“Rip” on tour!

*Two more readings and book-signings have been scheduled for “Rip,” my modern-day satirical “retelling” of Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.”

Admission to all events is free. Copies of “Rip” will be available for purchase.

I’ll be appearing Saturday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m. at the Irvington Public Library located at 12 South Astor St., Irvington, N.Y., which is located along the Hudson River in Westchester County, N.Y., just south of Tarrytown, and is — of course — named after Washington Irving.

A week later, on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 1 p.m., I’ll be reading and signing books at the Field Library, 4 Nelson Ave., Peekskill, N.Y.

As previously reported, I’ll be appearing:

*Friday, Oct. 19, at 3 p.m., at the Orangeburg Library, 20 Greenbush Road, Orangeburg, N.Y.

*Saturday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m., at the Briarcliff Manor Public Library, One Library Road, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

*Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m., at the Port Jervis Free Library, 138 Pike St., Port Jervis, N.Y.

*Monday, April 22, at 6 p.m., at the Somers Library, 80 Primrose St., Somers, N.Y.

More readings will be announced soon, including an appearance later this year at the Holland-Alexandria Library in Hunterdon County, N.J., and at the public library in Highland Park, N.J. We’re still discussing dates and times. I’ll be hoping to see some old friends at the Hunterdon County event. I lived in Alexandria until a few years ago and was editor of the local weekly paper.


Huckleberry friend

News of the death of Andy Williams made me think immediately of my father, who loved the song “Moon River,” which was written by Henry Mancini for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and was a hit record in at least two versions that I know of: an instrumental by Mantovani and His Orchestra and the vocal rendition by Williams.

My father and his friends, all children of Italian immigrants, all striving to make their way up the ladder of success to join the middle class, attached great value to certain things they perceived as emblems of American aflluence.

My father, for instance, bought golf clubs and went through a phase of playing on Saturdays at the local public golf course, but then gave it up — I believe because he was too tired from working two and sometimes three jobs.

Likewise, he had a bar in his living room where he made highballs and whiskey sours for his friends and aspired to have a finished basement with a really nice hi-fi system where he could listen to Mantovani and Streisand and Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole and Perry Como/…and Andy Williams.

Andy with his cool and mellow way of speaking and singing…Andy with his mohair sweaters and his winning smile…Andy singing “The Christmas Song” as chestnuts roasted on the open fire of some cozy ski lodge in Colorado as the Williams clan and friends gathered ’round every Yule for Andy’s Christmas TV special.

I don’t mean to belittle my father. No, far from it.

The song “Moon River,” with its romance and its nostalgia and its beautiful air of melancholy and longing, moves me whenever I hear it, for I can hear my father — dead ten years this October, gone too soon at age 69 — singing along to the instrumental version by Mantovani about “two dreamers” and his “huckleberry friend…”

“Moon River” reminds me of cool autumn nights with their whisper of winter to come. But the song also makes me think of a young man in the late springtime of his life — my father would have been in his early 30s during those years when I remember him singing “Moon River” — who still believed his dreams could and would come true, “just around the bend,” “my huckleberry friend.”

“Rip” tide?

Three more readings and book-signings have been scheduled for “Rip,” my spoof of  Washington Irving’s classic “Rip Van Winkle.”

As previously announced, I’ll be appearing Saturday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m., at the Briarcliff Manor (N.Y.) Library.

Now I’ve been scheduled for a reading and book-signing on Friday, Oct. 19, at 3 p.m., at the public library in Orangeburg, N.Y. –

In the springtime, I’ve been scheduled to appear on Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m., at the Port Jervis (N.Y.) Public Library and on Monday, April 22, at 6 p.m., at the public library in Somers, N.Y.

Briarcliff is in Westchester County, N.Y., and is also well within range of Rockland County, Putnam County and southwest Connecticut. Orangeburg is off the Palisades Parkway between the northern border of New Jersey and the western side of the Tappan Zee Bridge, in the vicinity of Nyack and Nanuet, south of the Tappan Zee and north of the GW Bridge. Port Jervis is up near the Delaware Water Gap, sort of at the confluence of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Somers is in northern Westschester County.

At all four free events, I’ll talk a bit about my longtime affection for Washington Irving’s writing, I’ll chat a little about how I came to write my modern-day parody of “Rip Van Winkle,” I’ll read sample chapters from the book, I’ll take questions from the audience, and I’ll sign copies of the book, which will be available for purchase at each event.

More readings/signings are in the works. Details will be posted here (as well on Facebook and on my author page at amazon.com) as dates, times and locations are confirmed.

Searching for answers with a fine-toothed comb

I thought I was simply buying a replacement for the pocket comb I’d misplaced. But I was getting a lesson in life, courtesy of a Denver-based company called Handy Solutions whose slogan, according to the comb’s packaging,  is “Solutions for an Active Life.”

Right off the bat, the folks at Handy Solutions gave me something to contemplate. Does the fact that I comb my hair on a regular basis mean that I am living an “active life?” If I stopped combing my hair, would that make me a lazy bum? And where do bald people fit into  the active life/lazy life equation?

Beneath the company logo on the back of the packaging is this boast: UNBREAKABLE.

Is this bold confidence or ignorant arrogance? I bent the comb as far as I could bend it – and, I must say, it didn’t break. But UNBREAKABLE? Even if someone much stronger than me — Superman, for example — tried to break it? I wonder if the folks at Handy Solutions considered these possibilities before they made their remarkable claim (which, by the way, is backed by a guarantee — if the comb breaks, or if there is any kind of problem with the comb, I can return it “with a brief explanation” and the company will send me a replacement comb AND refund my postage.

Finally, the comb experts at Handy Solutions (“Solutions for An Active Life”) offer these  HEALTHY HAIR TIPS:

* Do not comb wet hair

* Comb hair in the direction of hair growth

* Clean comb before and after use

What happens if one combs one’s hair while it’s wet? By telling me to clean my comb before and after use, are the folks at Handy Solutions just being helpful — or are they trying to make some sort of not-so-subtle comment about my hair hygiene? And, finally, if we all combed our hair in the direction of hair growth, wouldn’t we all look like Moe from the Three Stooges?

We should all comb our hair in the same direction? What are we? Communists?!

Wait. I just examined the fine print and read, of course, this: “Made in China.” So this is what it’s come to…now we’re even outsourcing 99-cent pocket combs. Next thing you know, mark my words, Chinese restaurants are going to start popping up in every American city and town, and then China’s going to want to host the Summer Olympics, and before you know it we’ll all be ordered by the Communists to comb our hair exactly the same way.

Caveman cuisine

Pondering the “paleo” diet?

It’s time to hog the spotlight, to cast swine before pearls, to wallow in a swill-filled existential sty as I contemplate the backyard pig roast I attended last weekend in New Jersey.

I am rendered nearly inarticulate. Why? I think it mostly has to do with my love for the bus-driving and steam shovel-operating animals who populate Richard Scarry’s Busytown, where I’ve wanted to live since I was four years old and where, other Busytown devotees may recall, the traffic cop blowing his whistle and directing Busytown’s traffic was a jolly, friendly pig.

Add in several readings of “Charlotte’s Web,” several viewings of those movies about Babe the Gallant Pig, and countless hours of wasted youth spent watching Porky Pig cartoons (and listening to Porky sing his version of “Blue Christmas”), not to mention a recent weekend spent at a country fair where we saw lots of portly but pulchritudinous prize-winning pigs, and it’s a wonder that I managed to even look at that poor 80-pound porker with its cute little snout and its curly little tail and its innocent half-smile as it sat there all brown and crispy on that big platter, never mind how I managed to take part (along with several-dozen other carnivores) in quickly devouring that poor beast.

Perhaps I was distracted by a conversation I had with a fellow carnivore who, as we stood there waiting for our chance to wiggle our way into the feeding trough, revealed to me with great enthusiasm that he’d embarked about a month before on the so-called “paleo” diet, which basically involves eating no foods and drinking no beverages unless they were available to Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble and all of the other cave people.

I stood there and gazed at the barbecued pig and pondered the relative merits of eating what cavemen and cavewomen ate. On the one hand, those early people were the forebears of humankind. On the other hand (or so I pondered as I enjoyed my second or third helping of pulled pork), cavemen hit each other over the heads with clubs; they weren’t exactly Rhodes scholars, if you get my drift; and they were considered really old if they lived to be about nineteen years old, which was their normal life span unless they died young because they’d encountered an Ice Age or a saber-toothed tiger.

No, I decided as I also enjoyed a glass of non-primitive white wine and some delicious non-paleo pasta salad, I’ll lay off the brontosaurus burgers and continue to eat modern food — pausing occasionally as I travel life’s path to stay in touch with my caveman roots by munching on some poor not-as-evolved-as-me animal cooked primitively but to crispy perfection over sizzling hot coals (thank goodness Fred and Barney discovered fire!)