Category Archives: Slice of Life

Turn and Face the Strange

Change

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE  — It was the fall of 2000. I had become engaged to my now-wife (and Sofia’s “mama”) over the summer, and I could feel the winds of change in the air.

I had been a sports writer since 1988 and, other than not getting to be next Johnny Bravo (Greg Brady still should have gone for it, and then done college), I was content.

I liked to write, and I liked sports, so it fit (at least better than the glove on O.J.’s hand).

The problem was that sports are played on nights and weekends, a time when most of the spectating world is doing the opposite.

But if you’re a sports writer, it means you are working nights and weekends.

It was fine for 13 years, but I looked into the future and saw an abyss.

If I wanted to be a family man, I needed to make a change.

Some would call it a “Come to Jesus” moment. Lapsed Jew/atheist that I am, we will just call it a moment of truth.

While others in my situation had to either leave the business or go elsewhere, a chance to turn the beat around – quite literally — was right there at The Times Herald.

Newsroom turnover always had a mind of its own. We would have a set staff for long stretches and then, for whatever reason, everyone would seem to leave at once.

At this particular time, while we were full in sports, the newsroom had turned into a ghost town.

Skirting the tumbleweeds, I walked into the office of then-editor Mike Morsch – a straight shooter from the Midwest with whom I had a good rapport and still call friend – and, in the words of Tony Montana from Scarface, “proposed a proposition.”

I offered to fill one of the many empty chairs in the newsroom, but only under the condition that I would be the police reporter and nothing else. I wanted no parts of covering municipal or school board meetings.

Ever.

To my surprise, he was good with it.

For a while, I did both – helping out sports on busy nights, like when there were Friday night football games to be covered – while also learning the ropes of the police beat.

Within a few months, though, I really wasn’t even homesick for sports anymore.

News was growing on me.

But that’s easy for me to say.

I wasn’t going to meetings, like other reporters, and coming back to the office to write about complex issues – ones that truly affected people’s lives — while on the deadline crunch.

When I became managing editor in 2003, a large part of the job was scheduling reporters based on their meetings. If they had a conflict – there were more municipalities and school districts than reporters – we had to prioritize.

It was an odd thing, not having any personal experience with what was or was not important.

Until now.

The times they are a changin’ (nod to Sir Bob of Dylan).

As a concerned citizen, I have been to a handful of Whitpain Township meetings – and have gotten up to voice my opinion with more passion than I thought possible – about an ongoing issue in my neighborhood.

I won’t bore you with the gory details. Let’s just say that someone is looking to rewrite the zoning code to maximize his profit margin. Some of my concerned neighbors are primarily focused on the environment — water flow, trees being chopped down, the view from their back windows and water basins.

I’m with them on all that (even though my eyes glaze over with the water basin stuff), but my main thing – and that of a few others in our core group – is what even more cars will do to an already tenuous morning traffic logjam.

The other night, while we were waiting for our issue on the docket, the room was packed beyond capacity about the issue of what will become of the Mermaid Lake property.

As concerned citizens from that end of the township grilled the developers about many of the same concerns we have – only on a larger scale (school overcrowding chief among them) – it hit me just how much these meetings matter.

If citizens don’t turn out and speak up, a lot of these permanent changes – changes for the worse – will be made in their name.

During all of this heated debate, I noticed a few young ladies who appeared to be reporters furiously taking down notes (one had a small laptop and the other big yellow legal pad).

I don’t know where they were from, but I’m glad they were there.

It was another moment of truth.

While I remain eternally grateful that I never had to be in their shoes and cover a meeting, I am eternally grateful they exist.

Because these meetings matter.

Always did, and always will.

This column appeared on February 16, 2020

 

Bad To The Bone

Fatso

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The official definition of the “witching hour” is when witches — or magicians, ghouls, Republican senators and other demons — are said be at their most powerful.

That’s the myth, the folklore.

The reality is that the witching hour is when we wake up in the middle of the night and our minds are clear enough to be haunted by our own bitter realities.

Unanswerable questions, many about futures we can’t control, ravage the brain.

I was hit with one so immediate this past week that not even my home remedy – sneaking downstairs for some old “Sopranos” episodes – could make it right.

The question was this: Am I a bad person?

Here are three examples, hot off the presses, that had me wondering:

Andy Reid – Much of Eagles Nation has forgiven and forgotten the specifics of the Reid Era here. They instead focus on the general success between 1999 and 2012.

But not me. I remember high hopes repeatedly dashed, and the seasons that ended in despair.

I invested too much – in time, emotion and money (season ticket holder) — to be stranded at the altar again and again and again.

Maybe some forget the feeling of having their hearts eaten out that were then met with the subsequent kick in our collective gut when Reid would act smug and indifferent during postgame press conferences.

Even when mishaps (dropped passes, missed tackles) weren’t directly his fault, Reid’s standard line was “it begins with me.”

Fine, Andy, you wanted the blame, you got it. I would have told you so if they let me to drive you to the airport when you left town.

Why, then, would I – or anyone else who bleeds green – root for Reid to have success elsewhere?

There was no worse scenario than his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, winning a Super Bowl when he didn’t do it in Philly after all those years of knocking on the door without finding a way to kick it in.

When we finally got it done two years ago, some of the edge was taken off. Still, when the Chiefs reached the big dance this year, I became a temporary fan of the opposing San Francisco 49ers.

Truth be told, I am more than a little bit angry with the end result (particularly the touchdown that wasn’t a touchdown) and irked by all the glad tidings for Reid around the Delaware Valley.

Bad person?

Self-vote: Yeah, sigh, I am. It’s not like he tried to lose big games here (it just seemed like it).

Iowa Caucuses – I have been a detractor of the overall primary system for a long time, and my criticism begins with the disproportionate role little Iowa plays in the process.

I wrote all about it in my Sunday column a month or two ago, but I never could have imagined the Monday meltdown that will leave the final tally with an asterisk.

The root cause of the chaos was the already silly caucus process being further complicated with some second-round scenario that was clearly over the heads of those Iowa straw-chewers to comprehend.

While the good news is that this is probably the last we will see of the Iowa Caucuses, and maybe even Iowa getting to bat leadoff and set the pace – as it has been doing, despite clearly not being a gauge of America’s diversity (it’s well over 90 percent lilywhite, for example) – the embarrassment for the Democratic party could prove to be colossal.

Bad person?

Self-vote: Nope, not at all. A little bit of vindication is good for the soul.

Rush Limbaugh – The right-wing AM Talk Radio host revealed that he is terminally ill.

If you are waiting for tears, keeping waiting.

I understand the man may have had a job to do, sort of in the Howard Stern shock jock sense, and that he may or may not have even meant half the hateful things he was saying.

But listeners – many with pea brains – accepted his postulating as fact.

And he knew it.

And he kept on spewing his garbage — ironically losing his own hearing, so he couldn’t even hear himself anymore.

 

If we are truly mired in a modern day Civil War, one in which lives (i.e. Heather Heyer) have been lost, Limbaugh is a general in the militia that fired the first shots (albeit away from the fray while on his bully pulpit).

It could be said that there would have been no coming of your president (not mine), without Limbaugh – among others – laying the groundwork.

No wonder Limbaugh got the Presidential Medal of Freedom the other night.

Limbaugh

Hard to believe, though, considering this is the same person who called Iraq War veterans subsequently opposed to the war “phony soldiers.”

Then again, this prize was given to him by the phoniest of soldiers, one who got out of Vietnam with phantom bone spurs.

Like your president (not mine), Limbaugh built his empire on lies and half-truths.

Consider that Polifact rated Limbaugh’s on-air statements as either “mostly false” or “pants on fire” at a rapid-fire rate of 84 percent, with only a mere 5 percent registering as “true.”

While a lot of his false statements are about climate change, we are also talking about someone who continually degraded President Barack Obama with racially charged innuendoes – calling him (and Oprah Winfrey) “uppity,” etc. – and who compared NFL games to showdowns between black gangs.

He also said actor Michael J. Fox was exaggerating his Parkinson’s disease in an ad for stem cell research.

I wonder if he’d like some of that stem cell research for himself now? Maybe he is just exaggerating his symptoms.

Take the high road? Not this so-called snowflake. It’s all low road here in Gordonville.

Bad person?

Self-vote: Abstain.

This column first ran in The Times Herald on Feb. 9, 2020.

Breaking News, Broken Heart

Bryants

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Weird thing with me, and I’m sure a lot of you, is that I can recall happenings from decades ago while needing to be repeatedly reminded to take out the trash every Monday night.

A certain song, as much as anything, can provide a ride in a time machine to other events.

This brings me to the song “Dirty Laundry,” released by Don Henley in a solo effort back in 1982.

It was a sharp condemnation of the media, particularly on the television side, as it came at a time when CNN was still a toddler learning to walk as a round-the-clock entity.

Because I listen to retro radio whenever Sofia isn’t in the car to dictate otherwise, I still hear “Dirty Laundry” from time to time.

Just the other day, I realized that as on-point as the song – written by Henley and Danny Kortchmar – was in 1982, when I had decided to major in journalism (primarily to avoid taking more than one math and one science class at Temple), it has proven only more ominous over the decades.

It was this verse that got the few marbles I have left to rattle around:

“We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blond

Who comes on at five

She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye

It’s interesting when people die

Give us dirty laundry”

There is a later reference to the boys in the newsroom having a running bet about when someone will die.

It sounds unreal and callous, but it rings true. Sadly. The only real way to stay sane behind the curtain in the business is to become insensitive.

It took only events the magnitude of a 9/11 or a Sandy Hook — or a horrific local murder, like that of Lisa Manderach and her 19-month-old daughter, Devon — to cast a pall over the newsroom.

Not being a full-time newspaper guy in recent years, coupled with the birth of Sofia, has greatly softened my veneer.

When news affects me personally, it not only hits me, but I’m not afraid to show it.

When I cry at the end of the movie, which happens a lot, I’m that guy who has to watch all the credits roll in case someone sees me when I leave.

And when breaking news breaks my heart, it’s increasingly difficult to get up off the canvas.

Such was the case when Tom Petty died last year and, more recently, when the death of Neil Peart was followed closely by that of dear friend Hank Cisco.

These days, news just hits you in an instant.

On Sunday, for example, I was sitting where I am right now – at my laptop – when my cellphone flashed: “Kobe Bryant dead at 41.”

There was no other information, as it was one of the first initial reports.

“Oh, my God,” bellowed this atheist. “Kobe Bryant just died.”

“Oh, my God,” my wife, a practicing Catholic, replied.

When MSNBC was unable to provide much in the way of detail, we turned to CNN.

The news trickled in slow, and with a lot of the misinformation we didn’t run with back in the day, when we needed confirming sources and getting 2-3 people of authority on the record, and I took Sofia to her indoor softball practice not knowing for sure who else was on the private helicopter and how many people were on board.

Reports ranged from Bryant and daughter, Gianna, to the whole family to another teammate of Gianna and her parent.

We since learned the heartbreaking details, and the identities of all the nine victims beyond Bryant and his daughter.

The fact that Gianna was 13 (the age Sofia will be in two months, almost to the day) is enough to give me chills. Sports icon or not, I try not to think about what must have been going through Kobe’s mind knowing he couldn’t protect his daughter as the crash happened.

It was also personal on other levels.

Like an old song on the radio, the tragedy brought back a flood of memories.

Weaned on the Philadelphia Big 5, I remember his dad — Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant — starring for La Salle before playing for the hometown 76ers (and later the then-San Diego Clippers) before moving on Europe (Kobe was born in Italy).

Back when I was a sports writer (1988-2001, with some comebacks after), the Bryant family had moved back to the area.

By the time Bryant was in high school, you only needed to say “Kobe” to know who was being spoken about. He starred at nearby Lower Merion High School, and was the area’s greatest scholastic player – in an area of many great ones – since the days of Wilt Chamberlain.

I saw him play in the Donofrio tournament at the Fellowship House of Conshohocken, at Norristown High, on his home court at Lower Merion and on the same hallowed Palestra hardwood where I saw his father.

Later on, as fate would have it, I had the opportunity to cover the NBA when Bryant was cutting his teeth with the same Los Angeles Lakers team that he stayed with his entire Hall of Fame career after coming straight to the NBA out of Lower Merion and being drafted 13th overall by Charlotte and traded to Los Angeles for Vlade Divac (after he made it clear he didn’t want to play in Charlotte).

Through this relatively short time interval, I rarely found myself alone – or even in a small group – of reporters around Bryant (including at The Fellowship House).

I know I asked a pre-game question, when he was playing for the Lakers, but I’d be lying if I said I remember what it was (it was possibly about getting booed in his hometown, but don’t quote me).

I just remember that patented smile of his as he looked back over his shoulder and answered.

For now, as the shock waves subside and morph into the dirty laundry of impeachment hearings, it will have to be enough.

This column ran in The Times Herald on January 29, 2020.

Legal Evils Eat Away At Our Souls

Prevagen-1200x900

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Appalling.

There is no other way to describe what happened to a 90-year-old woman at Shannondell. She was scammed out of $8,500 dollars by someone pretending to be from law enforcement.

She was asked for bail money for her grandson, who she was led to believe had been in a DUI-related accident.

Unable to drive, the woman gave the envelope of cash to someone impersonating a police officer.

This is an example of a scam – one that has been used elsewhere around the area recently – that has several slight variations and is not uncommon.

It is illegal, on many levels, and we can all hope the guilty party – or parties – eventually get the old book thrown at them.

There are, however, legal scams – or shams – that go on every day.

We are all victims, but we just don’t call timeout long enough to catch our collective breath from the daily grind to realize it.

Here are four examples – a Mt. Everest, if you will – of the most egregious:

1) Printer Ink – So, you just bought a printer and some sales kid with gigantic earrings and a nose ring (ehat happens when they sneeze?) had you temporarily insane enough to believe you got a great deal.

Not quite.

Whatever you plunked down for the printer was merely a down payment on the tree-killing process that is print-o-mania.

The payments on it come in the form of continual, and seriously marked up, purchases on ink cartridges that always seem to run out all too quick (a good portion of the ink in them is used up before it even reaches the paper).

And, as we become increasingly reliant on computer printouts, as opposed to pen and paper, running out is inevitable. There is no such thing as universal ink that works in any type of printer, and no generic brands.

In order to function in modern society, the companies – like Arab sheiks setting the price on oil based on their whims – set the price to make a humongous profit off the dire need to replenish our ink.

Some say to join clubs where you get a slight markdown, or buying laser printers that are significantly more expensive.

These amount to ways to treat the symptoms without finding a cure.

After posting on Facebook that this might be one of the biggest rackets going, a friend who works behind the curtain in the computer business was quick to affirm my accusation.

He said: “I’m going to say that detention and separation of immigrant children at the border is the biggest racket, but this one is basically brazen theft. It’s akin to (drug) pushers giving you your first hit for free.”

2) Dog Licenses – This one is a bit like acid reflux, the way it keeps coming up.

Once a year, in November or December, I get a reminder that Rex needs to have his dog license renewed.

Man, what a stone-cold racket.

It’s not like I don’t already have my bases covered. Updated shots? Check.

Rabies shot? Check.

Microchipped? Rex is too lazy to run off, so no check mark needed.

What do I need this annual piece of paper for? Anyone? Anyone?

Into whose pockets does the fee go? Anyone? Anyone?

They need to have a record of my rescue dog’s existence because … why, exactly?

Thing is, I cannot take him to doggy daycare, let alone board him when we go away, so I have no choice but to submit.

I recently mailed in my annual fee, and I’m still waiting for e-mail confirmation. Certainly not coming as fast as the e-mail reminding me to pay it.

Perhaps Montgomery County Treasurer Jason Salus can provide some answers.

3) Prevagen – When they first created the term Snake Oil, I think they had this stuff in mind.

The makers of this supplement claim it comes from … jellyfish oils, and “may improve memory” (note the qualifier of “may” in there).

The ads say it is “pharmacist recommended.” By what pharmacist? Give me a name.

This one is personal. My mother won’t relent about this stuff. She resides in an assisted living facility, and I’ve gotten more calls about replenishing her supply from the staff (surely do to her nagging them) than when she has been seriously ill. Only time I ever heard from her doctor, other than when she was in the hospital, was when she had him call me (he couldn’t prescribe it because it wasn’t … a real medicine).

His basic point was that it is harmless so, if she wants it, get it.

Thanks, Doc.

Problem is this: At $2 per pill, with no hard proof it does anything, it is quite harmful – especially to those on fixed incomes.

And then there is this, the FTC and New York Attorney General’s office filed suit against the makers of Prevagen, Quincy Bioscience, LLC. The suit claims the company “made false statements about their purported clinical evidence in their advertising.”

Because it targets older people, claiming to help with “mild” memory loss due to aging, are they any worse than those who bilked the grandmother at Shannondell out of her money?

The only difference is that this is a slow bleed, as opposed to a one-shot deal.

4) Bottled Water – Surely you have gone into a restaurant and they ask you if want bottled water (at a price) or tap water?

Choose the tap water, please. If the waiter or waitress — with gigantic earrings and/or a nose ring (still want to know what happens when they sneeze) — sneers at you like you have no class, it’s their problem.

With the exception of a mere few cases, bottled water has proven to be a total sham. It’s just tap water dressed up in a labeled bottle.

Considering that blind taste tests show that participants cannot tell the difference between bottled and tap water, it is like paying for a bottle of air to breathe — as opposed to just breathing it.

According to a 2017 article in Business Insider, we spend roughly $100 billion per year on bottled water (more than milk, beer and now soda).

Meanwhile, it is estimated than 90 percent of the plastic bottles are not recycled, adding to the environmental nightmare.

A 2009 documentary film “Tapped” – made to expose pollution in sea water — laid out the damning case against the scam of bottled water.

Said actor Ed Begley, Jr.: “The film ‘Tapped’ illustrates quite clearly how we’ve been getting ‘soaked’ for years by the bottled water industry.”

Appalling.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on January 26, 2020.

Peart: The Beat Goes On

Peart

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — My high school, Northeast High, is perhaps best known in popular culture for the 1968 Frederick Wiseman documentary “High School” and for B-actor Tony Danza starring in a “Teach: Tony Danza,” where he taught an English class for the 2009-10 school year.

In between, particularly in the late 1970s through the early to mid-1980s, was the era that housed my unique generation.

Tuning in, turning on and dropping out (well, at least cutting class and hanging in the cafeteria) was more the norm than in Wiseman’s critically acclaimed documentary during the actual Age of Aquarius.

We were the hippies, albeit on tape delay.

The boys had longer hair than a lot of the girls, almost everyone smoked something to some extent and the standard mode of dress was naturally worn jeans and a concert shirt with three-quarters sleeves.

And when you think of generic Hollywood portrayals of high schools, where the so-called “cool” kids named the tune that everyone else had to dance to, this world – our world — was the polar opposite.

Those who posed themselves as “cool” – with their rugby shirts and turned up collars — were generally mocked for it.

More kids of the approximate 1,000 in my grade (not the whole school, but just my grade) didn’t go to the prom than those who did (I did not).

On Friday nights, when the football team was playing, there were more of us roaming the Roosevelt Mall – in search of whatever — than in the bleachers.

There was a penance to be paid for bending and breaking the rules, but the lure of the side wall of the neighboring convenience store, which was more like a Turkish marketplace, was too alluring.

The reason for this trip down memory lane is not for laughs, however.

It is to set a backdrop, culturally, for context. Madonna and Michael Jackson may have been topping the charts and selling zillions of records, but not at our school (MTV was not even available within the city limits yet).

Those acts may have been for the outnumbered “cool” kids.

Don’t know. Don’t care.

Aside from the Classic Rock from a decade earlier, one of the major groups for the great unwashed masses of the “uncool” was Rush.

There had been other groups as supremely talented: Yes, Genesis, Kansas, Supertramp, etc.

For reasons best left to sociologists, Rush was the ideal band for our school, circa that era.

If there was a soundtrack for Fast Times at Northeast High, I’d put “Spirit of the Radio” on it for 10th grade, “Limelight” and/or “Tom Sawyer” for 11th and “Subdivisions” for my senior year.

In fact, Rush was so big in this time window that it spawned a bit of a Canadian invasion (Triumph, Bryan Adams, April Wine, Chilliwack, Red Rider, Saga, Prism, etc.).

Rush was still occupying so much space in my head in 1984, the year after graduation, that I still swear I had a dream about hearing the song “Distant Early Warning” before I actually heard it for real.

Rush was a three-piece band. Alex Lifeson was stellar on guitar, while Geddy Lee was the ultimate juggler. He played both bass and keyboards while handling lead vocals.

And then there was Neil Peart on drums.

Man, was there Neil Peart on drums.

I’ve been listening to music my whole life.

There were no nursery rhymes with me; no latency period (hence, being half-deaf and working on the other half).

Peart was the best drummer I ever heard on record, and the best I ever saw in concert.

And this is not meant to disparage any of the surreal drummers who came before or after. The list of incredible timekeepers is long, luminous and still growing.

But he tops it.

That, in and of itself, is enough to make Peart legendary.

But it is only part of the story.

In those days, I began finding myself by writing song lyrics. I look back at those notebooks now, and it’s easy to see I wasn’t quite there yet.

At all.

I had set a high bar for myself, and was clearly swimming in the deep end of the pool with a life vest.

That can largely be attributed to a vain attempt to come within the same hemisphere as the lyrics I was hearing from Rush, my favorite band/artist for a good stretch of time (before getting bumped, permanently, by some Springsteen guy).

Suffice it to say that Peart was my primary English teacher in high school. I learned more from him than any of those who took next to zero interest in me combined.

Not only was he the greatest rock drummer that ever lived, bar none, but also one of the genres greatest lyricists.

That’s quite a legacy.

Peart was just 67 when he passed away last week, and it was not a real surprise, as there were murmurings of a brain tumor for a while.

I didn’t mourn the way I did when, say, Tom Petty died suddenly.

Perhaps I didn’t mourn at all.

I listened to a lot of Rush instead.

I reflected.

And I remembered.

I remembered an amazing talent – and person – who helped me walk proud among the uncool.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Jan. 19, 2020

Walking On Water

Rock 2

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There was a lot to adore about Hank Cisco, who left us Tuesday in body but never in spirit.

What I will carry with me is his love of life, his natural instinct to be a friend without having to ask what he could do to help and, of course, his encyclopedia of sayings.

Odd thing about our friendship was that Hank and I didn’t really agree on much.

He was conservative, and an ardent supporter of the current president. I’m a Bernie Bro.

He liked Doris Day, I liked Stevie Nicks.

He thought Christopher Columbus got a raw deal, I thought he got too much credit and not enough blame for treatment of the natives.

He hung out with Frank Rizzo (and served as a pallbearer at his funeral). I hung out with Abbie Hoffman (but was not a pallbearer at his funeral, assuming he even had one).

And on it went.

“If two people agree all the time, one of them is unnecessary,” he would say.

Another gem, in the same spirit: “All sunshine makes deserts.”

And he was right.

Hank may not have agreed, but he never judged. I can respect that more than someone who has no opinion about anything at all, or who tells you what you want to hear just to shut you up.

We were both necessary in a balancing act that would shame The Flying Wallendas.

In these divisive times, when agreeing to disagree is off the table before two people even sit down, I try to keep his words – all of them — in mind.

Some of Hank’s sayings – like “don’t slug it out with a bum” or “I never lost a fight in the dressing room” — were self-explanatory.

And too true.

There is one – something about a mule going blind and holding the line – that I never quite got (and that’s fine).

Another that I wrestled with was: “If you want to walk on water, you better know where the rocks are.”

Not coming from a Catholic upbringing – something Hank reminded me of from time to time – any New Testament reference may as well be in Norwegian (whisper: I’m not much better with Old Testament references, either, as I adhere to the gospels of Dylan and Springsteen).

But, now, as I look ahead at life with Hank Cisco’s memory as an angel on my shoulder and not a friend in the flesh that I can share some Italian food and laughs with, it makes sense.

Complete and total sense.

Going on without Hank Cisco will be like walking on water.

But keeping his memory alive, just by asking myself what Hank would have done or by applying one of his pearls of wisdom, will help me find the rocks.

Hank was 96 when he passed away, well beyond when the doctors said he would.

I’m going to be 55 in March.

That’s a four-decade difference.

When you have a friendship with someone that much older, there is much to be gained, particularly for the younger friend.

But the odds are that you will have to see them buried.

It’s a leap a lot of people in my generation don’t want to take. They can’t help it with their parents and other older relatives, but they put on a coat of protective armor by not wanting to go there with their emotions otherwise.

It’s a choice that is both foolish and selfish.

We were friends for the last quarter century, from the time he brought boxer Michael Grant into the sports department to be interviewed and I drew the short end of the stick by not making myself scarce.

Hank thanked me for the article in his own Hank way – by sending enough food over to feed a platoon.

When I had a health scare back in 2005, Hank came to see me in old Montgomery Hospital. It was a quick visit (he did everything quick back then), but I never forgot it.

I made sure to return the favor when Hank was hospitalized, even toward the end. At one point, my mother was in Einstein at the same time. I left her room before visiting hours ended to stop into his, only to find such a mob scene – including sisters from Mother Teresa’s order (Missionaries of Charity) saying a prayer – that I practically had to take a ticket, like at a deli, to get in the door.

I was fearful that the end was imminent, but it was not the case. Hank was his normal jovial self, and insisted we take a picture with a big boxing glove that I was asked to sign for the second or third time.

After the room had cleared out, his daughter, Mary, came in and tossed him a bag of fast food that he promptly inhaled in about 12 seconds.

The next time, another picture.

Hank was turning hospital visits into events, but he was also aware of the end, and was at peace with it.

“I’m in the 15th round, Rock,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, before getting emotional while talking about John Doyle’s crew that had come to the hospital to film “The Hank Cisco Show” (I was a guest, and a guest host, many times).

Once Hank was placed on home hospice care, I stopped by a few more times, only to find him sleeping – and peacefully (a rare, but unique, sight).

When he awoke, and found out I had been there, he made sure to call and was still full of ideas of what I should or shouldn’t do about this or that.

Each time I hung up the phone, I knew it might be the last time we will speak.

And the last time was the last time.

Sad, yes, but also moments to treasure.

I learned a great deal from being around Hank Cisco.

He lived life to the fullest, dawn to dusk and beyond. He saw each day as a gift, and treated it as such.

Even when he had health setbacks, he set goals to come back and get himself back into circulation (and on NASDtv).

He had enough reasons to quit, but he was always looking forward.

When he was made a widower a few years back, I stopped by his house on Powel Street to see how he was doing and to take him out to lunch.

Before I knew it, he was make me pasta for the lunch.

He showed me a lot of memorabilia during that visit, revealing a side I hadn’t seen before.

But nothing can top actual memories.

With those, with Hank Cisco, I have many.

There is sunshine in the desert.

And if one of us was unnecessary, it was me.

The column appeared in The Times Herald on Jan. 17, 2020

News Turns To A Snooze

joe-scarborough-trump-journey-groupie-resistance

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — As I attempt to age as gracefully as possible for an otherwise graceless person, I have increasingly become a creature of habit.

One of those habits to turn on the TV every morning – sometime after the weekday alarms screeches at 6:30 — to watch “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. I don’t even really like the show, or the hosts and regulars (other than brilliant Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson), but I watch anyway.

Much to my disgust, Joe and the crew tend to belabor two issues ad nauseam: The Democratic race for the nomination and the ongoing ineptitude of your president (not mine).

The psychobabble seems like a colossal waste of breath, considering the primary season is in its infancy and your president (not mine) is never ever going to be impeached.

If I hear the words “Mayor Pete,” followed by a long and drawn out discussion by a panel of “experts” about his electability – all while they skirt the obvious issue, unfair or not – I may hurl the remote at Joe Scarborough’s smug mug.

Why, then, do they spend so much time cherry-picking a poll that shows Bernie Sanders up a point and Elizabeth Warren down two – all while doing a poor job of suppressing a clear pro-Joe Biden agenda – or giving too much attention to some late-night Twitter post that would make a middle school grammar teacher wince in pain?

Easy answer. It’s easy. It’s right there, with low hurdles to scale.

Better than anything else on, all things considered, but far from good enough.

The thing is, I’m a news junkie. It’s why I majored in journalism (along with not having to take many math or science classes).

I’m naturally curious, and some would say I’m really just a total gossip. I plead partially guilty, but with an explanation. I’m really just in search of information – even if I’ll do little to nothing with it, like a fisherman tossing his catch back into the water, once I reel it in.

Which brings us back to the facts, or lack thereof.

These days, the whole earth can shake itself out of existence while I’m sleeping. Excuse me if I like to know what happened overnight.

CNN? No better than MSNBC (especially at night). It tries to get both sides of the story so perfunctorily that neither side is satisfied. I know I don’t want to hear another discussion on climate change as if it is open for debate, especially as it ignites forest fires in Australia and California with the verve of a serial arsonist.

The few remaining friends I have on the right don’t want any human interest story, like the border camps, told with any bit of sensitivity.

And don’t even mention Fox News. I’m OK with trying to stomach a little bit of the opposing viewpoint before wanting to vomit, but independent fact checkers have issued reports on the network’s accuracy that make the ones I used to bring home look like those of a Rhodes Scholar.

The sad truth is that I can find out more about what it is really going on with the local news from 6-6:30, followed by the national news from 6:30-7, than all day on any supposedly superior all-news network.

Newspapers have morphed into digital entities, but a second mortgage is needed to get around the pay walls needed to get what you need.

That leaves fly-by-night sights that may or not follow the ye olde rules of actually putting people on the record, as opposed to being anonymous, and having at least two sources.

All the conjecture leaves us, in this advanced day and age, prone to be less informed than we’ve been in the industrial age.

The only option is television, and the flaws are obvious.

Yes, the wall-to-wall coverage of our recent near flirtation with igniting World War III was relatively well-done, but so much more has been going on – locally, nationally and internationally – that much of it falls through the cracks.

And it happens at our own peril.

The more the masses are numbed up with dumbed-down messaging, the easier it is to go on electing sociopaths with the hellish belief they are heaven sent.

While we were looking at polls that really don’t matter until a week or two before voters in Iowa leave the wheat fields and reading too much into unreadable tweets, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning for a frightening tomorrow.

Example: Did you know that, since late December, more than 500 earthquakes have hit Puerto Rico. That’s the same Puerto Rico still waiting on $18 billion in aid from hurricane damage incurred two years ago?

Did you know that, just on New Year’s Day, there were 45 non-suicide gun violence deaths across America? Including suicides by gun, there were 177 deaths.

Speaking of suicides, did you know that there were 228 suicides by police officers in 2019 in what has become a silent epidemic?

Veterans? Try a suicide rate of 17 per day.

Did you know that Philadelphia had 356 homicides last year, just nine short of one per day? You can say you are safe here in the suburbs, but this is the city you border and crime knows no boundaries.

Did you know that hate crimes have increased dramatically since a certain someone who calls himself your president began campaigning in 2015 with divisive rhetoric?

I shouldn’t just dwell on the negative, as there are positive stories every day – from simple acts of human kindness to medical advances to big bad athletes going out of their way for a sick child — that get buried under the if-it-bleeds-it-leads approach that goes a notch underneath the analysis of paralysis of politics and of an orange nitwit that the lack of real journalism left us with.

Rant over.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Jan. 12, 2020