I work with a guy whose name is, for the sake of this story, Art. Many years ago, Art and I had a lot of common work-related projects, so we’d be in meetings together quite often. Then, as the years went on and our responsibilities no longer overlapped as much, I might only meet with Art once or twice a year.

At some point, Art and I no longer had any meetings together anymore, but I’d still see him around every now and then. Just another work acquaintance like we all have.

One day, I was walking around the hallways after not seeing Art for many years when he showed up just like that, so I said hello. He gave me a big smile as usual, then looked me straight in the eye and shouted out, “Hi, Joe!”

At first, I thought he must be talking to someone behind me but I looked around and there was no one there, so I just laughed. Now, to this day, every time he sees me he calls me Joe.

This is a little odd, especially when others are around that know both of us. He probably forgot who I was after so many years, but not all the way, and then somehow associated my face with the name Joe for some reason. Who knows why he did it, but I never correct him because, quite frankly (no pun intended), I get a kick out of it.

In my normal life as Frank, I continue on as just another average guy who works in a Dilbert-like office complete with cubicle and pictures of the wife and kids on the walls — yet another working stiff with a family and all the responsibilities that come with that.

Very plain-vanilla I must admit — just another average Joe, haha. So whenever Art calls me Joe, for that brief little time, I imagine that I really am Joe, and I have such a good time with it, it’s unbelievable.

In my Joe persona, I’m no longer stuck at a keyboard all day. As Joe, I’m either a roofer, carpenter, electrician, or auto mechanic, depending on my mood. The good thing is: As Joe, I go out and Get Things Done — real, tangible things that anyone can look at and see, not like the ethereal software that I normally create and maintain.

As Joe, I have a much more physical presence in the world. When I’m Joe, I can grunt and really mean it.

As Joe, when the day is over, I get home, and there’s a happy wife and a hot meal waiting for me always. In my mind, all the hard-working blue-collar Joes of the world get that as a matter of course.

Then, depending on the night, I’d do what all good Joes do: crack open a six-pack and watch the Yankees, or go out and play in the bowling league, or attend the poker game. Of course, if it’s the weekend, there’s lawn-mowing and barbecuing one day, then fishing and family time the next.

Joe doesn’t do a lot of different things but the things he does he just loves and does them as often and as heartily as he can. Joe is all about the flag, baseball, and apple pie. Nothing wrong with that. Good for him.

I sometimes imagine what it would have been like if Art had called me another name instead of Joe, like Sergio. Now there’s a good name. Think of great shoes, a nice sport coat, a flashy silk shirt, and of course a dark tan and great hair.

As Sergio, I’d be so good-looking and full of confidence the ladies would really notice. Then again my lovely wife wouldn’t be so happy with that, I’m sure. Maybe it’s a good thing Art called me Joe instead of Sergio. I don’t need any more problems; I have enough already, thank you very much.

This whole thing about being called Joe instead of Frank has given me another idea. You know when you go to an event and they give you a peel-off label that you’re supposed to write your name on and then stick on your shirt? Who says you have to put your real name on there, anyway?

Maybe I should write Joe on there next time, or maybe Morris or Sheldon. I know Morris and Sheldon aren’t sexy like Sergio, but with a name like Morris or Sheldon I might finally have the discipline to forgo immediate pleasure and sit down and write the next great phone app. There’s a reason why great coders are often named Morris or Sheldon.

Now that I think of it, as much fun as it is being Joe every now and then, what if I’ve been mistakenly calling someone by the wrong name all these years? Hey, if it can happen to Art, it can happen to me. We’re about the same age after all.

Maybe this would help explain the weird stares and nervous laughs I get all the time. Or maybe it’s just my personality. Let’s face it, it could be that very easily. Gulp.

If you hear someone call me Joe, don’t say anything. Just go along with it. Why spoil it after all these years?


You often see sentinels on the side of the road, sad reminders of a tearful tragedy, on a busy street corner in the city, or out in the middle of nowhere. There might be a display of flowers, maybe with ribbons and bows. Sometimes it’s just a lonely cross stuck in the ground.

The memorials that stand out the most are the so-called “ghost bicycles,” often with flat tires because they’ve been there so long. These somber remembrances are placed by grieving relatives or friends of a cyclist who died in a traffic accident, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to them.

My cousin lives on a corner in a busy Queens neighborhood. There was an accident there where someone died. A memorial was placed on the corner — lots of flowers and a cross.

Then once a week relatives and friends would come to visit and have a little service. Mind you, this is right out on the street in front of my cousin’s house. After a while, getting to see that over and over again, no matter how good the intentions, just gets old. Cemeteries exist for a reason, after all.

There are two main routes that I take to work. For many years, there was a ghost bicycle on the corner by a gas station where a young lady got killed while riding her bike. The accident was tragic no doubt, as she was young, beautiful, full of energy, and a well-respected small-business owner.

But, twice a day, five days a week, I had to be reminded of her untimely death. That got depressing after a while.

That ghost bike is gone now, thankfully, but another one has appeared on the other main drag that I use almost every day. This one was also a bicycle accident. (See a pattern here?) So now, again, I’m reminded of death oftentimes twice a day, when all I’m trying to do is commute back and forth to work. As if commuting needed something else to make it even worse.

If you’re like me, busy just about all the time, you probably don’t think about death too often in your daily routine. You know it’s going to happen eventually but you don’t dwell on it.

In my case, once I hit age 50, I can honestly say I don’t even fear it any more. The idea of resting peacefully for a long time after a full and active life actually sounds pretty good in many ways.

The thing is, I normally don’t think about it, but then I see the flowers, the crosses, and the ghost bicycles — and I get sad. It’s not good to be reminded of death all the time. Had I wanted that, I would have gone into the very lucrative undertaker business.

I don’t know if there are any laws against creating your own public memorial at crash sites. Even if there are, it would not be fun telling a victim’s relatives their memorial is not welcome.

Though the intention is honorable, the practice of making memorials in public places just doesn’t sit right with me. We already have cemeteries. I know people are grieving, but why do we need to be reminded of it, often twice a day, every day? It sure is a bummer, I can tell you that.

My dear departed mom is buried about an hour from my home. I visit her grave maybe two or three times a year. I don’t need to place a cross outside the apartment where she last lived. I don’t need to place flowers outside the hospital where she finally died.

I don’t need to visit here grave weekly or even daily like I know many grieving relatives do. I just know that she lives on in my heart and I think about her all the time. I’m sure she’d be happy knowing that.

A friend of mine who, like me, was a huge Minnesota Vikings died recently. I just heard that his lovely wife drove all the way out to Minnesota to sprinkle his ashes at the new stadium. I have to say that’s pretty cool, and I’m sure Bill would have loved that.

I’ve instructed my wife and my friend to put some of my ashes in the gas tank of my motorcycle when I die, and then to have them ride the bike up my favorite road, Route 30, north into the Adirondacks when I die. What a nice way to have one last motorcycle ride. I just hope the fuel filter doesn’t get clogged.

Note that, in each of these cases of final memorials with ashes that I just described, there is no permanent display left to sadden any commuters or any residents who happen to live where something bad happened. I think this is appropriate.

In fact, I’ll go one step further — make sure you tell the people you love most how you feel about them while they’re still around to hear it. It’s much better for them then a cross on the side of the road or a ghost bicycle with flat tires sitting chained to a pole somewhere.

Speaking of ghost bicycles left as memorials — how about, instead of letting a perfectly good bike sit outside to rust, try cleaning it up and donating it to the City Mission or the Salvation Army? Letting a kid use it for what it was meant to be used for is much better, I think. I’ll bet the poor accident victim would feel the same way.

We all grieve in different ways, no doubt about it, but when your grief has to cause poor commuting working stiffs to feel sad twice a day, maybe there’s a better way to grieve.


Living in the Capital District is heaven if you’re a motorcyclist (except for when they salt the roads). There’s nothing like cruising on the many curvy back roads and enjoying the wondrous scenery to make your senses come alive.

Often when I’m riding I'll pass what seems like acres and acres of treed lots, with not a structure in view, where the only thing spoiling the pristine glory of nature is the myriad red or yellow “Posted” signs nailed into some poor random tree like a stab in the heart. I know what “posted” signs mean —  private property so keep out — but a recent confluence of events caused me to look at them in a different light.

The first thing that happened was a visit to Newport, Rhode Island to tour the Gilded Age mansions. These are the huge, no-expense-spared palaces built, right on the ocean, by the railroad, oil, and precious-metal tycoons before the government even had an income tax.

Think of families like the Vanderbilts and the Morgans. These icons of industry and ruthless business dealings had so much money they literally couldn't spend it fast enough. Many of the mansions that resulted, complete with full butler, maid, and groundskeeping staff and adorned with lustrous gardens and landscaping, are still standing and available to tour so you can see how opulently the rich and famous lived.

When I tour these mansions, I do it simply to enjoy and marvel at the amazing architecture, the often exquisite building materials, and the engineering and construction details. I have absolutely zero interest in how the rich people that lived there spent their days.

For example, the well-heeled ladies of Newport society changed their outfits up to seven times a day, and, if you were seen in the same outfit more than twice in a season, you were considered low rent if not outright insulting.

Who wants to live like that? I'm just glad that there is a preservation society working hard to preserve these grand, beautiful structures so we can marvel at what our most talented architects and designers can do when money is no object.

The most extravagant of these mansions are right on the ocean, with unobstructed views of majestic rolling blue waves as far as the eye can see. However, between the mansions and the ocean is a public walkway that anyone can use both to enjoy the ocean view and see the mansions.

This is surely a great thing. Why? So that normal folks like us can enjoy the ocean views that otherwise would be locked behind some private property or “keep out” signs; there are no “posted” signs behind the mansions, thank goodness.

What a great way to allow both the rich and regular folks to share the wealth (the views, in this case). There are beautiful public beaches in Newport and the surrounding areas as well. You have to love that. Ocean access should be a public right for all of us, not just the super rich.

“The Power Broker”

The second thing that happened was my finally taking the huge, Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Power Broker” by noted author Robert Caro out of the library. This massive tome, which Caro almost went broke writing during during the seven years it took to research it, is the story of Robert Moses.

You may have heard that name before, especially if you are from or have visited Long Island, but if you are a New Yorker you certainly have been directly affected by him every time you visit a park, a beach, or drive over a bridge or on a parkway in this great state.

Robert Moses, while never having been elected to any public office (and never even learning how to drive), did more to influence the physical reality of New York State than anyone. Jones Beach, Robert Moses State Park (of course), Sunken Meadow State Park, the Northern State Parkway, the Southern State Parkway, and so much more infrastructure including many bridges and tunnels and even Lincoln Center, all directly exist because of Robert Moses (and in our area, securing the land for Thacher Park and much of the state land around Lake George were Moses projects).

While he has his critics — he favored the automobile over public transportation way too much, most notably — every time you visit a public park or beach anywhere in New York chances are you have Robert Moses to thank for it. What he did in New York was so innovative and transformative it was copied by virtually every other state in the nation, for better or worse.

A lifelong New Yorker, Robert Moses grew up in the city in a family with money. After a fine education at Oxford he dedicated himself to public service and trying to clean up corruption in government (think Tammany Hall).

Soon he realized that it was one thing to have dreams of public parks shared by all, but quite another to actually have the power to make those dreams happen. He gradually learned how to play the system — you could even say he invented the system — and that's why now we can go to someplace wonderful like Jones beach, which otherwise would most certainly have become a bunch of rich guys’ private backyards.

Those same billionaires who owned the mansions in Newport also owned all the prime property on the north shore of Long Island. Even with the power of Robert Moses, his plan for the Northern State Parkway had to be greatly altered due to the pushback from the lords of the manor, bypassing their estates, golf courses, and even entire towns.

Caro points out in the book that, because of the rerouting of the parkway, endless more commuting hours, additional fuel use, and more pollution are in place in perpetuity. That’s what the power of rich guys with money can do, and what Robert Moses devoted his early life to rail against.

He did much better with the Southern State Parkway and the south shore of Long Island. When you drive to the beach, you don’t think too much about where the roads came from, but landowners never want to give up land without a good payoff.

Moses was able figure out how to do it, “by hook or by crook,” as the saying goes. You may not agree with his methods, which often included back-door deals in smoke-filled rooms and all that, but he knew his way around a bill in Albany, and he knew how to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s so that he (and really us, when you think about it) got his way in the end.

I mean, somebody had to stop the super-rich people from keeping the best of everything for themselves. If Robert Moses didn’t do it, who would have?

Moses’s legacy is far from perfect: The myriad roadways and bridges he built destroyed many old, existing neighborhoods (just like the Empire State Plaza forever changed downtown Albany by razing it’s poor Italian neighborhoods). His car-first priority resulted in eyesores like I-787, where prime downtown scenic city river access is covered or blocked.

He favored his “friends” over others like so many politicians do. He let his brother, a talented engineer in his own right, live in relative squalor, even preventing him from getting gainful employment. He was used to being treated royally, including being driven around in a limo all the time.

Basically, it got to the point where he was so used to getting his own way that he forgot or ignored what his decisions and policies did to others. His endless bridge-building phase destroyed entire, thriving neighborhoods, helping to create the blight-filled ghettos that are unfortunately so commonplace in urban areas.

Some even say he was racist: It’s said that he kept bridge overpasses on the parkways going to Long Island low so that buses from the city couldn’t pass, and that he kept the water in his city-based public pools intentionally cool so that black people wouldn’t use them.

I don't know about all that, but I've been going to Jones Beach all my life and I’ve always seen the same thing: Right before the entrance to Jones Beach, which costs $10 to park, is the entrance to Captree State Park, which is free to park.

So most if not all of the minorities go to Captree and most if not all of the white people go to Jones. As I said, I’ve been going there for decades and it’s always been like this. Did Moses do this intentionally? Only he knows and he’s not around anymore to tell us.

The complete life story of Robert Moses is much too big to recount here. If you;re not enamored enough to tackle the 1,200 pages of “The Power Broker,” I’d urge you at a minimum to look him up on Wikipedia.

In fact, his effect on the lives of all New Yorker is so important, even to this day, that I really believe his story should be taught in all the schools in this state. Remember, he started out as a reformer, and only after accumulating great power (more than even the mayors and governors he reported to had) did he become so full of himself that it became “his way or the highway,” so to speak and no pun intended.

It’s the classic tale of absolute power corrupts absolutely, truly a lesson that never gets old.

Moon for sale

Did you know there is a company that accepts money for lots on the moon? Apparently, some guy believes that he found a legal loophole allowing him to “claim” the moon as his, and he has been “selling” lots there for decades.

This is totally true — many famous people have “purchased” huge tracts of the moon already. So someday, when our great-great-great grandkids get ready to build their dream house next to a big crater on the moon, there may be many “Posted” signs already there and waiting for them. Sigh.

“Posted” signs have a purpose — to keep people off of private property. But when I’m riding my motorcycle through richly forested areas on a bright, sunny day and see animals roaming freely where I’m not even allowed to tread, it somehow makes me feel sad. I’m sure Robert Moses would have felt the exact same way.


If you’ve been reading my column for a while, you know that I’m a voracious reader. I generally have two books going at all times, usually from the library. I prefer library books because our tax dollars have already paid for them and you don’t have to store them. Those are both big pluses. Hooray for libraries!

One thing I’ve always been proud of is in the more than 50 years I’ve been using libraries I’ve never once had a late fee or failed to return a book. This is really a matter of pride for me.

I’ve read many times about books finally being returned after decades, as if that were a good thing. It’s not! A book never should have been treated so carelessly in the first place.

When I borrow a book, I treat it as my own. I don’t spill stuff on it, crease the pages, or write in it. Treating it as you would if it were your own is just the right thing to do. If you really need to highlight or write in a book, then go buy your own copy.

So the other day I had just finished reading “Approval Junkie” by Faith Salie. She’s a comedian/journalist who appears regularly on the wonderful NPR radio show, “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” and she’s also a correspondent on “CBS Sunday Morning News.”

I’ve always enjoyed her and, while the book was great, it was very female oriented — lots of stuff about clothes, hair, relationships, and pregnancy. Because of all that, it didn’t really grab me so much, but I still enjoyed it.

I had been reading this book while sitting in a beach chair with my feet up on the back bumper of my F150 truck. This vehicle has a broad, flat bumper, with multiple heights making it perfect for propping up your feet and providing a place for your phone, drink, or whatever.

It’s my favorite place to read when the weather is nice. The only problem is, every now and then, I’ll forget to remove something from the bumper and then drive off and lose whatever was there. (I lost a really nice ashtray fashioned from an old motorcycle piston this way.)

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Shortly after reading the book, I had to run out and do some errands. When I came back, I set up the chair, getting ready to start my next book (I really do read a lot) when I realized I didn’t know where “Approval Junkie” had gone to.

We had house guests that weekend, so there was more commotion than usual. I checked all the usual spots but it was nowhere to be found. Finally it dawned on me that I must have driven off with it on the bumper.

I got in the truck and retraced my route. The neighbors must have thought I was critiquing their lawn-cutting techniques. Alas, the book was nowhere to be found.

I was so depressed by this, it was all I could think about for several days. I truly have never paid a library late fee in my life, much less actually lost a book. To finally have to join that club was making me ill.

n my mind, I was using my Toastmasters’ skills to craft a speech for Tim Wiles, the director of the Guilderland Public Library. In the speech, I would apologize profusely, beg for forgiveness, and promise to never let it happen again.

I’m pretty sure I was going to offer myself up for corporal punishment as well. I mean, they trusted me with a valuable library resource and I had let them down.

I was really, really bummed out. It was not a good feeling at all.

Then I was at a concert and randomly decided to check my email when this missive appeared from Heather Nelson, a senior clerk at the Guilderland library:

“Hi Frank, a patron found the book you had checked out, “Approval Junkie,” in the middle of the road near Suzanne St. I checked the item in so it is no longer on your record. I then placed another hold on it for you and you have until July 18th to pick it up here. If you no longer want the item, let us know and we will cancel the hold.”

Holy cannoli, Batman! I could not believe it.

One of my neighbors must have found it and returned it to the library, just like I would have done if I had found a library book in the middle of the road. What a welcome surprise. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Now my no-late-fee-and-no-missing-book streak would still be intact. Whew!

Public libraries are one of the great achievements of modern society. These clean, efficient institutions allow the wealth of human knowledge to be shared by lucky community members.

They offer so many services — books, magazines, newspapers, movies, and all kinds of programs — that it’s almost unbelievable. We are so, so lucky to have our community libraries.

Thank you to my neighbor who returned the library book for me. You made my day. Heck, you made my year!


There’s a bit that legendary comedian George Carlin used to do that went something like this: If you don’t like AT&T, build your own.

That’s kind of cynical, of course, but it gets to the frustration we all feel when big corporate behemoths like phone, cable, and utility companies rub us the wrong way. This rang home with me recently, as I didn’t build my own AT&T, but I did build my own MTV.

In case you don’t know, MTV stands for Music Television. This is one of the iconic, original, and groundbreaking cable TV channels.

MTV created the “music video,” the visual equivalent of a song on the radio where you could actually see the performers. This was so cool at the time that “I want my MTV!” became a national catchphrase. It truly was a revelation back in the day, and it’s reverberations are still felt now more than ever, since virtually everyone has digital video — that is, a smartphone — in their pockets all the time.

When MTV first came out, I wanted it bad but couldn’t get it, as my neighborhood in Brooklyn was very late to get wired for cable. I had to visit friends on Long Island to watch MTV, and that’s just what I did. We’d watch it for hours. Some videos were true creative works of art, others not so much, but just to see the faces of the musicians was enough. What an amazing addition to the timeless enjoyment of music.

When I was finally able to get MTV for myself, I used to just put it on and let it play all day. Sometimes I’d watch, but other times I’d cook or clean or pay bills and just listen to it in the background, very much like radio.

Then some corporate “suits” decided that nobody was watching MTV for long enough blocks at a time, so they pulled all the music videos and became more like a regular network. The shows they put on in place of the videos were regrettable and forgettable, for the most part.

The thing is, when MTV played only music videos, my friends and I often had it on all day, never changing the channel at all. So we obviously heard or saw all the commercials. Isn’t that what they want, for you to get their advertising?

I don’t know, it must have worked out in their favor, as the only time they show videos now is in the middle of the night or on an alternate channel. Maybe the suits were right; I don’t know, but I know my friends and I stopped watching it a long time ago.

So the other day I was searching for something on YouTube and just for laughs put in one of my favorite musical artists, and there was the video. One thing led to another and I discovered just about all the old videos are there. So I started saving them, and now I can view them on my TV. Yay. It’s like MTV without the “VJs” (the video equivalent of radio disc jockeys).

The really interesting thing about doing this is, when you search for an artist, they present not only the artist but related ones that you might also enjoy. I’ve discovered several new artists that I didn’t know about since I don’t read the music magazines obsessively these days like I did when I was a teenager. Discovering new artists has been a really great result of this project.

For a little while, I worried if it was legal to save these videos, but then I thought of this: For many of these artists, I bought the vinyl record when it first came out, then I bought it again on tape to play in the car, then I bought it yet again on CD when this much-more-convenient format came out.

I figure, since in many cases I’ve paid for the same music three times, it’s OK to save some videos. And I’m not an iTunes guy either, meaning, when I like an artist, I still buy the physical CD, both to have for myself and some to give as gifts. It’s too bad the artwork is not as enjoyable as it was when vinyl records ruled — the size is just too small to have the same effect.

Even though I now have my own MTV it’s not like the old days, when my buddies and I would watch it in someone’s basement. In my house, I’m allowed to have music play only at a conversational volume.

I have to wait until everyone leaves before I can “crank it up,” as they say. Then it’s just like the old days, except way back then it would have been good old rock ’n’ roll almost exclusively. On “my” MTV, I of course have that, but I also have opera, jazz, even some country and a little rap. It’s an eclectic mix for sure.

Of course, not all my favorite artists came of age in the MTV era. For the earlier artists, it’s interesting what is out there. You might find a clip of them on The Ed Sullivan Show, or perhaps just some pictures of them as the song plays. Whatever it is, it’s just great to know that they’re out there for a new generation of music lovers to discover and enjoy for themselves.

With apologies to George Carlin, building my own AT&T is just too daunting of a task to even consider. Building my own MTV works just fine for me.


I wake up in the morning and catch last night’s sports highlights on TV while reading the sports pages as I eat breakfast. On the drive to work, I tune into one of the sports-talk radio shows.

At work throughout the day, I listen to the radio for more sports talk if I have some time. During the day, my phone vibrates from time to time as my team sends out various alerts.

On the way home, it’s more sports talk in the car. Then, before dinner, I watch the afternoon sports highlight shows. After dinner, depending on the night, there is always some game on TV. How long I stay with the game before reading and then going to bed depends on how good the game is.

Does this make me sound like some kind of a rabid sports nut? You may say I am but I don’t think so.

I know there are many guys and gals who are way more into it than I am: season tickets, flying to other cities to attend games, buying all kinds of sports clothing and memorabilia, etc. Heck, I’ve never even painted my face purple to support my beloved Minnesota Vikings, though I will admit painting my garage doors purple. At least I stopped short of painting the Viking horns on them.

Why I’m bringing this up is it occurs to me the time and energy devoted to sports in this country is so out of proportion to our many other problems and concerns that I just can’t believe it. Think about the coverage sports gets in the media.

Every newscast and newspaper has a sports segment or section. There are entire networks devoted to sports. Same with radio and of course the internet. The amount of time and effort that goes into sports-related concerns is truly mind-boggling. I do like sports a lot, but even I realize this amount of coverage and constant attention is a little over the top.

If you don’t believe me, tune into a sports-talk radio program next time you’re in the car. Often you will hear grown men, and sometimes women, getting in heated discussions over a missed field goal or a bad call from a ref or some off-the-cuff comment some random athlete made.

Can you imagine if all that passion was put into, I don’t know, education? Or health care? What a different world that would be. Just think about that for a minute.

The reason sports are so popular is they create a diversion from our everyday struggle just to survive. Commuting, raising kids, dealing with various rules and regulations, etc. are not easy. They don’t call everyday life “the grind” for nothing. “Happy hour” wouldn’t exist if life were easy.

Sports allow us to get away mentally and sometimes physically for a little while. It’s easy to forget about your problems when you’re watching your favorite team try to get the game-winning score. I’ve been a Vikings fan for close to 50 years and I still can’t get enough of them (I just hope they win a Super Bowl before I die but it’s not looking so good).

There are, of course, many media outlets that are not sports related. There are news-only TV channels, and newspapers still cover a lot besides sports.

But who talks about what’s on C-SPAN (except to point out the constant stream of, shall we call it “spin” to be gracious, from this administration’s daily news briefs). For some reason, people rarely get excited or passionate about the many issues and concerns that affect our daily lives. At least not in the same way they do with sports.

I’ve had occasion to be in court several times over the years. I’ve seen traffic court and small-claims court firsthand, and I know there are criminal and civil cases going on all the time as well. All of this is public information that in many cases directly affects people’s lives.

Yet you rarely see any of it let alone hear about it. Even our highest court, the Supreme Court with justices that are seated for life, is not on TV. Why is that? Why shouldn’t we, the people who they serve, be allowed to see what goes on there?

Many folks probably wouldn’t even let their attention be diverted from something as mundane as, say, a regular season baseball game if it was on, but many I’m sure would love to see it. I know I would.

Sports and sports-related businesses provide a ton of jobs, which is great. Anytime people are working in a thriving industry, you have to be happy.

Yet I’m sick of hearing guys call a sports-talk show and argue that a certain pitcher would be a bargain “if we could get him for ten million a year.” I know you earn what the market will bear, but millions and millions of dollars to play a game is just wrong.

I think of a teacher who has to spend her own money to buy supplies for her kids. Or people who work full-time but can afford to eat or pay rent but not both. Somehow it’s just wrong that you can get paid so, so, so much money to play a game while so many honest, hardworking people can barely get by.

We’ve come to accept this in our society, that certain professions command outrageous salaries out of all proportion to what they are worth, while the hard workers who affect our lives on a daily basis — police, firefighters, government workers, service and retail workers — have to scrap and fight for any kind of increase.

I don’t know what the answer is here. But imagine if all professional athletes were limited to, say, a million dollars a year. Many would balk at this but I’ll bet most of them would still rather play ball for a million a year than work at the bank or the garage or whatever.

Think what good all that saved money could do if it were pumped into education, or to ensure that everyone had health care. Wow.

You could argue that many athletes are just one knee injury away from their careers being over, and you’d be right. Hopefully they learned something else in college besides how to play a nickel defense. That would insure that they can find gainful and productive employment when their career ends eventually. I mean, education is what college is all about, right?

I could go on and on about all of this but the game is about to start and I can tell already it’s going be a good one.


Today I offer you 100 tips for life gleaned from hard-earned experience. Use at your own risk; as they say in the car business, “Your mileage may vary.” Enjoy!

— 1. Be careful in mall and shopping-center parking lots when driving or especially when walking as the normal driving rules don't seem to apply there for some reason.

— 2. If you want to enjoy a hot dog, for God’s sake don’t think of how it’s made.

—3. If there’s any question at all on whether your deodorant is working or not, it’s not.

— 4. Actively practice listening every chance you get. You can never get too good at it.

— 5. Don’t be afraid to try new foods, but if you don’t know what part of the animal you’re eating, it’s OK to skip it.

— 6. Random acts of kindness — letting someone pull out, holding open a door, paying the toll for the car behind you — restore our faith in humanity.

— 7. For women: If you have to even think about if your skirt is too short or your top is too low, your skirt is too short or your top is too low.

— 8. For men: No one wants to see your underwear, so pull up your pants for crying out loud.

— 9. Think about what you wear to the beach. Remember, some of us are planning on eating lunch there.

— 10. If the people in the next car or apartment can hear your music, it’s too loud.

— 11. See a doctor once a year. You’re not as young as you used to be.

— 12. Get over it when your team loses. There is always next year.

— 13. If you don’t have at least one favorite author, you’re not reading enough.

— 14. Get to know what’s in your insurance policy. You’ll be glad you did.

— 15. Don’t go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. You'll feel so much better the next morning.

— 16. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s OK to wear white socks with dress pants unless you’re trying to impress someone, and if that someone can’t handle white socks with dress pants, find someone else to impress.

— 17. You don’t have to agree with someone else’s religious choice but you certainly should respect it.

— 18. Nothing good ever happens when you’re out after midnight.

— 19. Give driving the attention and respect it deserves.

— 20. Working hard and then relaxing makes you feel like you’ve really earned it.

— 21. Try to make your spouse feel extra special whenever you can.

— 22. Your children watch everything you do and listen to everything you say, though they might not show it. They also remember everything. Keep this in mind.

— 23. Find a business you like and then support it. You’ll both be better off.

— 24. Learn how to make good soup and you’ll always be popular with anyone you share it with.

— 25. You can learn anything if you stick with it long enough and learn from your mistakes.

— 26. Any kind of music is a triumph of the human spirit, and if you can play music all the better.

— 27. Teach your kids to swim; it will provide endless fun and could save their lives.

— 28. When you use the last anything — tissue, egg, toilet paper, etc. — have the courtesy to replace it.

— 29. If you need to criticize, start off with a compliment. You’ll get much better results.

— 30. Sometimes silence is the greatest sound of all.

— 31. Count a friend among your greatest possessions.

— 32. Tell your school board to keep teaching cursive writing. We should all be at least moderately proficient in this timeless art/skill.

— 33. Support your local newspaper. When it’s gone, you will miss it. Nothing beats real journalism.

— 34. If possible, let your favorite teacher know how much he or she meant to you. Teachers do God’s work.

— 35. Your parents might not be perfect, but you wouldn’t be anywhere — literally — without them.

— 36. Fast food is a fast way to pack on pounds. Control yourself.

— 37. Anyone who speaks broken English speaks at least one more language than you and I do.

— 38. Skin color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. are just categories. It is the quality of the person inside that counts.

— 39. Do not judge a person with a valid handicap sticker if they look fine when they get out of the car. You have no idea what they are dealing with. And don’t park in a handicap spot without a valid permit.

— 40. Put down the phone and do something real — a walk, a jigsaw puzzle, an actual person-to-person conversation. You’d be surprised how interesting the real world can be.

— 41. Travel is always good but, if you need a vacation from your vacation, you’re doing too much.

— 42. Wash your car. Your car will love you and you can use the exercise.

— 43. Positive thinking really works, if you can get in the habit of actually doing it.

— 44. There are so-called “foodies” who go nutso with recipes and gadgets and restaurants, but if you can get your hands on a good sandwich every now and then and maybe a good glass of whiskey on occasion you’ve pretty much got it covered.

— 45. Don’t tell me there are no jobs. If you want to work, you can work.

— 46. Invest in your future by doing two years at a community college. Then you can go to work in an actual career or continue studying. Community colleges are the best thing going.

— 47. People seem to let their heads droop forward as they age. That’s great if you’re looking for old coins on the beach with a metal detector but not for much else. Pay attention to your posture.

— 48. Your words matter. Think before you speak.

— 49. Volunteering is good for the soul.

— 50. Please think twice before reheating a tuna casserole in the office microwave oven.

— 51. Leaving farts on an elevator is never cool.

— 52. Kissing in public: Why? Get a room, as they say.

— 53. Traveling by train is slower, but it’s a lot more relaxing than flying.

— 54. Just like “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” — it’s not the cold, it’s the wind.

— 55. Speeding loses its luster the older you get. What’s the hurry?

— 56. Gift giving is completely out of control. Too bad “it’s the thought that counts” is such a cliché.

— 57. Spend a day in a good museum. Good art stirs the soul like nothing else.

— 58. Get to know the Bible. I mean, read it. You can’t begin to understand Western literature without it.

— 59. Please don’t crush my hand when you shake it. Firm is fine.

— 60. You pay for it once but you use it every day. Think about this when you buy your next house, car, or other big purchase.

— 61. If you give your word, stick to it.

— 62. Brushing and flossing are not fun but, unless you want a removable set of choppers like Grandpa, you better do it daily.

— 63. The book is always better than the movie.

— 64. The more you own the more you have to take care of. Get rid of clutter.

— 65. Set some goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you ever get there?

— 66. Pay yourself by saving something out of every paycheck.

— 67. A good foot soak. Trust me.

— 68. Don’t discount good old radio as an entertainment medium. Its pleasures are many and varied.

— 69. Nothing beats a long walk on a nice day.

— 70. You don’t study math because you’ll necessarily need it, you study math because it teaches you to think. Too bad they don’t explain this to you at the outset.

— 71. Reading and studying about a far-off place is in many ways better than going there.

— 72. Nothing says ugly more than an orange pair of Crocs, yet nothing feels so good on your feet.

— 73. Trimming your beard shows you care.

— 74. Any waitress that calls me “honey” automatically gets at least a 20-percent tip.

— 75. Life is too short for bad condiments. If you can’t afford Heinz, Guldens, and Hellman’s, become a vegetarian.

— 76. If she says things are “fine,” they’re not.

— 77. A house is just a house. It takes a wife or mother to make it a home.

— 78. Everyone talks about watching their weight, but put out a box of doughnuts and watch them disappear.

— 79. Don’t worry about things you can’t control, like weather. It is what it is.

— 80. Money is great. Happiness is better.

— 81. A “Celebration of Life” is much better than a funeral.

— 82. I love that you exercise, but you don’t need to post every run and rep on social media.

— 83. Trees are noble, valuable gifts. Treat them with respect.

— 84. If you want to see how well you know something, try explaining it to someone else.

— 85. No one works harder or cares more than a good nurse.

— 86. Helping is fine. Enabling is not.

— 87. Our country being over twenty trillion dollars in debt and climbing is bad financially and bad for the message it sends. We need to tighten our belts.

— 88. The short versions of “In A Gadda Da Vida” by Iron Butterfly and “Light my Fire” by The Doors should be permanently deep-sixed because the longer versions are so, so much better.

— 89. National Public Radio is great but fund drives are not. There has to be a better way.

— 90. A small Swiss Army knife with toothpick, tweezers, and scissors is the handiest thing you can carry.

— 91. Watering a plant is good. Flooding it can erode it. A little TV is good. Too much TV can erode your brain.

— 92. Growing older — as long as you keep learning and take care of yourself — can be a wonderful experience. Stay positive!

— 93. When you need a root canal, you need a root canal, and nothing else matters. Ouch.

— 94. If you don’t vote, don’t complain.

— 95. To avoid getting sick, try not to contact door knobs, gas-pump handles, or shopping carts with your bare hands and wash your hands often.

— 96. GPS is great for point to point, but maps are great for real understanding

— 97. Trying to find a balance between planning and spontaneity is key.

— 98. Read to a child. It’s the best thing you can do.

— 99. Getting out of bed when you don’t want to. It all starts with that.

— 100. Last but not least: Nothing is black or white; it’s all shades of gray. Learn to soften your heart, or “take a chill pill” as the young folks say, before you go off the deep end about something.

BONUS TIP – The toilet paper hangs over the roll, of course.


If you’re like me, you’re always looking for a fresh and affordable way to exercise. Changing your routing every now and then is a great way to keep the fire going and get you on the path to health and well-being.

Well, today is your lucky day, because I’m going to share with you my new workout routine. It’s called the SNO workout, which stands for the “Shoveling is Never Over” workout.

The SNO workout is free from about November (and sometimes October) until about March (and sometimes April) if you live in the great Northeast. Who needs a gym membership when you have the SNO workout? What a great day it is when you find you have something so effective available to you that is free and always there (during the winter, at least).

The great thing about the SNO workout is it’s so easy to fit into your schedule. Wait, you were planning on going to work today? No, no, no, not before you get a SNO workout so you can get your car out of the driveway. This is truly the only workout that plans the schedule for you. How easy is that!

The SNO workout is a total, full-body exercise. You name it — legs, arms, shoulders, and especially lower back. After the SNO workout, your whole body will be quivering as your well-worked and totally depleted muscles beg for mercy. Try getting a workout this good at the gym. No can do!

Don’t think because you have a snow-blower or a plowing service that you can’t take advantage of the SNO workout. There are always the walkways, that narrow space between the house and the fence, the deck, around the cars, and plenty of other places were the SNO workout is the best way to remove snow accumulation and get your exercise in.

Trust me, if you live in the Northeast, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the SNO workout.

But, Frank, you ask, how can I be sure I’ll get the SNO workout each and every winter? Glad you asked. It’s so easy. You only have to remember two things:

— Stop complaining about the cold while threatening to move to Florida; and

— Stop complaining about the taxes while threatening to move to Florida.

If you can do these two things, you can have the SNO workout every winter! Yay!

I know, I know, you still don’t believe the SNO workout can form the basis of an effective exercise program. You want to make sure you get in enough work to burn a lot of calories and really look and feel your best.

That’s the great thing about the SNO workout — you never know how much snow accumulation there will be or how long it will last. Trust me, sometimes you can get the SNO workout for days and days at a time. How great is that?

Then, just when you think your exercise is over, the town plow comes by, and instantly you’re exercising again at the bottom of the driveway and by your mailbox. Just when you thought your SNO workout was over and done for the day, you’re now getting your second round of calorie-burning workout goodness.

Feel the burn, baby! Thank you, Mister Town Plow Man!

Still haven’t gotten enough exercise? No problemo! Go to your neighbor’s house and do the SNO workout there. Heck, come over to my house and do the SNO workout right in my driveway. I won’t mind.

I’m old and I need a break from the SNO workout every now and then. Don’t let me stop you from getting into the best shape you can!

What kind of an investment do you need to perform the SNO workout? Not much, really. All you need besides your normal winter clothes are a couple of snow shovels.

The first should be one of those “pusher” shovels for when we get only a couple of inches of snow. This shovel works the hamstrings great. Get into a rhythm with this shovel and you’ll really explore the aerobic aspects of the SNO workout.

The second one should be a regular snow shovel. This is the one you use when it drops so much snow it’s just a sea of white outside. Now you’re working your entire body, especially your arms and lower back.

Keep up the SNO workout during this kind of snow accumulation and you’ll be the muscle king on the beach when summer finally comes. Try not to kick too much sand in the faces of all those wimpy guys who don’t live in the great Northeast like you do!

Is this the greatest exercise program ever or what? The fun literally never ends during our wonderful, long, drawn-out winters. So if you live in the great Northeast, don’t worry about how to stay in shape when the weather turns cold. Just remember the SNO — Shoveling is Never Over — workout, and you’re good to go for months at a time.

They say: No pain, no gain. We say: No snow, go home!

P.S. Keep a lot of Advil on hand. You’re going to need it.


I came across three things recently that made me question whether I’m living in the same universe as everyone else. Maybe you can make sense of them. My brain still hurts from trying to figure them out.

The first one was a video I saw. On the left side of the screen was a picture of a mature woman, like someone’s grandma. She was attractive in a matronly way, like someone you’d see in church or in the library.

Then on the right side of the screen was a picture of another woman. This one is made up to the hilt, with shaded long hair and a shiny complexion, the very definition of glitz and glamor. You could imagine seeing her on “Dancing with the Stars” or in a nightclub at 2 a.m., partying hard.

Well, guess what? The grandmother and the dancer are the same woman.

When you play the video, time-lapse photography starts, and slowly the grandmother turns into the dancer through the magic of makeup. I’m using the word magic here for a reason; the transformation was that amazing.

Now I’ll admit I know very little about makeup. I grew up with two brothers. My mother as far as I could tell didn’t use much makeup. Neither does my lovely wife. But if makeup can do a transformation like this, it truly is amazing.

Here’s the thing: About halfway through the video, all the deep wrinkles on the woman’s face just go away. It’s like time travel, like she suddenly got 30 years younger. My wife tells me this part was done with “foundation.” If you’re like me and know nothing about that, let me put it into terms you might understand.

Say you’re doing bodywork on a car. You bang out the dent or weld it up and now you have a solid but rough surface to work with. You then get out the Bondo and the sanding sealer and, after careful application and a lot of sanding, you have a silky smooth surface ready for paint.

That’s what this woman’s foundation thing reminded me of. The wrinkles, or dents if you will, just go away, and all of a sudden everything is smooth with no blemishes. I’ll never again be able to go into the bodywork section of an auto parts store without thinking of this woman’s face.

While it’s great that makeup can make you look decades younger, I have to question whether it’s kind of false advertising in a way. I mean, if you met the woman on the right side of the video — the glamorous dancer — you’d be thinking she’s one kind of person.

Then, if you saw her without the makeup, you’d think she was collecting Social Security. My wife tells me there are women who never let their husbands see them without their makeup on.

Imagine that. It’s like being a superhero: Do you wear your costume and display your magical powers or not? What a way to live.

I know, it’s different for women. They always want to look nice. The guys I know look the same whether they’re fishing, riding a motorcycle, or attending a wedding. Only the clothes change (and for some of my friends the clothes don’t even change that much). Hey, no matter who you are, it’s what’s on the inside that counts anyway.

Then next thing I saw that made me scratch my head was a TV show about recreational vehicles, or RVs. I’ve owned a couple of these over the years, and I may be interested in one again if extended travel becomes one of my retirement priorities.

The show focused on a family with two high school-age daughters. The parents wanted to buy an RV so they could have some quality time with the girls before they went off to college. Sounds totally reasonable. Then the salesman asks the father what his budget is for a new RV and, without blinking an eye, he says, “Around $250,000.” Yikes!

Remember, this is not a case where a family is selling their home and using the proceeds to buy an RV to live in. This is a totally discretionary purchase to do something fun with the kids, like taking them to the beach or to an amusement park. I don’t know about you, but I doubt I’ll ever have a quarter of a million dollars for a totally discretionary purchase.

Do people really live like this, with that much available money to play around with? I see a lot of RVs on the road, and the RV stores around here are acres large and packed to the gills with fancy rigs.

Maybe everyone has a great stock broker or a rich uncle, but that show still left me shocked. I know money is not worth what it used to be worth, but that is still a lot of cash for something that can leak oil or get a flat tire and may have a clogged toilet at any time. Been there, done that.

The third crazy thing I saw recently was a TV commercial. It shows a young woman meeting with her investment adviser.

He asks her how long she plans to work, and she responds with a big smile, “Around 70.”

Wow. I know I’m a little long in the tooth at this point, but it wasn’t that long ago that working to age 70 was only done if you had absolutely no other options to pay the bills.

Here’s the kicker: The investment adviser asks the young woman what she plans to do when she finally retires, and she says, “I’d like to run with the bulls.”

So, let’s see if we have this right: She’s going to work to age 70, and then fly to Pamplona, Spain and enter the semi-controlled madness called “running with the bulls,” where wild animals and throngs of out-of-control people run for their lives down narrow, crowded streets like drugged rats in an endless maze, screaming, ranting and raving while trying not to get gored, run over, or crushed.

This is what she is looking forward to do when she retires. At 70. Right.

Who is writing these commercials? Are they kidding or what? Someone should test the water over there. I knew there would be problems when they cut back on mental-health funding.

So there you have it: Women taking decades off their appearance, people spending 250 large on a discretionary purchase, and people working to age 70 before they go running with the bulls. All I can say is: Thank God for single-malt scotch.


— Photo from Facebook

Bill and Judi Yelton founded their restaurant, Will’s Grill, in Lawrence, Indiana in 1998, and named it after Bill’s son, Will Yelton, who died in 1995, barely in his thirties.

My lovely wife and I had the luxury of taking a long car trip in the summer. We got to see a lot of sites that were on our bucket list, visit a lot of friends, and overall just have a nice relaxing time.

The budget hotels we stayed in weren’t the best, but then again you get what you pay for (if you’re lucky). Maybe an RV is in our future. We’ll see.

So often when traveling it’s the unexpected occurrences or places that become the big highlights, the kind of things that memories are made of. Stumbling onto a great beach, park, or restaurant is always fun.

These days, with computers and phones, it’s no problem if you want to ultra-plan everything, squeezing in the maximum number of activities and experiences possible. There’s certainly something to that, and I admire those people who have the skill and persistence to pull it off, but mostly I like to just take things as they come. Surprises (when they’re good ones) help make traveling worthwhile.

One day during our trip, it was lunchtime and I was getting hungry. We were in the middle of nowhere and just for laughs I had my wife do a search on her phone for a White Castle restaurant.

In case you haven’t had the pleasure, White Castle serves those delicious but gut-busting tiny burgers known lovingly as “sliders,” “belly bombers,” “murder burgers,” and other colorful names. They have this reputation not because there’s anything inherently wrong with them.

Like most fast food, they are high in calories, fat, and salt. The problem is they’re so darn good you tend to eat way too many and then get sick after. (I’ve eaten 20 at a single sitting several times — ouch). Truly, too much of anything is not good.

So she finds a White Castle location in Indiana of all places and just like that we’re in the parking lot and I’m drooling. Now my wife has a more discerning palette than I do, and, if she never saw another white-and-blue White Castle building with the big yellow “The Crave!” sign in her life, she’d be fine.

So, as usual, I was at a crossroads. I really needed a White Castle fix but I wanted my wife to be happy as well. Then I looked across the street and there was this funky combination café-restaurant-trucking company there. It had a real “down home” look to it, to say the least.

It reminded me of the place in “The Blues Brothers” movie where John Belushi asks what kind of music they like, and the waitress responds: “Both kinds — Country and Western.” So, just like that, White Castle was out, and a new adventure was about to begin.

As soon as we sat down, the cozy, down-home atmosphere indicated we’d made the right choice. Picture a snazzy black-and-white tile floor, a high lofty ceiling with bicycles hanging upside down, a huge American flag on the wall, and all kinds of wild memorabilia all over the place.

Despite the busy decor, the atmosphere was relaxing: tables filled with ordinary working folk just having a good time. They even have actual Blues Brothers mannequins in the corner, singing and dancing at the mic! There’s something about the heartland that inspires people to create places like this, and I for one am grateful for it.

Before you could say “yee haw,” we had our drinks and the owner was sitting with us, chatting us up. The place is called Will’s Grill & Restaurant, and the owner, Bill Yelton, is a character straight out of a “Prairie Home Companion” radio show.

Before we knew what was happening, we were regaled with all that was going on in the area, how the business was doing, and what was wrong with the world, but not in an obnoxious or complaining sort of way. Rather, it was done in that small-town American way where everybody knows everybody and a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

I’ve always been a fan of small businesses and the people who make them run, because these kinds of shops are the backbone of our community and our country. Hardworking, taxpaying people like these really are what make America great. We had such a good time at Will’s Grill that, when we left, after saying cheerful goodbyes to everyone, I took a business card and stuffed it in my wallet just in case I ever get back to that neck of the woods.

Months later, I’m doing a wallet purge. This is where you find your wallet getting so big it’s causing physical pain so you’re forced to finally clean that sucker out lest you develop an even worse posture than you already have.

As I’m doing this, I come across the Will’s Grill business card. I was just about to toss it on my stack of saved business cards (where it will just lie around for years before getting tossed so why not just toss it now but that’s another story) when I happen to flip it over and notice there is printing on the back, which is unusual for a business card. Here is what it said:

“He is nothing, he can do nothing, he can achieve nothing, fulfill nothing, without working. If you are poor — work! If you are rich — continue working! If you are burdened with seemingly unfair responsibilities — work! If you are happy, keep right on working! Idleness gives room for doubts and fears. If disappointments come — work! If your health is threatened — work! When faith falters — work! When dreams are shattered and hope seems dead — work! Work as if your life were in peril. No matter what ails you — work! Work faithfully, work with faith. Work is the greatest remedy available for mental and physical afflictions.” — Bill Yelton, Will’s Grill & Restaurant, Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

As I stood there reading this screed over and over my jaw literally dropped. It’s like Bill Yelton read my mind and said what I’ve always felt but in the most heartfelt and eloquent way, in that good old boy country style that I could never do.

What I mean is: He nailed it, like a basketball player sinking a three-pointer to win the game with no time left on the clock and the ball going swish as the buzzer blares and the fans go crazy. Game over!

My first job was delivering newspapers after school and I’ve been working straight through ever since. I’ve worked part-time while going to school; I’ve worked two jobs at time; I’ve worked while raising a family; I’ve worked while maintaining a home and rental property and fixing my cars and everything else around the house; I’ve kept working while the house slowly becomes an empty nest; and I have no immediate plans to stop working even as I edge closer and closer to retirement.

I’ve worked long and hard and never even thought twice about it because work is just second nature to me. Some people play the lottery in hope of getting out of working; I, on the other hand, play the lottery only when I can remember to buy a ticket, which isn’t often. Even if I won, which is doubtful as you know, I’d still work at something.

Work is life, life is work. It’s as simple as that.

That quote from Bill Yelton hits home with me because I recognize the value of work. Work gives you purpose; meaning; and, of course, remuneration for your hard effort. That’s a great deal if you ask me.

How serendipitous to wander into an out-of-the-way country restaurant and have it stated so simply and effectively. Indeed, if you have the good fortune to work as if your life is in peril, you can go to bed at night happy and fulfilled knowing that you’ve contributed to society.

Just by the simple act of your daily sweat and toil, you become part of the solution, not part of the problem. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you, Bill Yelton, for so beautifully capturing the essence, value, and meaning of hard work.