Monday, February 25, 2008

My Weekend With Manny

I spent Super Bowl weekend (Thursday thru Sunday) with my Dad in Florida. I went alone. I like going with the whole family, but it's hard to work it all out, and it gets expensive, and what the heck, I wanted to try it this way. After all, as Joan (his companion for the last 25 years) optimistically pointed out...."How much longer has he got?" I hated to admit it, she had a point. The fact is, for 82 he's doing pretty well. His mind is fine, he still drives (though not so much at night....a Florida thing), and we still have fun together. The thought of some day saying "I shoulda" was abhorrent, so I did it.

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale airport on time, got my rented car, and drove up to Century Village in Boca Raton. Manny always seems amazed that I'm able to "work these things out", but we don't dwell on it. I've heard Century Village called "Cemetary Village", but I like to think of it as "college dorm life for old people."

When I arrived Joan made me some bagels and cream cheese. She also offered some creamy herring with onions, which I declined.....though Manny enjoyed it. I proudly showed him my Super Bowl grids and boxes, with the extra copies I had made for him, and he assured me that he "would never understand it".

We then reviewed our itinerary, which we had discussed on the phone the week before. The plan was "to play nine holes of golf on Friday morning, and then see how things go". Manny and I have a common golf background, we both started late in life and we are pretty bad at it. Considering he never played until he was 60, he's actually not bad. It's a tribute to his natural athletic ability. I started in my 30's and have no excuse. I don't keep score, and I am fine with just being out there and taking a zen approach (as an aside, here's an Amazon link to a cool golf book Golf in the Kingdom

We did not golf in the Kingdom, we opted for a nine hole executive course in Margate, Nine holes on an executive (which means smaller and faster playing) course is just right. We had perfect weather, 72 and sunny, and played a relaxing round with two ladies who did not know each other. For any non-golfers, you usually play in groups of four. When you go as two, they hook you up with another two, or with two singles. It's one of the best things about golf. 99% of the time you play with nice people, and this ran true to form. It was a perfect start to the trip, and now we were in "seeing how things go" time.

Next stop was lunch at a restaurant called "Lesters". Manny likes it because "it's like a real diner, which is unusual in Florida".

As soon as we finished our excellent diner burgers, Manny said "I have an idea, let's go to the simulcasting at Pompano, and you can check out their poker room." I suspect this was his plan all along, but he wanted to keep it "between us" until he left the house. I thought this was a great plan, so we drove 10 minutes to Pompano Race Track. The present gambling thing in Florida are casinos that have slots and poker, but no table games. They also have simulcasting of horse racing from all over America. Works for me!!!

This is the place we went to.... VERY nice.

As soon as we got inside, Manny said "Oh, I goofed, we should have eaten here at the lunch buffet. Great food, great prices." I told him not to worry, we had a great lunch. Let's bet some horses and play poker. So we played there for about two hours, and returned to base at dinner time.

We then went out for dinner with Joan, her daughter Debbie (lives in Florida now) and Debbie's daughter Elisa (visiting from Jersey). We drove to a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, and all things considered, it was enjoyable. Joan did ask, "Why didn't you guys go to the buffet at Pompano.....Manny, why didn't you take him to the buffet?" Oy. Fortunately this didn't go on too long, because she wanted to tell us all about the the outrageous breakfast place they had been to that morning, a place in Lake Worth called "John G's". They talked about it until the name was emblazoned in my cerebral cortex. But nothing a few martinis wouldn't fix.

All in all, a great day.

Tomorrow, more Weekend With Manny.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Super at 36,000 Feet

With all the political developments, I skipped the Super Bowl.

I really needed to say some things about it, because the Super Bowl marks the beginning of the baseball season. Incidentally, once pitchers and catchers report, can we have unanimous consent to stop thinking or talking about Roger Clemens?

OK - I had a unique Super Bowl experience. I had decided to visit my Dad for a long weekend in Florida. He's 82, his mind is good, but I never wanted to have to say "I wish I had visited when we still could", so I made the trip. For a few reasons, I like to fly Jet Blue: Their website is easy to use, their prices are good, and they have TV at every seat. I saw they had a Ft. Lauderdale to LaGuardia flight at 6 PM Super Bowl Sunday, so prior to the Giants-Cowboys game, I booked my trip.

When the Giants made it to the Super Bowl, I considered changing my flight, but decided that watching the game on the plane could be fun. Here's how it went:

On Jet Blue each seat has a TV in the back of the seat in front of you, with 36 channels. You get a free headset. The pilot announced that the game was on Channel 8, and assured us they were not allowed to watch or have it on in the cockpit, but if the flight attendants gave them updates, this would be nice.

I skipped the pre-game, and finished my book (Stuart Woods' "Straw Man".....decent, but not one of my favorites). At kickoff I put on the game, and noticed that 95% of the passengers were watching it. Usually if you walk around during a Jet Blue flight, you notice the variety of things people watch....not this flight. I do admit though, during one commercial, I watched "The Puppy Bowl" for a few minutes.

Another thing I noticed was the aisles were clear, there was very little walking around. About two minutes before halftime I had a brainstorm.....better take a bathroom break NOW. Excellent, no line, no waiting. As soon as the first half ended, there was a LONG bathroom line, like at a football game.

There was not a lot of yelling or overt rooting on the plane. I suspect real die hard fans would not have booked this flight. I did have the feeling that a Florida-NYC flight was pro-Giant, and there was a warm feeling as the game wore on. Anyone who watched that game knows it was played at a high intensity level. I had the enhanced experience of watching THAT game "alone", on my own little screen, with headset, and airline sounds as background.

The plane landed at the end of the third quarter, but I was prepared. I had a transistor radio and headset. When the TV went off, I plugged the knowing nods of a few with less foresight. I gave them updates. I had carry-on only, so I walked to my car and listened to the Giants radio team. Their excitement and anticipation was palpable.

I drove directly to a Super Bowl party at our friends Marla & George's house. This was most excellent, as I chowed down some fantastic food, and then watched football history with good friends.

A perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

Next post --- my weekend with Manny

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Immigration Issues in the General Election

I love writing about the Presidential election. Everybody's talking about it, everybody's analyzing. I haven't got much to add to all the blah blah blah. I'll just summarize, so I can jump ahead and talk about immigration.

The Democrats - Obama is giving Hillary a major tussle, making her work much harder for the nomination than she ever expected. She's using money and resources she really hoped to save for the general election. Ultimately she's gonna get the nomination, and her political instincts will tell her that Obama is popular and useful, and she will need him on board in just the right way. She will need him for a big turnout that does not cause a backlash turnout.

The Republicans - McCain cannot be stopped. If Romney seemed like a nice guy, we'd all be feeling sorry for what McCain and Huckabee are doing to him. However, he's basically an unlikeable, rich guy who's kinda creepy, so nobody is rallying behind him. McCain is going to get a lot of Democrats crossing over to him, and his challenge is to get the backbone Republicans to turn out for him. Can he do it?

That's it in a nutshell.

I have promised to analyze the Hispanic voters likely impact on the election. They are not presently galvanized behind one candidate. In case nobody noticed, there WAS a Hispanic candidate on the Democrat side, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson....BILL RICHARDSON!?!?!?

He's not galvanizing anybody.

A better choice would have been Victor Sifuentes.

Actually, the Hispanic influence in the general election is going to be hard to predict, for a few reasons:

1. Will they be motivated for a high turnout?
2. Will they be motivated by any particular issue or candidate to vote in a bloc?
3. Are they concentrated in key contested States?
4. Will either candidate figure out the proper appeal?

Here's a link to an interesting piece in the 2/5/08 Wall Street Journal.

The fascinating premiss of this piece is that the the strident anti-immigrant positions taken by the non-McCain Republicans are not resonating with voters, including Republicans. When I've heard the candidates (and conservative talk-radio hosts) railing about McCain's "amnesty bill", I wondered if voters were buying it. I think they are not, and they will not.

How will the immigration issue play out between McCain and Hillary?

More tomorrow.....