy and a completely revised production process. No big brass kettle, no Big Al with a sledge hammer, no rushing to spin the candy ropes before they can cool.

I am sure the new plant is amazingly efficient. Still, I remember with nostalgic fondness the old Port Chester Life Savers Plant where making the candy was just as much fun as eating it.

Bart Simpson’s Penis

How large is Bart Simpson’s penis? Unfortunately I know the answer to that question.  That’s because in my den is an anatomically correct Bart Simpson doll.  It comes from a ridiculously overpriced shop in London.

I was on vacation with my family in London and were were exploring all the usual spots. Suddenly, a torrential rainstorm started, and we ducked into a store simply to get out of the rain.

It turned out to be a very large shop with lots of winding aisles, and thousands of nick-knacks on the shelves. I was looking at pictures of Winston Churchill,  and my kids went to explore the rest of the shop for something more interesting.

Then my kids returned with a Bart Simpson doll. It was about 3 feet tall, well made and soft like a pillow. It was sort of like a very large  Raggedy Ann doll in the shape of Bart Simpson. It even had on a full set of clothing.

That’s  when my son said, “Watch this Dad!” and pulled down the doll’s pants and then  put the doll in my arms. My son and daughter both laughed and  ran down the aisle to another part of the store.

I was not sure what was so funny, until I looked down at the doll in my arms and;

Cowabunga! There I was looking down at Bart’s penis and testicles.  To say that the doll was anatomically correct is an understatement. In fact, it was more than anatomically correct. You see, the makers of the doll had made Bart Simpson’s private parts quite a bit larger proportionally than the rest of the doll.

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I was still looking at Bart’s oversize d genitalia when I heard a woman with a very proper British accent say,  “May I help you Sir?”

I looked up to see a matronly woman with grey hair examining at me like I was some American pervert who had wondered into her shop. It turns out that she was the owner of the store, and she had the type of face that looked like it had never smiled.  I should have said something like, “Don’t look at me like that lady. You are the one selling obscene dolls.”

However, at the time I was so embarrassed, that what I actually said to the woman was “Yes. I would like to purchase this doll.” The doll cost me over 55 British Pounds (I told you the shop was overpriced). The woman was so happy to make the sale that she even gave me what she probably thought was a smile. However, on her face it was more like a twitch.

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We left the shop, and my kids thought it was hilarious that I had bought the doll.  There are sill times I wonder why the doll was there at all. Why would a shop filled with pictures of the Royal Family and miniature models of Parliament also have obscene toys?  Was the old woman that owned the store really that sneaky? Had she set an elaborate trap to embarrass unsuspecting tourists into buying something? I realize that sort or thinking is just being paranoid. Or is it?

The Fun Side of Cancer

After 20 years as a top salesman at a major company Stewart got laid off.  After 5 months with no prospects and no interviews he decided to get a full physical while he was still on Cobra. That’s when he found out that the lump in the middle of his back was actually melanoma.

The good part was that the operation to have it removed was not as bad as he thought, although it did leave a large hole in his back covered by bandages. During the healing process, he had to sleep on his stomach, and be careful when sitting in a high-backed chair.

The wound was still painful but healing when Stewart got a call for a job interview for a sales position. The company said that the salespeople they were looking for should be “aggressive”, “driven” and above all “enthusiastic”. Stewart knew he would be perfect for it.

When Stewart arrived for the interview, he was a little worried, since everyone in the place was about half his age, including his prospective boss, Mike. However,  once they got talking it was like they were old friends.  Mike was impressed with Stewart’s background. He even liked the fact that Stewart had been  out of work for so long. Mike assumed correctly that this would just make Stewart more eager to prove himself on the job.

The only thing Stewart did not mention was the cancer. He was already worried about being the old guy in the office. He definitely did not want to be the old sick guy.  In retrospect, it might have been better if Stewart had made mention of his recent surgery.

On the way out the door, Mike gave Stewart a big smile and said, “I am sure you will be hearing from us real soon.” Then to finish the interview on a really upbeat note, he gave Stewart a friendly slap on the back – exactly on the top of the healing wound.

Incredible  pain shot through Steward’s body. In a completely involuntary reaction he screamed out at the top of his lungs.

“AHHHHHG!”

Everyone in the entire office stopped what they were doing and stared at Stewart.  He needed to make a split second decision as to what to do next. He did not make a wise choice.

Instead of simply explaining  to Mike abut the operation, Stewart, being a salesman, tried to turn his outburst into a positive event.

Stewart decided to shout at the top of his lungs a second time,

“AHHHHHG” I LOVE THIS JOB! I WANT THIS JOB!”

It was a risky move to make, and unfortunately it did not pay off.  The entire office continued to stare at him with open mouths. Mike slowly edged away, with a look of fear in his eyes.

Stewart left the interview and never did hear back from that company.  Apparently the people doing the hiring decided there was a difference between Enthusiastic and Insane.

Epilogue: – 3 months later Stewart did get a job at another company, whee he still works today.

War Is Good For Economy

War is good for the economy”, are words I heard spoken the other day on a financial news program by a so-called “pundit”. The first time I encountered that phrase was 43 years ago when I was an idealistic young student volunteer on the disastrous Presidential campaign of George McGovern.

McGovern’s campaign headquarters was a 3 story building on K Street in Washington. It was crowded day and night with eager young people who truly believed he actually had a chance to win. McGovern had made pronouncements on many subjects, but the reason all the students wanted him to win was because he was the candidate who was going to end the war in Vietnam.

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This was long before the days of e-mail, so all communications came in via regular “snail-mail”. Thousands of letters for and against McGovern flooded the headquarters each day. We volunteers sat at a long table and sorted through the mail.  Like the other volunteers my job was to read as many letters as I could, and see which ones required a response and which ones did not.

It was pure chance that one of the most moving letters I have ever read in my life happened to be opened by me. It was written by a military wife. Her husband was an Army Major who had recently been killed in Vietnam.

The woman had enclosed in her letter a newspaper clipping. It was an opinion piece someone had written explaining how the war in Vietnam was “good for the economy.” Even worse, the opinion piece pointed out that the Vietnam War was really not very costly in terms of lives, since more Americans died in automobile accidents each year than in Vietnam. The opinion piece concluded that this was a small cost compared to the benefit that the war gave to the economy in terns of the defense industry jobs it  created.

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The Major’s widow wrote that as the wife of a career military man she had always known that her husband might someday die in battle. She said she had accepted long ago that he might die defending his country, or protecting the freedom of others, or to save his fellow soldiers.

However, she said she could never accept that her beloved husband had died simply because it was “good for the economy.” She went on to say that she and her husband had been married for almost 20 years and that she had loved him very much.  I just knew that she must have been crying when she wrote those words.

I don’t know what became of the letter. I don’t know if it ever got to Senator McGovern or if anyone ever wrote her a response. It is one of the great regrets of my life that I did not respond to the Major’s wife personally.  I should have written and told her how moved I was by her story. I wish that I had thanked her for the sacrifice she and her husband had made. But I never contacted her. I passed along the letter to someone higher up, and assumed it would be taken care of.  Now that I am much much older, I realize that there are some things you just need to do yourself.

The U.S. has had many wars since Vietnam. We are at war right now. There is a lot of political debate about where and when and if  the U.S. should go to war. I will not try to influence the political opinions of my readers.

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There are many valid reasons why a nation may engage in combat. But never forget that the soldiers on the battlefield are real people with families that love them very much.  If we are going to risk those precious lives, it needs to be for a better reason than it is “good for the economy.”

The Original Naked Swim – Tarzan & Jane in 1934

In 1934, Maureen O’Sullivan shocked  movie audiences by appearing completely naked on the Big Screen. This was no quick flash where you were not certain what you had seen. She was swimming naked for almost 4 minutes in Tarzan and His Mate.

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It turns out that there are stories withing stories surrounding this scene.  For one thing, the woman swimming naked was not actually Maureen O’Sullivan.

Tarzan 21It turns out that it was actually an Olympic swimmer by the name of Josephine McKim.

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Audiences should  have been tipped off by the incredible  amount of time the couple spends underwater and how well they both swim. Johny Weismuller (Tarzan) was also an Olympic swimmer. Of course, the audience was probably too stunned by the nudity to be paying attention to the couple’s  swimming skills.

1934 audiences were astounded that Jane was obviously completely nude

1934 audiences were astounded that Jane was obviously completely nude

But Maureen O’Sullivan herself is no prude in the film. She spends a good deal of time wearing a very revealing loincloth that would have been considered obscene if not for the prior nude swimming episode.

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It is not clear exactly how individual audience members felt, but it is clear how the “moral authorities” of the day reacted. The Catholic Legion Of Decency condemned the film and

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various State agencies spoke of pulling it from the theaters.  What finally happened is that there ended up being 3 versions of the film in circulation simultaneously.  In what were considered the most conservative parts of the country, the film had Jane swimming fully clothed. In most parts of the country, she was topless. In a few select theaters (mostly in New York City) the totally naked swimming scene was left in the film in its entirety.

Maureen O'Sullivan in Tarzan and His Mate

Maureen O’Sullivan in Tarzan and His Mate

Somehow, with all the focus on the swimming scene, the parts of the movie with Jane running around in her loincloth got left in all the versions.

Tarzan and His Mate perform an underwater ballet with Jane naked

Tarzan and His Mate perform an underwater ballet with Jane naked

However, the Moral Authorities were not satisfied. This film lead to increased censorship of movies in the U.S. and it was decades before audiences saw this much flesh on screen again.

Tarzan and Jane in a romantic moment in Tarzan and His Mate

Tarzan and Jane in a romantic moment in Tarzan and His Mate

Viewing the movie from a modern perspective, the naked swimming scene still holds up as being  beautiful and artistic. The only unrealistic part of the scene, in fact, is that Tarzan himself is not naked.  It makes no sense that in the middle of the jungle Tarzan would swim with a loincloth on, while his mate cavorted nude. However, male nudity was completely taboo in 1934. Even today there remains a double standard about male versus female nudity, which many actresses have complained about.

Jane and Tarzan in 1934

Jane and Tarzan in 1934

So if you want to see what was the talk of the country in 1934, take a look at Tarzan and His Mate. Most of the movie is silly, but the swimming scene is still great.

Prejudice against Italian-Americans

If you think that prejudice against Italian-Americans is something from 30 years ago think again. Stereotypes about and discrimination against Italians is alive and well in America, especially as you get further away from the East Coast. This is a story of a true event from six months ago in Bloomington Indiana.

I had a business client which had asked me to look for ways to improve their profits. An analysis of their their financial statements showed that their shipping costs were way out of control.

I brought in a shipping expert named Tony Romano from New Jersey to make a presentation to the company. Tony has a successful company that uses  a sophisticated computer system to assign freight to the most cost efficient trucking firms and routes. His initial analysis showed he could save the client over $3 million per year.

Tony flew from New Jersey to Indiana to to give his detailed presentation on exactly how much money he could save for the client.

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But there was a problem. The people in Indiana didn’t like the way he looked.

The first issue was Tony’s suit. He wanted to make a good impression so he had worn a dark suit. Tony is a real computer geek and I had never before seen him wear anything other than jeans and a flannel shirt. But for this occasion he had on a very nicely tailored black suit and a gold tie.

There was also a problem with how he had gotten to Blooming from the airport in Indianapolis. Tony had never been there before, so he was afraid of renting a car and then getting lost. He was going to take a cab from the airport, but that turned out to be very expensive, since they charge by the mile. Tony was able to negotiate a flat rate with a limo driver at the airport. Not only was it less than half the cost of the cab, it also was a better ride. The limo was a beautiful shiny black Cadillac.

Tony arrived at the client’s offices and gave a fantastic presentation,  He gave a computerized demonstration of exactly how he could save the company $3 million in shipping  When it was over,  I expected the client to ask how soon they could get started. Instead, they gave a very cool “thank you” to Tony and said they would get back to him sometime in the future.

I stayed behind to meet with the client and get their impressions. I was shocked at what they said.

The head of the company said “There is no way we are getting into bed with the New Jersey Mafia.”

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I thought at first that he was joking, but he was not. After he made his comments, the rest of the people in the room piled on and gave their comments. They were all convinced that Tony was a mobster. To them the evidence was clear.As they stated it, Tony Romano was definitely in organized crime because:

  1.  He is from  New Jersey.
  2. He is Italian-American.
  3. He is familiar with the trucking business.
  4. He wears a dark suit.
  5. He arrived in a black limo.

Nothing I said could convince the people in Indiana that Tony was not a mobster.  Apparently they had made up their mind about him as soon as he stepped out of the limo in his black suit. They had not listened to a single word of his presentation. They even refused to keep a copy of his presentation.

So the Indiana company continues to spend $3 million more per year on freight than it has to, simply because management has seen too many movies.

So if you happen to be Italian-American from the great state of New Jersey, you may want to be careful about making any Soprano jokes. To a large number of people in the country, you are not just another American who likes watching mob shows.  You are the mobster.

Alicia von Rittberg on Game of Thrones

The press agent for actress Alicia von Rittberg confirmed to East Coast Stories today that she will be playing a major role on the new season of Game of Thrones. Fans were disappointed that she was not in last season.  He also confirmed rumors that Alicia von Rittberg will appear nude in some of the episodes.

This will be the first time Alicia von Rittberg has ever done a nude scene, a fact that some of her fans find hard to believe.

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Alicia von Rittberg played the young German Girl Emma in the World War II movie Fury. 

Exactly what role Alicia von Rittberg will play on Game of Thrones has not been announced, however her agent hinted that she will play a major  character who has extraordinary magical powers.

Of course Game of Thrones is no stranger to female nudity.

The beautiful Emilia Clarke has appeared nude many times times in the series. She is better known as Dany Daenerys, or “The Mother of Dragons”. She will be in for some competition from Alicia von Rittberg.

5 April Fools Stories people believed

April Fools Day is a really  strange tradition. The idea is to get someone to believe a ridiculous story and then let them know it was an April Fools prank.  The best April Fools pranks are ones where people later  say to themselves, “how could I have been dumb enough to believe that? Individuals are not the only ones who get fooled. Often major news organizations get tricked into airing ridiculous stories that they should have realized were too stupid to be true. Below are 5 items that were originally intended as April Fools jokes, but which major networks and newspapers ended up publishing as actual news events.

1. A woman successfully sued The McDonald Corporation in a paternity suit, claiming that Ronald McDonald was the father of her child.  The LA Times printed this joke story several years ago on April 1, and got almost a thousand letters and e-mails from people who believed it.  One couple even offered to adopt the child when it was born.

2. In Game of Thrones, the person who ends up as the King of the Iron Throne is the mute Giant Hodor. Many separate internet sources jokingly reported that the producers of the popular series decided to break with the books and go with this unexpected ending. Some local T.V. stations aired this story not realizing it was an April Fools joke.

3. In the new X-Files series it will be revealed that Scully is actually an Alien herself and has been leading Mulder off track all these years. A producer of the new series said this as a joke simply because he was tired of people asking him to reveal plot details.  Entertainment Tonight believed the rumor and did a whole exclusive around it. They even went on to say that Mulder and Scully will finally have a romantic encounter and have a half human half alien child that will get its own spin off series.

4. Vanna White is crazy in love with Pat Sajak and has been stalking him for years. She has been known to make threatening statements like, “If I can’t have Pat, then nobody will.” Pat Sajak is so worried about this that he obtained a gun permit, and often has a gun under his jacket while filming the show. This ridiculous story was picked up by Variety and printed as fact.

5. Steve Jobs is still alive, and has been working undercover at Google. He has been simultaneously stealing Google secrets, and also influencing Google to make idiotic investments. He was the one who convinced the company to come out with Google Glasses.  Industry sources say Jobs wanted to go undercover at Microsoft but it was too dangerous. It is well known that Bill Gates has given “shoot to kill”orders to all his security people if they ever see anyone who even looks like Steve Jobs. This “Jobs is Alive” rumor started as an April Fools joke, but now cannot be stopped. The conspiracy theory people are so sure Jobs is alive that they don’t believe it is a joke.

So, dear readers, let us know if you have heard any other April Fools stories that got mistaken for the real thing. And don’t believe everything you read.

10 Money Superstitions that Still Survive

Superstitions about money have been around for thousands of years. Here are the top 10 that still survive today.

  1. No Red Ink – In a company’s ledger books the color red is bad. It means the business is losing money.  To this day, many stores do not allow any of their workers to use red pens or pencils for anything. There is no point in tempting fate.

2.  Never have an empty cash register . Have you even been in a store or restaurant                    and seen a dollar bill glued into the bottom of the cash drawer? That is because it                  is   considered such bad luck to have an empty cash resister that many owners actually glue good money into every register.

3. Never Pick Up a Penny if it is showing “Tails” . You see a lot of pennies on the street. Take a look and see how many of them are on “tails”. To this day many people will not pick up a penny unless it is showing “heads”. If it is on “Tails”, it is the proverbial” bad penny. ” If you pick up this bad penny, it means you are picking up someone else’s bad luck.

4. Always make the first sale of the day. This is still a common belief in the garment business. If you make a successful sale to the first customer who walks through the door in the morning, you will have a good selling day. If you don’t make that first sale, the sales for that day will be awful. In the New York Garment District, you will still see people rushing through the store doors  early in the morning the second the shop opens. These customers have heard of this superstition and want to be the first customer of the day so that they can haggle with the salesperson for a low price.

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5. It is bad luck to give someone an empty wallet or purse. This id bad luck for both the giver and the receiver. That is why people still put money in a wallet or purse when they give one to someone as a gift.

6. You will have good luck with money if you find a coin with the year you were born on it.  The luck is even better if you always keep that coin once yu have found it.

7. If you find money on New Year’s day you will have good fortune with money all year long.

8. If you hide money and die without telling anyone where it is, you will walk the Earth as a Ghost until someone finds it.

9. The best time to collect debts is on a Wednesday. Even today some professional bill collectors swear Wednesday is always their best day of the week.

10 You will never be rich if you keep your paper money smooth and unwrinkled.  This is one of the few superstitions regarding paper money. However, there are still some shopkeepers today who will not put a brand new bill into the register without crumpling it a few times.

We don’t know if these superstitions really work, but you never know.  How many money superstitions can you name?

Turkey Bowling

You probably never wonder what goes on in a Supermarket after hours. That’s most likely for the best. If you knew you may never look at your food the same way again.

Like many American’s I had a summer job working in a supermarket when I was a kid.  Most of the kids working there really didn’t need the money, but our parents thought it would be a “good learning experience” for us to have a job.  They were right about it being a learning experience. Whether or not it was good, is another matter.

The supermarket would not close until late at night and that’s when all the high level managers would go home their families.  Left behind in the gigantic store were all the people with the low level jobs who still had a few hours of work left to perform. We had to re-stock the shelves, sweep the aisles, empty the trash, clean the counters.

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It was incredibly boring work,  at least it was until we  began cleaning the floor near a display containing frozen turkeys. That’s when my friend Kevin came up with an idea. He reached inside the freezer and lifted out a frozen Butterball turkey. Kevin had noticed that Butterball turkeys were packaged in a plastic net, with a convenient handle on the top to make them easy to lift.

Kevin took the turkey by the handle, swung it back like it was a bowling ball and then shot it forward  like the supermarket aisle was a lane. It turns out that the ice coating on the outside of the turkey makes an excellent lubricant and the turkey smoothly sailed down the aisle.

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Within minutes we were suddenly surrounded by everyone else working in the store that night.  They did not want to reprimand us. They wanted to get in on the fun. Cans of soup and peas were taken off the shelves and set up as bowling pins. Teams were established and bets were placed.

Regular bowling can be fun, but it cannot compare with the thrill of sliding a frozen turkey down a supermarket aisle into a mountain of canned corn while all your friends cheer.

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We turkey-bowled for about an hour, and then someone remembered the time.  We only had 30 minutes to put back the turkeys, replace the cans and clean the whole store before the General Manager of the store showed up.  He came by at the end of each night to do a final check, get everyone out of the store and set the alarm.

We scurried about frantically, working harder than we had all summer. We stocked shelves, cleaned and polished, and removed all traces of our illicit sporting event. When the manager arrived, he actually complimented us on how clean the store looked.

I always thought were were the kids who invented turkey bowling and that it was unique to my hometown of Stamford Connecticut. Then years later I happened to mention it to my wife.  She told me that as a kid  she also had a job in a supermarket in Ardsley New York. It turns out that in Ardsley they also bowled in the supermarket aisles, except that they used frozen hams not turkeys. Apparently there are regional variations to the sport.  Over the years I have found that just about everyone who worked in a supermarket as a kid had a similar story.

Of course, now days stores have so many hidden security cameras that it would be impossible to do any of this. When the manager is not around, the workers have to actually work, knowing that the “eye in the sky” is watching their every move. One of the true “learning experiences” of a summer job has disappeared forever.

I’m glad they didn’t have those security cameras when I was a kid. The job paid almost nothing, the hours were long and the work was boring.  Despite that, I still remember it as one of the best jobs of my career.  It wasn’t the job that made it great. It was the fact that we were young and surrounded by friends and still at an age where we could make even a frozen turkey and a few cans of corn into a great adventure.

The Connecticut Texan

His name is Bernard Powell and I always thought of him as a man living in the wrong State in the wrong century. He lived in Norwalk Connecticut and and commuted by train to New York every day. He made his living as a high level advertizing executive. Even as I kid, I thought that seemed totally inconsistent with who he really was.

No one ever called him Bernard. Everyone just referred to him as “Tex.” He had been born in Texas and spent most of his life there before moving to Connecticut. He was everything a kid expected a Texan to be. He was tall and muscular, with a Texas accent, and lots of hilarious stories about growing up in rural Texas.

Although he lived in Connecticut, Tex Powell had no interest in the wealthy suburbanites of modern day. His main interest in life was in the inhabitants  of Connecticut from hundreds of years before. He wanted to know everything about the American Indians who once lived there.

Unlike most people, Tex was not satisfied with just reading about them in books.  What he wanted to know about them was still there, just underneath our feet. There was a building boom going on in Connecticut back then. The Baby Boom and created a demand for houses and schools and hospitals.

A lot of people saw all this construction as a chance to make money.  Tex, on the other hand, saw it as a chance of a lifetime to explore the past. He soon became a fixture at construction digs all over the State.  He came away with arrowheads,  pottery, and even bones of the original Native Americans.

You might think that construction crews would get annoyed at this, but Tex charmed them with his stories and jokes and somehow Tex could get even the toughest construction foreman to let him onto a site with his archeological kit.

But Tex didn’t just want relics. He was out to prove something. He was out to show people that the East Coast Native Americans were much more civilized, complex and modern than people had previously believed.

His great moment came when he found an ancient skull. It was not just any skull. It was one that proved that Native Americans had actually practiced a form of emergency brain surgery.

Tex had found an ancient Indian  burial mound on what was soon to be a foundation for a school. This was long before the days of preservation laws, so if Tex Powell had not saved the bones and relics they would have simply been tossed in the garbage like so much construction debris.

Tex carefully examined the bones and in particular the skulls to try to determine as much as he could about who these people had been.  Then one skull in particular caught his eye. It looked like a precise circular hole had been drilled in the hard bone  about the size of a 50 cent piece. There there was much thinner bone filling in that hole.

Tex was an advertising exec not a doctor, so he was not sure what it meant. However, Tex was curious enough to bring it to the hospital and show it to some of the doctors.  The chief of neurology took a particular interest.  The doctor said that when a person suffers a severe blow to the head, the main problem in swelling of the brain. In extreme cases, surgeons must drill a hole in the skull to relieve the pressure. If this is not done the patient will die.  Eventually the swelling then goes down and the skull bone slowly grows back, with the new bone being thinner than the original skull.

Tex’s find had proved that Native American medicine was quite advanced. This was the skull of someone who had undergone severe head trauma and been operated on. The instruments were not metal, and there were no X-Rays, but somehow the Native American surgeons had performed a life-saving operation similar to what a brain surgeon would do today.

I remember Tex Powell passing around the skull and letting people carefully examine it, while he described the details of the operation. What I remember most, however, is how upset Mr. Powell’s young son Travis got. Travis wanted to know what the name of the Indian was.  When Tex said there was no way to know Travis started to cry. He was very upset that we would never know who this man had been, or even what his name was.

I have always loved archeology, but never felt quite the same about it after little Travis’ comments.  The little boy saw it all much more clearly than any of the adults. Travis realized that these has been real people with real lives, not matter how long ago it had been.

When I drive the Merritt Parkway and look deep into the woods,  I often think of the thousands and thousands of Native Americans who lived in Connecticut many hundreds of years ago. Buried under the soil are their bones and pottery and arrowheads – And their names.

Mr. Jackson Yang and the Electrical Banana

It’s funny how an old song can transport you back through decades as effectively as any Time Machine. Yesterday I was cruising down the highway when Mellow Yellow by Donovan Leitch came on blasting through my car radio. Suddenly I was back at King School in Stamford Connecticut in Mr. Jackson Yang‘s Algebra class.

Mr. Jackson Yang was a teacher we all thought was hilarious. He had moved from Taiwan to the U.S. and still had a very thick Chinese accent. He told us he had served in the United States Army which was  something none of us believed for a second. For one thing, he was only about 5 feet tall. He was also thin as a rail. The boys would laugh openly when Mr. Yang told us of  his “adventures” in Army life.

Looking back on it, I realize that Mr. Yang was actually a great teacher. He made the dreaded Algebra class fun. He didn’t care what was making the kids laugh. What he liked was that they were associating coming to math class with having fun.   You see,  once he had gotten the kid’s attention with stories and jokes he started teaching them Algebra.

Mr. Yang loved his new country of America.  He desperately wanted to be a “cool guy” so he listened to all the same radio stations as  the kids did and tired to learn all the songs and their meanings.  Having a mathematical mind, he just naturally assumed that each song must have a meaning.

Unfortunately the songwriter that Mr. Yang liked the most was Donovan Leitch. Now Donovan’s songs are great and are wonderful to listen to, but do the words really make any sense? All I know is that Mellow Yellow came out in 1966, and I still have no idea what it’s about.

One day Mr. Yang came to class very excited. He had heard Mellow Yellow for the first time on his way into school and it drove him crazy that he could not understand its meaning.

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“What does Electrical Banana mean boys? What’s it mean?” Mr. Yang kept asking us.

Of course  we had no idea either, except that as kids we were sure that the phrase “Electrical Banana” must have some sort of sexual connotation. We all thought it was hilarious that the naive Mr. Yang was too innocent to get the sexual reference.

Mr. Yang  next tried to decipher Season of the Witch with no more success than he had with Mellow Yellow.  Finally he  moved on to trying to figure out the calculation of the correct Star Dates in Star Trek. Somehow, while all this was going on, all us kids learned Algebra without actually realizing we were doing so.

There are several Epilogue notes to the story, which happened long after I graduated from King. The first is that Mr. Yang went back to school himself and earned a PhD in mathematics. The second is that when I got older I looked up some records, and found out that Mr. Yang actually was in the United States Army. Apparently the Army wants small guys with great technical and math skills just as much as it wants big strong guys.

Finally, decades later,  Jeff Donaugh,  one of the guys from our class actually ended up meeting Donovan Leitch in a coffee house in London. He found Donovan very approachable and finally Jeff had the nerve to ask him what Mellow Yellow was about.

Donovan looked him directly in the eye and said, “It’s all there in the song man. All you have to do is listen.”

I just know that somewhere in America Doctor Yang is still trying to figure it out.

The Mule Deer in Winter

It is the coldest February in almost a century.  If it is rough on us, imaging how hard it is on the outdoor creatures.

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A deer has been coming very close to the house to keep warm and to eat the bushes.

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We call her the Mule Deer because of her size.

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She does not look like the other deer. She is very large and has a broad face that looks very sweet, and almost like a baby face.

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She is very skittish and runs away if there is the slightest movement in a window.

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We can tell from the tracks and impressions in the snow that at night she sleeps under a bush next to the house.  We wish we could tell her she is welcome to all the warmth and bushes she wants.

The Erotic Train Ride

The following is a true story.

There was no sound inside the 6:04 am train to New York as it passed through the the suburbs on this frigid February morning.  Inside the train, commuters either slept or checked the messages in their iPhones. No one spoke to each other and no one looked out through the train windows.

There is no reason to look outside. It is still mostly dark, and whatever can be seen is covered with snow. It is also exactly the same route that each of the commuters has traveled a thousand times before.

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That is; no one looked out the widows except for me. I was feeling sort of melancholy and did not want to check the hundreds of emails that my bosses in Europe had sent me while I was asleep last night. I missed the days when the morning commute was a chance to read a book, and was not just an extension of the workday.

So I gazed out the train window as  house after house whizzed past, and a few brave souls walked their dogs in the snow.

Then the train began to slow and came to a halt between stations. The conductor announced on the loudspeaker  that due to the weather there was congestion up ahead on the line, and that we would be here for a few minutes.

As the train stopped, I noticed that I was looking directly into the second floor of a small split level house. It was the type of house that realtors refer to as a “starter home.” There was a large picture window on the second floor and it opened to the master bedroom. The house had no curtains on any of the windows. Using some detective work I figured out that the owners must have moved in recently and had not yet had time to get curtains.

The lights were on in the bedroom, and because it was still dark outside, the entire room was clearly visible.  There was a young man sitting on the edge of the bed. He was wearing pajama bottoms and no top. He was just an average looking fellow, and he was looking at another door in the room and appeared to be saying something.

Then the other door opened and a young woman, about twenty four years old,   appeared.  She was wearing a kimono-type bathrobe and her long dark hair was wet.  She had obviously just taken a shower. She smiled when she saw the man was watching her, and she said something.

The man stayed sitting on the bed and she slowly walked over. He leaned forward and reached for the belt on her  robe, but she just  laughed and jumped back just out of reach.  She took two more steps backward then undid the belt and let the robe slide to the floor.

She was amazing beautiful as she stood there naked. Her hair was still wet and water from the ends dripped down in droplets onto her breasts, and flowed down onto her flat stomach. She held her arms to the man as she walked forward to be with him on the bed.

Then she disappeared.

The train lurched forward, and suddenly the house, the man and the beautiful woman were gone. The train continued to move and soon the view out the window was of gas stations and auto body shops. The train picked up speed and was soon once again rushing towards New York.

I looked around the train car and noticed that no one else had glimpsed the erotic episode in the little house. I knew that I should not have been a voyeur. But it was such a beautiful love scene on a bleak and dreary day that it drew me into it.

The train never stopped in that exact spot again and I never again saw the young lovers. I sometimes wonder how such an average looking young man was able to attract that stunningly  beautiful woman.  From her smile it was obvious that she was totally in love.

As I take the boring commute these days, I sometimes smile to myself when I remember that somewhere outside the train window there are two people who have much better things to do in the morning than answer emails.

Pro Bono Publico

The following is a true story as told by a New Jersey  attorney Gene Mitchell to the Editor of East Cost Stories. Only the name of the career criminal has been changed.

All lawyers are expected to put in a certain amount “pro bono publico” (for the public good) hours each year. This consists of providing free legal work for people who can’t afford it.

Although they never admit it openly, most lawyers hate doing pro bono work. It cuts directly into their income, and it brings them into contact with the type of people they usually try to avoid.

Gene is a corporate attorney specializing in tax work. A few years ago one of his firm’s big clients switched to another law firm,  temporarily making legal work sparse for the law firm Gene worked for.  The managing partner of the firm “suggested” that this would be a good time for Gene to volunteer to do some pro bono work. The partner had arranged for Gene to do some work as a public defender.

Gene was not at all happy about this. It meant that he had to work for free defending criminal cases until his law firm could find some more new tax clients.

Gene’s mood did not improve when he got the details of his first client. “Little Tony” Parker had been accused in the breaking and entering of a McDonald’s restaurant.  Gene took one look at the file and realized that Little Tony was not exactly a dream client.  He was 30 years old, but had a record of different types of thefts going back to when he was a kid. He had been in and out of various jails and prisons for short sentences, but added together it came up  to a significant part of his life.

He was called “Little Tony” since he was just under 5 feet tall and had a slight build. He was very sensitive about this, especially since his size tended to make him a prime target in whatever jail he happened to be in. He had been in numerous fights, and usually came out the loser.

Little Tony could be facing a long time in prison for his latest crime. Like many other States, New Jersey had passed statutes allowing judges to give extended sentences to “career criminals.”

On top of all of that, Little Tony’s latest endeavor was something the police were laughing at.  One week earlier, at 2am, he had broken into a closed  McDonald’s to try to rob the safe. He did not realize that this McDonald’s was still under construction, and would not have its Grand Opening for another week. There was no safe, no cash registers, no food. There was nothing to steal.

However, the restaurant did have its security cameras operating. They showed a clear view of Little Tony’s face as he frantically scurried around the restaurant searching for something to take. He finally gave up and left.

The next day, the construction workers showed up, saw the door had been forced open and they called the police.  The detectives immediately recognized Little Tony from the security tapes and drove directly to his apartment to arrest him.

Gene decided that the best defense was to try to get Little Tony off with as light a sentence as possible. In his favor  was the fact that Little Tony had not actually stolen anything, and had not vandalized anything in the store. The only thing he had broken was a very cheap lock on the door.  If this was a first-time offense, Tony would probably get a suspended sentence. However, with his past record, he could be looking at 5 years in prison.

Gene decided to really work hard on this just to show what a great lawyer he was, even when it was not a tax case. He had long conversations with Tony, and even had a friend who was a psychologist speak with Tony.

In the end, Gene wrote a beautiful brief for the Judge. He explained about Tony’s horrible childhood, and about how Tony had continually been abused in the various juvenile facilities and jails he had been sent to.  Gene submitted the psychologist’s report which emphatically stated that the best way to make Tony a productive member of society was through treatment rather than prison.

In the end Gene had a resounding success. He was not sure if it was because of his legal work or if the courts were just too swamped with violent crime to care about a broken lock on a restaurant under construction. The judge gave Little Tony a suspended sentence, and the only penalty was that he had to pay $350 for repairs to the door of the McDonalds.

Gene was ecstatic. For the first time he actually felt good about doing pro bono work.  He had made a real difference to a person’s life. It was much more satisfying than any of his tax cases.

Gene had a long and serious conversation with Little Tony. He gave Tony a speech explaining that Tony should look at this as a new beginning. This was a real chance for Tony to do something different with his life.  Gene walked Tony down the hall to the Court Clerk’s office. The Gene decided to really help. Gene gave $350 cash to Little Tony and said,

“Tony, this is a new start for you. To help you on your way, I am even going to give you the money to pay the fine. Take this money, and wait in that line there. Give the clerk the cash and these documents, and then this case is over for you.”

Little Tony was so moved he was almost in tears. He solemnly  shook Gene’s hand and told him how Gene was the fist person in his life who had ever given him a real break.

Gene left the court that day happier than he had been in a long time. A week later, Gene’s law firm got a new tax client and Gene was back at work in corporate law. Gene was buried in spredsheets when his phone rang.

“Mr. Mitchell, this is Detective Hanson. I was wondering if you could tell me the whereabouts of Tony Parker. He moved out of his apartment, and we don’t have any other address for him.”

Gene was surprised, “No. I have no idea where he is. What is the problem?”

“The judge issued a bench warrant for him. He never paid the fine on that McDonald’s break-in. The judge is really pissed off. Says he should have know better than to trust someone with that background.”

It turns out that Little Tony was a career thief after all. After he had so warmly shaken Gene’s hand, he had watched as gene left the court house. Then he had pocked the $350 Gene had given him, gotten out of line, and left without paying the fine.  Apparently he had then used the $350 to skip town.

That was the last criminal case Gene ever handled. He now happily works on spreadsheets and corporate law. When he is forced to to pro bono work, he helps people with tax problems. He never offers to give them any money for their back taxes.

When I Met a Sadistic Killer

Have you ever met a murderer? I did, and it was only two days before he committed a disgustingly brutal murder.  The thing I remember most about him was that he was just so quiet. I know that sounds like such a cliche. How many times on the news have we all seen stories about a psycho-killer where the neighbors all say “but he was so quiet.”

His name  is Mark Masters and when I met him he was trying to become a professional photographer. The actual way he made a living was by driving a tow truck and doing various odd-jobs, but his dream was to be a photographer.

I worked  at American Healthcare Manufacturing, a  privately held company in New Jersey. The owner had hired Mark to prepare a new brochure for the company. The owner said it was because he wanted to give Mark a break. The real real reason was that Mark was willing to do the job for less than half the price anyone else had offered.

The photo shoot was to take place after-hours so as not to interfere with the regular business. It was not one of those exciting photo shoots with beautiful models in skimpy outfits. In fact, there were no people being photographed at all.

American Healthcare made products for hospitals.  The products were items such as surgical gloves, gauze bandages, wound dressing kits, etc. The brochure was just going to be pictures of these products, with the prices listed underneath.  It was not exactly Vogue magazine.

Somehow I got chosen to be the one to stay late to help the photographer. Mark came in and we set up everything in the big conference room. We covered the table with a green cloth and arranged the various products on the table.  Mark set up his camera equipment without saying a word.

It was really boring, since it was just Mark and I alone in the building.  I tried to get him involved in a conversation, but I could not get him to talk about anything. It was like his mind was somewhere else completely. He spoke so softly that I had to strain to hear him.

He did not initiate any conversations, and when asked a question, would only answer with a whispered “Yes” or “No”.

The whole photo shoot only took about two hours, but it was so uncomfortable being around him that it felt like it took days.  When he finally packed up his cameras and left I was glad to get back home, where people actually spoke.

Two days later, I was in the office when Brian, our sales manager, came in.

“Remember that guy who took pictures  for the brochure?” asked Brian.

“Yea sure. Why?”

“He killed his mother-in-law.  He strangled her. Then he cut off her hands and tried to flush them down the toilet.  Supposedly they all lived together and had been having arguments about who would get the house. He cut off her hands to make sure she did not get her hands on the house even after she died.”

I was shocked. I had been next to this guy for hours in a completely empty building in an isolated office park just two days before. Brian thought that was really funny. Brian has a weird sense of humor.  It did not seem amusing to me.

It’s hard to know what sort of lesson to draw from this. The only one I can think of  is that you never really know what is going on in another person’s soul.

When I do work late these days, I make sure there are a lot of other people in the building. I also find myself inadvertently checking out where the nearest exits are. Just in case.

More Alicia von Rittberg

Alicia von Rittberg, the German actress  who played Emma in the movie Fury, continues to be the most searched item on our blog. People want to know more about her.  Exactly what is it that makes the readers so interested in her?  Well, of course, there is the obvious appeal of her physical beauty. However, we think it is more than just that.  She created a sensation at the London Premier of Fury with her  astoundingly  low cut gown.

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The press loved her for that, but that also loved her for the fact that she was wiling to give long and cheerful interviews to whoever asked, despite the fact that English is not her first language.

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In the interviews, Alicia comes across as charming and unassuming. She  walked down the line of reporters and photographers and, as she did so, she shook hands and introduced herself. She always said, “Hi. I’m Alicia.” She does not think of herself as a “Star”, and therefore thinks she still needs to tell the reporters who she is.

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Her natural innocence is why she was so good at portraying Emma in Fury. The movie’s director got a lot of criticism for including that character in such a brutal war film.  However, his obvious intention was to show the juxtaposition of innocence and beauty against the brutal realities of war. Alicia was able to bring that character to life perfectly, despite not saying a word of English in the film.

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In the German film Barbara, she has a very small part in which she plays the girlfriend of a boy who has attempted suicide by jumping off a roof.  Although the doctors say his injuries have healed completely, she insists that there is some sort of brain damage since his personality has changed.

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Alicia’s American fans will be surprised to see her playing a character that is more tough and less innocent than the Emma character in Fury.

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We look forward to seeing her in many more films in the next few years.

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From the interest she had generated on this blog,  we can tell that she has many fans eagerly searching to see what she will be in next.

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She has been around on German T.V. for quite some time, and now the rest of the world is waiting to see what  comes next.

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For more stories of celebrities you may be interested in please

Martin Luther King Day – The Most Racially Segregated Day of The Year

The great racial division in the United States is never more on display than it is on Martin Luther King Day. Instead of being a holiday that brings us together in celebration of MLK’s life, it is a day on which the facade of racial harmony is removed.

Most government offices are closed, whereas almost all private businesses remain open. Instead of closing, private businesses tell their employees to use one of their personal days or floating holidays if they want to take Martin Luther King Day off.

This results in the most racially segregated day of the year.  All of the African-American employees take the day off, while the other employees do not. This leads to a very strange scene if you happen to be a  commuter. Normally there is a racial mix on mass transit for the morning commute. However, on the morning of Martin Luther King  Day the buses, trains and subways are 100% White, Asian and Hispanic. Even the conductors and bus drivers are White, Asian and Hispanic, since their African-American counterparts have taken the day off.

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It is very sad that the feeling among most non-African- Americans is that Martin Luther King day is not “our” holiday. It is “their” holiday. People don’t actually come out and say this in public, but they do come very close to saying it. Commuters are annoyed that the trains run on a “modified holiday schedule”. This means that there are fewer trains and it takes longer to get to work. When the conductors explain this, I have often heard commuters say, “God Damn, that’s annoying . It’s not like it’s a real holiday.”

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Even the schools are segregated on Martin Luther King Day. For example, in some states public schools in the predominantly African-American towns are closed, while those in many other towns are not. In the schools that remain open, African-American parents keep their kids home on Martin Luther King  day, while all the other kids go in.

Americans of all races handle the divide on this day in the worst possible way. We ignore it.  Politicians hold events and and press conferences on Martin Luther King  day and pretend it is a day being celebrated by all.

Let’s face it. Differences and issues exist. Problems need to be solved and taboo subjects need to be discussed.  How can Americans of all races really celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. if we don’t engage in meaningful discussion?

Lets talk with each other. Not To each other, or At each other, but With each other. There is a lot of work to be done and it will never be accomplished if we ignore the issues. Then maybe some day we will be able to truly celebrate Martin Luther King Day together.

Readers of this story also enjoyed our essay, The Real Arthur Ashe

Silent Flames On Cold Water

One of my clearest memories from childhood is of a cold October night when I stood helpless on the shore  with two hundred other people and watched a beautiful sailing yacht burn.

I lived in Connecticut near a large boat marina. Yachts from all over the world would would come in and tie up to the dock. As a kid, I didn’t  think about the incredible amounts of money they must have cost, or what type of people could afford them.  I was struck more by the pure beauty of the vessels.

It was a cold dark night and my father came into my room and said he had seen fire trucks going towards the marina. He and I got into his old Buick Le Sabre with giant tail fins and raced to see what was going on.

When we got to the docks, we could see two fire trucks and a lot of people standing around, but at first we could not locate the fire. Then we saw that everyone was staring at a beautiful  wooden two-masted sailing vessel with teak decks. It seemed to be somehow glowing in the dark.

The boat was not a racing vessel, but one meant for comfortable luxurious sailing.  It had a large cabin with large windows, instead of little port holes. Through the widows we could clearly see the flames as they burned the inside of the yacht.

It was an odd sensation, since there was no sound at all from the fire. The boat was locked up tight and the windows were very thick and strong. They were meant to withstand the pounding of heavy seas, but instead were holding back a fire.

No one knew the who the owners of the yacht were. They had sailed in from another state and a limousine had picked them up at the dock. No one knew how to contact them.

I asked my dad why the firemen did not break the windows and start pouring water on the fire. He explained that if they smashed the windows, oxygen would rush in to feed the fire and make it much worse. The firemen were hoping the fire would run out of oxygen and stop itself.

But oxygen must have been getting into the cabin from some sort of opening, since the fire showed no sign of letting up. Then my father pointed out the real problem. Against all the rules of the marina, the owners of this boat had left it tied up to the gas dock.  This burning vessel was tied to a dock with tanks that held thousands of gallons of gas and diesel fuel.  If the flames spread from the boat to the gas dock, the entire marina and all the other yachts in it could go up in flames. No amount of hosing down the gas dock would be able to stop the disaster.

It was only a matter of time until the fire in the cabin would get powerful enough to break through the windows and start the gas dock on fire. There was only one thing to do.

The marina’s launch pulled up to the burning yacht and and man tied a rope to the cleat at the bow of the yacht. Then another man untied the ropes holding the yacht to the gas dock. It was an incredibly dangerous act. If the flames had burst through the yacht cabin at that moment and hit the gas dock, both of those men would have died instantly.

The launch  towed the burning yacht into the center of the harbor away from all the other boats. Then the launch raced  away from the danger as quickly as possible.  The town had no fireboat, so there was nothing left to do now but watch the yacht burn.

No more than five minutes after the launch had towed the yacht away from the gas dock, there was the sound of shattering glass and the flames broke through the windows. My father was right about the oxygen feeding the fire. As soon ad the windows broke, the fire tripled in size and for the first time we could hear the roar of the flames.

Even in those days, a solid wooden yacht was rare. Fiberglass is so much easier to maintain. The wood hull and the teak decks burned quickly. The flames shot up the two masts. The crowd on the shore was silent as the vessel died. There were no shouts of “Wow!” or “Look at that!” A yacht like that is something of a moving piece of art. Real sailors feel a boat that beautiful is somehow alive.

The yacht burned down to the waterline, and the crowd started to leave. My father and I got into the giant car and drove home.  We did not feel like speaking on the ride back. It was as if we had just attended a funeral. This was long before the days of cell phones with cameras, so there are no videos or pictures to record this event. The Buick Le Sabre with the giant fins in no more, and even my father is gone. But somehow the memory of that night still burns as brightly as silent flames on the cold water.

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Je Suis Charlie

What can we really say about people who would murder cartoonists because they think that’s what an all powerful and loving God wants?

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East Cost Stories is published from Basking Ridge New Jersey, which was the home of 17 people who died on September 11, 2001 because they happened to work in the World Trade Center.

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The oldest part of Basking Ridge is a section called Liberty Corner. It is named that since George Washington and his troops spent so much time here.” Liberty”, of course, is a French word.

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In fact, the American revolution would never have succeed without French support.  The very ideas of Liberty and Equality which we all think of as “American” are actually French.

I wish I could draw cartoons, but I don’t have that ability. So for this blog, I have just downloaded a few from the web, created by people with greater skills than mine.

All of the the people of Liberty Corner today are saying, “Je Suis Charlie.”

The Future of Days Past – the 1964 World’s Fair and our 2064 predictions.

On this first day of 2015, it is natural to think of the future. What will happen in 2015? What will the world be like by 2020?  Many people are worried about the economy, terrorists threats, Ebola outbreaks, wars in the Middle East or elsewhere.

But I remember a time when Americans did not worry about the future. We yearned for it. The Future was going to be a magical period when America technology and know-how  had solved all of the world problems. In the future everyone would be happy, live in peach and have all the comforts they needed.

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We knew all of these things about the future since it was presented to us on a scale never seen before or since – at the 1964 New York’s World’s Fair. I was only a kid, but my family loved it so much we returned to the Fair  over and over again along with hundreds of thousands of others.

The Fair was a complete miniature city built in Queens. Countries from all over the world had pavilions. But the most exciting exhibits were those of the American corporations. IBM, General Motors, Ford, Disney, AT&T all had large buildings where inside you could travel through time into the Future to see what it would be like.

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However, now that I look back, what strikes me the most is how incredibly wrong all the predictions were.  The things they predicted did not happen at all, and the futurists completely missed the major events that have shaped our world in the 50 years since the Fair.

On this New Year’s Day I thought it might be fun to list all the major trends that the future predictors missed, and then try to come up with out own (and hopefully more accurate) predictions for the next 50 years.

  • The changing role of women in society was completely missed at the 1964 World’s Fair. Many pavilions showed homes of the future, with amazing gadgets, but the home always included a housewife. The idea that the structure of the family in the future might change was not considered in any of the hundreds of scenarios shown in the various exhibits.
  • The  impact of people on the environment was completely ignored. Nowhere was this more evident than in the General Motor’s exhibit. It had a complete working model of how GM was going to “improve” the lives of the people of South America. The model showed a giant machine creating a multi-lane highway through the Amazon rain forest. The front part of the machine chopped down the trees. The middle part of the machine ground up the trees and pressed them into wooden bricks. The back of the machine pressed these bricks into  the ground and paved them over to create a 6 lane highway. When it was all done the “useless” jungle had been replaced by a beneficial highway.

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  • Bigger is better was the theme of almost every exhibitor of the Fair. In the IBM pavilion the entire audience was lifted thorough the air in their seats up into a giant egg shaped building. There we saw a movie about how gigantic super computers of the future would solve any and all problems. The trend of personal computers, calculators and cell phones was never even thought of. The true future of computers would come not in giant buildings owned by IBM or AT&T, but in little garages owned by people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

So now that we have made fun of the Futurists of 1964, let’s go out on a limb and try to predict what the world will be like in 2064. Historians of that time may read this blog and make fun of these predictions, but let’s give ti a try.

  • The term “going to work” will cease to have any meaning. This change could happen very quickly. Even now, people waste time and resources traveling to a location they do not have to.  With computer technology, it  will become increasingly possible to work from home. Traveling to a specific location for work will be something that happens rarely for special events or social occasions.
  • For most people the employer/employee relationship will cease. Most people will not have a single “employer”. They will have certain skills and use those skills for multiple groups throughout the year.  As noted above, most people will do this from their homes. The term “job” will have no meaning for most people.
  • Most low level service jobs will disappear. Even now we can see the trend. There are far fewer bank tellers than there used to be  since we have cash machines. People can now do their own check-outs at grocery stores. Soon there will be no counter people at fast food restaurants. You can punch your order into the screen on the counter just as well as the person at the counter.
  • Cash, Credit Cards and Debit Cards will completely disappear, as will most physical banks. All transactions can be done on your mobile phone. There is no need for a piece of plastic with the same information, and no need for paper currency or coins.
  • Oil will no longer be the source of the world’s energy. What it will be replaced by we cannot say, but the days of burning petroleum for  fuel will come to an end. Petroleum has amazing unique  chemical properties which can be used in medical and other applications. Even today many scientists state how ridiculousness it is that we burn such a unique and one time gift of the Earth.  In the future people will shudder when they look back at how we used oil, the same way we look back at people who used Giant Redwood trees for firewood.

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  • The social order of the world will change. This is the toughest part to predict. In 1964, we Americans had no doubt that whatever the future was like, The United States would be in charge of it. The best we can say now is that there will be changes that seem completely unimaginable now.  One event happened at the 1964 World’s Fair which I can still see as clearly as if it happened yesterday. We went to the Japanese Pavilion and outside it were the flags of the United States and Japan flying side by side. My father stood there for a long time looking up at the flags, with an astonished expression on his face.  He kept saying, “Will you look at that. I never thought to see that.” He was from the World War II generation, and it was incredible to him that Japan and the United States had become the best of friends. Perhaps in future, Israel and Iran will become great economic partners. The major economic powers in the world could be the countries in central Africa. In our part of the world the balance of power might shift from North American to South America.

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  • People will not change. People will continue to be smart and stupid and kind and violent and selfish and generous all at the same time.  Nothing in technology will change human nature. Our biggest hope for the future is that people will be able to win against themselves. Although there have been many terrible things that have happened since 1964, the world was in fact better then it was in the proceeding 100 years. In the period 1864-1964 there were two World Wars and a Holocaust. Millions of people died. In the 100 years before 1864 slavery existed in America, and took a major Civil War to end. The world actually  has been getting better, although at such a slow pace it is hard for us to see.

When the 1964 World’s Fair was over I was heartbroken that they tore it all down. All that’s left is a park in Queens with the Unisphere and the New York State Pavilion. The magnificent buildings of General Motors, Ford, IBM, and AT&T were all reduced to rubble.  The giant dinosaurs of Sinclare Dino-land were moved away.

There is one pavilion you can still see. It was the Disney exhibit that was so popular it was moved intact to Disney World in Florida. Tiny robot children sang about the joy and hope of the future which we all believed without question in 1964.  Today you can still visit Florida and hear them sing,

“It’s a world of laughter, a world of cheer. It’s a world of hope, it’s a world of fear. There’s so much that we share, it is time we’re aware- It’s a small, small world.”

2014 on East Coast Stories. A Year To Remember

On this last day of 2014 we want to thank all our readers. It was a big year for us, and we thought it would be fun to look back at the highlights on the blog in 2014.

  • The most popular post of 2014 was our review of the movie Fury, a World War II action film staring Brad Pit.  The review got a huge response from readers and continues to get new views each day. Part of the reason for the response was people (mostly guys) searching for information about Alicia von Rittberg the beautiful young German actress in the film.
  • The worst movie of 2014 was without a doubt A Million Ways to Die In The West. The hardest part of writing that review was to try to find words to describe just how awful a movie it was.
  • Our readers asked for more reviews of independent films and we complied. This lead us to one of the strangest movies we have ever seen – Under The Skin– staring Scarlett Johansson.
  • One of the best movies of the year had such a limited release it was almost impossible to find in theaters. The quirky comedy Grand Budapest Hotel is well worth getting on DVD. Another great film this year was Maleficent a creative re-telling of Sleeping Beauty
  • In our book reviews section we were thrilled that Ted Scofield,  the author of Eat What You Kill read the review and took the time to personally write a comment thanking us for the review.
  • In Fiction Stories our readers favorite was Passing For Normal, the story of a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome struggling to fit in at Goldman Sachs. Coming in a close second was The Naked Swim the story of a doctor who meets a beautiful Canadian woman while on vacation.
  • Our Non-Fiction stories continue to be very popular with readers. Every one of them is completely true. On this New Year’s Eve you may want to take another look at an encounter with  The Real Dick Clark –  a man who for decades was synonymous with New Year’s celebrations.  Since New Year’s Eve is a time to remember things and people past, you may also want to read about The Real Whitney Houston, and what it was like to hear her singing not for the crowd; but for herself.

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  • Our original photographs   have been well received even though they are taken with a small inexpensive  camera. We try to take scenes of interesting events in ordinary life.  (On the blog we also have interesting photos downloaded from the web, but the only ones listed in our Photographs section are our own originals).  The photograph above was taken by us on the Path Train, with the permission of the young man pictured. To get the full effect you have to realize that he is a very muscular 6ft 4 inches.

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  • The sketch above is by the Gentle Woman’s daughter, who ended up marrying an artist.

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  • The picture of the Bunny “Sunshine” above won an award, and somehow he looks like he knows it.

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  • The fuzzy picture above was taken of Taylor Swift when she performed at an outdoor concert in New Jersey.  It was over 100 degrees with 80% humidity. The picture shows her hair matted and her body dripping with sweat. Unbeknownst to the crowd there had been “substantiated ” terrorist threats made against the gathering. Taylor did know,  and performed anyway despite the threats and the weather. We revealed this on the blog in The Real Taylor Swift.

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  • The picture above is of the Lyons Trans station in NJ. The story of Dusty Cars tells of the 17 people who took the train from that station in September 11, 2001 and never returned.

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In all our stories, essays, photographs and even reviews, we have tried to show the humor, pain, absurdity and beauty of every-day life.

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We truly wish all of you a wonderful 2015. Remember in the upcoming year that when things get bad and it seems like more than you can take, just tell yourself, “Someday this will make a great story.”

– Gregory Francis Farrell and Adam Faiella Farrell.

Evanna Lynch – What ever became of Luna Lovegood?

Who is Evanna Lynch?  Many Americans still do not recognize this actress’s name, but they certainly recognize her face, and the character she is most famous for. Evanna Lynch played the quirky and fun Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies.

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Many thousands of Harry Potter fans feel that Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) should have married the always interesting Luna Lovegood  instead of the incredibly boring Ginny Weasley (played by Bonnie Wright).  The Luna character was a breath of fresh air when the Harry Potter movies starting getting very dark and depressing. Luna had magic powers that were even greater than Harry’s, but she also thought that magic and life itself should be fun.

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But who is Evanna Lynch when she stops being Luna? It turns out she is every bit as interesting and strong-willed as her character. (By the way, the long blond hair in the films was not a wig. (Below is a picture of Evanna from behind)

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The 23 year-old Evanna grew up in Ireland where she still spends most of her time. She is fluent in Gaelic and French and continues to act, although not yet in any roles as famous as Luna.

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Evanna has used her fame to bring attention to and raise money for a number of charitable causes.  She publicly disclosed that she had suffered from Anorexia Nervosa when she was younger. She then used that disclosure to help draw attention to and public understanding of this disorder.

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Evanna’s main love is animals, especially cats, and she raises money for the humane treatment of animals of all kinds.

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Evanna could have used her sudden fame to try to make as much money for herself as possible. Instead she has used it to help those around her.

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The picture above is Evanna ready to run in the Goal Mile, an annual charitable running race throughout Ireland and parts of the UK.

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So; the little Irish girl who first played Luna Lovegood when she was  only 14 years old, has turned into a beautiful young woman who spends her time and fame to help those in need.

It turns out that there is magic in this world after all.

Hunter’s Ridge 18th Holiday Party

That’s right,  Saturday was the 18th annual Hunter’s Ridge Holiday party.  It was held at the newly renovated mansion of Jackie and Peter Blank.

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while Jackie and Sharon welcomed guests. This was Martin & Juliet’s first Hunter’s Ridge holiday party.

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Camera-shy Susan says hello while Sam acts surprised.

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The Three Amigos.

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Discussing the details of the “Neighborhood Watch”.

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The inquiring photographer.

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Alicia von Rittberg

Alicia von Rittberg is a beautiful young German actress who we predict will be a major star. We make this prediction due to a simple matter of statistics. In one of our movie reviews we mentioned Alicia’s role as Emma in Fury. That one mention caused our Fury review to get more hits than all our other posts combined.

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This made us very curious to see what all the excitement was about.

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The first thing we found was that Alicia had caused a sensation at the premier of the film by wearing a dress with what can only be described as a very daring neckline.

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Turns out that she is an amazingly accomplished and versatile 21 year old.   Alicia speaks German, Italian and English. She also plays the piano and dances ballet. While not yet that well known in the U.S. she has been in a huge number of German films and TV shows. We recently reviewed on this blog Barbara, in which Alicia von Rittberg plays a key part. We gave Barbara our highest rating of five stars,

Her next major film is going to be Our Kind Of Traitor which will be released in 2015. This movie is based on the John le Carre novel of the same name. We are looking forward to this release since this is one of our favorite books. It is about a powerful Russian mafia figure who decides to tell the British government  everything he knows about international money laundering in return for protection for his family.

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His main concern is for his beautiful young daughter (who  will be played by Alicia von Rittberg). It is a role perfect for her.

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Let’s face it, so far most of the people who are searching on Ask.com for  Alicia von Rittberg right now are young men just interested in the way she looks.

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We  predict that very soon, American audiences will discover that there is an extremely accomplished actor behind that beautiful smile.

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For profiles of other celebrities you might be interested in. please see our stories:

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Also, be sure to post a comment if there are any specific actresses or actors you would like us to profile in upcoming stories.

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Thanks for reading.

Please post your comments to our website!

The Automat on Tax Day

How many readers out there still remember The Automat? It was a restaurant in New York where you never had to bother interacting with anyone. There were just rows and rows of machines filled with different kinds of food. You just put coins in, opened a little window and got what you wanted. You could  get anything from a Salisbury steak to a slice of apple pie.

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Of course,there were actual people preparing the food. But they were on the other side of the machines filing up the little windows. You did not have to see them or make fake polite conversation or even nod to them. That make it the perfect restaurant for New York.

By the time I was frequenting The Automat it was long past its glory days. It had become a very sleazy place whose main attraction was that it was open 24 hours.

What I remember most was a time I was there at 2AM. There were only about 10 people in the restaurant and they were spread out as far away as possible  from each other. It was completely silent with not even any annoying background music.

At one very large round table sat a middle aged woman with grey hair. The table was completely filled with stacks of papers and tax forms. She was pounding away furiously on a small calculator.  Along with the papers and tax forms, her table was littered with empty coffee cups. I could not help counting the cups to see how much caffeine she had ingested. I counted 15 empty coffee cups.

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Then without any warning the woman jumped up from her chair, threw a stack of papers into the air and started screaming at the top of her lungs, “It doesn’t balance! It doesn’t balance!”

Since it was New York City, none of the people at any of the other tables paid the slightest attention to her. No employees emerged from behind the machines, and people did not even look up from their own food to glance at her. She continued screaming for about four minutes and then sat back down with a big sigh and began once again pounding on her calculator.

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I finished my own food and left The Automat.  As I left, I realized that it was the morning of April 15 – Tax Day.  The caffeine charged woman still had about 22 hours to balance her taxes and get them filed before the Midnight deadline.

I always wondered if she got the figures to balance. I don’t think so.

Cocktails With Jesus

The following is a true story as told to the Editor of East Coast Stories. The names have been changed at the request of the storyteller.

It was Peggy’s first year teaching at Saint John’s elementary school. In fact, it was Peggy’s first year teaching anywhere.  As the newest and youngest teacher, Peggy got stuck with the job of directing the  Christmas play. The experienced teachers were smart enough to avoid that assignment.

It took up a huge amount of time and by the time it was done Peggy felt  it was more stressful than directing a Broadway show.  This was the first year the school was doing a play.  The Administration wanted it to be  big fund raiser for the school.

Peggy got called in to a meeting with the Assistant Principal Sister Mary Connor. The school was technically run by old  Monsignor Ryan, but everyone knew the real power was with Sister Connor.

Sister Connor explained that the school was going to sell very expensive tickets (tax deductible) to the parents. Sister Connor leaned across the desk and drilled her steely blue eyes into Peggy.

“This is our chance to finally get this school out of debt. As the play’s director, your  main job is to  figure out  how how to get as many children in the play as possible. The only reason parents are going to buy a ticket is to see their own children in the play.  So the more children  you can cram into the play the more tickets sold. Don’t worry about whether the child  can act or even if the part makes any sense. Are we clear on that Miss Cantello?”

“Yes Sister. You can count on me.”

“Let us hope so,” responded Sister Connor with a nod but no smile. There were teachers who had been at the school for 10 years who claimed they had never once seen Sister Connor smile.  Her face seemed frozen in a sort of perpetual scowl. Even the parents were afraid of her.

Peggy was a math teacher and approached the problem like an equation. What was the maximum number of roles you could squeeze into the story of Mary and Joseph being turned away from the Inn and ending up in the manger?

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At first it seemed easy. Kids could play Mary, Joseph, the 3 Kings and maybe 3 innkeepers turning them away. But that was only 8 parts. Then Peggy realized she could also have kids play animals. They could have a mule, a horse and 3 lambs. Then she threw in the Little Drummer Boy. (Not actually in the Bible, but it brought the total to 14). Then for good measure she added 6  shepherds  Then she was stuck. there was no way the school would sell enough tickets with only 20 kids in the play.

Finally Peggy broke down and called her mother for help. Mom was delighted to help.

“You have to stop thinking like a Math teacher dear,” said Mom. “Stop being so logical.  All the parents think their children are little angels. So dress them up as such and pack the stage with angels. I bet you could cram at least 20 little angels on the stage. Then put another 20 angels  coming down the aisles. And don’t forget the tall kids.”

“What about the tall kids?”

“Of course you have them stand in the back as stars in the sky”

Peggy had to admit that her mom’s ideas were brilliant.  As the weeks went along the play really started shaping up. Ticket sales were brisk and lots of parents volunteered to make  costumes. It seemed like nothing could go wrong now.

The costumes were made. The parts had been cast. The rehearsals had gone well and 100% of the tickets had been sold. Everyone was happy.

Except for little Maureen O’Toole. She had been cast as one of the Innkeepers who turn Mary and Joseph away. She was very upset about that. No matter how many times Peggy explained it was just a pretend play, little Maureen did not like the idea of turning them away. She cried hysterically during every rehearsal when  she had to say there was “No room at Inn.” Peggy wanted to just take her out of the play, but Sister Connor explained that was impossible. Little Maureen’s father was the Chief of Police, the school  wanted to make sure little Maureen got a prominent part in the play.

The night of the play came, and every seat in the auditorium was filled. Sister Connor was standing by a wall near the front with her usual scowl. Then the lights went down, a hush fell over the crowd and the play started.

For an elementary school play it went along fairly smoothly. The kids did not stumble over their lines too badly and most of the children stood in the correct locations.

Then came the part Peggy was most worried about. Mary and Joseph went to the First Inn (made of cardboard) and were turned away. Then they went to the Second Inn and were turned away.  The Third Inn was the one where the Innkeeper was little Maureen.

Maureen came to the Inn door with tears in her eyes and said clearly, “There is no Room at the inn.” Peggy gave a sigh of relief. Then little Maureen added in a very loud voice, “But won’t you come in and have some cocktails?”

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The kids and the parents froze. Then the silence was broken by sudden laughter from the front of the auditorium. Peggy looked up and saw that Sister Conner was smiling and laughing hysterically. Soon she was joined by the entire audience.

When the laughter died down, the two children playing Mary and Joseph were smart enough not to go into the Inn for cocktails, but proceeded to the Manger, to complete the rest of the play.  Little Maureen waved goodbye to them and went back thorough the cardboard door and off stage.

On Monday morning, Peggy was called into Sister Connor’s office.

“That was quite and interesting twist to the Christmas Story Miss Cantello,” said Sister Connor, with an actual smile.

“I can explain sister.”

“No need. The parents loved it. Especially Chief O’Toole. He complemented you on bringing little Maureen ‘out of her shell’. By the way Miss Cantello. This was such a fund raising success that we have decided to do an Easter play as well. Naturally, you will be the director. ”

Peggy Cantello was at Saint John’s school for another 3 years and then went to teach in public school. The whole time she was at Saint John’s she directed two fund raising plays per year, but none was an memorable as the first. “Little Maureen” is now grown up and in high school. She is looking forward to college and is considering majoring in Drama.

Killing Ivan Boesky – A story of John Mulheren

I knew  Wall Street trader John Mulheren,  in 1988, when Mulheren was being prosecuted for allegedly trying to kill Ivan Boesky .In the wild financial days of the 1980’s there were a lot of flamboyant characters on Wall Street. However, none was more interesting or more fun than John Mulheren. He was brilliant, athletic and personable, and made as much as $25 million in 1986.

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He also thought Wall Street should be fun. He like to say that trading stocks was so simple that even a chimpanzee could do it. He proved his point one day by taking a chimpanzee dressed in a suit and tie and letting it run loose on the Floor on the New York Stock exchange. (There was a slight nod to this in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street where at one point Leonardo DiCaprio is briefly shown carrying a chimp in a suit.)

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Then in 1988 it all came crashing down. Ivan Boesky who had been a friend and mentor of John’s was arrested for insider trading. In return for a lighter sentence, Boesky cooperated with the the government  and named people who were also involved in insider trading. John felt sorry for Ivan, until one day John was at home listening to the news and heard the newscaster say that “John Mulheren” was one of the people Boesky named.

John went berserk. He rummaged through the house looking for his gun. His wife asked him what he was doing and he he told her he was going to go kill Ivan Boesky. She knew from the tone in his voice that he was not kidding.  She ran to the phone and called the police.

John suffered from bi-polar disorder. His wife knew that when John was up he was really up but when he was down there could be real problems.  Killing Boesky was not just an idle boast. He could really do it.

John found his gun and was in his car pulling out of his driveway when the police arrived. But the police could not arrest him. They had made the mistake of driving  onto his property.  Mulheren pointed out that it was perfectly legal for a man to have a registered firearm on his own property.

The police left and John went back into the house. But he left the gun in his car. One hour later he got back in his car the  and drove out to kill Boesky.  He was only about a mile from his house when the police arrested him. They had waited down the road just in case he came out again.

John ended up spending 1 month in Rikers Island jail. The charges were eventually dropped. His lawyers were able to convince the court that the whole incident was the result of John’s failure to take the Lithium he needed to manage his bi-polar condition.

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Still, one month on Rikers is a long time. It turns out that John’s time on Rikers Island was made somewhat easier by another celebrity inmate. Anthony Salerno also happened to be on Rikers Island at that time. He was better known as “Fat Tony”, and was the Street Boss of the Genovese crime family.

John Mulheren was petrified being on Rikers Island. He was scared being locked in a cell and even more scared when the cell door opened. John did not realize that for a few hours each day the cells were open and the prisoners could wander around and visit each other. John decided that the best thing he could do was to just sit on his bunk and never leave his cell except to eat. He just wanted to stay out of trouble until his lawyer could get him out of jail.

The cells were all open and John was sitting on his bunk when Fat Tony and two very large muscular prisoners walked into the cell. John started sweating profusely, but Fat Tony gave a friendly smile and said, “Hi. I’m Tony Salerno and I run this place.”

Fat Tony was thrilled to have a multi-millionaire in “his” jail.  He sat down on the bunk next to John and explained how things worked. Once a week someone would show up at John Mulherne’s house and John’s wife was to give that person an envelope full of cash.  In return, John’s life at Rikers was going to be very easy. No one was going to bother John in any way.  He would be as safe as if he was still in his Wall Street office.

For a little extra cash Tony could arrange special items. There was no point eating the terrible jail food when Tony could bring in any kind of gourmet items requested.  A nice beer, or a vintage bottle of wine would also make the time in jail pass faster.  Tony could even arrange for a certain type of woman to visit John in his cell, if that was desired.

John, of course, was no fool and he quickly signed up to be one of Fat Tony’s best “customers”.  He bought the protection, the special food, and even the vintage wine. In fact, he got everything on Tony’s menu except the prostitute.

John Mulherne was out of jail but not yet out of legal trouble when I met him. I was with a group of people who visited his house in Rumson New Jersey. We were trying to get him to invest $1 million to help buy a company in Canada.

With all he had been through and with all the problems still hanging over him, it would have been understandable if he were depressed or even morose. Instead, he was friendly, funny and a charming host.

At one point, someone asked a very insensitive question. The head our our group actually said, “With everything that has been going on, do you actually have a million dollars to invest right now?”

Instead of being insulted John gave a hearty laugh and said, “Are you kidding? I spent more than a million dollars last month on legal fees.”

John Mulheren was found guilty of securities fraud in 1990, but in 1991 his conviction was overturned on appeal.  He eventually returned to the business and with the money he earned  became a well known philanthropist.

The prosecution and the jail stay along side some very dangerous criminals would have made most people bitter. But John had always been different than most people. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, John gave so generously to charity that Mayor Rudolf Giuliani named him an “honorary police commissioner.”  What is incredible about this is that before being mayor, Giuliani was the U.S. attorney who had prosecuted John Mulheren.

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In case you are wondering, John never did invest the $1 million into the Canadian venture we were pitching to him. It turned out that he was right too. It ended up being a terrible investment.

John Mulheren died in 2003 at the age of 54. Today’s Wall Street has a lot more computer trading, and a lot fewer characters.  It is more regulated and supposedly safer for the average investor. But some of the magic of it is gone too. There is probably not a single person trading stocks today whoever brought a chimpanzee in a suit to work.