Category Archives: Pop Culture

Vick In The Thick Of It (Again)

Michael Vick

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Love and hate.

Two powerful words that are as used and abused as much as any in the English language.

For example, you don’t’ really love the food at a certain restaurant, and you don’t really hate when people act rude in public.

Love and hate has to be more personal.

I hate Neo-Nazis, for example.

I love my family, my friends, and the music that has been the soundtrack of my life.

I love dogs (cats, too, but particularly dogs).

And I love the Philadelphia sports teams, but the Eagles top the list.

This brings me to the great quandary, and controversy, still swirling around one Michael Vick, the former NFL quarterback.

While Vick made his name with his game with the Atlanta Falcons, the quarterback became a lightning rod when his role in a dog-fighting ring was exposed.

He went to jail for 21 months, and his name – as it should have been at the time — was mud.

Vick served his time, and was signed by the hometown Eagles.

That’s when things got pretty interesting.

Some fans turned in their green gear. Their love for dogs was so powerful that they could no longer root for a team that could employ such a person.

Others, figuring he wasn’t going to play much anyway, tried to shrug it off.

Myself, a lifelong Eagles fan? To say I wasn’t happy about it at the time would be an understatement.

For one, just from a football perspective, they needed a fourth quarterback on the roster like I needed a fourth hole in my head.

Plus, well, look what he did those poor dogs.

After one year here of saying the right things, while not really coming across as being overly convincing, Vick ended up not only being a standout on the field for the Birds in his second season, 2010, but a genuine good citizen off of it.

When he led an amazing comeback win in the Meadowlands, the one that ended on DeSean Jackson’s walk-off punt return, it kind of personified his comeback to being a productive and law-abiding citizen and family man.

Vick has since retired, gone on to be a better citizen than many others — including Donovan McNabb (two DUI arrests in Arizona, one of which caused an accident).

Vick has worked for the cause of animal rights while also establishing several charitable foundations for at-risk youth.

Vick has been a positive role model to those who have done wrong and now try to do right, showing that a life can be turned around.

For that, he was named an honorary captain for the upcoming – and relatively nonsensical – Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 in Orlando.

Firestorm instantly ignited. It was 2009, the year the Eagles signed him, all over again.

In my inbox, I received e-mails from Change.org (they have me on file for being a crazy radical who has signed petitions in the past).

One asked for my support in removing Vick as a captain.

The other was to support keeping him.

Even though a pickup game in the park between middle-school kids is more interesting than the Pro Bowl, the question was fairly significant.

And it has some resonance this time of the year, where families put aside differences and New Year’s resolutions are made.

Which petition did I sign?

The choice was pretty easy.

Keep him as captain, I said, lest we ski down an endless slippery slope – putting us into a gray area of serious issues of black and white and selective forgiveness – that we don’t want to get into but probably should.

In a country where the system of crime and punishment is broken (recidivism rate of almost 77 percent within five years of being released), Vick should be heralded as a success story of how it should work.

But, because his victims were dogs – and I love dogs, too – Vick is judged more harshly than if he, say, committed a violent crime against even a woman or child.

We live in a country where someone who bragged about fondling women was elected president, and where charges of sexual child abuse against Catholic priests and those using the football brand of Penn State – get swept under the rug.

People get all weak in the knees over stories about the few white supremacists who changed their ways so much that they want to remove their swastika tattoos.

But a black man in a white man’s world? Not a chance.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, to his credit, has refused to yield to the pressure to remove Vick as honorary captain.

Good for Goodell.

How about you?

It is a true question of love and hate, and it’s a chance to let love in and let it win.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Jan. 5, 2020.

Hillary, Please, Go Away

Hillary-Clinton-Just-Crept-Back-Into-Politics-And-Scored-A-Big-Win

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Some people, I’ll tell ya, they just don’t know when to go away.

Kanye West. The cast of the rebooted “Ghostbusters.” Anyone with the last name of Kardashian or Jenner.

But, today, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

The future of the nation depends on a more graceful exit, as opposed to her ongoing stumble that sets off the fire alarm.

She might think her two cents – sounding more to the masses like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons – remains vital to the national discourse, but nothing is further from the truth.

It just adds to the noise.

Clinton, who pretty much handed your president (not mine) the presidency by running one of the worst campaigns possible while presuming victory (kind of like the Eagles two Sundays hence in Miami against the lowly Dolphins with a 92-year-old quarterback).

She recently put some more cheese with her whine in an interview with Howard Stern, blaming her costly and embarrassing loss on the usual suspects – James Comey, the Russians – and, of course, Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders? You mean the same Bernie Sanders who is very much alive and well – without the SuperPAC donations that were the lifeblood of Clinton’s otherwise comatose campaign – in the 2020 bid to unseat the albatross that Clinton, and Clinton alone, left us to deal with while she fires spitballs at the free-thinking Vermont senator from her detached Manhattan perch.

Clinton’s stated resentment of Sanders has less to do with him not vociferously backing her after being literally jobbed out of the nomination by the DNC establishment and more to do with that he dared to enter the race at all.

The sad thing is that what I’m going to write now is nothing I haven’t already written before in past columns and blog posts, but – like a bad rash – Clinton makes me keep on itching at it.

The original plan, as sickening as it sounds, was for Clinton to run unopposed by anyone after a few marginal candidates – Sanders, included – dropped out after the first four primaries/caucuses.

But Sanders had a groundswell of support, mostly from the younger voters that Clinton couldn’t connect with, and he used donations averaging $27 (I made several) to chase her almost to the finish line.

Once she “won,” after only some rather strange vote counts in the Western primaries/caucuses where Sanders was polling even or ahead, plenty of Sanders supporters – myself included – moved into her camp.

Truth be told, her resume made her beyond qualified to be president. I had no issue whatsoever with voting for her when the time came.

But then it went.

And she lost.

She lost by not going to places where Sanders either beat her (Wisconsin, Michigan) and or made a surprisingly strong showing. She lost by picking a saccharine running made that added zero, and actually hindered, her chances.

She was qualified but uninspiring, a trait that shouldn’t disqualify someone from being elected but, sadly, does in this day and age.

Your president (not mine) can do and say – and tweet — anything about anyone and get away with it. She can accurately call some – not all, but some – of his supporters “deplorable” and have it held against for time in memoriam.

Clinton should have stood up for herself on the debate stage better. When your president (not mine) kept interrupting her at the pace of every other word – saying “wrong,” like the pestilent ADHD child he is – she should have stopped cold and told him that she was going to interrupt him and he needs to stop interrupting her.

If he continued, she should have asked the moderators to do their jobs.

At another point, in another debate, he literally stalked her, physically, to make her look smaller in stature. She should have, and could have, told him to go stand where he is supposed and not invade her space.

Some said she couldn’t do that because women are judged differently, and there may be some truth to it. However, I think it could be more nuanced. I can’t see Elizabeth Warren putting up with those antics.

Personally, I think she figured he was making so much of a jackass out of himself that she didn’t need to intervene. That is, unfortunately, the way of the wimpy Democrat.

And it can’t be anymore.

Full disclosure, of course, is that I join fellow celebrities (wink) and intellectuals (wink again) – documentarian/activist Michael Moore, rapper/activist Killer Mike, philosopher/activist Dr. Cornel West and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile – as a noted Sanders supporter.

But I’m also realistic enough to read the writing on the walls the White House – particularly in the environment of hate that your president (not mine) created – that reads both “No Jews Allowed” and “No Socialists Allowed.”

Sanders – like myself – is barely a practicing Jew and is a Democratic Socialist (go check the economy, and quality of life index, in Finland), not a Socialist.

So, when Clinton stuck in a dig during her interview, saying that she hopes Sanders is quicker to support the nominee this time around, she is unfortunately accurate that he probably won’t get the nod.

However, in the process, she admitted that he still carries a lot of sway with a lot of voters – particularly the younger voters – the ones that she so miserably failed to captivate on her own accord.

That’s why she is pleading her case with Howard Stern, still lamenting not being president, instead of sitting in the Oval Office.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 15, 2019.

The Worst Curse Word In Politics Is …

iowa

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE – Pardon my French, but I going to use a bad word.

It’s a four-letter word, actually.

And it sums up our seriously flawed national election process that generally leaves us choosing between the lesser of two perceived evils (actually, there really was one this past time around).

Ready?

Here it is: Iowa.

In and of its self, Iowa is a harmless Midwestern state – bordered by six others – with a population that ranks it 31st (under 1 percent of the national population).

Despite an impressively high per capita rate of six minor league hockey teams, Iowa’s population ranks below Puerto Rico (which should be a state and isn’t, despite having no minor league hockey teams).

To put it into perspective, at 3.2 million people, the Philadelphia metropolitan region is nearly twice its size.

And yet, in a political process that is already poisoned by special interest dollars, Iowa is the flashpoint state.

Its caucuses come first, meaning those SuperPAC dollars are disproportionately dumped into it so that candidates can get the desired outcome – a win or a solid enough showing – that there is a slingshot effect for another smaller state, New Hampshire, that is also not really reflective of the face of the American electorate.

On top of all this, Iowa does not hold primaries, where votes are cast and counted. It’s a caucus. And it would be nice if the mainstream media spent less time salivating over the latest polls that show the flavor-of-the-month underdog – i.e. Pete Buttigieg – on top and more on just what a caucus even is (and if it is a fair process).

That aside, just in terms of the batting order, giving Iowa this much importance – particularly in what could be the most important election of our lifetimes – is something that should have been noticed and rectified a long time ago.

I would postulate that it is just as dangerous – and maybe even more – than keeping the arcane Electoral College intact.

This isn’t the first time I have written about this major hitch in our get-a-long, and it won’t be the last.

There are other stones in my show, in terms of the process. I personally have an issue with currently elected politicians short-changing their own constituency to run for president. If you want to run, resign or wait until your term is up. At the very least, a senator should not run as a junior senator from a state unless the senior one gives it his or her blessing.

But that aside, starting off with Iowa, and heavily weighing its importance based on the results, is how and why we are where we are today.

While some who agree would say the primaries should be held in one day, I’m not so sure that is the healthiest way to handle it, either.

My plan, which is not new to you my loyal flock of readers, is to roll the primaries (not caucuses) in the order they came into the Union, and in larger blocks – with more time in between.

That would mean a whole lot of campaigning in what are the 13 original colonies. While that creates a geographical imbalance, it would be more representative of our populace from the standpoint of diversity and ethnicity (if you find any Jews or Italians in heavily Protestant – and evangelical — Iowa, send up a flare).

Those results will provide a much clearer picture of who is or is not a legitimate candidate, as opposed to an underdog that Iowa voters get a buzz out of propping up because, well, it makes them seem more relevant than they really are.

If candidates are unable to campaign in 13 original states from the outset, they probably should not have been candidates in the first place, right?

And if they get swept away by that first day, bowing out would make more sense than not doing well in Iowa and/or New Hampshire (excuse me while I yawn).

The next group of primaries would be: Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

That would be followed by another big day: Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Maine and Missouri.

Still no Iowa? Nope, still no Iowa.

It is a more accurate sense, from a cross-section of America, of where the pulse of the electorate is – as opposed to where the media and fat cat donors want it to be.

Iowa? Admitted as a state in 1846, it would get to go in the next group of those admitted before the Civil War.

That means it would join Michigan, Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, California, Oregon and Kansas. Some bigger states in there, and they may not think that to be fair.

How do you think the rest of us feel when we turn on the idiot box each day and hear “Iowa, Iowa, Iowa” while the country, literally, burns to the ground?

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019.

Bracing for Civil War 2.0

BattleOfChancellorsvilleReenactment

By GORDOON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — If the gauntlet had not already been laid down for the American Civil War 2.0, recent events have inched us closer.

Let us count the ways:

-Impeachment: The hearings kicked off Wednesday, with the Union (Democrats) and Confederacy (Republicans) painting two entirely different portraits about what your president (not mine) said to the Ukrainian president during a phone call.

The other thing that can prevent this from leading to a bloodbath that will spill over into the streets is that all of us – left, right and center – just don’t have the same attention spans from when the same thing happened with Richard Nixon in the early 1970s or even Bill Clinton in the late 1990s.

These proceedings will drag on for weeks, if not months, providing enough lead time for diversionary tactics – ranging from childish 3 a.m. tweets to creating new and inventive instabilities overseas – that will draw the mainstream media away from both the impeachment hearings and who currently leads in the Iowa polls.

The “base” will refuse to believe any evidence that their president did anything wrong. At the least, they will just convince themselves – via the mastery of false equivalencies and believing conspiracy theories – that it was nothing different than what anyone else has done in the back rooms of the West Wing.

They said that about Nixon, too. And, well, we know how that turned out.

The whole election of your president (not mine) was a sign of the times, revealing we were ripe for a Civil War. No qualifications were required, as only venom toward outgoing president Barack Obama – and the use of code words and hot-button topics like immigration – were enough to capture the imagination of those who didn’t want to be bothered with the gory details involved in sorting out fact from fiction.

He has done 1,000 things that cry out “Impeach Me, Hard” – kind of like those “Kick Me Hard” signs we would put on someone’s back in middle school – and this is just No. 1,001.

Whether it does the trick or not is irrelevant.

There are those who see this, and those who don’t want to see it. In the middle, we have a portion of the country – the same portion that will likely decide the next election – who may just want to take the time to understand the US Constitution and whether or not he breached the document he swore to uphold above his own personal interest.

-Sandy Hook Revisited: There may be no more hot-button topic in this brewing war between the states than gun control (yet another school shooting in suburban Los Angeles Thursday morning).

It is said that if nothing changed after the horrific mass shooting of 26 people, including 20 first-graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, it was never going to happen.

And nothing has.

However, what seemed to be a Hail Mary pass, a lawsuit against Remington Arms Co., the maker of the weapon used by the shooter in the Sandy Hook massacre worked its way all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And the high court, despite having an extra vote from the right, allowed the families to move forward with the suit, the essence of which states that Remington was at fault because its marketing targeted “vulnerable young men” – i.e. losers – with its phallic symbols thinly disguised as weaponry.

At face value, there is some merit against the lawsuit, as it could create a slippery slope. However, as is the case in the impeachment situation, the devil lives in the details.

The reality is that most of the country, even gun-owning members of the NRA, are for some form of gun control.

Still, the startling fact is that three percent of Americans own half of the country’s estimated 265 million guns, and they are likely not those with any interest in any form of gun control legislation.

This case will be worth watching. The NRA’s deep pockets haven’t stopped its momentum yet, even when going to the right-leaning Supreme Court, the ruling of which will not only will likely open the door to more lawsuits from victims of gun crimes.

If that happens, there will be backlash from those who don’t get the fact that no one is physically coming for their guns in a conspiratorial attempt to trash their rights under the Second Amendment.

-Colin Kaepernick Workout – While it should be a sports story, it is anything but when Kaepernick’s name is involved.

Your president (not mine) infamously called on NFL owners to “fire” (wrong terminology, as players are released or waived, depending on their contract verbiage) any athlete who didn’t stand at attention during the national anthem before games.

Kaepernick, who began kneeling for the anthem in protest, has been out the NFL for almost three full seasons now.

While it is ironic that many of those who insist of their rights under the arcane and misinterpreted Second Amendment are unwavering in denying Kaepernick his right of free speech under the First Amendment, it is also fair to say that Kaepernick was getting more mileage out of being martyr than trying to make a comeback as a rusty quarterback.

The whole saga took a shocking turn this past week when Kaepernick tweeted out that he would be holding a surprise, open workout for NFL executives.

Initial indications were that just one team out of 32, the Dallas Cowboys, would attend the workout via a “team official” who could be nothing more than a low-level scout.

Whether Kaepernick throws another NFL pass, a tight spiral goes into the great divide. If he isn’t signed, he becomes even more of a martyr for the cause. If he is given a chance, others – the Confederates – will be up in arms.

And then there are the nuances of the scenario. If he signs but sits behind a starter who is not a standout, there will be cries of discrimination. If he kneels again during the national anthem, there could be protests at stadiums. If he doesn’t, the Confederacy will declare a moral victory and the Union will see a sellout to the man.

Controversial (and, fingers crossed, viral) Music Video – A bit of shameless self-promotion here, folks. A video of a Gordonville, U.S.A. song “Angry White Male” was released, via Facebook watch party, on Nov. 16 (World Unity Day) and remains available for viewing.

The images of how far we have devolved, with so-called patriots using symbols of those our forefathers fought against to save our union and democracy, are not pretty.

But they were necessary to convey the brevity of the song, which can be found on YouTube and at the Gordonville, U.S.A. Facebook page (give a brother a “like” while you are there).

I would say enjoy, but that’s not the intent.

This column initially ran in Times Herald on Nov. 17, 2019.

Rockin’ The Vote (while rockin’ the boat)

Rundgren

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I voted.

I not only voted today, but yesterday and the day before that and the day before that and the day before that.

And I’ll do it again tomorrow — and will continue until I can’t anymore.

These votes, which are allowed on repeat (and hopefully without Russian interference), are cast online for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Hall got over itself and allowed fan voting to become part of the process, and that led to some overdue inductions (Rush, Journey, The Cars) but inherent injustices remain because the playing field is still made uneven by a self-righteous group of know-it-alls creating the ballot.

The 2020 induction nominees include some who just became eligible (25 years since their first release, some who have been eligible but have not been on the ballot and others who are repeat nominees).

The list (in alphabetical order, with those I have repeatedly voted for in bold) includes: Pat Benatar; Dave Matthews Band; Depeche Mode; The Doobie Brothers; Whitney Houston; Judas Priest; Kraftwerk; MC5; Motörhead; Nine Inch Nails; The Notorious B.I.G.; Rufus featuring Chaka Khan; Todd Rundgren; Soundgarden; T.Rex and Thin Lizzy.

My first reaction to the ballot was one of both joy and disgust. I was excited to see Benatar, Rundgren and T.Rex but some of the others – Whitney Houston, The Notorious B.I.G., Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Depeche Mode and MC5 – continue to cause me angst.

T_Rex_The_Slider

Over the years, the Hall has defined and redefined what is and isn’t Rock so many times that it is enough to make a statue dizzy.

Considering the varied genres that merged into some magical chemistry to make rock and roll what it became, it is understandable that some lines will get blurred.

But something stinks in the town of Cleveland, which is somehow home to the Rock and Roll Hall (should have been in Philly, but don’t get me started).

Either those who pull the strings from behind the curtain are tripping over themselves to be too inclusive, or something more subversive could be at play. They could be trying to monopolize all music outside of opera under one roof.

Since 1961, Nashville has been home to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

There is a Hip Hop Hall of Fame and Museum in New York City that was established in 1992.

There is a Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. Founded in 2010, it is currently a mobile museum with several cities bidding to be its permanent home.

Plans are afoot for an American Pop Hall of Fame in Western Pittsburgh and a Folk Music Hall of Fame with a broad vision and not many firm details.

Meanwhile, the R&R Hall continues to violate trespassing laws to fish in other ponds while ignoring many of its own.

There was not much criticism early on, as choices like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley seemed rather obvious.

The shark was officially jumped in 2007, when The Dave Clark Five finished fifth in the voting, earning the final spot, but the spot was given away by self-appointed chairman Jann Wenner (publisher of Rolling Stone magazine) to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five because of a perceived dire need to include a rap act.

The curious ballots and omissions ever since have landed the entity in a world where it is not taken seriously.

Me? I’m still trying. That’s why I still vote.

 

I grew up listening to AOR (album-oriented rock), which was gargantuan from the late 1960s through to the arrival of the MTV era of the early 1980s.

A band could sell a zillion records and pack arenas without ever putting a song in the Top 40. Those were the days.

But many of the artists and acts of that era – Bad Company, Jethro Tull, Foreigner, Warren Zevon, Foghat, Supertramp, Boston, Styx, Peter Frampton, Kansas, ELP and those I voted for (Benatar, The Doobie Brothers, Judas Priest, Rundgren and T.Rex) – are annually spurned.

Badco

Ironically, there is a channel on Sirius Radio – Classic Vinyl – that broadcasts live from … The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You hear these bands, not past “pop” inductees like ABBA or Bee Gees, all the time.

And then there are the singer-songwriters that once owned the music scene. I’m talking about Gordon Lightfoot (pictured below), Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Carole King (in the Hall as a writer but not a performer, despite her seminal “Tapestry” album that blazed a trail for female singer-songwriters for decades) and John Denver.

Lightfoot

And then we have the curious omissions of America and Seals and Crofts.

Not rock? That argument can only be made if The Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Simon & Garfunkel (and Paul Simon) and James Taylor were not among those inducted.

Music is subjective. I get it. But there can still be a measure of objectivity to it — just based on body of work and evidence and what fits the definition of rock in the most loose of terms.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Oct. 27.

Searching For A Lost America

CountryDiner

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — If it is possible for a heathen to have a come to Jesus moment, I had one about 12 years ago when lost in the King of Prussia area.

It was in the dark days before GPS, and the directions we looked up practically had us driving off the road and into a ditch.

I did what was I taught to do – after learning reading, writing and arithmetic – and followed the long-held American right of pulling into a gas station to ask for directions.

No one there – not the cashier, mechanic or guy sitting behind the counter with his feet up – had a clue.

We barely found our way back home while feeling frustrated, having not showed up for a scheduled appointment, only to learn that we were a grand total of two turns and two minutes from the destination.

The tradition of getting directions at a gas station was clearly gone, as it was not the first time and not the last.

The type of full-service gas stations that guide you to the Yukon became an endangered species, going the way of using a phone book to call a movie theater on a pay phone for start times.

You can say it’s all a sign of progress, but we need to have progress with our souls intact, do we not?

While we have had the rise of a wonderful musical genre called Americana (an umbrella under which country, rock, folk, blues, blue grass – among others – can merge and mingle without the musicians feeling like traitors to their genres), many other forms of Americana are six feet under.

These deaths are not by a single stab wound, but by a thousand painful cuts.

Exhibit A: Sports.

What did we do as kids? We watched games on television, and then we went outside and mimicked what we saw until it was too dark (and sometimes when it was too dark).

Maybe we didn’t do everything fundamentally correct, but we played and played and played.

Sofia, now 12 ½, plays softball at the travel tournament level, and she has yet to ever watch one pitch of a game on television. We make semi-regular excursions to Reading Phillies games, but she doesn’t really pay attention there, either.

Everything she has done with the sport has been in a controlled environment with adults instructing her, either as coaches or individual mentors (or yours truly trying to act like one).

Truth is, though, she is a step ahead by putting down her phone long enough to put in the time.

Even if she did watch the Phillies and then looked to play outside – without adult supervision, leaving kids alone to develop skills such as conflict resolution – there would be no untouched open space anyway.

It seems every piece of suburban grass needs to have a house on it, lest western civilization turn into one big pumpkin by the pending stroke of midnight.

And then there is the sign of lost Americana, leaving me the most blue — the slow decline and gradual death of the neighborhood diner.

The operative word here is “neighborhood.”

I lamented this trend recently on a Facebook post, hoping my “friends” in that alternate universe would commiserate.

Some did, but others did not. Some suggested what I call coffee shops – places that open around 6 a.m. and close by the end of the lunch rush (2-2:30 p.m.) – which don’t qualify as a diner in my book (diners should technically be 24 hours, but that went by the wayside at the front end of the decline).

Others mentioned chain restaurants that are too big and impersonal – complete with elongated wait times – that don’t qualify.

Most fellow Facebookians chose to jolt me from my anger stage of the mourning process by letting me know of diners I could try out.

I was reminded of places in the city – South Philly, North Philly, Roxborough and my home ‘hood of the Northeast – that I already knew about.

No one mentioned New Jersey, where diner tradition is the next best thing it has going next to being the Bruce Springsteen state, but I’m not about to pay a toll and fight traffic just for a cheese omelet.

I also learned of diners in Pottstown, Reading, Collegeville, Warminster, Wyncote, Warrington, Wayne, Downingtown and even somewhere south of the Delaware River Gap.

That’s all fine and dandy. If I’m ever in any of those places, a diner will get my business 100 times before some chain joint.

It’s a way to soak up the local flavor, and get a feel for the community (often song fodder), as diners are – or were – a window into the soul of an area.

But I’m still a stranger in a strange land, and it often leaves me with an achy breaky heart (especially if the song is playing on the jukebox).

Every neighborhood should have at least one diner. It should actually be mandated by law – by the same municipal officials so quick to rubber stamp variances to overdevelop themselves into oblivion.

I know there are some diners around Norristown – in West Norriton, Audubon, etc. – but there is no way I can get there enough to be called “hun” by a waitress who already knows to bring me my decaf (caffeine kills) and large OJ.

I wouldn’t yearn for that so much if I didn’t have it, only to have it stripped away, one by one by one.

When we first moved to Blue Bell, there were so many diners within a five-mile radius that we practically kept a scorecard to make sure we were hitting each one fairly.

Once you achieve “regular” status, feeling like a regular on the cast of “Cheers,” you have a certain amount of responsibility to be a good customer.

And I was, tipping in the 25 percent range.

At least that’s what I believed while keeping faith in the dream of Americana more than the American dream itself.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Oct. 13, 2019.

Blending In With The Scenery (Finally)

Brynner

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — North of 50, actually nearly 55, my short-term memory is becoming seriously challenged.

Long-term, though? Forget about it – pardon the pun.

I remember the almost-frozen ice cream sandwiches on the beach in Atlantic City (this is before I became Lactose intolerant).

I remember drinking a coke from a seemingly bottomless bottle (this is before I developed a sensitivity to caffeine).
I remember going into the ocean (this is before I stopped wading in past my ankles after seeing “Jaws”).

 

And I remember going to a lot of movies (before there were video stores) and getting popcorn you didn’t have to butter yourself.

And the TV shows, with only three network channels and the UHF stations (no cable, no Netflix) that always needed rabbit ears for better reception.

When I loved a movie, I would see it multiple times. Being from a broken home – yeah, I am playing that card again – it was automatic that one I saw during the week could be seen again on the weekend to get out of the way of the missiles flying at my father’s home.

One movie that was a hit in Gordonville was “The Ten Commandments,” an epic drama about the exodus of the ancient Hebrews from bondage in Egypt.

Starring Charlton Heston as the protagonist, Moses, the plot of what now strikes me as embarrassingly hokey dialogue was stirred by Rameses II, the antagonist played by Yul Brynner.

What set Brynner apart — beyond an accent that was a mish-mash of Russian, Swiss and Mongolian – was his shaved head (with had some weird ponytail thing hanging out of it for a while).

The movie was made in 1959, six years before I was born, but it made the rounds again in theaters in the early seventies.

At a time when men had hair longer than a lot of women, it struck me as a bit unique.

On television, there were a plethora of classic detective shows that all 264 high-tech CSI shows combined could never match.

Savalas

A standout was the gritty “Kojak,” starring Telly Savalas.

In addition to his signature lollipop, the character had a shaved head.

Maybe shoulder-length hair of men had given way to the more “disco” blow-dry look (think John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”), but going all shaved was still way out of the norm.

Most bald men just went bald, usually with those awful fringes around the side that some would let grow out of proportion.

That horror hit close to home.

Clarke

My father would go to a barber – the same guy who “styled” the hair of some of the Broad Street Bullies (he claimed he used the same scissors and comb on my hair as boyhood idol Bobby Clarke) – whose supposed specialty was covering bald spots.

My maternal grandfather used an at-home pullover approach that would never fly today.

The shame of it was so powerful that some resorted to hair pieces that were obnoxious.

Genetically, I was doomed to be bald.

A sad fate for someone who could never get it right.

One constant through my misbegotten youth was a lot of bad hair days trying to emulate either the rock stars or sports stars I so admired.

There was one respite from the madness. It came in fifth grade, when even older women in sixth grade, seemed to have crushes on me.

I got hitched to the adorable Barbara Padgett one day at recess (breaking many hearts in the process), and figured I’d be set as a playboy for life.

But an early onset of puberty was not kind.

By sixth, I was playing in the minor leagues.

My father would order the barber, the Flyers’ guy, to turn my Juan Epstein thing into a “camp cut” before going away to camp (thus assuring being turned down by the fairer sex for roller skating or dance at a record hop).

In protest, once back in the world, I let it grow out into an all-out Brillo pad atop my head.

I made matters worse by blow-drying it, because it seemed like the cool thing to do, as opposed to letting it dry naturally.

Daltrey

Giving up trying to look like Bobby Clarke – or some other hockey players (a guy named Ron Duguay from the New York Rangers had the ideal look) – it turned into an all-out quest in high school to nail the look of Roger Daltrey (lead singer of The Who).

On a good day, the best I could do was Neal Schon from Journey, and that was usually right after a shower.

I eventually went to the John Oates look in college, and got by enough to do OK with the opposite sex – and meet my eventual wife, who says I “grew on her like fungus” – but then genetics set in and I started losing hair.

Fortunately, and fortuitously, I noticed more and dudes on TV – from guest experts to law enforcement officials to aging rockers to athletes – doing away with those hideous fringes and either go closely shaved or all bald.

My cousin, Aimee, told me I could “rock that look” a few years ago, but I filed it away for future reference.

I took it slowly, but I recently instructed my barber – former Kennedy-Kenrick athlete Steve Devlin of Mike Devlin’s Barber Shop in Broad Axe – to shave it all the way down before our trip to Nova Scotia.

I was thrilled. Finally, I looked like everyone else.

Me now

We were north of the border, where people are nice to one another, for so long (2 weeks) that I was sick to my stomach when it grew in too fast.

I have been back twice since, within the span of a week.

Yul Brynner and Telly Savales have become the new Bobby Clarke and Roger Daltrey in Gordonville, and I couldn’t be happier.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Oct. 6, 2019.

No More Grieving For Your ‘Loss’

Bruce

BY GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — While there are some things worth fighting for, others just aren’t worth the time.

After going to the brink of World War III on the topic of Bruce Springsteen, I have come to the realization that it is simply not worth the spike in blood pressure.

Either you get it, or you don’t.

And if you don’t, you don’t.

I feel more pity for you than anything else.

I don’t get the entertainment value of NASCAR or professional wrestling – let alone more meaningful saving graces for others, such as organized religion or thinking the founding fathers were seers and mystics with all the answers.

Either you see the light – and are willing to be blinded by it – or you are mired in darkness.

And, yes, this is coming on the heels of seeing the movie inspired by the music of Springsteen, “Blinded By The Light.”

It’s actually not the first attempt to incorporate the impact of Springsteen’s music on film characters.

Early in the filmmaking career of indie icon John Sayles, a movie called “Baby, It’s you” (made in 1983 but set in Trenton, N.J., circa 1966) featured Springsteen’s music. Although the songs in that film, starring a young Rosanna Arquette, were anachronistic (Springsteen didn’t record his first album until 1972), they surely represented how it he felt as a New Jersey high school student in the 60s (and were ideal for the lead male character).

Unfortunately, this critically acclaimed flick was more arthouse fare, and not something for large audiences.

The movie “Mask” (1985), was the true story of a teen boy with a facial deformity who was inspired by the music of Springsteen. The original movie had four Springsteen songs in it that were cut out by studio executives, who thought a swap with Bob Seger songs wouldn’t matter.

The director’s cut of the film, which netted Cher a well-earned Oscar nomination, has since been released with the intended Springsteen music and some powerful additional scenes.

Unfortunately, the damage was done.

A good movie could have been great. As such, it is now semi-forgotten in time, as it is both uncomfortable for some to watch and not as effective as it could have been.

So, now we have “Blinded By The Light.” It is neither set in the familiar Springsteen terrain of 1960s New Jersey of “Baby, It’s You” nor the outlaw biker California lifestyle depicted in “Mask.”

It is a true story about someone who came of age as an outsider – a Pakistani Muslim immigrant in 1987 London (when lack of jobs caused a lot of intolerance) – and yet it rings as true as if the central character were from a traditional Springsteen hub on the U.S. East Coast.

Like, for example, myself in high school in Northeast Philadelphia.

As a 10-year-old, I bought Springsteen’s “Born To Run” album when it came out in 1975, so I was well aware of who he was for a long time.

When I entered high school in 10th grade, circa 1980, his album “The River” was all over the radio, but I have to admit that it wasn’t speaking to me.

I was more into Genesis, Pink Floyd, the aforementioned Seger, Tom Petty and The Cars.

Then came the mandatory heavy 1960s trip of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, before coming to believe that the members of Led Zeppelin were living Gods.

But, as high school progressed, so did the natural feelings of alienation that almost all teens – from those in the Homecoming Court to the marching band to the delinquents catching a smoke between classes outside – felt.

All those bands had a place and stirred something inside me, but nothing spoke to my soul.

Not until I felt like taking a knife cutting the pain from my heart.

Not until I wanted to say that I wasn’t a boy, but a man.

Not until I talked about a dream and tried to make it real.

For the uneducated – and that’s OK – those are all paraphrased lines from Springsteen songs.

I don’t know who or where I’d be today – not that I’m anything anyway, but I can’t complain – without learning them like a seminary student learns to recite, and interpret, scripture.

I should have nothing in common with the main character of “Blinded By The Light,” but I actually related to Javed as much I have with any character in any movie I’ve ever seen.

I was semi-skeptical going in – I read they turned some songs in to Bollywood-style dance routines – but I knew pretty quickly that it was tailor-made when Javed, also a writer, first popped in a Springsteen cassette.

The song was “Dancing In The Dark.”

It was generally regarded by some of my Bruce brethren as just a frivolous pop song, while casual fans see it as a fun tune that doesn’t dig too deep and make them think too hard.

I never felt that way about “Dancing In The Dark.” From the moment it was released as a single in advance of the eponymous “Born In The U.S.A.” album that made Springsteen an international star, the lyrics – though set against non-threatening synthesizer chords and a steady beat that almost sounded electronic – came at me at a time in my life when I was transitioning from high school, where the music of Springsteen helped me find my niche, to college.

I was nothing but tired – tired and bored with myself.

I wanted to change my clothes, my hair, my face.

They said I had to stay hungry. I was just about starving.

I knew there was something happening somewhere.

And I knew – with the words of Bruce Springsteen – I’d find it.

And I did.

Just like many of you did.

Because you get it.

Some of you don’t.

If you don’t, you don’t.

All I can say is that I’m sorry.

I really am.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Sept. 1, 2019.

Let It Be (And Other Thoughts)

No Wood

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It’s been a long time, perhaps too long.

Let’s press reset with another installment of “What Is And What Should Never Be” (named in honor of the Led Zeppelin Song).

If you don’t recall how it works, it won’t take long to catch on.

And we’re off:

What Is: We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, providing a chance to relive all the music and magic that took place (without getting caught in the rain and mud, let alone having to sleep outside). One of the most amazing aspects about the festival – beyond featuring a lineup of classic acts (The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, etc.) that can only be duplicated by those who turned down invites (The Doors, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel) – is that it was as peaceful as advertised. There were two deaths – one from an insulin injection gone wrong and one when an attendee sleeping in a nearby field was run over by a tractor – and two births.

And What Should Never Be: Attempts to mark the anniversary with a reboot. A 50th anniversary try failed miserably, but at least the plug was pulled to avoid the type of chaos that occurred at the 25th anniversary attempt (although the Philly-area band Huffamoose, featuring some real talented guys I’ve worked with, played the first day – before it went haywire on the second). That should serve notice to anyone wanting to make a 55th, 60th, 75th or 100th. It was a once in a lifetime event. It was a historical event. History naturally repeats itself anyway – often tragically – so we need not spur it along because we can’t think outside the box. In my mind, there was another Woodstock. It was Live Aid in 1985. I was there, at old JFK Stadium. It was my Woodstock. I’m good, thanks.

Iowa

What Is: In the landscape of our country still struggling to reach its potential greatness, consider Iowa as Exhibit A.

And What Should Never Be: Iowa wielding the political power that it currently does in the flawed political system that ultimately leaves voters from the other 49 states – and the District of Columbia, which somehow isn’t its own state – holding their noses in voting booths and feeling like they are voting for the lesser of two evils. Consider Steve King, the Iowa Congressman, who has uttered so many hateful and absurd pronouncements that they are not worth repeating. Do we really want a state whose voters elected this sad individual to disproportionately control to fate of America the way it does?

colin_kaepernick_jan_rtr_img

What Is: As soon as Eagles backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld was lost for 6-8 weeks, which equates to a few weeks of the regular season, the chirping began for the Eagles to sign exiled Colin Kaepernick began. It only increased when the No. 3 quarterback, Cody Kessler, went down for the count with a concussion and the Eagles coaxed 40-year-old Josh McCown out of a short-lived retirement.

And What Should Never Be: Sorry. Not the case. This was a football move, period. To paraphrase “The Godfather” (greatest movie of all time), this is business and not personal. A commitment to Kaepernick would have been complicated. Other teams – most notably, Seattle in 2017 – have kicked those tires. His reported contract demands were unrealistic (immediate chance to start, at starter’s pay). In a league with a fixed salary cap, and considering the pending media circus, the choice against becomes more vivid. I have my own personal feelings on Kaepernick, and where he was and is coming from, but it wouldn’t be fair to put them out there with any proof. Let’s just say, as both an Eagles’ fan and a bleeding heart liberal (i.e. snowflake) who supported his right to protest under the First Amendment, I’m fine with how it went down. If Sudfeld were out for the season, different conversation. He’s not, so drop it.

Bibi

What Is: Israel banned two U.S. Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, from visiting the West Bank, sparking such outrage on the left that Bernie Sanders – my Bernie Sanders, whose family fled the same Nazi persecution that help lead to the formation of Israel – called for an end to U.S. aid there.

 

And What Should Never Be: Hopping, skipping and jumping to the facts here. While it was wrong to not let elected officials visit, it’s also wrong to sweep with one broad brush about Israel. These are the actions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (a graduate of Cheltenham High School right here in Montgomery County). Known as “Bibi,” he was elected by a narrow margin, with his Likud party eking out the more moderate Blue And White party of Benny Gantz. Sound familiar? It should. They are almost as polarized there about their leader, also working on his third marriage while operating under corruption charges, as we are with ours here. Just like many of us don’t want to be judged by the actions of your president (not mine) many there feel the same about their prime minister. When detractors quickly seek to punish “all Israelis,” I can’t help but think some other bells are going off in their heads.

Looop

What Is: John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, dropped out of a crowded Democratic presidential race that most average citizens didn’t even know he was in.

And What Should Never Be: I like to make fun of John Hickenlooper because, well, his name is John Hickenlooper. Worse yet, he actually looks like someone whose name is John Hickenlooper. However, to his credit, he did the right thing here. Not only is the herd thinned by one, but he is now going to run for a senate seat currently occupied by a vulnerable Republican. All he needs is a nickname. Go get ‘em, “Loop.”

This column appeared in Time Times Herald on Aug. 25

No Friction With Fiction

Anne with an E

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — After nearly two weeks north of the border – in Halifax and Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island (that’s Nova Scotia, for those of you who can’t find Nebraska on a map) — it was interesting to see how long it takes for me to be impatient and brusque with people after consistently encountering the complete opposite.

And it will be interesting to note if I will ever want to see a lobster ever again or if I will now crave the best lobster on the planet.

Probably won’t take much more than some deplorable aggressive driving by a grunt in a pickup truck, but I digress.

Just about every elevator trip at both hotels involved friendly conversation.

And my Flyers tee-shirt was a key spark in the land where hockey was invented.

“Philly, eh?” I was asked.

Since the Flyers are pretty much struck in neutral and don’t inspire the same ire they once did from hockey purists, the conversation switched quickly to Philadelphia’s pride and joy.

Independence Hall?

Nope.

Liberty Bell?

Nada.

The Eagles?

If you saw what passes for football up there, you’d know better (although my Eagles’ shirt did get one passing thumbs-up).

Give up?

Try Rocky Balboa.

Rocky Raw Meat

It struck me as interesting that Philadelphia, known for being the alleged birthplace of the so-called liberty we enjoy, is universally noted for a fictional character.

Then again, Charlottetown was where the groundwork for Canada’s independence was first laid when members of the rest of the British Commonwealth gathered in 1864, for what became known as the Charlottetown Conference, to discuss how to break from the clutches of the Crown.

And yet, that is not why we – or most others – were there.

It was also for a fictional character that Sofia has come to adore after reading all the books about her.

That’s Anne Shirley, the semi-biographical alter ego of author L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery.

At the time of my elevator encounter, during which the friendly chap said “Rocky” was his favorite movie because of the life lesson about taking a beating and not giving up, the better half and Sofia were seeing a stage play based on the series of “Anne” books.

We spent multiple days in Cavendish, where the life of the author is a literal cottage industry, and we saw a musical version of the character’s life (I survived by dozing off for a good portion of it).

So I guess you would say that the two historic places are better known for their fictional icons is kind of messed up, huh?

Three mass shootings in a week, including two in the span of 24 hours? That’s messed up.

A grown man in Montana fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old for not removing his cap during the national anthem? Messed up.

Fictional characters being larger than life? No way.

As much as I dig history, and think it should be studied thoroughly (we did a whole walking tour to learn the history part of Charlottetown), I have to say it’s kind of cool.

Two characters were created that were so sympathetic — and relatable — that they are the first thought for many outsiders of the home terrains upon which they were created.

Visitors from around the world making it the first order of business of running up the Art Museum steps to play the role of Rocky, the brainchild of a then-struggling actor named Sylvester Stallone, is not an anomaly.

In PEI (Prince Edward Island), there was an abundance of Japanese tourists. It didn’t strike me as odd until it was explained to me that a local woman once went to Japan to teach and, due to the lack of age-appropriate literature of the time, she introduced the series of “Anne” books to her students.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Swedish co-counselor at summer camp, who happened to be a 6-foot-4 Olympic swimming hopeful that I could never convince to play on the counselor hockey team. He related how the original “Rocky” was common viewing at places where athletes there trained, and added how the sequels (there were only a few at that time) were a disappointment.

It struck me how what seemed to be the experiences of Rocky Balboa on the streets of my hometown were not uniquely unique.

That is the power of art.

That what makes bitter reality easier to swallow.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Aug. 11, 2018.