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Order Your Copy Today!!!!

Dear Friends:

I am proud to announce that As the Matzo Ball Turns is finally available for purchase. Simply go to the blog and select the option that is best for you. In all honesty, purchasing the book directly from me using the Paypal option helps me the most but Amazon and Barnes and Noble keep dropping their prices which may work better for those of you on a tight budget. Whatever you decide, I thank you for your support.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who already purchased a copy of As the Matzo Ball Turns!!! If you enjoyed it please comment and rate it on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble and encourage others to give it a try. Because I am working independently with a small publisher, word of mouth is incredibly important for the books success!!!!  Thanks again and happy reading!!!!


Categories: Uncategorized

Coming to a town near you!!!!

February 11, 2012 4 comments

Dear Blog Visitor/Subscriber:

Finally, after almost three years of blood, sweat and tears As the Matzo Ball Turns is on its way to the printer and will be available for purchase in March. Thank you everybody for your patience, enthusiasm and support.  It is you who has kept me going through this very exciting yet tedious time. Please stay tuned for all of the updates and promotional events to be announced through the blog. If you are new to this site, please subscribe by entering your email address in the space provided on the side bar to the right. This will allow you to receive updates and information on how you can get your very own copy of As the Matzo Ball Turns.   Thank you again and I look forward to your feedback on the book !!!  ~J.R.

Categories: Uncategorized

Attack of the Manson Family!!!!

October 13, 2011 4 comments

In the restaurant business, as in life, there are those who are gracious, friendly and treat others with a healthy level of respect and then there are those who are put on this earth to piss everybody off. If the former were my only concern I would have had the greatest job in the world but unfortunately for me and everybody else in the restaurant business, this was not the case. And the kicker about the whole thing was that you could be having the greatest day in the world and all it would take it is one ignoramous who thinks the world revolves around him/her and your entire day is completely ruined.

I will call Exhibit A Frank and Sue. This mother-and-son team had a notorious reputation around town and put the fear of God into those in the restaurant business. On the exterior, this duo had the makings of two close family acquaintances you would invite over for Christmas dinner, but on the inside, these two next of kin were pure evil. I was introduced to them by a very vile co-worker named Elizabeth. More on Elizabeth later but because of Elizabeth’s lazy nature and her mean, vindictive spirit, with a smile as wide as Texas, Elizabeth walked Frank and Sue to my section after proudly announcing to me that she was giving me a table. She returned after seating them and told me they were very nice and that she used to wait on them herself. Oh, how sweet. Then she began laughing when she told me that she told them they would like me much better. Great. What was she up to? She then informed me that they could be “a little demanding” but tipped very well and were, once again, “really nice.” But, something seemed a little off. Anyway, it didn’t matter. I convinced myself that I was in LA to succeed in the entertainment business no matter what, and no one, especially some seventy-something-year-old woman and her momma’s-boy son were going to ruin it for me, so I decided to step up to the challenge. 

My initial impression of them was a pleasant one as I felt a warm glow emanating from their table. They assured me they were in no hurry and that I could take my time bringing them their order. This seemed fair enough as I was very busy. After I brought them their fruit punch and diet coke as per their request, they were ready to order their starter, a chopped salad, which they intended to share. They told me they wanted extra garbanzo beans, extra corn, extra scallions, extra ranch dressing and extra tomatoes all to be put in little side cups with easy cheese on the salad and an extra bowl so they could split it. Okay, now the order was becoming a little presumptuous, but I figured once I entered it into the computer, it would be all downhill from there. This assumption turned out to be a huge miscalculation.

When I returned with their specialty salad, there weren’t enough garbanzo beans, and there was too much cheese. “Should I take it back?” I asked, to which Frank politely replied, “If you don’t mind.” When I returned with the corrected salad, Frank said, “It looks good,” but they just needed some extra dressing and a few more napkins. Frank was now well on his way to becoming a royal pain in the ass so I ran off to do a couple of other things before I tended to his latest task. When I got back with Frank’s most recent request, in the most courteous way possible, Frank asked me for more fruit punch. I quickly refilled his drink and returned to find their menus folded. They were now ready to order. “We would both like the chicken parmesan platters, but make sure they are hot,” Frank insisted. And I guess what he meant by “hot” was “cook them until they reach the core temperature of the sun.” It appeared the old lady’s taste buds no longer gauged thermal gradations and only the results of nuclear fusion registered as warm on her palate because even though I picked up their entrees directly from the line immediately following their completion they were still not hot enough.

I became aware of this fact when out of the corner of my eye I observed the ancient fossil tasting her chicken and then abruptly shaking her head no. After Frank leaned down to sample his, he waved me over in the most courteous way possible and asked me to “nuke” their platters. Since we only had one microwave, this running of the chickens entailed me taking the entrees back to the soup station where I battled for supremacy on the re-heating mechanism. I’d heat up one dish and then run it back to the table before any air had a chance to touch it, all while leaving the other plate smoldering in the microwave. Over time, no matter how scalding hot these dishes came out to their table or how much I zapped them before I served them, they were never hot enough. The only thing that seemed to satisfy these two inbreeds was when I had to wear oven mitts to deliver their plates to their table. And the thing that over time really pissed me off about this whole ridiculous process was the amount of time it took for them to eat their platters once they received them. Week in and week out, they would literally take over an hour and a half to nibble on their recurring entrées even though at least fifteen minutes into their whole annoying routine their meals had to be ice cold.

After the first two or three weeks of their circus act, I was able to overlook this minor detail, but after a month or two of these two traipsing in every Thursday night, requesting me and only me as their waiter and then pulling this same stunt over and over again I began seething with anger. After another couple of months of this nonsense, I was bringing their lunacy home with me where it would linger in my psyche for two to three days. Yes, they would tip me eight to ten dollars on a forty-dollar check, but they were starting to appear in my dreams, and I was waking up from my sleep in a cold sweat. I knew this was self-destructive so I started challenging myself to see if, for just one time, I could serve them their meal without any glitches. When this failed, I thought I’d try to kill them with kindness. So much kindness they would puke up their chicken parmesans. Then I tried being rude. They told me they wanted to make me a Democrat, and I told them Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were my childhood heroes. No matter what I did to counter these two dimwits, I could not slip them. I started dreading coming into work on Thursdays. When I switched shifts, they would leave and come back on a night when I was working. These two were haunting me like the Ghost of Christmas Past and I had to do something before I sawed them into little pieces and put them in their chopped salad.

I now had some very difficult questions to ask myself. As I searched deep inside, was I finding that, after just two years of pursuing acting in LA, Hollywood was already starting to get the best of me? Could I not even handle this aging predecessor and her coddled son? Then a realization! For my own survival and for the sustenance of my dream, I had to pawn these two deviants off on someone else. But who would be gullible enough and who did I despise badly enough to pass these two devil’s spawns off onto? It didn’t matter. I just wanted to get through a Thursday shift that entailed someone else toiling over these two despots. I will always remember that final Thursday as “The Last Supper” and the lucky winner of these two ingrates was the first person I laid eyes upon who looked like he wasn’t busy. It just so happened to be a new guy, Andy, who was as smart as a box of hammers and who would have no problem telling these two ass wipes where to go if they pushed him far enough. He was perfect!! …

Categories: Uncategorized

End The Fed!!!!

August 31, 2011 2 comments

      After five years of running head first into a brick wall while pursuing a film career in Los Angeles, I began waking up to the high level scams that were stalling my forward momentum in life.  And there was one person who brought many of these shady undertakings to my attention…Dr. Ron Paul.  Dr. Paul came along at the exact right moment in time to articulate the reasons I started noticing my freedom and prosperity dissappearing before my very eyes.  The most serious issue, and the one that tied the corruption in our country to the Hollywood elite was that of the Federal Reserve.  This con involves a private international banking cartel that controls the United States currency and in turn, most of the world’s reserve money.  And the majority of the biggest players in Hollywood were in some way, shape or form tied to this illegal central bank through their corporate entities.  Once I realized that my success in the entertainment business was dependent upon breaking up the cronyism that existed in our country and in LA LA land I decided to get involved.

     While making calls at the Los Angeles Ron Paul headquarters during Dr. Paul’s run for president in 2008, I got to meet the founder of the “End the Fed” movement who encouraged me to become an active participant in their protests.  It was a very eye opening experience to learn of the other two central banks that existed in our nation’s history and how they both deprived the people of their wealth and freedom not unlike today.  I was also learning from the many brilliant minds that I was coming into contact with that we were sold into slavery by FDR in 1933 when he agreed to use U.S.citizens as collateral for the newly established Federal Reserve Bank Note.  This new Federal Reserve Bank Note replaced the former Federal Reserve Note that a person used to be able to exchange for an equivalent amount of gold or silver that backed the Note’s worth.  The Federal Reserve Bank Note is now currently backed by nothing other than We the People and our promise to pay the debt with everything we have, including ourselves

     Because my eyes were now opening to this corrupt world around me, I felt as if it was my duty and in the best interest of my own self preservation to alert others.  This didn’t come without consequences.  More importantly I was driving my girlfriend Mary away.  She couldn’t understand what caused me to take such a radical turn and warned me on several occasions not to discuss any of my newfound knowledge with her. 

      I think the final straw that beyond any doubt pushed Mary over the edge and broke the proverbial camel’s back in our relationship was the night that I went out hanging “End the Fed” and “Gold is Money” signs.  These were to be fastened to two consecutive footbridges that hovered over the highly traveled 101 freeway.  I needed an accomplice but I knew better than to ask Mary.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t even want her to know what I was up to.  I bought the supplies at Michael’s Craft Store while Mary was at work and promptly rushed home to complete these humongous posters before she walked through the front door.  I quickly loaded up my car just short of her arrival and scurried off to work before she could stumble upon my revolutionary activities.  When I arrived at the deli that evening, I kept the amount of people I asked for help to a minimum as I didn’t want to stir up any more sentiment to fire me than was already present.  When I came across Miguel, an eighteen year old 5’4” Hispanic kid who was more into the thrill of the adventure then he was the cause for liberty, we hatched our plan.

     After work, we drove my car to the footbridge farthest from the deli and parked in the cul-de-sac near the entrance.  We brazenly approached the overpass with determination as we were excited to start our mission.  But just a few steps into our walk of death we began to second guess our decision.  Tractor trailers were whipping below our feet at breakneck speed forcing the whole structure to shake.  As we finally inched our way to the center of the catwalk we first had to stop our knees from knocking so we could carry out our objective.  As we eventually adapted to our new environment, a fresh rush of adrenaline swept over us.  We hurriedly decided that we should fasten the top ends of the banner first.  We agreed that in order for this to happen I, being 6’5”, would have to drape the sign over the tall wire fence extending up from the guardrail.  From there we would fasten the top corners to temporarily hold the streamer in place while we secured the rest of the homemade billboard.  Trust me this was trickier than it sounds.  I held onto the sign for dear life as I reached over the tall chain link fence that was the only thing keeping me from splattering all over the concrete interstate below.  I prayed to God that the mesh wire barrier that was gently separating me from the highway underneath me had met all of the safety requirements necessary to hold a large man in place who just so happened to be dangling from an overpass.  As I clutched the material with one hand I poked two fingers from my free hand through one of the holes in the chain link fence to attach the first top corner.  After briskly duplicating this task, we successfully hung up the first sign and in a race against time moved on to the second bridge. 

     We were well on our way to completing our objective on the second bridge when we started laughing hysterically at the insanity of our operation.  I mean what would happen if we dropped a sign onto an oncoming tractor trailer that, as a result of our actions, went veering off the freeway at 80 miles per hour.  My body was shaking and even though there was a slight thrill involved in our adventure, I couldn’t wait to return to the safety of my car.  We were nearly finished tying the last bottom corner of the second sign to the fence when we felt a strong illuminating presence from behind us.  We turned around to discover the source but the glare was so blinding that we could not make out what it was.  Then we suddenly heard “Get down off the footbridge now.  Wait at the bottom of the ramp and one of our cruisers will meet you there.”  When the tractor beam finally dimmed down enough to see who was behind it we realized it was the California Highway Patrol who had pulled off to the side of the road to catch us in the act with their floodlight.

     Because my car was parked on the same side of the road as the cruiser, I got the bright idea (no pun intended) to walk in the opposite direction of both.  Completely ignoring the fact that if they inspected the cars in the cul-de-sac where I left my car, they would have found more than enough sign hanging paraphernalia to link me to the crime.  But it was too late as Miguel had already taken my lead and was following me in the direction that got us down off the footbridge in the least amount of time and as far away from the Highway Patrol as possible.  I kept expecting a police helicopter to come swooping down from the sky to prevent us from disappearing into the night.  All that I knew was that they were not going to take me in alive.

     The second we hit the dark part on the ramp we took off running.  I had a feeling that Miguel’s rotund shape would not suit him well in the long distance sprinting we were about to embark on.  These kinds of thoughts raced through my mind as I shot out to an early lead.  I was hitting full stride when all of a sudden, at the bottom of the ramp, I found myself in mid air.  I caught my fall with my forearms and skidded on the concrete pavement until I came to a complete stop.  As I laid there trying to figure out what in the hell just happened I could feel the multitude of burns on my skin and noticed that I was bleeding profusely.  As I felt my way through the dark like Helen Keller in a wax museum, I discovered a pole that was sticking out of the center of the walkway that I guess I overlooked while travelling at full speed in 1% visibility.  My leg was a little banged up from smacking into the pole but I was determined to keep going.  As I attempted to pick myself up off the ground I could hear the pitter patter of Miguel’s feet rapidly approaching.  I yelled “Pole!” to prevent Miguel from meeting the same fate.  He was able to decelerate just inches before striking the metal intrusion.  Had he not come to a screeching halt at that exact point in time he would’ve knocked his family jewels up into his esophagus.  He helped me up to my feet and checked in with me to make sure I was okay.  Before long we were two fugitives on the lam once again fleeing through a wealthy Encino neighborhood.

     We alertly hid behind parked cars or jumped behind a row of bushes anytime we thought we heard an oncoming car.  After about thirty minutes of bobbing and weaving through suburbia we finally made it to White Oak Avenue which was the same street that I lived on.  Unfortunately for us, we emerged about two miles away from my car and even further away from my house.  Miguel being the street punk that he was figured that the cops would probably be waiting for us by my car so we agreed to continue traveling in the opposite direction.  We were only a few blocks away from Ventura Boulevard where there was a supermarket and a bus stop.

     Making it to the supermarket would provide us with some cover and allow us to remove ourselves from broad view, so we made it our priority.  We walked fast when there was no traffic and slowed up the pace when we felt heavier flow.  This was already a two hour plus ordeal and it was well after three in the morning.  Miguel had the foresight to remove the shirt he was wearing when we were spotted by the highway patrol which he stashed in some bushes.  This was to avoid the police description given to any black and white in the vicinity.  I can imagine the dispatch that came over the radio.  “We have a six foot five approximately 35 year old white male with blonde hair, possibly a history professor, and his accomplice a five foot four Hispanic 18 year old male, most likely a disgruntled student, heading off the 101 overpass towards Encino Ave.,” to which there is a brief pause and a burst of laughter…

A Tribute to Tai Puppy (Part II)

Tai as a young puppy.

At this point in the story, Mary who had rescued Tai, was living in North Carolina where she moved in with her new beau.  The puppies and I hung in there for as long as we could in LA, but we eventually made it back to the mountains of Pennsylvania as I document in the book.  Both the dogs and I were now in the loving care of family members after a tough ten-year struggle versus the Hollywood Machine.


As Tai approached the ripe old age of 18 she was showing signs of her senior status but on certain days you would think she was still a puppy.  Whenever she came in from the outside she would run from room to room and then suddenly squat down on the floor.  When I’d approach her she’d take off running again.  She’d do this for a good ten minutes or so until she got angry at my other rescue dog Charlie (an Australian Cattle Dog) for getting in the way and the game would abruptly end with Tai reprimanding Charlie.  Tai wore the pants in the family and if Charlie wanted to get past Tai he would have to bark so that Tai thought someone was outside.  When Tai would start barking at the alleged intruder, Charlie would go cleverly scooting by her.  A few years prior, Charlie would have never gotten away with this trick, but Tai was slowly getting senile.  My response to Tai every time she fell for this was “You don’t even know what you’re barking at.”  Tai would also go to the edge of the yard and just stare into space, sometimes for a very long time.  And she was having a harder and harder time doing steps or climbing into my car whenever I took her swimming.  She seemed to have problems with her hips because she would stagger around and sometimes lose her balance especially if she just woke up from a nap.  Or she would spin in a circle multiple times until she’d just collapse on the floor while attempting to lie down.  But after swimming she’d walk further and more vibrantly.  I assumed wading through the water was helping her.

The only irregular thing that showed on Tai’s test results during her previous visit to the vet were slightly high kidney readings.  I bought her a lower protein dog food that was hopefully taking the strain off of these organs.  I knew old age was setting in and I made a committment to see her live a happy and healthy life all the way until the end.  Even though the walks had to be tough on her, Tai would gallop like a show dog while trying to keep up with Charlie who would have my other arm outstretched in the opposite direction.  Walking these two at the same time made me feel like a puppeteer and I would frequently get their lines crossed.  I swear they did it on purpose.  When it came to swimming though Tai was the fearless one.  She would swim out to me and then around me like I was a buoy while Charlie would sit at the edge of the water on the cement boat ramp that we used to enter and exit the lake.  If I called Charlie, he would swim out to me and around me but then would quickly return to safety.  Tai would swim near me the whole time as if to say look daddy I’m a good swimmer.  I kept Tai on her leash during these sessions because she tended to ignore instructions like “Come here” “Let’s go” and “No.”  I also got the feeling that if I left her off her leash she would swim to the middle of the lake never to be seen again.  This would make sense a little later on.

With the summer of 2011 heating up, even being inside our well ventilated and fan cooled house was a little strenuous on the dogs.  It had been a few days since I had done anything with Tai and I really felt like I needed to keep her moving to prevent old age from setting in.  There were many days when Tai resisted going places but she always seemed to be grateful afterwords.  On this one particular day, her actions should have spoken volumes to me.  She was making it very hard to put her leash on and at one point stuck her head under a table when I tried to lasso her.  My uncle even made the comment that she didn’t want to go.  I thought she was being stubborn.  Once the leash was successfully around her neck she did her usual trot and seemed happy to be going with daddy and Charlie.

Intuitively I guess I knew her condition was deteriorating.  Every time I took her somewhere I could easily pick her up and move her.  A year or two ago this would have never happened.  Of course, she would still snap and bark at me but she just didn’t have the zest to stop me.  And one time, a few weeks prior, putting her in the car caused her teeth to rattle.  I monitored her situation and it stopped once the stress of travelling subsided.  She also seemed to shake a little after swimming but I just assumed she was a little cold from the water.

On this particular day, when we arrived at the lake Charlie jumped out of the car excited to be at his new destination.  Tai, was a little less enthusiastic.  I did my usual routine of taking off my socks, sneakers and shirt while the puppies snurfed around the giant rocks that lined the entrance to the boat ramp.  Charlie was always off his leash by this point but I kept Tai in my control at all times.  It just wasn’t worth the fuss to try and rein her in again.

Today it was Tai who stood at the edge of the water as Charlie swam around like a fish.  I let Tai go at her own pace which seemed to take her a little longer than normal.  In hindsight this was probably another sign that something just wasn’t right.  Tai, being the little stubborn shit that she was, didn’t want Charlie getting all of the attention so she eventually came swimming out to me.  Other times at the lake Tai would dip her head under for a second or two and then come back up for air as she doggie paddled around.  Today when she did that she was in shallow water and she kept going under.  I immediately ran over to her and pulled her out of the water as she gasped for air.  I rushed her to land where I set her down and pushed on her belly.  She began coughing up water and was breathing but when she attempted to walk she collapsed on the cement.  WHAT WAS HAPPENING!!????  I was talking to her and encouraging her until she could finally get up on her feet again.  I didn’t know what I was looking for but when Tai rose back up she was breathing somewhat normally so I convinced myself that she had just taken in some water.  But a man who was walking down the ramp to his fishing boat asked if Tai was okay because her tail was tucked in between her legs which he said was a sign of distress.  I disconcertingly stated “I don’t know” as my guilt level and sense of urgency shot through the roof.  I helped Tai into the car and we made a beeline for the house. 

On our way home I had already decided that I would never take Tai swimming again.  Around twenty minutes later Tai was spinning in circles in the yard with drool flying out of the side of her mouth.  I sat with her and tried to calm her, which helped a little bit, but she was fighting something and I had no idea what.  I called our family vet who was now closed.  I then tried to reach all of the 24 hour animal hospitals listed on their answering machine but the closest one was roughly an hour away.  A horrible feeling swept over me.  A couple of moments later my aunt suggested that we take Tai to a local vet who worked out of his home and had a reputation of getting along better with animals than people.  And he only lived five minutes away.  He was perfect

When my aunt knocked on the door, Billy didn’t immediately answer.  I was sitting in the car with Tai cradling her to keep her calm.  I am sure, for Tai, this was reminiscent of her being rescued as a puppy.  Billy finally answered his door and gave my aunt permission to bring Tai into the house.  We walked through his office slash living room and into the area that was probably once a kitchen but now resembled an operating room.  I gently set Tai on the silver medical table for Billy to examine her.  Billy’s first question was “Are we putting her to sleep tonight?”  The words “Not if we don’t have too” came shooting out of my mouth before I could even think about it.  Tai was just such a tough cookie that I wasn’t going to give up on her if she wasn’t ready to quit.  “Maybe she just had some fluid in her lungs that needed to be drained” I thought to myself.  Tai resisted being placed on the table but I held her firmly and lovingly in place as Billy listened to her heart and checked her breathing.  “Her heart beat is very faint,” he said.  “She most likely had a heart attack.  Or there could be swelling around her heart and lungs making it hard to detect her heart beat.”  Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I held the makeshift oxygen mask over Tai’s snout.  “I am going to give her a sedative to calm her down and something to make her pass the water from her lungs.  Can you leave her overnight?”  “Can you help her?” I inquired.  “We’ll see” Billy said.  A couple of minutes after the shot, Tai calmed down which seemed to alleviate her symptoms.  “I have to go to the hospital tomorrow to take some x-rays.  I’ll also take her blood work.  I’ll have some answers for you in the morning.”  It now had to be well after nine at night yet Billy graciously allowed us to spend time with Tai as she wound down.  I didn’t want to leave her alone but since she was already groggy from the medicine I figured she wouldn’t really realize we were gone anyway.  We finally left close to eleven.

I hadn’t received any calls that morning and by the time twelve noon hit I was chomping at the bit.  I had to find out what was going on. I called a few times and finally went over to Billy’s house around 4pm.  When I got to his house, Billy didn’t answer until after quite a few knocks but then graciously invited me in.  They hadn’t made it to the hospital yet.  Tai was crammed inside a little cage where she had pooped and pee’d on herself.  It didn’t matter, I opened the cage and embraced her anyway.  She was still a little out of it but had passed a lot of water throughout the night and even ate a small amount of soft food.  Billy was just preparing to leave when I got there so I said my goodbyes to Tai as Billy loaded her into his van along with a Golden Retriever that had been hit by a car.  They pulled out of the driveway. 

I was supposed to work that night but I was too much of a mess to go in.  I was also talking to Mary in North Carolina for feedback on how to handle the situation.  We were both very concerned and Mary was great at calming me down and assuring me that it wasn’t my fault even though I couldn’t stop blaming myself.  Mary also made the comment that Tai was probably really scared staying in a strange place, by herself, overnight.  That stuck with me.  When I returned that night, Billy had told me Tai did have a heart attack but seemed to be doing alright.  He now had her on heart medicine.  He felt that eventually she would be able to come home but wanted to keep her one more night as he was testing her for Cushing’s Disease  He felt this was at the root of her problems.

One of the obvious signs of Cushing’s Disease that I overlooked was Tai’s urinating in the house.  Billy was amazing at extracting the right information from me every time I came over to visit.  I, on the other hand, was gathering experiences from other pet owners regarding the dying process of their animals.  One thing that kept repeating itself over and over again was that, by in large, most people’s dogs wandered off to die alone when it was their time.  That was the sense I was getting from Tai during our trips to the lake.  I also bounced the idea of putting Tai to sleep off of Mary.  If Tai couldn’t eat or drink I didn’t want her to suffer for any selfish reasons of my own.   But Mary reminded me that death is a natural part of life and there is no reason to shortcut the process.  Mary, who had gone through a similar situation with her grandmother, mentioned that both humans and animals start detaching themselves from this world as they near the end and stop eating and drinking as they shut down.  Mary encouraged me to bring Tai home so that she could die in a familiar setting with people and a puppy around her who loved her.  And there was still the hope that maybe she would recover.

I had some big decisions to make when I got up the next day.  My aunt wasn’t crazy about the idea of bringing Tai home to die because they had lost a Sheep Dog named Sherman.  Watching their beloved friend die was tough enough but the strain of cleaning up his bodily fluids during the process took a heavy toll on my aunt and uncle as well.  They didn’t want to experience that with Tai and thought a lot of suffering on both ends could be averted by simply putting her to sleep.  When I finally caught up with Billy that day, who was getting harder to track down than a racoon with rabies, we had a heart to heart discussion.  Billy brought Tai out from her kennel and placed her on the silver medical table as we talked.  Tai cuddled up to me the whole time.  Billy confirmed that Tai had Cushing’s Disease but acknowledged that  it was too late in the game to start her on a therapy especially with her heart condition.  “Maybe if we caught it a few years earlier we could have alleviated some of the symptoms,” he explained.  “But it really wouldn’t do much good now.”  He recommended just treating her for her heart condition as there would be a slight chance of extending her life a few more months.  “Is she suffering?” I hesitantly asked.  “It’s like a person who has and is being treated for lupus,” he replied.  “They feel a little out of it and they know something is wrong but they are not suffering.”  He went on to say ”She walked around today.  She came out for some water, went to the bathroom on the floor and then went back to look at the other dogs.”  “What would you do?” I asked.  “I would be fine with your decision either way.  If she was suffering and needed to be put down I would tell you and even insist on it.  But she is not.  On the other hand, because she is dying and is just coming off of a massive coronary, I wouldn’t object to it either.  It’s your call.”  “I would love to take her home and let her die there.  But it could get a little messy and my family isn’t crazy about the idea.” I sadly responded.  “You can buy her a little swimming pool at Wal-Mart for like five bucks and put her in it.  That way she’s at home and you can manage the mess,” he stated.  It was a brilliant idea.  I called my aunt and after just a little coaxing, she agreed. 

I kissed Tai on top of her little pea head and gunned it for Wally World.  I purchased the first and only kiddie pool I could find and then quickly darted home to set it up.  I set up some blankets in the backseat of my car and shot over to Billy’s to pick up my dying puppy.  Tai was happy to see me but just transporting her alone was taking a toll on her.  She didn’t have the strength to resist my carrying her nor did she want too.  This was also self-evident when we walked into the house around 7pm.  I sat on the floor and leaned against the wall.  Tai just crawled into my lap and clung to me for at least an hour.

 Before I left Billy’s he gave me instructions on how to give Tai her medicine.  Tai wanted no part of it.  She wouldn’t even open her mouth to eat the peanut butter or cream cheese that I covered the pill with.  My aunt simply said “Let her go Jozef she doesn’t want it.”  But I refused to give up on her as I lifted her lip and forced the cream cheese coated pill into the side of her mouth   I put her in her kiddie pool for a bit as I did a few things that needed to be done.  I encouraged Tai to drink some water which she refused.  She at some point tried to stand up but fell into the water dish.  I discovered her when I walked back into the room.  I spent the next couple of hours sitting in the pool with her while talking to Mary by phone who was chillingly accurate about the dying process and the animals/persons refusal to eat or drink anything.  Charlie, my cattle dog, was nearby watching the whole thing.  He even peeked out from under the tablecloth located right next to the kiddie pool for a closer look.  I put Mary on speaker phone and she started calling out nicknames (in English and Taiwanese) for Tai that she recognized.  Tai’s ears perked up as soon she knew her mommy was present.  Tai’s energy level also picked up dramatically when she heard Mary’s voice.  Charlie recognized his mommy too and started barking.  This brought my aunt into the room who started crying hysterically.  This triggered me which in turn set off Mary.  I couldn’t pet and comfort Tai enough.  After a good hour or so on the phone, Mary said her goodbyes.

I had a few work things to do on my computer and needed a shower.  Tai seemed to be doing alright and wasn’t making a mess.  Sometime during the phone call she finally swallowed her pill which also seemed to help her.  She was eager to go through her nightly routine.  I even let her out in the yard to go to the bathroom which she did.  She became a little dazed and confused while out there and eventually had to be led back in.  On the other hand, I was beginning to think that maybe she could make a comeback.  I eased up on my concern for her and decided to finish a few short emails on my computer while she snurfed around the room.  That’s when I was hit with a sudden “Yelp!”  Tai fell to the floor and was shaking.  Was she having another heart attack or did she just get scared because she was getting weaker?  Charlie came running into the room barking which woke up my aunt.  It was now around 1am.  I immediately rushed over to Tai while petting Charlie to calm him down.  Out of concern my aunt, who was having a hard time sleeping anyway, quickly arrived in the room to find out what was going on.  The situation brought us to tears again.  I comforted Tai and laid with her for hours, petting and kissing her and telling her it was going to be okay.  I decided I was going to sleep with her that night in case she needed me.  I considered taking her upstairs but didn’t want to stress her out anymore than she already was.  Tai always slept in the downstairs and that’s where I would set up shop to comfort her as much as possible.  When I came back with my pillow and blanket Tai had made it out to the front living room where Charlie was sleeping.  It was now around 5am.

I laid next to her but we were both feeding off each others energy and had a hard time sleeping.  When we both finally started drifting off around 7am Tai jumped up and let out another “Yelp!”  I immediately woke up.  She then tried to stand but her legs were wobbling underneath her and she could barely stand.  She staggered about 15 feet and ended up under the dining room table.  I still don’t know if  she got up to go the bathroom or was trying to wander off to die alone but she stood under the table for a good couple of minutes.  I helped her out from under the table and got her to lay on her pillow in front of her favorite giant stuffed Gorilla, Chet.  That’s when she pooped herself.  I cleaned it up and again spooned her to provide her with some solace.  As she laid on her side I could see her breathing getting weaker.  I looked into her eyes for quite some time and when we were fully connected I received a little wink and a smile.  It was incredible and deep down I knew what that meant.  I petted her and kissed her a few more times and knew that if I didn’t go upstairs for at least a couple of hours I wouldn’t get any sleep before work and would never make it through the shift.  At some point after falling asleep (within the first hour I believe) I heard a howl from Charlie.  About three hours later, this happened again when my uncle returned home.  Then the knock on my door came.  “Jozef, Tai’s dead.  She’s laying downstairs on the floor,” my uncle informed me.  When I went down she was in the same spot I had left her and she appeared to have been dead a couple of hours.  I didn’t want to believe it at first and hoped she would snarl or snap at me when I pushed on her to see if she was alive.  But she was indeed, lifeless.  She was so stubborn and tough that I just didn’t think she would ever die.

Once reality set in, I had to figure out what I was going to do with her.  At first I put Tai in a box, but then my uncle thought a plastic bag would be better.  He gave me some suggestions as to where I could bury her but none of the places felt right once I got there.  I called Mary and we both agreed that cremating Tai would be a better option.  We both cringed at the thought of another animal digging up Tai’s remains and didn’t want her to go out like that.  I made a couple of quick phone calls.  When I found the closest and most reasonably priced pet center to provide the service I drove to its location in the next town over and went in to make the arrangements.  I was able to keep my composure as I paid the attendant working the front desk, but when I went out to my car to pick up Tai one last time I couldn’t stop the onslaught of tears.  It took everything I had to hand Tai over to the worker who met me at the side door.  That night at work was a roller coaster of emotions that stemmed from the deep sorrow in my heart.  At one point I had to leave the restaurant and sit in the adjacent room as I teared up and then gracefully tried to pull myself back together again. 

My friends, family and Mary were very supportive and honestly letting Tai die at home was the best decision I could have made.  My last 12 hours with Tai bonded us in a way that I will never forget.  It was the most gratifying thing I could have done for Tai, myself and everybody else who loved her.  Tai passed away on July 15, 2011 somewhere between 8-9am and although she is gone from this world she will never be forgotten.  RIP Tai puppy!!!!

Tai Puppy (1993-2011)

A Tribute to Tai Puppy (Part I)

August 5, 2011 8 comments

At first glance, this cute little white American Eskimo may not look like much but she truly is a miracle dog.  And not only does she turn up as a character in “As the Matzo Ball Turns” but she also played a very important part in my life as well.  This scrappy ”hot dog on stilts” who earned the nicknames “Perro Estupido” “Chicken Head” “Little Girl” and “Mogwai” to name a few also beat incredible odds as a puppy and went on to bring an incredible amount of joy to those whose lives she touched.

Tai’s story begins in Taiwan, a country notorious for its stray dog population.  At the time Mary, who would later become my partner in life, was married to an American Engineer assigned to the Chiang Kai-shek military base in Taiwan.  Mary had been mentioning her desire to rescue one of these vagrant dogs doomed for a life of hardship when and only when the right one found her.  It was standard operating procedure for Mary and a few of her friends to hike through the rice patties on a nearby hillside as part of their daily exercise routine and regular chit-chat sessions.  Knowing Mary’s desire to find a puppy and while also missing her presence during a hike that she rarely skipped out on, Mary’s friends could not return fast enough to break the news to her of an abandoned puppy they had seen while making their daily trek through the Taiwan countryside.

Being the caring soul that she is, Mary insisted that her sidekicks take her to the spot where they had discovered this incredibly cute yet vulnerable and neglected puppy.  When they arrived back at the spot where they had first laid eyes on this lost pooch, the temperatures were soaring and there was not a living thing in site.  After some discussion amongst the group as to whether or not they were even in the right spot, Mary decided to take matters into her own hands and began calling out ”Here puppy, puppy.”  Then a miracle.  Crawling out from under a pile of wood where local inhabitants had been dumping their housing scraps came a tiny white fur ball who desperately needed a helping hand.  As Tai struggled to make her way to the voice rescuing her from these unbearable conditions, Mary quickly rushed over and swooped her up so Tai could conserve what little energy she had left.  On their way down the hillside, Mary kept reassuring Tai that she would never have to worry again and that she would take good care of her.

The next few weeks for Tai would be a struggle of life and death.  She was diagnosed with babesia and it was learned that because this parasite implodes the hosts red blood cells her chances of survival, especially at the stage she was in, were slim to none.  Mary not only refused to give up on her, she nursed Tai for weeks at a time until Tai made a full recovery.  At one point during this ordeal Tai actually puked up a giant worm.   After Mary’s love and care saved Tai from the clutches of death, it was also time to return to the US.  Things would still not be easy for Tai. 

When Mary returned to the states she reunited with her aggressive and temperamental Chow Chow named Asia.  Asia had been staying with some friends but because Asia was not properly socialized as a young dog and had been abused by one of Mary’s boyfriends at that same time, Asia was very inappropriate.  Tai was still very young when she was introduced to Asia.  Asia was not only older than Tai she was also much larger and would attack Tai for no reason at all.  During one of these skirmishes Asia took such a large chunk out of Tai that Tai had to be rushed to the vet.  Tai was bleeding profusely and was very shaken but she quickly learned how to stand up for herself.  Tai turned out to be one of the toughest and most loyal dogs I had ever met.  Her bark was chilling enough to wake the dead and any animal (or human for that matter) within a mile radius knew to steer clear of Tai when she was upset because it was obvious that she meant business.

Having Tai warm up to me was no easy feat.  When I first met Mary, Tai was now about 8 and Asia was about 12.  It literally took months for me to even get my hand close enough to pet her.  She had this funny little game of lowering you in with her cuteness and just when you thought it would be okay to stroke her fur she would snap at you.  Not that this happened to me, but I’d seen it with so many others that I just knew her game.  Mary had given me very specific instructions to let Tai warm up to me.  At that point in time I had been alone for a very long time and not only was it strange to be in the company of a woman but in the presence of a couple of volatile dogs as well.  Until this day I still don’t know which of the three had the bigger bark.  Not only did I obey Mary’s instructions but I waited for Tai to make all of the moves.  Tai and I soon became very close.

Tai made me laugh constantly but a few of her antics immediately come to mind.  Like any dog Tai loved food.  Not only did she love food but whenever you were doing something strenuous or tedious Tai always seemed to be in the wrong place at the right time.  For instance if you were attempting to bring a heavy load of groceries in from the store, Tai would be standing right in the way smiling and doing her usual puppy laugh.  Every time she did this I’d either say “Move” or “Are you helping?’  Not always in that order.  And of course she’d stand there until you pressed on her with your leg to move or just plain old tripped over her.  The day Mary was cooking chicken on the grill was no different.  Tai was helping by standing under the grill hoping to catch a piece of fallen bird.  Instead of catching some grilled rotisserie, Tai was on the receiving end of some dripping grease.  When Tai emerged from under the BBQ she looked like Lucille Ball.  The hair on top of her head was bright orange.  This is where she picked up the nickname Chicken Head.  Another Tai classic was when you were playing catch with her and she would fetch the ball.  When she brought it back to you she would pretend to be giving it back to you but when you went to grab it she would quickly turn and trot away.  Not unlike the old Lucy and Charlie Brown skits where Charlie would try to kick the football and Lucy would pull it out from under him.  Tai did this every time.  It was hilarious.  Then if you tried to grab the ball from her mouth she would snarl and clutch onto it forcing you into a tug of war with her.  If you could wrestle the ball away from her and then toss it so she could retrieve it, she would repeat the process all over again.

There are also a few great stories of Tai in the book which you will hopefully all get to read very soon but for those of you who have lost a pet I wanted to recapture my last three days with “Little Girl.”  Not to depress you or bumm you out but to share the common experience of being around your animal when they have completely left their guard down and allow you to bond with them in a way you never could before.  This was especially unique for Tai who could be a tad anti-social to say the least.

                                                                                                    To Be Continued…

The Little Indie Movie That…Well

July 15, 2011 4 comments


At the conclusion of my first feature film, “Living With Uncle Ray” , for which I toiled as an un-credited and poorly paid production assistant, I was once again called up for duty when the film’s co-star “Rooster” was eaten by a coyote that jumped a six-foot wall for his entrée.  The production team needed a matching fowl for an additional scene that was to be shot during post production.   As fate would have it, roosters were very hard to come by during that period of time due to the bird flu epidemic that was plaguing many California cluckers.   After a frantic two-week search I finally found a close resemblance to the original leading gamecock at an animal hatchery manned by Dr. Kerchickian where I barely escaped with Rooster’s body double and my life.  I discovered Gregory Peck the day before the shoot and had to take him home with me to be sure the Mad Butcher didn’t have him sliced into lunch meat by the following morning.  “Rooster II” stayed in the bathroom next to my bedroom since it was the coolest room in the house and before long I was heading out the front door and into the blistering sun with one hour of sleep and one deeply troubled bird.

We worked with a skeleton crew that day and the gentleman who replaced the original Director of Photography was much more talented behind the camera than the previous monkey who shot the first batch of material. The problem with this new DP was that he was a combination of fat Elvis meets Bob’s Big Boy and the heat was killing him.  The fact that he smoked about ten cigars per hour didn’t help matters either.  This in turn led to the near destruction of the owner’s property when he threw one of his half-finished cigars onto a pile of hay in the sheep’s den.  Thank god an alert sound man saw the tiny flames shooting up from the ground and quickly stomped them out.

With everybody suffering from the blistering midday heat it was decided that a nice air-conditioned restaurant would be an appropriate place for a lunch break.  But due to the fact that I really needed the extra twenty bucks that was offered, I remained on set while the entire crew escaped the oppressive swelter to nourish their weary bodies.  All that was required of me to earn my extra twenty bonus dollars was for me to move several hundred pounds of equipment from the first filming location to the second one situated about 200 yards away.  As the relentless valley sun pounded down on me while I tenaciously transferred the entire movie set singlehandedly to our next post, I began seeing mirages of beautiful woman in bikinis laying next to a swimming pool, being served tall, cool pina coladas by…Bob’s Big Boy???   I was in the process of moving the last c-stand when the gang arrived back from their lunch hiatus over an hour later.  They were even gracious enough to bring me back a soda and a sandwich for my sacrifice.

The only actors needed for that afternoon shoot were “Manny” and “Rooster.”  Manny was played by a very funny fat man who had a ton of talent but at the time had a renowned reputation as a party animal.  I don’t know where he was previous to the shoot on that scorching August day, but when he arrived on set he was completely plastered.  As we prepped the set for his big scene with “Rooster” he slept on a lawn chair in a shaded area of the yard.

 It was almost time to film and there was only one remaining problem left to be solved, “How were we going to keep the actors in the frame together?”  I mean we were talking about an untrained if not completely insane winged animal.  And it’s not “Rooster” that I’m referring too.  I was already nominated to be the one to put the grip gloves on and to hold “Rooster” in place off camera while “Manny” poured his heart out to the only one who understands him, his pet rooster.  The scene was to take place over dinner and a glass of wine.  We shot a couple of takes and were close to moving on to a different camera angle when I noticed a change in Rooster’s behavior at the end of a scene.  He lifted up his rear end and like something out of “The Matrix” fired a stream of turds at me that I bent backwards to elude.  I kept a firm grasp on “Roosters” feet while hopping up to an upright position which seemed to tick “Rooster” off even more.  I don’t know if “Rooster” was upset because “Manny” was eating chicken for dinner or because there were no red M&M’s in his trailer but this temperamental co-star began throwing a hissy fit.  Wings started flapping and everything at the table, including “Manny,” got sprayed with fresh rooster droppings.  And “Manny”, already overheated, drunk and belligerent just stared at the producer for a good ten seconds or so before he could finally muster the words “I f@#$ing hate you!”  It was a classic filmmaking moment!!!!

Categories: Independent Film

Celebrity Sighting…

     I have to admit, I never liked the show, but I did look forward to waiting on Mr. Seinfeld the first time he landed in my section.  Jerr-onimo seemed like someone whom I could have a good time waiting on while I bounced some impromptu material off of him.  His show featured a lot of oddball characters quite like myself and I found our chance meeting to be somewhat divine.  Instead of witty banter during our first couple of interactions, all I walked away with after parting from his table were images of him whining to his friend, “Can you believe that guy?”  He sat in the back of the restaurant during my inaugural servitude of his majesty and because of his snippy attitude I was determined to go on the attack and cover the entire 20 points of service that we were required to follow for each table.  Hey, what did I know, he ate there so much he could have been a secret shopper (wink, wink).  What better disguise than that of a famous celebrity?  Julia Child worked undercover with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services)  Maybe Jerry Seinfeld, if that was his real name, was operating as an undercover agent for the celebrity shopper’s network.

     Anyway, I usually kicked off my routine with a “Hello, welcome to the home of the Matzo Ball soup, my name is Jozef, can I bring you a beverage or a bar drink?  A margarita or a glass of wine, perhaps?”  I think I got as far as Hello, when Jerry abruptly interrupted me with a “We’re going to need a few minutes.”  When I came back after the allotted time, the man of a thousand laughs said they were ready to order and gave me no opportunity whatsoever to interject.  He immediately ordered his Chinese Chicken Salad and beverage of choice and passed the Matzo Ball to his friend, Barry.  Since TV’s jokesmith cut me off before I even had a chance to offer them the second thing on my checklist, my next question was punching its way out of me like a baby alien stuck inside my colon.  Once Barry finally finished stammering through his order I went retroactive on their asses by asking them if they would like an appetizer such as mozzarella sticks or a quesadilla.   Barry graciously declined and thanked me as I collected the menus.  Mr. Seinfeld just stared intensively at the wall across from him.

     When the food was ready I immediately delivered it to their table and asked them if there was anything else I could get them.  This was company policy and yet another item on my checklist, not me kissing Seinfeld’s ass as he suspected.  But by that point I could tell the Good Jerr-man was getting very annoyed with my persistence.  Barry spoke for the duo by calmly and politely stating something to the effect of “I think we’re good.”  When I returned two minutes later to fulfill the next item on my checklist which was to check back within two minutes to make sure their food was okay, Seinfeld was irate.  He dropped his fork on his plate and leaned back in his seat.  A bewildered Barry just nodded his head yes and continued to chew on the mouthful of food that he recently crammed into his face.  I’m not stupid, I can take a hint.  Up until that stage of the meal my checklist was complete so I only went back to the table every few minutes or so to refill their drinks which also seem to vex the master of the one liner.

     After being assured that they were finished with their chow I naturally felt compelled to collect their plates and whisk them away.  I was nearing the end of my checklist and was gearing up for the grand finale.  I strolled up to their table and in the most benevolent way possible asked, “Would you guys like something for dessert?”  To which I got a surprising response from Mr. Seinfeld…

Copyright (c) 2010 by Jozef Rothstein

Categories: Celebrity Sighting


February 28, 2011 Leave a comment


My name is Jozef Rothstein and I am from a small town in Northeast Pennsylvania.  I arrived in Hollywood with stars in my eyes and left ten years later with those same stars circling around my head.  Part of the reason being my ten year sentence as a waiter in a Jewish Deli where I encountered everything from hit men to celebrities to little old ladies complaining about the chotsky’s in their sandwiches.  Aspiring as an actor was even less kind where each seemingly good opportunity was followed by an even bigger kick in the pants.  The following posts are not for the faint of heart but chronicle my ten year journey through the Hollywood Maze while working at a restaurant where everyone who wanted to see or be seen stopped in to ”nosh” on a Pastrami Sandwich.  Enjoy!!!!


Copyright (c) 2011 by Jozef Rothstein