Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Flower Offers to Dye My Beard

Yesterday, when I came home from work, I saw evidence that the Exotic Flower was over again. Her handbag was sitting on the coffee table, in the lounge. The TV was on, but I saw neither her, nor M1. A light was on, upstairs, so maybe they were up there. I sat down on one of the three settees in the lounge and stated watching "Richard and Judy," as that was what was on the TV. They were talking about the behavior of the girls on "Celebrity Big Brother," which caught my interest.
After fifteen or twenty minutes, M1 came downstairs, alone. No sign of the Flower. "Where's your dodgy mate?" I asked him. He walked over to the third settee, farthest from me and pointed down. She had been in the room all along! Most of her was covered by a duvet and she was asleep. Eventually, she woke up. Nando came home and we all watched TV together. The Flower's hair looked a bit different, so I asked her had she done something to it. M1 said," you sound so gay asking 'have you done something to your hair?' " That's not gay, that's just a man noticing the details of a woman's appearance. Women love it when a new hairstyle, or outfit is noticed. The Flower explained that as she'd recently had it trimmed, it tends to go more curly.
After watching "Eastenders," I went upstairs for a while, planning on spending some time up there, as the boys were watching football. While upstairs, I heard the Flower's voice and Nando's. There seemed to be lots of talking going on and I was missing out. I went back downstairs. When I entered the lounge, M1 was sitting in my place. I hate it when he does that. The Flower was on the same settee she was on earlier, at the opposite side of the room. Nando was on the settee in between. I decided to sit next to Nando, which put me next to the Flower, as well. What they were discussing was the Flower's new handbag. She was very excited and showed it to me. She said it had originally been £65, but she got it on sale for £10. It was bronze colored and I was underwhelmed by it. The brand name on it was "Gionni." Thinking it's an Italian handbag, the Flower had been discussing the availability of designer goods in Italy, with Nando. She asked Nando how to pronounce the name again. "Gianni," Nando replied.
"It's spelled G-i-o-n-n-i," I pointed out to Nando.
"No, Gianni is spelled G-i-a-n-n-i," he said, in rebuttal.
"That may be," I conceded, "but this bag has G-i-o-n-n-i" on it.
"Oh," Nando said, smiling. "It's not Italian, then."
I turned to the Flower, on my left, and said, "I don't think this bag is actually Italian."
"Oooohhh noooooo! Don't tell me that," she whined. She showed me a little envelope that had come with the bag. She seemed very impressed by this minute stationary. Inside was a small paper that had the brand name of the bag and a web address. I noticed the web address had an "ie" suffix, which indicates Ireland. If it was an Italian bag, I would have thought it would have an Italian web address, not an Irish one. I mentioned this to Nando and he snickered. Maybe the bag had been £10 for a reason.
The Flower and M1 went into the kitchen and he sat in a chair. She tied some sort of head covering on him, which allowed the ends of his hair to stick through some holes. She started applying some white, runny paste to the hairs sticking through the plastic head covering. She was coloring the ends of his hair. They came back into the lounge and resumed their places. I starred at M1 for a moment, sitting with this plastic head piece, with straps tied around his chin and white runny paste all over his head. And he said I sounded gay. He looked gay. I started laughing and he asked me what was so funny. "The way you look, sitting there with that stuff on your head," I admitted. He frowned but couldn't come up with a good comeback.
The Flower looked at me, with her babydoll eyes and said, "you're growing a beard?" Had she only just noticed that I wear a goatee? I had shaved it off for a film, back in early December. She seemed to have only just noticed that part of my beard is gray. "I could dye it for you," she informed me.
"Why would I want you to do that?" I asked. Perhaps she had me confused with this metrosexual excuse for a boyfriend she had.
"Then it wouldn't be three colors. It would make you look younger," she said. My evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, had wanted me to color the gray out of the hair on my head.
"I prefer to leave it as nature intended," I replied. The Flower sent M1 upstairs to rinse the coloring agent out of his hair. When he returned, he told her he wanted her to trim his hair. I turned to her and said, "how come you've never cut my hair?"
"You've never asked me to," she replied. I wonder if she'd cut it for free, as that would save me money on haircuts. I don't want her coloring anything, though. Is all I need to do to get her to do stuff is ask?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bil Bahadur

Everyday at the restaurant, I eat lunch with people from Nepal (see my previous blog article, "Lunch With the Nepalese," 30 August, 2006). For a couple of months, I have been trying to get the one I call "Uncle" to teach me Nepali. I got tired of asking him. Suddenly, on Thursday, last week, Uncle told me that they had come up with a Nepalese name for me. They said my Nepalese name is Bil Bahadur. I asked Uncle, Cousin, and Billy what it means. Uncle said it doesn't mean anything, it's just a name. I was suspicious, because they kept laughing. For all I knew, they could have been calling me "stupid twat," in Nepali. I got the impression that Uncle had gotten confused and thought my name was Bill.
As I wrote in August, I made up names for these guys, because they have never told me their real names. Recently, the one I call "Billy" has started calling me "Billy" back. I think this confused Uncle and led him to think my real name was Bill. It sounded like Uncle was saying that the "Bil" in Bil Bahadur stands for "Bill." I showed Uncle my badge where it shows my name as Joseph. So what does the Bahadur mean? Today, I asked another Nepalese guy, Lox, who works as a Catering Assistant. He eats lunch at a latter time than we do, so he wasn't aware that the others had taken to calling me Bil Bahadur. I asked Lox what Bil Bahadur means. "Bahadur means brave," Lox explained. That's okay, then.
Today, at lunch, Uncle taught me a couple of phrases in Nepali, just out of the blue. I am not going to attempt to reproduce them, here, as I have no idea how to write them. Once again, Uncle could be tricking me to say something that would make me sound ridiculous. I decided to test them out on Jum, as he also eats later. I tried the first phrase on Jum, which is supposed to mean, "how are you?"
"I'm fine, thank you," Jum responded in heavily accented English. I guess Uncle wasn't trying to trick me. There was another revelation, during lunch. Uncle accidentally revealed Cousin's real name. It turns out Cousin is called, "Nil." Nil gave me a hot chili to eat with my lunch. He often does so. I think it started with him expecting me to freak out, as a lot of English folks don't like very hot food. However, I love hot, spicy food and I suspected what Nil was up to. I ate the chili with no problem. So Nil got into the habit of offering them to me. Beware Nepalese bearing gifts. Uncle says I need to learn fifteen Nepali words per month. Then, once I learn the language, I should go to Nepal and find a wife there. If I hang out with these people long enough, maybe they will reveal all of their secrets.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I Quit My Job On Friday

I quit my job on Friday. I am talking about my temp work, with the agency. I am still working at the restaurant, I just work for them directly, now. They offered me a 20% raise to work for them, paid holiday, sick leave, and a free uniform. The Manager, John, also arranged it so that I can still have off for auditions and to attend shoots. I need the money, so, of course, I said yes. Today was my first day at my new job. Of course, I was late. Not drastically so, just ten minutes. I more than made up the time, working late over a half hour. I never cheat them. Meet the new boss...same as the old boss. I got to bring home some potato wedges and chocolate cake. Now the Head Chef is on Myspace. What's the world coming to?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Shilpa Shetty Wins

Tonight, Shilpa Shetty emerged as the winner of "Celebrity Big Brother 2007." The victim of bullying in the house, the Bollywood star received an outpouring of support from a British public, who seemed determined to prove they aren't racist. While I like Shilpa, I don't think being a victim is enough of a reason to win. I thought the public demonstrated condemnation of the behavior of Jade, Jo, and Danielle enough by voting Jade, Jo, and Danielle out first. Nando says only weak people are bullied. Shilpa showed a vulnerability in that she seemed to care too much whether other housemates liked her.
When the bullies tried their tactics with Dirk, he demonstrated that he was strong, so they pretty much left him alone. Dirk had a long list of witty comments during his time in the house. I think he was truly entertaining. Sadly, he came in third, as the public bent over backwards to hand everything to Shilpa, possibly to assuage their collective sense of guilt. Had Shilpa not been treated so horribly by the bad elements in the house, I don't think she would have won. I never foresaw that such behavior would occur, when I bet on the outcome of the show, during the first week. Thanks to certain character flaws in contestants and the public alike, I ended up losing £20. So close and yet so far.

Artist of the Week: George Clinton, Parliament, and Funkadelic

Continuing in the vein of old school funk music, this week I have selected George Clinton, Parliament, and Funkadelic as my Artist of the Week. The amalgamation is due to the fact that Parliament and Funkadelic are essentially the same band with the same members, recording under different names on different record labels. George Clinton has been the leading inspiration and organizer behind the Parliament-Funkadelic musical family. They have also released recordings under George Clinton's name, where he posed as a solo artist in order to circumvent legal disputes involved with the "Parliament" name.
Born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in 1941, George Clinton grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, which became the hometown for the bands. Parliament-Funkadelic developed their own musical genre, known as "P-Funk." The heyday for the band was the 1970s. The first Parliament song I heard was "Up For the Downstroke" (1974), but it was the album, "Mothership Connection," (1976) which really got me (and a lot of others) into them. It was their first album to go platinum and I remember myself and every one of my friends buying it. This buying frenzy was driven by the hit single from the album, "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk). Parliament scored their first number one single in the US, with "Flashlight," in 1978.
Meanwhile, back in 1976, I bought my first Funkadelic album, their "Tales of Kidd Funkadelic." As Funkadelic, they achieved number one hits with "One Nation Under a Grove" (1978) and "(Not Just) Knee Deep" (1979). The latter is my favorite Funkadelic song of all time. As Parliament, they also had another number one hit with "Aqua Boogie" (1979). I saw them perform live twice. The first time was mentioned in my previous blog article, "Pam 1" (17 December, 2006). The second time was in Syracuse New York, in 1980.
The 1980s brought legal and financial problems to the P-Funk family, but George Clinton kept struggling on. By the 1990s, most of their albums had been re-released. In 2004, "Rolling Stone Magazine" named Parliament-Funkadelic as number 56 in their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. George Clinton's P-Funk empire has spun off numerous acts, including Bootsy's Rubber Band, the Parlets, the Brides of Funkenstien, and the Horny Horns. George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic still tour, today. Their unique sound combines elements of psychedelic rock with R & B, over a hardcore funk foundation. You can check them out at George Clinton's Myspace: . Add them as "friends" and tell them I sent you. Make my funk the P-Funk.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Celebrity Big Brother Final Tomorrow

Tomorrow night is the final for this year's "Celebrity Big Brother." Last night, Jo O'Meara and Cleo Rocos became the fourth and fifth housemates evicted, in a double eviction. My man, Dirk Benedict, has made it to the final and is one of the top three favorites. Will he be able to overcome the sympathy votes that seem to be accruing to Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty? Michael Jackson's brother, Jermaine, has also made it to the final and forms another part of the top three. Isn't it interesting that the top three favorites in this year's "Celebrity Big Brother" are all foreigners. What does that say about British celebrities? Tomorrow night it will all be over. Who will win? You decide. Come on Dirk!

Home Alone

This evening, Nando came downstairs dressed a little fancier than usual. He had a jacket in his hand. "Are you going somewhere?" I asked him.
"Out," Nando replied.
"Where? Out where?" I asked.
"First to some friends house," Nando explained. "Then out to a club."
"A club? What club? Where?" I asked.
"In Camberley," Nando said.
Nando had jeans on and a nicer shirt than he usually wears. "Aren't jeans a bit casual for a club?" I asked.
"No," Nando responded.
I asked him which club in Camberley and he answered, but I couldn't make out the name he said. Earlier today, the Exotic Flower and M1 went to Essex, for someone's birthday party. Nando told me they are spending the night there and won't be back till tomorrow. That means I am home all alone, tonight. Oh, I can have fish and the Flower won't complain about the smell.

What's James Max Up To?

Last Sunday, I called James Max on his radio show, which airs on LBC 97.3, London (Sky Channel 0177 or via the net, at: ), Sunday nights from 7PM to 9PM. I used to call James every Sunday, but a combination of a series of male producers who didn't put me on, the Christmas-New Year holiday period, and the changes that LBC made to their line up of presenters, all combined to reduce the times I have called his show, recently. I did manage to catch James on the other station he's on, Talksport ( , Saturday nights between 8PM and 10PM). I even called him there, which is the first time I have ever called that station. Despite this, James informed me that I was no longer in his "top friends" on Myspace. He hinted that I might be able to earn my way back into his top friends. Was this a smart move on James' part?
James said I used to write blog articles about him and ask people to add him as a friend, on Myspace. While it's true that I have, I never intended to do that constantly. I have kept James in my top friends without break. He's one of four radio presenters that have enjoyed a permanent spot there. Is his move prompted by a desire to motivate me to give him some more publicity? What should my response be? Could James' action backfire? For instance, I could respond in kind and remove him from my "top friends." James has 699 Myspace friends, while I have 2143, at the moment. Given those numbers, who will be hurt more by losing the top friends slot, James or me? You can check out his Myspace at: . I wonder which gets more traffic, his Myspace or mine? My blog is setting new records for reads, poised to top 1,000 this week. That's double the amount of reads per week that I was getting a couple of months ago. By the way, thank you my dear readers. The more readers I get, the more respect we will get from the media. All of you should try to get two people you know to start reading my blog each week and let's triple those numbers.
James was kind enough to plug my "Seconds From Disaster" episode, this past Tuesday and he treated me well on Sunday. I pointed out to him that the more I am on his show, the more material I will have to write about him. He needs to sort those producers out and make sure they always put me through. I find that I tend to do better with female producers, like Rebecca, who was producing his show last week. Put some comments on his Myspace and let him know that you want me back in his top friends, and that you want to hear more of me on his show. As always, I need your support, dear readers. You should tune in tomorrow night, as I will probably call in. I may even call him on Talksport, tonight.

Ain't That America?

The American TV series, "Ugly Betty," has started airing here, in the UK, recently. I have tried it and am coming back for more. Channel 4 put it in a high profile slot on Fridays, between the main "Celebrity Big Brother" show and the CBB eviction show, probably hoping to give "Betty" a ratings head start. That, combined with the promotional ads for the show, got me interested.
"Ugly Betty" is the story of an overweight, plain looking girl, with braces and glasses, who manages to land a job as an assistant to the editor of a top fashion magazine. To make her image worse, Betty has almost non-existent dress sense. The first time I watched it, I had the Exotic Flower and Nando present. I was hoping it would appeal to the Flower. She watched the show, paying the most attention besides myself, but I don't know how much she liked it. She was absent when I watched it the second time. Nando called it crap and M1 totally wasn't interested. Nando doesn't go for shows like this, so his reaction is not surprising. M1's taste in TV is juvenile. I find something compellingly likeable about the lead character, Betty Suarez. She has a sweetness that I am a sucker for and I have always been partial towards women in glasses.
I asked the Flower if she felt any empathy for women like Betty, who aren't blessed with gorgeous looks, like the Flower is. The Flower revealed that she didn't used to think she was good looking. I also pondered if the actress playing Betty is really that ugly, or did the producers just ugh her up for the show. The Flower concurred with me that Betty isn't really ugly. It's mainly the braces and the awful clothes that detract from her looks. I'm like a dog with a bone, when it comes to finding out the answers to questions I have. I have now seen pictures of the actress who plays Betty, America Ferrera. That's right, her name is "America." My suspicions were correct. I have seen photos of America Ferrera looking gorgeous. So, it's all costume, effects, and makeup that make Betty "ugly." The show's success may help fuel demand for actors and actresses who aren't classically beautiful. That's one thing I like about British TV, as opposed to American TV. Here in the UK, there are many more people on TV who have plain looks, or are downright ugly. Back in the States, it always seemed that only the most beautiful people got to be on TV.
If you haven't given "Ugly Betty" a try, I recommend doing so. As an added bonus, the series has Vanessa Williams, who was the first "Black" Miss America, as a supporting character. I have always had a soft spot for Vanessa, as we both attended Syracuse University. I left a few years before she attended, so we weren't there at the same time, but it still feels like we shared an experience. She pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, while I pledged Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, so we both crossed the burning sands with Black Greek letter organizations. Vanessa's career had been a bit quiet lately, so I am pleased to see her working again.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Would You Eat Something With 10 Arms?

In the aftermath of last night's fancy dress party, there ended up being a lot of food left at work, today. I had my eye out for some fish, as they do fish and chips every Friday. Chef Anthony is back working with us, so he did his usual and gave me a nice piece of haddock for my lunch. Earlier in the day, there had been so much salad left from last night that Anthony told me to throw the leftovers from Thursday's salad bar away. I eyed a bucket of cut lettuce, which I thought would be great at my house. Anthony suggested that I take it home and that became the first swag for my stash, today.
I kept looking for left over fish to take home. Last Friday, I didn't get any, as the Head Chef, Gary, saved it all to make something out of it, on Monday. When lunch ended, I went scavenging for the remaining fish. Unable to find it, I did come across some left over fried calamari. For the uninitiated, calamari is, basically, squid. A squid is a torpedo-shaped sea creature, with ten tentacles. Some people get weirded out by what it is. Would you eat something that had ten arms? I would, cause it tastes great. A popular way to serve it is to cut the squid into rings, lightly batter them, then fry it. Then the calamari rings are dunked into tasty dipping sauce. As Richard loaded the calamari onto a trolley, to wheel into the plate wash room, and throw it down the waste disposal, I grabbed some, which was still warm. I dunked it into the tasty dipping sauce, which was like a Thai sweet chili, and savored the taste of the chewy little squid rings.
I continued with my work, which at that time includes collecting all the cast iron hot serving pots of food. I then separate the stuff that Gary wants saved from the stuff he wants thrown away. I went into the plate wash to get a trolley. When I entered the room, I saw that Richard hadn't gotten around to throwing away the calamari yet. Taking advantage of the situation, I grabbed the rest of the calamari and proceeded to dunk some in the dipping sauce. Always the party pooper, Richard grabbed the remaining dipping sauce and threw it away, probably to stop me from eating it. What a twat! It's not like this costs him anything and he doesn't seem interested in the calamari for himself. While collecting, I noticed a single piece of chocolate marshmallow nut cake left on the serving plate, all by itself. I rescued the cake, which was doomed to go down the waste disposal, saving it to take home.
While I am putting the food Gary wants saved into containers for storage, Gary comes by where I am working. He's read the blog I wrote, yesterday, about the fancy dress party. He's amused at how happy I was to take home so much free food. I told him how Richard deliberately threw away the dipping sauce I was using with the calamari. One of the chefs brings in a tray full of cooked rice for me to throw away. Gary asks me if I want to take some of the rice home. Hell yes! I grab one of the buckets we use to store food in and fill it with rice. While I am doing this, Gary goes away, then comes back with a tray full of lamb. "Do you want some lamb?" he asked. I pondered the problem of how to take it home. Gary suggested I put it I the bucket with my rice, but I declined, intending to fill the entire bucket with rice.
I had a brainstorm. "I'll wrap it in cling film," I said. As I am loading my bucket of rice, Gary disappears with the tray of cooked meat. He returns with several pieces wrapped in cling film. He'd done it for me. I added the full rice bucket and the lamb to my swag pile. Gary wandered off and left me working.
A little later, I am at the front of the kitchen when I spy the left over fish on a serving plate, parked where we leave the plates and dishes to go to the plate wash room. "What's happening with that?" I ask Gary.
"Take it home," Gary says, matter of factly. The fish gets added to my swag pile. After I am back in my work area, I hear Gary shout out, "J B, man...I've got a surprise for ya." He likes to call me, "J B." Gary walks into sight carrying a tray full of more left over calamari., complete with little dishes of dipping sauce. We both have a little, then he utters the now familiar mantra, "take it home."
"How am I going to carry this home?" I ask, with growing concern. In response, Gary points at a bucket. "I'm more worried about the dipping sauce," I advised.
Gray then brings me a black plastic dish of more dipping sauce and says, "wrap it in cling film."
Not wanting to miss out in the fun of giving me food, the Restaurant Manager, John, comes by and asks me to follow him. He leads me to one of the work surfaces in the kitchen. On it is a chopping board and some duck. John tells me I can take the remaining duck home. John's a good manager to work for. He looks a bit stern, but he's nice enough, once you get to know him. He tells me he wants to be mentioned in my blog, in exchange for giving me the duck. Deal! After I finish working, John offers me a permanent job, there, with a raise. I accept. Starting Monday, no more temp work. John's arranged things so I can still take off time to go to auditions and shoots. Finally, some things are going my way. I have a big audition in two weeks. Let's hope that goes my way, as well. I struggled out to my car with all the swag. I could have used ten arms myself, at that moment. I'll be eating well this weekend.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fancy Dress

Today, I got to work overtime at the restaurant. There was a fancy dress party there, tonight, so I did a fourteen hour day. For some strange reason, British people say, "fancy dress," while in America folks would say, "costume party." I am always comparing British expressions with American ones. Sometimes I prefer the American and sometimes I prefer the British. This is a case where I prefer the American. The first time I heard people say, "fancy dress party," I thought it meant to dress in a fancy way, like black tie or something. To me, "costume party" is more to the point and less ambiguous.
I could see some of the customers in their costumes. The theme of the party was "Hollywood," so people were mostly dressed as film characters. There was a Darth Vader and an Imperial Stormtrooper, from "Star Wars." I heard there was also a Princess Leia. I saw a cowboy, a Marilyn Monroe, a gangster, a Roman soldier, and some sort of Samurai, or ninja, or something. It's strange, but I have never had any desire to go to a costume party and dress up as something.
The work this evening was easy and I got another free meal, as we got dinner. I had chicken curry and rice. In the late afternoon, I had some watermelon chunks, nice and cold. The management also sprang for free Coca Cola and, at the end of the evening, a bottle of beer. Usually, I have water or milk. Then, as a double special bonus, the Manager let me take home some of the left over curry, chili, and rice. I brought home enough free food to last all weekend. Is it just me, or does free food taste better? There's still tomorrow. Maybe I can snag some fish tomorrow. Yum yum, pig's bum!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My TV Last Night

Last night, one of the two episodes I did for the series, "Seconds From Disaster" aired, for the first time. Apparently, it aired in America earlier this month, but the National Geographic Channel seems to repeat the show a lot, so if you live in the States, you might still be able to catch it. The episode title was "Texas Oil Explosion," on the tele, but the National Geographic Channel website lists it as "Texas Refinery Disaster." If you go to the website, there's a viewable trailer for the show which has a glimpse of me, towards the end (
I hadn't seen the final edit, so I really wasn't sure how much I would be in the program. They shot so many scenes with me, I hoped some of them survived the cutting room. I told everyone I could reach to watch it. It would seem a bit embarrassing if I was hardly in it. Because Nando wanted to watch football, I skipped the 9PM first airing and watched at 10PM, on the +1 channel. Sometime after 9PM, I got a call from a former coworker, Dan. He works with a lot of people I know at a travel agency call centre. A few years ago, we all used to work together at a company called Gemstone Travel. Gemstone was bought out and they now work for another company. Dan told me that show was on the television in the office, where he works. A few people who know me were on duty and they were all watching it. During the first half of the show, there is a brief glimpse of me and that was all they had seen so far. Our conversation was brief, but at least I knew I was visible in the program.
Just past 9:30, the Head Chef at the restaurant where I work between acting jobs, called. He said that after the second commercial break, I am much more visible. This was good news. He said I was like a main character in the story. I was anxious to see it myself. A few minutes later, I got a call from another former Gemstone employee, Russell. He said he was impressed with my performance. That was nice, coming from him, as he seemed really sincere. Then another former Gemstone friend, Sol, called, from his home in Nottingham. He and his girlfriend were watching.
At 10PM, it was my turn. I went downstairs and put the re-broadcast on. Nando was in the lounge, watching as well, but M1 and the Flower had just left, so they missed it. As the Head Chef had said, after the second commercial break, I start appearing a lot. My friend, Tina, sent me a text. She must have been watching the 10PM showing, as well. I play the head accident investigator for the Chemical Safety Board, in America, a guy named Don Holstrom. Because of the narration on the program, you don't actually get to hear any of the audio of me speaking, but there are plenty of shots of me. I think I may have the most screen time of any of the characters in the story. The production company, Darlow Smithson, did a great job and make me look better than I expected. If you missed it, they usually re-show the episode from Tuesday over the weekend, here in the UK. I don't know when it will be on again in America. Thanks to everyone who watched and for all the lovely comments.

Snow Job

When I went out to go to work this morning, I was surprised to discover that my car was covered in...snow! Not just my car, though, every car on the street. And on the street next to ours, as well. There was even snow sticking to the sidewalk. I can't remember when snow has fallen here and stuck. After brushing off my car, I found that some was sticking to the road surface of the road that runs perpendicular to mine. The traffic reports on the radio indicated that the snowfall was causing massive delays. Snow is so rare in southern England, that when it does occur, people don't seem to know what to do. Motorists seem to panic a bit. Fortunately, I don't have that far to drive and the second half of my journey is in the opposite direction to rush hour traffic. I spent six years living in Syracuse, New York, which is in the snow belt, so I learned to drive in snow the hard way. I predicted the snow wouldn't last and when I came out of work, this afternoon, it hadn't. All of the vile white stuff was gone. What happened to global warming?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More Racism Complaints About Channel 4

Channel Four is in more hot water due to reality show racism. This time, it's over an episode of the new series of "Shipwrecked." 18-year-old contestant, Lucy Buchanan, alledgedly said that "black people" are "really bad." She also supposedly said that she favors a return to slavery. In an effort to be inclusive, Buchanan also slated fat people, ugly people, foreigners, and gays. The episode aired Sunday, generating complaints to UK media watchdog, Ofcom. The complaints are said to number 280 and are rising. Channel 4 have said that, as the series progresses, Lucy's views soften. This morning, on LBC 97.3's Breakfast show, guest Andrew Pierce stated that Channel 4 should have edited out Lucy's comments. With no grasp of the concept of freedom of speech, Mr. Pierce doesn't seem to realize that editing out the comments won't change the fact that she said them, nor that she thinks that way. The only result would be to hide it from the public. Personally, I would rather know. I wish people would stop attacking Channel 4.

Monday, January 22, 2007

None of You Noticed

None of you noticed that Nando was gone for nine days. He left a week ago, last Wednesday and came back Friday night. He was in Italy, visiting his family. Nando saw his sister, his Mama, his father, and his friend Giuseppe. He was in his hometown of Naples, or more properly, "Napoli." I am glad that he's back, as I have someone sensible to watch TV with, again. Yesterday, we were watching TV and an ad came on promoting the thirty miles-per-hour speed limit in towns. The ad shows a little girl's body on the side of the road, as if she's been hit by a car. We hear her voice saying, "if you hit me at forty miles-per-hour, there's an 80% chance I will die. If you hit me at thirty miles-per-hour, there's an 80% chance I'll live."
Nando then shouted at the TV, "if you looked before you crossed the road, there's 100% chance you won't get hit by a car, you idiot."
Moved by Nando's obvious compassion, I asked him his opinion on the issue of the alledged racist bullying in "Celebrity Big Brother." Giving me a smirk, he said, "there's an easy way to solve the problem. Next year, only have white people in the house, then they won't have a problem with racism."
As he went upstairs to get some cigarettes, I thought, "Nando's back."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My TV Episode Airs!

I have hot news. On Tuesday, January 23rd, an episode of "Seconds From Disaster" that I am in will air for the first time. If you have access to Sky UK, or any of the British digital TV systems, it's on the National Geographic Channel at 9PM, London time. On Sky, that's channel 526. It will be repeated at 10PM on Sky 527. The episode is called "Texas Oil Refinery Explosion." I have a significant part in it, playing an accident investigator. Be warned, I am not wearing glasses in it. I have not seen the final edit yet, so I don't know how much of the footage I shot will be used. If you miss it on Tuesday, they usually re-broadcast the show later in the week and on the weekend.

Artist of the Week: the Ohio Players

Sticking with long established acts for the moment, I have selected the Ohio Players as my Artist of the Week, this week. Originally formed as the Ohio Untouchables, way back in 1959 (gosh, they are as old as I am), in Dayton, Ohio, they reorganized as the Ohio Players after the Untouchables broke up, in 1963. With a funky R & B style, they achieved their greatest popularity in the 1970s. The Ohio Players released a series of albums with one word titles that evoked a sexual connotation, such as: Pain, Pleasure, Ecstasy, Fire, and Honey. Between Ecstasy and Fire, they released "Skin Tight," which was the first album of theirs that I bought. I loved the title song and it remains my favorite Ohio Players track, to date.
My second favorite was the title track from "Fire." Another well known hit for them was "Love Rollercoaster," which was eventually covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Another of their songs, "Fopp," was covered by Soundgarden. The Ohio Players have been sampled and copied by a number of R & B and Hip Hop artists. Anyone listening to their music will surely recognize elements that sound familiar. You can check them out on Myspace, at: . Add them as friends and tell them I sent you.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Proposal: the Michelle Story Part 5

After Michelle and I returned to New York, we continued life as we had been. We enjoyed ourselves and spent almost every waking hour together. One funny little habit we developed is that, in the morning, when we were both thirsty, we would each try and wait for the other to go downstairs for a drink. As soon as one of us headed downstairs, the other would ask for a drink, as well. I remember both of us laying in bed, each trying to hold out as long as possible, so as not to have to be the one who went downstairs for the drinks. Oh what lazy days those were.
Michelle's father started questioning when I was going to get another job. Michelle and I would come up with this or that excuse. The truth is, I wasn't even looking. As long as the money held out, I wasn't in any hurry to go back to work. The idea of spending days apart from Michelle seemed like some horrible event, to be avoided for as long as possible. Instead, I started taking her to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where there was legal casino gambling. I would play Blackjack, win a couple of hundred dollars, then stop and we would make our way back to Long Island, where we were staying.
Michelle wanted to try to get into modeling, in New York. She found an ad in the newspaper, by a photographer, who offered to shoot a portfolio for prospective models. Michelle had brought back her portfolio from Wales, but wanted to update it. I was hesitant, because the session with the photographer would cost a significant chunk of our ever dwindling savings and because I was skeptical that this photographer was any good. There are a lot of photographers out there who make their money selling photo sessions to hopeful young women, which leads to no work for the girls. In any case, Michelle was insistent and it was hard to refuse her anything. After the photos were done, we looked up some of the top modeling agencies in New York and went to see them. I sat in with Michelle, when she was seen by Eileen Ford's agency, one of the most famous in America. The woman we spoke to at Ford's was very helpful. She said that Michelle photographed too old. Although Michelle was only 17, she looked in her early to mid twenties in the photos she had done. The current look that was being sought was a young look; girls who were 17 and looked 14 in their photos. A few years earlier, the "sophisticated look" was in and Michelle would have been perfect for it, but the market had changed. Ford wasn't interested. We tried Elite anyway, as it was the agency for Michelle's modeling idol, Cindy Crawford, to get a second opinion, but they weren't interested either. If the photographer had been any good, he should have known this and had Michelle made up to look younger, not older. As I feared, the money we had spent had been wasted.
Michelle started wanting to go to the malls around where we lived more frequently than I did, so I taught her which buses to take, so she could make her own way. She went out on her own, a few times. She was so sweet, she would call me from a phone booth, after a couple of hours, and tell me which shops she had been to and what she's had to eat. One time she called me and told me some shop manager had offered her a job, but that brought up the issue of her visa. As she was on a tourist visa, she couldn't legally work in America. She had hoped that if she was wanted for modeling work, they would help her get a work visa. I explained to her that she wouldn't be able to get a working visa just to work in a retail shop. The US government had these ridiculous rules that before a foreigner could get a visa to work at a job, the employer had to demonstrate that he couldn't find a suitable employee from amongst American citizens or aliens who had residency. Unless the job was one that had been certified as being short of workers, in that industry, or required some unique talent (such as an actor, TV performer, or musician), no work visa would be issued. Obviously, a retail shop assistant is a job that almost anyone could do. It's a shame, really, because Michelle had started wanting to work, yet was unable to, due to some silly regulations.
Eventually, our lifestyle hit a snag. On one of our trips to Atlantic City, I lost big time. Our savings was depleted and I would have to go back to work. Michelle and I had a discussion about things. I needed to go back to work and she wanted to work. I don't know how it came up, but we discussed getting married. I loved this girl and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. If we got married, she'd be able to work, legally, in the US, as well. I thought we needed to wait till Michelle turned 18, as you needed to be 18 to get married without your parents' permission, in New York. Little did I know at the time, but Michelle and I could have legally married in Scotland, which has a lower age limit. We left things that we would most likely get married at some point in the future.
In August of 1989, Michelle's parents wanted to come visit. They were traveling to Toronto, Canada, where her father was buying a condo. They wanted to come down to New York and see where Michelle was living. I did the most thorough house cleaning I had ever done. I wanted to make as good an impression as possible. During their visit, we took them to the beach and they were amazed at how nice the areas around New York were. Many people abroad think New York is only what they see on TV and in the movies. Thus they tend to only have images of Manhattan and urban high rises. They were surprised to see so many trees. In the outer boroughs and the surrounding suburbs, there are plenty of trees and green spaces.
As it was getting near to the end of the six months Michelle had to stay on this visit to the US, we applied for an extension to her stay, for a couple of months. We sent off the application, which said it should take two weeks. After four weeks with no reply, we figured we'd just go to Canada, to spend more time with her parents, and she'd get re-stamped upon return to the US, with another six months. Her parents flew back to Toronto, while we drove up. After spending a few days with them in Toronto, I drove back, via the Thousand Islands region, hoping to stop in Watertown, New York, on our way back and see my friend, Fred. When we reached the Border checkpoint on the US side, we were asked the routine questions by a female Border Patrol officer. As she looked over Michelle's British passport, things changed. She told us to park the car and that there would be some further investigation. We were placed in separate rooms and my car was searched from top to bottom. Then they questioned each of us, separately. Finally, we were brought back together and spoke with this overweight, male Border Patrol officer, who seemed to be in charge of our situation. They had kept us there for over two hours, so far. He asked where Michelle's I-90 immigration form was. I explained that we had sent it off when we filed for her extension, as required by the application, something I thought he should be aware of. We told him the whole story of visiting her parents and how Michelle planned to go back to Wales in October. I showed him the cash that her father had given me, to pay for her ticket back to the UK. Nothing seemed to move this guy. When searching my car, he'd found the business card of the photographer Michelle had got her photos from. Based on that, he accused her of illegally working and living in the US. I explained that we had looked into getting her modeling work, but she hadn't actually secured any and that the card was just a photographer we bought photos from. While I was trying to talk this bureaucratic pinhead around, Michelle blurted out that we were planning on getting married. That seemed to settle things, for him.
The piggish official stated that because we intended on getting married, Michelle was planning on immigrating to the US, therefore, she no longer qualified for a tourist visa. He took a pen and drew a line through the visa in her passport, stating he was revoking it, on the spot. He then said she must return to the UK and re-establish herself there. What were we supposed to do now, sat in an office on the border with Canada? To finish things off, he was denying her entry into the US, so she couldn't even return with me to Long Island and get the rest of her things. We were instructed to turn around and drive back into Canada.
When we reached the Canadian checkpoint, a few hundred yards back along the road, it all started again. Now they wanted to question us. I inquired what the problem was, as we had just been in Canada a few hours before. That was different, the Canadian officials told me. Before, we had entered Canada voluntarily. Now, we had been refused entry into the US, so the bureaucracy went into overdrive. They phoned Michelle's parents and verified our story. I thought we might be doomed to spend the rest of our lives just driving back and forth a few hundred yards, between these two border checkpoints. Finally, they agreed to grant us entry, with the stipulation that Michelle had only three days to fly out of Canada.
Back in Toronto, Michelle's dad got us a room in the same hotel as the her parents were staying at. Her father booked her a ticket back to the UK, in three days time. While we were relaxing in the hotel's indoor pool, Michelle made a suggestion to me. "Why don't we get married straight away?" she asked.
"Are you proposing to me?" I needed to verify what was going on.
"I guess I am," she replied. I thought for a moment, then accepted, of course. We had no rings to exchange, but from that point we considered ourselves engaged. To date, Michelle remains the only woman ever to propose to me.
Regardless of our intentions, Michelle still needed to return to the UK. I would apply for a fiancee's visa, for her, as soon as I got back home. On the day before she was due to fly back to the UK, we were sitting in her parents' hotel room, all playing cards. I had taught them to play Spades and we were having a game. All of a sudden, I noticed that her father was cheating to enable Michelle to win. I complained about this and he blew up at me. We argued and he made a comment about paying for our hotel room. I told him to stuff his hotel room and headed for the door. I looked back at Michelle. She stood in the center of the room for a moment, as if torn between us. Her father told her not to go anywhere, but she turned and followed me out. He yelled after us that she'd better be at the airport the next day.
I found a cheap motel for us to spend the night in. We made love for what would turn out to be the last time. When relationships end, you usually never know that your last time making love is going to be your last time. If I had known it was to be our last time, I would have tried to make it more special. The mood was quite somber, as we were both unhappy. The next day, I had Michelle at the airport on time. She urged me to get her back to America as soon as possible. After a tearful farewell, she was gone.
A few days after I arrived back home, a letter arrived for Michelle, approving the extension of her stay in America. It was too late. I proceeded to start the process to secure Michelle a fiancee's visa. I found a job as a chauffeur and re-enrolled at university, to finish my degree. Back in Wales, Michelle got a job as a waitress. We often spoke on the phone and she said she was bored in Llandovery and begged me to get her back as soon as possible. She said her father kept pestering her to finish with me. The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly and after I submitted the application, there was nothing to do but wait. After about a month, she told me she had started hanging out with a guy as a friend and asked if I minded. I cautiously said, "no," I didn't mind, so long as he was clear that Michelle was engaged and moving back to New York, and that they were just friends. After another month, I got a letter in early November, from Michelle. In it she said to forget about her and that she wasn't coming back. She'd decided to start a relationship with the guy she was supposed to be friends with. She'd only spoken to me on the phone a few days before and hadn't mentioned it. I screamed out in anguish. I called her family home, but only managed to get her sister, who said Michelle wasn't there. I wanted to fly over immediately and talk to her, face to face, but I couldn't afford the airfare. Explaining the situation, I asked my good friend, Tim, if he could loan me $500, so I could go see Michelle. While he agreed, his wife objected, saying they were trying to save to buy a house. They had $10,000 saved and I thought $500 wouldn't make that much difference, but she wouldn't budge. I wasn't able to go to Wales, then. Two weeks later, a letter arrived approving Michelle's fiancee visa. She never collected it.
Nine months later, in August of 1990, I had managed to save up enough to fly to Britain. I brought a suitcase full of some of Michelle's clothes, which she had left at my house. I contacted her sister and used the excuse of wanting to return Michelle's clothes. I drove down to Wales and went to see Michelle's sister, who was now staying in Llandovery. She had split from her husband. I asked about Michelle and her sister admitted to knowing where she was. Michelle had left home and moved in with the "friend" guy. They were staying in a trailer park, or "park home," as they are known, here, just on the outskirts of Llandovery. I drove over to see her and give her the suitcase. Michelle came outside, to the car and took the case. I saw a guy in the doorway of the trailer, starring at us. She told me to forget about her, but thanked me for returning her things. It was too late, they were living together.
It turned out that the "friend" guy was an ex-convict, newly out of prison. He got Michelle involved in drug use. I saw her two more times, over the years that followed. The next time was when I was visiting Wales. I stayed friends with Michelle's sister and youngest brother. Originally, it was to keep in contact with her, but I came to value them as friends in their own right. Michelle called me in America once, saying that the ex-con had dumped her, but she didn't go so far as to suggest we get back together. When I was visiting Wales, her sister told me she was working in Brecon. I went to Brecon and found Michelle working in a sandwich shop. I bought something to eat and she took a break and sat with me, while I ate. Nothing came of it. Subsequently, she moved to Basingstoke, in England. Then in 1993, while visiting Britain with Tim, Michelle agreed to meet me so I could return another suitcase of her things. At the time, she was living in a house with a couple of guys, although she didn't make it clear what her relationship was to them. She went into London with me and Tim, joining us for some sightseeing. She had changed her hair color to red, which I didn't think suited her as well. After a few hours, I drove her home, so she could get back before the guys she was living with got home from work. It seemed that she had kept meeting me a secret. That was the last time I ever saw the Great Michelle, although, indirectly, she is part of the reasons I ended up living in Britain. Later, I heard from her mother that she had had a baby. That news caused me to finally give up hoping we would ever get back together. The last time I saw her brother and sister was in July, 2004, in Wales. I had driven down to visit, for the weekend. Her sister, ever one to suspect how deeply in love with Michelle I had been, managed to give me a few tidbits of Michelle news. She'd had another baby and was now living in Newbury, just on the other side of Reading from me. She still wasn't married, although she was living with a bloke.
Falling in love with Michelle and then losing her had a profound impact on me. Even now, almost 14 years since I last saw her, writing this has brought tears to my eyes. For a long time after that, I couldn't stand the sight of weddings, without feeling very sad. My cynicism expanded exponentially. What justice is there, in the world? How could there be a loving God in the universe, if people could experience such loss? If I had a soul, then it was deeply scared. It's one of those scars that heals eventually, but never completely fades away. I am reminded of the last line in the film, "Patton." "All glory is fleeting."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Beauty vs the Beast

As I predicted, the nomination votes this week, in "Celebrity Big Brother," have resulted in Jade Goody vs Shilpa Shetty. It's the battle of good vs evil, beauty vs the beast, class vs ignorance. So certain are the bookies that Jade will be voted out, they have stopped taking bets on it. She seems poised to be evicted with the highest percentage of votes in "Big Brother" history. Even Chancellor Gordon Brown has weighed in, urging the British people to "vote for Shilpa," to show that Britain condemns racism. Clever Gordon managed to demonstrate that he obviously doesn't watch the show, because people vote for the person they want evicted. Thus if you support Shilpa, you'd vote for Jade to be evicted. Oh well, I suppose Gordo hadn't had his afternoon lie down.
Gordo isn't alone amongst politicos in trying to jump on the "Big Brother" racism row bandwagon, yet only managing to show what dim wits they are. Yesterday, Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell managed to shoot her mouth off without sounding clever. While admitting that she doesn't normally watch the show, she branded what she had seen the night before as, "disgusting." I guess the harpy disgusts very easily. What I find disgusting is Jowell's approval of an increase in the TV License fee (TAX!). The episode of "Big Brother" to which Jowell was referring didn't contain anything even remotely racist, just a heated argument between Jade and Shilpa, with Jade showing herself to be rude, ignorant, and a bully. Just like in any drama, "Big Brother" has it's heroes and villains. The good guys are Shilpa, Jermaine, and Dirk, while the bad guys are comprised of Jade, Danielle, Jo, and Jack. Cleo and "H" (Ian) are caught in the middle, with "H" looking like he's joining the good side. I'm not sure what Cleo is doing. She nominated Jade and Shilpa. Sit on the fence, why don't you?
Not content to simply complain to Ofcom, the UK media watchdog, and to Channel 4 directly, some twats actually complained to their MPs. What the heck are those useless parasites supposed to do? It's just a reality TV show, for Pete's sake! Now it's being discussed on the floor in Parliament and has become an international incident, involving people in India. The world has gone mad and the worst thing about it is, I'm not in the show.
Remember: boycott the Carphone Warehouse. Dirk to win!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Boycott the Carphone Warehouse!

Today, the Carphone Warehouse announced that it was pulling its sponsorship of "Big Brother," because of the bullying and racism on the show. In the rush to jump on the bandwagon of condemning the show, they seem to have lost sight of what's going on. Endemol, the producers of "Big Brother," have not scripted the awful comments made by Jade, Danielle, Jo, and Jack. The show's format is to put people in a "house," isolated from the outside world, and watch what happens. By the nature of the situation, conflicts always arise. Carphone Warehouse has been a sponsor of "Big Brother" for years, so they should be aware of the format by now. Deserting the show, just because a lot of clueless people have been complaining, shows a lack of loyalty. As the number of complaints approaches 30,000, it pays to remember that last night's show had 5.7 million viewers. That means that only about half of one percent have complained. Oh what testicular fortitude the management of the Carphone Warehouse has. If they don't want "Big Brother's" audience, we don't want them. Are you with me? (say yeah!)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Complaints Keep Coming

Yesterday, I wrote about the complaints being filed with Ofcom, over "Celebrity Big Brother." At that time, the number of complaints had reached 3,500. By the time I got to work this morning, the number of complaints had reached 10,000. When I watched the evening news, tonight, they were up to 19,000 plus. So, despite my blog, people are still complaining. Now people in India are joining the act. There have been protests there, in the streets, with effigies of the show's producers being burned. Someone should tell them that burning effigies puts more CO2 in the air. That's not supposed to be good for global warming.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Racism on Big Brother...Again

UK media watchdog, Ofcom, has received 3,500 complaints about racist bullying of celebrity contestant, Shilpa Shetty. News outlets, here in Britain, started covering the story when the number of complaints was only 200. Shilpa, a Bollywood actress, has had a rough time at the hands of a group of fellow housemates, Jade Goody, Jade's mother Jackiey, Jade's boyfriend, Jack, Danielle Lloyd, and Jo O'Meara. One of the first issues was Jackiey repeatedly pronouncing Shilpa's name incorrectly. Eventually, Jackiey started referring to her as, "the Indian." Jack got into the act, saying that Shilpa, who uses bleach to lighten facial hair, actually uses the bleach because she wants to be "white." Danielle has had a series of conflicts with Shilpa and recently referred to her as a "dog." When Shilpa made a curry for the housemates, Jade said she hoped she didn't get sick from the curry. On last night's show, Jo O'Meara, formerly of the pop group, S Club, said that Indians are thin because they get ill, due to undercooking their food.
What the perpetrators have in common is that they all seem to come from a low class background. Other "white" housemates have had no problem with Shilpa and treated her graciously. Historically, it has often been the case that racial hostility is greatest amongst the lower classes. This might be because people from poorer upbringing are often less well educated, may not have traveled to foreign countries as much, and may see immigrants as competitors for employment opportunities and services. Some viewers are starting to fault housemates Ian and Cleo, because they have repeatedly witnesses the hostility from the group, but haven't done much to reign it in.
This is not the first time that claims of racism have been leveled at the Channel 4 program. During the summer of 2005, the regular "Big Brother" series ended up with a racial divide in the house. Again coming from contestants of a lower class background, it was stated that a fellow contestant from Zimbabwae should go back to Africa. She was also called a hyena and her hair was the butt of jokes. At the time, many denied that there was a hint of racism in the comments. This time there seems to be a much stronger consensus that racist bullying is occurring. Possibly, that's because the victim, this time, is popular with a lot of the public and is seen as wholly innocent.
Even if we conclude that racist bullying is occurring, is complaining to a "government" watchdog an appropriate response? The nature of the "Big Brother" format is to put people in a closed environment, isolated from the outside world, and watch what happens. An intervention would blow the whole thing. Shilpa is managing to deal with it. She receives comfort and support from Jermaine Jackson and Dirk Benedict. The producers haven't scripted the behavior viewers are witnessing. If some members of the audience can't handle it, they should exercise their ability to change the channel, or turn the TV off. We, as humans, must learn to solve our own problems, rather than turning to the "government" gang every time we aren't happy.
Dirk Benedict to win!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Welsh Dragon Princess: the Michelle Story Part 4

In late June, 1988, Michelle and I flew to London. Staying in a cheap bed and breakfast, we attended the Sade concert at Alexandria Palace. I tried finding Pam Jones, by taking the Tube to Finsbury Park Station, but when I came out, I must have used a different exit and didn't recognize the area where she worked. Having rented a car, I drove in Britain for the first time. I told Michelle to keep reminding me to drive on the left. We set off for Wales, so I could meet her family. I was impressed with the M4 motorway, which heads west, from London. At the time, the speed limit back in New York was fifty-five miles per hour. In Britain, it was seventy, with a significant segment of the traffic exceeding that. As we crossed the Severn River Bridge, which spans the longest river in Britain, Michelle tuned in Red Dragon radio on the car's stereo. I was in Wales, for the first time.
Michelle seemed to have difficulty remembering the way, but with the aid of a map provided by the car rental firm, we managed to get close enough to our destination that things began to look familiar to her. Back then, Michelle's folks were living in Pontypridd, Wales, not far from Cardiff, as was her older sister. Her sister was married and lived in a separate household, not far from her parents. We had been invited to stay at her sister's and it was there that we were to meet up with her parents. I was nervous about meeting her folks, but they treated me graciously. I noticed that Michelle's family all had strong Welsh accents, while Michelle had a posh, English accent. The explanation for this was that, growing up, Michelle had attended a private school in Cardiff, where she was born. The teachers had been mostly English, so she ended up with their accent. She was also taller than everyone else in her family, including both parents, her three brothers, and her older sister. Combining these facts with the fact that her hair was darker than all of them, except her middle brother, I began to wonder if she had been left to them by the fairies, rather than being their natural child.
After about a week, Michelle and I drove back to London. I bought an A-Z atlas of London, so I could find Pam's flat. London's streets are a maze of roads that curve and have dead ends, one ways, and other navigational nightmares. Even residents of London have A- Zs. I remembered that she lived just off Middle Lane, in Crouch End, so I looked the street up in the A-Z. I navigated us there and recognized the building which housed Pam's flat. Pam had provided me a place to stay when I ran out of money, during my first visit to London (see "Coming to America: the Michelle Story Part 2," December 28, 2006). I wanted to take her out to dinner, as a way of saying, "thank you." I rang the buzzer, but got no answer. A woman leaned out of a window and asked who I was looking for. When I asked if Pam Jones still lived there, she said yes, but explained that Pam was at work and would be home, later. Michelle and I returned, in the early evening. This time, when I rang the buzzer, a voice asked, "who is it?"
"Joseph, from America," I answered. "From America" seems to open a lot of doors, in Britain. We were buzzed in and climbed the stairs to Pam's third floor flat. Pam greeted me with a hug and I introduced Michelle. I told Pam I wanted to take her out to dinner, to thank her for all she had done for me. She refused and said she would cook dinner, instead. She invited us to stay for dinner, which we accepted. After our visit with Pam, we flew back to New York. Michelle stayed for two weeks in New York, helping me to celebrate my 29th birthday, then made her way back to Wales, on her own.
Michelle spent about a month back in Wales. We spoke on the phone, several times. When she first met me, Michelle had been seeing a married guy, who lived across the street from her parents' house. Now that she was back home, he tried to rekindle their relationship. Although she agreed to see him, Michelle soon realized that she wanted to be with me. She ended things with the married guy and phoned me. She was coming back to stay with me, indefinitely. In August, 1988, she returned to New York, again. To say I was pleased would be an understatement.
Michelle stayed with me for the next five months. In October, we celebrated her 17th birthday. I bought her a birthday cake and a card. She was very touched and said that her folks wouldn't have gotten her a cake. We lived off my savings and spent practically every hour together, 24/7. I remember this caused a problem when I wanted to go out, alone, to get her birthday card. She was very suspicious of why I wanted to go out without her and got very jealous. I explained why, after I surprised her on her birthday. Because she was on a tourist visa, Michelle couldn't stay more than six months at a time. After New Year's, we started thinking about visiting her family, again. Her parents had moved to a smaller town in southwest Wales, called Llandovery. They invited us to come stay with them and in January, 1989, we flew back to Britain, again.
Because I had no income at the time, we were traveling on the cheap. No renting a car, this time. Her sister's husband, Jason, drove up from Wales in a van and picked us up at Gatwick Airport. I ended up riding in the back of a work van, for over two hours, back to Wales. It wasn't the most comfortable way to travel, but the price was right. Jason took us to Pontypridd, where Michelle's father met us. He then drove us to Llandovery, in a proper car. It was much more comfortable. Our route took us through the Breacon Beacons mountain range, which gave me some breathtaking views. Her father pointed out architectural and historical sites, along the way. Finally, we arrived in the small village of Llandovery. It had no traffic lights, no fast food restaurants, and no cinema. It did have the ruins of a castle and was the smallest village I had been to in all my life.
While Michelle had been in New York, with me, her father had bought a building in Llandovery. The bottom two floors housed one of his furniture retailing shops, while the upper floors had been renovated into living accommodations for the family. I pretty much expected that her parents would insist we sleep in separate bedrooms. After all, she was only 17. I was pleasantly surprised when we were led to a room on the top floor. Her parents had put a new, queen sized bed in it and her mother had new, white bed linen on it, trimmed in lace. It almost looked like a bridal suite. These people seemed to have very liberal attitudes. Michelle's father took me out for a drink at the local pub. I noticed he introduced me as Michelle's fiancee. Hmmmm...that was news to me. I guessed it was just a face saving measure, on his part.
Most of the residents of Llandovery seemed short. As I am just over six feet and Michelle, at five feet ten inches, always went out in three inch heels, we seemed like the tallest people around. Whether it was this, or something else, I noticed that people in the village kept starring at us, when we walked around. There were loads of farmers in the surrounding area and I saw more sheep during my stay there, than I had ever seen in my life. Almost all the buildings were old and the architecture of the village reminded me of an old country town from a Dracula movie. I imagined that, any minute, the villagers were going to drive us out of town with pitch forks, mistaking us for vampires or something.
The Welsh flag bears the image of a red dragon, which is a symbol of Wales. The red dragon also reminds me of Michelle, because she had a fiery personality. She could get quite jealous and was quick to lose her temper. She once got jealous over Jessica Rabbit, from the film, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," despite the fact that Jessica was only an animated drawing. The area around Llandovery seemed so alien to what I was used to, growing up in the suburbs of New York City. With ancient castles, old buildings, and legends of Merlin the magician and dragons having lived in the area, it was easy to get caught up in an almost storybook-like atmosphere. In a strange counterpoint to this, modern RAF Tornados used to fly low, over the village, on training missions. At the sound of jet engines, I would look up to see these aircraft screaming along, just over the rooftops. One day, Michelle's father was going to Pontypridd for the day, to check on his shop, there. Michelle and I went along. From Ponty, we took the bus to Cardiff and spent the afternoon in the Welsh capital. We visited Cardiff Castle, which is built on the ruins of a roman fort. There are places inside where you can see and touch the original roman walls.
After a three week stay, I had started to have my fill of the small country town. Michelle and I made plans to return to New York. The night before we were to leave, Michelle and I went out to dinner with her mother and father, at a fancy restaurant between Llandovery and a nearby town. Michelle wore a navy blue, minidress and off white, lace topped stockings. Navy blue is my favorite color and she looked as lovely as ever. When I had been going out with Kelley Bohland, in the early 80s, I made up a term, "princess class," to describe women of a quality that I would consider marrying. By this time, I was deeply in love with Michelle and despite the fact that her father introducing me as her fiancee had been a convenient lie to save face, the idea of marrying this fantastic girl was a seed that was growing in my mind. She was solidly in the princess class; a fiery, red dragon princess.

Artist of the Week: George Duke

This week, my Artist of the Week is George Duke. George was born in San Rafael, California, and grew up in Marin County. He started studying the piano at age seven. After exposure to music at his local Baptist church, he was heavily influenced by jazz musicians. By the time he had reached the age of sixteen, George had already played with a number of high school jazz groups. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree, from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and, later, a Masters Degree in Composition, from San Francisco State University.
George performed with a number of significant artists, such as Al Jarreau, Jean Luc-Ponty, Frank Zappa, Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Clarke, and Billy Cobham. In 1976, George became a solo artist and released several albums in the fusion style. In the late 70s, his combination of fusion and funk resulted in chart success, including a gold album, "Reach For It," in 1978. It was at that time that I first got into George's music, buying several of his albums. At that time, George also decided to make the move into producing. His first major success came with an album for the group, A Taste of Honey. His talents as a producer have been employed in projects with Jeffrey Osborne, Deniece Williams, Melissa Manchester, Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, Gladys Knight, and Anita Baker, amongst others. Duke has also scored several films and television shows.
George continues to perform and record music, today. You can check him out on Myspace, at: . I hope a new generation discovers this man's talent.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Leo Sayer Walks and the Second Big Brother Eviction

On Friday afternoon, Leo Sayer broke through one of the walls in the "Big Brother" house and left the show. Once the favorite to win the series, Leo was one of three housemates up for eviction on Friday night and was the likely one to be evicted. Leo lost it because Big Brother wouldn't provide him with more underpants. He was down to his last clean pair and refused to wash out the ones he'd already worn, in front of the TV cameras. By leaving, he has affected the outcome of the eviction. The eviction continued with just the two remaining nominees, Dirk Benedict and Carole Malone.
I was on edge, because I have bet money on Dirk to win the series. The departure of Leo increased the chance of Dirk being evicted. I needn't have worried. Carole was voted out, with 77.4% of the votes cast. If Leo hadn't walked out, he would have been evicted and Carole would still be in the house. I wonder how she feels about that? The wonderful Davina Mc Call, the "Big Brother" presenter, was wearing a fabulous pair of black, high heeled boots, on Friday. Davina almost always looks amazing. Another amazing thing is that Carole, a celebrity columnist for the "Daily Mirror," is the same age as me. Gee, she looks older. Age is so unkind to many women, especially British women. Dirk to win!

London Radio Shocker!!!

I have really fallen behind on my blogging. There's so much I want to tell you. I will try to catch up this weekend. I was listening to Opal Bonfante's "London Calling," late Thursday night into the early hours of Friday morning, while I worked on a blog article. All of a sudden, I hear Opal say it will be her last show on the Big L...EVER! I felt like I had to call her, so I dialed the studio line. It rang and rang, and rang, then rang off. I hit redial. It rang some more, then she finally answered. I greeted her by saying, "peaches." It's an affection term I started using over the last four years, with women I like. It's funny some of the things people come up with to say to people they like. In France, calling someone "little cabbage" is a term of endearment. I used to call my step-son, "Spud," which is a slang term for a potato. You can refer to someone as "the apple of my eye." What is it with the fruit and vegetable references? How about calling someone, "my little steak?" W. C. Fields used to say, "my little chickadee." Anyway, I digress.
Opal said, "it's true," as if reading my mind. She confirmed that she was quitting the Big L 1395AM and that the main reason was the interference, by new management, with her show. Those of you who have been reading this blog since September will recall that I wrote about management ruining Opal's show when it first happened (see "London Isn't Calling Anymore," September 18, 2006). The first change I noticed and complained about was that Opal was forbidden from taking calls from listeners anymore. I found that the most entertaining part of her show and not just because I was a regular caller featured on the show. In this day and age, when there are i-Pods and MP3s, I hardly need to listen to radio to hear music. I can play all the music I like on my computer, for example. I didn't listen to Opal for the music she played. It was her humor and her interactions with callers that was entertaining. Years ago, radio became formulaic. Management would determine the playlist and the DJs wouldn't do anything other than talk between music sets and make announcements. One radio show sounded like another and the DJ's creativity was diminished. In the extreme, some stations were automated, eliminating the DJ completely. That was one of the things that put me off becoming a radio DJ, myself. When I did club DJing, I got to pick the music sets myself. I think things have now come full circle, due to the new technologies. If radio is going to survive, DJs and presenters must be allowed to become personalities again. Their creative individuality must be released. Opal was doing that. The problem is management stuck in the past. Opal's new manager, Chris, killed off most of what made her show unique and compelling. He stopped her taking calls on air and ended the celebrity interviews. That's why I took to calling him, "Darth Chris." The only thing that seemed untouched was that she continued to be able to pick the music. At the time, I was disappointed that Opal didn't seem willing to fight for her show. It almost seemed like she was afraid of Darth Chris, or of getting fired.
Now, four months later, she was quitting over it. She announced her departure on the air, without giving management any notice, certainly a gutsy move. If she was willing to do that and felt that strongly about her show, why didn't she refuse to go along with the changes, back in September? Why not give management an ultimatum? Threaten to quit, unless the changes were reversed? Opal assured me that she has a new job, in television. She couldn't reveal the details yet, but it will keep her London based. She also continues to present for Gala TV, on Sky Channel 841. She vows that she will be back on radio somewhere, in the future. I will miss her doing radio, in the meantime. I won't be listening to the Big L anymore, as she was the only descent thing on the station. I hope Darth Chris is happy.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I Got Three Free Newspapers!

I had another audition, yesterday afternoon. On Wednesday, I received an email from the casting director for this TV drama. I had been booked for a 5PM audition, but when I read the email, it advised to arrive thirty minutes prior to the audition appointment. Having arranged to leave the restaurant a half hour early, I started worrying that this wouldn't be early enough to make it to central London by 4:30PM. Thinking how best to re-negotiate with the Restaurant Manager, so I could leave at 2:30, I finally approached him on Thursday and offered to work through my lunch break, in exchange for an earlier departure. He agreed, on the condition that enough of the work was done to enable Pritam, the Nepalese guy who helps me between 2:30 and 3:30, to finish on his own. That was a hard condition to meet, as the Head Chef had me peeling onions for an hour that morning, so I was really behind.
I worked hard and managed to get caught up, while missing out on my free afternoon meal. I ended up staying till 2:45, before I thought things were at the point where I could leave Pritam on his own. After changing clothes and walking to my car, it was practically 3PM before I got on the M3 towards London. Fortunately, traffic wasn't too bad and I managed to make it to where I park my car by 3:30PM. That left me with an hour to walk to the Tube Station, take the Tube to St. James Park, and find the address where the audition was being held. Things went my way again, as St. James Park turned out to be only five Tube stops from where I get the Tube, at Earls Court. I made it to the offices where the casting was being held by 4PM; a half hour early. Yeah, me early...that's a new one.
I was directed to a lounge where other hopeful actors and actresses waited. An assistant greeted me, in the lounge, and gave me a casting form and release to fill out. As I was early, she said she hoped I didn't mind waiting. Waiting I can do, I was just relieved to have made it there in time. Looking for a good place to sit, I picked a table where two guys were already sitting. One of them was a large, very muscular, black man, who looked like a body builder. The other one was a very short, thin, white guy, with dark hair. A few moments after I sat down, a forth person joined our table. This last addition was a moderately attractive woman, solidly in her thirties. She managed to start filling out her forms faster than I was. I noticed she opened a planner which had conversion formula in it. The casting form asked for our height and weight in metric measures. Oh for Pete's sake! I don't really do metric. I can deal deal with buying groceries in metric, as I just have to compare one item labeled metrically, with another. I'm still pissed off that the EU mandated that Britain adopt metric measurements for retailing, as I preferred pounds and ounces. Now I had to figure out how many bloody centimeters six feet and a half inch are. I waited for the woman to get past that part, then diplomatically, I asked if I could borrow her conversion table. She agreed and I now know that six feet and half an inch equals 184.15 centimeters.
Suddenly, the woman asked us what color her eyes are, so she could answer the eye color question. What the...? How could a thirty something woman not know what color her own eyes are? The little white guy said they were green...ish. The black guy countered with hazel. I wanted a look. The lighting wasn't that conducive. I tried looking with and without my glasses. "Grey-green," I suggested tentatively. They didn't look hazel, to me.
"Today, my eyes are green," she said. We all laughed at this. This sort of broke the tension and we all started talking. The black guy was ex-military and worked as some sort of engineer for BT (originally known as British Telecom). The little white guy also worked for BT, but at a desk. He and the black guy were friends, it turned out. Green eyes never told us what she did, but started asking the two guys from BT for advice about a problem with her phone. I concentrated on finishing my paperwork. Once I finished, I was able to join in the banter more. Somehow we started talking about writing. I told them I write this blog and let Green Eyes know she was going to be mentioned. She seemed more interested in talking with the other two. Hey, they aren't going to put you in a blog, sweetheart. The engineer said he had started writing several books, but never finished any of them. Green Eyes told us about some software she bought, which provides a template for writing a novel. I prefer writing it all myself, thank you very much. I asked her if the store which sells her software considers her their best customer, as this was the second software program she mentioned. In the course of the conversation, it started to occur to me that the little white guy was gay. I wonder how good friends he actually is with the engineer.
Eventually, the assistant came over and informed Green Eyes and the little white guy that they would be going to do their auditions. They left and it was just me, and the engineer. We talked about writing. Well, he did most of the talking. Anyone who knows me knows that I talk a lot. In an ironic role reversal, I could barely get a word in with this fellow. Eventually, I managed to say that I think writing this blog has been good discipline for me, writing every day. Perhaps, one day, I will finally be able to write a novel. In due course, the little white guy and Green Eyes came back. I discovered that the engineer had already done his audition and was just waiting for his "friend." How sweet. They said goodbye and I learned that the little guy was named, Dave. Then the engineer said, "goodbye Joseph."
That was odd. I hadn't told him my name. "How did you know my name?"
"That comes from being in the military," he said, smiling. I suspect he either read it off my casting form, or from my work ID, which I still had around my neck.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Darren," he said, shaking my hand. Then, I was on my own. There were a few other people spread about the lounge, but the numbers had dwindled.
Eventually, the assistant came over to me and said she'd be taking me up for my audition, soon. She pointed out a pretty, young, blond woman, who was sitting across the lounge, and said that I would be doing my audition with her. I looked at this woman and thought she would be a stereotypical, blond, pretty girl, who wants to be an actress. Probably stupid. She had been told she'd be auditioning with me, but paid me no attention whatsoever, the stuck up cow. When we were taken upstairs, we were told to wait, sitting in some chairs in a hallway. The blond asked the assistant some questions and it was then that I noticed her accent. She sounded eastern European. At least I wasn't the only foreigner. I started talking with her, as we sat, and asked where she was from.
"Russia," she answered. Oh, this was getting interesting.
"Where in Russia?"
"I went to university in St. Petersburg," she said. I told her that I wanted to visit Russia, one day. I told her I was from America and she asked what part. When I informed her, that I was from New York, her interest seemed to increase a notch. Playing the New York card is often useful. It's great being from someplace everybody's heard of.
"So, what brought you to England?" I asked.
"After university," she said (with a heavy Russian accent), "I wanted to improve my English."
"Hey, it's a lot better than my Russian," I quipped.
She smiled at that and added, "then I just stayed."
"How long have you been acting?"
"Three years," she replied. Damn, she was more experienced than me. I asked her if she got a lot of work. She said she sometimes get quite a bit, then there are times when it's quiet.
"So, do you do anything else, besides acting?" It didn't sound like she was working at acting enough to live on.
"Yes," she answered. "I am a journalist for a Russian newspaper." Wow! I was impressed. Her eyes were set apart on her head a bit, maybe in a Slavic kind of way. That probably added to the impression of being dumb, when viewed across the room.
Finally, it was our turn. We were taken into a room with a video camera and the casting director. Why does it seem like a lot of casting directors are women? I had flirted with the casting director on the phone, when I just thought she was one of the girls in the office. She took still photographs of us, then started videotaping us, separately, at first. We had to tell a little about ourselves and I learned that the Russian girl is named, Marina. Marina said she had stayed in the UK because she got married. Darn. Then she said she is divorced, now. Hey, how suddenly the day can turn sunny. We ended up doing some improvisation. For the first part, Marina and I had to act as boyfriend and girlfriend. Hey, this acting thing can be a lot of fun. Then we had to act as if we were brother and sister. I think I preferred the boyfriend and girlfriend part. When we finished the improvisation, the audition was over. The casting director said they would be in touch, if they want to use us.
I walked downstairs with Marina. When we got outside, I offered to walk with her and asked which way she was going. She said she had to make a phone call first, indicating that she wanted to do so privately. Probably calling her boyfriend. I wished her success and she wished me luck. Then I headed for the Tube.
On the way in, I had picked up a free London paper on the Tube. There were two others I wanted. I had seen people reading "Metro" and I wanted a copy, as it had an interesting headline. It's hard to get a "Metro" in the evening, as most distributors seem to be out. It's easy to get a "London Lite" and a "thelondonpaper," which is the one I had picked up on the way in. While riding the District Line back to where my car was parked, a seat became vacant. As I sat down, I found a "Metro" and a "London Lite," on the seat. Now I had all three free papers. That almost makes up for not getting to walk with Marina.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The First Eviction From Celebrity Big Brother 2007

I originally wrote this article yesterday, but there was something wrong with the Myspace blogging program, so I couldn't publish it then. That's why I didn't publish any blog yesterday. Anyway, I raced home after my audition, last night, so I could catch the first eviction from "Celebrity Big Brother," 2007. I wasn't too surprised that the evictee was Jade's mother, Jackiey. She was rude, loud, and had already driven two celebrities off the show. She can't even spell her name right. It seems that a number of the viewers had enough of her.
It was a surprise eviction and none seemed more surprised than Jade. Her mother was called into the diary room and informed there, while the other housemates watched on the plasma screen, in the house. When Big Brother stated that Jackiey had to leave immediately, without saying goodbye to anyone, Jade started crying. Later, in the diary room, Jade said she would never forgive "Big Brother" for the way they evicted her mum. What Jade doesn't seem to get is that the surprise eviction wasn't just staged for her mother. Five other housemates were secretly up for eviction, in addition to Jade's mum. It was the voting public who decided whom was to be evicted, not "Big Brother. Anyway, the farting, swearing, loud woman is gone now. Who will be next?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Supermarket Jackpot

I had originally planned on stopping at Tesco on the way home from work, yesterday, but when I got out of work, I went to get my hair cut. By the time I was finished at the barber's, I didn't feel like shopping. Never do now what you can put off till tomorrow, I always say. So, I put off shopping till today. For once, things worked out in my favor.
The last time I went shopping was Friday. I went to the Tesco on the other side of town that time. On the way out of the car park (parking lot), after shopping, some dope in a van stopped at an intersection in the car park, with his vehicle halfway into the oncoming traffic lane. I was waiting to turn right into that lane, which is the most direct route out of the car park. The twat in the van could have turned left, which would have taken him into the first lane of parking, but he couldn't go straight as my car was in the way. Instead of turning, so we could both get on with it, he just sat there. I have very little patience for idiots, so after waiting for him to move, I turned my car anyway and pulled up next to him. He had passed a car stopped in the lane he should have been in, but hadn't moved completely back over. His van was on a slight angle. I thought that when he saw me turn, he'd go where ever he wanted to go, as he was now free to go straight ahead, or turn left. That would have been the clever thing to do, but he must not have been too clever. So instead of moving on, he rolled down his driver's side window. I responded by rolling down mine. I said, "could you please move, so we can both be on our way?"
Instead of taking the hint, he shouted something about getting out and punching me out. He looked about half my size. Why do guys half my size keep trying to pick fights with me? "Come on then, get out," I said. The funny thing was that our vehicles were so close to each other, he couldn't open his door. He had to move forward of my car to clear his door. Once he moved, my way was clear and I drove off. Much as I would have enjoyed giving this jerk a smack, I couldn't be bothered. Besides, he had some boy in the van with him. I presume it was his son, although it might have been some kid he picked up while trolling schoolyards. It's best not to have witnesses for such altercations.
After I pulled off, the smart thing for this dipstick to do was park and go do his shopping. Not this fellow. He drives around the next lane in the car park and tries to catch up to me. Luckily for him, as I said earlier, I couldn't be bothered. I noticed what he was trying to do and increased my rate of travel. If this twat thought he was going to catch me, he had another thing coming. I was driving a BMW 730i, three liter V-8, 200 horsepower, fuel injected, ultimate driving machine. He was in an underpowered, British van. As I moved out onto the local roads, the only thing making it a contest was the slow traffic in front of me. At the first opportunity, I put the pedal to the floor. The BMW, five speed automatic downshifted and the V-8 roared to life. After overtaking the slower cars, I planned a route towards some high speed roads, where I could lose the twat. I didn't want him following me home and then coming back later to vandalize my car. The German car I was driving made short work of his poxy van and soon, he was nowhere in site.
Because of this little adventure, I figured it was better to shop at the big Tesco, near work, today. Anybody moronic enough to try pursuing me through the Berkshire countryside, just so I could kick his ass, was probably the type to look for my car in the Tesco parking lot. It turned out to be a good thing I did. When I went to pick up some cole slaw, I discovered the higher quality Tesco cole slaw was marked down, because it had reached it's sell by date. A 600 gram container was only ten Pence. Normally, I paid thirty-eight Pence for 500 grams of Tesco Value cole slaw, which isn't as good. There was a goofy, middle aged woman in front of the cole slaw, with what looked to be her son, debating whether to buy any. The son was in favor of it, but the woman was arguing against it, as it was at the sell by date and she didn't think they could use it up right away. Oh for Pete's sake! It's the sell by date, not the use by date. I wished they would have their debate somewhere else, so the rest of us could buy some. Sometimes, there are advantages to being over six feet tall. As she leaned over to pick up a container out of her trolley, I reached over her and grabbed four containers as fast as I could. She may have wanted to pass up such a deal, but I didn't. After placing the four containers of cole slaw in my bachelor basket, I noticed that the Tesco premium potato salad was marked down, as well. I grabbed four containers of that, as well. Such a deal"! It was like winning the lottery, or something.
My good fortune continued as I next found a package of Tesco beansprout stir fry mix marked down to only twenty-four Pence, from its normal sixty-nine. Then I discovered some name brand, quilted toilet paper on sale, nine rolls for only £1.84. Frozen sweetcorn was in stock. I also picked up some Tesco hot dogs and Tesco Value peanuts. At the checkout, I had estimated my total at about £7. When the cashier finished ringing my purchases up, I had only spent £5.37. I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I love it when a plan comes together. Oh, I think I have been watching too much of Dirk Benedict on "Celebrity Big Brother." I'm starting to quote "A Team" lines. Yes, I know that was Hannibal's line, not the Faceman's.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Oldest On Celebrity Big Brother

Another housemate has walked out of "Celebrity Big Brother." Ken Russell, a film director, left the show on Sunday. At 79, he was the oldest housemate. Now that he's quit, Dirk Benedict becomes the oldest, at 61. Ken claimed he was a big fan of the show and that being in the house was a lifetime ambition. Given that, he sure didn't last long He also has the same astrological sign as me. Could there be a connection? I wouldn't walk off "Big Brother." As I am backing Dirk Benedict, Ken leaving puts Dirk one step closer to winning. As we are the same sign, I wonder if Ken would put me in any films?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Artist of the Week: James Brown.

After listening to music for hours, I decided to select James Brown as my Artist of the Week, this week. He died in December 25th, so he won't be recording any more albums or touring. It seems like an appropriate time to pay tribute to the Godfather of Soul. He had a prolific music career, which included contributions as a singer, songwriter, band leader, and record producer. He liked to refer to himself as "the hardest working man in show business."
Born in Barnwell, South Carolina, on May 3, 1933, his family later moved to nearby Augusta, Georgia. At birth, he was named James Joseph Brown, Jr, but later had his name legally changed to drop the Junior. His middle name was the same as my first name. How cool is that? He started his professional music career in 1953 and was still working right up until the time of his death, last month. In November, 2006, he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame and performed live at the ceremony. He was still touring in 2006, at the age of 73.
Some people have criticized him for problems in his personal life. He had numerous run-ins with the law, during his life and been accused of domestic violence. Brown has also been implicated in illegal drug use. He was married four times. Despite these problems, James Brown made a phenomenal contribution to the world of music. For the moment, with his recent death still fresh in our memories, I think he should be honored for his work, rather than chided for his faults. You can check out his Myspace at: .

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Celebrity Big Brother

On Wednesday, "Celebrity Big Brother" 2007 started. I didn't watch it as I was otherwise engaged. I was curious as to who was in the house. The most interesting contestants, for me, are Jermaine Jackson, brother of Michael Jackson, and Dirk Benedict, star of the original "Battlestar Galactica" and "The A-Team." They are known the world over. Last year, I heard a radio interview of Dirk and I thought he sounded very easy going. He also had a good sense of humor and seemed to be able to laugh at himself. Dirk seemed modest, which is an endearing quality in a celebrity. I am going out on a limb and backing Dirk to win the series. I even stopped at a bookie's on the way home from work, Friday, and put a bet on him to win. Anyone who doesn't know him from "The A-Team," which is popular in Britain, might grow to like him over the next few weeks. One cool thing about Britain, as compared to America, is that bookies are legal throughout the UK. If America is truly the land of the free, why isn't gambling legal everywhere, not just in Nevada and Atlantic City? Anyway, I have caught up with the show, yesterday and today. Already, one housemate, Donny Tourette, frontman of the band, Towers of London (no, I had never heard of him either), has walked off the show. That puts Dirk one step closer to winning.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A British Girl in New York: the Michelle Story Part 3

Sounds like a Sting song. "She's an alien...she's a legal alien, she's a British girl in New York." It would work better if she was English, but she isn't, she's Welsh. A lot of Americans won't have a clue what "Welsh" is. I didn't, before I got to know Michelle. Wales is a principality, which is part of the United Kingdom, but a separate country from England. It lies on the western side of the island of Great Britain, on the side closest to Ireland. The Welsh are a Celtic people and maintain their own language. For example, the Welsh word for Wales is "Cymru."
After Michelle arrived in New York for the first time, in June of 1988, I told her that she could use my phone to call her family and let them know she had arrived safely. She didn't seem at all anxious to take up my offer. On Saturday morning, the day after she arrived, I again suggested that she call her family. Although she claimed to have told her family that she was going to America, I started having doubts. "What exactly did you say to your parents, when you let them know you were coming?" I asked her.
"Where are the dollars?" she replied.
Uh oh. That's not the same as saying, "I am going to New York, to visit this guy I met." I insisted that she call someone. She called her older sister. It was good she did. Her parents were starting to panic. They had no idea where she was and had considered contacting the police. She'd taken her father's stash of American money and come to New York, without telling them exactly where she was going. I insisted that she call her parents and she did. I even ended up speaking to her father, on the phone. I explained to him that I had absolutely no idea that she hadn't made them aware that she was traveling to New York. I also pointed out to him that I had insisted that she call and let her family know she was alright. I didn't want him to think that I had been encouraging Michelle not to tell them things, or anything like that. He said that one of their main concerns is that they didn't know me. I said that I understood how that might cause them concern. Remembering the Sade concert tickets I had, for a concert in London, later in the month, I explained that I would be returning to the UK with Michelle, in two weeks, as we were going to a show in London then. I said I would personally drive Michelle to Wales, from London, and be happy to meet her parents, so we could get to know each other. That seemed to satisfy him, for the moment and it was agreed.
Now that the parental crisis was abated, I enjoyed taking Michelle around. As I had been fired form my job, I had lots of free time. During that first week, I decided to take Michelle to one of the beautiful, white sand beaches on Long Island. Before heading to the beach, we stopped at a local department store, Modell's, in East Meadow, to buy some beach towels, a cooler and some other items. At one point, Michelle went to look at sunglasses, or something. While we were separated like that, I happened to run into two guys from my former job, who were taking a break. My old office was only about five minutes drive from Modell's. I explained to them that I was at the store with my new girlfriend and that we were going to the beach. All of a sudden, one of them spots Michelle walking toward us. He tapped the other one on the arm and they stared at her, like guys will do at attractive women. One of them said, "wow, look at her." The hadn't yet realized that this was the girlfriend I was referring to.
Innocently, I said, "that's my girlfriend."
"Yeah, right," they said, sarcastically. They thought I was lying. The look on their faces when Michelle walked up to me and I introduced her was priceless. Their jaws dropped open and they were stunned. I felt amused as Michelle and I walked out, arm in arm. Certainly, they would go back to the office and tell everyone.
To give you an idea of how Michelle looked, she is a lot like the actress, Kelly LeBrock, who was in "The Woman in Red" and "Weird Science." Their noses are different. Michelle is five feet, ten inches tall and if she wore three inch heels, which she often did, that would result in her being a half an inch taller than me. One day, we were walking down a street in Manhattan, going in the same direction as the traffic. Eventually, I noticed that the cars were moving more slowly. I looked behind us and I saw that many of the drivers who were male were looking at her, as we walked. This distraction was forcing them to drive slower. This girl was literally stopping traffic. I got a little spring in my step, thinking, "yeah fellas, she's with me."