Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Gentle Woman Will visit Bun-nanza on October 5!

If you love bunnies as much as the Gentle Woman, be sure to come to Bun-nanza. The address is:

  • Martinsville Community Center
  • 1961 Washington Valley Road
  • Martinsville, NJ 08836
  • 11am -4pm

There will be seminars about the care of rabbits, gift items and of course Bunnies!

For more information click on the link to Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue.

The East Coast Stories Photographer will be there too. There will be a story and pictures on the East Coast Stories website that night right after the event. Come to Bun-nanza, and you might even see you picture on this website that night!

 

Sunshine 003

See you there!

The First Person He Killed

The first time Bob killed someone it was an accident. At least it started out that way. Bob had always been the type of person who tried to never get into a confrontation with anyone. He was a  withdrawn thirty year old  man with a very meek personality and a physical appearance to match. Bob was tall and skinny with thick glasses and thinning light hair that looked like straw .

Bob’s wife Penelope (Penny) had left him exactly one week before he made his first kill. They had only been married for a year and a half. Penny had screamed and called him a wimp. She said that he could move up at work if he was just more aggressive. She had been furious that he had once again been passed over for a management position

“Even you car is wimpy!” she had screamed. “It looks like a dented cracker box and it has no power. Old ladies on electric scooters can pass your car.  It’s embarrassing to ride in it with you!”

The week after Penny stormed out Bob went to a used car lot to trade in his “cracker box” and get the most powerful car he could afford. A very attractive saleswoman in a short skirt and a tube top took one look at Bob and zeroed in on him. She knew this would be an easy sale, especially when he said what he wanted was “maximum power”.

She got him to buy a used jet black Dodge Charger. Bob didn’t think he could afford it, but the saleswomen set him up with extended financing.

Dodge Charger

There was just one problem. The only one the lot had was a stick shift and Bob had never driven anything other than an automatic.But the saleswoman (“call me Amber”) convinced him that it would be easy to learn. She told him a stick shift actually made the car much more powerful than an automatic.  Bob and Amber took the car out on the road for almost an hour . Bob drove while Amber taught him how to use the shift. There was no way Amber was going to lose this sale after having filled out all the financing paperwork.

By the end of the drive, Bob felt he had gotten the hang of it. He and Amber went back to the car lot, and  Bob signed the final paperwork for the sale. As he drove off in the Charger, Bob smiled as he felt the car accelerate with incredible force.  Somehow the strength of the car made him feel strong.

Between the financing paperwork and the driving lesson it had taken Bob all day to buy the car. It was quite dark on the way home and Bob turned on the lights. He was concentrating so hard on using the stick shift properly that he did not notice the lights were on high-beam.

Bob was about five miles from home  on a stretch of road than went though a wooded area. He was behind an old pick up truck which  suddenly stopped and a man got out.  Bob thought the pick up truck must have broken down. Bob stopped his own car and rolled down the window to see if the man needed any help.  That’s when the man ran back to Bob’s car and punched Bob right in the face.

“Fucking Asshole!”, yelled the man. “Following me for five miles with your God Damn bight lights on!” The man then  started to walk back to the pickup truck. Bob was shocked and scared. He looked  in the rear view mirror and saw that his nose was bleeding profusely.

A different type of man might have tried to fight back, but Bob just wanted to get away and get home. He  jammed the stick shift into reverse and floored the accelerator. That’s when the car shot forward and plowed right into the man walking back to the truck. Between the shock of the punch and Bob’s not really knowing how to drive a stick shift, he had put the Charger into First Gear instead of Reverse.

Bob turned off the Charger and jumped out to help the man. The man from the truck was lying on the ground and screaming profanities.

“You son of a bitch! You broke my legs! You are going to jail! I am going to sue you for every penny you have! Your life is ruined you son of a bitch!”

Bob was about to  phone for an ambulance. Then he realized that the screaming man was right. As soon as the police showed up Bob’s life was ruined. No one was going to believe that he had run over the man by accident. Bob would go to jail. He would lose all his money. He would lose his job and his new car. He would never get Penny back.

Bob needed to think. He just needed to think, but the man would not stop screaming. It would not be long before another car came by or someone heard the screaming and came to investigate. In a few minutes Bob’s life would be ruined. If the man would just stop screaming. If he would just stop.

That’s when Bob saw the tire iron, jack and flat tire  in the bed  of the pick up truck. The owner of the truck had obviously recently changed a flat tire .  With a sudden Epiphany Bob knew exactly what to do.

Bob reached into the bed of the pickup truck and grabbed the tire iron.  He swung it with two hands and hit the screaming man full force on the head. Then there was silence.

The silence was complete. There  were crickets chirping and the sound of the highway in the distance, but no sirens  and no other cars. Bob new he had to act fast. He took the jack out of the bed of the pickup truck and jacked up the front of the truck. Then he took the tire iron and  removed the left front tire of the truck and placed it next to the truck.

Bob took the man’s body and positioned it directly under the front of the truck. . He was going to make it look like an accident. It would look like the man had been changing a flat tire and had not placed the jack properly. The police would think the truck had slipped off the jack and had crushed the man. It had happened before.

With the body in just the right spot, Bob put his hands on the side of the truck and used his full force to rock the truck back and forth.  He rocked it faster and faster until suddenly the front of the truck fell off the jack. It landed on the man’s body with a horrible squishing  sound, like a large pumpkin being dropped on a cement floor.

tire iron

Bob got back into his Charger, very carefully put it into the proper gear and drove off.  When he got home he carefully examined the front of the Charger for damage but could see nothing but a small dent. He did not see any blood or other tell-tale sign. He was amazed at how fragile a human body is compared to a car. Then Bob went into the house.

He cleaned up his bloody nose, put all his cloths in the washing machine and took a long hot  shower.   They he got completely dressed in good cloths and waited for the police. He did not want to get dragged off to jail in his pajamas.  On the drive home Bob prepared himself for the inevitable. He knew there was no way he could get away with murder.

But he did.

Bob stayed up all night waiting for the police but they never showed up. He turned on his porch light so they would know he was home.  He unlocked the front door so they would not smash it down. But they never came. All night Bob flipped through the news channels for a story on the murder. He scanned the internet continually and even tried the radio news stations.

As  Saturday night turned into Sunday morning,  Bob was finding it hard to stay awake. Then on the early morning local T.V.  news the story came on.  A very young reporter was taking while in the background could be seen an ambulance, police car and tow truck all parked near the pickup truck. The reporter told the tale of the “tragic accident,” where a local man died while changing a flat tire.

Then the news switched back to the studio where they interviewed an automotive expert about the proper and safe way to change a flat tire. The expert repeatedly stressed that changing a flat was much more dangerous than most people realized. He ended by advising that the most sensible course of action is to call a tow truck and not try to change a tire yourself.

Bob realized that he should feel guilty and ashamed. But he did not. It was as if a great weight had been lifted from him. With the television still on, Bob fell into a deep and peaceful  sleep in his easy chair.

Over the next few months Bob fell back into his regular routine. The only real change was that everyone at work loved his new Charger. People who had never paid much attention to him before asked him how it handled, how much he had paid and how fast it would go.  He loved that car. He took it to a car wash every week and got the full detailing  and wax. He never again drove on the road where the man with the pickup truck had been.

The next time Bob killed someone it was not quite an accident. Bob had to take a train into New York for a meeting. He could have driven in but there was no way he was going to take his beloved Charger into the city and risk anything happening to it.

Bob hated going into New York. Everything was so fast and loud and the people were so aggressive.  Just walking down the sidewalks was a challenge. He was sure that some people bumped into your real hard on purpose just to prove they were stronger than you.

The meeting went on longer than expected and it was very late at night by the time it was over. Bob was waiting on the subway platform when the bum approached him.  Bob looked around and noticed that he and the bum were the only people in the station. Bob was annoyed at himself for not noticing that earlier. He realized he should have taken a cab instead of going into an empty subway station.

The bum approached and started into a speech about being a wounded homeless  Vietnam Vet who needed money.  Bob hated when they lied about being veterans. It was such an obvious lie too. This guy was about thirty years too young to have been in Vietnam.

Bob tried to ignore the man, but the bum just kept getting closer and more aggressive.  Bob was about to give the man some money but then the threats started.

“You think you’re better than me?” said the bum. “You’re nothing but a four-eyed wimp. Maybe I’ll just take what I need from you without asking.”

The bum approached Bob and Bob decided that this time he was not going to run. He was not going to let someone call him a wimp and he was not going to let someone hit him in the nose.

Bob was holding a heavy computer case with a laptop in it, He swung it and hit the bum in the chest, knocking the bum  balance and onto the tracks. As the bum fell he automatically put his arms up. When the landed on the tracks one of his hands touched the third rail and he was electrocuted instantly with a sicking burning smell.

Bob immediately left the station, went up to street level and hailed a cab.

When Bob got home late that night he did not watch the news of wait for the police. He went to bed and fell into a worry -free sleep. Just before he fell asleep he realized how much easier the kill had been this time.

After that second kill Bob decided he wanted to stop being a target. He wanted to make his body as powerful as his car. He joined a gym and went every day after work.  He was still scrawnier than most people, but every day he was  getting stronger

One the weekends he started chopping wood in the back yard to build up his upper body strength and get a little Sun to make him less pale and wimpy looking. He noticed that women at work started looking at him differently.

One Sunday afternoon Bob was chopping wood in his secluded back yard when  Penny showed up. He looked up from the pile of wood and there she was stating at him.

“You look different.” said Penny. ” I like the new car in the driveway. I guess you finally got rid of the cracker box,” she said with a sarcastic tone.

Penny looked great. Bob  was about to smile at her and tell her how much he missed her and  wanted her back, but then she ruined it by saying.

With an incredibly nasty tone Penny said, “Too bad you were such a wimp when we were together. Look; I just came buy to tell you that I am filing for  divorce and that I am going to ask for a lot. Don’t be stupid enough to fight me on this. Just give me whatever I ask for. That includes that Charger in driveway. Don’t go against me on this.   I have a great lawyer and we both know you don’t have the balls for a fight.” Then she turned around and started to walk away.

Axe

Bob felt the weight of the ax in his hands and the strength in this arms.   Then he raised the ax and came up behind Penny. No one was ever going to take the Charger from him. Number three was going to be very easy.

Homeless Hibernation

“Homeless” may be the wrong word to use to describe the street people of New York. They do in fact have homes. They  carry their homes with them wherever they go.  As they wander around the streets or sleep by the side of buildings they take with them every possession they own. Many of use shopping carts. Others have taken to piling everything into and onto rolling suitcases

HOMELESS MAN 001

Now that winter is just around the corner,  and the nights are getting colder, the street people are starting to move underground along with all their possessions. This is a picture of one such man who has staked out his spot in the subway station which is below the very wealthy Tribeca section.

HOMELESS MAN 002

 

 

 

 

A Walk Among The Tombstones – movie review

A Walk Among the Tombstones is an action thriller staring Liam Neeson.  He plays an ex-New York City cop who now works as a private detective. He is the kind of man you hire when you just can’t go to the police.

neeson 1

Someone is kidnapping  the wives of wealthy drug dealers. The kidnappers know that these dealers have lots of cash to pay ransom, and will not go to the police. But the kidnappers are not just after money. They are sadists who also want to torture the women, even if the ransom is paid.  Neeson is hired by one of the drug dealers to find the kidnappers and bring them to “justice”. Of course, not the type of justice the courts would deliver.

This movie is very well done, but is also dark, depressing and extremely violent  Ever since Liam Neeson’s beloved wife Natasha Richardson died tragically  in 2009, Neeson has been in a lot of roles where his character is fighting inner demons.

In this movie he is a recovering alcoholic who still cannot get over  a a shooting he was involved in while still a police officer.  The police force gave him a commendation for killing a group of armed robbers, but he focuses on the fact that an innocent bystander was also killed.

richardson

He is excellent at playing the tormented  soul. One has to come to the conclusion that as an actor he is using the sadness and depression he felt from his own loss and channeling that into the characters he plays.

Be warned that this movie contains detailed and disturbing  scenes  of violence against women. It is NOT a movie to bring children to. We emphasize that because in the showing we saw the family in front of us had brought their two daughters who were about 10 and 11 years old. What is wrong with some people?

However, if you are prepared for that type of violence, it is an exciting and riveting movie to watch.

*** We give this movie 3 stars. We would have given it more, but we felt that the movie could have been just as good ann exciting without having to so graphically show the gore.

 

The Nasty Woman’s Retirement Card

O.K. I’m not proud of this but since this blog always tells the truth in its stories, here is what happened.

Every office has someone who is just plain nasty for no reason. In our office it was Nancy. She was an older woman who for some reason the boss put up with. In addition, it was as if her job functions had been specifically designed so that she could cause the maximum number of problems for everyone else.She was the Office Manager so you just could not avoid her.

For example, one of her responsibilities was to backup the data on the  computer system . Now there are a lot of ways and a lot of times you can do that without interfering with other people’s work. But Nancy really didn’t care about the other people. When she thought it was a convenient time for her to back up the system she would simply shut it down without warning and do the backup.  If you happened to be half way through a project at that exact moment, you got kicked out of the system and your data was lost.  It was always easy to tell when Nancy had decided to do the backup.  If you suddenly heard one or more people in the office start  swearing about having lost everything they just worked on for the last hour you knew Nancy had struck again.

The boss was very big on having a little get together whenever anyone left or retired. He thought of us as one big happy family. We thought of ourselves as one big dysfunctional family.  Nancy was in charge of getting a special gift for whoever was leaving. She always chose the most inappropriate item possible. It was obvious to everyone but  the boss she was doing it on purpose.  For Sally the diabetic, Nancy got a huge box of chocolates. John the recovering alcoholic got a bottle of scotch.

Yes,  Nancy put real effort into her meanness, but for some reason the boss kept her. We were all convinced that she had something on him. Either she had proof he was embezzling, or maybe she had an affair with him many years ago. Considering the fact that the boss and Nancy were both ancient and extremely unattractive, none of us wanted to picture the affair.

Then the happy day came. It was time for Nancy to retire. Of course, the boss planned a little celebration at lunch time in the office. He did not know what kind of gift to get, so he got a card with a big envelope. He told us to pass it around in the office. We were all to sign the card and put cash in the envelope for Nancy.  He started off the cash donation by putting  $50 in small bills of his own money into the envelope.

When the card and envelope came to me, the first thing I did was to take it back to my cubicle and make sure no one was looking. Then I signed the card and took $5K out of the envelope. Then I brought the card to the next person.

At lunchtime we all gathered in the cafeteria.  On the table was a cake, the card and the envelope. When Nancy opened the envelope and pulled out the money, I was close enough to see there was about $12 in total.  Apparently I was not the only one in the office going home with a little extra cash that day.

The cake looked very odd. Nancy had one of those rare allergies to blueberries and somehow whoever had ordered the cake had managed to get a bakery to make a blueberry cake. The writing on the cake said, “It won’t be the same without you”.

The ironic part is that Nancy actually gave a weird sort of crooked smile when she saw the blueberry cake and the message on it. As a professional nasty person herself, perhaps she appreciated that we had all gone the extra mile for her.

 

 

 

 

The Gentle Woman Presents “All My Bunnies”

This title,  of course,  is a spoof of the famous soap opera All My Children. In a way, rabbit owners do think of these lovely creatures as children. They are totally innocent and completely dependent on their owners for everything they need to stay alive.  Like children; by complete chance they can be brought into a good  loving home or a terrible environment.

The Gentle Woman has been caring for rabbits since she was a little girl. When she was just 8 yeas old her parents got her a New Zealand Albino, which she named “Alvin” after the popular cartoon chipmunk.

Children 1

She was so excited about Alvin that she put him in a little green wheelbarrow and she and her brother took him around the neighborhood to meet everyone. They spent a summer afternoon pushing the wheelbarrow from house to house. Looking back on it she realizes that Alvin must have been a very patient fellow not to jump out along the way.

Years later when she was in Junior High she performed her first bunny rescue.  Her friend Stanley was moving to Texas and his parents would not allow him to bring his rabbit, which was a lovely Blue Dutch

children 2

She named him Illya. This was after the Russian spy  Illya Kuryakin from The Man From Uncle T.V. show.

illya

Why the name of a T.V. spy was a good fit for a rabbit is not really clear, but the junior high girl had a real crush on David McCallum, so she was eager to name anything after him.

When the Gentle Woman entered high school she rescued another bunny from a local shelter. Her father made a two dollar donation to the shelter and took home a brown domestic mix.

children 3

This was a female bunny and got the name “Jackie” after Jackie Kennedy. Jackie was a lot more adventurous than Illya or Alvin had been and used to run around the house. One afternoon it seemed that Jackie had run away for good. It turned out she was just relaxing quietly under the bed.

Years went by and with the rush of college and then marriage  and careen there were no bunnies in the Gentle Woman’s life for a long time.

Then came Summer.  When he came into her life she suddenly remembered what she had been missing.

GREG PICTURES 007

Summer was a New Zealand Albino Dwarf and had not had a happy life until that point. This was the first time The Gentle Woman had owned a bunny as an adult. Summer was not well and was much more work than any rabbit she had owned before, but he touched her life like no other. She cared for him when he was sick and he loved her for it.

When Summer died she never wanted  to get another rabbit. But every time she went on the internet she could not help looking at pictures of rabbits. Then she came on a link for Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue.

 

Bunny and Cat 004

She ended up adopting “Thomas” who she renamed Sunshine. She named him that in memory of that warm day from long ago when she took her first rabbit from house to house to meet the neighbors. Sunshine is a domestic mix and was hard to place since most people considered him too lively.

Sunshine is now a pert of the Gentle Woman’s home and she knows that whatever she does in the future and wherever she lives, there will always be a rabbit with her.

 

Midnight in Europe – book review

Midnight in Europe is the latest in a series of Novels by Alan Furst that take place in  Europe just before or during World War II.

Midnight

Midnight in Europe  is set in Paris during the time of the Spanish Civil war. This is one of those wars that Americans don’t know much about and don’t really care much about. Unfortunately that was also the attitude of America and many other Western powers during the time of the war itself. This attitude left the legally elected government of Spain in a desperate fight against the Fascists and Nazi forces with almost no help from the outside.

The hero of the book it Cristian Ferrar, a successful Spanish lawyer who is a full partner in a major Paris law firm.  He has a very comfortable  life and is romantically involved with women in both Paris and New York.  This all changes when he is approached by a representative of the Spanish Republic. Ferrar is asked to help the Republic help buy weapons to fight against Franco’s Fascists.

Franco

Ferrar agrees to help, and this brings him  into a world he previously had never had direct contact with. Since it is illegal to send weapons to Spain, Ferrar must deal with gangsters, private arms brokers and many other  unsavory characters. Being a lawyer, these were precisely the type of people he had previously taken great care to avoid.

This is an exciting and well written book. Cristian  Ferrar is a very civilized man who as the book progresses begins to realize just how important it is to work against  the truly evil Fascist and Nazi’s forces which seem unstoppable. It also becomes clear that if these forces win in Spain that their next stop could very well be Paris itself.

This book is made more effective  by the fact that as readers  we all know that the evil forces did win in Spain and that the Spanish Civil War was just a small rehearsal for World War II itself.  You can’t help but wonder what might have happened if the world had paid a little more attention to what was going on in Spain, and if there had been a lot more Cristian Ferrar’s helping the fight against evil when it first started.

 

The Drop – movie review

The Drop,  playing in theaters now,  was James Gandolfini’s  last movie, and it is a great one. The action takes place in a neighborhood Brooklyn bar which is sometimes used as a place for the local mob to temporarily place (“drop”) money it wants to hide from the police.

Drop 2

Gandolfini plays “Cousin Marv” a down on his luck bartender who used to own the bar and was once considered a tough guy in the neighborhood. That was before the real tough guys from Chechnya moved in and Marve decided it was better to be an alive bartender than a dead tough guy.

Marv tends the bar with his younger cousin Bob who is a nice but  not too bright guy that doesn’t want to bother anyone. Bob’s lonely existence changes by chance when he finds an abandoned and abused Pit Bull puppy.  At the same time, he meets a young and mysterious woman (Nadia) who seems to be somewhat abused herself.

Drop 1

All Bob wants out of life is to take care of his new puppy and get to know Nadia better, but circumstances will just not let him be. He is a gentle soul in a violent neighborhood where everyone else is formulating dangerous plans.   Some crazy thieves want to rob the bar even though it is well knows it is a drop for the Chechen mob. Marv wants to regain his glory days and prove he is still a tough guy. Nadia’s ex-boyfriend  does not like the idea of Bob hanging around her. And behind it all the Chechens make it clear what happens to anyone who crosses them.

This is an excellent movie with an excellent cast. Tom Hardy is wonderful as Bob and Noomi Rapace is excellent as Nadia. Ms. Rapace does a perfect Brooklyn accent, despite the fact that she is actually Swedish and is best known as being the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in the original Swedish movie version.

The Drop is based on a short story and keeps the fast pace of a short story while still fully developing all the characters. We will not say too much about the plot other than to say it takes twists and directions that are totally unexpected.

We give this movie ***** Five Stars, our highest rating.

The Girl Who Won’t Eat Fish

This is a true story given  told by “Maria” (not her real name) to the Editor of East Coast Stories.. Maria was a little girl in Colombia when the drug lord Pablo Escobar was at the height of his power. The name Escobar still commands such fear that she does not want to use her real name.

Maria works in customer service at a major New York area airport. She is perfect for the job. Maria is fluent in Spanish and English and is what some would call a “classic Colombian beauty.” She has long flowing jet black hair and a warm inviting smile. She has a charming way of dealing with people that immediately calms down even the most troublesome customer. You may think that nothing bad had ever happened in her life. You would be wrong.

She grew up in a  rural town in Colombia. Her family was very poor but Maria did not realize it. Unlike a lot of poor people in Columbia her family always had enough to eat.  The little town was located near a wide and slow moving river with plenty of fish. Beans, rice and fish were the main sources or nutrition, along with whatever vegetables they could get.

Even as a little girl Maria knew something big was going on in the country. The adults were often gathered in groups having animated discussions, but would stop speaking when a child came near.  Wherever she went Maria heard the name “Pablo” repeated,  as if speaking the name of a saint.

These were the days of Pablo Escobar, the most powerful drug lord the world has ever seen.

 

Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar ruled the Medellin Drug Cartel and the poor people loved him. They thought of him as a sort of Robin Hood. He sold illegal drugs to wealthy Americans and distributed the profits to the poor of Colombia that the rich Colombian politicians had forgotten. If a poor family’s house burned  down one of Pablo’s men would show up with cash and pay to have it rebuilt.  If a constriction laborer died in an accident, Pablo would send cash to the widow and children.  The people loved Pablo.

But then Pablo stopped loving them. Pablo was not afraid of the Colombian justice system. He had been to jail many times and he was not afraid of it. He could walk out of a Colombian prison whenever he wanted. He had an arrangement with judges and police in Colombia.  He called it “plata o plomo”. In English this is “silver or lead”.  If you went along with the cartel you were rewarded with a generous bribe (silver). If not, you died in a spray of bullets (lead). The system work well, until the Colombian authorities agreed  to extradite  Pablo to the United States the next time he was captured.

Escobar felt betrayed. He knew that if he ever landed in a U.S. prison he would be there for life.  So Escobar and his cartel started their campaign of violence within Colombia. Murders and bombings were every day occurrences.  There had always been murders of rival gang members or uncooperative policemen, but this was different. Pablo was punishing the authorities by random mass killings of ordinary citizens.  Bombings in marketplaces and random shootings became common. Escobar swore they would continue until Colombia passed a law stating there would be no extradition to the U.S.

As a little girl Maria was only vaguely aware of these things. They all seemed like events in the far off city that did not impact her. Then one late afternoon she walked down to the river to see what the fishermen were bringing in for the day’s catch.  When she got to the river, she saw that most of the town was gathered at the banks of the river. A body had washed up. It was riddled with bullets.

This would have been traumatic to see just once, but that was not the end of it. Every day more bodies would wash up. Maria’s town was at a bend in the river, and all the murders that were happening upstream ended up on the shore of Maria’s town. Day after day bodies came down. It became a daily ritual as people rushed down to the river to see the bodies from Pablo’s revenge.

As a child, Maia began to have nightmares. She was afraid to go down to the river she used to love. She stopped eating fish since she associated them with the river and the dead bodies. She just wanted it all to end and to get out.

Her parents somehow got the family out of Colombia. They were smart enough not to speak out against Escobar or say that was why they were leaving.  Maria does not know what her parents did or paid to get them out. Her parents won’t talk about it.

Pablo Escobar died  in a shootout with the Colombian police on December 2, 1993.  The drug trade continues stronger than ever.

Every few years Maria’s mother forces the whole family to go back to Colombia and visit relatives. Maria doesn’t like to go but makes the trip to keep peace in her family.  She is always amazed at how hot and humid it is and how small her old town looks. She won’t go near the river. She is always glad to get back to the U.S.

You may have seen Maria at the airport without even realizing it.  She is the beautiful woman with the jet black hair.  She is behind the counter smiling at the passengers. Perhaps the smile is because she knows that the problems of a delayed flight or a missing bag are nothing compared to what she faced as a child.

 

 

 

 

 

It Wasn’t Worth The Money

Carmine Marasco used to tell a story about a rather nasty trick an old judge played on him while Carmine was just a struggling young lawyer. It was one of his favorite stories. Not only is it true; it even has a lesson to learned.

CARMINE 004

When Carmine was first starting out in the legal profession he had a case where his client had a claim against  an insurance company. It was a very small claim and the insurance company decided to settle out of court. The only formality left was for the judge to approve the settlement and the legal fee to be paid to Carmine by the insurance company. That would take place in open court on Wednesday as part of the many “housekeeping” functions of the court. So Carmine was surprised when he was called into a meeting in the old judge’s chambers on Tuesday afternoon.

He was even more surprised that the insurance company’s lawyer (we will call him “Mr. Smith”) was there. The old judge got right to the point.

“Mr. Smith tells me you two have reached a settlement, ” said the judge.

“Yes we have your honor,” replied Carmine.

“How much were you going to submit for your fee?” asked the judge.

“Well your honor, it was not a very complicated case so I am going to charge $250.”

The old judge leaned forward and in a serious  voice explained the situation to Carmine. “That’s too little young man.  This is what will happen tomorrow. I will ask you how much of a fee you are submitting and you will ask for  $1,000. Mr. Smith here will object and I will cut the fee back to $500. Everybody comes out ahead. Mr. Smith looks like he has saved his company money, I look like I am keeping legal fees down and you get twice as much money as you thought you were going to get.”

Carmine knew it sounded wrong. Hell, he knew it was wrong, but he went along with it. Not for the extra $250, but because it seemed impossible for a new young lawyer to go against an old respected judge and an experienced corporate attorney. So the plan was set for the next day.

On Wednesday the courtroom was packed. There were a lot of cases and motions to get through that day and the minor insurance settlement was just the first of many items on the docket that day. Every seat was filled with lawyers and their clients waiting their turns. None of them was paying any attention to Carmine. At least not at first.

Carmine and Mr. Smith presented the settlement to the judge who approved it without comment. Then Carmine presented his request for his $1,000 fee and Mr. Smith objected. Carmine knew that the next step was that the judge would agree with Mr. Smith’s objection. What Carmine did not expect was that the judge would start screaming at him at the top of his lungs.

“This is outrageous!” screamed the judge. “You should be ashamed to  even try to submit a fee that high. Well young man I am going to teach you a lesson! I am going to cut your fee in half! You are only going to get Five Hundred!”

Every eye on the courtroom was now giving Carmine a hostile stare. They all thought of him as some sort of money gouger. The type of sleazy lawyer that made them all look bad. On top of that the other lawyers in the courtroom were all now mad at Carmine for having gotten the judge in a bad mood before their cases came up.

Carine left the courtroom with his head down trying not to meet anyone in the eye. He realized that financially it had all worked out exactly the way the judge had told him it would. He had not realized, however, that the  way the old judge would make sure everyone knew he was keeping legal fees low would be  to shout it to the world, and shame Carmine in the process.

There was nothing technically illegal about  what Carmine, the judge and the insurance company lawyer had done. But Carmine knew it was unethical. It bothered him so much that it was the first and last time he ever crossed that line.

Carmine Marasco went on to have a distinguished legal career and eventually even became a judge himself.  He always kept in the back of his mind the old judge from the insurance case. He was Carmine’s perfect example of what type of judge not to be.  After all, giving up your integrity isn’t worth the money.

 

 

 

 

Draft Day – movie review

Now that the football season has started again there is an interesting movie from last year which  you might want to see on DVD. We were not really expecting much from the movie Draft Day. 

Draft Day 1

However, this turns out to be an excellent film even if you are not a football fan. The movie stars Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver the General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks.  Sonny is under tremendous pressure since the Seahawks have not been doing well. He is told in no uncertain terms by the team owner (excellently played by Frank Langella) that draft day is Sonny’s last chance to turn the team around. If the owner is not satisfied with Sonny’s selections then Sonny will be fired.

We know it sounds like this could not make a whole movie. But the NFL draft turns out to be a lot more complicated than we thought. The movie shows how the draft picks impact not only those players drafted but also the current players on the team.  The team owner and the media want the Seahawks to draft the star college quarterback Bo Callahan. But the team coach (Denis Leary) makes the argument to keep the current quarterback. The old quarterback was great until an injury from which he may or may not have recovered fully from in the off season. With the future of the team on the line Sonny must decide whether or not to defy the team owner’s orders or to go against the advice of his own head coach. No matter what he decides he will make a lot of people hate him.

What makes this movie really good, however, is that all the characters are interesting, not just the lead roles.  None of them just seem like “supporting cast”.  There are numerous sub-plots that remind us that in real life there is never just one thing going on at a time.  For example, there is an office  intern played by Griffin Newman.  His character shows that you don’t have to be the head guy to be felling under stress and pressure.

Draft Day 2

Jennifer Garner is the team lawyer and also Sonny’s girlfriend. She has chosen the morning of draft day to tell Sonny that she is pregnant. Sean (Puff Daddy) Combs plays a smooth as silk sports agent, who remains cool as ice as things starts to go very wrong for the player he is representing.

Draft Day 3

The movie has  a great unexpected ending, which we will  not give away in this review. If you are a football fan or just a fan of human nature, you will enjoy  this movie

                   ****  We give this movie Four Stars.

 

 

The Girl In The Terrycloth Shorts

The August day was ridiculously hot and the apartment was not air-conditioned. Greg decided to get out and go for a walk to the park where he hoped it would be a little cooler. Besides, someone was moving into the apartment across the hall and the noise of the moving furniture and the swearing of the moving men was getting annoying.

He hoped whoever was moving into the apartment was better than the last people. They were an attractive young couple who when they first came to the building seemed very nice and totally in love. But shortly after they moved in the screaming began. They yelled at each other at all hours of the day and night. One night the woman had actually locked the man out of the apartment while he was completely naked and would not let him back in. Exactly how she had done that  was a mystery.

He pounded on the door and screamed but the woman would not let him back in. He finally had to go naked to the basement and ask old Mrs. Stanton the Superintendent to let him back in. After that a petition was circulated in the building to get the young couple out. It was a large building but 100% of the tenants signed the petition. The building was owned by a corporation  in New York somewhere, but the petition got the corporation’s attention.

A week later the young couple was on their way out. As they were moving out they made a ridiculous display of acting all lovey-dovey. They were kissing and calling each other pet names.  Some of the tenants who had signed the petition wanted to take bets on how many years it would be until one of the young couple killed the other.  Most assumed it would be the woman who killed the man.

So that was how the apartment across the hall from Greg’s apartment became vacant. He had no intention of meeting the new tenant, he just wanted to go for a walk and get out of the heat and the noise.

Then Greg stepped out of his apartment and there in the hallway was a beautiful young woman in a pair of light blue terrycloth shorts and a matching terrycloth top. The outfit was very small and tight and her figure was striking. She was watching the moving men lug her furniture into the apartment. She heard Greg come out of his apartment and turned and smiled at him.

Greg was by nature an extremely shy person.  He would normally never try to just walk up and  introduce himself to a beautiful girl. But she was right there and it seemed perfectly natural to introduce himself and welcome her to the building. He assumed she would give him the “how dare you speak to me” look that many beautiful woman use. Instead she was very nice and incredibly  easy to talk to.  They spoke about how difficult it was to find an apartment. Greg decided it would not be a good time to mention how the apartment had become vacant.

They finally  said goodbye and Greg went for his walk to the park. When he returned he was disappointed to see that the apartment door across from his was closed. The girl in the terrycloth shorts was all moved in. He felt like knocking on her door, but was not sure what to say and thought  it would seem too pushy. So he went back to his own apartment and watched some T.V.

It was getting late in the afternoon when there was a knock on his door. He opened it and there she was. Her phone was not working and she asked if she could use his to call her mother and tell her the move went O.K.  Greg pretended not to listen to the call, but of course hung on every word. When she told her mother that she had not yet gotten any food for her apartment, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

When she got off the phone, Greg said, “I could not help overhearing that you had no food. There is a great new Swiss restaurant near here.  I would love to take you there.” To his surprise she actually said yes and  agreed he would pick her up (by walking across the hall) in two hours.

When dinner time came he knocked on her door and when she opened it he got a surprise. She was no longer dressed in her skimpy terrycloth outfit.  She had changed to something that made her look like a schoolteacher from the 1890s.  She was wearing a plaid skirt and boots and a long sleeved white shirt that went all the way up to her neck and clasped with some sort of ivory broach. The only parts of her that were not covered were her hands and her head. She still looked great but it was a bit of a shock after the outfit from the afternoon.

At dinner he found out that she actually was a schoolteacher, and she loved it. She taught physical education to kids in the K through 6th grade. Greg was smart enough not to say she didn’t look like his idea of a “gym” teacher. He had never thought someone so feminine and charming would be in that line of work.

A good thing he had not voiced his thoughts since the phrase “gym teacher” turned out to be taboo. Apparently there was a whole new philosophy in the world of physical eduction.  In the old days a few kids who were good athletes liked gym class and everyone else hated it and never exercised again after they got out of school. But she taught “fitness for life” so that all the kids enjoyed themselves and had fun. He pictured her surrounded by a bunch of little kids all day and he liked the scene.

Greg had never met someone so easy to talk to or so nice.  The Swiss restaurant was the first of many dates. In less than a year they were married. The wedding was a huge Italian-Irish celebration, but that is another story.

A couple of secrets came out after they were married. It turns out that the terrycloth outfit had been borrowed from her sister and was way too small for her. She had not expected to meet anyone while wearing it.  She also confessed that her phone had been working perfectly and that she actually did have some food in her apartment. She had liked Greg immediately and knew he was too shy to ask her out without a little hint.

What ever happened to the Girl In the Terrycloth Shorts? She is still around and still with Greg.  Some of the readers of this blog may know her better as The Gentle Woman.

 

 

 

 

Sin City A Dame to Kill For – movie revie

The First Sin City movie made it debut in 2005 and it caused a sensation.  It took real actors and somehow made them look like characters from a video game.  It also had some new effects with color. Most of the people and scenes were in black and white, but some people had part of them in color, which was very striking to see.  You might see a beautiful actress who was in black and white except that her lips would be bright red and her eyes bright blue.

Sin City A Dame To Kill For has a lot of problems common to many sequels. For one thing it comes too long after the original movie. It has been 9 years, and the special effect that awed people on 2005 don’t seem very special any more. In addition, the sequel assumes that the audience remembers every detail of the plot from the 2005 movie. If you don’t you will not be able to follow parts of the sequel.

The sequel has kept the ridiculous level of gratuitous violence that was present in the first Sin City, but  this amount of killing  has been done to death (pardon the pun) in many other movies.

The big difference between Sin City A Dame to Kill for and the 2005 film is the amount of nudity. More specifically the amount of nudity of one character. Actress Eva Green plays Ava Lord, who is the “dame to kill for.” She is the beautiful ex-girlfriend of Dwight McCarthy (excellently played by Josh Brolin). She had dumped Dwight to become the wife of a very wealthy man. Now suddenly she is back in Dwight’s life claiming her husband abuses her and pleading for Dwight’s help.  Is she telling the truth, or is she just playing him for a fool one more time?

Eva Green is well known for being comfortable appearing naked in movies; very comfortable. She is naked in this film for about one third of the entire movie, and it is in 3-D.

At points it feels like this is actually just  a 3-D soft core porn film.

While this is going on, there are also 2 other intertwining plots  but it is difficult to get interested in those characters.  One is about a young gambler who is actual the illegitimate son of the evil Senator.  He challenges the Senator to a poker game, knowing full well that if the Senator loses he will have the kid killed, since the Senator cannot afford to ever appear weak. However the kid still wants the poker game . He thinks getting killed will be worth it to show everyone in Sin City that the Senator can be beaten. As the audience we are supposed to root for the kid. However it is hard to root for someone who is doing something so stupid and pointless.

The third plot is a continuation from the first Sin City movie. It stars Jessica Alba as the stripper Nancy Callahan, who is out for revenge on the evil Senator. Ironically, although she plays a stripper she never actually strips in the movie, unlike Eva Green who is supposed to be playing a housewife.

Jessica Alba

The problem is it is difficult to get interested in her character as well. Nancy spends most of the movie drunk or doing self destructive acts like cutting her face with glass. By the time she does take revenge she seems more like a complete lunatic then a sympathetic character you want to cheer for.

Sin City A Dame To Kill For did not do well at the box office and we can see why.  It just seems like a more naked more violent rehash of the  2005  movie.

  **              We give this movie 2 Stars.

  • See all our Movie Reviews

 

Tidal Wave of Kids

My mother was an actress, and her mother was an actress. So my mother somehow assumed that my sisters and I must have inherited  vast acting ability. She was wrong. Still, that did not stop her from trying to turn us into major television stars.

She did succeed in getting us into three local T.V. commercials at Channel Eight in New Haven Connecticut. After that success she thought we were ready to hit the big time T.V. stations in New York City.

Old TVOf course, the major T.V. networks are a lot more professional than Channel  Eight. Just to get in to talk to them you need to have a professionally done portfolio, full of action pictures, head shots, a professionally prepared resume – the works.

The problem is that type of portfolio costs a lot of money. Especially if you want it done well enough to compete with the thousands of other mothers who are all trying to turn their kinds into T.V. stars.

That’s when my mother came up with her Big Idea. She knew some people who were in the process of preparing a brochure for above-ground pools.  You know, the type of junk-mail advertisement you get in the Spring showing a lot of happy kind swimming in an above-ground plastic pool while the adults have drinks and hamburgers nearby.

My mother made a deal with the people preparing the brochure. They could set up the pools in our backyard. They could use our home’s water and electricity, and the film crew would even use the kitchen to prepare snacks.  In return, my sisters and I would be the stars featured in the brochure and the photographers would also create a complete portfolio for the three of us all free of charge. What could possibly go wrong? It tuns out a lot.

We thought the whole thing was going to take at most a couple of hours. That was a major under-estimate. On Saturday, trucks started rolling  down our driveway and unloading pools at 6 A.M. My parents had thought there would be one or two pools set up in the backyard, but the pool company had other ideas. We had a very large flat backyard and they decided to take full advantage of it and set up one of every model pool they had.

I had no idea there were so many different styles, sizes, shapes and colors of pools. Big burly men with hammers and crowbars assembled the pools as quickly and efficiently as a group of carnies setting up a Ferris wheel. As soon as they were done with one, they would put a hose in it and begin setting up the next pool while the last one filled with water. We had 3 outdoor faucets, and all three were running continually at full blast. As a kid, it never occurred to me what that must be doing to our water bill; but I bet my father thought about it. He didn’t say anything, but spent the morning nervously pacing the house and looking out at the mess in the backyard. Finally, he made up some excuse about an emergency at work and left in his car, not to be seen for a good part of the day.

By noon time the pools were set up. Evey square inch of the backyard was covered with pools all filled with water to the very top. The pools were no more than one foot apart. There was just enough room for the photographers to set up their equipment for our big modeling debut. My sisters and I were already in our bathing suits waiting to be told what pools to jump into.

That’s when the barbarian hoards descended. It turns out you can’t set up 50 pools in your backyard without attracting a lot of attention from the neighbors.Kids from miles around were streaming into our yard. The kids were of all ages shapes and heights, and every one of them was wearing a bathing suit.

The director of the photographic shoot was thrilled. This was great for his brochure. Instead of having pictures of the same 3 kids over and over, his brochure would now have lots of different kids of different ages. It would be a much more interesting brochure.

Pool Pictures

My mother was furious. This wasn’t the deal. Her kids were supposed to be the featured stars. On the other hand, she couldn’t really tell the kids to leave. They were the children of her friends and neighbors. Adults had started arriving too. Many of them were bringing plates of food and coolers of soda. It had turned into a major unexpected block party.

The Director of Photography was ecstatic. He got his wish to have lots of kids in the pictures and my mother had to compromise and make sure that my sisters and I were featured on the cover. Part of the deal was that my mother also had to change into her bathing suit and be part of the photo shoot . After all, she was a legitimate television actress so it was a big deal to get her to appear in a throw-away pool brochure.

Mom pool 001

My mother may have been upset, but I was having a great time. We may not have been T.V. stars but we were stars in the neighborhood. After all, how many other kids had 50 pools in their backyard, and a giant party? My dad pulled into the driveway, having returned from his work “emergency”. He couldn’t believe his eyes. However, after he adjusted to the idea of the unplanned party, he started having a good time joking and eating with the other fathers.

The best part of the day was the very end. When the photo shoot was over the  big men started draining the pools by opening valves at the bottom. Then they told us kids it was time for some real fun.  There was one pool which was much larger than all the others. It was blue and round and about six feet deep. It was so big that all of the kids at the party could fit in it at once, although it was a tight squeeze.

The big men told all the kids to jump into the round pool, and we were happy to comply. We thought they were going to open the valve at the bottom and we would slowly float down. But the big men had a better idea.

When all the kids were in the big pool, the two men took their tools and suddenly removed a large side panel from the pool. This caused the entire pool to collapse at once and all the water rushed out onto the lawn in a tidal wave of water and kids. The mothers and fathers watching roared with laughter.

So what ever happened? Did my sisters and I ever become major television stars? I think you already know the answer to that. We did get professional portfolios and  while my sisters got no calls, I did actually get one audition. It was for a toothpaste commercial being produced by a major New York advertising company.  I went to New York with my mother and we waited two hours to see the producer casting the commercial. I stood in his office and he asked me to say the line “Cleaner Teeth!” while smiling. I had to repeat the line 5 times and then he politely told me he would get back to us. He never did.

I don’t mind not getting the commercial. After all, a lot of children have appeared in toothpaste commercials. How many of them can say they rode a tidal  wave of kids in their own backyard?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Giver -movie review

The Giver is the movie adaptation of a wonderful book by the same name written by Lois Lowery. It takes place in a futuristic world where people live in a well-ordered society they call “The Community”.

The Community has no crime, no hunger, no unemployment and no conflict. The people of The Community have no knowledge of history or of life beyond the boundaries of the Community. It is run by a group of Elders.

In this community lives 16 year old Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites). Like all the people his age he is eagerly awaiting The Ceremony. Each year there is a ceremony in which the young people of The Community are told what careers they will be assigned to.

When The Ceremony takes place some of Jonas’ friends  are assigned to work in the hospital, some to grow food, others to work in sanitation, but Jonas is given the unique task of being The Receiver.

giver 1

The Receiver is the one individual in The Community who is given knowledge of the past and the outside world. The Receiver keeps all this to himself and his knowledge is only used in case of an emergency when the Elders have a problem they cannot solve and they need the Receiver’s advice.

Jonas is to get all this knowledge from the previous Receiver, who will now be called The Giver. (Who is excellently played by Jeff Bridges.) The Giver is old and sick and must get all this knowledge to Jonas before The Giver dies.

The Giver has the ability to telepathically transmit the actual feel of past events. Jonas soon discovers that there are wonderful feelings he never knew existed; such as riding a sled down a hill on a winter’s day, or swimming in the ocean. But he also finds that there are terrible things in the past, such as war and starvation.

The book The Giver was written in 1994 and sold over 12 million copies. It is in the the category of “YA” (Young Adult) literature. It was taught in schools and was very popular with the classes. Unlike most YA books it does not talk down to the kids. In the book Jonas is 12 rather than 16.

The book and the movie both touch on a theme which is always a sore point for young men and woman in the 12 to 16 year old category. The fact is that adults are hiding from them the knowledge of the real world.  Adults lie to them about how things really work and what really happens behind the scenes. Throughout history this has angered young people. However, The Giver shows both sides of this issue. The adults are purposely keeping important information from the “children”, but they are doing so to save them from the great pain which comes with such knowledge.

Before Jonas, there had been a previous Receiver who had been unable to take the pain of the new knowledge. It is unclear exactly what happened to  her, but it is hinted that she may have committed suicide.  She is shown in flashbacks and is very  well played by Taylor Swift, who is of course more famous for her singing than her acting.

giver 3

Some people may not recognize Taylor at first since in this movie she is a brunette. The Giver has an excellent cast of well known actors including Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder and Katie Holmes as Jonas’ mother

We give this movie 3 stars on our 5 star scale. If we rated books by stars we would give the book 5 stars.  Unlike the book, the movie does talk down to the audience in some parts. For example, the first part of the movie was filmed in Black & White. Apparently the people could not see colors since they could not feel emotions. That was not in the book at all, and in the movie it just seem like a cheap rip-off of Pleasantville.

The other more subtle change is the way in which adults are portrayed  in the movie versus the book.  Jonas has a girlfriend named Fiona (wonderfully played by Odeya Rush) who is assigned to work in the hospital. She soon discovers that weaker babies are killed.

odeya

That is one of the many secrets the adults have been hiding from the kids. This is in both the book and the movie. In the movie the adults doing this do not actually realize what they are doing. The daily “medicine” people in The Community take keep them for realizing that the baby is dead and not asleep.

The book is more direct in dealing with its readers. In the book the adults are perfectly aware of the fact that weak babies are being killed, but they accept this as one of the necessary costs of keeping The Community safe and strong.

Still, even with its flaws the movie is well done and worth seeing.