Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Break From The Election

I was a rock and roll deejay on the radio.

But if you think I only have that on my iPod you'd be wrong. There are all kinds of things.

"Jai Ho."

Start with it's from one of my favorite movies, Slumdog Millionaire. It seems obvious now, but I was blown away when I first saw it. I have to mention at first I thought they were singing, "Tally Ho!" Little did I know. The whole movie is set in India and that song comes at the end of it and is very Bollywood.

Oh yeah, it also won an Oscar.

"No One."

Alicia Keys is a big star now and is older and married but when I first interviewed her she was a kid. Don't hold me to it but I believe I did her first network interview. Remember "Fallin'?" She won five Grammys from the album that was from, Songs In A Minor, and I met her at the Grammys. That also led to this exchange, which I've never forgotten, "What did you make of this album taking off?" "I thought who'da thunk it, and you have to say thunk."

This is a great song in the McEwen household.

"What You Got."

How did I find this? Don't know. I just know when I first heard it, it was on repeat for a long while. Colby O'Donis is the singer. Who? Exactly.

Part Puerto Rican, part African American, part Italian, and part really good.

And let's not forget Akon.

"Broken Hearted Melody."

This song always reminds me of my Dad. He played it around the house when I was young. Sarah Vaughn. My house was always full of music, my father sang opera and went to college on a musical scholarship. But. We always had Nancy Wilson and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and Oscar Peterson and Sarah Vaughn to go along with opera great Leontyne Price.

"Motown Philly."

Boys II Men. People forget how big they were. I don't. This was their entree to us and I love it. It's also something that many of their hits weren't. Fast. If radio is playing them, it ain't playing this. And that's a shame. It's got great harmonies, a great beat, and is just great.


More stuff on my iPod.


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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I Voted

I voted today.

Florida has early voting and I decided to take advantage of it. The first day was yesterday so after some research I headed down to my polling spot, a library, thinking I'd get it done without the lines.

Boy, was I wrong.

The parking lot? Packed. The place? Jumping. It seems that everyone had the exact same idea I had and in turn what we went there to avoid was already there.

Lots of people.

I went in anyway.

How can something that seems like it would be so mundane be so exciting? I can't explain it but it was. Get out your license, fill out a card with your address and the date and your date of birth.

Don't forget to sign it.

I was tingling as I walked into the voting room.

The first time I voted was for George McGovern for president. We all know how that turned out but I  finally was old enough to vote and I was going to vote.

I've voted ever since.

This presidential election has seemed like it has gone on forever and it's still not done. I watched all three debates, read the papers every morning and watched the news every night.

Overload is a good word.

I can't wait until it's over. I can't wait for the commercials to disappear. I can't wait for the candidates to go away. I can't wait for part 2.

I went up to a table and checked in. My person, a woman, punched in a few things on her computer and then gave me my ballot.

And off I went.

Filling out the ballot made me feel so...American.

Look close, you'll see my I Voted sticker


As I brought my completed ballot to the front of the room I remembered a guy I used to work with at CBS. They called him Don Zingo, not his real name, and he pooh poohed voting. I remember one guy saying that if you don't vote you can't complain but he used a different word.

True.

Voting is a gift, it is our right.

Use it.






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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Baseball

It's the Cubs versus the Indians in the World Series.

It seems odd writing this on Sunday. Sunday is the day of pro football, the NFL, and a lot of the country has moved on from baseball.

But not me.

My first organized sport was baseball, I was a pitcher. I loved the uniform, loved the smell of gloves in the sports departments. Loved the game. Still do.

I was ten.

Younger fans these days tend to lean towards football and basketball, what with fantasy leagues in football and the stars in basketball. Let's not forget those sports move quickly and you can read a book while watching baseball.

Don't care.

In my bathroom right now is the Baseball Encyclopedia. I pick it up and leaf through it all the time.   I was not very good at math growing up but I know my baseball stats. Home runs, earned run averages, runs batted in, pitcher's wins, pitcher's strikeouts, batting averages, doubles. The names Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Derek Jeter, Bob Gibson, the Babe, Ted Williams, Mariano Rivera, Warren Spahn, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, all speak to me. There are more and each one has a story.

And speaking of stories, both of the final two teams have great ones.

Let's start with the Indians.

They haven't won the Series since 1948, back in the day of Bob Feller. There used to be a joke about their stadium, the mistake by the lake. Another joke about how there were more people on the field than in the stands.

They're not laughing anymore.

After beating everybody, they trounced the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs. They have a great team and one of my favorite managers, Terry Francona. Terry has already won two World Series, he did that with the Sawx. He was Manager of The Year with the Indians. In other words he has them believing they can win.

This has also been a magical year for Cleveland. Everyone who knows me, knows I'm a LeBron boy and just in case you've been Rip Van Winkle, the Cavaliers won the NBA championship.

They were down 3-1. First championship ever. Just magical.

So like LeBron says, like Cleveland says, it's the Indians' turn.

But not so fast.

Okay, the Cubs.

They haven't won the World Series since 1908. That's.over.a.hundred.years.ago. They haven't even been in the Series since 1945.

Well, this year is different. They won more games than anybody, they also have a great team, and also have one of my favorite managers, Joe Maddon. I only have two. He's won Manager of The Year, count them, three times.

There's also a side story.

The guy who engineered Boston's Series win, after what seemed like a forever of coming close, is the guy who put together this Cubs team. His name is Theo Epstein and if he can make lightning strike twice...

I used to work and live in Chicago, I always have an eye on that town. So, here I am watching all their playoff games, they begin at eight and end right around midnight. I wake up with bloodshot eyes and am beat all day thinking I'm too old for this.

A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do.

Either way, history is going to be made.

When the Red Sox won, there were parents and grandparents finally letting go of life. They were hanging on in the hope, the hope, that their team could climb that mountain and be World Champions.

I'll bet there were smiles on faces in caskets all over Bean Town after that win.

Same thing for fans of both of these teams.

But I'm rooting for the Cubs.


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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Things Are Different Now

When I was much younger, I used to ride my bike to a place called The Patio. They had great burgers and fries and let's not forget their milkshakes. I've never forgotten that they also sold cigarettes.

For thirty cents a pack.

One day recently I was going into a store with my kids and was floored. The price now is north of five bucks and not for a carton but for a single pack of cigs. Do they still call cigarettes that?

My kids wondered why I was floored.

That's why.

It seemed everyone smoked in every movie I saw.  To be cool, you smoked too, or at least I did. I said to myself in college that I would only smoke until it didn't make me dizzy. That never happened so I left it behind.

Thirty cents a pack. A long time ago.

Movie stars never used to do TV.

As a matter of fact they never used to do commercials. If I said, "What's in your wallet?" would you think of Samuel L. Jackson? Last time I checked, he was a big movie star. So is Matthew McConaughey, so is Jamie Fox. These days you're seeing Oscar winners doing commercials.

Check network TV shows for movie stars. They're there. Do HBO and other cable outlets count? If they do, they're there, too. Plus Netflix (Home to House of Cards. Kevin Spacey is a multiple Oscar winner) and every other binge watching network.

They're all over the tube. That's a barrier that doesn't exist any more.

When you see telephone booths in movies like The Sting or Airplane they seem kind of quaint. Truth is pay phones are long gone. Everyone, even grandmothers, have cell phones.

Remember when people couldn't find you?

It's gone from "Where were you?" to "I called you a thousand times. How come you didn't check your messages?"

These days? It's hard to disappear.

I tell my kids that back in the day you could arrive at an airport twenty minutes before your flight in plenty of time. Not only would you make the flight but your bags would be on that plane as well. It seems so long ago but there was a time when you didn't have long lines at security and those people in the blue suits just weren't there.

Nowadays you're advised to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight.

How about that?

You may have heard, this is Slurpees' 50th birthday which prompted this question from one of my twins, "Dad, do you remember when Slurpees were first invented?"

Actually, I remember before 7-11 had them.

I remember before Rap. I remember before Star Wars. I remember when gas was 30 cents a gallon. I remember when Ford Mavericks were $1995. If you have to ask...

I remember when Batman was this comedy on TV. I remember before Sponge Bob. I remember when water came out of a faucet or a water fountain.

Only.

I remember all kinds of things.


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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Scared

Can I ask you a question?

Why am I afraid all the time?

A magazine I read had an article "The Age Of Fear." That's me. That's us.

I've been saying it for a while now, everything it seems is out to scare us half to death. Don't think so? Watch the news. Read the papers. Watch tv shows. The movies. Everything it seems is in full booga booga mode.

And don't get me started on hacking.

How many passwords do you have and how often do you change them? They tell us to change passwords on a regular basis and to not have the same one for everything. They make me think I'm not doing enough to protect my family, my assets, my life.  I'm guessing they make you feel the same way.

Hackers aren't looking for small potatoes like me but I'll bet it's way tough on banks to keep all that money safe. A famous quote attributed to bank robber Willie Sutton, "I rob banks because that's where the money is." Same goes for hackers.

But we're all afraid that our personal information could be taken and sold in some dark alley somewhere. You know the mantras. Shred everything. Don't leave your social security number where someone might find it. Watch out for those free wifi zones.

Watch out.

Watch out.

Watch out.

Turn on the news.

Now, if you're like me the next thing you do is you turn off the news. Where do they find these stories? It's some new danger that you didn't know about, some new disease that's gonna get you, some new survey that says everything you thought was right is wrong. But that's okay, there will be another survey in a couple of months.

Stay tuned.

By the way, I'll be the one in the corner in a fetal position.

Now go to the movies.

I've seen enough on, the end of the world, the zombie apocalypse, blood and guts everywhere, massive hurricanes, conspiracy theories. It goes on and on. What happened to the smart movies, the gentle ones? What happened to the uplifting ones?

Am I being a ninny?

There used to be a joke about coming out of a movie humming the theme song. That joke doesn't fly so much these days.

Television.

There are things that go bump in the night, all over the tube. And it's not just that, it seems like there are murderers and predators and serial whatevers and shady characters and bad people all over the place as well.

Stuff like that alone will terrify a person.

Were we better off as a country when all of the above was quieter? I don't have the answer for that.

But I'll bet this.

We were less afraid and probably slept a whole lot better then too.






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Friday, October 7, 2016

Hurricane Matthew

First things first.

One of my boys said, "Why do we give hurricanes names?  Why not Hurricane 1, Hurricane 2...?" You should have heard me stumble trying to answer that one.

Out of the mouths of babes.

This was a huge, powerful, dangerous, hurricane.

At my inland house we had visitors. My sister in law, her husband, my niece, her fiancé, his son, my mother in law, and four, count them, four, extra dogs. Can you say circus? I think you can.

Welcome to hurricane life.

It actually was fun, warm, and loving. And the dogs got along just fine.

One thing I've learned is hurricanes bring people together.

I was at Publix at 7:30 in the morning and it was packed. On the way in I saw a woman coming out with a quart of milk and I said, "You give me hope! There's still milk!" She laughed and just before she got in her car, yelled, "They still have ice!"

Inside, politeness reigned.

You heard more 'no, after yous' than you could shake a stick at. You saw more smiles from people as their shopping carts were filling up. There was a 'we are all in this together' vibe.

Back at my house we all pitched in to move outdoor umbrellas, plants, tables, and anything else we could think of, into the garage, so the expected high winds wouldn't blow them around. I have to admit I enjoyed putting the pool chairs into the pool.

The news was on 24/7 and everyone, I mean everyone, kept reminding us how dangerous this storm was. How to expect things like the power going out and to evacuate when they said evacuate.

Not everyone did.

When I went to bed I turned on a fan. If it went off I knew the power had gone bye bye.

At two in the morning I was awakened by Lola's barking. She had to go out. Guess who got up to open the front door in the howling rain? I got back to my room and...

The fan was still running.

As I got out of bed early this morning I learned we'd been lucky. No flooding, no tree limb damage to the house and we never lost power.

Hallelujah!

Most of the day it was windy as all get out (in gusts) and the rain kept coming down. I smiled to myself and thought my wife's plants won't need watering for a while.

As Hurricane Matthew roared north, the house was about to be turned into two packed vehicles as the dogs and the families headed home.

During this whole ordeal I noticed something.

I noticed that we weren't black or white or gay or straight or even Democrats or Republicans. Just people. Scared people but just people. All with the same thing in mind, keeping our family safe and getting ready for the upcoming storm.

And hoping to be here for the next one.

Here's a prayer for the folks up north.



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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Howard

Today is my dear friend Howard Grufferman's Birthday.
Howard, Gene Siskel, along with yours truly.
In Chicago to see Michael Jordan play.

Happy Birthday Howard.

Howard and I go back a long way. How long? I first laid eyes on him at my college orientation. The college was the University of Maryland. He had long hair, wire rimmed glasses, and reminded me of John Lennon.

He also was from New York as were a lot of the students. New York was far enough away from College Park, four hours, that parents wouldn't just drop in. But it was close enough where you could go home for the weekend.

Good deal.

Howard began his college days at Garrett Hall, a co-ed dorm, and I was next door at the all male Talbot Hall. I'm a fan of co-ed dormitories and here's why. While we were watching water poured from a trash can swirling from the top floor to the bottom floor via the stairwell, the guys next door were busy being on their best behavior because there were women present.


We both became RAs, Resident Assistants. He was one, I was one, and out of being in the same club, our friendship began.

Years later after college (he graduated, I didn't) I was on the radio in Chicago and trying to get to the Big Apple. I knew one person in New York, Howard. I called him up, he let me stay with him, I got the job, and off we went.

Some highlights...

When I first got to New York and the hockey playing Islanders were on their way to winning a bunch of Stanley Cups I said, on the radio, how proud New Yorkers must be of them. Howard gently pulled me aside and told me the Rangers were New York, the Islanders were Long Island.

Didn't know that.

We climbed professional mountains together.

He in the tough world of New York real estate, me at CBS. The only time I was on David Letterman, Howard drove me. It was during the so called Blizzard of '96. That evening the streets were full of snow and devoid of cars. He had a Range Rover that had four wheel drive. It wasn't afraid of the icy and snowy Manhattan streets.

That's how I got there to read The Top Ten.

Howard was the first person not named McEwen to see baby Maya.
Young Sarah and Young Maya. Dancing.
I still have the video he made that night which is the earliest film I have of my daughter.

Later I unwittingly walked into the hospital delivery room after his lovely wife gave birth to their first daughter, Sarah.

Sarah and Maya are friends to this day.

His wife? Barbara Hannah Grufferman. She's an accomplished author, The Best of Everything After 50, plus she has a new book coming out next year, Stay Younger Longer. She's also a regular blogger for The Huffington Post, and was named a 'Best Blogger for 2015' by them, thank you very much.

They have two daughters, the other one being Elizabeth. I've known them both forever and now they both go to college. Sarah in the Honors program studying Neuroscience at Hunter College and Elizabeth is at, wait for it, St. Andrews in Scotland.
Both of us with Little Elizabeth

Elizabeth, Howard, and I, had dinner together in New York recently. Barbara was under the weather but Elizabeth took her place and was charming, sweet, and just so dear.

They've raised some great girls...

I mentioned Howard is in the dog eat dog world of New York real estate. He is and does very well. He is a Vice Chairman at his firm and Howard was just honored for being their Top Broker Worldwide.

That's more than 13,000 brokers, people.

Very cool.

One day he told me a funny story about how when he was young people made fun of his name. How would you do this and how would you do that? I had to admit to Howard that was pretty gosh darn funny.

My birthday is September 16th and for the 19 days until he catches up, I'm older than him.

He.never.lets.me.forget.it.

This year he did text me that we are now old enough to be grandfathers.

Nah.

A dear friend.

Happy Birthday Howard.



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