Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scanning the Globe

One of those days when I let the news catch up to me:

Another surfer attacked by a shark and a horrified public screams - What's wrong with these sharks? Why are they attacking us? Well, I'm not a genius, but it seems to me that they are hungry and we are food. I can imagine cows saying the same thing as they graze - why are these people attacking us - real simple - food, the natural order of things. We play in their homes, we run the risk of being dinner.

How about the man who kept his family in a cage that he called a fall-out shelter. Talk about wait until your father gets home. It blows your mind when you read about someone who got stuck a few rungs down on the chain of evolution - oh, wait, George W. doesn't believe in evolution - another subject.

An that cult with the teenage brides and molested wives and sons. It appears to me that it is much easier to brainwash people when they feel let down by life. These places prey on weakness - the way things are going we should have a cult or sect or whatever the hell they call themselves popping up on every corner.

An economist is explaining that gas is going to top out at $10 a gallon. Get ready to see a slightly overweight, severely balding man riding a moped. I predict that if gas even hits 5 a gallon there will be a revolution.

Can't way to see Exxon-Mobil's record-breaking profits for the first quarter. Just goes to show you - push a merger through on an unsuspecting public and you can write your own paycheck. Ah, coroporate greed - gotta' love it.

A friend of mine blamed the high gas prices on the Democratic congress - at least I laughed today. Has nothing to do with that trillion dollar "mistake of intelligence."

The Yankees are still pissing me off. Every day another player falls victim to a bad MRI. My advice - stop giving them MRI's - Babe Ruth ate a hot dog every 3rd inning - Mickey Mantle hit homers loaded. Now you feel a twinge and you sit for a month.

I heard the Bills first round pick speak (sort of) on TV - the man's attack on the English language left me shaking my head - he'll make five million per for catching a ball - my black lab can catch a dozen in a row off the garage - perhaps the Bills should look at her - she'd be better in the post-game interviews too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mental Health

Years and years ago I wrote a story about a guy who always felt as if he were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I called it Born Yesterday and even though I never did anything with the story - I liked it because it summed up some of the stress I feel on a daily basis. I often think of it as I get agitated.

I was having a conversation with my wife this afternoon and she asked me if one of my co-workers was happy - I thought about saying 'who gives a shit who's happy,' but I settled on a more diplomatic answer - "Of course he's happy," I said. "I'm the happiness-maker."

I got the laugh I was looking for.

Yet, day to day, it seems as though there is so much to do and often times, I am in the wrong place at the wrong time - not that I'm dallying or not working hard enough, but there are arms grabbing from every side.

Wah, wah, wah!

We all have those problems. There is dinner to be made every day, kids that need attention, dogs that wonder why you aren't petting them, books to write, the Yankees are on, the laundry baskets are full, the bills need to be paid, the car is out of gas - get a loan and fill it up.

I make it through the crazy times by telling myself that I won't be up all night operating on a child. I don't have to dig ditches anymore. I won't be running into a burning building. In fact, at some point during this evening I will sit back with the clicker in my hand, watch Jeter line one into right, and click over to ESPN to catch the scores.

I'll playfully aggravate all those around me and I'll pet the dog, and hug the wife.

I'll do all of this and more because I wasn't born yesterday and I like the new nickname - I'm the "happiness-maker".

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ah the Memories!

We decided to take the boys to Cleveland to watch the Yankees play - 2 of 3 of the boys love the Yanks - the other hates them, but loves rooting against them. Our plan was to drive down on Saturday, stay overnight and catch the game on Sunday before heading back to our lives. We made a lot of memories in just that short window of time.

Jake and I schooled Matt and Sam in 3 games of Clue as Kathy got ready for the game. The key moment of the competition was when I pretended to be an interviewer and cornered Sam after the game 3 defeat."What do you think of your partner?" I teased. "He absolutely sucked," Sam answered.

At the game, we were fortunate enough to get good seats (thanks Mom!) and the boys were able to get within twenty or thirty feet of Jeter and A-Rod - we have some wonderful photos, and Sam led the way, walking brazenly up to the gate to shout to them to turn in his direction.

The Yanks clung to a 1-0 lead late in the game. The Indians had a runner at 3rd with 2 outs, and I was shifting a bit uncomfortably in my seat. I turned to the boys and asked if they were nervous. "Actually," Sam said, "At this very moment, I was wondering what Scooby and the gang are up to."

I thought Jake might split a side from laughing.

Matt, on the other hand, cheered loudest when the Indians did something good. I nearly lost it when I understood that I was paying for the seat he was sitting in to root against my team, but I got him his freaking cheese fries anyway. And the Yanks won - no harm - no foul.

On the way home, I turned to Kathy.The boys were watching a DVD or listening to their I-Pods.

"What a good trip," I said. "No episodes."

About ten minutes from home the boys grew tired of the DVD and changed into what we call 'Hee-Hee' and 'Haw-Haw.' (For the record, neither my wife nor I am too fond of these characters).

I turned to scold them, but Kathy reminded me that they were just playing. Literally yards from our home, Jake whacked Sam and Sam swung back - perfect shot - in the nose - the geyser of blood scared all of us and led to a real quiet remainder of the evening.

I must say - the sight of a child's blood is at least disconcerting and at most absolutely impossible to take.

Ah, the memories. After stopping the bleeding, Kathy and I took turns trying to calm the boys. Matt was worried about Jake. Jake was worried about the fact that Sam was upset for hitting him. We were all worried about Jake's nose. My heart was in my throat, the game long since forgotten.

As I sat on the edge of Jake's bed to say good-night, he moved the ice bag and spoke, "I wonder what Scooby and the gang are up to," he said, and we laughed for ten more minutes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

1, 2, 3- Everyone Buy Some Gas!

I'm actually awaiting the moment when the woman on the other end of the line says - "Your balance includes a desposit totaling....

The government is going to press that anonymous lady into action as my "tax rebate" hits the books.

First off, what of that lady? Do you think her friends recognize her as the woman who's voice is on their call-ins to the bank? Do total strangers listen to her speak for the first time and say - "I know I know you from somewhere?"

Whatever? Must be an interesting life.

What to do with this sudden cash surplus? Geez, isn't "W" like the greatest president ever? He keeps giving us money!!! He's sort of like the rich uncle who molests you when your parents are gone and gives you candy money when they're watching. Again! Whatever! (Never happened to me, but sounded like a good analogy when I practiced it).

Bush tells us to fill that gas tank... wink, wink... so he and his buddies can have all of that money back without actually stealing it. (This time).

Or better yet - get yourself a sandwich. I know you've all been starving for the last eight years. (That was Clinton's fault - for leaving us in such a mess).

We need to stimulate the economy so America can prosper once more. (Kind of like it did pre-2000).

We need to stop sending all of the money across the sea to that bottomless pit of a war that will never produce a winner. (What war? Iraq - oh, that's just a scuffle).

What am I going to do with my sudden fortune? The way we have it figured, my wife and I can both fill our gas tank - twice! We'll have enough left over to use the pushmower on the grass.

To stimulate growth, we'll buy a Webkids for Sam, a pack of wrestling cards for Jake, and Matt can't finally get that taco he's had his eye on for over a year.

Thank you "W"! Thank you, Cheney!

Please let the door hit you on the way out.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Making Sense of It

A good friend of mine had surgery for colon cancer, developed blood clots on his lungs and on his heart, recovered from that and found that he has a spot on his lung. Hoping against hope, he had the necessary tests and yes, the spot is more cancer. He's lost over 40 pounds. He has five kids, a lot to live for, and a new way of looking at life.

"All the things we do every day, it's all pretty pointless," he said. "There are just a few things that are really important, and I plan on living a long time to chase those things down."

I had a long drive home to think about those words. I thought of my grandfather who said, "Life is a shit sandwich." I thought of Tony Soprano who said, "It's all a big nothing."

We've all been there. My friend wasn't being cynical. Rather, he was just looking at everything a little differently since this fight for his life has begun.

When you think about it - really think about it as my friend is doing now - there is so much more that we all want to do.

There are moments when I feel like I'm just wasting time. Too much work, too much sleep, too much waiting at a red light, too much waiting on line at the bank. Too much time spent in front of the television.

I know my buddy wants that time back. Yet there are no guarantees. There is no advance warning. Some people suffer through disease and basically have time to get used to the idea. Others go suddenly - the curtain pulled closed all in one fell swoop. Neither sounds like much of a choice.

I'm not trying to bring you down - I'm just swinging you around to the happy conclusion that I arrived at on my drive home.

Are you ready?

Only love brings you joy. Think about it. If you had time to battle and think about your life and put your affairs in order with advance notice - wouldn't you sift through the dust of fool's gold to remember the truly joyful moments?

On the drive home, I considered the birth of my children, my wedding, hanging with my family,and laughing until I couldn't laugh anymore. I thought back to college and the great friends I met there, and considered my high school pals, and those I've admired in my career.

All the joy came back as love.

Perhaps the rest is pointless, or a big nothing, or even a shit sandwich. So much feels like a colossal waste of time, but we are all searching for more time - another day, another month, another ten years...because those moments of joy brought on by love...are worth it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Don't Be Stupid, You Moron"

Listening to Howard Stern has taught me a lot of life lessons - Howard plays a tape of his father scolding him when he was a mere child. "I told you not to be stupid, you moron," his father said long ago. Of course, Howard plays that into the reason why he is demented. Regardless, it's pretty funny. Unless of course, you have children, and you understand that sometimes such phrases are bound to slip out and cause a lifetime of pain.

My children are all different - one needs an ego stroke from time-to-time so I go out of my way to tell him that he's a good kid - I'll wrap my arm around his shoulder and say to my wife - "This is the guy I've been telling you about - he's a great guy."

That is a take-off on a Simpsons episode and brings a smile to Jake's face every time.

I have another son who rarely needs an ego boost - he's good and he knows it - good old Sam will strut around like the coolest thing on the planet - and you know, he might be. He understands that he's been blessed with an unbelievable memory and he lets you know he understands just how gifted he is - I don't need to tell him he's a good guy all the time - because he knows it. He's like the best-looking girl in class who expects the attention of all the boys.

Matt, is exhibit #3 - he is also supremely confident and refuses to be beat down by life. I'll remind him that all of the underdog teams he roots for have lost because I like to let him know that he won't glide through life untouched. My words of doom have little bearing on how he lives his life - which is great.

My own father absolutely encouraged me - I'm sure that there were times when he thought I was absolutely clueless - he probably still thinks that from time-to-time. He even told me every once in awhile, but it wasn't anything that truly stuck because I knew he loved me.

Yet the lesson in today's blog is to treat your kids with respect because it may have a bearing on what they turn into. Calling your child a moron might result in him or her turning into a great shock jock who interviews strippers and circus freaks.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Waiting on a Sunny Day

Isn't it nice not to have to wear a coat or brush off the car, or shovel snow, or freeze your ass off?

I can't help but be picked up by the weather and I sincerely believe that the change in seasons is what makes the people of Buffalo such wonderful people to be around - (for four months out of the year).

I woke up this morning, took a deep breath, and didn't cringe because of cold air smashing my lungs. I looked up at the clear blue sky and heard the singing friggen' birds who woke me up early, and I sort of ran out to start my day.

Everyone I bumped into seemed happier. The food tasted better. The cold water that I drank down at every other stop was awesome.

I returned home and mowed the lawn - it is impossible for me to mow the lawn at a leisurely pace and not remember having to mow the lawn when Jake was sick - I did it at break-neck speed, nearly crying as I ran across the lawn to just get it over with - if you haven't read Counting on a Miracle yet - shame on you.

In any regard - I couldn't help but be happy again - my back is feeling better, I had pasta for dinner, the Yanks are on in an hour, I was waiting on a sunny day - and I got it. Now if A-Rod didn't have that quad injury...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Papal Visit

It drives me crazy to hear people taking potshots at the Pope each and every time he comes to visit. I have a great friend - Karl - who is also upset by some of the members of the media poking fun at Christianity.

I don't get it. Why isn't there more tolerance in the world - of other people's beliefs, their love of the Yankees, and their views on conservatism or liberalism? We all seem to be a bit on edge in regard to what other people feel, or believe, or even love.

For God's sake - in the immortal words of Rodney King - "Can't we all just get along?"

The Pope wasn't visiting to stir up memories of the scandal in the Catholic Church. He wasn't here so the Yankees could play 18 straight road games without a day off (which is a whole 'nother subject). No, he was here to spread a message of love and tolerance - and for that every comedian or so-called journalist takes pot shots at him for everything from his hat to Moses parting the Red Sea.

If you don't believe it - keep your mouth shut! My friend, Karl, explained that every other religion seems to be free of such potshots - Muslim's will kill you for drawing a cartoon about their faith.

Yet it seems to me that it is much more than that. People show little tolerance for other people when they are filled with their own insecurities.

I watch Bill Maher on HBO - from time-to-time, I need to turn it off because he goes solidly overboard. His religious stance is nothing short of ridiculous - and even if he turns out to be right - why must he spout off about what other people believe?

The Pope explained that adherence to faith is a discipline that is not easily handled by every man. I guess he was speaking directly to Maher and all the other people who show little tolerance for their fellow man.

I don't care if you worship a rock in your backyard. If you believe in it and it makes you a better human being - Rock Bless You!

Get off the Pope's back!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Three Sons

In the middle of a beautiful Saturday afternoon I called my parents to check in and see what they had planned for such a great day. One thing led to another and I wound up having a half-hour conversation with my father about the old family tree. He was speaking about his fifty-year college reunion and before too long we had discussed his college days, my Uncle Tony, my Grandfather, and a couple of relatives that I barely knew. It was fascinating to imagine life back that far, with my father bringing up an incident with my great uncle back in '37.

1937! This whole sordid affair - speaking of Fazzolari's from over 70 years ago - left me to consider my three boys and what lies ahead.

First off, I hope that I am blessed to have a conversation with them about their uncles, some thirty-plus years from now.

Secondly, I really, really hope that I am able to shield them from some of the heartache in life. I'm not sure why my mind went there, but I began to worry about some of the personality quirks that I've had to work around. I've always had a difficult time relaxing - and I hope my children aren't cursed with that. My wife is still real scared of the boogeyman, and I pray that they are able to see clear to be cautious, yet a tad more realistic.

I've seen traits in each child that leads me to believe that the clear sailing that I wish for them may take some time. They are all striving to impress - which is great - yet going overboard with expectations is something I must control.

Last night we played minature golf. A four-year-old boy was teeing off at the driving range a few feet away. He looked to be about three feet tall and his swing was better than mine. He was hitting the ball, sailing it through the air to about 80-85 yards. A man I believed to be his father was standing behind him, screaming at him to fix his stance. "You're just being stupid now!" the man screamed. I doubt very much the boy was enjoying it.

My son brought his report card home the other day. I looked at it believing that there would be something in it for me to criticize - there wasn't! His lowest grade was about 88 - everything else was right where we wanted it to be. Hell, the 88 wasn't "bad" either!

I wove a Springsteen story into the lesson for my boy - I told him of the moment when Springsteen as a young man tossed his own photo on the covers of Newsweek and Time in front of his father - who was dead-set against his son fooling around with a guitar. "Must have been a slow news week," Bruce's father is reported as saying.

"That's horrible!" my son said. "Can you imagine the damage he did to him?"

I suppose my boy is right. It is important, as a parent to know when to push and when to let back on the throttle a bit. It worked for Mr. Springsteen I suppose, but my parents showed love to six of us and Ilike to think it worked for them too. The overwhelming feeling of a beautiful Saturday is that I need to make it work for my boys too.

Isn't there a way to keep them forever young?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Look it Up on the Internet

A great educator friend of mine who happens to be a principal (I always struggle which principle to use - but remember the one at school is my "pal") was sharing some of the struggles of teaching in this day and age.

I don't know why it hit me so suddenly, but it seemed to me that kids who have everything at their fingertips may actually be lazier because of it. As a child I remember catching hell from my father because I needed to know the score of the Yankee game as it was going on. I would call a not-so-toll-free number to find out it was 0-0 in the 3rd inning. When the phone bill came I got the "Who the hell called a 900-number seven times during the week?"

Yesterday I had a dispute with my son about who the current right-fielder with the Mariners is - "Look it up," I said. Twenty seconds later he explained that Ichiro made the move to center.

Yet what struck me about it is that a lot of the work has been removed from the equation. As recently as doing research for my second book (which is long ago now) I went to the North Collins Library (a great instiution with an inspired librarian) to search through microfilm to read about the Catholic religion. Kids don't have to do that anymore. They can find enough material to write their own book if they want to - and it happens instantly. My son is currently writing a biography of Lou Gehrig - he knows good old Lou's mother's maiden name because he clicked a button.

I asked my buddy if it was more difficult to teach kids in such an environment. "Teachers need to pay attention," he said. "They have to discern whether or not that kid is actually doing the work. It's different, and challenging, but a good teacher can make it work."

Yet are we teaching children to work hard? Just because I dug ditches and searched through microfilm does that mean my kids have to? I can't text-message - it takes me a half-an-hour to log in - "The Mets suck!" to my one buddy. I can't imagine texting as I'm driving down the road like kids today do.

I'm certainly thrilled that Al Gore invented the internet for all of us. Yet the technological advances have left us missing something haven't they? If I was so ambitious, I could spell-check this blog without every having to truly learn to spell.

What a world? Are we making it too easy? Are we removing newspapers and books from the equation? God, I hope not. Yet my 7-year-old is a lot smarter than I was at that age. His fantasy baseball team is kicking ass - and while I don't need to worry about him calling 900 numbers, my cable bill is through the freaking roof!

Friday, April 18, 2008

These Times They Are A Changing

A couple of days ago Bruce Springsteen endorsed Obama for president. Of course, anyone who knows me, knows that Bruce is my all-time favorite entertainer and writer. I certainly was not suprised by his stance, but truth be told, it makes me a little uncomfortable - and not because I necessarily disagree with him.

Honestly, I haven't made up my mind. Bruce's endorsement of Obama doesn't help me make it up either. Yet I am not uncomfortable with him taking a stand. He's always taken a stand. It is one of his most admirable qualities. He does have the right to take the stand too because he has earned respect through his work.

Will his backing of Obama make a difference? It didn't seem to help John Kerry. Yet Springsteen has certainly earned a voice - agree or not - he has a platform and would be cheating his audience if he didn't use it. He has been consistent in his message and if he feels compelled - so be it.

Bob Dylan was a pioneer in using his music to make a statement. Rock and Roll was always a means to protest - from Viet Nam to today.

Recently I was at a concert where Bruce expressed dissatisfaction with the policies of the current president. It evoked memories of a concert the day after Ronald Reagan was elected where Bruce also voiced concern. He hasn't changed. He grew up poor and now he's rich, but his value system seems to have remained consistent. His ideas are written in stone for anyone who has bothered to follow him.

At that concert a few months ago a woman behind me yelled for Bruce to "Shut-up and Sing."

That is what makes me uncomfortable - just like that woman - Bruce has the right to voice his opinion. If people don't want to pay to hear it, just relax, the rest of his show will more than provide you with the value you expected when you bought the ticket.

I'm biased - I respect the man's career. I also respect his write to say whatever he wants. It's a free country - and as an entertainer, it's a message he has helped to preserve.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

You're the Father!

Recently I heard a recap of a Maury Povich show in which a young girl has paternity tests to figure out who is the father of her forthcoming baby. There were five men sharing the stage with her, and Maury went to each one, with pause for drama to tell them, "You are NOT the father!"

The problem was that he wound up telling all five men the same thing! Each man had a horse in the race, so to speak, but they all wound up sitting at the gate. A sixth, mystery man, ended up with the gold ticket, and is now presumably searching for a crib.

Are you kidding me! Six guys were in the running? What a freaking prize that ended up being, huh? Thankfully the recap of the show was on the radio so I didn't have to see the train wreck of the mother-to-be, but she must have been mildly attractive, right? She had six suitors, all hitting the target at the same time.

A couple of points here...

How and why is this deemed as entertainment? What makes us stand up and take notice of the worst type of behavior? There are men risking their lives to save other lives, soldiers coming home with life-threatening injuries, men and women who have engineered advancements against sickness and disease, Hell, I've written eight books and this tramp got an hour on Maury Povich while I try and pedal my wares like a street hooker (pardon the pun).

Secondly, what the hell is the prize kid going to turn out to be? Can you imagine proud momma and proud pappa showing the kid the tape in ten years? How do you explain that?

"Mommy loved a lot of men. She was having a hard time choosing who to marry so she tried them all. Luckily, daddy had the fastest swimmers."

Give me a break! There are moments when I'm sure we're all going to hell for even considering this atrocious behavior. I must admit, however, that as Maury's voice filled my car, I needed to hear the reaction of the man who ended up being the true father - unfortunately- he didn't regard himself as a winner. When Maury screamed - "You're the father!" he called the mother of his unborn child a "whore".

You think?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sore Back

All through my adult life I've had a back that acts up every once in awhile. It's sore now and will remain that way for a few days. When your body aches, there is little that you can do to cheer yourself up. I would never truly think about stopping to rest, so I try other things.

For one, I think of people who have tremendous amounts of courage. There are soldiers at Walter Reed who are missing limbs and are ready to go back into the war game.

There are people in wheelchairs who whistle their way through the thought that they won't walk again.

I had a dog who could barely move, but was determined to sleep - up three flights of stairs - by my side.

There are single mothers who cook, clean, and work to keep their families together.

There are homeless men and women sleeping under bridges because we forgot about them, or because we don't want to consider their weaknesses.

There are sick children, battling for lives that have barely begun. There are doctors and nurses - no doubt with sore backs - who are trying to save these kids.

Okay, that didn't quite work. Knowing that I have to get up from this chair in a moment sends a shiver down my spine, but I'm about to do it.

And do you know why? It's because I try not to give much credence to the pain - it will go away and life is surely strange that way.

In a couple of days, I am going to be in a great mood because the pain in my back will be gone. If I didn't have the pain right now, that spike in my mood wouldn't be just around the corner.

How's that for seeing the glass half full?

Okay - here we go - aaaaaargh! The good mood is just hours away.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Predators

My boys are outside. The sun is shining and although it's a bit cold, they are happy for the chance to bounce a ball in the driveway, shoot on goal, and chase the dogs around the backyard. Yet it isn't as quite as free and easy as when I was a boy.

I grew up in a small town. I had good friends up and down the road and very often, we would come home, toss the bookbags away and ask about dinner. My mother would simply say - "Don't be late."

No one was truly concerned with predators stalking the children. This week it began with a description of a man in a white van who approached an adolescent boy. The predator didn't chase the boy down the street - he got out of his car and rang the front doorbell, knowing that parental supervision was not around.

We are a generation that grew up listening to stories on Nancy Grace. Most people I know have an opinion on JonBenet's death. 48 Hours runs a mystery each and every week - and this isn't Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock - this is real live events with real live missing or murdered children.

When we were first married, I would laugh at my wife because of her paranoid fits. I still laugh now and again as she must check the doors four times before bed, but I must admit that it scares the hell out of me too. There are predators living among us and it seems as if they are picking off children one kid at a time.

I remember my dad flicking the lights to call us home. We spent as much time inside some of our friends parents' homes as we did our own. Now, unfortunately, when our kids want to spend time elsewhere we need to check for references.

Was this always happening? Somehow I doubt it. I grew up on The Nelson Family and The Waltons and Bonanza.

My kids get CSI, 48 Hours Mystery and Fear Factor.

We dumbed it down - and the predators came out of the woodwork.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sweet Dreams are Made of This

Back in college we played a drinking game to Pee-Wee's Playhouse. God help you if the guy next to you caught the secret word before you did.

Yet what I remember most about Pee-Wee (besides that little theatre indiscretion) was his movie - Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (which we also caught three sheets to the wind). In a very intense scene, his love interest asks Pee-Wee - as soft music plays in the background - whether or not he has any dreams. In that awesome Pee-Wee voice he says -"I have a scary one where a beast chases me and catches me and tears me apart."

I have a lot of dreams. One concerns watching an airplane fall from the sky. I don't know what it means, but it always wakes me up. I also have a recurring dream about being one credit short of graduating from college. Even awake, I swear that someone is going to call me and let me know my BA wasn't completed.

A few weeks ago, my wife woke up rather irritated with me. When I pressed her on the issue, she told me that she had a dream that I cheated on her.

I didn't do myself any favors when I asked if the girl was hot.

I'm not sure what all of the dreams mean. I've woken myself up with laughter, felt a sudden rush of panic, and have certainly been intimate in my dreams. I've listened to psychics and the sort explain what dreams mean, but am only slightly curious, and have never taken it much further.

This morning, I woke singing the song "Key Largo" - a song I haven't heard in five years (at least) - you know it - "We had it all, just like Bogey and Bacall, staring in our own late, late show, and sailing away to Key Largo."

Well - here's looking at you, kid - what the hell does it all mean? Perhaps Pee-Wee can figure it out for me.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tired of the Cavemen

When I made my First Communion the priest, during his sermon, asked the gathering if anyone knew what he meant when he mentioned the idiot box. Of course he was talking about television, but the kid he called on, who happened to be my next-door neighbor, said, "Is that the place where you keep the chalice?" The entire congregation laughed and I distinctly recall feeling bad for my neighbor.

"No," the priest explained, "the idiot box is the television because idiots sit in front of it."

My First Communion was in 1974 or '75, so that statement has hung with me for a long time.

Tonight, I was watching the commercial with the caveman riding the walking strip along the airport when he sees the picture of another caveman and reads the sign that says "So easy a caveman can do it." He acts all indignant and the song fades away as the Geico logo comes up.

I thought of the priest and the fact that I felt like an idiot for watching that commercial for what had to be the 50th time.

Fifty times thirty seconds is twenty-five minutes of my life that has been spent watching that stupid friggen' commercial.

I can imagine lying in bed, gasping for my last breath, wishing I had just a little time left. "Dear God, give me another half-an-hour!" I'll beg.

The skies will open and God's booming voice will answer - "Sorry, dude, (God is cool - he calls people 'dude') you wasted that half an hour watching that commercial with that caveman."

Idiot Box - why do I stare at the idiot box?

Nothing to Lose

A carpenter friend of mine was working on a building in downtown Buffalo. His care was parked out front, not fifty feet away from the front entrance of the new construction. As he hammered away, a man broke into his car and drove off down the street. My friend was flabbergasted - "Can you imagine being so brazen?" he asked.

Another co-worker was telling me of an insurance claim regarding the loss of copper in their building - someone broke in and ripped the place apart, stealing everything they can get their hands on.

Isn't it depressing how people act when they have nothing to lose?

Whenever I hear these stories I think of the old Bob Dylan line - "When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose."

It seems like the gap is widening. The cop who responded to the stolen car told the carpenter that he should have known better than to park his car in that neighborhood. What was the guy supposed to do?

It also seems to me that we all know the areas of town to avoid and the places where crime is a way of life. Can't we just stop it somehow? A cop on every corner?

There seems to be a sub-city where the rules of society don't apply.

Whatever, I need to give a buddy a ride home.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Loves to Laugh

My boys all enjoy a good joke. They are particularly enamored with any joke that has to do with bodily functions and/or newly discovered words.

Last night, we had a little shooting contest in the backyard. I don't quite shoot like I used to unless I get warmed up first. So, unfortunately, as it was a speed-shooting contest, I let fly with S**t when I missed a shot. The word simply slipped out, but it actually slipped out twice. Unfortunately, Sam, my 7-year-old picked up on it. When he missed his next shot, yep, he let fly with s**t.

This greatly amused my other two sons, of course, and while I scolded Sam, I did it with a smile on my face. Moments later, he missed again, and stated very matter-of-factly that 'missing' was starting to really p**s him off.

I stopped the game and asked him to clean up his act.

It reminded me of being young and having a brother who liked to swear. Jim was always letting loose with one curse word after another. It came to a head when a substitute priest came to the door asking for my mother. The priest couldn't quite remember my mother's name so he asked Jim what her name was. "Mom," Jim said. "No", the priest tried, "What does your father call her?"

"Son-of-a-b**ch," Was Jim's answer.

I may relay the story to the boys tonight, but then again, perhaps I shouldn't give them any ideas.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Meeting New People


Book signings have always been strange events for me. From the very first one, on down to last night's appearance at Barnes & Noble, I'm never real sure what to expect.


Last night was entertaining because I had the opportunity to speak to a group of writers. Writing is a solitary exercise that dictates that you spend a lot of time inside your own head. Then, while promoting the book, you're asked to put your best smile on and greet potential book-buyers.


I've learned to really enjoy it, and I can trace it all back to the teenager with his pants falling down, a stud stuck in his eye, and a torn baseball jersey. Wordlessly he picked up a copy of my newest book, and read the back cover. I started getting excited believing that I had a sale and he calmly placed the book back on the table and said "Dude, you know where the bathroom's at?"


I suppose that I will never forget that gent.


Last night, I met an aspiring writer who is just 16-years old. Her pointed questions about writing challenged me, and her enthusiasm for the craft invigorated me. At the end of the evening, she asked me to sign a book for her, and moments like that are worth endless hours of sitting around hoping someone will buy a book.
My wife kids me that my groupies are ladies who like to bring me baked goods and talk about books. I figure that is just about perfect.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

One Life

The NCAA game finished last night and the local network went straight to the news. There were two hit and runs involving drunk drivers, a murder, and a man who burned his two-year old by making him sit on the space heater.

Following a commercial break - we learned of death by fire, an assault charge, and a robbery of $280,000 worth of copper. There are no leads in the case.

Garbage in, garbage out.

I had a conversation with my sister yesterday and we discussed how a lot of people give up on life at a certain point. It seems to me that the negative aspects of it all, leads some of us down a path where resistance seems futile.

I don't want to be old and bitter about what might have been. I don't want to be aggravated by every little thing. Yet - could it be coming?

My son left a grabage bag on the ground and this morning it was torn open and the garbage was strewn about. I let him know that "squirrels got into the garbage."

"You sure it wasn't a raccoon?" my wife asked as I scolded him.
"I don't care what kind of animal it was," I answered.
"More likely a raccoon," she tried again.
"I don't care if it was a bear!" I answered. "The lesson is that the bag should have been in the bin."
"Are we having an old-married-couples argument?" My wife asked.

Exactly! There is so much negative garbage in life. So much that truly doesn't matter. Yet we seem to fixate on it. Yeah, there were hit and runs and drunk drivers last night. Yet there were also close-knit families swimming at the YMCA, and laughing together, and sharing a meal, and going to church, and just plain living.

Why can't that ever be the news? We have one life to live. We should live it out happy - all the way to the end - don't you think?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Swim, Buddy, Swim

It's real hard not to appreciate the little things in life when you realize what your life might have been like had you not got lucky.

This afternoon we headed to the pool at the YMCA because Jake was going to show us that he can swim. Actually, he made a bet with his mother, and his reward was to be a new PSP game console.

Kathy had made the bet, believing that it would take Jake through the summer to get even a decent doggy-paddle down. Don't doubt the determination of a Fazzolari.

Just a couple of short weeks after the wager, Jake swam across the pool - turned around and did it again.

It's been a long time since Jake was sick. He has lived a completely healthy, happy life since the surgery scars healed. Today, as I watched him swim, an undeniable wave of happiness ran through me.

In the few short moments it took for him to get to my side after winning his bet, I ran the gamut of emotions. When he arrived at my side, he said, "Are you proud of me?"

More than you'll ever know, pal - swim, buddy, swim.

First Penance

My boy, Sam, is making his first penance this coming week. He's only 7 - I'm not sure he knows how to sin yet. In fact, I'm sure it's a confusing time for him, as the Catholic church is allowing him the chance to start feeling guilty about every move he makes.

I'm still battling the Catholic guilt.

In any regard, it brought to mind my first confession.

My knees were shaking, and the priest - Father Weiss - scared the living crap out of me.

I got into the box and couldn't even see the priest. I struggled through the opening prayer and here is our exchange on my first confessed sin.

Me: "I stole a piece of salami out of the 'fridge."

Father Weiss: (No doubt stifling laughter) - "Are you sorry for your sin?"

Me: "Yes."

Father Weiss: "Did you replace what you took?"

Me: "No, I ate it."

As I was discussing this with my wife, she asked if I were making it up. I swear it is absolutely true. God Bless Father Weiss for working me through it.

Couple of things - First - stealing the salami certainly wasn't my last sin. Second (Some news for Father Weiss) - Given the same scenario these days - I'd eat it again.

God Bless Sam, he doesn't have many sins to confess yet - perhaps I can give him pointers on what to cop to.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Writer's News Weekly

I was only 21 years old when I had the idea to write a book. Luckily, I didn't know much about the business or how difficult the process is, or I may have quit before I started.

Through the years, I have had a number of very high points in regard to the stories I've written. I feel that I've entertained and helped people from time-to-time.

Yet there are also lows. I had an elderly lady show up at one of my signings with the curse words highlighted. "You should be ashamed of yourself," she said.

There have also been difficult days as I try to avoid writer's block - or getting stuck in a plot that is sinking fast.

Today is a good day - however - I was asked to be a columnist for Writer's News Weekly. Check it out at www.writersnewsweekly.com

My publisher has done an excellent job of encouraging the craft. The staff of people at Sterlinghouse care about the writer and the reader. That much is evident in the weekly, quality product that they have presented.

Besides, my column is in there - and I'm proud of having been asked!

Heather Heyer

She was a 32-year old woman who wanted to protest the white supremacists in her town. She got killed for her stance. And it's pretty...