July 30, 2010

The Canonical Penguin: “Bicycle Crash Along the Bay”

Bicycles were always a big part of my growing up. Everyone had one and we took them everywhere. Now, first I must tell you that my mother and grandmother were paranoid to the point of dysfunction about the danger of riding a bicycle in the neighborhood. For this reason, I was forbidden to ride off my block or cross streets with it until I was like 10 or so. I remember knowing that this sucked (not my word then but a perfectly good description of the feeling) and always begged for more freedom. It came slowly and eventually I was all over town, so to speak, on my own two wheels.

When you come from a large family, the thought of a new bicycle is almost non-existent. However, when you have a dad who is good with a wrench and does not mind storing spare parts in the garage (pack-rat), you at least had options. We all had bikes, maybe not the flashiest but certainly very capable in getting us around.

There were the old style Schwinn bruiser, like our friend Tom had, and when were growing up,
but it was also the time of the

stingray and we had those too with the banana seats and high handlebars.

Finally after all the begging we could muster, my brother Mike and I got new bicycles at Christmas, which is a story itself, to be told in a later blog post. These were the three speed varieties, ready for some long distance hauling. In our family this also meant the passing down of the older bicycles. Well these new bicycles just wet the appetite for bigger and better bicycles. There was a bike shop in town and we went frequently to see the new ones in the shop – with 5 speeds! Not just 3…

With money earned doing summer jobs and the help of some funds from my parents, my brother and I got to purchase new 5 speed bikes of our own. My dad made us go to the bike shop just over the city line in Nassau County because you saved on sales tax. Mine was shiny and blue and spiffy all around. Soon after getting them we organized a bike ride along Little Neck Bay, a trail about a mile from our home. It was a nicely paved path along the water which meant cool breezes during the summer. There were about 5 or six of us including my dad and Tom and brother Mike and (I think she was there) his future wife, at least two other siblings, my sister Johanna and brother Anthony. Quite a crew peddling along the shore. The path ran next to the highway, close to it in spots but with a big steel guardrail between. We were about a mile in on the path with 3-4 miles to go when it happened.

This part is a bit fuzzy in my mind but here goes. My brother and I were racing ahead, He was slightly ahead of me and my front wheel caught his real wheel. The bike slid to the left, bumped up into the air and impacted one of the steel beams on the guardrail. My new bike was ruined. Front wheel bent like a taco, front fork twisted into a Y shape from its U shape beginning. I was cut and scraped and had my pride wounded yet it took a while before I realized that at a slightly different angle, I could have been vaulted onto the highway. BUT MY BIKE WAS RUINED!

We walked the whole way back, carrying the bike in several pieces. My dad, master mechanic, bought a new fork for the bike and installed it. It didn’t match but it had extra chrome so that made it ok, I guess. And that is the story of the bike crash along the bay.

(These are stories about things that actually happened with plenty of witnesses. It has passed from the apocryphal to canonical in nature. Wiki says of canon – “material that is considered to be "genuine", "something that actually happened", or can be directly referenced as material produced by the original author or creator.”)

July 29, 2010

Book Review – "The Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell

I first “experienced” Malcolm Gladwell when he was being interviewed on The Colbert Report after he wrote “Blink” He had a quirky look to him, including a bit of an afro haircut and had a funny sounding voice. He looked like Art Garfunkel, circa early 1970’s. But most of all, he was intelligent and well spoken. As he talked about “Blink” I could not help but want to read it. I was reading “Freakonomics” at the time and Gladwell got a big mention there so I picked up “Blink” and quickly finished it. This led to “The Tipping Point” which also was a wonderful read and this lead recently to “The Outliers”


(This is Gladwell, not Art Garfunkel)

As CollegeBoy says, his go to source for quick information is Wikipedia and like son, like father, so here is what Wiki has to say about Gladwell’s books: Gladwell's first work, The Tipping Point, discusses the potentially massive implications of small-scale social events, while his second book, Blink, explains how the human subconscious interprets events or cues and how past experiences allow people to make informed decisions very rapidly. Outliers examines how a person's environment, in conjunction with personal drive and motivation, affects his or her possibility and opportunity for success. Gladwell stated, "The hope with Tipping Point was it would help the reader understand that real change was possible. With Blink, I wanted to get people to take the enormous power of their intuition seriously. My wish with Outliers is that it makes us understand how much of a group project success is. When outliers become outliers it is not just because of their own efforts. It's because of the contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances."

I listened to the audio version, done by Gladwell himself, and was enthralled from the very beginning. His stories about Bill Gates and Airline pilots and J. Robert Oppenheimer of Manhattan project fame, as well as his thesis that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a field was all fascinating. From Gates to the Beatles, he documents the things in the lives of so called “experts” to show where the 10,000 hours came from. He also contrasts it with individuals who had the same levels of intelligence but against whom life dealt problems, unable to be overcome, leaving them in a wake of failure and disappointment.

Gladwell is quirky and there is criticism in the academic community about his processes and style, but he seems to know how to grab the reader and take you for a little trip. I would definitely recommend any of these three books and look forward to reading his fourth, “What the Dog Saw” sometime soon.

July 28, 2010

The Canonical Penguin: Feeding the Ducks

(Whitney Pond Park Trail)

When you come from a large family, you end up finding simple things to keep the kids amused, lest we break out into fist fights. My parents were no exception and we often did fun things together as a family. This included the watching planes take off and land as I mentioned in a previous post. This also included the tradition of going to feed the ducks.

We would pack up a lunch, get a loaf of cheap bread at the discount store and drive about 20 minutes away to a park in Manhasset, Long Island, called Whitney Pond Park. There were picnic areas, some ball fields, tennis courts and a meandering little stream through it. I can remember my dad telling us that this is where ducks came that were given as Easter presents to kids who didn’t want to take care of them anymore. I don’t know if that is true but there seemed to be an awful lot of different types of ducks there.

We would eat our lunch, walk around the park, play baseball or football or watch other games going on. Occasionally I can remember there being someone’s big family picnic with dozens of parents and kids and grandparents and such. Great for us, this gave us more kids to play with. There were swings and slides and sand boxes and such there too. Sometimes the ice cream man came and after appropriate begging, we got ice cream or ices for a treat.

Finally we would feed the ducks. We would grab a slice of bread and break off little pieces to feed them. They would come from all over, dozens of them looking for a hand out. We would make them follow us as we marched to and fro, had contests to see who could have the most around them at any one time and squealed in excitement and shock when one of them bit a finger or goosed us (yes, pun intended there!) It was an innocent time, a fun time and one I wanted to replicate with our own kids.

(Sorry! No ducks were playing tennis that day!)

CollegeBoy and MillieJupiter got their fill of animal parks and petting zoos and the like. MJ still loves to go and look at goats at the local fairs around by us now. CollegeBoy has a pet woodchuck that he occasionally has to avoid while cutting the grass at his summer job. CollegeBoy has had multiple bee stings. MJ was once bit by a mouse in the wild! Things like this help one to appreciate nature and find joy in the simple things in life.

(These are stories about things that actually happened with plenty of witnesses. It has passed from the apocryphal to canonical in nature. Wiki says of canon – “material that is considered to be "genuine", "something that actually happened", or can be directly referenced as material produced by the original author or creator.”)

July 27, 2010

Use English Please?

You might think this blog entry concerns the tea bagger meme about English as the official US language or a rail against tests being offered, in say, Spanish. I guess that in some ways it is. But then again, it’s not. I have been coming to the conclusion that if you are going to insist on something as silly as an ”official” language or be against having tests or forms available in multiple languages then you should be able to use the language yourself correctly and appropriately at least. That’s right, SPEAK AND WRITE THE LANGUAGE CORRECTLY YOURSELF BEFORE CRITICIZING SOMEONE ELSE.

This is what I mean. In the past few days I have heard the phrase “get used to vit”. This is a Massachusetts thing, not a mispronunciation but is spoken as if there was a word “vit”. Another person today said at a meeting, “for all intensive purposes”. Another pet peeve is using the correct word. There is a difference between to, too, and two. Please learn the difference and use them correctly. There also is a difference between you’re and your. GET IT RIGHT!

My daughter and son have pointed out to me that there is a website for examples of unneeded quotation marks. I guess people have come to see the quotation marks as something that adds emphasis. People, please realize that underline and CAPITALIZE do that, not quotes!

Just so you know that I’m not specifically targeting tea baggers, I also have an issue with the teen typing twist of adding all the extra letters written in text messages or twitter or Facebook. I have seen someone writing “I’m going for iiiiiiiice creammmmm tonight”. People, YOU’RE RUINING FACEBOOK FOR ME!!!

Even one of the “spiritual leaders” Sarah Palin added some controversy recently for making up a couple of words –."Refudiate," "misunderestimate," "wee-wee'd up." And then she defended this process saying “English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” She is priceless, isn't she?

Note to dear Sarah - YOU ARE NO BILL SHAKESPEARE! One does not celebrate bad grammer, bad spelling or bad English.

Finally, in maybe the most ironic point of all, there are the tea bagger signs at their little get-togethers. This is a group that is advocating for the exclusive use of the English language, that cannot spell, cannot put together a simple sentence on a sign or even know enough to check it to make sure it is right.

A few examples I have seen:

“Make English America’s offial language!” Yep, that’s official;

“Respect are country – speak English” Yes, a sign of respect, it is our country;

“Against New Tax’s” That plural would be taxes; perhaps for better education;

“Say No to Socilism” Come on guys, you can call him a socialist but spell it right;

“This is America and our only langauague is English” Minus 5 points for spelling – language is the correct lettering, see increased taxes for education above.

Let me just end by saying what could you possibly expect from a group that held Former President George Bush in such high regard. This is what the former president has said during his Presidency:

"They misunderestimated me."

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

"Reading is the basics for all learning."

You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.''

"It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it."

"Will the highways on the internet become more few?"

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."

"I have a different vision of leadership. A leadership is someone who brings people together."

"I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."

So in conclusion, I guess I have to agree. We should require all American people to speak English or get out.

July 26, 2010

The Canonical Penguin: Planes

Growing up, our family was seasoned travelers in the sense that my parents felt it was important to see the extent of the world around us. Our parents were of the first real car generation in our country and so there were car trips everywhere, all the time. We visited relative all over the city, travelled to Washington DC, Wilkes-Barre PA, Lancaster Amish country, as well as lots of places in upstate New York. One type of trip we took really stands out in my mind. That was a trip to the airport to see the planes take off and land.

When you are young, something as simple as this seems ginormous. Packing all of us into the back seat of the old station wagon was hard I’m sure, but the excitement was palatable. Remember I told you about the giant spiders. Well that was a trip that started off with us going to watch the small single engine planes land at the tiny airport. We also went there to see the Goodyear Blimp. But there was nothing like a trip to La Guardia or Kennedy airports. Each was a different type of trip but both were enjoyable. We usually went to Kennedy when my family was visiting relatives in Rockaway, Queens. We would drop off my mother and grandmother and head out to the airport. Just off the highway, we would park with several other cars and watch the giant airliners land. They passed so low over us that you could almost touch the belly of the plane (or so we thought). The roar was tremendous and we would see them land a minute a part for an hour or two. In those days, LaGuardia was a much smaller airport and we would sit near a boat marina on College Point Sound and watch them land for a while and then ride inside the terminal to get closer to the action, overlooking where the planes lined up to take off. Again with the roar you would expect from these giant jets.

One would expect that a family so excited about watching planes would be beside themselves if going ON a plane flight. We had taken a plane tour of NYC, when airlines did that sort of thing, but had never traveled by plane TO a destination. The summer after my mother passed away, my father decided to take us on a trip to see his sister in California. Lucky for us, she was near Disneyland and the rest of the tourist getaways in Los Angeles. So there we were, with striped shirts and plaid shorts, sandals and socks, cameras hanging around our necks for the experience. As my sister says, we looked like a bunch of Asian tourists. My dad, who was into photography, took hundreds of pictures. And that was just out the windows of the plane at the clouds. Afterwards there was to be a slide show, with trays and trays of clouds over the country. We visited Disneyland, and Knott’s Berry farm, and went to an Angels baseball game and went bowling. You get the idea. What I remember most was playing the old fashion (for us then, it was a modern…) pinball game my uncle had in his garage. My aunt had desert turtles in her yard and orange trees and we picked fresh oranges for juice and watched hummingbirds all afternoon when we were there. All in all a great experience.

And we have the cloud pictures to prove it.

(These are stories about things that actually happened with plenty of witnesses. It has passed from the apocryphal to canonical in nature. Wiki says of canon – “material that is considered to be "genuine", "something that actually happened", or can be directly referenced as material produced by the original author or creator.”)

July 17, 2010

George Steinbrenner, our very own P.T. Barnum

So let me get this straight right from the beginning. I am a Yankee fan, have been for almost 50 years. I listen to my grandmother and uncle tell stories about Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizutto, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. I started to take notice of the Yankees in 1964 right when they went into the toilet for 13 years. All I got was Horace Clarke and Dooley Womack. Then George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees for chump change - $160,000 of his own money and investor’s money totaling less than 9 million dollars. Today they are worth over a billion dollars, the most valuable sports franchise ever. Don’t get me wrong, George had some severe warts in his storied 37 year ownership. But he also got a fist full of rings and trophies and brought the Yankees back to the prominence they deserved.

In the midst of all this, I thought of the similarities between King George and P. T. Barnum and thought I would lay some out for you. You know P. T. Barnum, the entertainer, showman and business mogul. The man who is falsely attributed with saying there is a sucker born every minute. No, he didn’t say that, a newspaper man said it in a story about how P.T. always knew how to make a buck. Suffice it to say that this is where the comparisons just begin.

Both men were successful business men early in their lives. George in the very successful shipping business, while P.T. had several businesses, was the mayor of Bridgeport CT. and help to revamp the theater business in NYC to feature more family entertainment. He opened the countries first aquarium and first wax museum and provided entertainment to millions. George acquired the Yankees in 1973 in his mid 40’s. P.T. Barnum entered the circus field at age 60. George took a undervalued product and brought it to prominence again. Ever hear of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. George completed changed the way the Yankees did baseball, including the development of a business model in the earlier stages of cable TV that became a major player in the TV business, the YES network. P.T. Barnum introduced the use of trains to move his circus from city to city, vastly improving the product and making it available to the masses. Given the lack of paved highways in America, this turned out to be a shrewd business move that enlarged Barnum's market. Both had a philanthropic side, little known, that included money for books and education and the US Olympic Training facility from George and essentially starting Tufts University by Barnum.

On the negative side of the ledger, both men had their faults and run ins with the legal profession. George was banned from baseball twice, for illegal campaign contributions and for the messy Spira affair with Dave Winfield. Barnum was hauled into court numerous times on charges of fraud and libel and declaired bankrupcy more than once.

The comparisons continue. Barnum was well known for his hoaxes and hype in the entertainment field, something he felt was alright as long as the public got their money’s worth. George changed managers and general managers and office staff like most people change socks but always wanted to give the people what they paid for. Both Barnum and Steinbrenner knew the best place to be was on the front page of the newspaper and on the tips of the tongue’s of those following them. Barnum was 81 when he died, George 80. They both left behind a legacy of hard work and successes and names that will be remembered forever.

I can think of a lot worse things than being described as a modern day P.T. Barnum or a precursor to George Steinbrenner. Both of these gentlemen were hated by some, revered by others but mostly made themselves and their product undeniably well known.

July 12, 2010

Book Review – A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

After enjoying Bryson’s book “A Short History of Almost Everything” it was a natural move for me to consider reading a couple of his other books and I am glad that I decided to do so. I chose “A Walk in the Woods” his tale about returning from England to New Hampshire and deciding to hike the Appalachian Trail. Not “Hike the Appalachian Trail” like the linguistic twist of the Gov. Mark Sanford story. You remember that one right. The Governor disappeared for a few days and returned saying he was hiking the trail when in fact he was out of the country having an affair. No, Bill Bryson actually walked a significant part of the 2000 mile trail from Georgia to Maine with a friend and wrote about this back to nature experience.

I think what I like most about Bryson is his humor. Very dry at times, but given to word plays and expected responses that are very real and genuinely funny. In this book he has frequent opportunities to show all of his humor in relating this almost year long adventure. From his afternoon at the Outdoor Mountain Equipment store to his fascination with black bear attacks; his book is a running commentary, sort of emptying his mind of all that is contained on the subject. We hear his thoughts, he tells us his words and he speculates what others are thinking. In some ways I am reminded of reading James Joyce’s Ulysses in college. I had a professor, a Joycian expert, who walked us through the bulk of the book, examining the thoughts, words and deeds of the protagonist. I’m not comparing Bryson to Joyce, mercy no, I am just saying that Bryson’s style of getting us to his actions, words and thoughts is similar.

A good way to see all of this is to look at the part of the book dealing with preparation with the trip. His exploits at the hiking gear store are just tear-producing hysterical. From his telling why he chose that particular store – because his son worked there, to the instructions given to him by his son – not to do ANYTHING that would embarrass him such as trying on ladies hats, we are exposed to his humor and humanity. He hooks up with a store expert on hiking equipment, the kind of gentlemen who can discuss the positives and negatives of carbon fiber tent poles for four hours, and spends the better part of a day looking at, trying out and buying hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. All the while not understanding why a $250 backpack is neither waterproof nor equipped with straps – separate purchase for $69.95. He will not pay $70 for a designer ground cover when the local K-Mart has one for $6.95, and he debates the sleeping bag purchase because one is 3 ounces lighter than another. That is until he attempts to lift and put on the pack and describes the staggering feeling of all those ounces adding up to all those pounds on his back.

Another funny section is Bryson’s detailing of worrying about bear attacks. He reads several books all of which point out the unpredictability of black bear attacks and relates several stories involving bears having hikers for snacks. They seem to be particularly fond of snickers bars that many hikers carry. He sort of leaves that out there for the reader to digest then offers two stories. One is the fact that his hiking companion has his bags stuffed with snickers bars and then just when his anxiety is at a high point, he is talking to someone who transports people to the beginning of the trail who assures him that bears aren’t the problem, wolf attacks are. The whole story about these two hikers going grocery shopping is also very funny.

In this book we get the thrill of the hike, the humor of the author, a history lesson about the Appalachian Trail, an ecology lesson about forests and mountains and all the animals contained in them. The Long Walk is not a complicated book. In between the laughs and fears, we get real humanity struggling with why he is doing this and that is what makes this a great reading and a wonderfully entertaining book. Kudos Mr. Bryson!

(BTW next on my agenda are a couple of Malcom Gladwell tomes...)

July 9, 2010

MASS Exodus- Update July 2010

Way back in February, when we visited Las Cruces and decided that there is where we wanted to be, we began to formulate a plan on getting there. This was a three prong plan for retirement, selling our house and ultimate relocation. So I thought I would take a few moments to update where we are at this point in the plan.

Over the ensuing months I have made some changes to my ultimate date for retirement. Originally it was set at July 2012, when the facility where I work was slated to close. This date has changed over time and now reflects a much sooner one. There were two reasons for this. First, the closing date of the facility is now at least 3-4 months delayed and probably is the end of 2012 at the earliest. At first I was feeling some obligation to stay until that point. However over the last several months, I have seen a couple of different people get kicked to the curb so to speak and this bothered me. Highly educated, good workers, forced out because they were not one of the “chosen ones”. It is wrong and made me reevaluate my feelings of obligation. Secondly, in looking at retirement money figures, I learned that at each anniversary date from here on in, I get a boost of only $90 a month total in my pension (birthday and work start anniversary date). This is like Dunkin Donuts money. Again I came to the conclusion that 5 – 7 more months of work, 2 more years of work, was not worth the $180 benefit I gained by staying an entire year. Thirdly I have learned that the upgrade I was going to have to apply for, is being given to all who retire, taking that issue off the table for me. As a result of all this, I am thinking that the newest retirement date could be Spring, 2011 or a couple of months after selling our house.

We deemed this the summer of house work and despite a couple of setbacks, have been moving right along. The first setback of sorts was good news for our son, CollegeBoy. After months of worrying about a summer job, he ended up with two. More money for him, less time for us. Things as a result have been moving slower. When he is there, he has been a great hard worker who brings his girlfriend, MissNicole for some extra hands, and so we keep moving forward, just a bit slower. A second setback was a terrible flu that moved through out house, affecting everyone. The effects and after effects have gone on for almost two weeks, so this too slowed things down. A final nuisance has been the weather, which has been hot and humid and this too affects what we are able to do.

Its not all bad news however, some very positive things have gone on. We have almost completely gutted our basement, removing two giant loads of junk and debris, including walls and the like. Our son says it looks like we have a nine car garage. One more load of junk from the basement and storage shed and we are done here! We have been prepping the outside decks for cleaning and water proofing too. We hired a landscaping specialist who is clearing out the over growth on the property, is going to repair the lawn in the backyard and has power washed the house which looks significantly better. After finishing up in the basement and the decks, we move indoors for painting the living room, dining room and some touch up. The timeline for putting the house up for sale in the fall is still easily within our grasp.

The final major hurdle is the Title IX Septic evaluation. I have sold my ATV and have the cash now for it and a minor repair should it be needed so I expect that within the next week to 10 days, we will schedule one. You will recognize us, the homeowners holding hands in a prayer circle as the backhoe digs. This will be make it or break it time.

Over the course of the last 6 months, I have changed what I refer to as my “threshold” for the move. I originally only wanted a new home to retire to. More recently I have become more and more open to different possibilities as I come to realize that the dream is to get to Las Cruces, not anything else. It is where I need to be to retire and enjoy this part of my life. We are constantly looking at homes and condo’s and townhouses online and finding them remarkably affordable. We have a couple different mortgage companies that we will be looking at to see what we can qualify for.

So, now for the all important timeline. In my mind it looks like this. House goes on the market in October. With St. Joseph’s help, we sell it by the middle of next year, lets say July 1st. I officially retire on November 1st, 2011 and we move to LCNM during CollegeBoy’s school break. Obviously this is all contingent on the house selling and thus we have enlisted the help of St. Joseph, who will be buried in our yard when we sign with the realtor. If it sells before July, I will not wait until November to retire. The date could be sooner by as much as six months if the house sells quickly, right after my birthday in February sounds doable too!

To our friends, the Zee’s, get those Green Chile Cheese Burgers ready!

July 4, 2010

The Canonical Penguin: Exploits of the 215th Street Gang – Football and the Stool Pigeon

What is a story about gangs without some blood being spilled or a stool pigeon being fingered? Well, our 215th Street Gang had its share of both.

We lived on a relatively quiet block in Queens. With the Police Station just down the block from us, parking was always at a premium but the multiple driveways saw to it that there was space in the streets for football and stickball and stoopball. Although not hemmed in by professional sports timetables, essentially we played baseball all summer and football in the spring and fall. This first story is about the football games we played.

Essentially we played a lot of 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 touch football games on the street. If not playing games, we were practicing our plays for future games. If there were more people, we would head to the park, but the street was fine for us generally. We were usually careful about the parked cars and the cars speeding down the street (we would call “Heads Up! when one approached). One late morning sticks out in my mind. Our friend Tom was the thin, quick, wide receiver type. He fancied himself a wide receiver for the NY Jets and came out to prove it on every play. One time he streaked down the sideline and a pass was thrown to him, a bit too far. He used a burst of speed to get in position to dive, full out to catch it. What a play!

(not an instant replay of Tommy's dive, but an incredible simulation for the reader!)

Unfortunately we were in the street, not in a park and Tom slammed on to the concrete and blacktop and slid maybe ten feet or so. When he got up, he had scraped enough skin off to build us another kid to play football with. He went home and wore the bandages of honor for weeks after that.

As a gang we were always looking for retribution. A neighbor across the street was a bit mean, yelling at us when we chased a ball onto the sidewalk in front of his house. I mean was he afraid we would hurt his sidewalk? So we devised a plan to get back at him. We each would walk passed his little plot of grass in front of his house and throw pebbles and scraps of paper on his lawn. My sister joined in the fun and threw some plastic beads or something on his grass and got CAUGHT! Our parents were so disappointed in us but we quickly positioned all the blame on my sister, letting her take the fall for the crime. That is how crime families roll.

One other nice thing about living in a neighborhood like we did was that there were a number of garden apartments in the area and there were alleys that went between backyards and the next block. This led to the door bell game. Go into a garden apartment alcove with 4 or 5 apartments, ring the doorbells and dash out through to the next block. We never waited around to see if anyone answered the door, preferring to just think we were being a pain in the ass, but enjoyed the escape even more that way. Old people, young couples, upstairs, downstairs, it did not matter. We just did the ring and run. Looking back at this now, it seems so childish. But then again, we were children. Just innocent childhood pranks.

(These are stories about things that actually happened with plenty of witnesses. It has passed from the apocryphal to canonical in nature. Wiki says of canon – “material that is considered to be "genuine", "something that actually happened", or can be directly referenced as material produced by the original author or creator.”)

July 3, 2010

The Canonical Penguin – The Snorkeling

In a recent post, I talked about some of the pranks I was involved with in College. Well if you think about it you must realize that that degree of prank goodness does not develop over night. As a matter of fact, it takes years and years of practice to hone that skill to a fine edge. This post is about one of those practice pranks.

If you grew up in a family along with several siblings, you know that the younger ones are often the butt of the most outrageous treatment. As such I begin this story with an apology to my youngest brother Anthony. Any problems he may have are most probably related to his treatment at the hands of his older brothers. Sorry!

When we were growing up, snorkel jackets were all the rage. It was that green army parka with the full fake fur collar that conformed to your head in such a way as to protect it from the coldest winds and driven snow. My brother Mike got one, Anthony did not. He was really disappointed which set him up to be the beneficiary of the snorkel prank. It goes like this.

Step one – when he is still mad ask him if he would like to at least try one on
Step two – explain in the Antarctic, they wear the coat backwards so that the wind does not penetrate the zipper
Step three – put jacket on him backwards and quickly flip the hood over his face and zip it up the rest of the way so he cannot see, unzip it or breathe too well
Step four – put him in a closet because he can’t see anything anyway
Step five – laugh about it then and every time the story comes up in family gatherings.

Anthony I’m sorry, really sorry that we did it to you but I cannot even think about it without breaking out in gales of laughter. Sorry…

(not my actual brother but an incredibly handsome simulation of him…)

(These are stories about things that actually happened with plenty of witnesses. It has passed from the apocryphal to canonical in nature. Wiki says of canon – “material that is considered to be "genuine", "something that actually happened", or can be directly referenced as material produced by the original author or creator.”)