Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful

The Dogs Days of August are upon us and several of my friends have told me they're becoming depressed. In times like these it helps to count one's blessings. So, with apologies to Ian Dury, I present my "REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL."
1. They finally named a hurricane "Bill."
2. It's tomato season.
3. People who do the hiring will be ending their vacations soon.
4. I'm only hearing about Michael Jackson every 10 minutes instead of every minute.
5. George W. Bush has nothing to do except clear brush.
6. The relative I'm about to ask for a loan hasn't been laid-off.
7. Local businesses I depend on such as my pub, the bakeries and the butcher, are still in business.
8. Big budget movies with overpaid stars are flopping while "District 9," with no stars, made its production budget back in one week.
9. The media keep talking about a financial recovery and the country has this thing about self-fulfilling prophecies.
10. Renee Zellweger flirted with me - OK, I hear she flirts with everyone, but still....

OK, I've run out (and just in time). But feel free to contribute your own.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Drug Dealings

Being in my fifties, my drug of choice nowadays is an anti-inflammatory. Although I swear I got wacked out on allergy medicine the other night and saw that girl from the Disney Channel pole dancing.

I never had much truck with the illegal stuff - I'm paranoid enough. But a recent story on CBS News had me thinking about the prescription drugs I take. It seems the Administration is trying to cook up a deal with the pharmaceutical companies in order to save the Obama health-care plan. This is what my dealings with "Big-Pharma" have been like:

Back in the days when I had a full-time job I had two prescriptions. Lisinopril, the generic form of Zestril, for my high-blood pressure and Liptitor for my cholesterol (to treat a pre-existing love of bacon).

At Duane Reade with the insurance (Cigna) co-pay a thirty-day supply of Lisinopril costs $10 and a thirty-day supply of Lipitor was $30. Not bad really, or so I thought.

Then I lost my full-time job and with it my insurance co-pay. The price of Zestril went to $60 and Lipitor was $175. For one month's worth. Even the people at Duane Reade were aghast.

I had heard Pfizer was giving free medications to those who have been laid-off so I found their website and applied to the "Pfizer Maintain" program (as in "maintain your reliance on our drugs). I was accepted and they quickly sent me a 90-day supply of Lipitor for $0.

Soon thereafter I went to see the doctor and she poo-pooed Lipitor and put me on a generic statin called Simvastatin instead.

So I went to The Rite Aid pharmacy around the corner from my apartment (Duane Reade's long lines were worsening my blood pressure) and they told me the 90-day prescription for both Lisinopril and Simvasatin would cost me about $165. But then they took mercy on me and gave me a Rite Aid Prescription Card. With the card a 90-day supply of both medications was $35. Repeat - 90-days worth of both for $35.

So my question is: How much does this stuff REALLY cost?

And does the Administration really want to deal with these weasels? Obviously they are pumping us and the insurance companies (not that I have any love for them) for every buck they can get. These pills must cost pennies to make - if that.

P.S. Upon hearing that I had lost my job my doctor insisted on giving me a tetanus shot - perhaps she's concerned I'll be dumpster-diving soon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What If We Marched on Washington?

I'm wondering what would happen if all of us fifty-somethings who are unemployed (or underemployed) were to march on Washington. "Three Days of Peace, Love and Free Prostate Exams"? Perhaps. I can see the Fox News graphic now - "Malcontents March!" Rush Limbaugh would be calling all the middle-aged, ample-bellied participants "communists" though I hope Bill O'Reilly would look at our group with its receding hairlines and think "there but a multimillion dollar contract go I." Rachel Maddow would be on our side but she'd envy our suits and haircuts.

The sheer number of middle-aged unemployed people means we'd break the Guinness world record for "Most Porta-Potties Assembled for One Event" and it would be pretty cool to be part of a world record.

It would be a logistical nightmare. The biggest thing I've ever planned was the Exorcism of Fenway Park in 1992 with Father Guido Sarducci (see us in the HBO documentary "The Curse of the Bambino"). It eventually worked, but it took 12 years. Today's unemployed don't have that much time.

These times being what they are I could actually see someone trying to line up corporate sponsorship of the event. I don't think "A.I.G. Presents the Unemployed March on Washington" would fly but no doubt some company would see the opportunity to reach so many boomers. Most likely Big Pharma would step in with "The Viagra Working Stiffs March on Washington" or something. I hope it's not Cialis. I don't understand their advertising. Who would set up a heavy bathtub when they're right next to a lake? I understand erections cause us to do strange things, but really...

But I digress. Humor aside, it's time something happened to shake up Washington. As Frank Rich points out in today's New York Times most middle-class people think they "got punk'd" by Obama. The banks are back to paying bonuses and holding onto all the money we've been denied for years. Not much has changed in the world for the rest of us.

Jeff Hill, a independent publicist friend of mine had a good point not too long ago. He said companies "cut out from the middle." The executives hung onto their jobs and laid off everyone who actually knew how to do the work. They kept the new, lower paid employees effectively telling them, "Here are your new responsibilities. Your pay is the same. Complain and you'll end up like the old people who trained you - laid off." I can't blame the kids. They're trying to make a living too. But try to get good service these days...that is, if you can afford to buy anything in the first place.

But wouldn't it be fun to see the look on the politicians faces when we all show up? Especially since there's election coming for many of them in November 2010. Al Franken, who has cracked only one joke since he came to Washington (not as many writers as he had in his SNL days that's for sure) would be hard-pressed to say something pithy.

And who would speak at the march? Jay Leno has already entertained the unemployed in several cities and since he has a new show to promote would probably be an easy get. Bill Maher and his crack team of writers would probably offer to fly in on a private jet or something but it would be better to get someone who isn't a wealthy celebrity. Maybe the Autoworkers have a men's chorus or something.

But something has to happen. Let me know if you want to plan it. Me, I'm good at coming up with slogans and stuff. And complaining.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Very Own Julia Child Story

"Julie & Julia" is now open in theaters and with all its publicity you've no doubt heard about it and stories about Julia Child. Here's a story you won't hear from enyone else.

Some 20 odd (and I do mean odd) years ago I was a producer on "The Big Mattress," a morning show on the soon-to-be-extinct WBCN in Boston. One morning I had to call Julia Child (I actually had her phone number!) and set her up for a phone interview she was going to do at the end of the show. She was very pleasant and gave me the details on the charity event she was plugging so I could write questions for the show's host, Charles Laquidara, to ask her.

I gave Charles a list of questions right before the interview and he was fine with all of them except one, which had to do with microwave ovens. "That's a stupid question!"

It was a nice enough interview but it went pretty quickly so Charles had no choice but to ask the question he hated: "So Julia, what do use your microwave oven for?"

She didn't miss a beat. "Well sometimes, when the newspaper boy delivers the morning paper and it's all wet, I pop it in there."

Everyone in the studio howled. The interview ended on an up note and I began to think I might be OK at doing interviews myself.

Friday, August 7, 2009

2 Things

Pork Neck Bones - not quite organ meat but they're within the underemployed person's budget. $1.64 and I broiled them in bbq sauce. They were quite tasty. As the saying goes: "The meat that is sweetest is closest to the bone.

And not too long ago at my beloved pub (Cronin & Phelan in Astoria) I sat next to Joe, one of the regulars. The first thing he said was. "If I pass out tonight I want one of those things, you know, where they don't try to bring you back?"
"You mean "Do not resuscitate?"
"You mean a 'DNR'?"
"Yeah, that's it, I'm giving you power...power of attorney."
Honestly, when was the last time someone who sat next to you at a bar gave you power of attorney? Luckily, Joe stayed conscious all night.

Two Positive Things After Being Laid-Off

Only working part-time has its upsides. But there are very few. Here's another short post friends. One thing is I've gotten to know my neighbors better - not to mention the postman and delivery people. There's my next-door neighbor who is from Morocco and taught me this elaborate handshake that involves a a double-cheek air kiss. He insists its what men in Morocco do. Then there's Ramon, a retired gentleman who keeps dozens of plants in front of his apartment building in order to keep busy. It's a splash of green in an otherwise concrete block. And there's Sol, a retired photographer who worked in the days before digital photography. Nice people. All older than me and they wonder if I'll ever find full-time work.

Another thing is organ meat. Yep, it's cheap eatin' friends. You can get two meals out of a $1.25 package of chicken livers. I'm lucky I grew up eating the stuff or I'd never develop a taste for it. Oh and head-cheese. It's a nice cheap luncheon meat made from a pig's head. When I was in school none of the other kids would trade lunches with me but now I know how to eat inexpensively. Vegetarianism is expensive. And back in my working full-time days the vegetarians called in sick more than anyone.

But those are the only two things I can think of right now. I told you this would be short. You can go back to looking for porn now. I know I will.

The World Needs Another Blog Like it Needs Another Baldwin Brother

So why am I doing this? Basically because I need a place to rant or at least get something off my chest without annoying people in person.

What will this be about? Being a M.A.W.G. (Middle-Aged White Guy). It's a term in William Gibson's book "Pattern Recognition." I'll be discussing my life in general, the media, and whatever else comes to mind.

Who Am I? A fifty-something guy who's divorced, underemployed (who isn't?) and covers entertainment for a large radio network on a part-time basis.

Why should I read this? Because frankly, you've been through every single on-line porn site there is and it's time to take a break kiddo. Besides, I promise to write briefly and you'll be back to boobs in no time.