Changes Over Time

Every year I get older. Fifth graders stay the same. That seems unfair.

IMG_0534 copy.jpgI went to Prospect, CT this evening for their annual DARE graduation. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been doing this, but I seriously expected a parent of one of these kids to tell me I was at his/her graduation too! Some things have changed. Some have remained the same.

Bob Chatfield is still the mayor. He was there when I first came. He’s the longest serving elected official in Connecticut.

The ceremony still takes place at Community School. Parts of it were built in the mid 30s. Not much change there.

D.A.R.E. 2010 008.JPGI don’t know why but the girls seldom look me in the eye as I hand them their awards. They stare at the floor. Some of the boys look up–not all.

I used to shake hands with all the grads. Tonight it was fist bumps. I’m not sure if that’s flu related, but I’ll just choose to blame Howie Mandel.

When I began the school was all white. It is now a mini United Nations. Yes, the majority are still white, but there are now lots of other shades. Families moving up have moved in to Prospect.

D.A.R.E. 2010 009.JPGOriginally parents came with their video recorders. A few years ago the video was gone and there were lots of digital cameras. Now it’s digicams and cellphones.

The slide projector has been replaced with a PowerPoint slideshow.

As an ‘honored guest’ I’m asked to say a few words. Tonight I asked how many of the kids wished they were adults, able to control their own lives. Lots of hands.

I then asked the parents if they wanted to be kids? More hands.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood there’s a disconnect! The parents understand too well.

Every year I get older. Fifth graders stay the same. That seems unfair.

Visiting Stef At Deal or No Deal

As a parent it was cool going around with Stef. Everyone seemed to know her and like her.

deal_or_no_deal.jpgNo work today. I have to turn around and work tomorrow morning for Gil who is recuperating from some scary problems which followed ankle surgery.

Have I mentioned, no work today?

With a lack of commitments this became the perfect time to visit Stef at work. She is working on the daytime syndicated version of “Deal or No Deal,” taping this season at Sonalysts in Waterford.

“She makes this drive every day?” I asked rhetorically as we drove past the Niantic/Flanders exit on I-95. It’s around an hour from home to the studio.

Sonalysts is an actual movie lot in Eastern Connecticut. There are large sound stages and an open California-like feel.

As it turns out this was also the day Francine–Queen of Hair, saw the show. She, her daughter and a friend joined us as Stef conducted the grand tour. We went up-and-down stairs, in-and-out of hallways from building-to-building.

We walked down the hallway with Howie Mandel’s dressing room. I know that because it said “Howie Mandel” on the door! Also, because Howie walked out as we were going by.

“He’s wearing a lot of makeup,” Helaine said. “You know about that,” she added while looking at me.


Most TV studios are smaller than they look at home. Not this one. The Deal studio is expansive with the audience surrounding the platform where Howie, the contestant and the producer’s phone stay. We sat down in the front, just a few feet from the action.

After a brief warm-up the show began. This is a well oiled machine. The show ran with a few tiny problems easily fixed in post-production. Though this is the 30 minute version the game ran much longer. Again, easily fixed in post.

During a commercial break Howie stood alone on a rise near my seat.

“Howie,” I called out, “Howie.” He looked up. If Stef would have been with me she would have crawled into a hole. I told Howie we had a mutual friend (Howard, best man at Helaine and my wedding) and mentioned I’d been on Buffalo TV while he was living in Toronto.

As a parent it was cool going around with Stef. Everyone seemed to know her and like her. She was treated as a grown-up. This part could not have been better for Helaine and me.

The show went really well. The audience does get drawn in, yelling for the contestant to take the deal… or not. I didn’t think it would be as emotional for me as it was. A young woman from Waterford who wanted to win enough to take her family to Italy won enough to take her family to Italy.

Alas, Stef’s TV career ends Friday when Deal finishes production after 130 episodes in Connecticut.

It’s Always Sunny In Las Vegas

I like playing poker in Las Vegas. I won’t lie. I don’t come to gamble. I come to win. I don’t always succeed, but that’s my purpose.

The good news is, poker is available around the clock. In fact, if there’s a downside to the poker explosion of the past few years, it’s that every casino has poker, so there’s a bit less action here at the Mirage.

From lv wednesday

There’s no rush to play, so Helaine and I had breakfast at a little coffee shop on premises and went for a walk on the Strip. It wasn’t quite 10:00 AM, but we stuck our heads into Caesars’ Forum Shoppes.

Over the past few years I’ve watched this little collection of shops expand and expand again. It’s pretty amazing now with nothing but high end stores selling at retail. For me, it’s look but don’t buy.

From lv wednesday

We then walked to Bellagio – a beautiful hotel. The Conservatory is decorated differently for all the seasons. Right now, it’s a fall motif… not my favorite, though still colorful.

From lv wednesday

There is a new trend in Las Vegas. You’ve probably seen buses festooned with images so they’re rolling billboards, though you can still see out the windows? They’ve got the same thing on hotels. The Flamingo’s exterior is but one example.

We returned to Mirage and I sat down to play some cards. The table of nine had at least five locals playing, maybe more. It’s like stepping up against major league pitching. I wanted the challenge.

I did very well – though I left with a bit less than my peak profit. Now I’ve made enough to buy into a larger tournament, if I so desire.

We ate dinner at the Stage Deli. It’s just like the one in Manhattan, but without the surly help! I had a bowl of matzo ball soup and a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.

This evening we drove to the MGM Grand for Howie Mandel. Somehow, Helaine found exceptional tickets online before we left Connecticut. We were in the second row – great seats!

John Mendosa opened for Howie. He’s also a comedian – very funny and very laid back.

Mendosa had a white button down shirt, not tucked in, over a pair of pants. I noted, in the longstanding tradition of Vegas comics, there was not a crease in the pants as he came out. He had stood since putting them on.

It’s really a tradition – honest.

Howie came on and did around an hour. I have seen him on TV for years, but really didn’t know that much about him. What impressed me the most was how bright and fast he is. Lots of his act was based on audience participation, and he was on top of his game.

So, if you’re asking, Howie Mandel gets my recommendation.

Back at Mirage I decided to play some more poker before bed. I entered a $60 sit ‘n go and was very lucky to survive for a 3-way deal. I was terribly shorty stacked, but still made a $25 profit.

So far, so good. The poker gods are smiling.

More tomorrow, but first, a drive down the Las Vegas Strip as seen by my cellphone’s camcorder.