Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I had to get up early this morning, so I needed to get my sleep. About two hours after I finally dropped off, I was awakened by a noise in my apartment. A chirp.

A cricket? The old house I live in is on a hill. My front door is on the ground floor, but my bedroom, in the back, is on the second floor. (And this is not a two-story apartment. It’s all on one level, but the ground drops away from that level in the back.)

A cricket I could ignore, but it seemed unlikely that a cricket could’ve made it up to a second-floor bedroom.

I listened. Another chirrup. It was too regular, too automated. No cricket: a machine.

Wearily, I forced myself out of bed. I have two smoke detectors, one carbon monoxide detector, and innumerable other gizmos. I had even gotten a new cell phone that very day. It was charging a room away: could it be chirping that it was fully recharged?

I checked: no noise from the new cell. So it was probably a detector, its batteries low, emitting a warning. I make it a point to change the detector batteries every spring, but perhaps I forgot one.

I thought I heard the beep from the bedroom smoke detector. So I opened it and took out the battery, and got back into bed.


I got out of bed again, restored the battery to the smoke detector, and went to the next closest unit – the carbon monoxide detector. I took it off the wall and held it in my hands until I heard it chirp. This was it: the malefactor, the culprit, the thief of sleep!

I removed the batteries. One of the AA batteries had leaked; I had to clean the corrosion off the contacts. I checked that the replacement batteries were fully charged, installed them, and put the detector back on the wall.

Unfortunately, as much as I needed sleep, I couldn’t seem to doze off. I ended up reading for two hours until I could get back to sleep.

And the last thing I saw as I fell asleep was the carbon monoxide detector, happily sampling my air for signs of poison.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Good-bye, Mr. Movie

Last night I was driving home from managing the South Jersey Comedy Cabaret when, as usual, I turned on the radio to listen to Steve Friedman, "Mr. Movie."

It was then that I learned that Steve Friedman had died last week at the age of 62. I hadn't caught his obituary in the newspapers, and he wasn't quite famous enough to make the national news.

He had suffered from kidney disease for years. He was on dialysis and needed a kidney transplant, but was unable to find a viable match. This wasn't for lack of donors: his radio fans loved him so much that several offered one of their own kidneys.

Steve loved doing his radio show, sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of movies with his fans. His nationally-syndicated show originated here in Philadelphia.

Steve Friedman was also a guest at my writers organization, the Brandywine Valley Writers Group. In fact, he was our first guest during my administration as president.

Last Saturday night Steve finished his radio show, went home, and died in his sleep. I'm grateful that I got to listen to his final show.

He will be missed. I will probably end up listening to the BBC as I drive home from New Jersey. There's no one who can replace Steve Friedman.