Sunday, June 29, 2008

How Many Beers?

On that airplane ride last week I finished my beer and turned it to my lips, draining every last drop. I turned to my coworker and said - "Another dead beer."

He just sort of looked at me - there's not a lot to say about that, is there?

Letting a couple of moments pass, and looking out the small window, thinking about the grand universe, I said - "What if there's a beer limit in heaven?"

My coworker stared at me.

"What if we're only supposed to have so many through the course of our lives and God is keeping count?"

"You're out of your freaking mind," he said. "I know you're a writer and all, but who thinks of that shit?"

"Seriously, I get there, thinking I've lived a great life and God says "You had 72,436 beers - and you were only allowed 50,000."

"Why would he allow you 50,000 beers?" my coworker asked, finally buying in. "Maybe it's a hundred thousand limit."

"I hope so," I said.

I wanted another beer. Thankfully it was a short flight.

"I've had more than you," my coworker said. "And now I'm friggen worried. Thanks for ruining my evening." He still had some left in his can.

There wasn't a lot more to say on the subject. In fact, I was immersed in looking out the window again.

"Say, wouldn't it be easier to live if we knew for sure what the rules are?"

"They say the rules are in the Bible," I said.

"I guess," he said. "The 50,000 beer rule is easier to understand though. Perhaps you should write a better rule book."

"Better than the Bible?" I asked.

We both started laughing. "You mean you can't do it?" he asked.

"Shut-up and finish your beer," I said. "That's the final nail in your coffin. That's the one that's going to send you to the fiery furnaces of hell."

"I need to change my seat," he said.

Favorite Quick Jokes

Thought of my father and his quick wit... some of his classic quick jokes:

Joke #1

"Ass" is in the Bible - he once told me.

"Prove it," I said.

"It was one of the miracles," he answered. "Moses tied his ass to a tree and walked 3 miles."

Joke #2 - Man is in the hospital and his doctor comes to visit - "I have good news and bad news," he says.

"Give me the bad news," the man replies.

"We had to amputate both of your feet."

"My God," the man says - "What can possibly be the good news?"

The doctor answers - "The man in the next bed wants to buy your boots."

Joke #3 - A man is passing by a herd of sheep - he goes to the shepherd - "I hear that sheep are a lot like women," he says.

"It's unbelievable," the shepherd responds.

"Do you mind if I have relations?"

"Be my guest," the shepherd says.

A little while later the man comes back and says to the shepherd - "To be honest, it wasn't that great."

The shepherd responds - "What do you want, you picked the ugliest one."

Joke #4 - Man goes to the funeral director - "I'm here to bury my wife," he says.

The funeral director is perplexed - "Didn't I bury your wife a couple of years ago?"

The man says - "I recently got remarried."

The funeral director replies - "Oh, Congratulations!"

(My mother still doesn't understand that joke).

Finally,

Joke #5

Doctor goes to the bedside once more. "I have good news and bad news," he tells his patient.

"Give it to me straight, doc. What's the bad news?"

"You have terminal cancer and just 3 weeks to live."

"What could possibly be the good news?" the patient asks.

"Did you see my beautiful secretary?" the doc asks.

"Why yes," the man replies.

"I'm sleeping with her," the doc answers, "and I'm telling everyone."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Blast Me With Water


Aren't kids great? I always say that they allow us to see the grace in the world. After a rough week of travel and beating deadlines and writing reports, I wasn't into much of anything come Friday night. I honestly just wanted to go to bed around 6 PM. I felt my mood slipping, slipping, slipping.
I decided to hang with the boys. We played a game of basketball - Jake and Sam against me. Although I have a strong desire to let them win - I can't yet give up the title as the best basketball player in the house. I beat Matt on his birthday, so I beat the dynamic duo last night - but not after laughing at them fouling me on every play, double-dribbling and walking with the ball, and talking smack the whole time.
Next they went down the slip and slide and it wasn't working right, so I just disconnected the hose and shot them with it as they came down the slide. I was blasting them in the chest and head and they were yelping with glee each and every time. I found that the more fun I had blasting them, the more they laughed.
Soon enough, I was laughing just as loud, wishing that the slip and slide could hold me so I could take a turn.
Kathy is the maintenance person around our house so soon enough she fixed the slide and I wasn't needed on the hose anymore.
I headed to the house, no less tired, but healed in a manner of speaking.
Ah, that grace! Just blast me with water, Dad.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Small Town Life

I was born in a small town...my parents live in that same small town... I was taught to fear Jesus in the small town...

Got back from Washington-Maryland-Virginia where I spent two days on planes, trains, and automobiles to visit jobs in the area. (I wasn't the Steve Martin character - so that would make me, uh, John Candy?)

I couldn't have been happier when the plane hit the ground in Buffalo so I could just settle into my car and race 20 miles to home without much fear of gridlocked traffic and 70,000 people in a two block radius.

Let me tell you about my trip - I spilled coffee on a guy in a suit on the subway. As I was helping him towel off, I looked at my co-worker who had witnessed the whole thing. I was doing the "I'm so sorry, please forgive me speech," when I caught my buddy's eye. We both started laughing - the victim shrugged away, huffing down the line at my utter amusement. Oh yeah, you're not supposed to drink coffee on the train.

There were people coming at me from every angle - I crumpled up my train ticket and held up the line every time I was supposed to put it in the gate. A pretty woman smiled at me and I thought it was because she saw the mustard stain on my shirt from lunch.

We passed the Washington Monument and I asked what it was.

"You're kidding, right?" my coworker asked. "Not much of a history buff," I said. Passed the Pentagon - he had to point it out. "Looks like a jail," I answered.

Standing on Pennsylvania Avenue I asked - "Doesn't what's his face live around here?"

"Right up the street," my confused buddy said.

Diversification, I thought as I saw an Indian woman standing next to a Japanese man, behind a black man on the train.

Boring I thought as I watched daily commuters read books, newspapers, do work on their laptops, drink beer, and chat like longtime friends.

Sat next to a woman on the train - started talking crabcakes, Buffalo snow, and humid Baltimore weather. We discussed her town of Pasadena and I mentioned my cousins - the Switala's -

"Oh my Gawd," she wailed. "I went to high school with John Switala - he is hysterical!"

That's my cousin.

"What a small world," she commented.

I couldn't wait for it to get a little smaller. Touching the ground in Buffalo was a welcome event.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shit Sandwich

I might have said it before, but I remember my grandfather telling me that life is a shit sandwich. I don't know why, but I was flying home last night and watching the world out the small window. My favorite part about flying is when we begin our descent and break through the clouds.

Returning to Buffalo last night, the cloud cover was heavy, so the break-through was more pronounced. I was dead tired. My beer was gone and they weren't offering a second. Sammy boy was having his eighth birthday and they were holding the cake until I got home. Yet when I saw life from way up high, I could only laugh at my grandfather's saying.

Life from an airplane window seems different. Everything looks as if it's in a perfect pattern. The charging atmosphere and the changing landscape lend a feeling of true comfort - somehow.

The pools in the backyards are bright blue - the baseball diamonds always look perfectly designed. Hey look, there's my house.

I thought about how complicated we make everything and how quickly time slips away like the smoke trailing the plane.

I raced home from the airport - the traffic didn't slow me down much, but I caught a red light right at the corner just before making it home.

The dogs were jumping. The kids were happy to see me. The wife looked great and the eight candles on Sam's birthday cake burned bright. He made a wish and we sang.

I thought of the plane leaving the clouds and grandpa's saying. Life might be a shit sandwich, but it's on really good bread sometimes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Look

I'm currently wearing a beige shirt and plaid shorts. Both clothing items are brand new and I wasn't allowed to wear them until today - we have a party at the in-laws and I am about to make my debut, looking presentable. Both my wife and I are well aware that these clothes are never going to look as good as they do today. In a matter of hours the beige shirt may be unwearable. It's just another attempt to change the look, and I'm telling you right now - it won't work.

We were also talking about "the look" from early in our relationship. My wife was complaining to one of her co-workers that I don't look at her the same way as I did when it was all brand new. I suppose that perhaps she's right - although I argued against her reasoning.

Yet its all about the way that relationships evolve, right? My parents have been married for nearly 50 years - you think there's that same sense of wonder as when they were dating? Now the look has evolved into that of revulsion on some days. Oh well, that's how the bottle bounces right? (See previous post).

The looks will certainly change through the years. I ran into a guy I hadn't seen for years - he just looked at me and laughed. "What the hell happened to you? Your gray and bald! You were rail skinny when you were young!"

I can't even explain the look I gave him.

Yet there certainly are days. Hanging around with my wife on a Saturday has allowed me a few looks today. "You're looking good," I told her.

"Yeah, I shaved and showered," she said.

"Ah, that's the difference."

You should have seen the look that I got.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Missing Lyrics

There's a reality show where you must guess the lyrics. I thought of this show tonight as Elton John's Tiny Dancer played - I don't sing Tiny Dancer anymore - now I sing "Hold me closer Tony Danza," because I heard some moron on Howard Stern sing those lyrics.

That ain't all - In John Mellencamp's Jack and Diane - my wife - woefully off-tune sings - "Let the Bottle Bounce come and save my Soul." (What the eff does that mean?)

The actual words to the song are - "Let the Bible Belt come and save my soul."

I have a lifelong buddy named Palmer - when Bruce sings - "Rosie Come out Tonight," I think of my blood brother and the lyrics carry me back through time. We both know all of the lyrics.

Yet blowing the lyrics is pretty common in a lot of songs - I was singing Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Cheese Tonight and I thought of my brother-in-law Chuck who wrote his own perfect lyrics to Paul Young's - "Everytime you go away."

The Real Lyrics - "Everytime you go away, you take a piece of me with you."

Chuck's Lyrics - "Everytime you go away, you take a piece of cheese with you."

"Why are you singing that?" I asked Chuck - He just kept singing and asked if I was ready for the next verse.

Paul Young: "Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you - Don't leave me all alone."

Charles Leone: "Every time you go away, you take of cheese with you - Don't take the provolone."

Perfect - just singing along. Who cares if the words are right.

Christie

Let's see, Christie Brinkley is 54 - I'm 43 - I watched her model everything from a swimsuit to underwear. I saw her turn as Chevy Chase's fantasy girl in Vacation. I thought it was great when she married Billy Joel - a regular-looking guy - and was sort of down on her when that whole thing went sour.

Now she's in the middle of what promises to be an ugly divorce from her latest husband who was caught with a teenager, and reportedly spent a lot of hours trolling porn sites for fantasy girls of his own.

Really? Men get sick of Christie Brinkley? I guess it shows that restlessness can manufacture ugly behavior.

I believe it was Springsteen who in one of the greatest love and lack of love albums of all-time (Tunnel of Love) said, "In a restless heart the seed of betrayal lays."

In that album he also speaks of marriage by saying - "Would they ever look so happy again, the handsome groom and his bride, as they step into their black limousine for their mystery ride?"

I think of that at every wedding. No matter what, the bride and groom are all smiles believing that they deserve the party to pronounce their love. Yet restlessness very often rears its ugly head and one party or the other disregards the love they feel on that day - for what? Trolling strippers on the Internet? How the hell does that happen? Someone was pretending for sure, right?

Howard Stern often has guests in who are just starting relationships - these are often celebrity types who speak of their new-found love as though it's the 2nd coming of Romeo and Juliet. Invariably, Stern will have these people back after the relationship goes sour - and he'll play the old tape of them gushing about a love that turned into hate. The uncomfortable celebrity will be at a loss to explain.

How do you explain it? How do you hold onto the giddy feelings of happiness on that wedding day? I had about seven best men on my wedding day - one of them (the wise, great philosopher Fluffy) said: "Someday you'll look back on this day as the happiest day of your life. Then again, you might learn to rue this day, as the worst move you ever made. It's a crapshoot."

On that day we laughed and clanked beer bottles, but that goofy bastard was right. For Christie and her latest, I'm sure that as they battle truths and non-truths in their life together, they will realize that they didn't account for the restlessness - most likely because they never truly respected one another to the level that it takes.

Perhaps it isn't about the superficial things, huh? Look at Christie - three men and counting have grown sick of her. Perhaps not her fault, but even gorgeous people haven't gotten love right.

Oh well - Dr. Phil is slightly overweight and bald too - if he can talk about love - so can I.

My advice? I don't have any - I've been fortunate enough to stave off restlessness and I have a ton of respect still in my heart that will sustain through the days of diminished beauty and declining health. I don't ever want to rue that day - thanks Fluff.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

College Days

Last week I went back to college. In 1986 I graduated from Gannon University in Erie, PA. and as luck might have it, I had to return to Zurn Hall because one of my construction clients was doing some work in the building.

It's strange how much your mind kicks back to you. I had not entered the building in 22 years, but the sights, and the sounds were so familiar that I was almost 21 again. I thought of visitng the auditorium with a friend of mine who needed me to write a paper for her about "The Gods Must Be Crazy." It was a goofy movie with pre-historic men in it who find a coke bottle. I remember laughing hard, and drawing the ire of my friend. Of course, I was drunk at the time and she was seriously doubting my ability to help her write the paper. She bitched and moaned about how irresponsible I was - and in the end, I finished the paper, she typed it and got an A.

I thought of jumping parking meters in front of Zurn Hall - yeah, we used to leap high over the meters and there was too much of a risk in missing, so we always made it - I can't imagine jumping a parking meter at my present playing weight.

I recalled that we stuffed a little guy named Phil into a trash can in front of the post office. Phil-Harmonic as we called him - reported us and we were reprimanded.

I passed my dorm and remembered the first day of college and how much I missed my home and most of all my parents, brothers and sisters.

I scurried past the girls dorm and thought of the nights my friends and I would stand outside and just wait for the class of freshman girls so we could scout the talent. We were like that old Dana Carvey SNL skit - they walked right on by like we weren't even there.

I considered that my boys were mere years away from some of these adventures. As I strolled through Gannon's campus, I imagined that they followed me to good old Erie, and secretly I wished them the lifetime of cherished memories I made there.

As I left the building and headed toward my car, it occurred to me that while I was at Gannon I had so many dreams about how wonderful my life would turn out to be.

Somehow dreams don't happen quickly. It took 22 years for me to realize that most of what I had wanted to happen, happened for me - three healthy, great kids, a wife who is an excellnt companion, a house, a job, a couple of vehicles, a tv in every room, more food than I need on a daily basis, a bar with actual booze that doesn't have to be drunk before bed every night, two great dogs, eight published books, a hundred great friends, and a sharp ambition to succeed.

Perhaps I did learn something besides how to do beer bongs and jump parking meters.

June18, 1978

I was just 13 years old on June 18, 1978. The Yankees were just coming off of their first World Series win in 13 years and me, my brothers, and my father were all excited about their chances to make it back to the big show in October. Ron Guidry was a skinny lefthander who was throwing gas to start the year. He was pitching that night thirty years ago against the California Angels.

The game wasn't on television and I couldn't check the scores on the Internet. I'm sure that I was driving my father absolutely crazy, but I needed to follow the game - it wasn't on the radio in Buffalo, either, and ESPN still hadn't even debuted.

I can remember my father leading me to the car. In the driveway, we sped through the dials looking for the game, and if everything was right we could hear Frank White and Scooter (Phil Rizzuto) call the game from New York City. We could only pick up the game in the driveway.

"Guidry struck him out!" Scooter called.

My Dad sat beside me and we listened through the cracks and dead moments. Guidry struck out 19 Angels and the Yankees won big. Dad sat right there listening to every pitch. Father and son, in the pitch-black listening, cheering, and laughing at Guidry's dominance. I often think of what was going on in his life at that time - six kids, a lot of work, mortgage, food bills, endless days and sleepless nights - but he sat beside me and listened.

30 freaking years ago! I remember it as if it were last night. So much has happened since then. My sons now share my love for the Yankees - yet they have no concept of going to bed wondering if the Yankees won. In this world of instant gratification, they know everything that happens the minute it happens.

Last night, Ron Guidry was on television - grey hair on his head and hair - his accomplishments long since forgotten by the casual fan.

"It was a magical night," Guidry said. "Every pitch was working. The planets were perfectly aligned and I had a night I'll never forget."

Me either, Mr. Guidry. My Dad often mentions that night. "Remember Scooter yelling, 'He struck him out!'" My Dad will ask.

I'm in charge of making my own memories with the boys. We share the special moments, and who knows what will stick in their minds. June 18, 1978 - look it up - it's there in the record books. Father and son sharing a moment.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Let's See What Comes to Mind

It's raining hard. I love the reaction of the dogs when it's raining this hard - they know they have to go out to do their duty. They understand that going in the house is going to cause a scene, but they are willing to risk it. It's almost as if they gauge their options and figure - I'm crapping in comfort, I'll take the beating.

There - just kicked them out the door.

Doesn't the nice weather wear you down even more - not that it's nice now - it's raining, pay attention. Yet it seems that there is so much more to do. In the winter, we can relax because there aren't any baseball games, no playing catch, forget a bike ride. I sleep better in the winter and relax at least a little. Oh well, it'll be here soon.

Obama is blaming the GOP for not finding Bin Laden. McCain says we're winning in Iraq - what do we win by the way? One of those little trophies that rewards us for our participation? My kids have a closetful of participation medals. Perhaps that is what we'll get for our eleven trillion dollars - or whatever we're up against so far. America can collectively sit in bankruptcy court and whisper - "At least we won."

Marshawn Lynch is still evading police in regard to his hit and run. He's better at that then missing would-be-tacklers. What a hero.

Read a bunch of articles saying that the Tim Russert sudden death should be a warning for all Americans who are oblivious to health concerns. Not sure that his death serves in such regard - does anyone truly believe that our bodies don't have an expiration date?

Played another round of golf yesterday at a corporate outing - I know when I'm beat. You spend the early part of your life pretending that you're going to be great at a particular sport - there comes a day when you realize that there are less days in front of the horse than riding in the back of the cart. Still I missed winning a free vacation on a par 3 - the hole-in-one was a mere 8 feet away. (I made the birdie putt too - there's still hope!).

So, that is what came to mind in the seven minutes I allotted myself to write this blog - onto the Yankees!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

The kids will be up soon and I imagine that I'll receive an article of clothing or two that is blue, or pinstriped with the interlocking NY on it. Which is great - you can never have enough Yankee stuff.

Yet Father's Day always seems to put me into a reflective mood and that's because, no matter what, it is the most important job I have. Of course, I think of my own father and the lessons learned. He taught by example and some of the examples I accept and others I need to eliminate. That's how it goes. My boys will need to do the same.

It's because your Dad is the guy you depend upon, criticize, and battle for position. He's often the biggest pain in your ass and the most calming influence all at once. If he is serious about his job, that's what he tries to do, anyway.

My father's greatest advice to me was "Don't compete with anyone but yourself. If someone gives you a job to do, do more than what they expected."

I try to teach that to my kids, but right now it's a little lost on them as there are video games to play.

I inherited my father's incredible work ethic. (Mom's too). Sometimes it is my greatest fault. Very often it has led me to success. No matter what, I watched my Dad get up and go to work every day, and then come home and work some more. I do the same - to a fault. I currently have one child who will not miss a day of school this year. He has been as sick as a dog on occasion, but he wants the perfect attendance more than he wants passing grades. He feels it's a badge of honor, and I will be proud of him when he makes it.

"Most of life is about showing up and treating people with respect," my father also told me once.

Yeah, those of you out there who know my Dad would never confuse him with a philosopher, but the core values have always been there, and he passed them along in his hugely colorful fashion.

Much of life is about living up to expectations - my father exceeded them - he did more than what was expected - if my kids say that about me someday - I will have been a ringing success.

And you can't ever have enough Yankee stuff.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert

58 is too freaking young to leave when you have work to do. Tim Russert was a newsman made good from Buffalo and he always represented well. I read a review of his life in the NY Post today and it spoke of the family values, the hardworking, honest approach that he took, and the way he enjoyed his life.

The article stated that no matter how rich and famous he grew to be - he never forgot the blue-collar ways of his hometown. Paragraph after paragraph spoke of his honesty, and family values. It was almost as though the writers couldn't believe that a man could remain honest and true all of his days.

I thought of an old Chris Rock routine about a man who yells - "I take care of my kids," as though he should get an award for doing so.

I thought of the book Tim Russert wrote speaking of his love for his dad - and of family values. I read about his dedication to his wife and child, and I must admit, I grew sad. He died too soon.

Yet he spent his life representing Buffalo well. There are thousands and thousands of men and women who knew exactly what it felt like to be like Tim Russert - and that's because we shared the values that so shock the rest of the world.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blind in One Eye

Let's see... my 2nd day out of town started with me getting out of bed at 6 AM and checking outside my hotel room door to see if they left a copy of the USA Today. As I swung the door open I bent down to see if they left the periodical and the steel rod that is used for the safety latch for the door went straight into my right eye. Two minutes after waking up, I was on my knees in front of the door, convinced that I'd poked my freaking eye out.

I got lucky - the rod went between my nose and my eyeball and for the first time in my life, I have a shiner. I look tough! I always thought I'd get my first black eye after saying something like, "You know what I think, I think you're a ....."

What a way to go.

Tomorrow is Jake's 11th birthday and he's having a sleep-over. Can't believe how much his arrival on the scene 11 years ago changed every aspect of my life. When kids arrive they bring a window into the grace of the world and being around them allows us to peek through that window into all the treasures of the Lord.

I can say that easily from here - I'm not going to be around for the stress of the sleep-over. I imagine that before he was born I was sort of blind in one eye and had trouble seeing out of the other.

11 years later, I like to think I'm seeing clearly.

Happy Birthday, pal - have at least 80 more.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On the Road Again

I like Willie Nelson and that particular song - just not to fond of being on the road anymore for work. It's especially lousy in the summer when there are things to do around the yard and little league games to watch!

This little trip is also particularly difficult as I am gone for a few days with Saturday included. One of those days is Jake's 11th birthday. It was a goofy quirk in scheduling, but nothing that I could change - so here I sit - counting the minutes - waiting for a call from home to see what's going on.

Another lousy bed in another lousy hotel room and to make matters worse - the Yanks are on the West Coast and the friggen games don't start until 10:00.

Yet there are men who do this sort of thing week in and week out. Some people travel well - I honestly used to - I'd go down to the well and drink my fill - and I would still be out of bed early - ready to go and looking forward to more beer - of course, I was only in my twenties then and all I was taking care of were my two canary's - Bruce and Patty - and I hated those birds.

Oh well, The Yanks are coming on. Good-night now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wojo

Some thoughts collected while wondering what happened to Wojo from the old Barney Miller show:

1). Marshawn Lynch still has not has his day in court. I work in the construction field and a lot of hard working guys were wondering what the hell? I asked each one of them if it had been them what would have happened. "I did the same thing," one guy said. "Yet I only hit a parked car, not a human being. The cops not only came to my house, they broke down my door and ripped me out of bed. I spent a day and a half in jail."

Yeah... Marshawn isn't getting special treatment because he runs with a pigskin.

2). My discussion with a bunch of hardworking masons also centered around not being able to afford to even get to work anymore. "I need to drive 55 miles each way. The oil companies are making record profits, and we're being told how lucky we are that we aren't paying 9 bucks a gallon. If it goes that high, I'll be on welfare."

We all will be.

3). I really enjoy golf and usually get invited to a few tourneys this time of year. Played in one yesterday with a stiff back, sore legs, and a few cold beers hitting the stomach. How'd I play, you ask?

Figure it out.

4). Obama versus McCain. It reminds me of the World Series when Anaheim played San Francisco. I couldn't care less who won.

Or is it "I could care less?" I've never quite figured that one out.

5). Now what happens to the Clinton's? I spoke with one staunch Republican who switched to the Democratic party so that he could vote against Hillary in the primary. Now he's switching back to vote for McCain. And Bill might still be the most hated man in the world. Check the stats - when he left there hadn't been a terror attack, gas prices were a buck and a half and the surplus - not the deficit was near a trillion.

Perhaps Bill and Hillary could tour the country in a dunk tank. They'd make millions.

6).Why Wojo?

I guess because I miss television shows. I hit the clicker to check the guide tonight and couldn't find one thing that might remotely hold my interest. (The Yanks are on the West Coast) Reality this, game show that, might as well read something written by someone with talent.

Wojo had talent - what an actor.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Idiot

Went to my 2nd Little League game of the weekend and I may not be attending another one for awhile. Jake's team isn't great. The team they were scheduled to play was - and their coach looked and acted just like Matt Dillion's character in "There's Something About Mary." Problem was - he never shut-up.

Every pitch was a chance for him to let us all in on his baseball knowledge. He yelled at the kids, cheered when the other team made an out, and got real close to being beat with a baseball bat. He always shouted out his words - "Come on, Blue, that was there," and then clapped his hands like a lunatic five times.

"Come on David, get the stick on the ball and drive it." Clap,clap,clap, clap,clap.

Yet I held my tongue. Even when I caught him giving the steal sign to his 9-year-old runner. Even when he clapped loudly as his pitcher - who although he was 9 or 10 - was bigger than me. He also threw harder than me, but I was confident that I could have taken him yard.

So what turned my mood around and kept me from bitch-slapping this idiot?

Two things: First and foremost Jake ran over to me at the start of the 3rd inning. His team had still not put a bat on the ball. "These guys are scary," Jake said.

"Just swing like you're in the backyard," I tried.
"I hope he walks me," Jake said.
"Dude, try to hit it," I said. "If you make contact, I'll give you $10 bucks."

Pitch 1 - Jake took a strike as he tried to run back to the dugout.
Pitch 2 - Ball at his head - he ducked.
Pitch 3 - Ball in the dirt - bat never moved.
Pitch 4 - Ball close, but not a strike - still no sign of life from Jake.
Pitch 5 - Ball coming in down the middle, Jake swings and hammers it on a line to 3rd. He's thrown out by Cal Ripken Jr., but his whole team cheered as did I - I wanted to run up to Mr. Wonderful and tell him to stick his steal sign in his ass.

Yet I wasn't done yet and neither was Jake's team. Guy after guy started to swing and they got a few hits and runs - they lost 15-5- which was certainly respectable.

As I'm walking by the 3rd base coaching box late in the game, I hear the idiot still chanting. "Come on, Melissa get your elbow up. This game ain't over we need a knock from you." Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.

Melissa got her elbow up and lined one - right to the 3rd base coaching box. Mr. Idiot - dropped it. Sorry, but I couldn't resist.

"Come on, Coach," I yelled. "You need to keep your eye on the ball. We can't have you dropping those easy ones."

And - you guessed it - clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.

I paid Jake the 10 bucks and congratulated him on a great game. Dad probably won't see many more.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What I've Learned

I've learned not to count on people I don't know. I have friends and family who would drive off a cliff to help me, but there are people out there who don't give two hoots if I get hit by a bus or make it through the day.

I've learned that everyone is searching for an advantage and that it usually boils down to money. In the greatest weakness of my life, I have never truly given the right amount of respect to what is essentially just paper and ink.

I've learned that a good spouse is perfect companion to work your ways through days of doubt, but that a bad spouse can bring the dark clouds on a routine basis. We choose the people we make the journey with - choose wisely.

I've learned that when shit happens, it multiplies. It always seems that bad things happen in tens. Things begin to ricochet in my mind and all of a sudden all hope seems lost. (See next lesson).

I've learned that this too shall pass. All of the worries of today are gone with the coming sun of tomorrow. Take a deep breath and chances are - your troubles go away.

I've learned that when life seems darkest there are rays of light shining through. I have a world of great friends who make me smile when I don't feel like it. Thank God for those people.

I've learned that work will always be there. Think of the crucial deals of just a year ago - who gives a shit now? Another deal is one call away - why the hell am I worrying about it?

I've learned that no one will ever love me like my mother did. She was my best roommate, my best cook and cleaner and the person who loved me most. By the time I leave this world, that will have not changed.

I've learned that I pleased my father a long time ago. Now that I'm a Dad, I understand the motivation and what it meant to push and push and push. The trick is knowing when to stop pushing and when to just love - my dad got it, I still try and find it.

I've learned that there must be a love for a higher power. When all else fails and when we are looking for answers, faith must fill the void, because at the end of the day, what else is there?

If we are doing this one day at a time; one failed lesson after another; one heartbreak after another; there has to be a place for us to hang our hats - and God Help Me - God has to have the answer.

Little League

Went out to watch Jake's Little League game - as I watched the game a ton of thoughts went through my mind. First and foremost - at least there was a game for me to watch - Jake almost never made it to Little League, but there he was looking at a called third strike in his 2nd at bat.

He rushed over to me after being punched out. I saw the disappointment on his face. "That 2nd pitch that he called a strike bounced," he said. "You did great," I said.

"I struck out with the bases loaded," he reminded me.

"Not a big deal," I said.

Yet I thought back to my own Little League career and it was a big deal. I remember the catcher from my old team climbing a tree and pissing his pants because he struck out. I also recall hitting a triple off of Digger Braymiller - and no one did that - Digger threw like a man - he graciously shook my hand after I hit the triple and then struck out the next three batters as I rotted on 3rd.

During Jake's game my mind did a trip back in time to my own career and on through high school sports. Some of the grown-ups at Jake's game were putting a lot of pressure on the kids, screaming instructions and calling out orders. What had seemed so important when I was 9 years old - seemed suddenly silly at the age of 43.

Yet it is important to teach the concept of team and individual accomplishment. My sons will walk away from Little League with - hopefully- great memories of their accomplishments.

Sure beats climbing a tree and pissing your pants.

New Tax State

I propose changing the name from New York State to New Tax State- with of course, New Tax City being the albatross.

The cigarette tax is cruel and inhuman to those of us who are trying to kill ourselves slowly. Don't smokers have enough problems with the rancid breath, nicotine stained fingers and cranky personalities? (My wife is excluded from that, by the way).

Aren't they shunned enough by society by being made to stand outside of bars where all the good drinking is going on?

Yet it speaks to a bigger problem here in New Tax State. We are taxed to drive, taxed to smoke, taxed to breath and live. We will soon be taxed to go to the freaking bathroom. Sure, why not? Crank toilet paper up a buck and a half a roll. Everyone needs to use it - why not tax it?

Our kids can't afford to go to school. We can't afford to start a business. We won't be able to drive from here to there without a $10 toll and $300 for a tank of gas. The roads have potholes. The water tastes bad. People are leaving in droves. It costs me $100 everytime I leave the freaking house! I just want to crawl under the bed and wait until they tax my mattress because I use it every day.

Had a conversation with a PA resident yesterday. He laughed at the taxes in New Tax State. "Why don't you move the hell out of that welfare state?" he asked.

Good question - now, don't get me wrong - I am proud to be a citizen of New York. Problem is - someone is going to get wind of that and tax me for being proud.

Ah well, at least I don't smoke.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I Should Have Been a Sports Star

Growing up I really wanted to play sports for a living. My children are in the same boat, pretending to be Jeter or A-Rod or Marshawn Freaking Lynch.

It hit the skids for me right around the time that I figured out that most of my friends were faster, stronger, and could jump higher than me. I gave up trying to be the center-fielder for the Yankees right around the time I turned 8 years old. What a shame when a dream dies.

Yet I never imagined that sports stars would get such treatment. Imagine this: Say I'm driving home from a bar on Saturday night (Sunday AM) and I run down a woman in the road. As little-known author Cliff Fazzolari, I most likely would not make it home before the cops grabbed me.

Yet what if I did. When do you think the cops, armed with my license plate number and a bunch of eye witnesses would show up to bust me? I'm guessing before church on Sunday, right?

Marshawn Lynch's vehicle was involved in such a mishap on Saturday night. Did the cops knock on his door on Sunday? Yes, but no one answered - so they left.

So, Lynch was arrested on Monday, you might ask - uh, nope! Tuesday? No again - but the police spokeman claimed that they had been in touch with Lynch's lawyers.

Lynch? He's not talking. Neither confirming nor denying.

Back to me - the cop at my door on Sunday AM most likely would not have turned away if I told him that I didn't have a comment. He most certainly would have returned with cuffs in tow on Monday.

I guess it's too bad I couldn't run and jump - perhaps if I was able to catch a freaking ball I could have positioned myself above the law.

Hell, even OJ got away with murder. I guess the Lynch rundown of an innocent woman isn't all that big a deal. Now he can swap stories with the Bills draft pick who was busted for battery on his girlfriend and pistol-whipping his father.

Where have all the heroes gone?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wreck on the Highway

It was a slow ride to work this morning as the 33 was jammed. I couldn't figure what the problem might be as the best part about working in Buffalo is that there isn't a lot of gridlock and we can be almost anywhere in about twenty minutes.

I heard a few sirens off in the distance, but I was listening to Howard Stern and it wasn't affecting me all that much -until I saw the wreck.

A black car was upside down and it was apparent that whoever had been driving was in a world of trouble. My heart did a sudden leap into my throat as I said a quick prayer for the man or woman who, at best, was trapped inside.

Every so often there is a reminder that life is fragile and can end on a whim, or a bad turn, or a lightning strike, or a fall, or a freak accident. I did the whole writer's scenario giving the anonymous driver a wife, a couple of kids, a home with a view and a million reasons to stay alive.

Seeing how fragile life is surely makes me appreciate the little moments around the home and with the family. Yet too often it is easy to forget that it can all be over in an instant.

God Bless that driver and his family - hopefully it won't be quite as bad as it looked.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Married for 48 Years

Was fortunate enough to listen in as my father and my father-in-law were speaking of their marriages.

My parents have been married for 48 years. My in-laws are currently at 51 years. Just before their 50th anniversary I asked my father-in-law what he wanted for a present - "A divorce," he answered.

It was even better yesterday.

My father asked me how long I had been married.

"11 years," I said.

"That's nothing, 48 years for us."

That was when my father-in-law walked over. "How many of those were happy?" he joked.

"I was all right with the first two weeks," my father answered.

"Really?" my father-in-law answered. "I started getting shit in the middle of the first week."

Just a classic family moment.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sports Jerseys

A few thoughts collected while wondering whatever happened to Billy Ocean:

--- My son put on his Marshawn Lynch jersey this morning because he wanted to aggravate me. It is being reported that Lynch's automobile was involved in a hit and run accident in Buffalo. My son likes to remind me that catching or running with a football is what excites him - no matter the character of the man. My wife often sides with him - "Just let him be a kid," she'll say.

"Why don't we get him a jersey with Hitler on the back?" I'll ask.

Now I'm not comparing these guys with Hitler - but there are a lot of good human beings out there to emulate - felons, rapists, murderers, hit and run drivers, wife-beaters, men who pistol whip their parents - I have little tolerance for that.

--- Read a story today about young men and women of the military committing suicide at an alarming rate due to longer stints, the horrors of war, and general discontent for the fight. There have been over 100 suicides in recent months. How many more will die for a "mistake" in intelligence?

--- The new book by the Chief of Staff is a real shocker, huh? They lied about selling the war to the American public. Doesn't selling something mean that someone is buying it? I never bought it.

--- Is Abe Vigoda still alive? I read a joke that a comedian is doing about it - not going out on a limb here, but that dude must look old!

--- Lakers-Celtics in the NBA Finals - when I was a kid basketball was my favorite sport to watch and play - it's mind-numbingly boring to me to watch a game now. Also I have a hard time rooting for a team led by a man accused of rape versus a team led by a man who was stabbed 85 or so times. I can't relate - see above.

--- Why do I know all of the names of the Jolie-Pitt kids?

--- Say a prayer for the guys over there, huh? At least let them know that they are appreciated and that God-Willing they don't have to kill themselves to get out.

--- Why Billy Ocean? Don't know - just popped into my head - but I remember all of those love ballads and I swear I sang along very well.

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...