Category Archives: Slice of Life

Hey You, Get Off Of My Lawn

Grumpy

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are a lot of people I like.

You know who you are.

All eight of you.

Everyone else?

Eh, not so much.

I have followed a collision course from my younger self and, right on time, became a grumpy middle-aged man.

A combination of Archie Bunker, Frank Costanza, Fred Flintstone and Andy Sipowicz.

Perhaps, on a good day, a little bit of the great curmudgeon philosophers — Bob Dylan and George Carlin — sprinkled in.

And I guess we can’t forget Sonny Corleone, had he not met his premature fate as a younger hothead.

While you’re getting off my lawn and turning down the Justin Bieber noise, keep the following grievances in mind as I dance around my Festivus pole:

1) This “Merry Christmas” Thing: I do know a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds. Life has been good to me that way. And guess what? I know no one — at all — who ever said you can’t say “Merry Christmas.” As matter of fact, even though the holiday is now past us, say it twice and call me in the morning. There are real societal outrages right outside your window. Why create one that doesn’t exist?

2) Road Work At Rush Hour: A necessary evil. I get it. What I don’t get is creating a backup on a major thoroughfare between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. Unless it’s an emergency, go have breakfast at your local diner. Speaking of which …

3) Male Waiters At Diners: I expect to be waited on by an old-school waitress — not waiter — with a bouffant hairdo who calls me “baby” and “honey” and has a natural instinct to fill up my coffee (and remembers I’m a decaf guy) and pre-butters my toast. I have nothing against male waiters in other dining scenarios — like, say, certain authentic ethnic restaurants (even if they are faking the accent for effect) — but we really don’t need the world spinning off its axis any more than what it already is, do we?

4) Casual Cyclists: I’m all for exercise (especially if I’m not the only doing it), but can’t they stick to the bike path? It’s not like we haven’t made them a few hundred to use. As far as I know, if a cyclist is on the road — even if it’s merely to get to one bike path to another on the other side — they are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as a motorist already stuck behind rush-hour roadwork. The next cyclist I see actually yield the right of way — or actually stop at a stop sign — will be the first. And don’t even get me started on the way they hog the roadway, oblivious to the world, once they are on it.

5) Royal Families: They can do what they want in the UK, but we won the Revolutionary War (in all the history books, if you’d like to check). If there any leaves floating about from the John Adams family tree, no thanks. Same for Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bushes. Suggestions of Michelle Obama running are just as bad as those of Chelsea Clinton. And don’t get me started on Ivanka (my eyes just rolled so hard that I got a detached retina). We are better than thinking certain bloodlines are better than others.

6) Guys Who Aren’t Sports Fans But Pretend They Are: You know the type? They show up at a Super Bowl party asking who is playing and then they ask the line (a real sports fan could care less who does or doesn’t cover the spread). Listen, buddy, if you don’t follow sports, that’s fine. Just be upfront about it. I don’t play the stock market. I don’t hunt or fish. I don’t even know how to play poker. I don’t have a woodshop in my house. If you’re into those things, I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to fake my way through a train-to-nowhere conversation. I’m into sports, so don’t insult mine. This is especially if the game in question is a life-or-death scenario involving a Philadelphia pro team or Temple. Speaking of which …

7) Ersatz Dallas Cowboys And/Or Penn State Fans: If you’re from the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area, or if you attended Penn State (or one of its 32,492 satellite campuses), fine. I’ll even be nice about it. I’ll let you slide on Penn State if you are Pennsyltuckian, and maybe even on the Cowboys if you are from a place in the country cursed with no pro team and have a weird fetish about blue stars on silver helmets. Otherwise, for your own safety, keep moving. You are morally bankrupt and spiritually corrupt. Side Note: Villanova is a national basketball program that happens to based on the Main Line. Unless you went there, which probably means you are from North Jersey or Connecticut anyway, zip it.

8) Lincoln Was A Republican: Easy there, cowboy. Not quite. We’ll get into this more down the line, but let’s leave this here for now: Lincoln was a progressive, which is what the Republican party was then but the polar opposite of what it is now.  If you have to go back nearly 16 decades — doing a selective hop, skip and jump over a clear role reversal in between — you don’t have much to go on, do you?

9) Self Checkout: When people in our moral conscience to the north — Canada — are refusing this concept of eliminating minimal wage jobs, it’s mirror time for us in the US. So wrong on so many levels, it’s yet another sign of apocalypse.

10) Unwanted Calls: Don’t tell me about a Do Not Call List. Been there, done that. No such thing. We still live with daily calls from weird numbers (i.e. 111-111-1111). Because I’m me, a stubborn curmudgeon, I sometimes call back and turn the tables. The best joys are when I get someone clearly from a foreign country trying to tell me his name is Tom or Joe — or Archie, Frank, Fred or Andy.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald (www.timesherald.com) on Dec. 30, 2018.

 

 

Holiday Flicks You Can’t Refuse

Alastair Sim

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Last week, a survival guide of holiday songs.

This week, pop the popcorn and gather ‘round the TV.

It’s movie time.

Here are 10 you need to see:

10) The House Without A Christmas Tree – You may not have heard of this long-forgotten TV movie starring a much-younger Jason Robards, but the simple period piece set in mid-1940s Nebraska was a December staple from its 1972 airing until the early 1980s. If you never saw it, or are in need of a refresher course, I suggest hunting it down with the same verve I am now doing for Sofia. For what it’s worth, this gets near perfect scores across the board from both viewers and critics.

9) Miracle On 34th Street – Yeah, OK, I may not want to sit through it again, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth at least one viewing as a requirement for a quick path to US citizenship. Sofia now knows there is no Santa, which is a little sad but also takes a lot of pressure off. Still, a legal argument for his spiritual existence could hit the spot.

8) A Charlie Brown Christmas – Made in 1965, the year of my birth, it should seem dated. And yet, somehow, it never seems to be. Call it a Christmas miracle (nearly 12 years of fatherhood has made me very sappy).

7) A Very Brady Christmas – The Brady Bunch cast was reassembled (sans the original Cindy) in 1988 and the show’s original corniness was a perfect match set against the backdrop of a made-for-TV holiday family movie that led to an ill-fated attempt at a series. As disappointing as that series was, all of us who grew up “Brady” were not let down by this holiday effort.

6) Little Drummer Boy – Made in 1968, in what was called “stop motion,” the figures in this 25-minute short film look so fragile that, if it doesn’t tug at your heart strings, you have none to tug upon. This was my favorite seasonal TV flick at a tender age, which may explain why the song – notably the Bob Seger version – is also No. 1 in Gordonville.

5) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Made back in 1964, with a running time of under 60 minutes, those of us growing up on this – and the song — learned the power of redemption. I know there is some alleged bullying in it, and Santa comes off as a half a jerk, but Rudolph rose above it, literally and figuratively, did he not?

4) It’s A Wonderful Life – It’s a wonderful premise. What if I had turned left instead of right, gone north instead of south, etc.? I actually never saw this, start to finish, until a few years back. What if I hadn’t?

3) The Homecoming: A Christmas Story — Another TV movie, it was based on the novella of Earl Hamner, Jr. (the real John Boy) about his family’s struggles in depression-era rural Virginia. It was so well-done that it spawned the long-running series “The Waltons,” albeit with different actors – thankfully – in a majority of the adult roles.

2) A Christmas Carol — The 1951 version, originally called “Scrooge” — and starring Alistair Sim – reigns supreme over all others (no offense to George C. Scott). I caught this spin of the Dickens classic one lonely Christmas on PBS in the early 1990s and it became required viewing ever since. Sim hits it out of the park as Scrooge, but I want to give a tip of the cap to the women in this film for their nuanced acting. This list – topped by Kathleen Harrison (Mrs. Dilber) and Carol Mask (Fan) – also includes Hermoine Baddely (Mrs. Cratchit), Rona Anderson (Alice) and Olga Edwardes (Fred’s wife).

1) The Godfather — Huh, what? Well, it’s my list and my all-time favorite movie is required viewing in and around Christmas Day. And, while my general sanity is always worth questioning, several outlets do consider this classic an “incidental” Christmas movie (another would be “Trading Places,” for example). It may be because the pivotal scenes take place around Christmas. Example: Michael (Al Pacino) and Kay (Diane Keaton) are walking around New York City while Kay is talking about Christmas gifts she purchased for his family, leading to her noticing a tabloid newspaper headline about Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) being shot. Michael goes into a phone booth (remember those?), while Kaye looks in from the outside, which serves as unspoken symbolism of him locking her out of his small enclosed Corleone enclave. Meanwhile, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), is taken hostage while shopping for a sled for his kids, only to be released with a message for Sonny (James Caan).

Honorable Mention: Jack Frost; Trading Places; Full-Court Miracle; Polar Express; Frosty the Snowman; Eight Crazy Nights; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Dec. 23.

Soul Saved By ‘Saint’ Sheeran

Sheeran

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — How is this for pretzel logic?

Wildly popular singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran comes from an Irish-Catholic/English-Protestant background, and this lapsed Jew is nominating him for sainthood.

He has performed a miracle.

As soon as Thanksgiving was in the books, Sofia tucked away her Taylor Swift CDs into an alphabetically organized CD wallet and “requested” holiday music be played 25/8 in the car.

And since we are a family thoroughly spoiled by Sirius (commercial-free) radio, we don’t have the patience for any FM channel that may have 12 commercials – and 15 fifteen minutes of babble — between every two songs that we may or may not even want to hear.

Problem is that Sirius spread itself so thin with holiday music channels that my direct bosses, Sofia and her mom, settled on just two: Bad (Channel 3) and Worse (Channel 4).

But, as fate would have it, Hanukkah scheduled itself early this year. By the end of the eight crazy nights, Sofia had been caught up on her Sheeran catalogue.

She was so excited that I was able to put the axis of evil – Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis and the Ray Conniff Singers – on ice.

This isn’t to say Ed Sheeran has a lofty place in my hierarchy of music, but enough songs run from passable (“Shape Of You”) to pretty darn good (“Castle On The Hill”) and his music is playing a vital role by getting playing time in my car in the holiday season.

I even ran out to buy a second version of his new release when the first vanished between the car seats.

All is right with the world.

Even though my soul was saved by St. Ed Sheeran, I was thinking about those of you who still need to navigate through the rest of the season without losing your mind.

There are some wonderful songs of the season, religious and otherwise, but GPS is needed.

As Norristown icon Hank Cisco would say, “If you want to walk on water, you have to know where the rocks are.”

Here are some of the rocks to get you to the other side:

10) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Bruce Springsteen: A nice enough rendition, but it has worn way too thin. It would have been nice if one of the greatest songwriters of all time could have penned his own song of the season. If I can do it (check out “Gray Christmas” at http://www.ingordonville.come), so can my ultimate boss.

9) Hanukkah Song(s) – Adam Sandler: All three versions, with each one funnier than the next, refused to take a holiday that really isn’t that serious too seriously. This is pop culture at its best, with Sandler rattling off – and rhyming – famous, and infamous, Jewish notables. Though comedic, there is a deeper message about breaking down religious barriers without beating anyone over the head.

8) Same Auld Lang Syne — Dan Fogelberg:  The late Fogelberg, who passed away in December of 2007 – and too late to make any of those gone-too-soon lists against the backdrop of somber music – lamented the ironies of life after running into an old flame on Christmas Eve. At the end of the story song, the snow turns into rain. Gets me all verklempt (too emotional to speak) every time.

7) Father Christmas – The Kinks: Not a song you’d go caroling with at your local senior center, but it tells a real tale of poor kids resorting to roughing up a Santa to get the toys that only “the little rich boys” were going to get. A little crass, yeah, but I can dig the intent of songwriter Ray Davies.

6) River – Joni Mitchell: Like the Dan Fogelberg effort above, it’s more a song that paints a picture of the season than preaching about being naughty or nice. In the process, it’s a real nice offering that still resonates.

5) I Believe In Father Christmas Greg Lake: An original song by the lead vocalist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer sends a strong message in a gentle way about the commercialism of Christmas.

4) Christmas On The Block – Alan Mann: This effort from a late Philadelphia singer-songwriter might not be the easiest song to find but it is a beautiful song – especially for those from rowhouse city neighborhoods – that speaks for itself.

3) Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon: The fact that John Lennon was gunned down in cold blood in the holiday season only makes this song all the more powerful. And now, I’m getting all verklempt again.

2) Silent Night – Stevie Nicks: I’m not a Grinch, I’m really not. “Silent Night” truly is a gorgeous song, but it has been brutally mistreated. Stevie Nicks, the high priestess of Gordonville (and pending inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), flat-out owns it.

1) Little Drummer Boy – Bob Seger: You can keep your Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet. Whenever Bob Seger sings, the vocal cords are secondary. It’s all heart and soul, and this version – with a steady and consistent drumbeat (in a song about a drummer, for crying out loud) — is the perfect match of song with singer.

Honorable Mention: Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano); 2000 Miles (Pretenders); Christmas Shoes (NewSong); Christmastime For The Jews (Ronnie Spector); Please Come Home For Christmas (Eagles); Feliz Navidad (Bob Marley); Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid); Hanukkah Dance (Woody Guthrie); Winterlong (Neil Young); Merry Christmas, Baby (Bruce Springsteen); Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney); Mistress For Christmas (AC/DC); This Christmas (Donny Hathaway); Christmas In Dixie (Alabama); White Christmas (Otis Redding).

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

Distant Replay: Sandy Hook

sandy-hook

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The best part of my day is picking Sofia up from school.

I relish the moment, knowing the day when she will opt for the long way home – i.e. the bus – looms in the future.

But I never relished it more than last Friday – Dec. 14, 2012.

The full details of the heart-wrenching tragedy in Newtown, Conn. were still not completely clear, but we knew enough.

When Sofia got in the car, she gave a big smile, completely unaware of what happened to other little kids whose parents sent them off to school, not knowing they would never see them alive again.

When I stopped to secure her in her car seat, which is part of the daily routine, there was none of the usual playful banter between us.

Losing the battle to fight back tears, and trying to imagine what those parents in Connecticut must be feeling, I just pulled her close and held on like I never wanted to let go.

It was a small snippet – one played out everywhere in America – in this country’s longest day since Sept. 11, 2001.

For me, that day ended when I got home from work.

Sofia was asleep. Sweet, innocent, unaffected – clutching her Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal – while our two cats, Hank and Licorice, curled up around her.

Unlike 20 precious first-graders, and the school staff members killed with them, she was going to wake up the next day.

I pulled her close again, and had the next of several hard cries – only pierced by therapeutic fierce battles with thick-as-a-brick conservatives on Facebook – that continued through last weekend.

When I took her to school Monday morning, there was a police vehicle on the premises. When I picked her up, it was there again.

Its presence was a sad commentary on the post-Dec. 14 world in which we suddenly live. Even sadder was the fact that I was relieved to see it there.

Welcome to the new normal. We never discussed the events with Sofia last weekend, instead changing the channel from the news to cartoons when she entered the room, but they addressed it at school Monday.

Later that night, she was seen hiding all the figurines in our Christmas village so ‘they would be safe from the bullets.’

She was assured that she had nothing to be worried about.

Where do we go from here in the quest to make that assurance a reality?

Here’s a start: We need to stop asking how these mass shootings can keep on happening in a civilized society.

The truth is that we don’t live in a civilized society.

During the whole ordeal, I was put in mind of those futuristic movies and novels that projected how our culture might be in the 21st century if we don’t have a serious gut-check moment.

And here we are, living it out like some self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s time for some serious soul-searching, and it begins in my own chosen profession of journalism.

The quest for Pulitzers and Peabodys – not to mention ratings and driving traffic to websites – were blatant.

Children who survived, despite being recently scared and permanently scarred, were interviewed. Reporters and anchors talked about the death toll like statistics at a basketball game, waiting to see where it would rank with other recent massacres.

Then we have Hollywood. The gratuitous violence has become so common, seen as so necessary to fill the gaps in mediocre story lines, that our children are undaunted.

They become so numb to it that it is no wonder they don’t act out more often when things don’t go their way.

And then there is the elephant in the room: Gun Control.

Gun advocates began playing defense almost immediately – pointing the finger at mental health, school bullying and armed teachers in every school.

They won’t even concede the obvious, that all of the above – along with social issues like the erosion of the Middle Class – are connected in an unholy alliance.

You can’t resolve one without the others.

You can’t break out your surgeon’s scalpel and carve gun control out of the mix.

This is no time to cling to your guns, or your religion.

If we need God in school, like some say, then we need God at the gun shows, too. We need God in places like our own state, where it is easier to get a gun than a driver’s license.

President Barack Obama, clearly moved by the tragedy, was feared and smeared as someone who was going to ‘take your guns away’ in his first term, as part of a greater left-wing conspiracy to ‘take your country’ from you.

Now, in his second term, with the specter of Newtown, Conn. happening just easily in Norristown, Pa. or Your Town, it appears the same sane president bold enough to give us semi-humane health care is ready to go where no president has gone before with gun control.

By forming a task force charged with getting answers sooner than later, he would be giving your country back.

Not only to us, but to our children.

So, this season, let us drop the inane debate over whether to say ‘happy holidays’ or ‘Merry Christmas.’ Unless you are abnormal – and I concede a lot of you are not (one whacky ‘Christian’ zealot already muttered that it was God’s wrath for gay marriage) – there is nothing to be merry or happy about.

For all the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning Tuesday, or those already given out during the eight nights of Hanukkah, there is only one gift to give this year.

It is the promise to work together for a better world – that civilized society where these tragedies are not supposed to happen – and where we hold our kids out of love and joy, not fear and sorrow.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 22, 2012 (the first Sunday after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook massacre)

Lyme: A Sick Sign of the Times

Lyme-disease-on-the-rise-ticks-1024x768

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Ailments?

You name them, I have — or had — them.

Whenever I’m asked to go over my list of daily medications, it takes longer than eating soup with a fork.

I’m a medical dictionary with legs.

As much as I vowed not to be my father’s son, well, I’m my father’s son.

Migraines? Check. High blood pressure? Check. Diabetes? Check? Seasonal allergies? Check?

Bad ticker? So far, so good (digits crossed).

Although I tend to dodge the flu bullet, bronchitis and strep throat know my name as if I was Norm walking into Cheers to add another brew to his tab.

I wouldn’t say I’m sickly, but I have been sick.

And never as sick as I was during the weekend of July 4, 2014.

That’s when I was stricken with Lyme disease.

It happened on a schlep through the torturous Long Island Expressway (LIE), which I call the “Big Lie” because it should not have the word expressway in the title, just to visit Cape May 2.0 – Mystic, Conn.

Mystic was nice enough, I guess (eye roll), but it sits perilously close to a town called Old Lyme, Conn. We were there, in the birthplace of Lyme disease, for a visit to one of those beaches that isn’t really a beach and I had the temerity to sit on a bench in the shade and listen to some tunes.

A few days later, we were in the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and I was shivering as if the joint was a meat locker. I had to sit outside, in the warmest spot I could find, for some cold comfort.

The ride home was just as bad. It was clear I was not well. I remember being in a Wawa outside of Chalfont, again shivering and feeling so close and yet so far from our front door and my own bed.

Because we have a family tradition of not knowing how to use any of our 17 “easy-to-use” thermometers, we were only guessing at the level of my fever.

It wasn’t until I checked out an irksome rash on my hip that it all made sense. I Googled “Lyme disease” – birthplace Old Lyme, Conn., where 7 in 10 ticks carry the disease – and the rash was a match to the traditional bull’s eye that deer ticks leave on the hide of their victims.

Because of the holiday weekend, there was no way I could wait to see my family doctor (he would have probably just told me to lose weight anyway, since that’s his solution to everything), so we spent Independence Day in the ER.

The doctors and nurses — and assorted others — were at-first dubious of my self-diagnosis but were quickly made believers.

The problem, I was even more ill than I thought. Too ill to even treat until they stabilized my vital signs with an IV drip and began chipping away at my 103.5 fever.

I left a few hours later as a “lucky one.” Lyme disease is not something you want to miss, and it was caught early. My fever went from a 103-101 seesaw to a 101-99 seesaw and then normalized by the end of the week.

But the rest of the month of July was, pretty much, one long nap. I’m not just talking my typical middle-aged lazy guy naps (I’m an Olympic Nap medalist going back to the 1988 Games).

These were more like daily comas.

While it would be a stretch to say I had any serious lasting effects, I can also say I was never quite the same.

And to think it was all caused by miniscule blood-sucking insect that, to my mind, serves no earthly purpose.

I wouldn’t wish Lyme disease on my worst enemy — well, maybe a Dallas Cowboys fan from Philadelphia (I’ll let you slide if you are from Texas) — and it’s encouraging that there is awareness and measures to take when being outdoors (my solution is to avoid the woods altogether, but I know some of you don’t understand the wonder of a temperature-controlled environment).

But here is the bitter reality, and all the hiding inside can’t get us around it: Lyme disease is only going to rise as one of the many signs of climate change.

LymeDisease.org issued the ominous results of a new study by Carnegie Mellon University and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, which looked at the relationship between climatic variables and the occurrence of Lyme disease in 15 U.S. states and predicted — not warned, but predicted — an approximate 20 percent increase in Lyme disease by mid-century, with 95 percent of the cases in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

“Tick-borne diseases are an important public health concern and the incidence of these infections is increasing in the United States and worldwide,” said Igor Dumic, researcher at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science and the Mayo Clinic Health System, who led the study. “Lyme disease is a classic example of the link between environmental factors and the occurrence and spread of disease.”

Those who refuse to acknowledge that climate change does not exist, don’t realize that it already affects them in ways they can’t fathom, and it may not become more real until their house burns up in a California wildfire or if a tick does what it did to me — crawls up and bites them on the butt.

The aforementioned study, which appeared in the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, is enough for me to keep my eyes glued wide open.

From 1991 to the present, it has been raining Lyme ticks. From then until the present, cases after have risen from 10,000 to 28,000 per year the last five years, and I was caught without an umbrella in the place for which the scourge is named.

The fact that I caught my bout with Lyme early enough to avoid permanent damage was worth all those lottery tickets that never net me more than enough to buy more.

I know what it’s like not to be well, generally. Specifically, I know what it’s like to have Lyme disease.

Sadly, with no one immune to the environment, more of us are in line waiting to have our numbers called.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 9.

Missing My Missed Opportunities

SingleBullet

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — And there I was, in the VIP Room at Presidential Caterers, acting like a 12-year-old kid in the presence of Dick Vermeil.

The guest speaker for the 17th Annual Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame banquet was holding court with many willing sycophants, and I was among the jesters hanging on every word and hoping my laugh track was synched up with the guy talk that strayed into activities that are against the law in Gordonville: Hunting, golfing and feeling sorrowful if Penn State chokes away a game.

I never got Vermeil alone – except briefly by the cheese and crackers to tell him that John Pergine gives his regards – but I had ample opportunities to let him know I was no ersatz Eagles fan.

And I refrained from saying two words that may have sent him on an infamous tirade and out the door.

Those words: Mike Michel.

Who? Sigh, let’s go through the past darkly.

While the Eagles steadily improved through the 1970s, particularly with Vermeil’s arrival, their kicking game remained atrocious.

Until it was solidified by drafting a kicker (Tony Franklin) and a punter (Max Runager) after the 1978 season, one which saw Vermeil guide the Birds to the playoffs for the first time since their championship season of 1960, it was a litany of no-leg names: Kickers like Happy Feller (no lie), Horst Muhlmann (as awful as his name) and Ove Johansson (made a 69-yarder in college and couldn’t make a 69-footer in the pros) and punters like Spike Jones (the band leader would have been an upgrade) and Rick Engles.

After Engles proved no better than Jones, Michel was brought off the street corner halfway through the 1978 season to take his place.

He had been a draft pick of the Dolphins, and punters aren’t drafted that often, so there was anticipation in the air when Michel dropped back for his first punt at the Vet.

Whiff City.

I don’t mean shank.

I mean whiff.

He did something we were beyond as young teens in the schoolyard. He missed the ball altogether.

At that point, you could even boo – or look for Santa Claus to accost with snowballs or beer bottles. We just laughed as Michel averaged 3 yards on his first three punts.

He became mediocre enough as a punter to ride out the season, but Vermeil made the fateful choice to have Michel – an OK college kicker at Stanford — also serve as a placekicker when Nick Mick-Mayer was injured.

In the playoffs against Atlanta, the Eagles built a 13-0 lead – despite a missed extra-point and field goal by Michel that would have made it 17-0 – and fell behind, 14-13, before Ron Jaworski drove them into field goal range (and some guy named Oren Middelbrook almost made a diving one-handed catch for a touchdown). With time running out, Michel missed a 34-yarder that would have made everyone’s Christmas merry (the game was played on Christmas Eve).

Not asking Vermeil about Michel was not the first time I chose discretion over valor, and it put me in mind of my handful of chances with Sen. Arlen Specter, as it just so happened that two days after the banquet, Nov. 22, was the 55th anniversary of the assassination of then-President John F. Kennedy Jr. in Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

In a past lifetime, in the more isolated atmosphere of editorial board meetings, I had more than one chance to go a few rounds with the late – and occasionally great – Specter.

We talked current events, and he decried gridlock inside the beltway and gerrymandering, but we kept the past buried.

Here in Gordonville, it was only fitting that a turkey shoot on Nov. 22, 1963 took place on Turkey Day 55 years later.

While we only display Festivus poles in public, it is taught in our schools that the assassination remains unsolved.

The official story – one that Specter, then an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia with wide-eyed ambitions, helped sell for the Warren Report — is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone by hitting JFK with pinpoint accuracy with two shots after missing the car with the first.

Instead of Mike Michel, I could have gone with “single bullet.”

The problem with the theory was that one of the two connecting bullets zigzagged up and down and in and out and all around in order to do all the damage it did – all while emerging in nearly pristine condition on a stretcher at the hospital.

With witnesses hearing shots fired from other directions, including the grassy knoll that would have provided ideal cover for a gunman to fire the kill shot, there had to be an explanation to tie it all up in a neat little bow.

And as the years passed, and in spite of a multiplicity of theories that get shut down, the damage to the truth was permanent.

Specter was able to carve a solid career for himself as a politician – Philadelphia DA from 1966-74 and US Senator from 1981-2011 — and was one of the few Republicans, which he was for most of his career, I voted for on a regular basis.

But he still lost points for being a willing participant in this trail gone as a cold as the current president’s heart.

Football coaches, like Vermeil, can learn as they go about saving a roster spot and hoping to get by with a punter as a placekicker, as he never treated the kicking game as an afterthought again.

There appears to be no such contrition from Specter, who passed away in the fall of 2012.

If I had questioned him on it, my only satisfaction would be to have a story to tell while in my rocking chair.

While Specter would have reverted to the form that made him captain of the Yale Law School debating team, I would have reverted to the form that made me an oft-penalized captain of my street hockey team.

But that wouldn’t have made him right, or me wrong.

It would just make me part of the 61 percent of Americans, as compared to 33 percent, who believe “others were involved” in the assassination.

The explanation from those who don’t want us to believe it in a conspiracy is that we can’t handle the truth, with that truth being that a loser and loner like Oswald could kill such a powerful and wonderful man.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m not even living in that galaxy, let alone zip code.

If a total dingbat can become president – witness Exhibit A on the news every day – it is more than conceivable that a doofus like Oswald could kill the president in a time when security was a lot more lackadaisical.

The problem is that the evidence, despite the efforts of the likes of Specter, is as shaky as a kick off the foot of Mike Michel.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 2

Finland Is A Fine Land

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I’m all for challenging myself and going after that Holy Grail.

But, sometimes, you just have to grab the low-hanging fruit and gorge upon it.

Such was the case a few days – and 1,606 news cycles — ago when your president (#notmypresident) decided to pull the toilet paper off his shoe and visit the devastation caused by wildfires in his least favorite state, California, for a photo op of feigned caring.

But it was just more bungle in the jungle for your president (I’m going to act like an 8-year-old on this name thing for as long as he does on his Twitter feed) tried to do two things that are out his wheelhouse: He tried sounding both empathetic (an impossible task for a sociopath), and intelligent.

Pres. Bone Spurs (as so dubbed by presidential candidate Richard Ojeda) pulled Finland out of his baseball cap, citing it as a shining example of wildfire management because of something to do with leaves – raking too much, not enough, whatever.

And Mr. Science attributed the source of this knowledge to Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto.

The response from Finland was quick.

Amid a flurry of #RakeAmericaGreatAgain hashtags – along with some hilarious pictures — from the small Nordic beacon of light that plays some big-time ice hockey, Niinisto made no mention of “raking” anything in a brief generic conversation on the topic.

Somebody is fibbing, and I don’t need to wait on the fact-checkers to know who.

Without getting too in depth here, let’s just say that Finland and the US, especially California, are vastly different climates.

You may as well compare Hawaii and the North Pole, or Earth and Vulcan.

Chalk it up to yet another in an assembly line of ignorant statements, any of which would have had White Nationalists surrounding the White House if said by Barrack Obama.

But since Pres. Bone Spurs went there, comparing the U.S. to Finland, let’s stay there.

Please.

This is low-hanging fruit at its sweetest (well, maybe second to the first daughter using private e-mails, Hillary-style).

If Pres. Bone Spurs wants to rip pages out of the Finnish playbook, instead of that of Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, consider the following as we move from gibberish about Finland’s raking acumen to its actual world rankings, which include No. 7 in Quality of Life Index (U.S. News & World Report) as compared to No. 17 for us in U.S.

Here is a good one, considering the constant labeling of the free press as the “enemy of the people.” Finland is currently No. 4 in the world (Reporters Without Borders’ Worldwide Freedom of the Press Index). This means the Finns are doing the First Amendment thing better than we are, as the same index has the US ranked a pathetic 45th (behind the likes of Jamaica, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobego and Taiwan).

What’s next? Countries beating us at our games, like baseball and basketball? Oh, wait, never mind.

Had enough? No? Good. In the immortal words of Clubber Lang in Rocky III (one movie before the series jumped the shark), “I got a lotta more.”

Here we go. Finland has these notches in its belt:

-Best environmental performance (Environmental Performance Index) and cleanest environment (World Health Organization).

-Most Technologically advanced (UN’s Technology Achievement Index). Funny how that works, while not selling their souls in terms of being environmentally conscious.

-Most Olympic medals per capita (population is only 5.5 million, and yet they whip our butts).

If you recall the mumbo jumbo from the campaign season, Pres. Bone Spurs talked a lot about “law and order.” Guess he meant the TV show.

So far, we have averaged about a mass shooting per game since his reign of error began.

Finland? Thanks for asking.

Consider the following:

-Finland is the safest country in the world (Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report) and ranks a second in police and internal security (World Internal Security and Police Index).

Pres. Bone Spurs might be enlightened to learn that Finland is second to only Denmark in free and most reliable elections (Electoral Integrity Project of the University of Sydney and our own Harvard), and has the third least corruption in the world (Corruption Perceptions Index).

And before you start with the typical angry white male responses of “if you like Finland so much, go move there, you Commie-Pinko,” consider that one of Finland’s most powerful political parties is the Democratic Socialist party.

What does that type of Bernie Sanders governance do to the economy?

Well, Finland, with the soundest banks in the world (Global Competiveness Report), has one of the best performing economies in the EU.

And yet, it blows us away more than the Saints did to the Eagles in terms of health and wellness rankings across the board.

Publicly funded, with universal healthcare available to all, Finland ranks in the top five in the world in satisfaction.

So, why don’t I move there? Aside from not enough Bruce Springsteen on the radio (or Taylor Swift for Sofia) and “real” football on TV (assuming the Eagles ever play “real football” again), Finland leads the world in milk and coffee consumption (my sensitive liberal system can’t handle either).

Besides, it’s not a question of loving it or leaving it, is it?

I don’t want to move to New Orleans just because the Eagles got destroyed, do I?

In order to be heartbroken by something, you have to love it. I love my country, which is why I’m so heartbroken by it right now.

As for those leaves, Pres. Bone Spurs, I have an idea. There are some Honduran refugees who would be willing to rake them – probably while the embers are still burning — in exchange for asylum.

I’m sure Finland would approve.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald