Thursday, August 28, 2008

They just don't make politicians like this anymore...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A terrible (and expensive) mistake has been made. By me. (By myself?)

During our packout, I accidentally packed away our apartment building parking permit. A little piece of plastic that we hang from the rear view mirror whenever we rent a car and park it in our building’s garage (we don’t own a car).

The cost of replacing said permit: $250. How they arrived at such an outrageous figure is a mystery to me, but I guess it’s their prerogative.

How did it happen? Let me tell you…

I kept a bunch of junk on the windowsill next to my desk. Said junk was divided into two piles: important and unimportant.

Last week, our dryer broke. It wasn’t venting properly. The maintenance man came to check it out. He leaned out the window to inspect the vent. All the junk got pushed to one side (to keep it from falling out the window). The important and unimportant piles were commingled.

Over the succeeding days, I pulled the important stuff out of the big pile as I needed it and began creating a new important pile: State Department badge, wallet, keys, $20 Open Table.com gift certificate. But we didn’t rent a card after the dryer broke, so the parking permit stayed in the big pile, which became the de facto unimportant pile, and, as such, was packed away yesterday and is now on its way to Rome, along with various postcards, Washington pop-up maps, semi-used handkerchiefs, paper clips, and postage stamps.

Arrivederci $250 parking permit! See you in Rome!
Happy 100th, LBJ!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Today is Packout Day. Any minute now the movers will arrive and pack up our stuff. Last night we worked furiously to divide everything we own into four piles: stuff we will carry with us to Rome, stuff that will be shipped by air, stuff that will be shipped by boat, and stuff that will go to Goodwill.

By now we’ve gotten pretty good at this ritual, but questions still arise. Do Q-Tips belong in Category 1 or 2? (The former, in my opinion.) Those corduroys I haven’t worn in two years? (Probably the Goodwill pile.)

But the most important thing to remember: Make sure you take the passports with you!

Saturday we head up to Pennsylvania for a couple days, then on to Maine for two weeks before flying out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One hundred years ago today, on August 23, 1908, Samuel Algeo, an immigrant from the north of Ireland, stepped off a boat in Philadelphia and began a new life in the United States. Samuel came from Dunfanaghy, a village that was as beautiful as it was poor.

In Philadelphia he would meet and marry Margaret Anderson, another Irish immigrant. They would have five children, the youngest of which they named James.

In 1951, James married Theresa Kerecz, herself the child of immigrants. They would have seven children, the youngest of which is me.

All four of my grandparents were born into crushing poverty in nineteenth-century Europe. All four came to the United States in search of better lives, which they forged by dint of their hard work and diligence. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are leading lives of relative comfort, ease, and wealth, the likes of which they could not have imagined.

It is a remarkable story, but also typically American, and one chapter of it has come to an end. My father, James Algeo, died on August 11, just twelve days before the centennial of his father’s arrival on these shores.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Memo to litigants on TV judge shows, contestants on reality shows, guests on trashy daytime talk shows, and assorted other well-meaning but misguided Americans:

The next time you are about to utter the word “myself,” stop and think for a moment. Chances are pretty good – about 99.9% - that you will be using the word incorrectly.

When Judge Judy asks you who was at the bar when the fight started, don’t say, “My friend and myself were there.” In the Big Brother confession room, don’t say, “It’s up to myself to win the veto competition.” Don’t tell Maury you are “one million percent sure that the father is not myself.”

“Myself” is one of those words that people use because they think it will make them sound smart but usually has precisely the opposite effect. So just stop using it. Or better yet, stop talking altogether.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Me and my dad, 1974. (He's reading the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mom and Dad, circa 1951.
Me with my mom and dad at my graduation from college, 1988. (Hair by Flock of Seagulls.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Robert Hazard died today. He was a singer/songwriter best known for writing the Cyndi Lauper hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." To those of us of a certain age who grew up in the Philadelphia area, however, Robert Hazard was known for much more than that. He recorded songs that became part of the soundtrack of our early 1980s lives: "Escalator of Life," Change Reaction," etc.

In 1982 I bought his first album - it was an EP, actually - at the Listening Booth record store in the Montgomery Mall. It included a poster of him in all his New Wave splendor, with a huge pompadour and thin black tie. It was impossible to be cooler than Robert Hazard in 1982.

I never understood why his career never took off. Bad management? It couldn’t have been the songs. Trust me, he wrote some seriously catchy songs. But the only one anybody outside my cohort remembers is “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” That must have irked Robert (though the song helped pay for his place in the Adirondacks and a second home in Florida).

Robert Hazard died unexpectedly after surgery in Boston. He was 59.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Buzz Bissinger (the author of Friday Night Lights) had a nice op-ed piece in last Saturday's New York Times about the perils of being a Philadelphia sports fan.

Buzz notes how his almost-25-year-old son has never seen any of Philadelphia’s four major teams (Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, Eagles) win a championship. This reminds me, once again, how fortunate I was to grow up a Philadelphia sports fan when I did. In 1974, when I was eight years old, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup. They won it again the following year. When I was 14, the Phillies won their first (and only) World Series. When I was 17, the Sixers won the NBA championship. That’s the last title won by a Philadelphia team. If I’d known that at the time, I would have gone to the parade!

Buzz’s point (I think) is that Philadelphia sports fans actually relish losing in a perverse way. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that this quarter-century-long title drought has taught a generation of Philadelphians the folly of getting one’s hope up. The generic term for this is “being realistic.”
At the Newseum last week, Allyson and I saw a short “4-D” movie on the history of journalism. We were given special glasses to wear, and the 3-D effect was impressive. As for the fourth dimension, we were told we were being taken back in time. But something must have been screwed up with the museum’s time-space continuum, because, when the movie ended, we’d actually been transported 18 minutes into the future. Go figure.
Rod Stewart is the one celebrity whose enduring popularity utterly mystifies me.