Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, April 12, 2021

I’m no political consultant. But if I were, one of my cardinal rules probably would be to avoid confusing a town with a landfill, as New York’s would-be Gov, William Weld, mistook the name of upstate town Fishkill with Staten Island’s Fresh Kills dumping ground.

Another of my cardinal rules? I guess I’d veer away from mixing up “asthma” with “anthrax”, as — yes — Weld did during a community talk in Harlem. On the very same day as the Fishkill slip, no less.

I guess New York’s preponderance of Dutch-descended placenames is throwing the former Massachusetts governor for a loop. I hope for his sake he never has to visit Spuyten Duyvil for a campaign stop, lest his head explode.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/12/2021 11:51:05 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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Here I am, tossing off posts about frivolities great and small, while back in my hometown, a major mob-connected offshore sports-betting ring is uncovered.

The betting operation was directed by John Andriello of Nanuet, who used Newburgh’s Louis Pipolo and New City’s Roger Patterson as lieutenants to gather bets, make payouts and collect gambling debts, according to court papers. The others named in the court papers were “sheets” or bookmakers, and runners who acted as go-betweens.

For now, all 12 people remain free, not charged with any crime. But the gambling operation, outlined by Orange County Chief Trial Assistant District Attorney Chris Borek in a 50-page civil filing in state Supreme Court, would make it among the biggest bookmaking rings ever uncovered in the mid-Hudson.

Why do I care, aside from the geographic connection? One of the dozen guys being investigated, Billy “Eggs” Vlachos, happens to be my first cousin. And that diner in the article’s accompanying photo is his restaurant (really, my Uncle Jimmy’s; I’m not sure how, or even if, the ownership is divided). And yes, we are rather close.

For the record, I’ve never referred to Billy as “Eggs”, nor do I know anyone who has done so. I wasn’t even aware of that nickname until I read this piece. I imagine it derives from the restaurant business — short-order cook and such.

I don’t have much to say about this, because frankly, this whole thing is news to me. I had heard the stray rumors over the years, but nothing specific. And they were easy to discount, because the family gossip grapevine is always full of half-baked assumptions that never bear out. I guess this one had some legs to it.

Anyway, the immediate result is a good bit of familial chaos. My aunt and uncle are besides themselves; the police apparently swept through the diner taking photos in every corner, leaving them nerve-wracked. Their cellphones were also confiscated, which I find confusing — wireless phone records can be obtained from providers, without the actual handsets figuring in. I haven’t talked to Billy, but I can only imagine what’s going on in his household. And the rest of the extended family is buzzing. My mom is pretty upset over the whole thing, chiefly in how it’s going to take its toll on Uncle Jimmy (her brother).

Now what? I guess some sort of clemency deal is on the table, but I don’t know the details. I have a feeling I’ll get more reliable information from the media than from Billy or anyone else. (I’m wondering if the NYC papers will jump on this; so far, it looks like it’s isolated to the Hudson Valley locals.)

Billy’s had his problems, obviously. I never imagined they were rooted in something like this. One way or the other, he’ll sort all of this out. I’m just dreading what will be left over after the collateral damage has been done.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/12/2021 11:17:10 PM
Category: New Yorkin', True Crime
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I’ve mentioned that the office building I’m in is undergoing interior renovations. A direct result of that was my improbable discovery of The National Mah Jongg League, a couple of floors up.

Today, they stepped the work up a notch: All the ceiling drop-tiles on this floor’s hallways have been removed. So on the way to and from the elevators, I’m greeted with endless tangles of exposed wiring hanging above my head, with a few low-wattage temporary lightbulbs in place of the usual florescent lighting to give that dusky feel to the scene.

Add to that a bunch of stepladders, masking tape and various other construction knickknacks, and I feel like I’ve stumbled onto the set of Alien. I’ve got my eyes peeled for any facehuggers or chest-bursters…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/12/2021 03:31:04 PM
Category: Business, Movies
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slips of the lipsI’ve been listening to Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” for the past couple of days (partly for research purposes). And I’ve decided that I really don’t care for it.

And it’s not because of Wyclef Jean’s participation, although I could have done without him on this track (Wyclef is very hit-or-miss for me — some of his stuff I love, but a lot of it makes me cringe). I think it comes down to linguistics — to wit, I don’t like Shakira’s English-language songs, yet I can’t get enough of her Spanish-language (and Portuguese-language) stuff.

It’s true. I can listen to “Ojos Asi” and “La Tortura” over and over and over again. Plus remixes! But “Whenever, Wherever”? “Underneath Your Clothes”? Both leave me cold.

What’s the difference? After all, it’s the same voice. But I think there’s a noticable distinction between Spanish-Shakira and English-Shakira, and it may come down to how multi-lingualism tends to foster different personalities within the same person. In short, I perceive a different set of vocal expressions from this singer between languages, and something about the English tunes tune me out.

Adding to this, I don’t speak Spanish (the fluency I had developed in high school has long since faded away) or Portuguese. So, essentially, I’m digging on songs that are mostly incomprehensible to me. I think the appeal lies precisely in not being able to follow the lyrics. In a way, Shakira’s voice becomes more like an accompanying instrumental. For me, that only enhances the pleasure I get from a song; nothing against song lyrics generally, but sometimes they get in the way of the music.

So, I guess I ought to delete all the Shakira English-language songs I own, and load up on her other stuff. As big an American star as she’s becoming, it’ll get harder and harder to avoid her English singing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/12/2021 01:36:34 PM
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Society
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no pitsToday I picked up a box of Luden’s Wild Cherry Cough Drops, to provide relief for this wicked sore throat I just got (which I suspect my little disease-carrying cousins to have given me, considering I had this same feeling after my last extended visit with them).

I’ve been popping the cough drops into my mouth all morning. While doing so, and eyeing the packaging at the same time, I wondered how effective a new youth-oriented ad slogan would be for this venerable brand. I’ve got the perfect one, too:

“Luden’s: Pop A Cherry!”

I tell you, I’m bound to break into the advertising game. With gems like that, how can I not?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/12/2021 11:41:06 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy
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