Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day

We finally made it. The Yanks open at home against the Blue Jays. I swear, it's an eternity from the moment of the last Yankee game of the previous year to the moment of the first game of the new year.

I've always loved baseball. Couldn't play it so well because I was like Napolean Dynamite, asking the ump to have the pitcher slow it down - they threw too fast and I was too afraid. Also, I judged a fly ball pretty poorly. I did have some success at an early age, playing fairly well in Little League and getting a treasure chest of memories from those days. I can name the starting lineup from those teams.

Yet my baseball connections are all family-related. My entire family is made up of Yankee fans. There isn't a dissenter in the group and I cherish the memory of their clinching win in the '96 series because we were all together and slapping high fives when Girardi hit a triple.

I get a different feeling on opening day too. There's the promise of a bright new season. All the negative feelings from lasy year, and steroids, and money matters, are gone and I imagine the bright green grass, the guy yelling that he has peanuts, and the first base hit. (I'm betting it goes to Jeter).

Baseball in the spring sort of kicks off the whole new year. So, no matter what happens today, I will scramble around enough to listen. In years gone by, I can recall the circumstances of the 1st game of the new year, win or lose - I am a winner anyway - because it is finally here!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Three Squares

I suppose it's funny how a writer's mind works.

I left the house this morning to get the newspaper. Quickly, a number of thoughts jumped into my head. First, I cursed the cold and the snow left on the ground.

Secondly, I thought about global warming. Where the hell is it?

Thirdly, Al Gore popped into my head as I considered what we are doing to the environment, and how it would make our grandchildren suffer.

Finally, I thought about Sheryl Crowe who explained that in order to help save the environment we should use just three squares of toilet paper when we are done doing our business.

All because I left the house to get the paper.

Let's handle them one at a time. Yes, it's cold. It's Buffalo. We cry about our national image and do all sorts of things to let people in other cities know that this is a terrific place to live, but you don't have to be a polar bear to understand that it's freaking cold! And it snows! And 43-year-old men get sick of having to put on a Carhartt to get the freaking newspaper.

Secondly, I don't know a lot about global warming. Perhaps I should study it. Maybe we are wasting our world away. That would be a shame. I love the natural beauty of New York State and marvel at the wonders. If we are ruining it, we need an about-face.

Three, I voted for Al Gore and so did the majority. (Oops, bad subject).

Finally, though - come on 3 squares of toilet paper?

Isn't that a little like cleaning the deck of the Titanic with a washcloth?

Perhaps Sheryl Crowe (who's music I enjoy) can pull it off, but not me. I don't know about you, but I wrap that toilet paper around my fist. My theory is, you can't have too much in that instance.

All the talk about the environment culminated in one final thought - who'd want to be down-wind of me if I were using just 3 squares?

And that's how a writer's mind works.

Friday, March 28, 2008

After the Fire

As I was graduating college one of the big songs out was by Roger Daltrey of the Who - it was called "After the Fire...the Fire Still Burns."

My group of friends used the song as a rallying cry because we wanted to stay in touch, keep our unbelievable connections intact, and burn on together as friends. (Yes, we were drunk when we sang it).

In any regard I heard a guy speaking about fire the other day. He said we should all be candles. When we pass our flame to another candle, we don't lose anything in the translation.

Not sure I want to be a candle, but it got me thinking. I have left hundreds of friends by the side of the road. It isn't my fault, and I certainly would remain friends with most of those people if situations had dictated, but time and responsibilities do get in the way.

My current circle of friends includes two dogs, three young boys, my wife, a couple of drinking buddies, my brothers and sisters, a few friends from high school, two or three college buddies.

Everyone else has sort of faded into my memories. Certainly, I think of them all now and again, but it never goes much past a quick phone call and a few fat jokes.

Yet there were days when I definitely felt as if I passed my flame without too much lost in the translation.

Springsteen, of course, paid tribute to old friends in his song Blood Brothers. I have one buddy who immediately springs to mind when I mention the lyrics.

"I'll keep moving through the dark, with you in my heart, my blood brother."

Perhaps that's enough to keep the fire burning.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

To-Do-Lists

I may mangle it, but I remember reading an Aristotle quote that said something like this: "We are what we do repeatedly; therefore excellence is a habit and not an act."

Whatever the exact quote, it is something to live up to. I believe that doing things over and over, on-time and in line with expectations is what makes you successful - whether it be in a job, a relationship, or on a golf course.

I know a great doctor who once told me that success will follow you if you work hard. (He's chronicled in House of Miracles).

Yet why am I spouting off like Plato today? I suppose it is because I normally walk around with a checklist in my head. I told my wife that each day is an exercise in doing things I don't want to do, so I can get home and do some of the things I do want to do. Not that I hate my job - quite the opposite really. Not that I hate writing - I love it actually!

Yet life sometimes gets lost in the mundane. We repeat certain tasks over and over and when we are done - we start them again. I remember being out in California and watching the men paint the Golden Gate Bridge. When they finished it - they started over again. It's a job with no end.

I knew a man who worked at a plant sweeping the same spot of floor - every day. He would sweep it up all day long only to come back in the morning to find it covered again. I asked him about his motivation and he said, "Someone needs to do it and do it right. I'm the man for the job."

I keep to-do-lists. I help with the laundry every two days so that we don't have a truckload of it on Sunday. Lather, rinse, repeat - sooner or later it becomes a habit.

I also believe that Aristotle was speaking about excellence in how we treat others. Over and over - be kind, be thoughtful and be responsive - in the end someone may say - "She was an excellent wife, or he was an excellent father. It's all about being there.

I drove a long way today with Aristotle on the mind.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dead Certain

I bought Sirius Radio to listen to my boy Howard Stern - which I do on a regular basis. Lately, I've caught up with Jay Thomas who used to be Carla's hockey playing husband on Cheers. Both shows are semi-sophmoric by nature, but quality entertainment.

Yet today Jay Thomas had an author on who had the pleasure of interviewing George Bush for a new book called Dead Certain. It was an interesting interview because the author explained what makes "W" tick.

Some of the interesting facts learned:

--- Bush isn't stupid. Yet he enjoys playing the regular guy who looks as if he stumbled into the presidency.

--- Bush reads - he even "Read some Shakespeares" as he said.

--- Bush is stubborn. He knows he's right and doesn't care for the people who thinks he's wrong.

--- Bush is certainly in charge. He is not just a stooge for Cheney and Rove. He lets all around him know who makes the decisions.

I certainly found the interview interesting and might even read the book. While I'm at it, I'll also grab a couple of Shakespeare's to liven things up.

Fat People Are Jollier

Okay, so I have a couple of friends who's health are breaking down. I had a little conversation with myself the other day, saying that I would work on dropping a few pounds before I suffer from a breakdown.

I'm lucky, I've been healthy. My heart is good, sugar levels are good, cholesterol is excellent. I sleep well and eat real well.

Problem - I may eat too well. Keep the jokes to yourself.

Anyway, I decided that I would try and eat sensible. I swear to God in my adult life I've treated dinner like a feeding frenzy. I eat so quickly that I get dizzy at times.

My gameplan over the past week has been to eat like a human being. 3 meals - all sensible - no frenzied activity. Lots of water and nothing in between. I do a lot of walking, climbing and moving around during work - so I figure that eventually the pounds will drop off - and I'll feel better all the way around.

One problem --- I'm freaking hungry. The hungrier I am, the meaner I am. The meaner I am, the more aggravated I become. The more aggravated I become, the more I want to eat.

Okay, so I won't be moved out of my house in a piano box. I probably don't need to lose that much weight, but I'll tell you, I understand why people are more jolly when their bellies are full.

Monday, March 24, 2008

So Simple

I absolutely hate reading the count of the dead soldiers in the Iraq war. Today's headlines screamed that we had hit the 4,000 mark. As I read the words, I wondered about how I missed the mark on accepting such loss of human life.

I heard a celebrity remark that sacrifice is necessary to make this the country that it is. The celebrity remarked that great sacrifices were made by men and women during World War II and that anyone shouting out against the war in Iraq is truly unpatriotic and should move elsewhere.

How did I get to be so simple?

I am not unpatriotic. I am simply trying to understand. The case made for going to war evaded me. I am too simple to understand the ramifications of leaving now. If I were to state a case on why we should leave (so we don't lose more soldiers) I am thought to be a coward. Do we continue to lose our young people now even though the reasons why we went have been proven to be false?

I don't know. Perhaps I am just naive, simple, and confused. Whenever I hear someone shout that this is what we need to be doing - I think of the telephone call back to the States where a family is told that their son won't come home.

The country was united immediately following 9/11. There was certainly a cry for justice. 4,000 more dead - and thousands of casualties in Iraq - but what has the sacrifice been for?

I'm not sure - perhaps I do have it all wrong. I would be ready to fight for the freedom of my family, and the honor of my country. Yet I may be too dumb to figure out that Iraq falls into the category of WWII.

I don't think I'm all alone in my thinking these days.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Saturday

Believe it or not, I was an altar boy for at least five years. From the 2nd grade through the 6th grade, I served mass faithfully on a regular rotation. My brother was one of my partners in a long-standing group. Even when I left the Catholic school, I served another year, making guest appearances as the priest's helper. On break from college one year, my good buddy Al, and I saw that the priest didn't have any help one mass, and we donned the old black and white (hardly fit) and served one last time.

During Holy Week the assignments were rough. If you were assigned to the Good Friday Mass, it came complete with the Stations of the Cross and what seemed like hour after hour of deep-knee bends, dousings of HolyWater, and endless prayer.

I kind of miss it. Holy Week has unfortunately blended in with the rest of parent-life responsibility. I will certainly be at church on Sunday, but I won't be helping the priest, I'll be scolding my kids to behave.

Last night, I asked my kids about Easter and the belief behind the celebration. Like good Catholic school children, they explained the entire story. They too expressed awe at the Life of Jesus and all that it stood for. Yet they never have served mass as an altar boy. Perhaps they have missed out on the dedication and devotion of it all. The times were certainly different. There was so much less for a child to do. There weren't scandals in the church to worry about.

As a child, all I can remember thinking was, "How many stations are there? And if he throws Holy Water at me again, there's going to be a fight."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mini-Me

Yesterday was the first day of the NCAA Tourney. All through my life I've treated the first two days as a holiday of sorts. I gather my pools, get a red pen, a blue pen, and a pencil so that I can keep track as each game ends. I'm not sure it's the basketball or the statistics that I love so much.

In any regard, my wife thinks I'm a geek.

Well, I have news for her: there's another geek in the midst.

Last night I sat on the couch watching the games with 2 of 3 of my sons - the other boy shares my wife's opinion. Anyway, as one of the games ended, my 7-year-old gathered up his sheets. With deft precision, he began circling the names of the teams with a blue pen if the pooler got it right, and with a red pen if the pooler got it wrong.

Sam was sitting almost on my lap and I had a great view of the concentration on his face as he reviewed the pools. he was excited, happy, and so full of life, and truth be told, he looked a little like a geek.

In his face, I saw my own face clearly. I knew that he would always treat the tourney as a holiday, and I laughed out loud. The poor kid. He appears to be obsessive, unable to relax, and undeniably passionate.

Matt, who knows how to relax, also caught an eyeful of his little brother. "He's nuts," he said.

Ah, yes, mini-me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Go Away

A few weeks ago I was exposed to grainy footage of President Bush telling jokes about the Iraq war. He even sang a country song about his failed policies. It made me want to throw up. He can't sing.

Two weeks ago, he did a tap dance as he waited for someone to meet with him. He can't dance either.

This week, he is marking the five-year anniversary of the Iraq war by explaining that it was a grand idea. It's been four years since he declared that as an accomplished mission. He doesn't look back very well, either.

The problem I have is that no one, in their right mind, has been listening to him for some time. Check the approval ratings of Bush and his partner in crime, Cheney. People grew weary of their act, eight years too late.

The other night, my wife was asking me if I'd seen Bush talk about the economy. I hadn't.

"It makes me sad to look at him," my wife said. "All of the dead soldiers. The failing economy, God, it's been awful."

I couldn't respond.

"You know," my wife said, "I wouldn't shake his hand if he passed me on the street."

Me neither. Just go away. Retire to Texas, write a pop-up book about your presidency, and leave us alone.

When you hit Texas soil we can all look back and proudly say, "Mission Accomplished."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

As Good As it Gets

I absolutely loved that movie with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. Yet I loved it for a very different reason than everyone else.

If you remember right, Nicholson was a professional writer who was very set in his ways. Actually he was borderline psychotic. Problem is, I saw myself in his character.

I have all of my CD's set in order of favorite artists. When we take a trip, I have the songs ready to go. It doesn't matter what anyone else might want to hear, I try and set the mood.

I am extremely regimented and if something throws me off schedule for the day, I become a bit edgy. And yet, I was saved from a life of living like Nicholson did - only by children and the general chaos that comes with having a family.

Those around me have learned to accept my shortcomings, and my wife actually plays right into it, reminding me if there is an unwashed dish in the sink or a full laundry basket.

I suppose the point of the whole blog today is to understand that I could have been Nicholson, and I could have turned off the entire world. The reason I bring it up is because my 7-year-old is showing a lot of the same signs. He filled out five NCAA brackets already and he is ready to geek out, circling teams with me until all of the games are done.

Hopefully he will understand that life doesn't have to be a perfectly regimented repeat of the same exact routine. Then again, his drive to have everything just so - will probably make him crazy for a lot of years to come.

In the end, though, there are days when I am able to understand that this is as good as it gets.

Monday, March 17, 2008

To My Beautiful Wife - Happy Birthday

Considering I wrote a blog to acknowledge my dog Melky's birthday, I figured....

Yes, my wife is another year older - many of you reading along have to be wondering how and why she puts up with my shit. I wonder myself sometimes.

You see, Kathy has the absolute misfortune of having her birthday right on cue with March Madness. At least there aren't any games tonight.

Yet my buddies are coming over to pick the team names out of a hat. We do it every Monday before the start of the tourney and I was a little afraid to tell her that we weren't going to shift the night. Kathy laid a bit of a guilt-trip on me, and then said, "I don't care. They can come over."

That's a good wife.

We didn't have much of a celebration.I did make dinner and clean-up, but she reminded me that it doesn't count because I'd have done it anyway. Some flowers, a card, and a couple of "your getting really old" from the kids.

And it was enough.

So, here we are some 15 years after she stopped by for a drink and made me miss the first day of tournament games. I certainly don't remember who has won the tourney from year-to-year, but I'm certainly happy that her birthday still conflicts with my schedule. I'm ready for about 50 more years of worrying how we can pick names out of a hat, and still sing Happy Birthday.

To "Miss-a-Little-Time-On-Her-Hands". Happy Birthday.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Post #100 - Desiderata

Desiderata by a man named Max Ehrmann.

"Go placidity amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there is in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees or the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham and drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."
So, we've all seen the photo of the call girl on the yacht. We can all probably recite her various names and what she did prior to her meetings with the governor. Hell, we will soon know what happened at each of those meetings.

Quick - who invented the artificial heart?

We were introduced to the whole cast of characters surrounding Anna Nicole Smith. We all know who fathered her child, even though there was a long list of names. We know her lawyer, and her poor daughter. We know how and why her son died tragically.

Quick - who wrote The Great Gatsby.

We all have followed Britney in and out of rehab centers. We've seen her crotch shot a half a dozen times. We love the footage of her kissing Madonna (I do anyway) and we can't wait to see her on the sitcom.

Quick - name the doctor who saved the life of Buffalo Bills football player Kevin Everett. Or name the doctor who saved the life of hockey player Richard Zednik. Or name even one firefighter from September 11th. Or name the poor man who was on the flight over Pennsylvania who said - "Let's Roll."

We simply are drawn to the sordid, miserable details of lives gone bad. We love sensationalism and poor journalism. We shrug off the positive stories of good news.

Why is that? Can someone please explain why we are quick to downplay the truly heroic, and elevate the scum of the earth?

I suppose that it is a lot like watching a car crash. I imagine that the mundane routine of a typical life is somehow enhanced by the bad behavior of others.

Somewhere, somehow, we need to figure out that the people we should be following are those who aspire to do great things. It'll probably never happen, right?

Today's advice concerns the eye and what you are drawn to. It comes courtesy of Matthew 6:22-23. "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness."

I'm going to think of that the next time I see the call girl on the yacht in that wonderful two-piece, white bikini. I don't need her in my mind's eye.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Got a Dollar in my pocket...

.... and there ain't a cloud up above."

Of course, that is a Springsteen line from "All that Heaven Will Allow."

I thought of it a lot today as I listened to the backlash from the Spitzer scandal. I thought of it because I was trying to put some sort of positive spin on what I was hearing.

A couple of radio hosts were saying that every man cheats on his marriage. I believe that the exact quote was something like, "Sixty percent of marriages end in divorce, and the other forty percent of the men are miserable and cheat."

My feelings on the matter are contained in previous posts. I don't think anyone has the right to cheat. I consider it disgraceful. Of course people make mistakes, but not over ten years time. Once might constitute a mistake or a lack of judgement. One hundred times is a whole 'nother thing.

A few years back, my father went into the hospital complaining of chest pains. Every one of his children within a hundred mile-radius showed up, and watched as Dad went through test after test. From his spot in the bed, Dad motioned me over. "My wallet is over there," he said. "Keep an eye on it."

I grabbed the wallet and for some reason opened it. There was a single dollar bill in it. "What are you? Six-years-old?" I asked, laughing. "My sons have more money than you."

My father laughed along.

"Where's your money?" I asked.

"I've spent it on all of you," he said. "Six kids through college, cars, clothes, and food. Where's my money?"

As I thought about the selfish act of the Governor, I also thought about the unselfish man with the single dollar in his wallet. Thankfully, he only stayed a day in the hospital. I think I even paid for his television for his overnight stay.

Don't tell me that all men cheat or that all men are evil. My father gave up every day of his life for his kids. That is the thought I carry with me as I think of Spitzer and his poor wife and kids.

It doesn't have to be that way, and it shouldn't have been.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What does $4,000 buy?

I must be doing something wrong. I just can't imagine paying a woman $4,000 for just 4 hours of her time unless she's representing me in court - or selling me a car.

Yes, what is most mind-boggling about the Spitzer case is the amount of money he forked over for the four hour session. What did they do for four hours?

I was talking with a friend of mine - we both eat very well. "She'd have to be covered in barbecue sauce," my buddy said.

4 grand? Absolutely, barbecue sauce, and a few dozen martini's and a round of golf, and linguine and clam sauce with the big prawns thrown in. And a Yankee game with seats behind home plate, an hour of gambling at a fine casino. Hell, a couple of cuban cigars, a book of postage stamps, and she'd have to fill my car with gas.

Okay, maybe I'm getting a little carried away with that. The gas would put me over the top.

The time would also be a slight problem. What would we possibly do for the last 3 hours and 53 minutes? Play Yahtzee? Watch Drew Carey reruns?

I just don't get it. When I'm in charge there won't be any free time for the politicians to get caught up in prostitution rings, in airport bathrooms, or even cavorting with an intern. No, the people working for me will be way too busy to even think about sex.

What a shame that we're even talking about it, but four grand for four hours is just too much to pass up. No wonder he was haggling about the price.

BUMPED BY CLIENT #9

If this isn't just perfect.

I wrote House of Miracles, partly because I am disturbed by all of the negative news stories.

I wanted to put a positive spin on healthcare and to tell the stories of some unbelievable working professionals.

I was all set for a big interview on Sirius Radio - Channel 110 - a New York City show - and I got bumped!

I got bumped so that NYC could continue to take apart the story of client#9 - Gov. Spitzer.

What a life!

I'll let you know when the good news is re-scheduled - it'll probably take awhile to get to the bottom of the prostitution ring!

Power

Thank God I'm not the governor. What an idiot! I was actually shocked by the story, but probably shouldn't have been. With great power comes great stupidity.

Of course, the backlash is that we will now hear every sordid detail. I was listening to Barbara Walters radio show yesterday and she was concerned with whether or not Spitzer's wife should forgiuve him. So, I tried the experiment at home.

"Would you forgive me if I paid four grand for a prostitute?" I asked my wife.

"Would you forgive me, if I did?" she shot back.

"Male or female?" I asked.

My wife rolled her eyes and I had my answer. Of course, you can not forgive such betrayal if your marriage is one that is based on trust and respect. I don't want to pry into Spitzer's situation, but it seems to me like he's in more hot water with his spouse than the voting public.

Yet what can possibly drive you to such activity? I'm reading a very thought-provoking book about relationships - called the Dying Animal - by Phillip Roth. He theorizes that people are not fit to be tied into another human being. He explains that there are freedoms that we all need and strive for and that perhaps it isn't normal to be committed. I don't buy it.

It seems to me that love, respect and trust are decisions - yes, in a relationship we all hope and pray that they are mutual decisions - yet think of the three teenage daughters presumably devastated by the governor's decision-making when on the road.

My take on road travel - work until you can't work anymore (there must have been something he could have been doing), watch a couple of episodes of Drew Carey, take a shower - alone, and hit the hay.

I bet the governor wished he'd taken my advice on that one.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Upcoming Events

Hi there! Just a note on the writing career and some personal appearances.

On Tuesday March 11 at 3 PM, I will be on Sirius Satellite Radio at 3 PM to talk about House of Miracles and the Women & Children's Hospital. It is a 30-minute interview with Pete Dominick - and it should be a lot of fun as we discuss the hospital, Counting on a Miracle, and the wonderful people who take care of our children. Please listen along.

On Friday, March 14 - I will be at Barnes & Noble at 4401 Transit Road in Clarence. I will be signing copies of Counting on a Miracle, Nobody's Home, and House of Miracles. Hope to see you there. 7-9 PM.

On April 7th, I will be at Barnes & Noble @ 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd.from 6 to 9 PM. Iwill be speaking about House of Miracles and The Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

There are two other appearances to be scheduled - The North Collins Public Library and a signing at the Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

Come on out! Sales are to benefit the Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo as well as Hunter's Hope!

Rubber Tree Plant

I love the Woody Allen quote: "I was going to buy a book on positive-thinking, but then I figured what the hell good would that do."

I have a 14-year-old sports nut. Last night at dinner, he was overwhelmed with the idea that the Sabres were on, Canisius was playing, and Niagara followed it up with a game at 10 PM. He explained to all of us that it was going to be a night filled with joy as all three teams, full of his favorite beasts, were going to win.

They all lost. Being a lifelong pessimist and an eternally frustrated Sabres and Bills booster, I showed him the front page of the sports, and he quickly left the room.

I have always written stories about an underdog who overcomes the odds. I believe that people love such stories. How can you watch Rocky without feeling all choked up, as Stallone wins one for the good guys?

Yet much of the time, In Real Life, the loser stays the loser and the giants win the fight. An ant can't really move a rubber tree plant, can he? Yet high hopes are the stuff of dreams and while I didn't show my son a lot of sympathy, I do encourage that he keep dreaming.

What he has failed to understand is that sports has become less about high hopes and determination and more about money and filling the stands. I suppose that my boys don't have to learn about that right now.

In the meantime, I'm thinking of heading to Barnes & Noble for that piece on positive thinking.

Oh the hell with it - it won't help.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

42 Million Reasons

Are you kidding me? 42 million dollars to send out letters that alert you of the coming tax check? Did we all really need a letter that tells us to cash the check when we get it? I honestly believe that most people could have figured it out.

The news of the tax rebate has been on television, radio, the internet, and in every newspaper in America. Why did we need a letter? What did you do with your letter? I read the first paragraph, thought - "Yeah, I knew this," and tossed it away.

I think of all the good things that 42 million bucks could have went for - like feeding people who don't have enough to eat or education - so that teachers don't have to buy their own supplies, or breast cancer research, or AIDS research, or finding an alternative fuel source, or global warming studies.... anything. Hell, we could have even sent it to Iraq to be with the rest of our money.

I have a college buddy who went to work for the US Government - he loves to tell the story of ordering a hammer - just to see how long it would take him to get it and how much money it would cost when the hammer finally got to him. The result of his little experience? The hammer arrived in six weeks at a cost of $95.

Why can't we control this spending? Aren't enough people suffering in this country for all of us to stand up and say - stop the craziness?

I'm thinking of selling my letter on E-Bay - if it cost that much to get it to me - it must be worth something.

Some day, when I'm in charge - things are going to be different. My college buddy has a nice expensive hammer - I imagine that after he found out how much it cost taxpayers to send out a letter that no one read - that he thought about bludgeoning himself with the claw part of the hammer.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Melky

Back in 1996, I visited the SPCA thinking that I could browse the dog cages and walk away without bringing home a dog. I was called to the last cage, by an attendant, who told me of Max, a Golden Retriever-Golden Lab Mix who was about to be gassed. "That's the best dog in the place," the attendant whispered. "We took him from a home where he was being abused. If you can look, there are cigarette burns on his groin."

Max was as good as in the car. Some eleven years later, unable to walk, Max -the best sixty dollars I ever spent-was ready for doggy heaven. Yet I had to drive him to the vets and put him down. To say that was a sad day would be a huge understatement. I will never forget those last few moments and the complete and utter sadness that shook me to the core. I questioned everything about life and death, and my biggest problem was in explaining it to the kids.

My wife was dead-set against another dog. We still had, Shadow, our black Lab, and Kathy figured that was enough.

The next day, I was at the computer. Telling the children had been difficult, but I explained that Max was happy again, able to run, and eating from a big bowl of bones that God set out for him. My youngest boy, Sam, nodded along. Moments later, his eyes filled with those big tears. "Do you have a picture of Max?" he asked.

I put Max up on the computer, and Sam just kept crying. I didn't know what to say, and my wife walked by and looked in on the scene. "Let's go get another dog," she said. "I don't ever want the kids to be sad."

Well, someday, our children will be sad - life's like that - and when that day comes, perhaps they will be equipped to handle it- but until then - we have Melky (named after Yankee outfielder Melky Cabrera) and Melky is now chewing on a baseball-shaped rawhide that my wife presented. We all sang Happy Birthday and she ate a huge bowl of doggy popcorn. My boys were all smiling, and deep down, I imagined that Max was running to and fro, eating from the endless bowl of bones, and happy for the family who rescued him and for Melky, the replacement center-fielder.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Checking the Headlines

--- This just in - two mothers were arrested for fighting at Chuck E. Cheese. It seems that one mother became enraged because a 9-year-old boy was hogging an arcade game. She showed her son how to handle conflict by popping the other mother in the face. Charges are pending.

--- Of course, another day, another mass shooting - five people dead in West Palm Beach, Florida. What the hell are you getting mad at in that type of weather? Seriously, you talk about just accepting violence. How many mass shootings is that since the start of the new year? I'm guessing at least five.

--- The Clinton-Obama race is heating up and it made me laugh outloud when I was listening to a call-in show on a conservative station and the caller blamed Bill Clinton for all that has gone wrong in the last 8 years. He reasoned that the prior president makes the mess for the incoming one. Seems to me that whoever wins this election is in line for a lifetime of pain.

--- Pitchers and catchers finally reported and the steroid talk has finally taken a backseat. My idea is to leave salaries and drugs out of the discussion so that fans can get back to enjoying what their watching without having their stomachs turn.

--- Just a question - does the voice in your head ever stop? I'm always listening to what I have to say and I wish I'd just shut-up already.

--- Just finished reading John Grisham's book - The Innocent Man - about a man who was nearly put to death for a crime that he didn't commit. It seems to me that there is plenty of that going around. Grisham cited the number of times it has happened and it left me to wonder how a poor man with no evidence against him is nearly put to death when OJ, Phil Spector and Robert Blake got off without a problem - who says money can't buy happiness or freedom for that matter?

--- And finally, while sitting around thinking about things - I wonder if you've ever stood in the shower wondering if you'd already washed your hair during that session. How's that for focus and concentration? I do that a couple of times a month - perhaps that's why most of my hair has fallen out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Early to Rise

When I was growing up, weekend mornings weren't all that they could be. My father used to rile us up and out of bed to start work on one project or another. I can distinctly remember what it felt like to be chased out of bed, wondering why we couldn't get the work done on our own schedule.

The reason, of course, was because my father was an early-riser. I'm not talking 6 AM early either. Very often he'd get out of bed around three and sit at the kitchen table, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, playing cards, and plotting his day - and as it turned out - ours too.

I remember thinking that when I made the rules, it would all be different. Everyone would stay up until 3 AM and sleep until noon. Life would be grand.

It didn't turn out that way. I have one kid who likes to stay in bed on the weekends, and as he sleeps, I struggle with the desire to rip him out of bed and put him to work. I haven't done it to him, yet, but it probably is on the way. There's no way he sleeps until noon though.

These days, during the week, I am in bed by nine and I read until 10. A reckless workday evening has me asleep by 10:30. I'm always up and out by 7. I'm usually energized, and happy.

Yet there are those around here who will remain nameless (Kathy and Matt) who struggle to shake the cobwebs. Kathy needs a half-gallon of coffee - and Matt is just plain miserable in the morning. Saying "hello" will get you a tongue-lashing.

Still there is the old adage to consider - "Early to bed and early to rise will make you healthy, wealthy and wise."

I'm relatively healthy, certainly not wealthy, and if you ask those that I'm considering awaking, not truly wise.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Headin' into Town

I've always loved a good old Western. I would watch Bonanza with my father and brothers and get all caught up in the excitement. Hands down, the more exciting episodes seemed to center around a trip into town to pick up supplies. I remember one episode where Little Joe and Hoss ran into all sorts of trouble, ended up in a knock-down fight, drank some whiskey, and picked up the pretty girls. (How Hoss hooked-up at all is another story, but you had to love the big oaf).

I thought of this today as I trudged the 1/4 into town to pick up supplies for the homestead. We needed rawhides for the dogs, something for dinner, and drink boxes for the kids. From the moment I opened my eyes, I knew that it was my responsibility. Early on in our marriage my wife explained that grocery store makes her sick. What she wants is what she gets.

I didn't run across any bad guys. I didn't have a shot of whiskey for the ride. I certainly didn't get near any pretty girls.

Instead, I got a sneer from an old man who was pushing his cart down aisle four. Thirty minutes later, I doubt that he has reached the end of the aisle.

I suffered through a price check and an impatient cashier who couldn't get the dogs rawhides to scan properly.

When I exited the store there was a cart pushed up tight to my car where someone had left it to do its damage. (Word out here - put your cart away - it doesn't take long and helps the next guy).

All in all, an uneventful trip, until I returned home and realized that I forgot about seven items. Thankfully, I don't have to shoe the horses before I head out again.

Yet wouldn't it have been cool to schedule the trip into town a month in advance? I can imagine Little Joe and Hoss sitting around saying, "What the hell, Pa, is getting a little cranky, let's make a day out of it."

Come to think of it, I'm starting to resemble Hoss around the neck a little bit. That'll help the next time I'm ambushed with a wagon full of groceries.

Fun While It Lasted

Welp. They’re coming for the Internet. Yesterday’s vote means that your service provider can slow things down, certain sites may now hav...