Category Archives: Life as I Know it


Column: One more thing before I go

This will be the final edition of “Life As I Know It” and the last edition of the Review on which I will serve as deputy editor.

After two years with Home Town Media Group, the parent company of this newspaper, I am moving on to another opportunity, but, before I go, I thought I’d use our last visit together in this space to make the one thing I’ve learned in my time here, above all others, perfectly clear in the hope someone within reach of these words will read them and take them to heart.

It’s never too late.

Two years ago, I was in a pretty bad place. I hadn’t worked a job outside my home in 12 years and the fiction career I’d left the workforce to pursue had stagnated practically before it began. I didn’t like myself much anymore, certainly didn’t like my life very much at all at that point, and felt more like a kept househusband than I did anything else. My choices and my failure to execute them put a strain on me, on my wife, on our marriage; everything.

That was the low point.

The conversation in which we decided I should return to work, in whatever capacity, was one of the most difficult I’ve ever had. Between you and I, reaching out in an attempt to get a reporter job with the Review was something I did basically as a formality. There’s no way, I thought, I’d ever get a shot in journalism, which was something I wanted to do, something everyone told me I was good at, as far back as high school, which, at that point, was 20 years earlier.

Twenty years.

You have to prove yourself to get a journalism job. No one tells you that in the want ad, but you do. I had to prove myself to get that job reporting on the Village and Town of Mamaroneck in September 2012 by writing a news story concerning something about which I knew nothing, the county’s waste water treatment plant on the Boston Post Road in Mamaroneck.

I did it, though, and I got the job. And then things got exponentially harder.

We may have discussed this here once before, but journalism, when done correctly, is something you have to do on the front lines, so to speak. You have to put yourself, whether physically or interpersonally, in a position to get what you need to write the best story and inform the public. That’s often uncomfortable and, if you’re not used to it, it can be pretty daunting.

If you haven’t worked outside your house in 12 years, or really in an office ever, it can seem impossible. And it did.

My first week or so on the job here as a reporter was the most difficult period of my life. I could not have been any further out of my comfort zone than if I was a missionary in Zimbabwe, which might have been preferable after I had trouble gathering man on the street quotes my second day.

In those early days I was never comfortable, I was never happy and I didn’t feel like I was me anymore.

And then I was comfortable, and I was happy, and I wasn’t me anymore. I was someone better.

Proving myself as a reporter, then as an editor, is the hardest, best thing I’ve ever done and I’m grateful to everyone who made those opportunities possible.

Here are three of them.

First, Review publisher Howard Sturman, who twice in my two years here showed confidence in my value to the company in the best way a publisher can. I thank him for that.

Second, former Editor-in-Chief Mark Lungariello, who was the guy who gave me that opportunity to prove myself as a reporter and who, in doing so, picked me up off the scrap heap of the life I had and let me through the door to make the transition to this new one. I’ll always be grateful for that chance and I’m happy to call Mark my friend today.

Finally, I’ll mention current Review Editor-in-Chief Christian Falcone. I have never worked harder or closer with anyone in my life and I think the victories we’ve had are some of the most rewarding I’ve ever experienced.

Chris and I will be the first two guys to tell you we are almost nothing alike, but we’re both Yonkers guys, we both care deeply about your newspaper and we found enough common ground to establish a base we’ve expanded into the best working relationship I’ve ever had. Chris gave me enough room, and enough faith, to transform the deputy editor role with this company into something it has never been and it was my honor to work alongside him to put this newspaper into your hands for the last year and half.

I consider Chris my friend, and I’ll miss working with him.

And I’ll also miss you. Writing this column was fun, and I especially enjoyed communicating with some of you directly when one of our visits here struck you for one reason or another. It was nice to know you were out there reading and I appreciated your time.

Two years ago, I was a would’ve-been writer with just about nothing to show for 12 years of his life. As I type these last few words to you, I’m a professional journalist on the way to a new opportunity in the field with one novella published and another on the way.

It’s not always easy, but it’s never too late.



Column: The power of the punched key

Jason-Column2As journalists, particularly East Coast journalists, we’re usually expected to worship at one, or both, of two alters, Woodward and Berstein and Jimmy Breslin.

For my part, I can say I’ve always loved the idea that the road to President Nixon’s resignation began not with two crusading journalists looking to bring him down, but with a simple break-in at Washington D.C.’s Watergate hotel and office complex, about which Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were two of the eight staff writers who contributed to the initial story under their colleague Alfred E. Lewis’ byline.

Later, Woodward and Bernstein were assigned to follow the burglary story. Just two metro reporters on a police beat story. Pretty sure you know the rest.

I’ve also always been fascinated with Breslin’s involvement with the Son of Sam murders in New York City. The fact that serial murderer David Berkowitz addressed Breslin, a noted investigative crime reporter at the time, directly in a 1977 letter while in the midst of his crimes, while twisted, is an undeniable testament to the power of the press and the relationship the printed word, and the people who type it, can have with the communities those words chronicle.

So, those are two quite famous real world examples of what can happen in this business, but, as you may know, I am a pop culture nerd on a few fronts, so here are a few more examples of journalists I admire.

Dutton Peabody,
The Shinbone Star

In 1962, John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” maybe the first deconstructionist western, was released. One of the supporting heroes is Dutton Peabody, played to the hilt by Edmond O’Brien, who is, as he puts it, founder, owner, publisher and the man who sweeps out the office of The Shinbone Star, lone newspaper in a small frontier town. Unfortunately, the town is under siege by a group of outlaws led by the particularly despicable Liberty Valance, played by Lee Marvin. When Valance’s gang, representing the interests of local cattle barons, tries to bully the people of Shinbone out of considering joining the effort for territorial statehood, Peabody manages to pierce his drunken haze long enough to write articles rallying the public to reject the barons and their terrorist arm.

Of course, Valance’s gang destroys the Star office and beats Peabody nearly to death, but he later becomes a delegate to the convention considering statehood, which is eventually achieved. Power of the press.

Doesn’t hurt to have Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne on your side, either.

Carl Kolchak, INS wire
service, Chicago bureau

After stops in Las Vegas and Seattle, investigative reporter Kolchak—the wonderful Darren McGavin—settled in Chicago, where he proceeded to ferret out stories about everything from vampires, to werewolves, to defrosted caveman, to androids in the 1974 television series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.” The show only lasted one season, but it’s the modern definition of the cult series. Armed with nothing but a camera, a tape recorder, guile and a willingness to believe, Kolchak, in his trademark seersucker suit and straw pork pie hat, pursued leads and cases the police either refused to or ignored. Although they and his long-suffering editor never quite believed him, Kolchak was always right about the bogeymen he chased, and who chased him, and there’s a lot to admire in that kind of dogged pursuit of the truth.

Even if the truth is a man-sized lizard.

Clark Kent, The Daily Planet

This one is a bit of a cheat as I haven’t seen all that much of “The Adventures of Superman,” the 50’s TV series starring George Reeves as big blue, but I am aware of an episode, I believe early in the series, in which a gangster—this Superman didn’t really have a Lex Luthor or a Brainiac to battle—says he’s as afraid, perhaps even more so, of Clark Kent and his typewriter as he is of Superman.

If the poor sap only knew the truth.

Think of that statement though. This guy, whose life was dedicated to doing wrong, feared a determined reporter and what his words could do as much as he did Superman, who, though he never would, could kill with a finger flick.

Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.



Column: The politics of location, location, location

Jason-Column2They say—they know everything, don’t they—they say, in real estate, the three most important factors are location, location and location. As a knower of a few things myself, I’d throw timing into that mix as well because, as we’ve all seen, the real estate market can be a place for buyers or a place for sellers depending on what else is going on in the economy.

I think the same principles can be applied to local politics as, in some places, the upcoming election season is a very different one than what we witnessed last year while, in others, some things never seem to change.

Just last year, we saw a rather bitter race to become Rye City’s next mayor. After incumbent Doug French, a Republican, decided not to seek re-election, his political ally and deputy mayor, Peter Jovanovich, sought to replace him. But the Rye Republicans had other plans, nominating Councilman Joe Sack, a near-constant rival of French and Jovanovich, to be the next mayor.

After Rye’s Democratic Party decided not to even try for the mayor’s seat, fielding only two City Council candidates, Jovanovich took up his own cause with an independent bid for mayor.

Then, just for some added fun, Archie Comics co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit threw her hat in the ring with a do-it-yourself independent campaign.

In the end, Sack defeated Jovanovich handily and Silberkleit was a non-factor. Sack’s Rye United ticket swept into office and things have been much quieter on the Rye City Council dais this year. Citizen French has remained largely quiet since leaving office and the vanquished Jovanovich has scarcely been seen in political circles since last Election Day.

Perhaps as a result of all this, things in Rye couldn’t be more different for this year’s election.

There are only two council seats in play this year, those of councilmen Slack and Mecca, Richards both, who were appointed by new Mayor Sack to fill his seat on the council as well as that of Catherine Parker, who is now a county legislator.

The Rye Democratic Party appears to be playing small ball again this year. So small, in fact, it has crossed the aisle and endorsed Slack and Mecca to retain their appointed seats. No independents this time around, so both Rye Richards are all but guaranteed to serve out Sack’s and Parker’s unexpired terms on the council.

Isn’t it nice when we all get along? For now.

Speaking of everyone getting along, I’ll remind you now Rye City shares a border with Mamaroneck.

I’ve been at your newspaper for three elections in the Village of Mamaroneck, each bitterer than the last. In 2012, I covered the race as a reporter when, after all three Democrats on the Board of Trustees decided not to seek re-election, the race between six new candidates came down to conflicting election night numbers and an eventual sweep for the new Dems on the block.

Last year, Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican and as much a political lightning rod as there could ever be on the local level, fended off a challenge from Democrat Clark Neuringer in a campaign that focused on waterfront development and even dragged The Mamaroneck Review into the mix after a misleading Republican campaign flyer made its way through the village.

Republican Trustee Louis Santoro also won re-election last year, squeaking by Democratic newcomer Kerry Stein. If the village Democratic Party is smart, it’ll make sure village voters hear from Stein again someday.

With Rosenblum safe in the mayor’s seat this year, one might think things wouldn’t be as bitter as they were last year, or at least only as bitter as they were in 2012 with three trustee seats in play.

Enter Andres Bermudez Hallstrom.

One of the three Democrats who swept into office in 2012, Bermudez Hallstrom was left off the party’s slate this year after a history of voting counter to the party’s positions, particularly as relates to the waterfront. The party replaced Bermudez Hallstrom with newcomer Dave Finch, but the incumbent trustee is not taking thanks, but no thanks for an answer. Bermudez Hallstrom has won the right to primary for a spot on the Democratic ticket and, come Sept. 9, someone, be it Finch, Bermudez Hallstrom, or one of the other incumbents—Ilissa Miller and Leon Potok—is going to be on the outside looking in on general Election Day when the Democrats face off with the Republican slate.

One of whom is a registered Democrat, by the way.

Two communities, two years, two completely different political landscapes and tenors, all within a few square miles; the view from your newspaper is an interesting one, but you have to love politics to really appreciate it.

I do, and so I do.



Column: Time marches on and tramples my heart

I’m a movie nerd. I think we’ve established that in this space before. But you should know, I’m not just a let’s go see “The Expendables 3” at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers or hey, cool, “Boyhood” is playing in Bronxville movie nerd. I’m also a wow, the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville is showing Godard’s “Contempt,” spend my late nights watching Warner Bros. Torchy Blane B pictures from the 30’s movie nerd.

It’s important you know these things because, if you don’t, you won’t understand how devastating the next sentence is going to be for me to write.

On Monday, I found out this will be the final year of publication for film critic Leonard Maltin’s annual movie guide.

I am devastated.

Dating back to my mid-teens, some 25 years ago, much of what I’ve learned, explored, compared and been inspired to watch has come from that book. That book is the reason I love actors like Barton MacLane and Peter Lorre. That book is the reason I love movies like “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” and “Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter.”

That book is part of what makes me me.

As early as 1993, buying “the Leonard Maltin book” was a holiday for me; it happened right around Aug. 18, my best friend’s birthday.

Only just now, writing that sentence, did I realize I found out about the book’s demise on Monday, Aug. 18.

This is getting to be too much to take.

Why is my annual holiday being canceled? Why is “Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide” ending after 45 years? Simple; people can go to the Internet Movie Database and look up pretty much anything about any movie, TV show, actor, actress, director, screenwriter, best boy or key grip that has ever existed. For free.

So, that’s good, right? Shouldn’t the Maltin book have died at least a few years ago? What have we been paying for since IMDB rounded into shape on the ‘net?

I’d say the passion, the obvious love and the meticulous attention to the last detail involved in curating the book Maltin and his editors put into their efforts every year. I’d say we were paying for the opportunity to flip through the book to see the reviews for the new releases we’d seen in the last year; see if we agree with our bible. I’d say we paid for the feeling we got knowing we’d never read every entry no matter how many years we bought the book.

We paid for the feeling we held an entire universe in our hands, and there would always be another corner to discover and explore.

But I guess there aren’t enough of us left willing to pay for those things. Today, I guess, it’s more than enough to go to a website, to a search bar, and hope a collective of nameless, faceless contributors have got it right.

I know IMDB has its value, and I believe the people who shape its facts are very likely the same sort of people who both contributed to Leonard Maltin’s book and dutifully purchased and pored through it each year. I hope that’s true, just like I hope there may yet be a way to port the book that’s been so dear to me for most of my life over to a digital form so it might live on in some way. That might be a nice compromise for those of us who still care deeply about the things Maltin’s book has stood for all these years.

You know, I was going to mention somewhere in this column that when I worked at Tower Video in the early 90’s there was a regular customer who came in one night and, when he couldn’t remember something about a particular film turned to us behind the counter and said, “Where’s your Maltin? Give me your Maltin.” We had one, of course, and I thought I’d use that as an example of how compulsory this book has been for the true movie fan.

And then I realized not only will there no longer be a “Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide” after this year, there hasn’t been a Tower Video since 2006 or any video store at all since not much longer after that.

And I think that’s why this hurts so much. The Leonard Maltin book is something that linked my past to my present, and I thought it would be there in my future, too. But it won’t be, and so time marches on, as it always does, whether we like it or we don’t.

This time I don’t.



Column: I hate traffic. No, like, really a lot

Jason-Column2Let me tell you how I feel about being caught in traffic and then you can decide whether or not I’m a sociopath.

That’ll be a fun game, right?

When I’m caught in traffic, particularly on a weekend, particularly over the last two or so years, it doesn’t just frustrate me, as I assume it does you, it offends me. Every car around mine compounds my righteous indignation, and if the drivers of those cars don’t seem as angry and frustrated as I am, it makes me more angry and more frustrated.

Who are these people, these lesser beings, for whom this backup strewn across the Tappan Zee Bridge is not the worst of affronts?

If you’re not going to be part of finding a solution to this tangle of windows and tires that involves ramming and bellows, you’re part of the problem.

After I establish my hatred for everyone around me, the next thing I like to do when caught in traffic is blame the road itself and here you and I may find some common ground to curse. For example, I’m convinced if I were to venture out onto the Cross Bronx Expressway at, say, 3:15 a.m. on a Tuesday in March, it would be bumper-to-bumper from Bay Plaza to the George Washington Bridge.

I’ve never tested that theory, but how can anyone who has ever driven on that horrendous slab of elevated disaster come to any other conclusion but it was conceived and designed specifically to keep people from getting anywhere?

Whatever the real idea and conception behind the Cross Bronx was, it’s long since outlived that usefulness or ability to cope with what the world throws at it. But no one seems to care.

I think that’s what gets me about stuff like this. No one seems to care. We all just accept traffic when it happens. At least, that’s what it looks like to the lunatic who most often occupies the driver’s seat of my car.

Another example, this one closer to home. No matter what day of the week, nay, what day of the year, it is, if I leave the Review’s Port Chester office any earlier than 7 p.m., I know that I simply cannot take the Hutchinson River Parkway back to my Yonkers co-op.


Because the Hutch is a crawl from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for no other reason than it is ill equipped to handle the volume we throw at it from I-287, the Merritt Parkway and I-684.

Two interstates and another two-lane highway all filtering into the Hutch’s two lanes round about White Plains. Come on, man, who thought that was a good idea?

So, in order to keep from hating the very air around me by the time I get home, I usually take the Bronx River
Parkway or I-95.

The hapless, overwhelmed Hutch doesn’t even get a look in the morning. Forget it. It’s the Sprain Brook Parkway to 287 for me.

That’s definitely what gets me when it comes to volume-based traffic. Once we all recognize the problem, why doesn’t anyone in a position to do so say, hey, you want to fix this, or what?

It seems no one ever does that, and so a trip from White Plains to Yonkers on the Hutch during rush hour will run you 45 minutes to an hour of your life. Enjoy.

Worst of all for me, I think, is accident traffic because, and this is definitely a confession, I find myself increasingly angry with those involved.

All traffic accidents, I’ve decided, are the result of one or more drivers doing something careless and/or foolish and/or idiotic. I guess that’s why they call them accidents, but that, to me, rarely seems like a strong enough word. In this day of phone calls and texts while driving—to say nothing of old stand-bys like eating and staring at the radio while adjusting it—I feel like so-called accidents are more often actually acts of aggressive reverse Darwinism.

I’m not doing that stuff. Why is my life at risk from those who do?

Taking my line of thinking and feeling on this issue to its ghoulish zenith, I’m someone who, when faced with a mystery highway traffic jam, has been heard to say something along the lines of there better be a body or two at the head of this to make it worth my while.

And that’s the point at which I need to back off.

Because sometimes, people do lose their lives on the road. Lots of times, actually. Within the past week, three people have been killed in highway accidents on both sides of the Tappan Zee Bridge, and, whatever the cause of those accidents, the deaths of those people transcends, trumps, and, in every other way conceivable, surpasses, my anger and frustration over having to wait a bit longer to get to the Woodbury Commons outlets on a Saturday.

Last week, I drove past the scene of the accident on the northbound Sprain just in time to see emergency workers using a crane to haul a car up from the embankment near the reservoir in Yonkers after the driver lost control and flipped the car off the road. The entire roof of the car was pancaked in and I thought there’s no way anyone could have survived.

But the driver did; bumps and bruises.

Be that as it may, I was my typical teed-off self during the slow crawl leading to that accident, but seeing that car in that state was sobering.

Sometimes people don’t make it where they’re going. I should remember that.



Column: I’m probably about halfway there now

Jason-Column2Last week, I told you I should write a whole column just about aging one of these weeks. That week is this week.

As I believe I’ve bemoaned in this space before, I’m going to turn 40 later this year. That means, if I’m lucky, my life is probably about half over or, if I keep eating the odd Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese from the frozen section as I did last night, I’m more than halfway on my way off this mortal coil as I type these words to you.

I’ve always hated the prospect of turning 40. It just seems like an age with no discernable traits other than to remind the bearer his or her life is cresting and it’s all downhill from here.

Other than that, 40 has no feel.

Twenty has a feel; it’s when you think you’ve become an adult and the whole world is out there, ready to lay down for you.

Thirty has a feel. If you’re smart, it’s when you actually become an adult and realize the world isn’t here for you, neither are you here for it and it’s up to you to find a way to claw out a niche for yourself somewhere.

I wasn’t smart; that didn’t happen for me until I was 37.

I even think 50 will have a positive feel. I’ve always seen 50 as a strong, solid number. It’s a round number, it’s our second-highest denomination of common currency; it’s an age I’ve thought would feel quite virile, for whatever reason.

Of course, I have trouble staying up past 11 without falling asleep on the couch as it is, so I’m not sure how virile my version of 50 is going to be.

I think maybe, by then, I’ll have found the time to get pretty fit again. As I mentioned here last week during our discussion about Captain Kirk, I’ve always loved the idea of the aging, but still potent and capable, action hero.

Remember, I also got hooked on Mack Bolan pulp novels recently. He’d be about 65 if he aged as the series has progressed.

And I always loved Jack LaLanne. So much so, I based a character in a fantasy/adventure novel I wrote before we met on him.

I even like the Expendables movies, partly for this reason.

By the way, I like “The Expendables.” There, I said it.

Anyway, yeah; 40. True middle age. I don’t feel ready for it and I don’t really want it to happen.

My wife turned 40 earlier this year, so those waters have been tested. She says it feels no different, but she also runs marathons. What the hell does she know? Looks like I’m going to have to see this one for myself.

Oh, I’m also the old guy in the office. Have I mentioned that? I remember Betamax and Atari computers. Not video game consoles; Atari computers. I remember TVs that sat on the floor as furniture, and I went to Adventurers at Cross County in Yonkers. I remember air raid drills in elementary school. I know who Richard Burton was.

For that matter, I know who Richard Barthelmess was, but I guess I’m an unusual case.

Point is, few, if anyone else, around me at your newspaper, at least on the editorial side of things, know or did any of those things above, let alone all of them. There’s nothing worse sometimes than being surrounded by a bunch of 20 somethings to whom you may as well be a visitor from another planet.

A cold, long-dead planet.

Being the old guy has its advantages though. I walked in the door of your newspaper knowing a thing or three about how the world works and how the people in it tend to be. That’s a definite advantage when you’re a reporter, especially one who’s just starting out.

Plus, I get to be a bit of a sage pretty regularly. That’s always fun.

Saying that, I’ll always be grateful to a former reporter here who was 43 when I walked into the newsroom at 37. That helped.

I guess I’m going to just have to wait and see if 40 has a better feel than I think it’s going to. I sort of wish I could take the few drops of youth I feel I have left and skip ahead to 50 and apply them there, but that’s probably not a reasonable way to feel, is it?

It’s also impossible, so what are these last few sentences already?

Somewhere at some point, someone said life begins at 40. I sure as hell hope that’s true, because 37 to 39 has been pretty good, but I also think it’d be quite a shame if everything to this point was preamble and I’m only going get to enjoy my actual life for 40 or so years.

Or less, if the Stouffer’s mac and cheese has its way.



Column: I used to be more of a Kirk

Jason-Column2When I was a kid, Star Trek was something fun to watch on a Saturday evening on what was then WPIX, channel 11.

When I was about 19 or so, Star Trek was basically my

I was never one of those guys who put on pointed ears or dressed up as Andorian Ambassador Shras to go to Trek conventions to stand in line for three hours for the privilege of buying the autograph of the guy who played ill-fated Red Shirt No. 2 in the cold open of “By Any Other Name.”

I was much more interested in the action figures, and my rank insignia pins were tastefully arranged on my leather bomber jacket.

Back then, we’re talking roundabout 1993, “The Next Generation” was all the rage in the Trek fandom as it was heading toward the end of its seven-year run on television and would make the transition to the big screen the next year. I was into that, but only so much because NextGen, as we nerds call it, didn’t feature my favorite Trek character and, frankly, the person on which I tried to model myself.

In those days, I was a Captain Kirk.

When you look back at the original Star Trek as an actual adult, as I’ve been doing lately via the lavish wonder of Blu-Ray, the philosophical dynamic between the show’s three main characters is clear.

You have DeForest Kelley’s Dr. McCoy, an utter humanitarian whose emotional, reactionary outbursts always favor doing whatever is necessary to protect and preserve any life, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential.

Then you have Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock, whose devotion to logic as the absolute arbiter of what should and should not be done was at constant odds with McCoy’s impulsive, earnest approach.

Between them sat Kirk, who had to find a way to balance the doctor’s heart with the science officer’s mind and mix it with his own sense of duty—and some Shatnerian swagger—to save the planet, escape from hostile aliens or avert some other cosmic catastrophe.

I must admit, it was the swagger that appealed to me most.

Come what may, Kirk always seemed to be in control and, in the end, he always got his ship and crew clear of whatever danger befell them. I especially liked the idea that, even at an advancing age, as the crew was in its later movies, Kirk was still a potent, respected leader capable of saving the known galaxy.

We talk a lot about aging and viability in this space, don’t we? I should probably fully explore that one day.

Anyway, at his heart, Kirk is the perfect space cowboy, for good or for ill, and I loved the qualities that made him that way, the intellectual and the bombastic. So much so, I can say he was definitely my hero for that period of my life.

But that was more than 20 years ago.

In going back over the Original Series, as we nerds call it, now, I still love Kirk—and certainly McCoy, who was my favorite of the three characters as a kid watching WPIX—but, more and more, I find myself drawn toward, and agreeing with, Spock in all matters both philosophical and galactic. In my latter years, I’ve become a big evidence guy; I need to have a basis for why I believe or endorse any thing or idea. If I invoke a bit of Spock directly, logic suggests there should be evidence and data to support everything in which we believe, so his approach appeals to me a lot more now than it used to.

If we boil it down and translate this nerdery to real world concepts, I’d say I’m one of the few people of whom I am aware—perhaps the only person of whom I am aware—who has moved left politically as I’ve aged. Not so far left as to drift into bleeding heart McCoy territory, but away from the more strutting martinet persona that sometimes characterized Kirk’s actions and demeanor.

Conventional wisdom suggests people tend to do the opposite.

What’s the old adage? If you’re not a liberal at 20, you don’t have a heart and if you’re still one at 40, you don’t have a brain?

I’m not sure I subscribe to that since I would say a) I definitely wasn’t a liberal at 20 and b) I’m not one now either, but I will agree with that adage insomuch as I think that tends to be the way most people go.

Why the change in philosophy for me?

Not completely sure but, looking back, I don’t think I felt particularly in control of my life when I was 19 or so—who does? I guess—maybe the idea of Kirk, the character so seemingly in control of everything around him, appealed to me on that basis. Now, I like to think I know a bit more about the world and am more secure with my place in it. Now, I more favor things like logic and evidence, and not, say, dogmatic religious beliefs based on just about nothing, when considering what should govern the world around me.

So, what’s the bottom line here apart from I’ve gotten to talk about Star Trek for an entire column? Well, I think it’s interesting how diverse and intimate the things that shape our political and personal philosophies are. I think it’s interesting how art, even if it’s pop culture, can say different things to us at different stages of our lives.

And I suppose the world could use a little more of the best of Spock and little less of the worst of Kirk, but should never forget its McCoy.



Column: I learned from my father after all

This past Sunday, my sister, 10 years my junior, and I took our father to Citi Field to see the Mets mop the grass with the Miami Marlins. We went to the game to celebrate our dad’s upcoming 70th birthday, so, naturally, I got to thinking about the man and our relationship.

I never thought I’d have much to learn from my father. He’s a blue-collar guy who’s self-taught in the art of repairing just about anything and has developed systems for doing and measuring things that I could never begin to understand. While he was learning and developing those skills, he moved furniture for 20 years and then did everything that needed doing at the Ardsley Country Club for another 20. He’s basically dedicated his life to the pursuit of work.

In short, he’s everything as a man that I am not.Jason-Column2

I was resigned to this thought pretty early on in life. I knew I wanted to write in some capacity when I was in first grade and it didn’t seem to me as I got older that anything my father did, or was doing, would apply to that in any way.

Different worlds, I thought. That’s the way it will be.

One of the things my father didn’t do was go to college, so, more than anything else he wanted me to be the first person in our family to go.

And so I did. For a year.

The college, SUNY Purchase, didn’t really have a writing program, or a journalism program at the time, and I was essentially there because I was too scared to live away from home and because I knew, even though all I really wanted to do was write, going to college was what was expected of me; it was basically my duty.

It was the one chance I had to dedicate myself to something with the kind of work ethic my father has. Didn’t happen.

From there, I worked, but they were my kind of jobs; white collar jobs. I did two tours in retail, I was a manager at a movie theater, I worked undercover for a management consulting firm; all stuff suited to me.

I can’t say I ever was embarrassed by any job I had, but, in the back of my mind, I always thought the stuff my father did was what a real man does.

Then came 1999, and I stopped working at all.

The idea was my wife, who was my fiancé at the time, was making enough money that I could stay home and write. Not only was that not the case, my drive to dedicate myself to writing—the thing I always told myself, and anyone who would listen, was the only thing I wanted to do—petered out a few failures in.

Flash forward 12 years and I was basically a house husband, and not a very good one. My father worked straight through those years.

In September 2012, my wife and I agreed it was time for me to return to the workforce. I joined The Mamaroneck Review as a reporter soon after.

Things were different. I was different.

Reporting is not an easy job; I’ve touched on that in this space before. In the early going, the trials of the job conspired with the massive culture shock of returning to work in a setting I’d never experienced to push me so far out of my comfort zone it wasn’t even an oasis on the horizon.

It would have been easy to quit, and I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind, but I didn’t. I dedicated myself to the work.

In January 2013, I moved over to the deputy editor’s desk at your newspaper, which has proven to be its own set of challenges and pressures. Most of my time is not my own, but, in something that looked at first like irony, I wrote the recently-published novella I’ve mentioned with what time I had away from this chair and it wasn’t easy.

I really had to dedicate myself to the work.


About a month ago, I made arraignments with the publisher of that novella to write another, but, whereas the first book took me the better part of a year to finish, this next one, which will be of equal length, is due at the end of September, about two and a half months from now.

Sitting here, typing these words to you, I’m not worried about that deadline. Why? Because I’ve written a book before; I know how to do it.

I basically taught myself.

And even if the deadline for this book is closer at hand than its predecessor, I know I have it in me to dedicate myself to the work.

All the work.

Just like Dad.



Column: Dinner cruise through the nexus of life

Jason-Column2The MacGuffin of the 1994 movie “Star Trek: Generations” is a place called The Nexus, a place in a reality beyond ours in which a person’s perfect life is manifest. One of the key conceits of The Nexus is time doesn’t pass there; each person who enters it always existed and always will.

I think I found a tiny little pocket Nexus earlier this month.

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I took a dinner cruise around Manhattan in celebration of her birthday, which was in May, but that’s the busy world in which we live.

I was shooting for elegance, because anyone who knows me will tell you I’m nothing if not elegant. What we got was a fun cruise that gave us great views on the deck of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, but was basically a night club dance party inside after the sun went down.

Like I said; fun, not overly elegant.

Fist pumps and remixes aside, what struck me over the course of our three-hour tour was the eclectic nature of the celebrations going on around us.

At this juncture, I’m going to tell you we were celebrating my wife’s 40th birthday. Don’t worry about that revelation; she’s a marathon runner and it shows.

Plus, I asked her permission and she said it was OK.

It’s important you know her age, and mine for that matter, because we represent a certain demographic and a certain stage of life; a different demographic and stage of life than those of our fellow passengers celebrating around us.

There was the woman who just graduated from medical school. She was there with a group of, I’d imagine, friends, family and colleagues marking what I have to think is the end of a massive, grueling slog through the uppermost annals of higher education.

Then there was another woman, already a doctor but not part of the other woman’s party, who had just finished her residency, so she and her contingent were cruising the night away for that reason.

Two doctors at different stages of their careers and their lives. One boat.

Before our yacht even put to sea—or river, in this case—we noticed the captain marrying a couple on the top deck. That, the DJ would later inform the rest of us, was Lauren and Tonya, who sat with their small wedding party in a corner of the main deck and danced when it suited them until it was time for their first official dance as a married couple.

It was nice to see.

One wedding, two doctors and at least one birthday on one boat. None of the people involved the same age, all bringing the sum of their experiences to that one evening of fun and, presumably, none of us will ever see each other again.

Kind of an interesting situation when you think about it. It’s like that yacht was one big fist in which we were all clenched over the East River for a moment before it released us back to our lives like so many happy dice.

And if you like that metaphor and simile, that bridge in Brooklyn might be for sale.

I suppose the thing that fascinated me about that experience was disparate people made the same choice for their disparate celebrations. Taken together as passengers, we all shared the same experience while, as individuals, we were all there for different reasons.

The wedding, the 40th birthday, the graduation from medical school and the end of a physician’s residency; they could be, and so many times are, points in one journey through life. But two weeks ago aboard a cruise around the isle of Manhattan, they were four parts of four lives, each on a different path, intersecting for one moment before continuing on their respective way.

No starship needed.



Column: A new obsession, just in time

Jason-Column2I am a man of great, but specific, enthusiasms. Let’s start there.

Mack Bolan. Any idea who that is? You might have, but I didn’t until a few weeks ago and now he’s almost all I think about.

I’ll explain, shall I?

As we’ve discussed to some extent before, I love pulp fiction. We just talked about the 1994 movie with that name and, a few months ago, we talked about the New Pulp movement in fiction and my participation in it. What we haven’t discussed though is the way some of the original pulp fiction used to be done and how much I like that.

By the way, I’m also an obsessive collector. That’s going to come into play later, but, for now, back to pulp.

After his debut as an announcer character on radio’s “Detective Story Hour” in 1930, The Shadow was developed by publisher Street & Smith into a pop culture phenomenon in a series of pulp novels by Maxwell Grant. Between 1931 and 1949, Street & Smith published 325 Shadow novels, all by Maxwell Grant.

Maxwell Grant didn’t exist.

For 282 of the 325 Street & Smith Shadow novels, Maxwell Grant, a name the publisher made up, was actually Walter B. Gibson, a former journalist and magician. The other 43 Shadow novels were written by Maxwell Grants such as Theodore Tinsley, Bruce Elliot and, in one case, Lester Dent, who created another pulp icon, Doc Savage, under the name Kenneth Robeson, another Street & Smith house name.

Get all that?

I love the idea of different writers contributing to the legacy of a character under a unifying name. The anonymity of the individual scribes may be a turnoff to some, but I quite like the idea of workmanlike writers pounding these novels out on a work-for-hire basis, all for the furtherance of popular entertainment and their own livelihoods.

Journalism is a bit like that when you think about it.

Anyway, I’ve often thought it would be cool if such a pulp series setup still existed today, beyond the realm of Star Trek tie-ins and summer blockbuster novelizations.

Enter Don Pendleton.

In 1969, Pendleton, a real person who was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, penned a novel called “War Against the Mafia” in which the hero, Vietnam vet Mack Bolan, returns home to bury his family, who were being terrorized by the mob before Bolan’s father killed them and himself in an act of desperation.

A bit morbid, yes, but still; it’s pure pulp.

Pendleton went on to write 36 more novels, the last published in 1980, in which The Executioner—one of Bolan’s nicknames in ‘Nam—smashed the Mafia in every city he found them, giving rise to the men’s adventure brand of widespread, popular fiction of the 70’s and 80’s in the process.

I now realize I remember seeing such paperbacks in spindly spinner racks in the pharmacies and dime stores near our Yonkers apartment when I was a kid. I probably saw the covers of more than my share of Mack Bolans and never realized it.

In 1980, Pendleton licensed the rights to Mack Bolan to Gold Eagle, an imprint of romance giant Harlequin. Since then, a revolving, evolving team of fictioneers, working under Pendleton’s banner, have written a further 389 Executioner novels.

The last was released earlier this month. I know because I stumbled across it in K-Mart a few weeks ago.

There have been and are Bolan spinoff series, there are also double-length Super Bolans released every other month, but it’s the core Executioner series that’s enchanted me. These are lean, hard-hitting, get-in-and-get-out, pulpy, mass market paperback action/adventure stories of around 200 pages and there is, as it turns out, a new one every month from a writer who pounded it out in a room somewhere and then got on with the next thing, just like they used to with The Shadow, Doc Savage, and any of a number of other pulp characters.

I get all smiley just thinking about it.

Of course, you know what this means. This means that, in addition to the five Executioners I’ve snagged from store shelves so far, there are 422 other brash, economical Mack Bolan adventures waiting out there, somewhere, for me to find and adopt them.

And that’s just the core series.

I can’t tell you, and maybe I don’t have to, what a joy it is to not only discover something in your wheelhouse you had no idea was there, but to do it in enough time that you can really delve into and enjoy it. I think it’s quite a special thing when you can find something beyond the age of say 11 that makes you feel like you did when something took hold of you then. Not a lot of those things have happened my way in my adult life. Mack Bolan is one of them and I want to be in for the long haul because he’s got quite a legacy to explore and the five books I have are just a small part of it.

A small part of Mack Bolan’s legacy.