For Jacqueline Marie

To wed my love,
a chance at bliss
whose odds are fixed
in every kiss

Life and love
held hand in hand,
sparkling in 
each wedding band

The shimmering Sound
could not divide,
Family and friends stand
by our side

Work proved an easy place
to fall in love,
Forever grateful
to the Lord above

Happy 10th Anniversary, my love! (Weird Long Beard Press)

The Legend of Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner became a legend by leading the hedonistic lifestyle of which most men can only dream. He built a publishing empire that was both taboo and respected. Hefner was somehow able to convince famous women to bare it all in Playboy between newsworthy interviews, cartoons and essays. While this was no small feat, his real gift was to elevate the girl next door to celebrity status. Hugh Hefner passed away on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles at the age of 91. In keeping with his legend, it was no small coincidence that Wednesday is often referred to as "hump day."

Hefner, the pipe-smoking hedonist garbed in his telltale silk pajamas, poses in 2003, 50 years after Playboy’s first issue. (Photo: ANN JOHANSSON / Ann Johansson / Special To The Chronicle 2003)

Although Hefner's life was well publicized, one can only imagine the stories he took with him to his grave. The whispers spoken in the grotto or stories of famous people who checked in to the mansion and never seemed to check out were sealed forever in his silk smoking jacket. Hefner was the consummate playboy who lived in the limelight and knew that discretion was the better part of valor.

I suspect most men who grew up during Hefner's era remember their first Playboy magazine. It was more or less a right of passage. In fact, I still have my first one from April 1990 when Lisa Matthews was the centerfold, a term that has since vanished along with Hef's empire.

Playboy Magazine, April 1990. (Weird Long Beard Press)

I was 16 years-old and nervous as I stood in front of the magazine stand at a local delicatessen. I had ordered a sandwich, grabbed a bag of chips and took a Sports Illustrated from the rack before placing the Playboy stealthily behind it. I went to the cashier and she was a gorgeous girl not much older than me. She rang up the items and when she saw the Playboy, she paused. I can still feel how red my face was with embarrassment as she looked at me and blushed. She took the magazine behind the deli counter and asked the proprietor if I was old enough to purchase the Playboy. He looked toward me and said, "I guess if he's old enough to walk in here by himself, he's old enough to buy it." The gorgeous cashier came back and smiled and put all of my items in a bag. I walked out of the deli and was elated. I couldn't wait to look at the magazine, but I had to devour my hero sandwich first.

There were many women who became household names after appearing in Playboy. Jenny McCarthy Pamela Anderson and Anna Nicole Smith among them. The search for the next Playboy centerfold may have been a precursor to the zest of American Idol as the Playboy bus went from town to town looking for the next star. Hefner's vision was poetic. The international playboy scours the globe looking for most beautiful woman only to find she was right next door. Of course there was no one who grew up on my block that ever looked like Lisa Matthews. 

Lisa Matthews, Playboy Centerfold, April 1990. (Pinterest)



World Mourns Princess Diana 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago today it was a Saturday night and I had just arrived at the 56 Fighter Group in East Farmingdale, NY and went to the bar to get a drink. I looked up at the TV and saw the headline that Princess Diana was in a fatal car crash. I sat in disbelief as if someone had told me I had lost a dear friend. 

Through her well publicized life I had witnessed Diana's wedding and the birth of her children and her enduring campaign to rid the world of explosive remnants of war strewn across fields where innocent children played unaware of the hidden dangers lurking below. I was crestfallen. As the events that led up to the car crash pointed toward a desperate escape from pursuing paparazzi, the royal tragedy unfolded: Princess Diana, 36 years of age, was taken abruptly from her two teenage sons.

Princess Diana, England's Rose.

Today, her boys are grown and the world goes on, but for a moment it stood still 20 years ago. I recall writing a eulogy soon thereafter and mailing it to the Long Island Voice, which published it on its Letters page. Looking back, I must have shared in a universal grief as I associated Elton John's "Candle In The Wind" with the loss long before he played a revised version of it at her funeral. Here is my letter:

Goodbye, England's Rose


Pictures of Di are worth big bucks. She was a gold mine. Much like the great rush that sent miners across an unknown territory some hundred years ago, anyone with a lens pursued her in hopes that one strike would earn a fortune. I wondered why.

After hours of silent contemplation and careful analysis of media coverage, I deduced that Lady Di was indeed a gem. She shined like a diamond under intense light. Her life was a fairy tale filled with romance heartbreak, ending in tragedy as if Shakespeare constructed it himself.

It did not take long to realize her talent and mourn her loss. At the conclusion of the ABC special Royal Tragedy on the somber Sunday evening after the fatal car crash, I went to my bedroom and dimmed the lights. I played Elton John's "Candle In The Wind" and wept.


U2 and The Lumineers Perform at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey

It was a picturesque day. Sunny and cool. We loaded up the SUV and headed west over the bridge past the New Jersey State Fair to a nearly empty parking lot. We were early. The anticipation of seeing The Lumineers and U2 reached a crescendo as we sat in folding chairs looking at the entrance to MetLife Stadium with the clear blue sky dotted only by passing airplanes.

U2 performs at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on June 28, 2017. (NJ.com)

Seeing U2 perform was on my bucket list as the band's canon of music has provided a soundtrack for much of my past. The addition of The Lumineers to the bill was serendipitous as I missed seeing them last summer at the Prospect Park Bandshell and the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY.

We were seated in section 116 adjacent to the sound stage. The sound was perfect during The Lumineers performance, but hit some dissonance during U2's With or Without You that resulted in minor deductions from the judges.

Each front man shared personal stories that made this live performance particularly memorable. Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers reminisced about growing up in New Jersey prior to moving across the river to Brooklyn. His car was broken into for reasons that escaped him as his radio was still intact. It was during his next river crossing when he realized the thieves made off with his E-ZPass. The episode inspired the song Slow It Down.

The Lumineers perform at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on June 28, 2017. (Twitter/The Lumineers)

Bono wove his well-known political endeavors into the performance and paid particular homage to the band's special guests. He named each of their spouses and children and thanked them for being there before launching into Ultraviolet (Light My Way) that featured a montage of famous women throughout history.

As luck would have it, I brought two remarkable women with me for this unforgettable show.


Say Hello 2 Heaven Chris Cornell and Gregg Allman

I hopped in the back of pick-up truck and sped toward Manhattan for the much anticipated Guns N' Roses concert. We had just finished our shifts at IHOP and two of the waitresses had changed out of their blue plaid frocks into fishnet tights and black leather jackets. Their lips were painted ruby red and their friends provided the transportation along with a case of beer. One of my fellow refugees was not going for Guns, he was going to see the opening band Soundgarden. He had on a Badmotorfinger t-shirt that was well worn.

Chris Cornell performs in 1992.

That concert was my introduction to Soundgarden and the emerging Seattle music scene. I can still hear Chris Cornell shake the walls of Madison Square Garden as my neck snapped back and forth with each passing rocker chick who left nothing to my teenage imagination. I would hear that same booming voice again some years later when Audioslave played atop the marquee of The Late Show with David Letterman  and shook the neighboring building were I worked 32 stories above.

News of Chris Cornell's passing was shocking. He was the beacon that led the way for the tumultuous talent in flannel shirts who occupied the nation from coast to coast for more than a decade. Chris Cornell had a voice. Not only to shake the concrete walls where he performed, but also to carry the beleaguered hearts of his generation. His lament for the loss of his friend Andrew Wood on the Temple of the Dog album is eerie as it is a fitting eulogy for himself: There's just one thing left to be said, Say hello to heaven.

There's Nobody Left to Run With Anymore

With zero time to comprehend the loss of Chris Cornell, we were hit with the passing of Gregg Allman. I've lost count of how many Allman Brothers shows I've seen and how transported I was at each one across each state I visited. There is one show that stands out. It was not due to the sheer power of Gregg Allman's voice, rather it was due to its absence.

Gregg Allman and Cher circa 1975.

It was late morning in the summer of 1995 when my phone rang. My friend broke the news that Jerry Garcia had passed. I met my friend at our familiar spot and friends dropped by at various times to grieve the loss along with us. We went to the Allman Brothers show that night at Jones Beach where the crowd was in a somber mood. 

The Allman Brothers took the stage and Dickey Betts addressed the crowd by saying, "We lost a brother today." It soon became apparent that Gregg Allman had lost his voice, so the band played many of the songs Dickey sang including Ramblin Man which they had retired after its chart topping success. The Black Crowes were in town and the Robinson brothers joined the band for a spirited rendition of Southbound. Gregg did manage to to sing No One to Run With that featured a montage of fallen musicians with the recently added Jerry Garcia. 

As I look at my music shelf, a good percentage of it comprises Chris Cornell and Gregg Allman records. The impact these musicians had on my life can be measured in decades. I take comfort in knowing they left behind many recordings and I imagine the choir of angels has gotten even better.    

Tire

When my life does expire
my poems will roll on like a tire
even though the words
and thoughts aren't new
the arrangements will give people 
something to chew on and on
as the threads become smooth
the next generation will feel my groove 
and light their own fire
with ditties that inspire 
as they roll on like a steel-belted tire.

Tire by D.W. Dowling (Meredith M. 1998)

Other poems:

Made in the USA

Buying products that are made in the USA has long been a passion of mine. It can be a challenge sometimes as these products may not be easy to find or may not be made here anymore. In categories such as autos, shoes and clothes, there are many wonderful American manufacturers to choose from. While price can sometimes be more than foreign counterparts, I find the quality of American products is worth it with the added benefit of supporting jobs here. 

From the coffee I drink, to the car I drive, there are numerous opportunities to buy well-made products that are manufactured in the USA. Here are a few examples in men's wardrobe:


Shinola Men's Watches


The Runwell Chrono by Shinola

Randolph Engineering Sunglasses


Aviator by Randolph Engineering

Hickey Freeman Suit


Navy Chalk Stripe Tasmanian Suit by Hickey Freeman

American Trench Socks


Pima Cotton Houndstooth Socks by American Trench

Rancourt & Co. Shoes 


Blake Wingtip by Rancourt & Co.

Try any one of these products when it comes time for your next purchase, not only will you feel good about it, you'll look sharp.


Writers on the Storm

The legendary editor of Charles Scribner's Sons, Maxwell Perkins, worked with writers who became legends such as Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. None of these men knew celebrity until their first novel was published.

Back then, publishers invested in writers who could build careers. They paid modest advances and worked together to produce literature that could achieve commercial success. Some books would flop, others would yield a modest return, and some would be gigantic best-sellers. The best-sellers would fund the enterprise.

George R.R. Martin

Publishing has changed since then.

An unknown writer presents undue risk to a publisher. To achieve profit they must invest in those titles the industry will support as best-sellers. That said, a writer with an established audience has leverage. For example, the Obamas were awarded a $60 million contract from Penguin Random House for the President's and the First Lady's memoirs. A safe bet by any calculation, but the pendulum for today's writers can swing both ways. 

With a bona fide hit out of the gate, the pressure to follow it up can be overwhelming. One way writers can avoid the sophomore jinx is through a series that rolls like a snowball down a hill such as Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. Of course, a writer can become the series themselves such as Stephen King, Tom Clancy and John Grisham. Since many of the commercially successful books are wonderful pieces of literature, too, where does it leave today's aspiring writers?

J.K. Rowling

While the business of publishing has evolved with the marketplace, the marketplace has itself become more accessible. Backing from a publisher with promotion and distribution can smooth the path to fortune and fame, but it's never an easy path. It's a howling storm out there and writers must put on their boots, fasten their coats, hold on to their hats, and trudge along.
   

Running of the Bulls in Jamaica, Queens

A bull escaped from a slaughterhouse on Tuesday running through the streets of Jamaica, Queens with reckless abandon, terrorizing pedestrians in its path. The NYPD was in hot pursuit as the bull paraded down city sidewalks and hopped fences looking for its way out of the urban maze. The beast was struck with tranquilized darts resembling carefully placed swords from Spanish matadors while crowds gathered to watch the event. Its captors from the nearby Aziz Slaughter House chased the bull until it turned its horns toward them and charged. They escaped being gored without the customary cheer of Olé!

The bull traveled two miles and was seemingly cornered before escaping to run a half mile more. It finally sat down in a yard on 158th Street and 116th Avenue and was captured and transported to a nearby animal shelter where it was later pronounced dead from the corrida. The gallant run by the beast to escape the butcher's knife prompted a candlelight vigil in its honor outside the slaughterhouse the next day. 

Bull escapes slaughterhouse in Queens. Theodore Parisienne

While the annual Running of the Bulls Festival takes place in Pamplona, Spain in July, New Yorkers received an unexpected preview this winter. To some, it came as no surprise as the bulls have been running wild on Wall Street for the past month.

The Enduring Beauty of Liz Cho

Have you ever stared at a portrait of a lady for an eternity? What if eternity was measured in 10 minutes or 10 hours or 10 days? What if you saw the same picture each day for 10 years? Would it feel like eternity? Could any portrait hold you captive for that long? Perhaps if it changed ever so slightly each day, a new hairstyle, a different dress, a dash of pepper here, a pinch of salt there, would it continue to entice the palette? Imagine if the lady could speak and you could watch her expression change from mock disbelief to spontaneous laughter in an instant? Would eternity be long enough?

Liz Cho, Eyewitness News, Feb. 4, 2016.

I first wrote about Liz Cho in December of 2006 when she was the co-anchor of Eyewitness News at 11pm. Her bright portrait illuminated my tranquil living room each night. Those times when she was absent, there was a noticeable void like a blank space on a museum wall. I took note of one such absence in 2007 when she was on maternity leave and triumphantly announced her return a few months later. I chronicled the disappearance of her wedding ring in 2008 and speculated there was a budding romance between Liz and her co-anchor Bill Ritter. It was an unfounded rumor; however, it forshadowed her public divorce in 2012 and her equally public romance with Good Morning America's Josh Elliott with whom she would marry in 2014.  

The consummate professional, Liz Cho's personal life rarely interfered with her professional one. The only disruption in a decade was when she left the 11pm broadcast to fill the 4pm void in programming when Oprah Winfrey retired. The change in shift was thought to be temporary at first, but it soon became permanent. The portrait of the lady that had become a fixture in my home seemed lost forever, snatched away by an earlier broadcast that mercilessly conflicted with my own schedule. Luckily, it wasn't for long. As my living room grew less tranquil with a growing family, my schedule skewed earlier and earlier until her 6pm broadcast filled the time slot before dinner. 

Liz Cho, Eyewitness News, Feb, 14, 2017

To me, it does not seem like an eternity since I first gazed upon the portrait of this particular lady. Her elegance and beauty has not only endured a decade, it has radiated in high-definition from an increasingly larger frame, leaving me as captivated today as I was back then.      

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