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The Have-Nots Are Down to Their Last Not

The train into Manhattan was ten minutes late the other day and to my surprise, a few people started talking. This was noteworthy because these people take the same train every day at the same time and stand in the same place each morning and sit roughly in the same area, and yet conversation is rare.
Perhaps because the weather was warm and there was nothing else to do, a few commiserated over how poor the Metro North service has become.

One gentleman, dressed in a custom-tailored Italian suit said, “Metro North has the money to fix these lines, but all the money goes to pensions. They’ve got to break those contracts.”

I’m sure rail workers have fabulous pensions and benefits, but it’s difficult work and dangerous: every couple of years someone dies on those tracks. When I think of Metro North issues, pensions don’t jump out as the reason for old trains, rickety tracks and delays. But no doubt pensions are a problem for lots of public operations, including Metro North.

I was tempted to jump in as these banker types bemoaned the wealth of these working folks, as if they were making millions illegally through insider trading. What … Read the rest

Insects Love Global Warming

The unusually warm winter was a Godsend after last year’s heavy snowfall and biting cold, but no good turn comes without a price. This spring has seen more bugs than ever, and word is, this summer could be like the days of the Locust, literally, we’re talking Biblical proportions.

It already started at my house. Over the weekend I had a burst of carpenter ants, hundreds and hundreds in the bedroom skylight. I used RAID to knock them out, but they came back the next day, so I called a professional.

According to the exterminator, the chemicals he uses are much less toxic than RAID. He said RAID is nasty stuff and contains wax, and so when you breathe it in, it sticks to your lungs.

He has a gel that goes on like caulk and it is designed to attract the ants like food so that they’ll come out, eat and then go back to the nest and share. Then the chemical kicks in and wipes them all out – nasty stuff.

RAID kills on contact but often the nest is twenty feet from where you’re seeing them so you never get to the center of the problem.

There … Read the rest

Gas @ 27 cents/gallon with Green Stamps to boot!

There’s one gas station in Westport that’s 5-10 cents cheaper than any other in town (if you pay cash). It’s an off-brand corner site with a convenience store crammed with cigarettes, lottery tickets and five-hour energy drinks.

For the past year I’ve driven past this station and virtually every week the gas price has gone up. There have been times when the price changed several times in a day. But last week, for the first time in ages, the price dropped.

I heard on the news that gas dropped nationally 15 cents. Not here. The price at my place is $4.03, down from a high of $4.09. Plenty of stations in the area are still north of $4.10.

I remember my dad filling up for 27 cents a gallon. A fill-up also got you green stamps or a gift. I remember collecting glasses with baseball team logos on them. Does anyone remember the Green Stamp Redemption Center?

It costs me over sixty bucks to fill my tank nowadays and there’s no gift or stamps. Fortunately, I don’t have to drive far these days, but how do families on tight budgets afford it?

And yet, because I always pay cash to … Read the rest

The Good ‘ole Days as a Suffering Philly Fan Return

The 2012 Phillies team has plummeted back to earth after four high-flying years. I’ve followed them since the late ‘60s and a .500 win/loss percentage in April used to be acceptable since the team was typically out of it before school was out, but I’m spoiled by the victories, the free agent signings, and that one World Series victory.

And to think, at one point, I thought this group had a shot at being one of the great teams in history, a multiple World Series winner with the game’s most devastating pitching line-up, but alas, that group of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels is no more.

So far this year, making the play-offs looks like a stretch.

I know it’s early and the team has injuries, but last year’s final pitch still haunts me. Howard’s Achilles snapping on the last out of the year, falling to the ground in agony as he tried to run to first base on a dropped strike three ball. I was in my own agony, coming to grips with the impossible, Halladay losing to the Cardinals, a team that wasn’t even headed for the playoffs, and there was Howard on the ground writhing in pain.… Read the rest