All posts by Silvio La Frossia

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“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Don’t do it!”

In the mid 1970s that was the is it legal to buy adipex online about a street-smart quick-talking undercover cop with the NYPD who lived with an old man and a cockatoo.

When “Baretta” came on, it was dad-and-me TV. Dad and I would watch Robert Blake as Baretta ham it up with Huggy Bear. (Google it. He was street ’70s cool!)

Am I going down this nostalgic path to wax poetically about Robert Blake, a child actor of “Our Gang” turned tough guy actor who was later accused of murdering his wife by shooting her in a car outside a restaurant and then acquitted?

Nope.

It’s to remember where I was when the lights went out in New York City on July 13, 1977.

History shows that the electrical shutdown started at about 8:55 p.m. with a lightning strike in Yonkers.

I didn’t know anything about that at the time.

But what I do remember is watching “Baretta” with my dad in our Bronx apartment.

The screen suddenly went blank and everything in the apartment went black.

My dad enlisted me to find out what happened. So I went to the first floor where my dad rented space for his knitting factory.

As I went up the stairs with a flashlight, I looked outside and noticed just how freaking dark it was out there.

The house we rented was on a corner and one side was parallel to a major highway. Our corner had at least three light poles so it was never dark — except that day.

Looking out the factory’s ground floor windows, something our basement apartment lacked, I could see a very dark Bronx street.

It was something I had never seen before.

“Dad?!” I cried out. He told me to talk to the landlord.

As I went up the stairs and gained a higher vantage point, I could see more of the street and streets on the other side of the highway.

There were no lights anywhere!

My landlord screamed to go back downstairs and turn on a portable radio to hear the news. The Bronx was blacked out. Later I learned it was wider than that.

So here we were on a hot July night with absolutely no lights.

What to do?

Our landlord got into a post-Fourth of July mood and broke out the fireworks that he did not sell the previous week.

He still had a bunch of firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets.

He gave them to me and I remember my dad joining in.

My mom came up with my infant brother. My middle brother, who was too young to light the fireworks, was running back and forth delighting in the explosions I was orchestrating.

The previous week I may have been able to get my hands on a few firecrackers and bottle rockets but now our usually stingy and sour landlord was gleefully opening up a trunk full of leftover fireworks.

I was in heaven.

Rich, my friend from around the block and now About Men Radio brother, and I talked the next day about the looting and pandemonium that happened all night long in the city.

We later found out about the people in the subways and in Shea Stadium when the ballpark went dark and the stores that were broken into.

There were stories of good Samaritans, New Yorkers helping each other or simply gathering outside their buildings to meet their neighbors.

Or in my case, blow up some fireworks with them.

Related:

Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?

A Different Kind of Bucket List

When friends of a certain age get together, a bucket list – things we want to do before we die — can become the center of conversation.

There are fun and exciting things to do in far and exotic places that are probably completely out of reach due to lack of money, energy and testicular fortitude. Zip-lining through a rain forest and para-gliding over a stretch of the Gobi Desert (is that even a thing?) are waaay too intense for this geezer and most of his About Men Radio friends.

No, the bucket list I have is a lot simpler and cheaper.

I’ve written before about doing my part to expose my kids to the classics – no, not literature or art.

My classics are the movies that I have quoted many times — those great movies (at least I remember them as great) — from yesteryear.

Memorable Guy Movie Monologues

These are movies that I grew up with, some old black-and-whites as well as some from the late 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s. These are movies that are too old to be on my kids’ millennial radars.

In our house we have movie night and I would exclaim, “It’s a Dad’s pick movie night!”

And the groans would go up from my clan. My wife would groan because it may be a movie I dragged her to when we were dating that she probably (definitely) hated.

So, how was I going to expose my kids to the long list of classics I know they will enjoy, or tolerate, if they just gave it a chance?

That’s when I came up with the Bucket List. Actually it’s more of a list that is cut up into pieces and placed inside a bucket.

That’s right. I have a small bucket next to our TV that has scraps of paper in it, with the titles of many classic movies my kids have yet to see.

So, here is how this works: The bucket is filled with titles. About 85 percent of them are ones I put in there such as “The Great Escape,” “The French Connection” and “Taps.”

It’s an eclectic list of great and not-so-great flicks.

On a night that the whole group is home (my daughter is 21 and my two boys are 18 and 16, so getting them all together is challenging) I will call out, “Bucket List Night” and wait for the groans to subside.

We randomly pick a movie from the bucket. To have any chance of getting them to agree to this, I let my kids select a few of their favorite titles to include in the bucket.

One of them reaches in and pulls out a title and I read it out loud.

The most powerful one in our group — my wife — gets to employ a single veto. If she is unhappy with the selected title she can veto the choice. But the following selection MUST be watched!

The vetoed title goes back in the bucket and if it is selected again in the future, it cannot be vetoed a second time.

We have strict parliamentarian rules. After all, we are not savages.

Another rule I gave into: No horror movie titles. Arghh! That cut me hard like a mutated cornfield dweller’s machete!

Once a title survives the veto, it gets watched. And here is where my soft heart bends a little: If at 60 minutes, the movie hasn’t captivated everyone, we can terminate it. (Insert a poor imitation of Arnold here.)

We have watched a few of my favorites — along with some snark from my kids — but overall we enjoyed watching “Adventures in Babysitting,” “The Lost Boys,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Truman Show,” “The Green Mile” and “Midnight Run.”

My kids have had luck on their side as they had only a few titles in the bucket, yet they were rewarded with back-to-back selections they made.

It was my turn to groan but I endured because sooner or later they will have to watch “Rambo: First Blood,” “Spies Like Us” and “Commando” with me.

Bwahahahaha!!!!

 

Mourning — and Celebrating — Three Music Giants Who Died in 2016

It is finally over — the year that took so much away from us in such a big swipe.

The year of course is 2016, “a year that will live in infamy,” if you will allow me to paraphrase FDR.

It was a year filled with losses of the famous and talented. There are so many to count and in so many fields of entertainment and arts.

But there are three that stand out as the awful trifecta that death dealt us in this wretched year: two performers whose names are immortalized with a single name, Bowie and Prince, and George Michael.

Sadly these three titans of music died in the same year. Many of us loved their collection of work and mourned the loss of so much music that never became.

As I ready myself to say a very well-deserved good-bye and fuck you to 2016, I take a moment to enjoy a YouTube feast with some of their most celebrated songs and performances.

Every fan has their favorites. And it would be wrong for me to praise one over the other.

But in my heart I carry the joy of watching and listening to George Michael’s “Freedom,” David Bowie’s “Modern Love” and Prince’s Super Bowl halftime show that included “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain.”

I know there are so many songs that each of these artists performed that are immortalized in video and accessible online.

But these songs and performances are the ones I hold in my mind’s eye any time their name is mentioned. I turn to these to relive a glorious time in my youth when I felt invincible and indestructible.

2016 proves that life is fragile and must be treasured because in an instant, and over an ill-fated year, it can be snuffed out indiscriminately.

I look forward to 2017, optimistically and hopefully, remembering the words, “You gotta have faith,” and “I’m still standing in the wind. But I never wave bye-bye,” and “You better live now before the grim reaper comes knocking on your door.”

Come on everyone, Let’s go Crazy!!

A New Year’s I’d Rather Forget!

Have you ever read something that flicked a switch in your brain, that suddenly filled your head with a memory long forgotten or repressed?

Recently my good friend John recounted a story about a visit to Guatemala. You can read it here.

His memory of his first visit to a Central American country was of an official of the army or police pointing an automatic weapon at him.

I have a similar story.

During one of my parents’ trips to our mother country, Argentina, I learned a powerful lesson about not provoking the powerful in charge.

It was the summer of 1979. Summer in the Southern Hemisphere meant Christmas and New Year’s festivities.

Part of the traditional festivities, still observed in the middle and lower class neighborhoods of the Buenos Aires suburbs, was visiting house after house — and eating and drinking at each one — to celebrate the new year.

It was New Year’s Eve 1979, and together with my cousin and a mutual friend, we headed out to uphold old traditions.

We went from house to house and celebrated with people we barely knew. But we ate at every home, and more important to this story, we drank cider at every house.

At age 16 and without the tolerance I have today, I can say I was probably pretty plastered by the time we reached our fourth or fifth house.

All I can remember is that we left a house and started to walk along a main avenue of this depressed neighborhood.

As we walked in a bit of a stupor, I noticed flashing lights up ahead.

Uh-oh! Cops, or worse, I thought.

I told my cousin that we should cut through an alley or double back because we were drunk and under age.

Nah, he said, and gestured most drunkenly. He said that it was just repairs being done on a pharmacy sign on the main road.

Now If I hadn’t been drunk, 16 and stupid, I might have said: “Who the fu#& is gonna be fixing the pharmacy sign on New Year’s Day at 3 in the morning!?!?!?”

But I was 16 and drunk and proceeded on the path.

As we got closer to the flashing lights I felt dread as I could see that this was no sign repair crew. It WAS the cops. Or as they were known in the dictator days of Argentina, the para-police!

I could see multiple vehicles starting to pass us as and I hoped they would let us go because we were only a couple of harmless kids.

Nope.

Brakes squealed, jeeps and cars stopped and all manner of uniformed and non-uniformed authorities came out shouting out orders all at once.

Halt and up against the wall were the ones I heeded.

I slapped the wall and spread my legs.

“Turn around,” I heard a very authoritative voice say.

We all did.

A man in civilian clothes approached the three of us. He held a very large pistol in his hand.

He motioned with the gun and said, let’s see some documents.

In Argentina, at that time, all civilians had to carry a national ID called a Cedula de Identificacion. It was a picture ID with a current address (Lord help you if it wasn’t current) and a seven-digit number.

You better have it memorized too.

As I fumbled for my ID card, I spied the uniformed officers holding automatic weapons forming a perimeter around the man in charge asking for our papers.

My cousin produced his document and walked toward the man. I found mine too and also started to walk toward him.

At the sight of two scared teenagers moving toward him at the same time, documents in hand, this para police jerk must have felt his life was in danger because he leveled his pistol straight at my forehead and said, “I didn’t call you. Back against the wall.”

I got back on that wall like Spiderman! Facing it and back in a spread-eagle position, scared like I had never been before.

I was probably muttering to myself, or possibly crying, when I did not hear the first strongly worded request for me to turn around. At the second shout, I pivoted around and slammed my back up against the wall.

The non-uniformed man in charge beckoned me with his pistol.

I remember him calling me hot shot. I still don’t know why.

So I moved meekly towards him, document in hand straight out as a shield or religious artifact warding off evil.

He snatched it from my hand, glaring at me and still motioning at me with his pistol.

Next came a quick interrogation of name, address and ID number. I blurted everything out, all correctly. Then the question that caught me off guard: “What are you doing here?”

Thankfully I stammered, “Nothing…just visiting friends and family for the New Year.”

My meek response satisfied him because he handed me back my ID, gestured with his head rather than his pistol to disappear.

I ran away, rounded the corner and heard a “psssst” from my cousin huddled behind a car.

I fell in next to him and watched how our friend and another pedestrian who must have somehow been near us when the police descended on us were shuffled into the paddy wagon.

They didn’t have their IDs on them. Holy shit!! Now what?!

Together with my cousin and a clear head that was scared sober from the encounter, we went searching for our friend’s mother who was in one of the houses we had visited earlier.

Fortunately there was a very peaceful ending.

We found our friend’s mom, we all went down to the precinct, getting there before the squad and paddy wagon. Our friend’s mom signed him out and the police asked her to sign out the other minors too.

Our friend recounted his trip to the station in the wagon. He witnessed a few more stops and saw a few individuals tossed into the wagon with bleeding heads.

I am so glad I had my ID — and that I was smart enough to not mouth off.

 

Silvio’s Worst Job

In the spirit of Labor Day, Silvio La Frossia shares his worst job from when he was 23:

I worked for three months as a shipping supervisor in a leather hide processing plant.

It was a union shop and as a supervisor — a young supervisor — I was faced for the first time overseeing union and nonunion labor.

It was a very unfriendly atmosphere with all the supervisors of various departments constantly sniping at each other, and as the youngest and newest, they all came to me.

I was inexperienced in handling and overseeing experienced workers who were much older.

My strengths were in organization, timelines and structure, but not in people management and especially not in a combative and tumultuous labor divide.

I could probably handle it a lot better today with years of project management and, well, years under my belt.

 

Memorable Guy Movie Monologues

I love movies and I am a guy.  So I really, really love guy movies.

There are a few things that are undisputed that make up a guy movie and one of them is it has to have one or a few memorable quotes.

It’s the quote that gets repeated anytime guys get together. I wrote about it at About Men Radio. But there are movies that are guy movies determined not just by a quote but rather an entire monologue.

I selected these five not as the top five best ever but simply as five great and memorable monologues.

 

Wall Street – Michael Douglas Gordon Gekko (1987)

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Ahh, the 80s. When corporate greed was acceptable, allowed and admired. The divide between the robber barons and the rest of the population was wide but accepted because the economic meltdown had yet to occur.

In this came an antihero who in his famous monologue explained why greed was good. And we all applauded.

Key quote: “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

 

Animal House – John Belushi John Blutarsky (1978)

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Classic movie monologues don’t always have to be serious. They can also be from one of the greatest comedy movies ever made. This infamous monologue is delivered brilliantly by the late great John Belushi.

The director John Landis said Belushi had the most expressive face he had ever had the fortune of directing. Think to the laughs he generated in the cafeteria food line scene without ever speaking a word but then near the end he gives one of the most rousing comedic monologues ever delivered on the big screen.

Key quote: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

Blade Runner – Rutger Hauer Roy Batty (1982)

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What would a guy movie be without a great villain? In the great sci-fi adaptation of Phillip K. Dick “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep,” the villain of the movie, now titled “Blade Runner”— because really, electric sheep?! — delivers a monologue in the pouring rain.

As scripted, the monologue was fantastic and masterfully delivered.

But then Rutger Hauer, playing the part of the replicant Roy Batty, improvised the final line, “Like tears in the rain,” transforming a great monologue to a masterpiece!

Key quote: “All those moments will be lost in time. Like tears in the rain

Silence of the Lambs – Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lector (1991)

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And while on the topic of villains, has there ever been a larger than life one than Hannibal Lector? Watching the great Sir Anthony Hopkins perform it simply freezes my spine, and it isn’t even the famous Chianti line. It is his final farewell to Clarice. Even though there is an interaction with the film’s protagonist, the delivery of the questions can be pieced together into a single, unforgettable and bone-chilling monologue.

Key quote: “You think if Catherine lives, you won’t wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming of the lambs.”

Jaws – Robert Shaw Quint (1975)

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The Indianapolis speech from the blockbuster “Jaws.” Very little introduction or explanation is required of this monologue. Any true card-carrying guy can almost completely recite this one. But no one can ever deliver it with the gravitas that the late great Robert Shaw did. Reportedly Shaw did not like his first delivery of it. The following day he re-did the scene and was supposedly very drunk.

Key quote: “…and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.

 

A Soccer Fan of Divided Loyalities

Uh oh! What do I do now?!

I am faced with a conundrum that took more than 30 years to develop.

I am a soccer fan, not only because I played the sport from a very young age, but because as a native Argentine, the religion of soccer is ingrained in my DNA.

We worship at the altar of our favorite professional clubs, but we all set aside our religious sects to venerate the national team.

This worship is not unique to Argentina or Latin America. The fervor of rooting patriotically is in the fabric of every country.

I experienced this firsthand when in 1986 on a June afternoon I made my way to the heart of the downtown district of Buenos Aires.

Halfway around the world in Mexico City, my heroes of the Argentine National Team were about to face Germany in the final game of the FIFA World Cup.

When the final whistle blew, Argentina won 3-2 and I found myself in a large, pulsing living organism for a spontaneous celebration I would never forget. I later found out that the number of fans that converged around me and the giant screens reached more than 200,000.

Even as a naturalized United States citizen I still remained the rabid Argentina soccer fan that my blood cells are stamped with.

Living in a country that did not care for soccer at a league level and even less at a national team level, I had no worries of ever having my love for a foreign nation conflict with my adopted one.

That started to change, however, in the early 90s.

Soccer came to this nation slowly and then suddenly in 1994, the United States hosted the ultimate soccer tournament, the World Cup.

Historically, the U.S. always fielded a weak team, a mere speed bump for the major soccer powers on their way to the top prize.

In that World Cup though, the U.S. Men’s National Team not only held its own, but shocked many by upsetting an overconfident Colombia.

The U.S. team did not get much further and over the next few years its level of play peaked in 2002 by reaching a quarterfinal in the World Cup.

But in the last few years, the team has started to show a level of play that, although still not at the level of historically strong soccer nations, was starting to draw some attention.

Through all this, I was and am a strong supporter of the USA National Team. Fast forward to now.

Once again the USA is hosting a major FIFA tournament. It’s the oldest international competition and it is called La Copa America.

I again have been rabidly following both nations. Now I have my kids and wife joining me at every game, cheering my birth nation, Argentina, and their birth nation, the United States.

Now the conundrum: For the first time in their history, Argentina and the U.S. will match up in a major tournament and at a very high stage, the semifinal game of the Copa America 2016.

I have the conflict of cheering for or against one of the two nations that mean so much to me.

On Tuesday night I will be rooting hard for the nation I grew up rooting for all the while knowing that if my adopted nation pulls off the greatest soccer upset in history, I will not be disappointed.

I will still have the fervor and sincerest desire to see them advance and win it all.

ARGENTINA! ! !  USA! ! ! !

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How a Symbol of Love and Loyalty Saved My Finger

“All kings should have scars.”

That was what Queen Cersei said to her son Joffrey, who was soon to become king on “Game of Thrones.”

As hated as both of those characters were by fans, I have to agree. Scars are reminders of a battle, won or lost, that have left their mark.

Scars have a strengthening quality. For instance, where skin scars, it becomes tougher. All successful marriages have them — they are healthy and necessary for the longevity of the union.

My marriage to my high school sweetheart started with an eight-year courtship, and in May, we celebrated our 26th  wedding anniversary.

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This story, though, is about some of the physical scars that I carry on my wedding band.

I had been taking it off regularly to play guitar.

It felt a little weird while I fretted certain songs and then I sometimes forgot to put it back on when I went to work.

In fact, it was at work when my ring got some of its scars.

There were metal filing cabinets, each about six feet tall, filled with CDs, tapes, disk drives and other media.

Suffice to say, they were very, very heavy.

Building operations people were scheduled to move them but I decided to do it on my own.

I put two cabinets in place, and was moving a third when it slipped off the dolly and caught my hand between it and another one, right on the corners of both cabinets.

Thankfully I had remembered to put my ring on.

If I didn’t have the ring to absorb most of the impact, I shudder to think of what would have happened to my finger.

It was crushed onto my finger.

I used a set of channel lock pliers to reshape it and get it off.

But I won’t fix it with a jeweler.

That physical scar is a forever reminder of how a symbol of love and loyalty saved my finger because I remembered to put it back on.

Now I don’t remove it anymore.

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How I Survived My Daughter’s First Concert (and Mosh Pit)

My daughter turned 20 today.

So many feelings and memories surround the writing of that sentence.

I had to stop a second because my eyes started sweating a little.

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I have many wonderful thoughts of being able to be that larger-than-life presence in her life. I was, and still am, the daddy.

Although my role as protector has evolved as the years have passed, I recall a particular event where I almost had to go full pit bull as her guardian.

My daughter had turned 14 and was developing her own taste in music.

Of course, as parents we went full bore on all the sappy Disnified music and songs from when she was just a wee girl.

But now she had reached teenagerdom, and the cutesy posters in her room were slowly being replaced with celebrity posters and music idols.

With her birthday approaching, my daughter asked for tickets to see the band We The Kings, who were going to be playing at the House of Blues in Orlando.

I agreed to get the tickets but she could not go alone and I would not simply drop her off — not yet. Not at 14. Not my little girl.

So we had a date night. I was going with her. We headed off.

D&M Now

I decided to eat at the House of Blues. It was a nice outing. We had burgers and talked.

She answered my questions about who these guys we were about to see, where they came from, their style of music, were they cute, etc.

My daughter obliged me my silly daddy questions.

She then informed me that the main band would play after four opening acts.

FOUR!?!? I thought. This is gonna be torture.

I had no idea.

Having patronized the House of Blues restaurant, we were given early-entry passes to the show.

We could pile in before the rest of the Kingers or Kingheads, or whatever they called themselves, could gain access to the hallowed halls of Blues.

We walked and there were only enough people standing to fill about three rows.

Uh-oh. No seats.

I had forgotten that this was a general admission event and there would be no seats. My first alarm went off, but I used to go to heavy metal concerts at small and large venues.

“I got this!” I figured.

As the rest of the patrons started to stroll in, I noticed a few things.

First, I was the oldest thing there. I was even older than the building I was in.

Second, everyone looked at me as if I were a narc.

Third, I was crowding in on my daughter’s first musical fan experience. So I quickly surveyed the room and found some steps that led up to a ledge only a few feet off the main floor where there was a bar.

I had no interest in drinking that night (hard to believe but true), only in the small nook with a railing that overlooked the floor.

I didn’t care about the view of the show, I just wanted to find a place where I could see Marina and I had found it.

silvio and daughter

I leaned over and told Marina where I would be. She nodded, still sporting this wonderful smile and soaking in this new experience.

I trotted up to my perch and stood watch like a medieval sentry through the first two bands.

They were local, unknown bands and they didn’t draw a large reception.

I could still see the curly mop of my happy daughter. And she would look up to my position and flash me a smile and return my thumbs-up each time.

I had forgotten from my concert-going days that true fans and followers pile in as the night gets longer.

And then they came.

By the middle of the third band, I started to see a wave forward and to the side of Marina’s head. The crowd was growing and moving as one large organic being.

My daughter was now in this sea of bodies.

I was starting to sweat.

The fourth band was obviously a favorite as the crowd moved violently in every direction.

I could see Marina still enjoying herself, swaying with the crowd, still pretty much in the same area I had left her when I noticed a new configuration.

A mosh pit was developing!

Oh God, no!!

My little girl was right in the area where the crowd was parting to allow this abomination to take shape.

She was right along the edge of this pit. And I remembered, again from my metal days, what could happen to those unsuspecting individuals around the edge of a pit.

While I scanned, searching for curly hair, I saw him enter the circle: an experienced mosher, all 7-foot-9 of him.

He was a perfect sculpted specimen.

I know because he pulled his shirt off, threw it over his shoulder and proceeded to mosh, throwing arms and fists in every direction.

My eyes were focused on this monstrosity and willing that he not come anywhere near Marina.

I knew in that moment that if this man-child of Greek-proportioned musculature and probably 2 percent body fat came anywhere near my daughter that my 5-foot-10, soft-bodied dad self would fly down in a heartbeat to kill him.

I even saw it played out in my head: Me swooping down and beating this pseudo -Adonis to death with his own leg that I had just ripped off of him.

I didn’t have to though. He stayed at the other outer edge, making contact with more than one bystander. I looked over to the safe edge and scanned for curly hair.

I didn’t see any.

I lost her!

I know I must have displayed that on my face because I felt a hand  over my mine, which was death-gripping the metal rail.

I looked up and saw what was definitely a mom.

She looked right at me and said, “Did you lose your daughter in there?”

Holy crap. She knew.

Yes, I nodded vigorously.

She told me to calm down and that she would be OK. I didn’t believe her but I did settle down and refocused.

I scanned closer to the stage and there she was, almost at the stage level with a great view of the show and away from that idiot in the pit.

I breathed again and mouthed “thank you” to that mom.

The last opening act left and the lights came up a bit more as we waited for the main act.

Marina turned around and had an easier time of spotting me. She flashed a wide smile and a thumbs up.

I actually got to watch the main act and enjoyed the show.

After the show ended, I managed to get back to my little girl, who was beaming.

I hugged her, more for my benefit, and then we left.

I asked her how she enjoyed it, and the words came out at teenage speed.

On the trip home, she told me how she took advantage of the mosh pit forming and creating new space to get to a better location to enjoy the upcoming band.

And when the crowd surfers came by, she just ducked a bit to avoid them.

She took a glancing blow from some Keds sneaker but that was it.

She loved her first concert.

She thanked me and said she would never forget it.

Me too. And somehow, I survived it.

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Friendships That Endured Through Moves and Time

In my youth, going out after school down the block or to the park was where we met up with our friends. Even kids we just met, after a spirited game of war, or tag or anything else, those new acquaintances became friends.

Through my childhood years, I migrated back and forth between the Bronx and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Each of these moves usually had us staying a year or two in a city before packing up and moving back.

This happened a few times during my school years. So I would harvest a circle of friends and then leave them to start anew.

My earliest friends I have pretty much forgotten by name. I remember some activities and a few kids from the block, but nobody that I would contact today.

But in one of my returns to the Bronx, I met a group of guys that I would never forget.

Our moves were always disruptive of the school year.

With the switch from southern to northern hemispheres and of seasons, a migration to the United States usually meant coming in the middle of a grade and being that kid that was introduced to the class as “… joining us from Argentina.”

In sixth grade at PS 36, I did not make any enduring school friends.

Instead I met a kid from around the block who happened to go to the same school but we never interacted there much.

Anyway, Rich and I hit it off pretty well, sharing a love for comic books, Legos, science fiction and classic horror. These similarities bonded us as friends despite being polar opposites in our baseball love. (He is a rabid Mets fan and I am a diehard Yankees fan.)

Regardless, our friendship grew.

We played pickup softball at the schoolyard, sometimes just him and me hitting and catching for what seemed like glorious hours days on end.

When we weren’t outside, it was games, comics and pool — he had a great pool table in his family room. We battled constantly at 8-ball, with him besting me probably 85 percent of the time.

When the next school year started, I went to a Catholic school that was two parishes away from home.

On Day One, the kids in the yard lining up by grade all knew each other.

This was seventh grade and many of these kids knew each other from kindergarten at St. Raymond’s. I had left all of those early friends behind after several relocations, and my friend Rich was at a different public school.

So I scanned the faces for another guy who also looked new. I found him: Pedro. We chatted briefly and said maybe we would get lucky enough to end up in the same class. We did.

Once we were in our class and lined up again, I was standing behind a flattop-haired kid, taller than me and with a jacket with Boy Scout patches. Having enjoyed my Cub Scout years, I tapped his shoulder and asked him about his troop and patches.

We hit it off and Chris and I became friends. He later introduced me to his longtime friend John and a new kid he met that also lived nearby in his neighborhood: Pedro!

We became close friends and I was fortunate to spend some after-school days with them, but my neighborhood was about 14 blocks away, so my after-school days were spent more with Rich.

Through birthday parties and other gatherings at home I introduced both groups and we became five best friends.

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After two full school years I once again whisked off down south, starting high school in Argentina.

Two years later we once again returned.

This time though I had kept in touch with my “bros.” The long-distance friendship back then was through letters, cards and packages. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive and, of course, no one knew what an Internet was yet.

We traded letters, books, photos and cassette tapes. I wish I kept one of those. I still remember the one where Chris recorded latest hits off the radio and had everyone, including his sister and mom, talk up a song. I know I played that tape incessantly

When I returned, and with heavy long-distance help from Chris, I was able to attend the same Catholic high school as John, Pedro and Chris. Rich was at the Bronx High School of Science.

We all again went our separate ways to college, but we were all still in New York City, so again we did everything together, until again I departed.

This time it was of my own accord, testing out my future plans in my native Argentina. Since conscription was still a thing then, I had to complete a year in the Army there.

But the country was still in disarray after regaining democracy, and it stood on the verge of a takeover at any time (two failed coups did occur), so once again I returned to the United States.

Together with my new wife, we moved south again, but this time staying in the northern hemisphere and landing in Orlando, Fla. It would be 16 years before I got back together with the gang.

I located each of my AMR pals and connected through Facebook.

This led to a reintegration with a group of guys with whom I shared so many experiences and an online gathering space allowed us to catch up.

After a while, it’s as if we never went our separate ways.

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Although it’s been harder for me to meet up, I have taken full advantage of trips made to reconnect with one friend at a time or the group as we did for an elementary school reunion.

Now we share our anecdotes in our writings and podcasts. I look forward to those like a kid waiting for Santa.

And this week there will be a full reunion of the original AMR boys in a visit to sunny Florida.

I am so thankful for my friends, the real ones with whom I have shared a childhood and early adulthood.

I now look forward to those middle-age memories still to come. I don’t want to call it a bucket list, but when we get to those formative years, I hope I will still have these AMR brothers to share them with.

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Oh Rats! A Subway Stare-Down That I Lost

What creature would roam underground, scurrying from point to point through an intricate network of tunnels — dank, dirty and dingy — tirelessly trudging in claustrophobic surroundings?

I know them as New Yorkers. And they rule the subways.

For a long time I was one of them. Today I fondly think back of my days underground — and over ground when on the El — from the safety and sunshine of Florida.

But there is another New York inhabitant that is the true ruler of the subway, especially its tunnels.

This New Yorker has many cousins in fields, landfills and building basements and is an abomination born of the darkest of crevices – The Subway Rat!

This monstrosity is no ordinary rat. Its above-ground cousin shares similar disgusting traits, such as its almost cat-like size, hideous teeth and fur and voracious appetite. Did I mention it’s as big as a freaking cat?!

The New York Subway Rat has all those traits and exponentially raises it a few degrees.

Many New Yorkers never get to see one of these monsters.

They are the fortunate ones.

I am a New Yorker who faced one and lived to tell the tail…um…tale.

My commute back in the late ’80s was on the No. 6 train from Parkchester in the Bronx to the Garment District near Seventh Avenue. (No self-respecting New Yorker ever called it Fashion Avenue.) But the No. 6 doesn’t go to Seventh Avenue in the Garment District.

I would get off at the 42nd Street Station and then take the Shuttle to the West Side.

I would always go to the first car, not because I wanted to watch the passage through the tunnels from the front door, though I often did.

My principal reason for taking that spot was logistical.

The 42nd Street Station back then had a supervisors’ booth that had long been abandoned.

But the structure was still there and at the mouth of the tunnel, it jutted into the platform forming an inverted “U” from the front tunnel entrance. To either side of the “U” there was a narrow walkway that went right up to the tunnel’s mouth.

Since this walkway was always empty, no one would stand there to wait for the train and I could exit from the first car onto the platform without bumping into anyone waiting to come in.

It saved me a few milliseconds, and if you know a New Yorker’s morning commute, every fraction of a second mattered.

For months I exited the car without ever looking. Until one day…

Sniffing around this secluded platform, at the height of morning rush hour, just inches away from where I was about to plant my first step was a Subway Rat.

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He was this big: I am holding my hands out at least three feet apart!

I froze mid-step.

Average rodents will typically scurry away when confronted by a human. But this is Subterraneous Verminus Rodentus we are talking about here.

This — this thing — stopped sniffing the ground, swiveled and stood on its freaking hind legs!

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I was still frozen mid-step, and five cars away there was probably a conductor watching this exchange and wondering who would win, and more important how quickly, because he needed to get the train moving and close the freaking doors!

This New York Subway Rat knew who was boss. He was!

After a brief stare-down, it lowered itself and slowly, deliberately, walked to the tunnel and out of sight.

I exited the train, turned left and got the hell out of there.

I lived to tell the tale. But often I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t froze and if I had quickly used my soccer skills to kick that bigger-than-a-football-size vermin into the subway car before the doors closed.

Oh the pandemonium that would have created!

But I’m certain the rat would have landed on its feet, killed some passengers and slowly walked off the train and into its subterranean realm.

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Showing Dad Admiration and Respect Through Soccer

Respect: Of the many who demand it, few get it and even fewer deserve it.

I truly believe that respect is earned wordlessly, silently, almost imperceptibly through action.

I recall a certain event with my Dad that exemplifies this notion. It happened as I was entering my rebellious years. I was 14.

I held high respect for Dad from very early on. But once a boy becomes a teenager, he may show disrespect toward the very towering figures he put on a pedestal for so long.

Allow me to explain.

My love and devotion for the game of soccer is ingrained in me just from having been born in Argentine lands.

The very air in the country, heavily laden with the perspiration of countless players and games, practically infects all newborn boys with the fever of soccer.

How it grows and develops in an Argentine child comes from the father and then through endless street, sandlot and neighborhood games, moving toward more structured Futból leagues with his peers as he grows.

Having moved with my family to the Bronx as a toddler, an element of that soccer growth was interrupted. In the early ’60s, youth soccer was not as popular as it is now. My father, who in Argentina played at the professional level, continued in some adult leagues that played in Van Courtland and Flushing Meadow Parks.

But for me, chasing la redonda (the round one) in New York became strictly a father-son thing.

As I got older, Dad encouraged me to pick up the ball with my hands, and slowly but surely, a soccer goalkeeper was developing. He told me that since I did not grow up with the opportunity to play potrero (sandlot) soccer, that I should work to become a goalkeeper.

After-school trips to the park were a daily occurrence.

Since available soccer goalposts were a rarity, we would set up a couple of markers to serve as goalposts in front of a fence or wall with grass leading up to it and kick away — me crouching and diving, Dad stopping to give me pointers, explaining the art of the keeper and tirelessly kicking soccer balls.

It was heaven.

Summers, fall and spring, the training continued.

As I got a little older, the feeling of “I know more than you” started to also develop.

One day we went to Pelham Bay Park for our goalkeeper training.

At this session I made the mistake of thinking I could show my Dad up. I thought that not only was I the best, but that I was going to show him in a very flashy way.

How? In my case, by making stops while moving half-heartedly toward the ball, by chicken-winging my arm and knocking out the kicked ball with my elbow, by staying upright and turning my back to the ball and heel-kicking it back.

What I forgot was that the man in front of me was once a professional soccer player and I had never experienced a true soccer shot.

I quickly found out that he had always pulled his punches.

And I found out most loudly.

The next few shots came in a blur.

I remember getting a hand on a few, and how they hurt. The ones I could not stop, because they came at me as if fired from a howitzer, hit that wall behind me with a stupendous BANG!

They hit off that wall so hard that they went right back to Dad without my intervention and he readied himself for the next shot.

At one point the volley stopped and he walked to me. He calmly asked if we were done.

He seemed 10 feet tall again. He never directly addressed the barrage, never mentioned my display of disrespect.

We probably talked about soccer the way we always did on the way back home.

But in that one loud, wordless moment, he got back that respect that I vainly attempted to take away.

MegaCon: The Family That CosPlays Together…

As I stroll down a hallway, an 8-foot mechanized cyborg passes by me.

Resting in a semi-seated position and staring into a smartphone is a unicorn-headed half human.

Further down I see a line of droids ambling away.

And wait! Was that Stan Lee?!

Did I just bring you into one of my alcohol-induced dreams?

Nope, that was just a small part of MegaCon 2015 in Orlando, Fla.

MegaCon is the annual younger cousin to the now-famous ComicCon of San Diego. But not that much smaller.

This year over 70,000 super-heroes, monsters, robots, geeks and freaks passed through its doors.

Batman_Group

For me, a lover of all things comics from the early 70s, a giant comic book convention should have been an annual event from way, way back.

But it wasn’t. Early on I viewed all conventions, comic, Star Trek, scifi and horror as the domain of not just geeks, but rather stuck-up, solitary, scary collector-type geeks.

And in a convention they found the one event where they could congregate and be all geeky about their collections together.

I was not a collector. I was a reader.

I devoured comics and pulp mags, scifi, super-heroes and horror. But I never kept my comics and mags in pristine, collectible condition.

I read the hell out of them. I rolled them over, shoved them into bags, creasing pages that reduced their monetary value but with every reading, they increased in spiritual value to me.

Many were lost or traded over time. Some were even damaged by Silly Putty overuse. But they were never forgotten.

Fast forward many, many, many years to my family that now includes some teenagers, who grew up reading fantasy book series, anime and comics.

Three years ago they convinced me to take them to our first MegaCon.

I thought I knew what I was in for.

I prepared myself to spend the day letting my kids explore and I would limit myself to looking through comics, mags and memorabilia that interested me, whiling away the time.

What I got was completely different.

Yes the exhibitors were there with the comics and accessories, and many of them looked and acted like the comic book collector geek from “The Simpsons.” But there was so much more.

Full booths dedicated to the likes of the Southern R2 Builders Group, the Greater Florida LEGO® Users Group and the 501st Legion or as they are better known, “Vader’s Fist”.

Sure these were middle-aged folks spending thousands of dollars on building the most incredible replica of a fully functioning R2D2 droid.

But it felt right and not geeky.

Maybe it felt that way because these full-sized, fully functioning and moving droids are definitely the ones I was looking for.

It was my childhood brought to life. And the storm troopers, mercenaries, Wookies and Jedis of the well-known galactic fantasy tale were all there.

That was just the Star Wars stuff. There were exhibits from “Star Trek,” “Battlestar Glactica,” “RoboCop” and… “Plan Nine From Outer Space.”

Yes, there was the well-known and the obscure.

But what about comic book characters? If I were to guess I would say they were all well represented by the thousands of cosplayers.

From the bizarre, to the sublime, from the expensive and elaborate to the cheap and last-minute creation.

Wolverine, Supergirl, Thor, Spiderman, Rick Grimes…and Powdered Toast Man.

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There were so many anime characters I did not recognize that I had to constantly stop and ask my kids, “Who’s that?”

But the most interesting part was seeing that this was not a culture of geek exclusivity or freak elitism.

From what I saw in a day, every cosplayer was very gracious to every request for a picture or to engage in conversation. And so many poses — from heroic to horrific to hysterical.

Did I mention Powdered Toast Man?

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Some cosplayers were surrounded by fans of all ages. And everyone wanted a picture.

I saw an 8-foot Groot, splendidly re-created, down to the slow difficult walk in that costume.

He wouldn’t have walked fast even if his tree-stumped legs allowed, because every half a step there was another photo request.

And when a fantastically accurate Star-Lord crossed his path, it was a true Kodak moment.

Groot_Star_Lord

MegaCon has now become an annual thing in our family. My kids take it to an extreme and I love it.

This year my oldest daughter went to all three days and dressed as two different characters.

In fact, we have started a budget for MegaCon 2016 for all of us, including my wife, to attend all three days and we will all be costumed.

The family that cosplays together stays together.

May the Force be with you.

Memorable Movie Quotes: Why They Matter To Men

Get a few guys together and there will be at least 10 memorable movie quotes battered about and at least one classic guy movie scene clumsily reenacted.

We can’t help it. It is deeply engrained in our nature.

Many times, guys will overlook it if the quote referenced doesn’t quite fit the mood or the conversation as long as it was masterfully delivered.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

There are a few unwritten rules, though.

The quote has to be correct. One hundred percent!

“I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I ain’t got no more bubble gum.”

Arrrahh! No go. Go to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Real guys reading this can immediately correct this quote. And the unlucky goop that attempted it is usually relegated to less than sidekick duty.

Until the day he launches a good one.

“You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!”

Bang! Nailed it!

We guys, including my About Men Radio brothers, subconsciously crave that special moment when we transcend mere mortals and not only nail the quote to the moment but organically live it or make it larger than life.

Although none of us will ever have a “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli” moment after gunning down a rival. (At least I hope none of us will!)

A few years back I had a moment. And there wasn’t another guy around, just my lovely wife. And although I love her very much, she can’t help but squash those little guy moments.

She will always roll her eyes whenever I watch/quote “Star Wars” or “The Hunt for Red October” or “Goodfellas.”

She will get up off the couch abandoning me if I stop the remote on “Gladiator” for more than two seconds.

So here I am rolling up to my moment in a minivan with my wife riding shotgun.

I pull up to the toll booth attendant and hand him my $2 waiting for a couple of quarters in change. I had absent-mindedly done this a hundred times.

Then the attendant dropped the coins.

As he dropped to a knee to pick them up, disappearing from view behind the half door it was my Sonny Corleone moment and I wasn’t going to let it go!

I bolted up in my seat swiveled my head from side to side almost hoping to see some fedora-wearing hit men leveling their Tommy guns.

I felt my wife’s hand on my forearm but instead of squashing my moment she whispered, “Relax Sonny.”

YES!!!

She recognized the scene without any prompting and added her own line to complete my moment! Typically a second guy completes a guy moment by delivering the final line, but unless my wife started going, RAT-A-TAT-TAT-TAT and then kicked me in the face for good measure, she couldn’t complete the actual scene.

But she recognized my moment, added her own line and made it memorable. She completed me.

I didn’t think I could love her more, but I was wrong.

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I’m Drivin’ in My Car…And Getting Into Trouble!

One night in 1985 while out with my AMR brothers cruising around, we almost all checked out.

An annual Italian heritage block event was held in our neighborhood in the east Bronx.

As was our custom, we would pile into a car and head out. This time it was my car and Zerega Avenue was our destination for the evening.

My car was really my Dad’s car and to call it a land yacht was to downplay its enormity. It was a 1976 Ford LTD. It was truly a land cruise ship. Piling into it was not a problem for just the four of us that night, Pedro, John, Rich and me.

The car was not a beater, but it had seen better days. Most of the dings, scratches and disrepair were courtesy of a teenage me that learned to drive in it and used it more than Dad did by that time.

On that fateful night, it had a burnt out headlight. Being young and broke I did not see the urgency in repairing or replacing parts immediately.

So off we went, with John riding shotgun and Pedro and Rich in the back seat.

We cruised the night a bit and headed in the direction of the festival. I can’t recall if any of us really wanted to attend the festival. We were just planning on cruising, cutting up and having fun.

Traffic was not heavy but we saw police officers directing traffic on the principal roads. I turned down a side street and, approaching a corner on the dark road, I saw a single flashlight motioning forward like an airport runway crewman.

But as my great white land ship got closer to the light, it started to motion to the curb that I should pull over.

I immediately remembered the busted headlight. Damn.

And that I had forgotten my wallet. Double damn!

I pulled to the side and a very young police officer came to my window. He asked me for my license and registration and with the same breath before I could reply to his first request he informed me that I had a headlight out.

From the corner of my eye, I saw his partner, equally young, flashlight in hand, approach the passenger side.

I told the officer that I was driving my Dad’s car and I forgot my wallet. But I did have the registration in the glove compartment, which I pointed to and was about to slowly reach all the way over to retrieve.

And here is where it all could have ended.

John lunged for the glove compartment, simply thinking that he was doing me a solid and getting my documents for me.

The cops didn’t see the nobility of the gesture as they each took a step back and trembling hands went to their holsters. Luckily, John fumbled the turn knob and I was able to calmly push him back in his seat.

I’m not certain what kept me moving calmly that night other than instinctively knowing that one does not make quick movements in the presence of officers on a dark side road in the Bronx.

After pulling out the registration and insurance card, the officer asked me to give him my name and spell it.

He returned the cards to me. His hand — and mine — were less than steady.

I guess he was satisfied that the spelling of my last name matched the one on the registration card. Thank the heavens my name wasn’t simply Smith.

He gave me a warning to drive home, get the headlight fixed and to not forget my wallet in the future. Yes, sir!

I pulled away slowly and started to drive away. Then a steady barrage of smacks and blows, intermingled with chopped unfinished sentences, started to rain down on the back of John’s head coming from the back seat.

“You dumb…” Smack!

“You never lunge when…” Bang!

“You almost got us…” Pow!

All of it was coming from Pedro. Rich didn’t say much the rest of the trip.

Thinking back on it, and without making light of recent events, we got off easy. I can only imagine that the young officers were just as frightened as we were. And we were extremely fortunate the glove box did not open, allowing John to reach in.

The officers stayed level-headed and did not draw, but all the circumstances in the event—four youths with no ID in a large car that is not theirs — could have led to calling in the sidewalk chalk outline artist that night.

I’m grateful that it turned out OK for us. And I don’t think I have ever again forgotten my wallet!

“Hey, Coach…”

“You got a second, Coach?”

Ughhh. The most hated sentence a volunteer parent coach can ever hear.

Why?

Because nothing good ever follows it. It is always some sort of complaint (my daughter didn’t play enough time), unreasonable request (my daughter should play the whole game) or unsolicited “technical” advice (my daughter should play center forward to beef up your weak 4-3-3 formation).

The only thing I can hope for as the coach is that at least the tone is civil.

I have been a sports coach, mostly soccer, since before I had kids of my own. Having been born in Argentina and with a dad who played some professional soccer in his youth, it was a matter of time before I started chasing and kicking “la redonda” (the round one).

I cut my teeth as a coach while as a young adult serving in the Argentine army. Yep, military conscription was still a thing when I was 20. I filled my off hours by volunteering at the Catholic parish youth soccer league.

In Argentina, soccer is an ingrained part of the culture. Children learn to play even before they are able to walk.

Parents rarely are present during formal coaching sessions and many times absent from games entirely. So I had the great opportunity to learn from experienced coaches and to freely coach a team of 9- and 10-year-old boys, all very talented and skillful little players.

After returning to the U.S. and getting married, it wasn’t until we had our own kids that I returned to coaching. It had been 16 years since I had last run a practice, so I signed up as an assistant coach because I wanted to see how things were done in the U.S., now my naturalized home.

By week No. 2 into that, my rookie season, the head coach suddenly had an out-of-town project to work on, and just like the plot of a bad sitcom, I inherited a team of uncoordinated, uninterested first graders to play a game I had learned to play structurally and properly. After setting up some drills to run, it did not take long for bedlam to ensue.

After a few weeks I started to get into the rhythm of the players (know thy audience) and scaled down the drills to more fun games that happened to involve a soccer ball.

Kids were having fun and I managed to sneak in some soccer drills disguised as fun. During their matches the team scored some goals and won some games.

Hurray!

Until…

My first encounter with an upset parent. Fortunately for me, this one didn’t go as it was playing out in my head. I had just finished getting the kids set up for a soccer drill when I saw out of the corner of my eye a mom dragging a red-headed boy by the hand and in my direction with a very determined look on her face.

The boy was one of my talented players but not good at following directions. I was expecting the worst from his mom. What occurred was unexpected but very welcome. After dragging her son, who was struggling against her, in my direction, she stopped short of coming straight up to me.

Instead she dropped to a knee, grabbed her son by the cheeks, pointed at me and without breaking her gaze into his eyes said: “This is your coach and you will listen to and do as he says. Do you understand me?!”

Then she shook my hand without saying anything else and walked away.

In the following years I became very adept at coaching a recreational team of players.

“Recreational” meant that you always had at least four players who were more interested in playing in the dirt, viewing cloud forms or chasing a passing butterfly than in the ball being kicked toward them.

As their coach, my hands were raw from clapping and my throat hoarse from yelling encouragement to a player running in circles far from where that ball was being played.

It is a part of the mantra of recreational sports. All children play regardless of skill, and they should all be encouraged enthusiastically and equally. It can be very tiring for a volunteer coach, but very satisfying as well.

And then it started. “Coach, you got a second?”

Sure, I thought, as I turned with a big smile. What would follow would always be, my kid isn’t receiving enough playing time, etc. etc. In my head I would reply, “How could he? He is too busy digging up ants as the opposing team barrel through your kid’s area on the field!”

Instead, I would smile and think back on that first parental encounter.

Food and Culture Come Together at the Holidays

Coquito y Empanadas!

For the past 23 Christmases I have been able to share the joyous holiday spirit with my lovely wife.

We combine two very different Hispanic cultures and customs.

To outsiders, Hispanics all seem to be the same because we share the same language from the mother country of Spain, Hispanics vary widely in words, customs and traditions.

Caribbean Hispanics differ from Central American Hispanics, and those differ immensely from South American Hispanics.

To compound the issue further, there are smaller subsets of those major groups that also differ from each other. But it is that diversity that strengthens us.

The blend of Hispanic traditions and cultures is huge in my family.

My wife hails from the northern part of Puerto Rico — the Bronx. (I kid.) Yes, she was born in the Bronx, but her Puerto Rican heritage is strong and forged by very many long summer vacations in Puerto Rico.

For my part, I was born in Argentina, the southernmost of Hispanics. I lived many years of my childhood in Argentina.

So through marriage we combined our cultures and traditions and no place is it more apparent than during the holidays.

From the pernil and pasteles at Thanksgiving to the asado on Christmas Eve, foods blend and bring together the cultures.

So this Christmas, like so many before, I proudly make a Coquito recipe entrusted to me by my wife’s aunt from Puerto Rico and I also will indulge in a batch of my Mom’s Argentine empanadas.

But, of course, I will share with friends. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas y Feliz Navidad!

Movies of Yesteryear Are Family Viewing Time of Today

“Get to the choppa!”

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”

“Game over man, game over!”

Classic movie quotes. Together with my good friends from About Men Radio, we quote our favorites frequently. We are all of the same era, most of us the same age, hitting the mid-century milepost in the same year.

We love these movies. We watch them over and over, but we unknowingly view them with the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. With these specs on, our heroes and our movies can do no wrong. They are perfection. And boy, do we love to quote them.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

But the true test of time for our beloved classics is the scrutiny of today’s teenagers. In the La Frossia household, I put up my classics to the viscious, modern critical eye of my kids.

All three of them teenagers, ranging from 13 to 18. Will they revel in the satirical violence of “RoboCop”? Or will they cut it down to size for the terrible sins of cheesy dialogue, phony sets or non-convincing FX?

“Your move, creep.”

What ends up being the most fun for each movie viewing is delighting in the reactions of my kids.

If the time is right, I will announce to the family that it is “Retro Movie Night.” It is sometimes received with a groan.

For them, they have to be in the “right mood” for a Dad classic. I usually win and I present a title for the evening.

I typically get bombarded with questions, especially when I mention a title and tell them to trust me and I do not give them a preview description.

Sometimes I get the most genuine reaction because they never heard of the movie, such as the original “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3.” My kids have never visited the Big Apple, so they have never experienced a subway, much less one from the 1970s.

And they didn’t need to. The expertly crafted movie that is TToP123 quickly engrossed them and they bought into the suspense and drama.

“We had a bomb scare in the Bronx yesterday, but it turned out to be a cantaloupe.”

But that was an easy one because it is considered by many movie experts as a timeless classic. How will they react to a Dad classic such as “Westworld”? With its ’70s special effects, ’60s computers and Yul Brynner?

“Your move. Draw!”

They overall liked the movie. Of course, the snickering at the hovercraft effects, the comments about the computer command control — they informed me that they held more power in their iPhone than was in that control center — and the comments about Yul’s accent for a western U S of A gunslinger were intense.

The banter though added another layer of fun to my classics and gives me a chance to enjoy them all over again, almost as if seeing it for the first time as I live it through their eyes and join in their commenting.

“Get your stinkin’ hands off of me you damn, dirty ape!”

Thanks to an extensive VHS and DVD collection as well as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon I have a wealth of classics to unleash on them. If they are to enjoy today’s future classics like “The Hobbit,” “Lord of the Rings” or the Harry Potter franchise, they need to see “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad.”

To love “Pacific Rim” they have to experience “Destroy All Monsters.”

It’s my duty as a dad that they get that.

“I’ll be back.”

 

About Men: Yes, Slappy, it Really is Harassment

This controversial public service announcement video created by Hollaback, an organization dedicated to ending street harassment is intended to be a social experiment highlighting the routine sexual harassment females deal with daily. It features a young woman walking around New York City for 10 hours and the unwanted attention she gets despite not being dressed provocatively or engaging with the men she encounters on the street in any way.

I first saw the video posted by my fellow AMR contributor Pedro on the About Men Radio Facebook newsfeed. Shortly thereafter it had gone, as the hip kids say these days, viral.

Quite frankly I was disgusted more by the YouTube commenters than by the extra creepy guy in the video that follows the girl uncomfortably close and silently for 5 minutes. A typical New Yorker walks a block in a minute so unless my math is off here…this guy shadowed her for 5 blocks!

I am a fiercely proud Argentine and spent my late teens and early twenties in Buenos Aires.  Argentine men (just like Italians, which is also in my blood) are piroperos fond of throwing out piropos, a catcall, to passing women.

In its most traditional sense el piropo is supposed to be a very complimentary, flattering and non-rude line. Sort of like a well crafted pickup. When employed correctly it should be almost poetic. The intended effect is to bring a smile to a woman’s lips. Sadly, most modern piropos are lacking in poetry and too many piroperos in Argentina are just plain rude and harassing.

I recall hanging out with friends in Buenos Aires and some of them throwing out the occasional piropo. I refused to. One day I spoke up against someone in my group who let fly with an especially rude piropo that visibly upset the recipient but titillated the rest of the guys I was with.

I was verbally pounced on after suggesting to the graceless piropero in my group that they should have some respect. Things escalated with harsh words and threats hurled my way by several of the others. Before things became physical I countered (in Spanish), “How would you fu@#ing feel if that was your girlfriend or your mother?”

That certainly defused the situation but I never really hung out with some of those guys again.

I’m not suggesting I wouldn’t take an admiring glance and quietly comment to myself or a buddy on a fine figure walking by. I would.  I just never felt that urge to piropear and I most certainly wouldn’t be pressured into it by some clueless lunkheads.

Some commenters on YouTube felt the woman in the Hollaback video should have felt flattered by the attention and just let it be. Really?!?! Let who be?!?! The creep walking with her for 5 minutes. Or the other guy continually asking her why she didn’t want to be friends? Or any of the other creeps who kept hurling UNSOLICITED comments her way?

It’s all unwelcome and it is most definitely harassment.

But don’t take my word for it, ask your sister.  Ask your wife.  Ask your mom…

Photo: American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin

About Movies: And on That Day, a New Horror Fiend Was Born

“Take your brother with you.”

That one line uttered by my mother absolved me from all guilt in the events that transpired on that summer weekend in 1981. It was not my fault but my brother Pablo still points the finger at me. I was forced by that order from Mom to have him come along to the double feature, at the Palace Theater in The Bronx, that I had planned to see with fellow AMR host and childhood friend Rich.

Rich and I shared a taste for the macabre. We read, traded, and re-read every Stephen King novel, Famous Monsters or Fangoria magazines plus anything we could devour that was horrific in nature and certain to provide, if not nightmares, at least a sleepless night or two.

horror_covers

By this point in time both Rich and I had watched the seminal Night of the Living Dead, originally released in 1968.  But honestly,  what self-respecting horror buff hasn’t?

That masterpiece of horror from George Romero predated another classic of the genre, The Exorcistby five years and was the first major horror film I caught in the theater.

I was 9 years old.

Exorcist

I somehow convinced my Mom back then to take me to see what has been called, “the scariest film ever made.” And I loved it. It horrified me yet also solidified my love for the genre. And I hadn’t yet completed my first decade.

On that summer weekend Rich and I planned on taking in a horror double feature—that’s two movies for the price of one kiddies. On the bill was a slasher film, Mother’s Day and the headlining flick, Dawn of the Dead. The sequel to Night of the Living Dead was released 10 years after the original.

dawn-of-the-dead-1978-posterIn order to attract an audience of horror and not porn lovers, the movie poster and newspaper ads had the full MPAA rating as “There is no explicit sex in this picture; however, there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted.”

No one?

Well, in the summer of 1981 I had not yet reached 17 years of age and I don’t think Rich had either. Not only were we technically sneaking ourselves in but we were attempting to smuggle someone in who was a full seven years younger than the intimidating “No one under 17 will be admitted” warning allowed.

No one batted an eye.

Rich and I stayed cool walking my baby brother in between us to our seats for the opener.

Mother’s Day was a blast of early 80s gore and hillbilly nonsense but it freaked my brother out. To his credit, he didn’t show it …much. Rich turned to him and told him, “You think that was bad, wait until you see Dawn”.

Dawn of the Dead scarred my young brother, giving him nightmares for days but Pablo went on to love the horror genre and I was wholly responsible for that. In an interview conducted outside of a horror convention, he both blames me (not Mom) and thanks me for his introduction to (and eventual love of) horror.

Bro, you’re welcome.

About Food: A Gaucho Tradition Handed Down…From Mom

In Argentina, manly traditions are generally handed down from father to son. Gaucho traditions such as using a facón (a gauchos’ personal knife), throwing boleadoras (a gaucho’s hunting weapon), or making an asado (a gaucho grilled meat feast) are typically the domain of men.

Not so in the la Frossia household.

I am a man with strong Argentine roots but the art of an asado was passed on to me by Mom, not dad. I learned the process, preparation and grilling techniques of a traditional Argentine asado from her, and display the effectiveness of those lessons on special occasions with family and friends.  My plan is to build a traditional stone Argentine parrilla (grill) for future asados but will bow to tradition.

I’ll be the one teaching my sons and daughter how to prepare the asado for their families.

This multimedia piece was produced for the “Coming to the Table” series from Feet In Two Worlds.