Friday, November 30, 2007

Are you Fat, Bald, or just plain Stupid?

What the hell happened to TV?

I grew up watching Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, The Jeffersons and Alice. The comedy writing was elevated by shows like Cheers, M*A*S*H, and eventually Seinfeld and Friends.

I knew the characters, rooted for them in their fictional lives, and laughed and cried with them to the bitter end.

Last night, my wife convinced me to watch "Are you Smarter than a fifth-grader" with two of my boys - we divided the boys up and played along with some of the dumbest son-of-a-bitches that were ever granted a few minutes of TV time.

I must say - I didn't miss even a single question - and neither did my wife or sons (okay, I'm lying, my wife missed a couple, but I'm trying to be gracious).

Anyway, I didn't really enjoy the hour - there were just seven questions asked in a full hour. The rest of the time was spent in mindless chatter - back and forth silliness about how stupid the contestants were compared to the 5th graders - and a lot of lights and noise.

A couple of days before, I was flipping through the channels and saw the weigh-in on the biggest loser show - tell me, why should I care if Matilda went from 4 spins to 3 spins - and then cried because she didn't think she'd be able to maintain. As the great Howard Stern once said to a gravity-challenged caller - "Just stop eating - just because you have a whole in the center of your face, you don't have to try and fill it."

Perhaps, I'm a tad insensitive these days - I'm really not in real life, but I wonder why we need to see anonymous people struggling with their problems in a game-show format. If you aren't smarter than a 5th grader - here's an idea - read a book.

If you can't drop those extra pounds - spin in a circle until you feel like you're going to pass out, or better yet, join a gym.

And yet, what do I do? I'm thinking of making my own show - I'll call it - "Are you balder than a cueball." We can all sit around telling each other stories about how cool it was when we had hair to twirl.

I gotta' go - I hear the Deal or No Deal music starting - it's time to take that page from my grandfather and root, root, root against the stupid, anonymous son-of-a-bitches.

By the way if you saw 5th grader last night - what in the hell is a predicate? I'm a writer - and me and little Nathaniel both blew that one.

Winter Blahs

I absolutely hate the days when it seems as though you never see the sun. I leave the house when its dark and return in the dark, and never quite feel as though I've escaped it all day long. And yet, there is something just right about the changing seasons. I lived in California for awhile and I literally sepnt eight months in sunshine, and grew bored with it. I could have been a weather man out there - I knew where each cloud was going to be, and there never was much of a threat of rain.

On December 15th of that year, I played basketball outside in a t-shirt and shorts. I distinctly recall thinking, this ain't Christmas. Four days later, the pilot announced, "We're arriving in Buffalo where the current temperature is 22 degrees."

The wind was whistling, it was dark, and the half of my brain that thinks was saying, "What the hell did you do this time, moron?"

I'm not sure what it is that I enjoy about winter - but it's here and I'm ready for it. Maybe it's that it keeps me in the house longer, allows me to sleep a solid eight, and keeps me closer to the family. Or maybe, I should have listened to the thinking half of my brain and took a dip in the pool on Christmas Eve. At least I'm not worried about wild fires in my backyard, and there has to be some consolation in that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Voices in My Head

I have been writing stories for most of my adult life - I had my first book published by the age of 24 and have been writing something new - ever since. If I ever nail it, I might quit. Yet, the thing about writing is that you never have the perfect story, or the perfect character, or the perfect ending. I suppose that is because you're always chasing what you can't catch. Which isn't to say that writing is without its rewards.

I've spoken to auditoriums full of people. I've taught writing classes. I've read my stories to college classes, and I've had my books on display in New York, Washington and Chicago - and you know, none of it truly matters. What is important is the journey - quieting the voices that scream inside my head for time.

I was writing my book In Real Life when my wife was pregnant. It's a coming-of-age story that was written about a man who imagined that the life he was living was close to the life that he wanted to live. I was about 3/4ths of the way through the book when I asked my wife to read up to where I was. I wasn't stuck, I just wanted some feedback - my wife came down the stairs with tears in her eyes.

"What happens next?" she asked.
"I have no idea," I answered.
"What do you mean, you have no idea?"
"It depends on Leo and Claire," I answered.
"Leo and Claire? Are you out of your freaking mind - they don't exist. You're Leo and Claire."
"No, they're real," I tried to explain. "They will tell the rest of the story in their own voice."

And you want to know what my wife said? "Get up there and finish it, you moron."

Yet, everyone who has ever placed a pen to the paper understands what I mean. The voices will terrorize you when you sleep, and enter your waking life as you drive, eat, or work. The very best of days is when my characters control my imagination for hours at a time. They keep me away from spending my time In Real Life.

Leo and Claire are doing quite well - if you ever have the chance, read the story that they begged me to tell. Voices, voices, everywhere - time to write something new.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The New Worker

Caught a piece on 60 Minutes that said that Human Resources people all over the land are confused as to how to treat the "new worker" who demands CEO pay and benefits while doing entry level jobs. The 60 Minutes piece said that the new worker is always complaining, is always worried about "ME" and will up and quit if their every need is not attended to.

I've had a lot of bosses in my day - one who dictated that my first task of every day when I was a construction laborer - was to buy him a case of beer and deliver to the job trailer no later than 7 AM. I figured it was part of the job - and every day, when he was blind drunk by noon, I listened to him rant and rave.

Another boss demanded that I do most of his work. While he was a certified executive, I was just his piss boy. For 7 years I carried his sorry ass because he couldn't even write a simple letter - he's enjoying his pension now, bragging that he was a big-shot.

I interviewed a guy for a position with my company. After saying hello - he asked me about vacation time and a company car. I didn't hire him. I couldn't possibly fathom that someone would want to know when his vaction was before his first day of work.

Now you see them coming in for interviews with tongue studs, tattoos and heaven knows what else pierced.

I'll end this quick discussion with an example from days gone by - the boys were 5 and 2 and I had just finished a rather unenjoyable 20-minute ride with them screaming and crying the whole way. I may have also smelled shit rising like a cloud from the backseat. I needed to stop at a gas station for milk - the kids screamed and I promised gum. I headed into the store, keeping an eye on the car the entire time. I was greeted by a 20-year old girl who was talking to her boyfriend on the cell phone as she rang up my purchases. She was smacking her own gum, and fumbled with the register, handed me the wrong change, and never once broke her conversation to tell me 'Have a nice night'.

I hustled back to the car - begged the kids to let me get home before I opened the gum - and finished my trip. When I got home- the gum wasn't in the bag. The kids went nuts, my wife asked me not to go back, but back I went.

As I headed into the store, the gal was still on the cell phone. She smiled and held up the gum to me. Very politely, I asked her to get the hell off the phone. When she did, I explained that she chose her job, and from all accounts her job was simple - "Greet the customer, ring up the charges, and bag the items."

She nodded and smiled again. I said the same thing to her that I insist on with my co-workers:

"If someone gives you a job to do, do more than what is expected."

The girl gave me the pack of gum... and the finger.

The Other Shoe

I don't know if it is the responsibility of being a parent, or the challenge of being a son, or just the fact that I'm getting older, but it seems that a lot of time is spent worrying about when the other shoe is going to drop.

Take for instance this weekend - I was looking forward to the long weekend so that we could spend some quality time, but happiness turned to sadness - see Jack O'Neill post - and additionally a co-worker and good friend broke the news that he has cancer. I spent the last three days of the weekend, just hoping that the bad news didn't come in three's.

As luck might have it, I shared a couple of beers with some other father's - and I mentioned that a lot of my adult life is spent wondering when the other shoe is going to drop - one of my good friend's explained that it was just life happening around me. Perhaps John Lennon's famous quote sums it all up - life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

Yes, the other shoe does drop from time-to-time. Certainly, we are all judged by the way we handle adversity, because trouble is never too far behind. Yet, there are moments that we can hang onto while we wait for that other shoe - moments like my son rushing to tell me the score of the football game, or watching them eat the turkey drumstick, or laughing and talking with friends as we play cards for three bucks a hand, or seeing brother's and sister's and laughing with them and at them.

My mother's birthday also happened to fall in line during the weekend. I took a lot of photos, and examined them for the happiness in her eyes as all of the grandchildren tore the holy hell out of their home.

Mom wasn't worried about the other shoe dropping - she was smiling through the commotion, secure in her place in life, and happy that we were all around her.

Perhaps security comes with wisdom and wisdom comes with time. At least that's what I'm thinking - I'll just take a deep breath and be ready, I suppose and enjoy the hell out of life in between.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jack O'Neill

One of the true advantages in living in Western New York is that we have the opportunity to see the changing seasons. The bright colors of summer give way to truly colorful images as the leaves change go red and brown and drift to the ground. Yet, the bright colors leave us quickly, giving way to a heavy cloud of gray, as winter approaches.

The clouds were hanging low yesterday, and again this morning. My heart was heavy too, as a true Irish-American passed away after spending Thanskgiving Day with the family that he loved. Something changed about the entire landscape, as Jack O'Neill's physical time on the earth ended.

I'm always struck by the daily obits in the morning newspaper. As is my habit, I read through the section, amazed by the fact that the beat writers can encapsulate a full life in a three sentence paragraph. This morning, as I gazed on Jack O'Neill's story, my mind threatened to explode. 19 grandchildren, sixty-three years of marriage, and five great-grandchildren doesn't tell the story. If everyone knew Jack like I was blessed to know him - his story would have been page one.

In a day and age when love for family, passion for country, and pride in living the right way seems to have been forgotten, Jack O'Neill's face should be on the poster for an advertisement of living a full life.

Jack was always ready with a smile, a firm handshake, and a hundred great jokes that made me - an newcomer to the family - feel as though I were the most important person in the room. His eyes filled with tears when he spoke of my son who was sick and healed. His eyes filled with pride when he shared a drink with his own children. Jack never missed a family get-together, and in the spot just off of his right shoulder was his wife, Edna. After sixty plus years of togetherness, they would smile at one another as though they were still in high school.

The seasons change. The bright colors of the summer give way to the gray skies of the coming winter. Yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jack O'Neill will not be a physical presence at our next family gathering, but he will be right there with all of us - deep in our hearts, offering that smile and that firm handshake - letting us all know how we should be living our lives.

Jack O'Neill will be missed - wish you would've had the chance to meet him.

Friday, November 23, 2007

We The People

There certainly has been a strange element to the politics of the United States over the past few years. It is almost as if we are all picking sides for an ultimate dodge ball match. To say that the country is fractured in a Bush-Clinton type meltdown is actually understating the case. I have a number of really good friends who sit on the opposite side of the political fence - and we are awfully careful not to hammer away at each other when there are a couple of Michelob Lights introduced to the scene.

Still, it got me to wondering... why is there such a rift and why are we compelled to fight for whatever side we fight for? I thought about the first three words of the Constitution and how much they should mean to all of us - We the People -

I think back to The Stand by Stephen King and the re-organization of civilization after a horrible threat to humanity. Soon after the new government was formed - there were fractures and fissures that drove people to one side or another.

I don't know what is happening in America - you look at the Blue states and the Red States - you drive by a car that has a Bush-Cheney sticker on it or a Kerry-Edwards sticker - and it can actually make your blood boil - and don't even get me started on Obama, Clinton, Guliani or McCain. Maybe it is the simple fact that I seem to be paying more attention to our politics - as I should as a responsible citizen. The thing is - should the fight be so violent?

The talkers on TV and the radio are spewing degrees of hate back and forth - from Rush to Michael Moore - we are now raising issues that result in only more hatred.

As I've said, I have a couple of smart friends who look at it from a completely different angle from me - and that is not really how it should be. We the People does not break it down to Democrats or Republicans. They knew what they were writing when they drafted the consititution - they appreciated that there would be differences along the way - they understood that the fractures and fissures would develop - but they also understood that We the People - would stand united against the most evil of threats - not sure that is happening right now - but for the future of the country - we need to fill in the gaps - and we do need to do it together - that is of course, if we still believe in the constitution.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

Saw a news flash yesterday that politicized Thanksgiving, saying it was disrespectful to someone that we gather together, say thanks, and eat and drink until we reach the stage of throwing up. What's the problem?

Yes, perhaps we have too many freedoms, maybe we take it all for granted. Maybe we all misunderstand the basic principles behind the Holiday, and use it for ourselves. I'm sure that most families don't recreate the Pilgrim-Indian scene, but does that mean we are offending someone?

I don't know about you, but I certainly don't mean any disrespect when I'm reaching for the stuffing bowl again - my mother makes the best stuffing in the world, by the way- yes, I eat too much. I have too much fun. I look around just before dinner starts and say thank-you for my family, and the opportunity to live free. I watch my children move in for the turkey leg, and appreciate the fact that they are healthy. I look at the Lions game, toss back a beer, and understand that I was fortunate to be born in this country.

Then, just before I slip off to sleep for my nap during the Dallas game, I dream of more stuffing- when I don't feel as if the button off my pants is going to shoot across the room - and I say Thanks again. Thank you to the Pilgrims and to the Indians, and to our forefathers, and my own father and mother - thanks for mashed potatoes and thanks for the pie, thanks for the beer, and the sound of the announcers who are calling the game..... slowly, I drift to sleep, not offended at anyone.

Texas Tea

Just filled up at the pumps - $3.40 a gallon. Hard to say how we've all adjusted to such prices, but what can we do? Run the engine with urine? Take the horse to work?

Our undistinguished leader once explained that we as Americans were addicted to oil. It was a bold statement that was issued without the usual stammering, or mis-pronunciation usually mustered during a stump speech. They were words meant to spur us on - to what exactly? Researching our own alternatives to this mess? Trying to run the mower with Ginger Ale?

I don't drive a Hummer. I try my best to conserve energy, but I've noticed that when I allow the needle on the tank to get below E, the vehicle starts gasping and eventually quits. Yet, I also noticed that we attacked - as Chris Rock put it - an oil-producing nation - and still the prices go up. I've also noticed that I am uneducated in the ways of the wealthy and certainly don't understand the subtle nuances that are driving the costs skyward, but when the news proclaims that the oil companies are making record profits, it's hard not to do the math - it's at our expense, isn't it?

Yet, our leadership has also proclaimed that the record profits by the oil companies is a testament to the free enterprise system and that they can't control prices to accomodate demand - no, we must, as citizens, reduce our demand for oil. It's our fault. I feel like a true addict in this oil war, but the basic question still begs for an answer. How do I weane myself off of it? What is my Nicorette to this horrific addiction. (Which also makes me wonder why quit smoking alternatives are so damn expensive. You can make a warehouse full of Bubble gum for six bucks, but non-smoking gum costs a buck a piece - and it isn't even a full stick!).

It seems to me that we need to offer some solutions, and cut out the middle man. I haven't heard much about research being done with the record profits that will lessen our dependancy on oil. I envision the day when I call my boss and tell him I can't make it to work because my wife forgot to plug in the car, but I doubt I will ever see such a day. No, I am just going to have to suck it up, and tough it out, and understand that it embarrasses me to glance at the pump when I'm filling up the car - it's so hard to put in 40 bucks and understand that I didn't even bring the needle up to 3/4's full.

Yet, we as honest, hard-working citizens should just practice saying it together - "My oil dependancy is my fault. Iam an addict and I'm ashamed of my addiction."

Perhaps we can set-up a ten-step program to break this addicition. Maybe the oil companies could sponser such a rehab program - it sure would give them something to do with their extra cash.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One Last Chance to Make it Real

I first met Bernie about ten years ago at a bar after a hard day of working construction. While most of us slammed a couple of beers so that we could run home to our busy lives, Bernie drank straight whiskey. It was common knowledge that Bernie had his first heart attack while still in his thirties, but he did nothing to change his hard-living ways. The health problems continued, and so did the drinking, gambling, and as Bernie puts it, whore-mongering. His family was devastated by his lifestyle. Two of his children ended up spending time in prison. His wife was long gone.

His financial future was also demolished and despite barely being able to stand for too long, he was forced to head back to work. I ran into Bernie a few weeks back. His face was gray, almost the color of ash. Most of his teeth were gone, and he was skinny as Olive Oil in the old Popeye cartoons. Yet, he was wearing a hardhat again.

I asked him how he felt and Bernie let loose with a litany of complaints. He needed heart surgery, his platelet counts were low, and the doctors and insurance company's were scared about his fragile health - too scared to give it a go. I didn't quite know what to say, but after leaving him standing there, I muttered, "Poor Bastard." That night, I said a prayer for him.

I ran into Bernie again a couple of days ago. I wish I could say that he looked better. Yet, he was resigned to his fate. He told me that he was having the surgery next Tuesday. He also told me that there was approximately a 67% chance that he would die. "I lived like an asshole forever," he said, "and more than anything else, I just want to make my peace with God. I don't deserve anyone's pity, but I do want to go to heaven."

Once more, I simply stood there. I muttered something about how everything would be great, and I explained that I would be praying for him to beat the odds. As I walked away, I muttered, "Poor bastard."

Bernie has been on my mind for most of the past 48 hours. I certainly will pray for him, but truth be told, his health is so fragile that he will not be with us long. I hope he has just enough time to make peace. An unfulfilled life is certainly a shame, but here's to Bernie, and the thought that he caught the wave just in time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Faces of the Dead at Five

I was never big on war. I can remember back to the 2nd grade when I asked the nun at my catholic grammer school if it was a sin if you killed someone during a war. I remember it only because she stuttered her way to an answer that didn't seriously register. I still am not sure of the answer to that question - call it Catholic guilt, or whatever, but I couldn't imagine being on the right end, or the wrong end of a gun.

I have nothing against guns- people seem to enjoy shooting them for relief. Hunting would probably appeal to me if I wasn't so busy reading and writing. I could help with the beer, at least.

The problem I have is seeing the faces of the young kids who die in war. Their love of country is certainly admirable. I am all for the troops and the spread of democracy. Every person should have the right to live free. I'm still sickened by 9/11 and I clearly recall how it made me feel - I was mostly ashamed to be a part of the human race - and it doesn't get any worse than that.

Yet, when I see the face of a young, dead soldier, my heart aches. Usually they're twenty-two or twenty-three. We've lost 32 in the Western New York area. The news anchor tells of of the feat of bravery, and someone calls him a hero. Losing your life is a high price for a three-minute mention on the local news, and the chance to be called a hero.

Of course, I understand that we are a free country because of men who sacrificed their lives. I am certainly as patriotic as the next guy, and perhaps I could respond if so confronted, but the faces of the dead, on the local news, tears me up, for one simple reason - someone courageous who loses their life is certainly a waste that we can't afford - I never truly figured it out, but I know one thing - I don't like war.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

All the Heaven I Got

The dogs are asleep on the floor, just waiting for me to make the next move so that they can follow me from room to room. The sauce is on; a Sunday tradition from an Italian-American past that I refuse to let die with me.

The football schedule is ready, we've already been to church. The work week is staring us straight in the eye, but the kids are running from room-to-room, doing their homework, playing video games, arguing with one another, and screaming until they give me a headache. I work my ways through the household bills and wait for the dryer to stop so I can fold a load of laundry. My wife cleans the spot underneath the fridge, has a cup of coffee, and folds the paper so she can have an angle at the crossword puzzle.

Tomorrow, we'll trudge off to work, thinking about what we're going to do next weekend, and you know, it'll be much the same as this weekend. We'll talk to the kids about what they really, really, really want for Christmas. We'll debate what we want for dinner, but we know that Sunday will bring a pot of sauce around once more.

Life is utterly weary and tiresome, and the mundane routine almost seems to be too much at times, but all the heaven we got, is in our touch, our arguing, our loving, and our friendship.

We steal a moment hear and there, whether it's a glance at each other, or a crazy statement from one of the kids. Oh, how it would be nice to run from room to room, singing a song that pops into my head - as my seven-year-old is apt to do - but we all pay to play - and sometimes what is lost is our innocent carefree days of youth - but even in the moments of mind-numbing routine, I am comforted knowing that God is offering me a treasure from heaven - on a daily basis.

He is allowing me to feel love, and is allowing me to comfort my children. They are safe, happy, and secure - and that's all the heaven I got right now. And it certainly is enough.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Words to Live by

All of my life I've tried to read everything I can get my hands on. I can remember doing all of the book reports for all of my classmates back in high school, wondering how they could live their lives without books.

To this very night, I have read before heading off to sleep. I've read everything from Stephen King to Hemmingway, skipping back and forth, depending upon my mood. I currently have three half-read books near my bed, and will open one of them up and let the words comfort me.

As a writer a lot of people tell me of the books they are reading.They ask me what is the greatest book I've ever read - I can honestly answer East of Eden by Steinbeck although A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving isn't that far behind.

Yet, through the years there has been one simple phrase that has meant the world to me. It is a phrase written by a rock and roll star. They are simple words, that has become something of a crude prayer around my house. My children recognize the words as my motivational theme for them to stop whining and get on with their lives. My wife can finish the sentence for me, knowing that I've shut out the excuses in my mind.

John Mellencamp wrote the words and by singing them so forcefully he actually owes me money for a speeding ticket that I received as I sang along:

Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories
Life sweeps away the dreams that we have planned
You are young and you are the future
So suck it up and tough it out
And be the best you can

... And be the best you can.

The Juice

Can someone please explain to me why the hell I'm still looking at OJ Simpson's huge head on television? As a youngster growing up in the Buffalo area, it was impossible not to love the Juice. He was so graceful on the field, and so lively off of it. He was entertaining, engaging, and talented. He was the kind of guy that mother's dreamed that their kids would grow up to be. Of course, as his career ended, he became an actor who was quite funny in the Naked Gun movies. He was still the Buffalo Bills biggest fan and allowed us a sense of national pride.

As I grew to an adult, I still loved OJ - and then of course, the murders. Not only did Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman lose their lives, but a lot of us growing up idolizing OJ lost our faith in our heroes. I have a good friend, Al DeCarlo, who was perhaps an even bigger OJ fan than me. When the murders hit, we talked of our disappearing youth and the fact that the nuns who taught us about life, never mentioned the fact that sometimes our heroes do horrific things.

When OJ walked, I was nearly physically ill. I watched the verdict with about ten other people, all of whom screamed in glee because 'the bitch had it coming to her.'

And now I get to see that gigantic head again as dirtbags prosper off of yet another crime, allegedly committed by the Juice. Give me a break! Take this off of television and out of our newspapers. Throw him in jail, or let him walk back to the first hole of a public golf course. I grew up wanting to hear about OJ's every move, on and off the field. I picked up his autograph five times as a naive child. Now, I want to throw up when I think of him, and all that he stole from me.

Why are we still watching this train wreck?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What the Hell Happened?

One afternoon I went into one of the bigger office building in downtown Buffalo. I had an appointment on the 9th floor and I jumped into the elevator (because climbing the stairs was not an option) and much to my dismay, the elevator was a bank of mirrors. Halfway to my destination, I glanced in the mirror and said, quite loudly, 'What the hell happened to me?'
The other three people on the elevator moved as far away as possible.

It was a simple rhetorical question, but one that surprised me - when did my hair race into full retreat? Why did I have circles under my eyes? Let's not even discuss the extra weight, and the gray in my facial hair. Wasn't I just 18 years old? How in the hell had twenty-five years passed so quickly?

Why do I get tired partway through the day? How come I can't eat like there's a gun to my head anymore? And drinking beer? Forget it - I need to schedule at least three days off and you'll never get me to try a draft beer. There are nightly trips to the bathroom and sleeping in is waking up at seven. Hell, I can remember running home from a college party at seven in the morning so I could make church.

Now, I need at least seven hours of sleep and I fell asleep reading the other night. What the hell happened?

One of the men in the elevator finally turned to me. "The mirrors suck, don't they?" he asked.

"I just don't know what happened," I said. "I was never Brad Pitt, but I had no idea I looked so old."

"There's nothing wrong with getting old," he said. "Just tell yourself that you look more dignified."

I did even one better than that - I avoided the mirrors and took the stairs - I had to stop twice to pee.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reality

I have a 14-year old son who dreams of playing in the NBA. Last night, my other two boys, who aspire to be pro wrestlers asked me if wrestling was fake. When I was young, I wanted to write a book or sentence that would change the world or the way people thought. Not sure if that is a dream that can ever come true.

Now, the craze on television is reality shows, where real live people do real live things. Is a dream a lie if it doesn't come true?

We tell ourselves all kinds of things to make it through the day. We are fooled by people, leaders, sports stars, and politicians. We want to believe the best about people, but we are dragged through the mud, when our illusions don't meet our true existence.

I have never watched one scene from a reality show. I see the glut of game shows on television and I think of my grandfather watching The Price is Right and loudly rooting against the contestants - when one of them would lose - he would angrily shout - "good for you, you stupid son-of-a-bitch."

I'm not sure why we have an incessant need to be entertained by shows that drive us away from living our real lives. Do we need to see someone else bid for a date with a hot blonde? Does it do anything at all for us to watch others stranded on an island eating bugs?

When I think of what's real, I chase away all of the illusions, and think of my life and how I've constructed it. The reality show that I watch each and every night stars three kids who all are building their own illusions of what the future will hold. The way it looks now, I am going to have a five-foot-five NBA star, and two pro wrestlers who weight less that 60 pounds.

Dreams aren't a lie for kids, but if we're stuck in front of the TV trying to escape our own lives, maybe they are all lies for us as adults.

Monday, November 12, 2007

House of Miracles

I feel compelled to tell you about my new book... House of Miracles. I am not writing this post to sell books, rather, it is an attempt to let you get to know some of the people involved. It truly is a long story that pushed me into writing the book, but it is a story that developed out of love of my fellow man.

You see, back in 2001, my son Jake was diagnosed with a life-threatening tumor. After a long ordeal, he was saved at The Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, NY.

Up until that point in time, my life had moved along quite smoothly. I wasn't real aware of how a hospital works, what goes into the day of a surgeon, or a critical care nurse, or a hospital photographer, or chaplain. There was no reason for me to get to know any of these people, but through Jake's illness, I was allowed a glimpse into their world.

We as Americans have a real desire to be entertained. We idolize movie stars, beautiful girls with no appreciable talents, sports stars, and musicians. My son's illness was immediately after 9/11 - when the world was turned upside down - and thankfully the lives of policemen and firemen were re-examined. In my own personal turmoil, I was introduced to doctors, nurses, and other suffering parents.

House of Miracles is the story of The Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo, NY, but more importantly, it is the story of the people behind the gowns, surgical masks, and the lens of the camera. There is so much negative feedback when the discussion of healthcare in America is raised, but let me tell you first, there are millions of success stories out there.

Sometimes what gets lost in the day-to-day, mind-numbing routine of life, is that there is a lot of love waiting just around the corner. I will never forget the moment when I walked through the hospital doors, and asked a group of total strangers to save the life of my child. We hear all of the negative... House of Miracles is a positive... about a group of people that I can never truly thank. Stay hungry, stay alive.

Welcome to thoughts of a Common Man

I imagine that this blog will just be an exercise in writing, but I have always toyed with the idea of what is important in life and I have written extensively about trying to find my place. I have been fairly successful in getting my books published and out there, but there is so much more to do, and so little time...

I am looking at this blog as an opportunity to share some of my thoughts. I'm a typical American male with three kids, a great wife, a mortgage and a couple of dogs - just to keep my balance.

I was thinking of a story to encapsulate such a life and I drift in time back to my 40th birthday. I was a little anxious about turning 40, and approached my birthday not really wanting to share much. I just kept saying, it's just another day.

On that day, I returned home from work, thinking about a beer, the Yankees playoff series against the Red Sox, and a good night's rest. My wife and sons were waiting in the driveway with presents for me, and the first present I received was a small rock, handed to me by my seven-year-old son. I held the rock, turned it over in my hand, and realized that it was a stone from our driveway. I thanked my son, and thought about tossing the rock to the grass when my wife whispered to me that my boy had been polishing it for the better part of an hour.

My son looked at me, and smiled, and asked me if I liked my present. I told him that it was all I ever wanted. Now, some three years later, I carry that small rock with me, wherever I go, realizing that it was the greatest present that I could have ever received and that for a man, turning 40, it was all I could have ever wanted.

Thoughts of a common man... I intend to share just some of life's little pleasures - hopefully, we can all grow together. There's a story there each and every day. Stay Hungry, stay alive.

Extend the Netting!!

During the Wednesday afternoon Yankees game, Todd Frazier ripped a line drive into the crowd above the third base dugout. The ball, which ...