Category Archives: Slice of Life

Dying With The Consequences

Coronavirus

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — So there I was, a nice (well, sometimes) Jewish boy from Northeast Philly, sitting at a Catholic Mass while Sofia (raised Catholic, in deference to her mother) did her altar service.

The priest went through that portion of the Mass (I’m getting to know the routine) where the assembled flock is asked to pray for certain specific people and situations.

Included was a plea to pray for those – patients, medical professionals, etc. – dealing with coronavirus.

Given the fact that this was several weeks back, you have to give the priest props for being well in front of the curve on what has quickly turned into a pandemic that has left us sheltering in place until further notice.

Which brings me to the point of my Sunday sermon: You can’t pray this away.

This is basically what your president (not mine) was doing when he put your vice president (not mine) in charge of combating and containing it before it invaded our “great again” shores.

But it came anyway, like the invasion on the beaches of Normandy.

No, we can’t blame them for the disease itself, but we can for the sheer lack of leadership that has been clear since before this administration was selected.

Those of us with foresight asked real questions about how a circus master and his lackey would handle any crisis, and we were told to stop being such “snowflakes.”

As you battle for half-cartons of eggs and loaves of bread at the store, and then sit inside your home, scared literally to death of something we can’t see, we are all snowflakes now, are we not?

There are silver linings to almost anything, and there are here.

Families are spending time together. I have learned to live without sports on TV. Sofia, as I type in this mad fury, is taking her guitar lesson via Skype or Zoom or some such thing.

School districts have developed extensive learning plans that will come in handy on snow days or in other unforeseen scenarios.

We have all had sudden graduate-level lessons in hygiene.

The list goes on.

And topping it is that enough people – maybe, hopefully, finally — see that your president (not mine) is unfit to serve.

If Charlottesville and Puerto Rico weren’t horrifying enough, they were harbingers of what was to come.

It’s no longer about politics, to vote him out. It’s about the future health and well-being of your children and your children’s children.

Right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh and politicians like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R, Fla.) led the propaganda parade against coronavirus.

Ironically, Gaetz donned a gas mask to mock the hysteria before having to self-quarantine after a constituent died. Now, he is asking for the same paid sick leave he voted against as a dutiful Mitch McConnell stooge.

Limbaugh, the racist talk-show host who got a Medal of Freedom from your president (not mine) during Black History Month – and with a Tuskegee Airman in attendance – is dying of cancer and among the most vulnerable to coronavirus.

Pundits are public figures, and have an extra sense of responsibility with medals around their necks.

Politicians are, by definition, leaders.

At times such as these, we need responsibility and leadership.

The failure to take it seriously – and leaving an immediate science-based crisis to a second banana who doesn’t believe that cigarettes cause cancer or that climate change is real – put every single one of us at risk.

The bitter irony here is that many of of the respiratory issues relating to smoking  put people more at risk for coronavirus, not the mention that global warming is a mother ship for infectious diseases.

Pence

It was done while keeping one eye on the stock market and the other on the golf course. That left no hands on the wheel, and a serious crash on the side of the road.

The attitude from the top went from predicting we will have “zero” cases of coronavirus to that it is no worse than the flu to being summoned from some Fantasy Island to chopper back to the real world.

You wonder why he is not my president? This is why.

And, after this fiasco, there is no reason why he should be yours, either.

As fate would have it, there is a decent chance that coronavirus will be handled – not conquered, but handled – by the fall.

Again, it will still be there – just like AIDS, the threat of terrorism, etc. — but not to the point where we can’t live our daily lives.

This will be fodder for your president (not mine) to spike the ball in the end zone and do a touchdown dance at a red state rally.

He will pound his chest at debates and claim that he, like Neanderthals before him, hit coronavirus over the head with a rock and dragged it back to his cave to be cooked and devoured over an open fire he started by rubbing two sticks together.

Be on guard for such talk. While it is the fuel of a classic sociopath/narcissist, you don’t have to let it fill your tank.

You know it’s not true.

You know better.

I don’t say this lightly, but it is a matter of life and death.

And we need – we deserve – a president we can all call our own (even if he is not from same political party or supports all the same policies.)

And if you need to pray on it before reaching the same obvious conclusion, please do.

This column ran in The Times Herald on March 22, 2020

It’s About Time (to end DST)

driving-with-headlights

The following column ran in The Times Herald on March 8, before coronavirus put us on all lockdown and matter that now seem more trivial were more in the mainstream:

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It doesn’t take much to move me to tears, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Tears of sadness. Tears of joy. Tears from a harsh March wind blowing so fierce in my face that they can’t be avoided.

Since getting a new used car last January, I have been able to cry tears of relief when we fall back and spring forward on the clock.

My new used car, which is a 2018 Ford Edge, came equipped with all the computerized bells and whistles. It’s so easy to change the time that, yeah, it makes me want to cry. I almost want to reset it and do it all over again.

While that makes today’s spring back drill easier to take, I’m not off the hook.

While the time automatically changes on our computers and phones, I still have to go from clock to clock around the house and reset them all.

Then there’s my wife’s near-antique car, a Honda that historians believe was used to transport troops to the front in the War of 1812. It requires a degree in nuclear physics to figure out.

Then, when we visit my mother at her assisted living place, it gets to the point that the best option for trying to figure out changing the time on a cheap clock radio is to just go get a new one.

Turns out, that this source of tears and frustration is needless.

I’m talking on the A-List scale of needlessness – with the likes of the Iowa caucuses, hockey shootouts, chop sticks, the running of the bulls, overusing the word “very” and playing games at carnivals that are impossible to win.

When we fall back, we gain an hour of sleep but lose an hour of daylight for months. We lose the hour of sleep by springing forward, but the days are longer.

You really need to be in another part of the country, in another time zone, to completely understand the extremes of it all.

A few summers back, we were in South Dakota, enjoying the indoor pool of a hotel with the worst excuse for a continental breakfast ever (Fig Newtons instead of donuts and no decaf coffee). The sun was still up at 10 p.m. Sounds cool, but the only view was of a trailer park across the street in a town where the hot place to eat was a Dairy Queen.

Really no need, in that time zone, for the sun to catch you crying.

It is more than some annoyance that costs me my beauty sleep in the spring and makes me take out the trash and walk Rex in the dark in the fall and winter.

This raises the deeper question: Why do we do this drill, Daylight Saving/Savings Time (DST) as if we were marching around like zombies at a military academy?

Turns out, falling back and springing forward are acts – like the creation of the electoral college – that have far outlived their usefulness.

While the concept dates back eons, and Benjamin Franklin pontificated about it as a way to preserve candle light, DST first became a “thing” in America during World War I to conserve coal.

That made sense at the time, but my history books seem to indicate that World War I ended more than a century ago.

While your president (not mine) lies to the faces of coal miners to get their votes, we know that industry is pretty much a shadow of its former self.

Repealed after World War I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put the action back into play during World War II.

Following the war, it was more of a state by state thing until Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1966, set into law that DST should begin the last Sunday in April and end the last Sunday in October.

And so we sit, hearing some vague arguments for the status quo (mostly economic) but others against it (mostly health-related, such at workplace injuries).

According to those who have studied it, it would mean a lot to make a change – certainly a lot more than we think, beyond anguish over remembering how to change clocks and watches that do it on their own, to stop the needless madness of springing back and forward.

They suggest it would reduce headaches – fatal car crashes — especially to pedestrians — and heart attacks.

Consider two studies by the University of Colorado. One found a spike in car accidents the first week after the DST change (with the apparent cause being drivers less sharp with one hour less of sleep).

The other found the heart attack risk spiking 25 percent the following Monday after the “spring forward” but fell to almost normal when the clocks fell back in the Fall.

In this era of partisan politics, this surely sounds like one issue we can all get behind.

And it’s about time.

Middle of the Road Leads Nowhere

Middle of the Road

The following is a modified version of  a column that ran in The Times Herald on March 1, 2020:

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There once was this girl. For whatever reason, she batted her eyes at me twice in French class (either for the sport of it or because she had something stuck in her eye).

I was hooked, hopping the one-way train to Swoonsville, and not catching the return trip for a few years.

Even though there were other girls who entered and exited the picture back then, she ranked in a category of her own (and I have the pile of songs written about her to show for it).

I would try to shake the status of being the low man on her depth chart to no avail. On numerous occasions, I would ask her to meet me — the mall, the pizza place, bowling alley, etc. — only to have her never show up (she would usually giggle and say she forgot, and I found the airhead act endearing).

I couldn’t help but take this bumpy road down memory lane when listening to those bemoaning that Bernie Sanders was not the best choice to unseat your president (not mine) in the general election because we need a more centrist candidate who will meet the other side in the middle.

It exemplifies an extreme naïve attitude, the same as the one I had as a teenager (without a fully developed brain), and it tells you all need to know about this waltz wherein Democrats dance with two left feet and end up tripping over themselves.

A review: Your president (not mine) made a hard right turn back in the 2015-16 campaign season, and took a lot of supporters — including plenty that didn’t see themselves as being what they became — with him.

More than a few right of center Republicans worried about it costing the White House after it had been, well, a little too black for their taste for eight years.

Pundits, with their degrees from places tucked far away from the real world, concurred that not moving to the middle helped him in the primary but would cost him the ultimate prize in the general election.

Logic may have been the immovable object, but the whole Make America Great Again (eye roll) thing was the unstoppable force.

Because of this recent history, one wonders if there is even a real middle for left of center Democrats to go to anyway.

And now, we have a separate but equal scenario heading into the 2020 election, with so jeers and fears toward and about a progressive candidate, Bernie Sanders, that his candidacy is on life support.

What your president (not mine) and Sanders have in common, while not agreeing on the time of day on policies, are flocks so loyal that the opinions of so-experts may no longer hold up.

 

Even as voters flowed in with the tide in recent primaries and went with “Status Quo” Joe Biden, exit polls showed they were thinking more progressively, and in line with Sanders.

The message, the takeway: There is no need to fold like a house of cards on a speed boat.

There is something happening in this country, albeit at street level, and only those willing to get down and dirty need to put their ears down to the ground can hear it.

The voters outside the base want more than just change from what your president (not mine) wrought upon us. The need change. If you want to mock it, calling it a revolution, go ahead. You don’t defeat a dictatorship without one.

If you think that meeting the other side in the middle is the way to go, you are conceding defeat before the coin flip.

Just take a hard look at the crowd at the next rally for your president (not mine) and ask yourself if anyone there, even with the help of GPS, would know their way to the theoretical middle if Ted Nugent was playing a concert there.

I would postulate that since Biden as wrestled the driver’s seat from Sanders, his views — – or lack thereof — will only be taken as a sign of weakness and he will be incessantly mocked for it by the right.

Rachel Bitecofer, a 42-year-old professor from a small college in Virginia (and recent guest on Real Time With Bill Maher), agrees. And it just so happens she rattled the cages of traditional political science thought when she nailed the 2018 midterms like Nostradamus.

Her theory is that there really is no such animal as a swing voter, and no such a black hole as a center. They both still exist, she concedes, but not to the extent that her colleagues think.

In a recent article in Politico, she described it as “flipping giant paradigms of electoral theory upside down.”

So, fellow lefties, it’s time to eat your Wheaties and grow spines. Stop worrying about meeting and greeting anyone in a Ghost Town once known as the middle.

You are just asking to be stood up, the same way I was on those windswept streets of 1980s Northeast Philly.

 

Another Open Wound

Sanders

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There is one thing about a bitter loser, which I freely admit I am: We dwell on our setbacks, keeping us up nights for decades after a defeat, more than our victories.

The writing is on the wall with my man, Bernie Sanders, and I am one heck of a sourpuss right now.

Don’t expect me to “just get over it” anytime soon.

The mainstream media took for what seemed like fiendish joy in its 24/7 hatchet jobs on the man who I consider the only candidate who tried to give a voice to the voiceless.

There was no other end game for Sanders beyond seeing people put roofs over their heads, food on their tables, send their kids to college, breathe cleaner air and have the same kind of health care as the rest of the civilized world.

Oddly, exit polls around the country show that most voters support this progressive (not socialist) agenda.

And yet, mostly out of concocted fear – and younger voters not putting down their iPhones long enough to vote – Sanders is slip sliding away.

The party establishment has dutifully lined itself up behind Joe Biden, a nice enough chap who has been running for president, unsuccessfully, since I was in college (that’s a long time ago, as I turn 55 March 23).

To put it in perspective, “The Simpsons” was not yet a series (having only appeared on an episode of “The Tracey Ullman Show”) when he first ran in 1987-88.

I have nothing against Biden, really, but I’d like to know what he stands for – on anything – in terms of the issues.

And, it seems, no one really cares.

Me, I care. If you seek substantive change, so should you.

I fear he’s like the knife you bring to a gunfight, the spray can you use on a raging forest fire or the whiffle ball bat you bring to a game of hardball.

What really galls me the most is that Pennsylvania is identified as a battleground state (along with Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida).

By the time this horrendously flawed primary/caucus season gets to us (not to mention New York state) in late April, we will have zero say in choosing the nominee.

It is particularly irksome when you consider that the Philadelphia suburbs are circled as a major hot spot in the presidential general election.

And yet, red states that will never go blue in the general election got to sign and seal the deal for Biden (with the help of his on-air campaign workers in supposedly neutral media).

For a sore loser such as I, this will never sit right.

After Sanders rolled in Nevada, a winnable state in November with a diverse population, he was dubiously dubbed as the frontrunner.

In what appeared to be telegraphed through their teleprompters, the talking heads on the all-news networks were playing “Taps” for Biden when, in fact, they all knew he was going to win South Carolina, after which they could call him the “comeback kid” and drone on and on and on about how he cornered the market on the black vote.

The problem with the whole flawed process, the one that leaves Pennsylvanians (and others) with zero say, is the difference between how white and black voters are viewed by alleged experts.

White voters are sliced and diced up a million different ways – by age, by income, by education level, by geography, etc. – while black voters are unscientifically culled together and tossed into one voting bloc for analysis.

But who says that a rural black voter in South Carolina or Alabama has the same wants and needs as, say, a black voter with whom he or she has nothing in common (other than skin color) in Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh or Cleveland?

This mindset has a real chance to cost the Democrats – those of us with noble ideals but new and improved ways to lose – the ultimate prize.

Plain and simple, Biden – like Hillary Clinton before him – will be christened as the nominee on a false positive.

Consider that no Democratic presidential candidate has won a state in what is considered the heart of the Deep South (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana) in the New Millennium.

States along its rim/outer core (Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky) have similar outcomes (Oklahoma, like Mississippi, not gone for a Democrat in the general election since before the signing of the Civil Rights Act).

The only exceptions, in terms of rim states with different demographics (transplanted residents), are Florida (won by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012) and North Carolina (won by Obama in 2008, but not 2012).

And, in both of those states, Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

What does this tell you? All these states have significant black populations, but their collective vote gets magnified in the primary season only to be trapped in the presidential election, making one wonder two things:

1) Is the electoral college flat-out racist?

2) Is the way the Democrats anoint their champion a wise one, strategically?

Biden got around 60 percent of the black vote in the Deep South, and that is put in a context as being the ultimate difference between himself and Sanders, and yet it will likely add up to zero – in terms of electoral votes – when it matters most.

The onus will be on swing states such as our own, and yet we didn’t even get to choose in the primary because of the horrendous scheduling.

Yeah, I’m bitter that Sanders is all but done, but not just because he was my candidate.

It’s the how and why he was systematically marginalized that will be keeping me up nights.

This column rain in The Times Herald on March 15.

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