Minimum Wage

I am for at least minimum wage, and full benefits.  Really, can you expect anyone to live on anything less nowadays?!  I am not an economist, nor a businessman; just an old time xylophonist and I try my best to be a good citizen who serves.   If two parents make minimum wage and have a couple of kids, at the end of the week, after all their deductions and expenses, they are probably left with nothing.  It is ridiculous.

But…If a person gets even twenty bucks an hour to serve up some fries what should a Fireperson get?!!

Oh P U L E E Z E…..

That person should start out at two-hundred-and-fifty-thou.  You do not agree?  Okay I’ll settle for one-hundred-seventy-five.  I have observed many people that do not deserve more than minimum wage.  Their lack of expertise in their field shocks me and poisons the very marrow of my bones.

I was in a music store that had classical sheets and I had been going there for many years.  I could see that the internet was killing them as the repertoire pieces were beginning to thin out, but I could always rely on this place to order something for me that I needed for a concert.  I asked the salesman for a particular piece by Borodin.  He looked at me like I just landed my space ship from the planet Zulac.

He said, “Er…ah…Borodin, I…well…can you spell it?”

I answered, “Yes I can.”

He said, “Oh, I’m not sure who that is…
“Are you a musician?”


“No, you are not.  I would like to see one of the older salespersons.”

A regular of the place came over and after the numerous, “Oh Mr. Finkel, please let me help you.” I ordered the Borodin Piece.  The old-time-regular-guy told me the salesman was new, only getting minimum wage and I should have come to him for help etc.  I said, “Right behind his computer is a whole shelf of Borodin and good gosh, sweet lord, man oh man, forget it will ya?”

One year later I was in Barnes and Noble Bookstore and I inquired as to a book by Thurber.  The salesman said, “I’m not sure who that is.  Can U spell it?”

“Yes I can.”

“Er…would you spell it for me?”

“Okay…T H U R B E R.” I did this very slowly.  The literary expert types it into his beloved computer and turns to me and says, “Nothing has come up.”  I looked at the screen, he spelled it wrong.  I say, “I want to see a manger.”

“But I am a Manager.”

“You’ve never read a book by T H U R B E R!”


“Did you ever attend college?”

“I have four degrees in…blah…blah…”

“Okay forget about it.”

I turn to leave.  Guess what is on a shelf about two feet from his station.  Yes, that’s right, about a dozen books by T H U R B E R.  Should he get minimum wage, or more?  Or benefits?  What the hell was he reading in college?  Sports Illustrated?  Rooster Fighting In The Philippines?  Novels by Ian Finkel?!!!

Next:  Prescription filled.  I get it at a big drug store and go to a counter to buy a package of gum…sugarless of course.  The little sign says:

SALE $1.00

Hey not bad!  I pull out a buck and take one.  I think it was peppermint.  Well you know it wasn’t wintergreen…More about that some other time.  I put it in front of the salesperson.  She hits the computer and says, “Four-dollars-and-fifty-three-cents.”  Notice the absence of the word “Please.”

I say, “It is gum…The sign says, Sale, One Dollar.  Are you kidding?”

She answers, “The computer says four-dollars-and-fifty-three-cents.”

“But it’s a pack of gum!”

The salesperson who I already felt should get four-dollars-and-fifty-three-cents an hour, turns around and brings over a guy.  Is he a manager?  And they both stare at the computer screen ala deer in the headlights and he says to me.

“The computer says four-dollars-and-fifty-three-cents.”

“For gum?!!  Oh, forget about it!”  I yell, put the gum back and leave thinking that if that Manager was a Fireman; his barbeque would look like The Burning of Atlanta.  And the dirty rotten idiot is getting paid a somewhat decent wage to know nothing.

I could go on and on and on as anyone could but I could not top this.  I must first tell you that this was told to me by my brother Elliot.  Elliot accompanied his daughter Jamie to the Motor Vehicle Bureau; this was in New Jersey as she had to get her driver’s license.  She had all the proper papers and her American passport as her ID.  She presented her paperwork and the lady behind the desk said, “I cannot give you a driver’s license as you are not an American Citizen.”

Jamie said, “Of course I am!  The passport reads I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico.”

The government employee shot back, “That is in Mexico.  You are Mexican.”

“No Albuquerque is in New Mexico, USA.  I am a citizen.  I was born here!”

“Let me consult with my colleague.” I hate the word colleague as lately it is used to pass the buck.

“Oh Ceil, Ceil…Albuquerque, New Mexico…Where is that?”

Ceil sleepily looks up from her way-over-minimum-wage desk and says, MEXICO, Mary.

A shouting match ensues and my brother Elliot who had never heard his daughter raise her voice comes over and asks what is going on.  When he gets the whole ridiculous story he adds to the scene and of course Security is called.  Elliot asks the Security Guard if he knows where Albuquerque, New Mexico is.  The guard replies:  “South next to Texas.”

“In the USA?!”

“Of course.”   Give that man a raise.

The first lady, “Mary” quickly issued the license.  No apologies given of course.

So as I review all the insanity, the Americans that are proud of their stupidity, the general frustrations we go through, I still insist that everyone should get a decent wage, benefits, and a wonderful life.  I of course should receive a minimum of one billion dollars a week with an extra box of Cuban cigars at the end of the year’s holiday.

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Minimum Wage

Fitted Sheets

I went to see a very close pal of mine the other day who just happens to be The World’s Greatest Psychiatrist.  No, it is not what you are thinking about.  I do not need help.  It is just that I wanted to give him the most recent novel I had penned because I felt that it would help him to further understand entertainers of which he has many patients who need help.  Also I wished to inform him that my regular doctor said that I am not crazy, just eccentric.  During my session he asked me to stop calling his patients nut jobs, but rather to prefer to them as people who need help.  So I said, “Here is my last book to help those nut jobs ya got who need help.  Can you please help me now?!”

I explained that it is a small thing, really, that I have had the same dream every night for the past thirty years and I always wake up right after it in the middle of the night and I need my sleep so I can practice and write, and though at first I was a little frightened, I had gotten into it and now I completely enjoy the dream.

I went on to tell my dear pal The World’s Greatest Psychiatrist… Who the hell else would I go to being The World’s Greatest Xylophonist…that still after fifty years I take fourteen showers a day and brush and floss around thirty times daily as well.  So not too much has changed in all that time.

I told him “Maybe I do not need help…but listen…here is what I dream about.  Rats.  In my dream they are thirty feet high and devour me with knife, fork and mustard, Kosciusko is their favorite and mine.  They do scare me as much as the Mafia Guys in the two thousand dollar suites who want to prepare me for the rats, though they never do catch me, I think they also need help and plenty of it as all of ‘em really deep down want to be Sinatra, though Frank could swing, they could not, Frank had great taste in music, they do not, Frank possessed marvelous diction which they ain’t got and…and…and…and…and all of those guys in my dreams add silly cheap ties to the shark-skin suits.  In other words they all suck big time and some of them have Nelson Riddle Charts re-orchestrated for banjo and glockenspiel and they always tell me to light their cigarettes before they serve me up to the rodents.  In fact the other night when I final fell asleep, it took three hours doing the alphabet trick, one of these Corleone wannabees sang me an odd meter arrangement of AL-DI-LA.

“Okay, so maybe I do need help.  For the love of everything Kosher, Doctor pal-o-mine, you are a Freud man, didn’t he write the book, The Interpretation of Dreams?!

The World’s Greatest Psychiatrist questioned me as to what kind of bed I sleep on, the pillows and the blankets. I mentioned that my bed is very traditional, a double-king-size with a carved Knights of the Round Table scene headboard.  I use only twelve pillows and my blankets which are recyclable are made of the finest espresso coffee grounds that are held together by freeze dried Piqua syrup.

The good doctor put down his Second Avenue Deli sandwich and told me he had seen a similar case like mine when he was interning in a hotel in Thimphu Bhutan.  He said, “I believe your problem is the sheets.  Yes, I am sure, that is it.  What kind of sheets are you trying to sleep on?”

Well he nailed it!  Of course, that’s it!  That’s why he gets seven hundred and fifty dollars a half hour.  I have been trying to sleep on fitted sheets.  Oh those pieces of crap.  Who was the Nazi Bastard that invented them?  They never fit.  You pull them over on one side and the other side pops off.  All sides have elastic trimmed corners.  You tape the corners with gaffer’s tape and pull, the corners pop off again.  They really suck.  I have been given the best ones made.  I have purchased the best ones.  All of them never work.  I CURSE THEM!!!!  I BEG THEM!!!!  I have dozens of them but none of them make it.  I have even invited some pals of mine over to hold down the corners while I yank and pull.  I just cannot be done.  The fitted devils slip out of their fingers and shriek with laughter at me.  I have cut open the corners to make them into regular sheets but I still wake up in a cocoon.  The cruel, ugly, torturous things wrap themselves around me and all the help in the world cannot save me.

My good pal, The World’s Greatest Psychiatrist tells me to go out and buy some regular sheets.  If I do that I will get some rest and be as close to a “normal” person as one can get.  He used four fingers in the air when he said the word “normal”.

I ran from the doctor’s office and went to a linen store and had a lovely time buying regular-normal-no-help-sheets.  They were in all colors.  Some were orange, some were purple, some gold colored.  When I got home I saw that the fitted sheet on my bed was trying to make the letter V out of the mattress.  I ripped it off.  Then!  I threw all the fitted sheets into a very old xylophone case.  My first night of “Normal” no help sleep was upon an all silk periwinkle job that was cool and flat.

The rats can now go and eat someone else.  The Mafia wannabees can get some new orchestrations and vocal lessons.  Yeah, that’s right; get someone else to light your cigs.  My pshych pal has founded the cure.  Bless him.

I might even pay him one day.  Maybe even give him a gift:  An old xylophone case filled with “slightly” used fitted sheets.

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Next Blog:  Minimum Wage


Fitted Sheets


I love ‘em.  Yes, I know that a major portion of the population is against smoking everywhere and anywhere, and I respect that.  I have never in my entire life smoked a cigar in front of anyone…and never will.  Okay?  Fine…I mean the nasty things are just in my mouth… unlit…for respect…You’d be surprised and to cause unsolicited complaints…You’d be very surprised or maybe not.

Most cigar smokers I know are ladies and gentlemen, they behave quite well and are usually shocked as to the stories they hear.

Many years ago I was on the subway going downtown to do a radio show on the city’s radio station and to kill time I sat down and pulled out a copy of Cigar Aficionado.   At the time the magazine basically had mediocre articles about various things, decent photography and of course the extremely important ratings of cigars.  I sat down and began to read about my babies.  Looking back I think it is funny that the photos of the smokes all look the same.  How can you tell how good a cigar is from a photo anyway!   I am staring at the picture of the stogie minding my own business…whatever that is…and an elderly lady seated next to me taps me, a bit hard and says, “You’re not going to light that thing in here are you?!!”

I turned to her and said, “Ma’am.  Why would I light up a magazine?  And besides there is no smoking of any kind in the subway.”  She gave me the twisted-face-look and turned away.   I went to the radio show and of course mentioned the subway ride on the air. By the time I got home somewhat later I got a call from the station manager.  She said that a lot of people were calling in with similar stories:

  1. I was reading the cigar magazine by the pool and the life guard came over and asked me to not to smoke.
  2. I went to play at the Broadway Show I do and after setting up my saxophone and clarinet in the pit, I had sometime…so I took out my copy of a cigar magazine and a cellist came over to me and told me there is no smoking in the pit!

I do a lot of traveling and not long ago I was in Kusadasi, Turkey.  As usual I had a big sixty ring seven inch Maduro in my mouth and as I was walking down one of the side streets a vendor looked at me like I had leprosy and screamed, “You Crazy!  You crazy! You die!”  And at that point she lunged at me, pulled the cigar out of my mouth and threw it into the sewer.  I tried to explain to my dear friend that yes I am most definitely crazy, one would have to be crazy to be a xylophone soloist, and eventually will die but not just now as I still have a show to do that night…Fine Lady.

My personal favorite is when I was in Oman.  Don’t ask…please…just don’t be a woman in Oman.  That place could use a lot of w’s.  As I strut down the street dressed modestly but of course with my large brim Cuban hat that was made in the USA by an Australian company.  I stop for a moment to shift my cigar to the other side of my mouth and I hear a local camel ride guy call out to me. “Senor, Senor, Cubano!  You will enjoy the ride.”  I have never gotten up on a camel in my life though I have smoked a few in emergencies and I’m thinking this will make a great photo and I call back to him, “Coming, be right there, oh yeah!”   But when I get close his eyes dart up and back from my cigar to my American flag pin and as I witness the disappointment in his face as he says,

“Oh you are American.  You are not Cuban.  You…”

I stop him and say, “Oh you caught me.  I was trying to pass for a Cuban because I hear that you give discounts to them but…yes…you have found me out!  I am an American.  Some of us do smoke cigars.  Here’s ten dollars for your camel and a fine fifty-four ring, six inch Maduro for your sir.”

I was once in a test group for cigars.  They asked, “What brand do you smoke?”  I tried to explain to the Youngish testers that unlike cigarette smokers who smoke the same brand for years, cigar guys, that include ladies of course, and I know quite a few, enjoy changing brands, trading with each other and use different sticks for different licks.  I could tell they weren’t listening to me at all.

I also feel that I have hooked dozens of people onto cigars.  Their spouses despise me.  They tell me their husband or wife smells of cigars, curses and spits all the time and all of a sudden likes to listen to Xylophones.  And I am proud of that fact.

With very few exceptions I have changed cigar buddies as often as I change the brand of my cigar.

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Next Blog:  Fitted Sheets