Elster's World

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More Thoughts

- It's January 31 and winter has not even started yet in New York. The weather has been something like ten degrees above average so far and it hasn't really snowed since early December. I have to say, this doesn't bother me in the least. As my readers know, I hate winter. I hate cold, snow, barren trees and dead grass. I'm more of a spring and summer man myself.

But I wonder what this all means for spring and summer. One thing I know for certain is that Old Man Winter never ends up with the short end of the stick. Never. So we are either going to have something like thirty inches of snowfall between now and March or it will be in the sixties through June. Did I mention that I hate the winter?

- I believe that we are living through an unprecedented era of pretty good television. Now as a general rule, I think tv is a pretty big waste of time if abused. I think that there are much better uses for our few precious free hours a day. But I also think that, in moderation, there is nothing wrong with unwinding in front of the tube.

And my what we can unwind with. There's the fifth season of 24, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Veronica Mars and numerous CSI's and Laws and Orders (and no, I do not watch all these shows). Cable has added an entirely new dimension as well. HBO and Showtime have a number of award winners, and on regular cable you have Rescue Me, The Shield, Nip/Tuck (for you depraved individuals) and my personal favorite, Battlestar Galactica (proclaimed by many critics to be the best show on tv). I watch four shows a week from the above list. Plus sports. Plus occasionally some of Mrs. Elster's shows. But I digress.

While the moral line on tv is rushing its way towards the toilet, there is quality on television that has never been seen before.

- I think I'm done for now.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Quick Thoughts From The Returning Hero

Editor's Note: I have very little time and just want to post. Please excuse all spelling and other errors. This editor will not be aditing:

- Well here's the shock of ages. The Palestinian elections were won by Hamas, a group which is so terribly evil that they are even on the European Union's terrorist list. In other words, they are really, really bad. Yet, the Palestinian people voted for these murderers to run their government. Can we really still look upon these people and call them partners in peace? Can we finally put that joke to bed? These people don't deserve the freedom to vote. And they certainly do not deserve additional concessions from the Israelis (or more arm twisating by the US).

- While on vacation the whole Kris benson trade passed me right by. While I do not think that benson is a big game pitcher, and certainly he was overpaid, the mets rotation can no longer be looked at as a position of strength; which it arguably was before the trades of Benson and Seo. On top of the, I for one will miss Anna Benson. Every championship team needs a crazy wife/girlfriend to make everyone else look sane. Now that is lost. Alas.

- I was happy to see Donnie Henderson land a defensive coordinator job in the NFL. I have no idea who any of the Jets coaches are at this point, but it's time to give up control to a higher power (and D'brickashaw Fergeson) and hope for the best.

- I just finished watching Season I of the new Battlestar Galactica and I have to say it is one of the finer shows on tv. It has fine acting, suspense and excellent writing. Unfortuntately, since it's technically a "sci-fi" show, it scares people off. Too bad, often, wonderful programs are hurt for a variety of silly reasons. Galactica is an example of that, so is Veronica mars, deemed to be a "high school" show despite the fact that it has some of the best writing in the industry. Whatever.

- Miami was packed with jews. We were waiting on line at a restaurant one night when I mentioned to Mrs. Elster that the last time I saw this many jews in one plkace it was Yom Kippur. But I don't care. We had a great time. The weather was nice, the kosher food pletiful and it was really great to get away for a week. Of course, I did not get to eat a meal at Roert Averech's place (Seraphic Secret writer) like Joe, but California was too long a trip for my little ones. Three hours on an airplane was enough for me.

- Funny anecdote - We were getting lunch at a cafe one day and in walks 2 chassidish women and a chassidish man. One of the women asks the owner if the food is cholov yisroel. The owner replies the food is cholov stam, but there is cholov yisrael milk for coffee. Woman looks at her firend and her husband with a furrowed brow:

"Do you think I can eat a salad here?"

Her friends looks at the husband. He furrows brow and hems and haws "I don't know.....maybe it's only a salad it's ok..."

I am not poking fun. It just struck me that it's salad. The hashgacha is still good. There is no cholov involved. It's not like it was a non-kosher restaurant.

Anyhoo, some quick thoughts as I catch up with the Blogverse, which seems to be passing me by.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I'm Back!!!

Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC, didn't get to sleep last night
All the way the paper bag was on my knee,
Man I had a dreadfull flight

The Elster's are back from Mid-winter break. All is well. Everyone had a good time. Will post more when I have more time, though I am going to be seriously jammed up at work the next few days (well, half a day tomorrow and then Monday at any rate)...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Quick Update(s)

By popular demand (ok, one person asked me for it) I have added an email address to my profile. I assume that my email address will now be ringing off the hook so extra operators are standing by to read them for me.

Hmmm, what else? I set a new hit record at the site yesterday (I will not share the number because it's a little low, but a record for me nontheless). I am always thrilled at the prospect of new readers so I take that as a good sign.

I really enjoyed that meme thing I did the other day. I'm thinking about doing an extended "director's cut" meme with special features like commentary by director Steven Speilberg, deleted scenes and outtakes. If anyone has specific categories they want (need) answer on, feel free to send 'em in.

The Elster family vacation ramps up with a week in the holy city of Miami. We are leavbing next Thursday and returning the following Thursday in the evening. So please, do not panic if I don't post that week and for g-d's sakes, do not light yourselves on fire. The delay will be only temporary.

Well, that's it I guess. I once again urge all readers to drop down two posts and read Literary Elster, probably the best thing I've posted here (in terms of fiction).

Have a goos shabbos to all and a fine weekend to you non-jews as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Crazy Eights (Divided By Two)

Editor's Note: If you have not yet seen the previous post, Literay Elster, please do. It's one I worked harder on than most and, dammit, it's pretty good if I do say so myself.

Well, I’ve been tagged by just about the only person who I would actually do this for, McAryeh at A Whispering Soul. Apparently, Memes are all the rage these days with the kids. What you are supposed to do is list things in categories of four. Or something. Well, I’m just a kid at heart anyway so why not.

Note: I will take liberties with the categories as necessary.

Four of my favorite foods:
- A perfectly grilled hotdog (with yellow mustard and saurkraut of course (that’s freedom cabbage to all of you patriots) – mmmm hotdogs
- A medium rare tournedos at Le Marais (with bernaise on the side)
- 2 nicely done slices of pizza
- My wife’s cholent (that should score me some serious home points)

Four movies I’ve walked out on:
- Me, Myself and Irene
- Army of Darkness (though in my defense, had I known that Bruce Campbell was the king of these campy horror/shlock movies, I never would have walked out.
- I cannot recall walking out of any other movies. As someone else mentioned (RX maybe?) I paid good money for these films.

Four Places I’ve Lived:
- Israel
- Riverdale
- Washington Heights
- Upper West Side (but only for one year and I never stayed for shabbos)

Four of My Favorite Vacations:
- Israel
- Miami
- Charlevoix province of Quebec (absolutely magnificent)
- Puerto Rico

My Four Dream vacations:
- Tahiti/Bora Bora
- New Zealand
- Israel with my kids (soon – well, not that soon)
- Some sort of eco tourist thing in a place like Costa Rica

Four Movies I will watch whenever they are on– Though by no means the four greatest movies on my list
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (and yes, you either understand me or you don’t)
- Aliens (greatest action movie ever)
- Field of Dreams
- Dazed and Confused

Four (ok three) Favorite Bands:
- The Beatles
- Pink Floyd
- The mighty Led Zeppelin

Four Jobs that I’ve held
- Attorney
- Writer (though only in unofficial capacities
- Camp counselor
- Father (best job)

Four Places I Don’t Like
- My office
- New Jersey
- Iran
- Hell

Deserted Island Necessities (assuming no people)
- My Ipod (with endless battery life)
- Pictures of my family
- Artscroll set of Shas (might as well make good use of my time)
- Sunscreen

Four Live People I’d Like to Meet
- James Lee Burke
- Robert Plant
- Peter Jackson – So I could shake his hand
- My soon to be born child

Well, I could go on forever. Literally. But I guess that’s enough to fulfill my meme requirements. As for tagging, sorry, I don’t tag. If you want to carry the torch, feel free.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Literary Elster

So after a few total waste of space posts, this is something with a little more meat.

After I finished writing my novel, I immediately tried to dive into another. Big mistake. I was all over the place and way not ready to start seriously writing again. I came up with an idea to do a more witty, but still sorta dark book about a jewel thief who messes up a big job and gets into a boatload of trouble. I'm pretty sure I will never write this book, but I did write the first chapter, which I thought I would share with you guys now.

I tinkered with it slightly from how it appears on the notebook, but it is not heavily edited or cleaned up for that matter. Still, I thinks it's pretty good.

Warning: DO NOT start this if you only have two minutes. it's lengthy. Anyway, enjoy:

Untitled Crime Caper Project

With one major exception, the job went off without a hitch. He had spent the last four weeks setting it up, an all time speed record for him, but it was a pretty simple job after all.

The information he had bought off the funny looking man known only as The Pole seemed pretty accurate. The house, in the heart of Forest Hills Gardens, an affluent and closed off wealthy community in Queens, was big enough to have filmed King Kong Vs. Godzilla in. It was also empty, thanks to its residents spending Christmas in the winter wonderland of Tahiti. He had done surveillance on the house for two weeks, and with the exception of some teenage girl with weird hair who went in three times a day for twenty or so minutes, the house was empty.

He pulled a rented late model Infinity SUV to the curb and made sure there was no movement in any of the neighboring houses. Luckily for him, in a place like this, there wasn’t another house for fifty yards in any direction. The locks on the big front door were pick proof, but that was no problem to a master thief like David Thorson. He simply blew them out with noise reduction plastic explosives and a specially rigged trigger, price of five thousand dollars. He used a special computer bypass (seven thousand, five hundred dollars) to override the alarm system and the internal motion detectors. He was inside the house and ready to roll in under five minutes.

Thorson stepped into the large foyer. A noise startled him and he turned to see a white blur hurtling itself towards him. Attack dog, he thought in a panic. The information he had gotten from The Pole hadn’t said anything about an attack dog. Lousy, untrustworthy Poles. He was fumbling for his two hundred and fifty dollar taser gun when he realized the “attack dog” was really just a loudly yelping French Poodle. The dog dove into his legs and sunk its jaws into his shin. With a cry of pain (and a few choice curse words) Thorson pried the dog off his leg, carried it by the scruff of its neck, and tossed it into the front coat closet, shutting the door tight. What kind of people leave their frigging dog home alone when they go on vacation? Rich people. Probably worried that little Fifi wouldn’t do well unless she was in her own comfortable surrounding. “So that’s what the odd girl was doing here every day,” he said to the suddenly quite foyer. He shook his head in wonder. Rich people never ceased to amaze him.

He looked at his watch and hustled for the study. He had a schedule to keep and now he was worried about finishing up and getting some hydrogen peroxide on the dog bite before he came down with rabies. So far his information had been perfect (with the exception of Yappy the Killer Poodle).

He stopped at the study’s doors and looked inside without stepping in. It was paneled oak with all kinds of strange pictures on the wall. Thorson was no art lover as a general rule (unless it was untraceable and easily fenced) but these pictures seemed like the bottom of the barrel. They all involved turkeys. Turkeys driving cars, turkeys at school, even turkeys playing poker. The whole thing had a bizarre, Planet of the Apes type feel to it. So what if the guy who owned the placed had a bunch of slaughterhouses that were giving old frank Perdue a run for his money, paintings of turkey was just plain unnatural. But Thorson wasn’t here for the turkeys. He only wanted what was behind the large portrait of turkeys playing golf.

He pulled out the map of the house security cameras and using the information he had bought (still running a pretty perfect score despite Fido the Death Dog) he disabled the four security cameras in the study and went in, pulling off his mask and breathing easier. He lifted the turkey Tiger Woods off the wall and gazed upon the safe behind it in wonder. It was a Schanhauser, just like The Pole had told him.

Now a Schanhauser isn’t just any old wall safe. It’s the Ferrari of safes. Said to be un-crackable, it was the choice unit of private homes with serious valuables to protect. Thorson nodded and smiled. The fact that it was indeed a Schanhauser was a very good sign. You didn’t put slightly damaged Reggie Jackson baseball cards in a Schanhauser. But you would put eight million dollars worth of diamonds in there.

And that, boys and girls, was what Thorson had come for. He had a guaranteed fence price of four million dollars for them. Sure it was only fifty cents on the dollar but you try unloading eight million dollars worth of stolen diamonds and see how you make out. All he had to do was sit back in an empty house, crack an un-crackable safe, and bring it on home.

He took four thousand dollars worth of safe poaching equipment from his bag and looked at his stolen Omega Seamaster watch. The choice of James Bond. He had taken it from a Park Avenue apartment six months ago. He smiled at the memory. Now that had been a good haul.

It was 8:43 pm when he got to work on Herr Schanhauser. Thorson has been looking forward to this moment since The Pole had told him the safe was an honest to G-d Schanhauser. He poked, prodded, drilled and clicked, working the lock mechanisms and tumblers, all the while humming John Lennon’s Imagine. The big German was indeed a tough old bastard, but by 9:23 he was starting to show some chinks in the armor. And at exactly 9:42 pm James Bond time, Dave Thorson cracked the un-crackable.

He set down his tools and took a few steps back, taking in the enormity of what he had done. Something like this could drive him right into the upper echelon of burglars. To Hell with that, this might make him legendary. After all, the Schanhauser gave Hans Rigger a heart attack and ultimately put him into retirement. He savored these thoughts like a sip of twenty five year old scotch. Then he opened the safe, which seemed to have sagged in its failure, swinging the doors wide open. He reached inside for the eight million dollar haul. Four million dollars net. Heck, if he didn’t love his job so much, he’d be able to retire. Well, he thought with a chuckle, not the way I spend money I won’t be.

All these happy little thoughts caused him to lose sight of a slight problem. But he noticed it soon enough. He shone his mini-Maglite ($7.50) into the defeated beast. He looked away from the safe, closed his eyes, opened them and peered back in. He shined the flashlight in again and again to be sure. Then he was sure. The safe was empty, the diamonds previously removed. Assuming, of course, they were ever there to begin with. The job had cost him four weeks and over fifteen thousand dollars that he had borrowed from two very bad men. He was really starting the hate The Pole.

“Well shit,” Thorson said.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Out With The Bad Air...

Since it was communicated to me that my last post sucked (no sugarcoating from Joe), I decided to move it off the front end and to post something less offensive in its place.

Today is a very slow day in the office. 2 major conference calls have been pushed to tomorrow and I just finished a 72 page lease review (the fun never ends, trust me). So I have been sifting through blogs and just generally wasting time. Usually when I'm bored, I want to write. I feel it is less of a waste of time than internet surfing and a lot more creative (though in my case, that's arguable).

Since my blog is considered a "personal blog", I guess I should tell you all something personal. Since the end of the second week of the Pnuemonia! (I'm still coughing a ton and I'm totally congested and it's almost two months later - I'm averaging at least 25-30 tissues a day) I had been hungry all the time. I blamed it on the combination of the antibiotics I was taking and the fact that I didn't eat much at first. Well, when you hit your thirties, the combination of eating too much and being unable to exercise (I was very, very weak for almost 6 weeks) wreaks havoc on the old waistline.

Well, I gained more weight than I even want to think about. And with a family trip to Florida looming in less than three weeks, I decided that it's time to reverse the slide.

So, oh what a riot, Elster's on a diet. And what I diet it is. Once cup of joe in the morning with skim, I'm eating Balance protein bars for breakfast and lunch (combined, 400 calories), drinking only water, and a (too) sensible dinner. Combined calorie intake, somewhere pretty well south of 1,500.

Yesterday was Day 1 and it went swimingly. Today, so far so good. Yes, I am very hungry, but it's all for the greater good. I don't want to be that guy with the big stomach my whole life. And yes, I know I cannot live like this forever, this is merely a kickstart (for a week or 2, not including Shabbos).

Yes, this was inane, but at least it got that sucky Jets post off the board, right?

Is Herm Edwards Saying Goodbye?

ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg reported this morning that it is not a question of if New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards will be leaving his post to coach the Kansas City Chiefs, but when and for what compensation.

Assuming this is in fact correst: Unlike many Jet fans, I have mixed feelings about Edwards' departure. I agree that (i) this season has been an unmitigated disaster and much of the blame for the team's quitting rests squarely on Edwards and his never ending run of injury excuses, and (ii) Edwards has always been a terrible game coach (as Joe puts it, coaching to not lose insteade of win), always gambling at the wrong time and with the wrong players.

However, Edwards deserves credit for credit due as well. His personality was always a breath of fresh air after the Bill Parcells bluster and Al Groh's lack of same. He was always upbeat, personable and a pretty good quote. (His "Hello, you play to win the game" is right up there with Jim Fassels' pushing his chips to the middle of the table on the high comedy scale). And, as recently mentioned, he re-enforced a winning personality to the club originally built by Parcells. Say what you will, the Jets went to the Playoffs three times in his tenure, losing in the first round in his first year to the Raiders (thanks to John Abraham and his stomach virus and Chad Pennington's weak arm), crushed the Colts the second time through and advanced to within a Doug Brien field goal of the AFC Championship game last year (thanks again to John Abraham and his bum knee and Doug Brien's choke job on the second field goal) before losing to the Steelers and their shaky QB. Yes, the Jets were 4-12 this year and management has strangled this team's salary cap for the immediate future, but Terry Bradway needs to take a whole lot of blame for that mess as well.

So in the end, the Herm Edwards Era had its ups and downs. And who knows, maybe it's not over. Maybe Woody Johnson will decide he wants Edwads around or maybe the Chiefs won't cough up the right compensation. This is certainly not a done deal. But it certainly feels like the time for Edwards to move on.

So while many will rejoice at Coach Edwards' departure, I will always think of his tenure with a good feeling, even though that championship season never came.

Monday, January 02, 2006

She Calls...And I Cannot Answer

A couple of quick hits before I get to the post:

- The New York Jets’ 2005 campaign mercifully came to an end this past Sunday with a 31-26 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Readers beware, a post-mortem of the season will be coming up with in the next week or so, like it or not.

- Somehow, Anysara’s (http://chossonhunt.blogspot.com/) blog failed to get a nod in any category in the awards discussed in last week’s post. Well, she’s getting the last laugh. She’s engaged. Mazal Tov to Anysara and her newly found Soulmate. May they share nothing but happiness and all the good stuff. Isn’t that better than a blogger’s award anyway? Look forward to hearing about future good stuff in your lives guys.

Now onto the post:

I remember my first trip to Israel like it was yesterday. In reality, it was almost 20 years ago. As I write those words, I find myself breaking into a cold sweat. Am I really thirty-two years old? Was it really 19 years ago that my family boarded a KLM flight to Israel for my Bar Mitzvah present?

I remember the highlights. My dad closed his office for three weeks in August and we split time between the Laromme Hotel and my cousin’s empty apartment in Ramot Bet. What a special trip it was. How could anyone’s first trip to Israel not be? Sure, I was too young to really appreciate many of the finer points (the Diaspora Museum was the most painful three hours of my young life to that point). And sure, the last week was a bit, er, marred by a first-timer’s water-drinking incident. But even so, Israel is Israel and much like learning Torah, you can get something out of it on many different levels.

Of course, time marched on and I made many, many more trips back. We visited my sister during her year there and I went as a camper on a summer tour. I went during college break. I went for a year and a half to learn. I went back as a counselor on the same summer tour I had been a camper on years before. I went back so often during college and law school, that my during intersession of my second year of law school, my friend Evan and I ditched our regular Israel posse (sorry Donny) and decided to go to Miami for break instead (and no, I don’t regret that decision – I have never played so much golf in my life).

When the posse graduated law school and our legal jobs were bearing down on us like an out-of-control eighteen wheeler, Donny and I postponed our work start dates by a month and went to Israel to spend Yom Kippur and Succos with our friend Steven, who was a Madrich in a yeshiva in the Old City. It was in many respects the end of innocence for me. I was about to start working, I was already engaged (and yes, I did take a lot of heat for ditching the future Mrs. Elster for 3 weeks but it was oh so worth it) and my carefree student life was about to come to a spectacular and permanent halt. Those three weeks, living within a stone’s throw (no pun intended) of the Kotel, were an experience beyond my wildest dreams.

That was over seven years ago. I have been back one time since then. Mrs. Elster and I spent a glorious two weeks in the Holy Land five and a half years ago. Every time I think about the last time I was there, I always feel like it was just two or three years ago. But then I remember that it has been too long since I have rested my forehead on the Western Wall and poured out my heart to G-d. It has been too long since I have looked off across an expanse of desert and wondered if, perhaps Avraham or Yaacov traveled there.

I have had so many great times, made so many wonderful friends, that it would take columns and columns to recount them here. The good times, the learning, the shwarma, new friends made, old friends lost, independence found, my first time drunk (Purim), Succos, water hikes – I have a story for every occasion. Who doesn’t?

And so, every once and a while, Israel calls to me, tells me to return. And the feeling grows stronger and stronger until it is an almost physical ache. But there is no cure for it. I can’t go now. The kids are too young for a 12-hour flight, and it’s too expensive to take them anyway. It’s too time consuming, I can’t get than kind of time off from work.

So all that I have for the time being are the memories. And I use them to combat the empty feeling that right now, Israel is even farther away than the 6,000 actual miles that separates me from her holy borders. And I cling to the belief that soon I will be able to go as often and for as long as I would like. But until then, the memories and the desire to return fight a never ending battle in my mind.

Either way, she calls to me now and I only hope to answer that call.