Thursday, February 28, 2008

He's a Beast

I listened to a radio poll today that asked the question of involvement in the presidential race. The poll was something along the lines of: "Are you following the race closely, a little bit, or not at all."

Not surprisingly, most people reported to be disinterested. Why would they be interested, after all? Many of the people polled responded that it didn't matter who was in control because they were all the same.

I'm not quite that cynical. Yet I wonder if the same poll was conducted regarding the new American Idol season what the response would be. The presidential poll had 7% of those polled who responded positively to following the race closely. 7% of the people care? Scary.

Obama received a hell of an endorsement last week. It wasn't the union or the super delegates that inspired me - instead, it was the voice of my 14-year-old. "Vote for Obama," he told his mother. "He's a beast."

Now, I don't have anything against Obama as a candidate, but I needed more from Matt. "He's a beast" is his favorite phrase for every sports star, great singer, and good player on his own basketball teams. I'm not sure if a presidential candidate fits the mold.

"Why is he a beast?" I asked.

"He's the best one," Matt responded. "He's smart and he speaks well. He's a beast."

"Do you know where he stands on any of the issues?" I asked.

"Nope, but he's a beast," was the response.

"What about Clinton or McCain?" I asked.

"They're not beasts, they're garbage."

"Are you going to study about any of them?" I asked.

"Don't need to," he responded. "I know the difference between a beast and garbage."

I spent a long time shaking my head. My wife reminded me that he wasn't really voting, but I couldn't help but think that a lot of people choose a candidate in much the same manner.

I suppose that I'll keep reading and thinking about it, and I'll continue to be oblivious to the Idol contestants.

Perhaps I'll wind up voting for someone who is garbage, but Lord knows, we definitely need a beast this time around.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Hate February

No wonder they made it the shortest month of the year. What happens in February?

It's still cold. We're a month away from March Madness. The Super Bowl was last month. Pitchers and catchers just reported and won't play a meaninful game for over a month.

It's still winter. I'm still cold. I have extra weight from another winter of hibernating. It's time to get ready for taxes. There's nothing on television. It gets dark too early. The dogs don't even want to go out.

It just seems like I'll never play golf again, and that friggen' groundhog promised six more weeks of winter.

We are in the middle of lent and I remember not to eat meat on Friday about halfway through my salami sandwich for lunch. Will I go to hell for that?

The kids are sick of school. Everyone is sick or just getting over being sick. Some people come back from Florida bragging about fun in the sun.

And here I sit.

February sucks.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

I saw that commercial where the guy is driving and talks to his radio, asking for his song. His passenger thinking he can catch his friend asks for Michael Bolton and a song starts.

No, I don't care for Michael Bolton - but I have a few other artists who are not mainstream who make me sing out loud. Like John Denver - don't laugh - listen to him - he's awesome.

I was having this conversation with my brother and he kind of looked away. "What?" I asked.
"Barbara Streisand," he said. "She's awesome."

We were drinking beer at the time and we laughed for a long while. Yet strangely neither of us have ever brought up the conversation again.

Music is a strange thing - I like a Thompson Twins song - "Hold Me Now." They are not a rock band. I shouldn't like the song, but I do. This past Christmas - the kids bought me a copy of the CD - every other song sucks - but I do blast "Hold Me Now, warm my heart. Stay with me....."

The Carpenters is another one of those guilty pleasures and not for any other reason then my mother used to play their Greatest Hits. As a 43-year-old man, it is hard to imagine my mother as a young woman, but I have vivid memories of her playing that album. When I hear them now, I don't chnage the channel. Instead, I listen and even sing along. That girl could sing.

Besides who can honestly resist - "On the day that you were born the angels got together and decided to make a dream come true. So, they sprinkled gold dust in your hair....

That's all I can remember, honestly. If it's a guilty pleasure, so what, it makes me think of my mother.


Every once in awhile I'll play the lottery. I say the same thing to my wife as I hang the ticket on the refrigerator - "Here's my ticket out of here." My wife will ask how much the prize is and she'll always let me know that she's taking at least 80% of the winnings.

I've never won more than a free ticket on the damn thing. This morning, I heard the interview with the couple that just won $275 million. The wife exclaimed that they would be moving out of their trailer. They've also decided to quit work.

We've all heard the horror stories about how money changes people - and we've all had the same thought - I'd be willing to give it a go.

Yet, if I suddenly came into a lot of money would it be a good thing? Certainly, it would offer security to the family and I would most likely attain my lifelong ambition of getting a nap every day, but my throttle has been stuck on go so long, I wonder if it would be a good thing.

I wouldn't move - I hate moving. There isn't a single thing I really need - other than a vacation. Yet I don't need a bigger house or a softer bed, or a faster car.

I always joke with my wife because she starts a lot of her sentences with "I want."

The boys are even worse, but I've been to college and I've lived alone. I had a sheet of plywood for a kitchen table - (which was cool because I could write phone numbers on it) - I used to sit on milk crates in front of the television.

Yet I suppose that if I were in the position of that Georgia couple, I would probably leave trailer life behind - I'd move up to Beverly Hills and get me one of 'dem dare concrete ponds.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

God Have Mercy

Every once in awhile a story will come across the line that will make you cringe because it is so inhumane, and so disconcerting that you won't be able to imagine the greed, hate, envy, lack of self-control or disrespect that comes with it. Uusually, I'm speaking of a murder, or a rape, or any other heinous crime.

Sometimes, I'm just talking about how some men treat their own family. Marriage isn't an easy thing. It can almost be broken down to be a contract between two people who couldn't keep their hands off of each other. Sometimes, it becomes about putting a square peg in a round hole (sexual conotations aside).

My wife and I have a healthy respect for some of the so-called slights in our marriage - we have a true tendency to laugh them off. I always open the discussion of marriage with a joke courtesy of George Burns - "I was married by a judge - I should have asked for a jury."

I can spin around for a half an hour on what has been a problem - and my wife will sit beside me laughing and cajoling the entire team. And that's because we found the comfort zone - we kneed and clawed for place and position, added kids to the mix - pushed the barriers a little more - and then sort of relaxed into a fugue state where we exist for each other and the good of the family.

That is the perch I'm sitting on right now as I consider a man walking away for purely selfish reasons. I've always wanted to write a long piece about marriage, its dissolution, and where the love goes. I'm off to a good start, using my imagination to appreciate the coldness, the cowardly acts, the self-righteous feeling of entitlement, and the complete lack of ability to understand what is right there in front of you as you search for something else.

I am forced to use the same eyes to evaluate the scene. My eyes have never seen such absolute horror. I don't have the imagination to understand that if I were to stray that I would be crushing the very children that I trudge off to work each day to nurture. What could possibly be worth the crushed spirit of my own child? Money - nope! A different girl every night of the week - Nope! Britney in her prime? Nope! Endless golf and drinking to extinction every night - possible, but nope! Nope! Nope! A line of virgins in heaven waiting on me - Nope Once More!

Of course, Springsteen saves me again - In his song Brilliant Disguise the last line speaks of deceit in a marriage and the protaganist jumps in head-first - "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of."

May God have mercy on the man serving as the antagonist in today's blog, because I can't see it. I just don't have the eyes for it.

Parents Project Muscular Dystrophy

When I went away to college my father explained to me that some of the people that I would meet at school would remain best of friends for life. It's hard to tell a 17-year-old anything, but I remember my father telling me that, and I was reminded of it yet again last night.

One of the first guys I met at school was a fellow Italian from New Jersey. Gag and I became fast friends and we laughed a lot, drank even more, played backgammon to a thousand games, and just kind of grew up together. Through the years, we've had on and off contact, and unbelievably, we both battled illnesses with our children. My son had a tumor removed, and Gag's son was stricken with MD.

Recently, we have talked more - not every day as we once did, but we are friends again and that does my heart good.

Gag's son is battling MD - he's a beautiful boy with a love for the Yankees. Like his Dad (and Mom) he is positive, happy, and undeniably spiritual. The entire family is working hard to help others who are battling MD - Gag is even running in 26-mile marathons to help the cause.

Last night, I watched a video about young Michael's battle - you can find it by visiting Parents Project Muscular Dystrophy. The video is beautiful, inspiring, and should be required watching for all human beings.

Every night, I Thank God that I have great friends - and my buddy, Gag and his family, are high on the list.

He may have beaten me in backgammon all of those years ago, and he can run about 25.8 more miles than me - but together we seem to be moving through the dark, right there in each other's hearts.

Do yourself a favor - watch the video and make a donation if you can - it's about life, community and togetherness as human beings.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Born Bald, Got Hair, Bald Again.

Read a recent article in the USA Today that asked writers to sum up their lives in six words. The title of this article was my favorite one of all. Of course, it got me to thinking...

Six words to sum up my life - some days it feels like: "Drinking, fun, played golf, got married."

Of course, I thought of my family: "Matt, Jake, Sam, Kathy, Melky, Shadow."

There is what should be on my tombstone: "I don't feel so good today."

This week it could have been: "Work, work, work and more work."

On my great days it is "Reading, Writing, Golf, Family and Pasta."

Yet, the more I played around with it, the more serious it became - I began to wonder how I could define my 43+ years in just six small words.

I finally settled on: "Lived life, Loved life, Loved Family."

I could have easily gone with Born bald, got hair, bald again, but such is life.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Enjoying His Childhood

Our boy Matt is 14 and recently I broached him about the subject of working somewhere during the summer. "I ain't working," he responded.

Of course I hit him with the old, "When I was your age, I did hard labor on a farm."

"I don't drive," he said. "How am I supposed to get to a farm?"

"I road my bike," I said. "I'd get up at the crack of dawn and ride my bike, and then work 10 hours before pedaling home."

"Up a hill through driving snow," my wife added.

"There aren't any farms around here," Matt said. "Besides, why don't you want me to enjoy my childhood?"

And so, we have the quote of the year. My new favorite phrase is, "Hey, Matt, I know you're enjoying your childhood, but the dogs water dishes are empty."

He'll groan, set the video controller down, and run to the dish, fill it, and get back to the game.

Now, I don't have any complaints. His grades are great, and he plays every sport known to man. He's respectful to others, and helps around the house if I beg him, but what happened to the good old-fashioned work ethic?

"Don't you want a few coins in your pocket?" I asked.

"Why?" He asked. "You guys get me what I need."

So, there you have it. I tried. Besides, my main goal for my children is that they walk out of here knowing that they don't have anything left over from their childhood to blame any mental problems on, and you know what I'm talking about here. There are psychiatrists offices full of people across the land who lie on the couch and say, "My father did this, or my mother did that."

In this instance, Matt might be right. He should enjoy his childhood. Besides, it's still real dark out, and I'm writing this blog prior to heading out for a long day of work. I can't say I'm looking forward to busting my ass again for the 30,000th consecutive day, but hey, at least I'm not riding my bike through a snowstorm.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Love Food

My last post led me straight to another post.... I must confess - I love food.

We've all been there - looking at the last slice of pizza. We gauge where everyone else is on their current slice, and we take a few huge bites so that we can guarantee that the last one is ours. Growing up in a family that loved to eat allowed all of us the mindset to race for the last slice.

Not that we were ever without. There were six children all at the height of their eating frenzy. My mother and father worked hard to make dinner an event. I was at a party with my sister one time, and she explained to my wife - "Dinner is not a game. This is serious business."

My mother would cook 30 pork chops to feed us. I once watched my father eat 14 ear of corn at one sitting. It wasn't a contest - that's what he wanted.

I've won past eating contests. My first thought today was about how I'd get the sauce done before church. My wife, who has never known the pleasure of eating herself to pain, often gets frustrated with me because while clearing the breakfast dishes I'll ask about our plans for dinner.

No, eating isn't a game - when I think of my favorite dinner - I am torn between linguine and clam sauce or breaded pork chops with my mother's potato salad - I get a little choked up inside.

Yes, growing up in a close-knit Italian-American family has caused some of these problems. Racing to see who could eat more certainly didn't help. But I refuse to apologize. Eating well isn't a game - it is a gift. It is serious business.

Gotta' go - the meatballs are done.

More News

I read an article that said that obsesity can lead to health problems. Reeeeeeallly! The long study by the medical community pushed this shocking news to the forefront. Seriously, eating until you can't stand up has an effect on your body? (I've been there - my brother is a chef and winning a bet that dictated that he make me dinner almost cost me a hole in my colon).

Truthfully, not being able to climb a set of stairs without stopping for a milkshake is troublesome? The article said that carrying the extra weight puts undue pressure on all of your organs. I am stunned! I thought it was all a cushion that provided more comfort in a snowstorm.

A couple of pages away was another just completed study that said that kids who watch their parents drink every day are prone to drinking every day themselves. No kidding? That is also shocking news - I have three kids who mimic everything I do right down to the words that I say - how else can you explain my children swearing in Italian when they get frustrated - or constantly saying the word "Bah!"

I learned to say these things because of my father and I'm sure that one day they will be teaching their children. What a sight it will be when a grandkid is yelling "Bah!"

Yet all of these studies led me to an unreal conclusion - no one can actually figure out what we're supposed to be eating or drinking or smoking or not smoking. For every study that says eggs are bad, there's a study that explains they're good. For every study that tells you not to eat meat, there's a report that explains meat is beneficial.

I don't know what to believe. My brother-in-law was just diagnosed with Diabetes - he is rightfully concerned and is ready to live the right way. He said it best, "I knew the day was coming when I'd have to change my ways and eat better, but man, it's like sitting down to eat sawdust at every meal. I hate that I'm being told what to eat and how much."

Yes, I too fear that day. I just had sausage and eggs for breakfast. I'm not obsese and I don't regulary get trashed in front of my children.

There must be a study out there that proves I'm doing it all wrong.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Greatest Hits

Having seen Springsteen 22 times, I often go to the concerts now waiting for him to play one of the old, obscure songs that I know better than most everyone else at the concert.

Some of the other people at the concert are, of course, waiting for Born in the USA or Born to Run, and I imagine that Bruce has tired of playing each, but he complies, playing those songs with the lights up and everyone standing and pumping their fists.

I thought of this because my sister posted the lyrics to the Bruce song - "If I Fall Behind" on her blog - (If you haven't read her blog yet - do yourself a favor - she's the writer in the family).

Anyway, the song was my wedding song - yep, my wife had no choice but to pick a Bruce song for my awkward dance with her - "If I Should Fall Behind" is the perfect relationship song.

So, how did Valentine's Day go?

We split the laundry chore. I got dinner ready and Kathy did homework with the boys. I made sure they were showered as she attended Matt's basketball game. We were both tired from the long work day, and we caught up with one another around nine o'clock. We discussed the weekend and the next road trip for work, and we went our separate ways so she could watch them open up suitcases on Deal of No Deal and I could watch a Drew Carey rerun.

There was no old, obscure song to make the day a rousing success in my mind, but sometimes just hearing Born to Run is enough. The greatest hits package is often times enough to sustain.

I thought of all of this in light of what my sister has been saying about love and relationships - perhaps the greatest line of love comes from Bruce's Born to Run anyway - where he pleads - "I want to let you in, I want to be your friend, I want to guard your dreams and visions."

Sometimes, love is about switching out the laundry - and not chocolate and roses.

I need to go this way by the way, because once more, I didn't get a Valentine! (Just kidding, wifey, my way of making you feel bad!).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

100 +

Just read the news that it is getting easier to live to be more than 100 years old. I'm not sure if that is good news or bad news.

I can remember my gradnfather's 80th birthday - I was in my early 20's and just couldn't fathom living to the age of 80. I remember saying this to my grandfather. Being just plain stupid, I said, "I don't know if I want to live until I'm 80."

Grandpa said - "When you're 79, you do."

True enough, but I often have this particular conversation with my wife - will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 94?

My wife, bless her heart, doesn't mince words - "When you can't take care of yourself anymore, we'll put you in a nice home, and stop by to visit once in awhile."

At least I have the visits to look forward to.

The problem I have with living to 100 is that I can barely get up the stairs now. I seem to have a perpetual ache that just moves around my body - today it's in my right shoulder - I'm guessing back for tomorrow. Yet, I'm not that old!

As soon as I completed reading the article about all of us living longer lives, I turned the page to read a story of a woman hitting the age of 108. She explained that clean living allowed her to last that long.

Seriously? You mean the two-thousand beers I drank in college are going to come back to haunt me?

In the end, I suppose it is all about quality of life. I am aiming for the century mark in the year 2064.

Perhaps the Buffalo Bills will have won the Super Bowl by then. I may not be coherent enough to notice, however, but I'm certain my wife and kids will visit me at the home to let me know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Day

Back in the second grade I was seriously in love with a redhead. We were in the Catholic school where things like love between 2nd graders is seriously frowned upon.

Yet I distinctly remember Valentine's Day and wanting to get the object of my affection something nice. Problem was, I was in a financial dire straits.

My sister came to the rescue. Corinne handed me a necklace that she didn't particularly want, but she gave it to me out of a soft spot in her heart. I remember hugging her, and asking her to keep it our little secret. Corinne wasn't that nice. She let my brothers in on the secret and they rode me hard. Yet I didn't care - love would conquer all.

I remember hiding the pendant in my pocket, and slipping it into my lovely's Valentine. We were forced to give Valentine's to all class members, but there was no reason why I couldn't have one special one without anyone else knowing. Problem was, I slipped the package into my back pocket and one of my class members pickpocketed me, and read it in front of everyone.

The redhead laughed at my words of affection - right along with everyone else. I can't remember what I wrote, but it was something along the lines of "I love you - do you love me?"

The answer, of course, was a resounding "No!" She took the necklace, but I never saw her wear it. I wonder where that bitch is these days!

Just kidding - that first Valentine memory stayed with me for years. I can't say that I haven't spent a lot of money on the holiday. I've purchased candy and roses. I've handed out Valentine's that weren't reciprocated.

I think of all this as my kids ready for the Catholic school party later in the week - I wish them all the luck in the world - I'll make sure they keep their special Valentine in their front pocket.

A post-script to the story comes in the way of a conversation with my wife. "What should I get you for Valentine's Day?" I asked.

"Nothing," she responded. "If you get me something, don't expect anything in return."

Ah, just like old times.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Coincidences & Angels

Some years back, I taught a creative writing class at a local school. I enjoyed the experience, but time got in the way, and I wasn't able to repeat the experience. Still, I stayed close with a number of the students from that class and one - Diane, along with her husband Karl - have become real friends. They often come to my book signings and it is always pleasure to see them.

The signing this past weekend was real important however because Diane worked hard and had her story published in the Buffalo News on Saturday. It was important to her and her family, and it was important to me because I had told her what I tell everyone who wants to write - "Shut up and write." It was advice given to me, and it hasn't failed me!

Yet the important part of the story is that Diane wrote of her deaf parents and how it was for her to grow up in such an environment. It really is a heartwarming piece.

As I was signing, a woman stopped at the table and took a good hard look at the cover of Counting on a Miracle. I moved close to tell her about the book, but she waved me off and signed that she was deaf. I stood watching her, unsure of what I should do. The woman continued to run her finger over the photo of the angel on the cover of the book. Still, I watched nervously, and you guessed it, Diane and Karl walked over.

Before too long, Dinae was involved in a full conversation for me. She translated the story of the extraordinary woman before me, who was in a battle for her life, suffering from leukemia.

Moments later, her deaf husband joined the "conversation" and Diane, the man and woman discussed my book, and my search for faith in light of my son's own battle. I was simply an innocent bystander.

I joined the conversation when the husband grabbed a sheet of paper and explained his wife's situation. He also wrote that he was a Reverand and that he was on a lifelong search for real faith.

I wrote down that the chance meeting, with Diane present, was a heck of a coincidence.

The Reverand wrote back that he didn't believe in coincidences, but that he strongly believed in angels. He purchased a copy of Counting on a Miracle and House of Miracles. I shook hands with him and his wife and wished them well.

Oh, one more bit of a coincidence. When I was teaching that class all of those years ago, Diane lent me a book so that I could research a subject. This might make your skin stand up - the book was all about angels.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Old Photos

One of my best friends from college visited me at my book signing on Saturday night. He not only brought his wife and kids, he also brought an old photo of he and I. The photo was taken in 1983. It brought tears to my eyes.

Not because I was sharing a moment with a good friend, we've stayed in touch, but because I truly was saying goodbye to a trio of old friends- my dark hair, my hair in general, and my waistline.

My wife took a look at the photo and said - "It's like a before and after and I got the after."

Another great friend said, "And I thought you were fat and bald back then - boy was I wrong."

I also found a photo of my son Jake from 1st grade - the words on the back of the classroom issue photo says - "Anyone can be a Dad - it takes a special person to be a father."

The discussion of how I looked in the old photo continued through the evening. I ran into the wife of one of my buddies - her and I had played little league baseball together - having a beer with her, I couldn't help but smile - "What the hell happened to us?" I asked.

My friend pointed to our children who were playing guitar hero in the other room - "It's their turn to look good - it's kind of over for us."

I thought of my sons and what a pleasure it is to be their father - perhaps my loss of hair and a manageable waistline is the result of stress of child-rearing. I would take that trade.

We all shared a good laugh thinking about how youth has faded.

On the way home, I considered my physical degeneration over the past twenty-five years - I'm ready to burn all of the photos of me now - because when I look back in 2033 - it won't be such a pretty picture.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Child's Laughter

Wouldn't it be nice to see life through the eyes of our children? My sons and I were speaking about the Hunter's Hope Gala at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse. I am honored to be signing copies of House of Miracles at the event, and my boys were real curious as to why I wrote two books about The Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo and why Hunter's Mom, Jill Kelly wrote the foreword to the book.

I explained that I was real thankful that we had a child who received fantastic care and was able to run and jump and throw and kick field goals. Jake, who suffered through the tumor removal, still didn't quite understand all of it. "Who would want to read about that?" he asked. "It wasn't that I was lucky."

"You were very lucky," I said. "There are a lot of kids who get sick. There are a lot of people who work hard to care for them. This book is about those smart people."

Sam, who is just seven-years-old, doesn't ever miss a trick. "I was thinking about Hunter," he said. "His Mom and Dad must really miss him."

"They do," I said. "But they have this big party to celebrate his life. They try real hard so that other families don't have kids who get sick like Hunter."

"They're always going to remember Hunter," Sam said.

"We're all going to remember him," Jake answered. "I'm going to think of him when I'm playing."

I brought my boys close and gave them a hug. I knew that they didn't grasp all of it, but their simplistic, beautiful look at the life of Hunter Kelly was heart-warming on a lot of levels.

"When you get done signing books will you race mom through the obstacle course again?"

"Certainly," I answered.

"Will you fall on your face like you did last year?" Sam reminded.

"Maybe," I said.

"I bet if Hunter was looking down from heaven, he was laughing at you," Jake said.

"That's okay," I said. "God really likes it when children laugh."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Amuse Ourselves to Death

Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd frontman released a solo album sometime ago talking about how the ruin of our species is that we are going to amuse ourselves to death. I believe that one song on the album ends with the lead character charred as he sits in a chair with his television remote control in his dead hand.

Not exactly a warm thought. Yet I thought of all this as I listened to news that the Buffalo Bills lease is running out and that the poor poverty-stricken owner, Ralph Wilson, may have to move the team to a more viable market. The shock of it all sent terror through Buffalo - how can we live without our beloved Bills? The County Executive stated that we may have to build a state-of-the-art stadium on our undeveloped waterfront.

I've always been a sports fan, but enough is enough. Over the past ten years, Buffalo has been in a budget crisis, the population dwindles as young talent leaves for the promise of higher-paying jobs. Schools, churches, and libraries are closing. We are in serious need of finding a true identity. We are no longer a steel producing city.

Yet what are the answers? A new football stadium? A casino on every corner? A Bass Pro Shop?

The Bills have sold out nearly every home game since 1990. The owner makes money on parking, concessions, and taxpayer sweat. Every year, he complains about not being able to compete with the big markets. He sings the blues to the honest, hardworking members of this community, who year after year spend their hard-earned entertainment dollars on the Bills. To top it off, the team hasn't been fun to watch in about ten years.

Well, guess what Ralph? I can't compete either - I'm paying more for gas, more for food, more for education for my kids.

Keep threatening us with the possible move of the Bills to a bigger, more viable market - and rather than ending up like the charred character in Roger Waters' song - I just might be on line to show you the door.

Have a nice trip to Toronto - you won't be going over the new bridge that we never built.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

One Thing After Another

If you don't think that there's something gone awry in this country - just watch CNN for a half an hour. It doesn't matter what half an hour - just tune in and be sickened by the news.

I had to have my oil changed today. They have a television conveniently located so that CNN can play while you wait for some goofball to tell you that your car is seriously overdue for one flush or another.

Today on CNN - I watched footage of a police officer shot in LA. I saw Britney leaving rehab again (happens every other day), they talked about the eleven pills Heath Ledger took to finally get some damn rest, and a school teacher in Ohio was shot by her estranged husband.

Finally, they went to commercial.

They came back to tell me about the devastation of the tornados - and I said a quick prayer for the victims.

Zit-face came by to tell me that my fuel filter was in horrible shape - I declined.

The politicians came on talking of change and I was hit with the latest poll numbers. There was news about the tax rebate that we're not getting, a quick section about the falling Dow Jones, and the rising gas prices.

Zit-face was back telling me about the synthetic oil to keep my car running smoothly. "No, Thanks", I answered.

We finally got to the war in Iraq and the news of more brave soldiers dying in the desert.

"Your windshield wipers are looking worn," the kid cried out.

"Everything about me is worn," I answered.

I couldn't tear my face from the news - but my oil change was finally complete. The CNN announcer exclaimed that there was happy news on the new movie front. I didn't get to hear him finish the sentence.

Somehow, I doubt that news about a new movie was going to change my mood.

"See you in 3,000 miles," the kid said.

I won't be going back there, unless they get the tv out of the waiting room.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Seventy-Five Bucks

Perhaps I shouldn't teach my boys about football pools. Yet going to my niece's birthday party was too much to resist - so prior to the party we put together a board to set up squares for the super bowl.

Problem is - it's hard to sell 100 squares the day of the game. We nearly did it - but were twenty short at the end. Of course, I bought the final 20 and assigned a child's name to each square.

The game was awesome and my 7-year-old was geeking out as he tried to figure out who would win if New England scored a touchdown, or if the Giants kicked a field goal.

The game score changed twice in the last 3 minutes. The New England score allowed my brother and brother-in-law to dream about a rather huge pool win. We, as a family, were rooting that the score didn't change. It certainly would've been nice.

The final Giants touchdown stripped my brother and brother-in-law of their windfall, and a strange silence gripped the household. I turned to my 7-year-old who looked to be crying. I said - "Uncle Jeff and Uncle Chuck will be all right."

He smiled through the tears - "I'm sorry for them, but I won 75 bucks" he said.

He wasn't crying because he was sad - those were cheerful tears. Best Super Bowl moment I ever had. I couldn't wait to give him the cash.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

$41 Billion Dollars!

I read the news today - oh boy!

Exxon Mobil is claiming record profits again - 41 billion dollars. If that ain't enough to piss off the Pope. We're running around with the needle on "E" wondering how the hell we can get from here to there.

We're told we need to sacrifice and break our dependancy on oil - and someone, somewhere is celebrating because they're about to move into a mansion - at the expense of the poor, old, working slob.

My father and I discuss politics from time-to-time - not sure if the oil company profits are politics - but something tells me they are - yet our conversation always seems to end with one of us saying - "What're you going to do?"

The other answers - "Nothing."

What the hell is there to do? Rant and rave? Elect another lying, piece of crap? Aren't there more families to choose from other than the Bush family and the Clinton family? Who's after Hiliary? Jeb or Jethro - or whoever is the next Bush? And then what Chelsea?

How do these people get elected as poor slobs talking change - spend four or eight years there - and come out as friggen' billionaires?

It made me sick to read that headline. It makes me even more sick to understand that there was $85 billion dollars targeted to Iraq this year and that they can't account for $14 billion of it.

How in the hell do you lose $14 billion dollars?

This isn't my wife saying - "What did you do with your spending money this month?"

This is $14 billion dollars!

Besides, the answer to my wife's question is that I bought gas.

Friday, February 1, 2008

40's - The Age of Depression

I heard a report yesterday that said that people in their 40's are prone to depression. I instantly thought of the Springsteen line from the Promised Land -

"I've done my best to live the right way, I get up every morning and go to work each day, but your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold, sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode."

That kind of sums up how I feel on Friday's in my 40's - but I usually garner enough energy again by Monday. Twenty years ago, Friday night meant happy hour which turned into happy weekend, and all remnants were gone by Sunday night.

It's a strange twist. In the same report it said that men are growing up a lot slower these days - it said that a lot of men in their 20's are playing video games and not in much of a hurry to accept responsibility. The article referred to these men as manchilds.

Life certainly has changed - my father had six kids by the time he hit his mid-thirties. He had built his own home, and had already been a productive member of a workforce for twenty some years. I can'timagine him sitting on his couch playing Madden.

Not sure where it all went wrong. I'm 43 - I'm not depressed - I feel like I'm in the middle of the week with a long glorious weekend coming up.

Yet if social security dries up, perhaps I will be more like the character in the Bruce song - I can't see sluffing off to work thirty years from now - I want to be on the couch playing MLB2038.

Can I Help You?

Okay, I have another pet peeve. It's the guy or gal who greets you when you walk into the book store, not looking for much, and maybe just killing time in order to find what you want to read next.

"Can I help you?" They ask. "Just Looking," I answer. They don't get the hint. "Well, we have a wide slection of books in every subject. If there's something you need me to help you find, I can."

"Good for you," I think. Instead, I just smile and look away. The over-eager sales person follows me from aisle to aisle.

Anyway, they are less aggravating then the waitress who returns to your table thirty five times to ask you how every bite of freaking food tastes. "Is everything all right?" "How are you, doing?" "Is your steak cooked right?"

For God's sake, leave me alone. I have taken to eating at a Chinese Buffet - not because I love the food so much, but because the only conversation goes like this. "Would you like something to drink?" "Water and tea," I answer. "Very well, help yourself."

Then it's off to the races. No one cares if I like the egg rolls. No one wants to know if I want dessert. Eat and leave- little human contact. Perfect.

I suppose I shouldn't be so mean, but sometimes, especially when I'm out there on my own, I just want to eat and read the sports.

I have taken to doing something awfully mean. Whenever someone comes to me and asks - "Can I help you?"

I put on my best sinister smile and in a low voice I say, "Why certainly, what did you have in mind?"

This makes them run away quickly.


I was ordering lunch on the road and one of the choices was a meatball sub. I wanted to eat something a little healthier than that, but I as...