Tuesday, September 30, 2008

House of Miracles Event


I was honored to speak at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo and certainly thank all who took part in the event. The photo above shows all who are featured in the book and took part in the signing. This is my thank-you to those involved.

House of Miracles - September 30, 2008

About twenty years ago I thought that if I wrote the right words, in the right order, I could change the world that I live in. Of course, as I’ve grown older, I now understand that the grandiose dreams of an idealistic writer, probably won’t get much done.

Yet I stand before you today realizing that through the past seven years the words that I wrote in Counting on a Miracle and in House of Miracles have had an impact on a few lives.

House of Miracles is about a community of people who toil day in and day out to offer a little of the human touch that eludes us in other walks of life.

It’s about Brian Smistek, the hospital photographer, who makes sure that he leaves a positive impression on everyone he meets.

It’s about Sister Brenda Whelan, the hospital Chaplin, who doles out faith, hope and love to the world around her.

It’s about Olivia Stockmeyer who nearly died following an operation for a cleft palate, but now has one of the greatest smiles in the world.

It’s about the love of the family of Anthony Stinson and the dedication of a wonderful mother, who has never stopped believing in life.

It’s about the family of Alexia Grace Kilroy and a mother who through love and comfort made sure that her family emerged intact and touched by the Hand of God.

It’s about the doctors and nurses and staff members: Dr. Michael Caty, Dr. Doron Feldman, Nurse Ellen Eckhardt, Nurse Linda Eschberger, Nurse Sue Popenburg, Child Life Services Director Deborah King and Stone’s Buddies leader Joanne Lana – who dedicate themselves to the grandiose ambition of saving our children. I will forever be in awe of the people who lent their names to this story, and I am further indebted to those who weren’t included, but are as equally determined to serve up the best healthcare in the world.

It’s about Barb Kourkounis, the champion of the parent advisory committee. Barb is a woman who is the very picture of dignity and respect, and she has worked hard to make it an asset of care at the hospital.

House of Miracles is also about leadership and an administrative staff led by Cheryl Klass, who as a testament to her commitment, chose a quotation from Aristotle to start her chapter of the book.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Seven years ago, I walked out of the hospital with my son, Jake, who is as good as new. For the rest of my life, I will strive to write the words in the perfect order, to tell the world about the place where my boy’s life was saved, and to introduce anyone who cares to read about it, to a staff of people who opened my eyes to a world of love, compassion, and care.

Bet You Didn't Know

--- I bet you didn't know that I'm a foreign relations expert - I can see Canada from a route along the 190 leading towards Niagara Falls. We all know how important it is to fend off a foreign country when they're in our site lines.

--- I bet you didn't know that if the government was to divide up that $700 billion - each American would get about $450,000. We could all pay taxes - leaving us with about $250,000 each - they can piss away and steal the rest - then we could all pay off our houses, bailing the banks out and getting the economy rolling. If we just wanted to waste our $250,000 on wine, women and gambling - we'd still be helping the economy, right? It's probably too simple - let's give them the cash so they can steal it, waste it, and beg for more later.

--- I bet you didn't know that Springsteen will be playing the Super Bowl this year. Wouldn't it be perfect if the Bills made it - I've always told my kids that I'd take them to the Super Bowl if the Bills got in - never once believing that I'd ever have to pay up again. Maybe this is the year - I'd be the only guy just showing up for the halftime show. Early bets - Born to Run, Promised Land, 1oth Avenue Freeze-Out - of course, they may have to pull him off the stage.

--- I bet you didn't know that 168 people were killed in a human stampede in India after someone screamed bomb. What an unbelievable way to go.

--- I bet you didn't know that the first home run hit at Yankee Stadium was by Babe Ruth and that the last was hit by Jose Molina. Talk about a contrast in styles - same body type though.

--- I bet you didn't know that there are a lot of people voting against Obama because there's a photo of him standing with his hands folded - instead of over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm not sure of the origin of the photo or the story behind it - but it has certainly made the rounds.

--- Did you know that more House Republicans than House Democrats voted against the bailout plan but that the House Speaker is taking the heat for speaking against it. I'm so sick of the Republican-Democrat crap anyway - how about in the next election we just have it without designations. Remember the votes for class president in the 3rd grade? Bobby versus Suzie - there were no agendas - we just looked at the two candidates, listened to them and voted for the member of the same sex as us. I guess partisan voting has always had it's way.

--- Words to live by: "To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is most difficult."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Am I Crazy?

Yesterday was a day filled with sports. Of course, Buffalo has the Bills - the worst 4 and o team in the history of the game, and the Yanks had their final day of the season with Mike Mussina going for 20 wins.

I watched the Yanks and truth be told, the Bills are going to get smoked in Arizona next week to start a five-game losing streak.

Mike Mussina is a father of three from a town called Montoursville,PA. He graduated from Stanford in three years with high honors. For the past 18 years he has conducted himself like a gentleman in a sport where he was constantly in view of the limelight. He had never won 20 games - twice before getting stuck on 19. He did it yesterday.

The Bills were playing a sad team and looking to continue their streak of perfection. They were on every other TV in the house, and truth be told, I was checking in on them in between Mussina pitches.

Things were peaceful until halftime when the Bills were down and my sons were slamming things around the house. Matt went running by and Kathy said - "Uh oh, he put on his Lynch jersey."

I suppose that through reading my blogs you understand how I feel about bad behavior and especially Lynch's refusal to issue an apology to the woman he ran down in the street. He not only has not spoken about the "incident" he has gone out of his way to blame the media for making him "look" bad.

I'm sorry - but I don't feel my kid should run around and advertize for this jerk. There are plenty of other people that he is free to admire. Trent Edwards, for one, seems like a stand-up guy. There are about twenty other Bills that I don't have a problem with.

"You're being ridiculous," my wife said after the jersey was safely off Matt's back.
"I'm getting myself a Charles Manson shirt," I said.
"It's not the same, let him root for who he wants."

Sorry! Not here!

Last night, I talked with Matt as he got ready for bed. "I'm glad the Bills won," I said. "But do you understand why I don't want you in that jersey?"
"No," he answered. "I think it's stupid."
"There are plenty of other jerseys you can wear. I just don't think you want to take up the case for someone who behaves badly."
"I'm not getting a Mussina jersey," he said. "I hate the Yankees."

Well, sometimes it's a lot less important to care about the team on the front of the jersey than the name on the back.

Prediction for next week: Arizona 35 Bills 7 - Lynch rushes 32 times for 11 yards.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More Kids?

We spent half the weekend with Dylan our great nephew who is 13 months old. I didn't put in a lot of time in his care. Kathy left for a half-an-hour to drop Matt at a friends and my instruction was - "Change him before you go." I wasn't about to deal with that. It's been a long time since I suffered through a diaper change and I may have changed my last one ever.

Yet it all went fine. The kid actually smiled way more than my kids had, or have since. He didn't cry in the night (at least not that I know of) and he brought the food that he consumed. Not a bad deal. Of course, it raised questions in Kathy's mind.

"Wouldn't you want another child?" she asked.
"You're fifty," I said (giving her my standard response). "No more kids."
"I'm not fifty, and besides I would have liked to have five or six kids. Wouldn't that have been nice?"
"Nice? Have you met our other kids? We'll be lucky to keep them out of prison."
"I'm just saying."

Thank God we can't have any more children. I'm so glad that there is no longer such an option and no, I can't imagine worrying about five or six of them.

Yet they all have such distinctive personalities and unique perspectives. What would the other children have been like?

Five or six kids in this day and age?

I've been telling you that my wife is nuts.

Dylan packed up his toys and hit the road about an hour ago. Let his mother and father take the reins and have a couple more - I'm sure we'll babysit again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Even Liked His Salad Dressing

Everyone liked Paul Newman, right? Most of the movies he was in were great - classics nearly all of them. He never seemed to be in trouble, and like me, the women thought he was unbelievably handsome. (Okay, maybe I stretched our connection a bit).

Yet it was one quote attributed to Newman that kind of stuck in my mind - and it was in response to someone asking him how he could be faithful in his marriage all of those years. "I have steak at home," he said, "Why would I go out for a hamburger?"

I'm sure that it wasn't Camelot every day for him and his wife. How can marriage or any relationship be so poetic? We all have faults. We all have bad days, but the line speaks volumes about the kind of man that he was and how he stayed true and loyal. That just seems refreshing to me in this day and age. Good behavior is looked on in amazement, while bad behavior is somehow swept under the rug. I think I'll go out and rent The Hustler.

I caught a lot of the debate and what was said by each candidate. I even watched the retrospective on their young lives. It is amazing to me that the media is able to dig up each and every item in regard to a candidate. I wonder why anyone at all would want to even consider making their lives so wide open. Yet the debates are certainly healthy to the process and it makes sense that people would watch and try to learn.

The thing is - I was listening to a debate coach who grades such contests. He said that when he polls people who watched the debates - they very rarely remember anything either of the candidates say. He said that many people just judge the winner and the loser of a debate by their body language or mannerisms. He also said that most of the people in the audience don't even know their own views on certain topics. They just observe and see who sweats the question the most.

Perhaps you should have to pass a test to earn your vote. Obviously there are no clear-cut answers, but maybe people should be forced to put in their time before they are allowed to go to the polls. After all, we seriously bungled the last two presidential elections, now, didn't we?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bail Us Out

I get up and go to work every day. Most of my friends get up and go to work every day and work weekends and travel and pay too much for gas and try and put a little away for the kids heading off to school, and a rainy day.

Seems like we're in a monsoon now.

How would I fix this? If you borrowed a million dollars to buy a house and you can only come up with a mortgage payment of $500 a month - you probably shouldn't have borrowed so much - give the house back - and buy something you can afford.

If you're running a company and you work 20 hours a week and golf 20 hours a week and then need a golden parachute of say 50 or 60 million - give it back and live like you should have been living all along.

If you are being interviewed by Katie Couric and don't know the answer to a fairly elementary question do like I did in high school and answer all around the answer - just drop little tidbits of truth in and stumble around until the right words hit you - try not to say - "I'll get back to you." Stumbling and bumbling around in a speech is an art form - Bush did it for 8 years and a lot of people want to have a beer with him.

Oh, I got off on the wrong subject...

If you want to have a meeting to solve a crisis don't invite two people who you know are going to fight to the meeting. It reminded me a little of a newly divorced couple bringing their new love interests to discuss how to divide up the marital assets. How is that not going to end in a fight?

McCain has to look presidential; Obama has to look presidential. Each needed to distinguish themselves at a meeting that had nothing to do with their campaign. Hell, if they wanted to look presidential all they had to do was put Bush between them.

As I've said. I don't feel educated enough to talk on Wall Street - I never even saw that movie - it just seems to me that it's a real bad sign when a bank a day closes down. The bank closed in It's a Wonderful Life and Jimmy Stewart made out okay - perhaps!

Seriously, there can't be too many people feeling too comfortable right now. It makes getting your ass out of bed more difficult if the future you're seeing is one of doom and gloom. I don't really remember it being this dire when I was a kid, but as an adult I feel the strain.

Someone bail us out, huh?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writer's News Weekly Q&A - House of Miracles


Writer’s News Weekly 09/16/08 - Q&A with Cliff Fazzolari




1. Is this event going to be the first time you have met with the patients, parents and staff of the hospital since writing House of Miracles?

As a member of the Family-Centered Care Committee at the hospital, I have stayed in contact with a number of people on the staff as well as some of the parents of patients of the hospital. It is the ongoing dedication of staff members and the unwavering support of the parents that inspired me to write the story. I am still in awe of the dedication and the love that goes along with the day-to-day life of a children’s hospital.
2. What would you like people to know about the hospital that they may not already know?

Personally, before my son was sick, I had respect for the work of the staff at WCHOB, but that respect is greatly enhanced when your own child is in a life or death situation. Parents in the community, most likely, won’t ever face such a powerful problem, but I wrote House of Miracles for them also. I want them to know about the jewel of the medical community that is right there in downtown Buffalo.
3. How has writing House of Miracles changed your life?

Every single time I write something, I am truly searching for a life-changing experience. During the writing of House of Miracles, I was completely taken by the dedication of the staff at the hospital. Normal people complain if the coffee isn’t perfect – the staff at the hospital toils day-in and day-out in real human conditions where a mistake might mean the end of someone’s life. To see the light that went on in the staff member’s eyes when they talked of true compassion – My God, it was certainly life changing! I certainly do a lot less complaining about the little things that go wrong on any given day.
4. Do you feel that the people you write about in your stories have become a part of your family? What type of relationship do you see having w/the hospital in the future?

The staff members and the patient families that I have met through the years have grown to be important members of my life – yes, almost family-like. I am genuinely pleased to see them on a monthly basis. I have written things down so that I will never forget the happiness in my heart, or to thank those dear to my family and me.
5. Your son’s miraculous recovery is chronicled in your book, Counting on a Miracle. How is he doing today? What is his involvement with the hospital like?

Jake is doing great. He is a happy, healthy boy who loves sports, video games and playing with his brothers, Matt and Sam. He doesn’t recall much about his surgery, but he realizes that the people at WCHOB saved his life and our family. His favorite thing to do is to sign copies of Counting on a Miracle alongside of me. Perhaps we can get him out for this leg of the tour!
After his son's miraculous recovery at Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo, NY, Mr. Fazzolari set about writing a book that would reveal and explain the medical miracles performed at the hospital every day. This book of true stories about staff, patients and their parents is an engrossing look at the way a hospital functions to save young lives. Readers will shed a tear or two and come away moved and enthralled at the courage and determination of the extraordinary people so beautifully chronicled in these pages.

Shocking Announcements

So! Clay Aiken is gay. Didn't see that one coming, did you? Who would have ever thought that he was gay after his performance on American Idol? I for one thought that he was getting all the babes.

Other shocking announcements- the sky is blue. George Michael of Wham likes men and drugs too. The politicians are all lying.

I saw an article yesterday that said that something like 70% of the ads developed by McCain's camp and 65% of the ads developed by the Obama camp had partial lies or total lies in them. Really now! What happened to the honesty platform both were running on? It also shows you the irresponsibility of our media - how can you just let the ads run? Shouldn't there be someone there to stop it.

I can almost imagine the scene at the big tv station in your town.

TV News Guy: "Obama is running on a platform that we should teach sex ed to kindergarten kids?"

McCain backer: "It's true."

TV News Guy: "It doesn't sound true."

McCain backer: "But it is."

TV News Guy: "Okay, your word is enough for me - I'll run it every twenty minutes."

The worst part about that above exchange? I didn't make it up. That was actually one of the ads. And it is going the same way out of the Obama camp. Did you know that McCain wasn't really in Viet Nam? That was actually his twin brother. McCain was really in Texas with GW and Cheney dodging the draft and skeet-shooting.

All right - I made that one up - except the GW and Cheney part.

Anyway - just thought you might like to know that most announcements are neither shocking or true - oh except for Clay Aiken - he is gay (not that there's anything wrong with it).

This is Bullshit

Watched my poor son and my over-worked wife struggle to make it through a French lesson yesterday. At the same time someone sent me a report at 5 PM that had to be done by the end of the day. I set to work, listening to the homework battle brewing in the kitchen below.

I finished up what I needed to do by 7 and flipped on the Yankee game as my 11-year-old boy tried his new French accent out. I was battling laughter, but it was just so ridiculous. Kathy left the room for a moment to take a break and I tried to get Jake back in a decent frame of mind.

"Lots of homework, huh?"
"Uh, yeah," he answered.
"Well I worked today too and got home to find that I had more work to do too."
"You're done," he said. "I still have an hour to go."
"Still it was a long day for me."

Jake paused for awhile. "You know, I go to school all day and I come home and have to work until I go to bed."

"Life isn't easy," I said. "At least you're learning new things."

"It's bullshit," he answered with his voice trailing off as the word shit came out of his mouth. He looked at me with guilty eyes afraid that he was going to find himself in a world of trouble for swearing.

"It is bullshit," I answered. "suck it up and tough it out and...

"Do the best I can," he finished. "I knew you'd say that."

Somehow we both knew that it was more bullshit on such a long day.

Everything is Broken

"The dishwasher's leaking, we need a new one," my wife said.
"It ain't leaking," I said.

And that's as close as I come to fixing anything.

Woke up yesterday morning to a jammed-up computer. Something that was downloaded caused the date on my computer to change to February 29, 9999 - this of course, threw my virus protection out-of-date - I only paid for it until 9997.

It took me an hour of cranky-ass time to figure out the problem and work it out. Work sucked again with a lot of people calling- yet work is called work for a reason, so I was ready to roll come the new day.

Went to the first job to find that my camera broke - nothing but white lines across the photos. So, I tried to piece together all I know about such problems - and deftly held the camera in my right hand as I banged the top of the camera - Fonzie-style - with my left. The white lines were gone - replaced by a totally black background. Bastard.

Took seven straight phone calls about the Yanks being eliminated and tried to talk my way through each one. "At least we have the Bills someone said."

"The Bills are going to get smoked Sunday," I answered.

So here I sit - a rag stuck in the dishwasher. The computer date is on to the second, and the new camera battery is charging. I have a bottle of grey goose in the cupboard...

Ah hell, let's head back out and see what else can break for me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Andy Rooney Imitation

--- A friend of mine owes me $100 - who do I contact in Washington to get him to pay off the debt?

--- Tell me there aren't ghosts at Yankee Stadium - I fell asleep in the 4th inning last night with the television still going - I woke up with two outs in the bottom of the 9th and was able to see the closing ceremony. The ghosts woke me so I wouldn't miss it.

--- The Bills are 3 and 0 - worst three and 0 team in the history of the league - they're going to get smoked next week.

--- Speaking of Jeter - do you realize that he never played a game at Yankee Stadium when the Yankees were actually eliminated from post-season play! Never! They're on life-support and the plug is about to be pulled - but he can walk across the street knowing that every time he pulled on his cleats at the old park - that the Yanks still had a chance. This is also the 1st time he'll ever not be in the playoffs.

--- Speaking of the Bills - is Marshawn Lynch the ugliest human being ever? A friend of mine said he looks like The Creeper from the old Scooby-Doo show.

--- Anyone else tired of Obama, McCain and Palin? And where the hell is Biden? Hiden?

--- Bailout or no bailout? Regulation or deregulation? With the lack of intelligence on the Iraq war and the lack of intelligence on Wall Street perhaps we need to call it something other than intelligence. All you ever read about is the bad intelligence that they're getting fed. Where is the good intelligence? Who's coming up with the intelligence? Pee Wee Herman?

--- How can you not like Fall? The only problem with it is that the shit is coming soon. I'm looking forward to scraping off my windshield.

--- Tomorrow's Bruce's 57th birthday - now I'm feeling old. Yet again today I set a new record for the number of consecutive days that I've been alive.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thanks for the Memories - 2 thru 15

I was once supposed to drive from Connecticut to Virginia to visit a college friend on a Sunday. Instead, I pulled into the lot at Yankee Stadium and watched a Yankee-Red Sox doubleheader. Mattingly homered in both games and I ate about eleven hot dogs to wash down six or seven beers. I watched both games alone.

Kathy, Matt, Jake and I went from Buffalo to New York - arrived just in time to see Pedro throw a two-hitter and Manny homer as Boston won 2-0. Matt got an autograph from David Ortiz and Jeter greeted all the fans along the first-base side. We were in the front row directly across from 1st. "Dad, I can spit on Giambi from here," Jake said. "Try not to do that," I answered.

The kids still laugh at the New York fans who were teasing Johnny Damon when he was still on the Red Sox and still wearing his hair long. Damon was playing catch with Ortiz when a native New Yorker yelled - "Hey Ortiz, who's the broad on your team?"

I drove all the way home after the game with everyone else sleeping soundly.

I caught a game in the suites with some good friends from work. I drank Heineken and ate enough shrimp that the ocean called to tell me they were running out. The Yanks won when Matsui homered with two out in the ninth. You should see how fast they clear out the suites on a walk-off. I had to take my last plate of shrimp to go.

My buddy Mike and I caught a Yankee game from the right-field bleachers. We just drove into town, scalped some tickets, had a couple of big beers and talked about our young marriages. He's such a tremendous friend that to this day I remember a lot about that 3-hour conversation. We also heard a fan trying to taunt a pitcher by the name of Batista. The fan yelled out - "Hey Batista ..... (hesitated for a long time and then said) .... I did your sistah!" Classic.

Then there was the ill-fated trip in. My brother set up a Yankee-Mets trip that was fundamentally flawed from the get-go. Six guys - all ready to bust loose - flew into NYC, did shots of Jameson with the single sandwich we ate, then proceeded to drink ourselves silly in the nosebleed seats. The game was long, it was hot, a rain-delay kept the beer stands open, we went drinking after the game, and then tried to wheel ourselves to La Guardia for the flight home. The only problem (and some say it was my fault) was that they wouldn't let us fly home in our tired state. "Sleep it off and try again tomorrow," was the consensus of about ten security guys.

I remember calling my wife to tell her the plane was cancelled - she called me right back and said - "It's not cancelled. I checked on the Net - it takes off in a half-hour." "It's cancelled for me," I replied.

To make a long story short - we made it home. Kathy greeted me with - "If the crew that went didn't get drunk I would have been worried." What an understanding woman.

Favorite Stadium moments? Jeter diving in the stands to rob the Sox. The '96 series when Girardi tripled to win it. The two game-tying homers in '01 in the Series and just the love that was there when the country needed it. Paul O'Neill being serenaded by the Stadium crowd. Mattingly grabbing popcorn out of a kid's hand as he neared the foul line to catch a ball. Chambliss' home run in '76. Reggie hitting three in the Series on my 13th birthday. The love of the New Yorkers on the day after Munson died or the day after Mantle died, or the day after Murcer died, or the day after Scooter died. I learned a lot about life from watching.

Okay, so I might miss the place a little. Don't call me tonight around 11 when the final out is put in the books. I'll probably be crying myself to sleep.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thanks for the Memories - part 1

One more game at Yankee Stadium, but I really am not all worked up about it. The new place will look just like it and it's about nine steps from the old place. The ghosts can make the trip.

Yet a friend of mine sent me a link about memories at the place and it got me thinking...

My first trip in was with my buddy Al. We were 20 years old and full of piss, vinegar, and beer. We planned our day with some college buddies of Al's and we included a trip to Manhattan, Long Island, and then finally the Bronx. When his buddy looked at our plan - he started laughing - "This isn't Green Acres, dudes, you can't travel all that and do all that in one day."

We did - score one for the small-town boys. I was scared to death on the Subway, but it worked out. We were dropped right at the front door. We walked around outside the stadium, taking in the old conditions, and I was surprised by how dirty it seemed, but I was also surprised by the number of people just walking around. When we aw the grass, and the monuments, however, it felt like a 2nd home.

Yankees-Red Sox -Tommy John versus Roger Clemens (who was in his prime with the hated Red Sox). Wade Boggs, also still on the Sox, was on a 30 game hit streak and with two outs and nobody on in the first, Al turned to me and said, "I know we're supposed to be rooting for the Yanks, but wouldn't it be nice to see him keep his streak going."

"I suppose," I said.

Bad Kharma (and also the last time I ever rooted for something positive against the Yanks). Boggs doubled, and seven batters later, Tommy John walked off the mound trailing 6-0. An inning later, it was 8-0.

"I waited 20 years to get here and they're down 8-0 to the best pitcher in baseball. This sucks!"

Ah, the ghosts. In the 4th inning the Yanks set a record with something like 12 straight base hits. Clemens was serenaded with "Roger sucks, Roger sucks, Roger sucks!" He tipped his cap.

The game was tied going into the bottom of the 10th when Mattingly drove home the winning run. Al and I were on the subway when that run scored because we were so afraid of being out in NYC past midnight.

I can remember the next day, sitting on the steps at Madison Square Garden. "I wonder what the poor people are doing today," Al said.

We weren't rich by any means, but somehow we both understood that we had made a memory that would last a lifetime - thanks Clemens, thanks Donny Baseball.

Looks as if this post will be continued as about thirty more memories ran through my mind as I was writing this. Tomorrow - Fuzzy meets Rosey, and Yankees-Mets and no way home.

The Monster is Loose

Yesterday was one of those days that was so out-of-whack that it was almost comical. Every phone call was bad news about work, everyone seemed to be looking for answers that I just didn't have. At the end of the day, my mood absolutely dour, I was faced with a 2.5 trip home. Of course, the family was concerned about our plans for the weekend, and all the things that needed to be done around the house.

"Don't bring up a lot of new stuff," I begged my wife. "I'm shot."

A man blew by me on the left side and although I was doing 74 , he gave me the finger. Guess he had a worse day. I turned on my CD player hoping that there was something worth listening to stored in the player. I heard the first chords of The Monster is Loose from Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell 3 - if you don't have it - get it immediately.

What turned my day around was a simple verse in the 2nd song - And I wish I could give you something in return for the precious time you wasted on the tears I never earned; for reaching out to help me across the bridges that I burned.

I suppose that a well-written verse isn't what snaps most people out of a trying day, but as I drove, I counted the words in the verse - 35 - not a wasted word in the group - and it thrilled me to know that there are still artists out there that can create such emotion in such a short window.

Think of the relationship between the writer and the object of his love. Isn't that amazing? Isn't it exciting to be able to play it all out in a couple of true sentences of pure unadulterated feeling. It's strange how the mind works, but I felt all of the angst of all of the emotion in the tattered remnants of that bitter end of a relationship. In 35 words!

While I did not have the capacity to consider ever doing such hateful things to another person, when I returned home I was able to fully grasp the full emotion of the song. The dogs greeted me with jumps, kisses and tails wagging. My boys gave me a quick hug and that smile that told me all was well and my wife and I watched the Yanks win and a new Dateline. We didn't talk much about what needed to be done. It reminded me of song 8 on the same album:

I'm a runaway train on a broken track. I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back. This time, that's right, I got away with it all and I'm still alive. Let the end of the world come tumbling down. I'll be the last man standing on the ground. And if my shadow is all that survives, I'm still alive.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Are We Short on Medals?

As a teenager, Rafael Peralta snuck into the United States from Mexico. I would be willing to bet that a lot of you are upset by the first line in the story, as many people love to say that we should not allow these people to live in our world and share our now-suddenly-shaky wealth.

Yet a few years later, Peralta earned his green card. You know what he did to celebrate? He joined the United States Marine Corps.

Four years later, he was in a firefight in Fallujah in a war that no one really understands. He was clearing a home of insurgents when he was struck by a ricocheted bullet. The bullet struck him in the back of the head and it was certainly a fatal blow, but Peralta didn't die instantly. Instead as 5 other Marines watched him, he pulled an insurgent-tossed grenade into his body, and smothered it to save the lives of those in his party. Of course, Peralta lost his life - he was just 25.

Fast-forward to yesterday when the shirts in Washington awarded Peralta's family with the Navy Cross - which is the 2nd highest medal awarded.

Are you kidding me?

"I don't want that medal," Peralta's mother said. "It doesn't seem fair to me."

A panel of freaking experts said that Peralta's actions weren't worthy of the Medal of Honor because it didn't meet the high standards set for the award.

Did he pull the grenade under him with the wrong hand? Is it possible that he didn't receive the highest honor because he wasn't a natural American? Can we only hand out a certain number of Medals of Honor?

"Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Peralta, we thought we had one more of them there Medals, but the congressman's kid is at home playing with it."

I don't know - the story struck me wrong. Peralta deserves the highest honor. Just ask one of the men who saw him grab hold of the live grenade, Sgt. Robert Reynolds, "I know for a fact that I would have been killed . . . and that my daughter, Sophia, our new baby, Sienna, would not be here or coming into the world. And that my son, Noah, would have grown up without knowing his dad."

Awarding Peralta the 2nd highest honor? If you ask me - you just can't put lipstick on a pig.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Okay, I Lied

It's not all right that the Yankees missed the playoffs. I will be out-of-touch in October, as I weep nightly and try to forget about what might have been. I was left at the altar, all dressed-up in a tux, with a bunch of people behind me, seeing how I'd react as the thankless bitch(es) decided not to show up.

It's not like I didn't put in the time. I was there each night as Cano swung at the first pitch and hit worthless ground balls to second. I explained that the young pitching would be just fine and that running out to sign high-priced guys was a mistake. I gave A-Rod the benefit of the doubt. Even that weird Madonna story was explained away.

Posada and Matsui hurt all year? Nothing but a minor distraction. I'Rod was old and horrible. Molina can't hit his way out of a paper bag.

Still the baseball gods would find a way to get it done - I said. The Rays couldn't possibly hold on, and Manny left Boston - surely they would fold.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

I gave up my Yankee hardhat in mid-August - I was sick of being asked all the questions - it was as if my bride was out on the town - two months before the wedding with every guy she could find. She'd still show up - I argued - and life will be great.

Now my birthday month - the month when Jeter homered to start the 2000 series against the Mets. The month when Bernie would go nuclear and smash every pitch over every wall. Ah, there was Paul O'Neill, Wade Boggs, Mariano, Posada - all of the glory days to consider. There would be no great fold - listen everyone - they love me - they won't leave me standing here.

"Congregation gathers down by the riverside. Preacher stands with a Bible, groom stands waiting for his bride. Congregation gone. The sun slips behind a weeping willow tree. Groom stands alone as the river rushes by so effortlessly. He's wondering where can his baby be, still at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe."

Of course that is Bruce closing out this post. Yet there isn't a reason to believe - the Yankees are moving into new digs next year which only means that they will be all set to seduce me again in April. I should just forget about them. I should jump feet-first onto the Bills bandwagon.

It's just so hard letting go. I won't be watching the playoffs this year. Instead, I may write a long letter to Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, begging to get them back. Next year, I'll be better. I'll cheer harder. I'll spend even more money.

Just don't ever leave me like this again.

Rocky Balboa

Half asleep this morning I caught a commercial on ESPN for a piece of gym equipment that promised a perfect body as I did the perfect push-up. The guy in the ad had a perfect build, I suppose, and I wasn't envious - I felt sorry for the poor bastard. "No Pain - No Pain" I said to the screen.

Yet it got me thinking. I never had big muscles or washboard abs. I went from skinny to pear-shaped in what seemed like twenty minutes. I can remember being painfully skinny, wishing that I would suddenly sprout Popeye muscles or a Rocky Balboa build.

My buddy Jeff and I took dates to the first Rocky movie - I can remember walking out of the theatre with the girl edging close to me - "I wish you looked like Rocky," she said. "I wish you looked like Farrah Fawcett," I replied. "Looks like it sucks for both of us."

Matt, at the age of 15, is skinny and tall. I'm sure that there are a--holes in his high school who already have big muscles. He probably wishes he'd fill out quick to attract the attention of the girls.

My advice to him is not to be in such a hurry.

At 16 I'd lie in bed and pray to God that I'd gain a little weight.

It was the one prayer He answered in my early life - He didn't have to do it with such vengance.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dogs - Man's Best Friend


Read a story today about Buddy, a dog, who pressed the buttons for 911 when his owner was having a seizure - seems the dog was trained to respond and for the third freaking time - called when his owner was stricken. The ambulance arrived and saved the man.

My sister lost a dog the other day and it was painful to read the words of her blog - Van Halen once ran a video and under one of the captions it said - "Mothers and Dogs Should Never Die." I agree with that sentiment.

My dog - Melky Cabrera had a sore foot last night and it pained me to watch her limp up and down the stairs - it was a little late to get her to the Vets - so she toughed it out - sleeping in most of my bed last night as I fought for space. She woke up feeling better today and even though I'm tired - perhaps she'll return the favor and dial 911 when the big one hits.

Life just wouldn't be the same without dogs around to take away some of the aggravation that comes with living - and even though their time is short - every second is worth it - well okay, maybe not every second - there was that day when Shadow ate the insides out of our living room couch.

High Finance

I don't know much about stocks and bonds and markets crashing and financial ruin. In fact, I'm fairly incompetent when it comes to running even my own budget. Money in and money out is the norm in this day and age - and I'm real fearful of it getting a lot worse as the kids prepare for college (despite the fact that my 15-year-old still believes that the family will live for generations on his basketball skills).

Yet what is going on in the financial world can't be good, can it?

Perhaps there is someone out there who can explain that it is just the market correcting itself, or as W stated - there are adjustments that need to be made. (I have a sneaking suspicion that he doesn't quite understand it either).

My grandfather talked of painting outhouses for food during the Great Depression. I'm not much of a painter - in fact - I'm not allowed to open a paint can in our house because I'm so sloppy with the paint. Not sure where I'd fit in during a Depression - perhaps sleeping under a bridge next to my dogs.

I don't need the character build of a Great Depression. I'm a little concerned that all the money that isn't securely in my wallet will be stolen by someone who needs it to keep their own bank open. 401K? Social Security? I'm not counting on that either. Something tells me that I'm going to need to work until six guys carry me out for the final ride.

Still I need to be concerned here, right? Lehman Brothers? AIG? These are big-ass companies shutting it down.

Yesterday, Howard Stern talked about something he said in 2000 - "This administration will bankrupt the country."

God, I pray that he was wrong - like I said, I don't know much about it. Someone enlighten me by saying there's a silver lining.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Grandma Edna

It turns out The Wall is a big hit with the young crowd. Sam and his friends like to talk about it at school - so I walked into the living room and caught it on the big screen. "What're you doing?" I asked Sam.

"This show is awesome!" he said.

I sat beside him and we watched it together and laughed at the contestants - one was 5'-5" and 275 pounds -try and fit through odd-shapes in the wall. I laughed hard when the big one took half the wall off the center of her forehead and fell into the water. "I told you it was great!" Sam yelled.

The Bills just put the finishing touches on their 2nd win - and everyone is walking around proud as hell. I'm in a weird spot because I declared them dead in their first two games. All right - I'll do it again - they are going to get smoked by Oakland next week.

Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig for the most hits ever at Yankee Stadium - pretty cool to watch history being made - although it was halfway through the Bills game I saw Jeter's homer to tie up the Iron Horse - the heart wants what the heart wants.

There is so much to do and just so many hours in a day. We fill our time with sporting events, chasing around golf balls, and laughing at sheer stupidity on television. I bring it all up because Kathy's grandmother passed away at the end of last week. Grandma Edna had 94 years and 11 months of activity. A fine life by any one's standards - kids, grand kids, great grand kids, and great-great grand kids. I would have to go for 50 more years to get there.

I can't see me making it that long, but could you imagine how cynical I might become given that much time?

To Grandma Edna - life is short - even in its longest days.

The Wink

When I was young there were times when the entire family went to church together. It was no small feat as there were eight of us to stuff in a pew - and good behavior was expected, but not always accomplished. As we grew, we all still went to mass, but we sort of broke it up a bit - some went on Saturday nights, others preferred the early mass, and those of us who were hungover a bit went to the late Mass before the Bills game.

I remember not waking for the early mass and getting ready for a Bills game at the stadium - my friends and I made plans to leave by 11:00 - my mother explained that I wouldn't be tailgating as I still had Mass to attend. My buddies waited for me - thanks Jeff & Al.

This morning, we all went to Mass together - we squeezed into a pew and the overall behavior was good. Yet what sent me back through time was the fact that Sam was as far away from me, on the other side of Kathy and Jake and Matt. At one point during the Mass he looked over, and I winked at him. He smiled and tried to wink back, closing both eyes in the process - and suddenly, I was eight years old again, looking at my father and getting the same sort of wink.

Time goes by so quickly and there are moments that are pushed deep into the back of our minds. I honestly didn't think of my father's wink until I tossed it out there for Sam and now I remember feeling secure, and happy, and sure - that even though Mass seemed like five hours long on Sunday's when the Bills played - that my parents loved me.

It's a lot for an 8-year old to consider, but perhaps he'll think of it 35 or so years from now.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Could Be Wrong

My wife and I were having a quick conversation yesterday about how much I aggravate her. It's one of our favorite subjects, but yesterday it centered around opinions. "You have a lot of opinions," she said.

"And that's bad?"

"Well, you can be a bit closed-minded. Why are you always right?"

Perhaps my wife has a point. Then again, maybe not. "Because I am," I said. "Who ever had a passionate opinion about something and ended it with - I'm probably wrong about that."

Do we ever feel like we are truly wrong about an issue? Certainly there is plenty out there to get you confused, but opinions are based, somewhat on fact, somewhat on traditional beliefs, and every once in a while on a whim. As my good friend Mellencamp once said - "You have to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything."

I just hate when people read something and accept it as fact. "But I read it on the Internet."

Hell, anyone can put anything on the Internet and just pass it around as fact. New data shows me the world is flat and the moon is really made of cheese - there - it's on the Internet - prove me wrong.

Yet I have been wrong from time-to-time. "I'm not closed-minded," I argued.

"Tell me once when you've discussed something with someone and said - 'You know, I might be mistaken,'" my wife tried.

"I can't think of a specific example," I said.

"Because there isn't one," she answered.

All right then - let me think. I'll find something!
I believed there weren't weapons of mass destruction - oops, right there.
I thought that gas would hit $4 a gallon - right again.
I tell my kids and everyone that will listen that Bruce is the god of music - still right.
There's no better meal than pasta - 4 for 4.
The Yankees would win the World Series in '08! - I was wrong! I was wrong! I was wrong!

I never liked wishy-washy people - I have some good buddies who are convinced that I'm dead wrong on a lot of issues - right, Rosey? Yet it has never once hurt our friendship. I want my children to be strong-willed, convinced of their stand, and eager to fight for what they believe in - no matter who thinks they're an idiot - even if it's their loving wife or life-long pal.

"We should all be thankful that the intelligence just drips off of you," my wife said.

Finally we found some common ground.
Or was she being sarcastic?
I think she was serious.
I could be wrong.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Please No More

I can't believe that there are people who won't vote for McCain-Palin because Palin's daughter is pregnant - I heard someone say that she shouldn't run anything because she can't run her family. If you aren't going to vote for them - please God, don't let that be the reason.

Others won't vote for Obama because his middle name is Hussein - does that mean he's Saddam's brother? Or that he believes in terrorism? I don't think that's quite right - don't let that be the reason you don't vote that way.

I get the e-mails from Republicans telling me why the tax system doesn't work - okay, I get it - Democrats are tax and spend and Republicans are not - that's the stereotype and I understand the concept. Democrats aren't all about handouts either. The divide when it's all said and done isn't that much. One party doesn't love the country less than the other. One isn't always tax and spend. One isn't just for the rich.

At least I hope not.

I heard someone say that they were voting for McCain because they liked Sarah Palin's hair. I received an e-mail that showed her with a tight blouse and a short skirt, posed seductively - she was split screen with Biden? Who's a better choice for Vice-President the headline asked.

I suppose it depends what you're looking for out of a candidate.

Somehow I wish we as a nation could have intelligent discourse about what electing a president is all about.

I'm not kidding, during the 2000 election a man told me that he was voting for Bush because Gore was all about censorship and would take violence out of the video games that he liked to play in his free time. This was a grown man - trying to make a living! No bull - that's why he voted the way he did - and man, you should have heard him argue the point.

In any regard - I beg that the choice to be made is an informed one - not the same old, tired lines - look around - think about it - come up with some concrete reasons why.

This isn't American Idol.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In Some Cultures - I'm Attractive

My eight-year old was getting dressed for school this morning. He's rail skinny - sort of looks like Mick Jagger with his shirt off. I walked by his room and he giggled as he tried to cover up. "Whoa, look at that six-pack," I said.

"At least he's not hiding a quarter keg," one of the other kids yelled out. I certainly don't have quarter keg abs - maybe beer ball abs.

"I like his build," my wife said, as Sam struggled into his shirt - you can see his ribs and muscles. Do you think he'll stay skinny like that?"

"I didn't," I said.

"I know, you didn't," my darling wife answered.

"You don't like my build?"

She just laughed.

"Do you understand that I'd be attractive in some cultures?" I asked. "Do you understand that there are tribes out there who would bow to my beauty?"

"Where?" my wonderful wife asked.

"I don't know where, but somewhere," I replied.

Sam finished getting ready for school. I couldn't help but consider that I had been rail skinny for 18 years before adopting my keg-like shape.

"It'll get him too," I said. "Beer, pasta and mashed potatoes will catch up with him someday."

Until then - we should form a band - Sam as Mick Jagger and me as Meatloaf.

Memorials


I suppose I'll never forget where I was the moment I heard about what was happening on 9/11/01. I was actually listening to Howard Stern interview Pam Anderson about all sorts of raunchy things. In the middle of the interview, Howard stopped to report what was happening in New York. Of course, it was a beautiful day with bright blue skies and the report that a plane had drifted so far off course was odd.

Anyway, today was also a bright beautiful day and I was moving through downtown Buffalo, not even remembering that we were getting close to 9/11. I very rarely remember the date unless I'm writing a report. I spotted a memorial - an American Flag in place for each person who lost their life that day, and it kind of hit me that we do have a tendency to forget it.

Of course, 09/11/01 will stand as a horrific day in American history and people won't really ever forget it, but we often push it deep into our memory banks because it's too much to take. The sight of all of those flags sort of sent me into a tailspin because I understood that for each flag there was a husband left without a wife or a wife left without a husband, or children left without a parent. Friends missing friends, uncles missing nephews - just so much horrific loss in such a short window of time.

I can remember standing at Ground Zero in '04 thinking about the people that were running from those buildings. It makes you sick to even consider it - and it has been seven years. Just so hard to believe.

I also remember that we turned it off the television to keep the kids from seeing the destruction and hearing about everyone who died.

As I passed those flags this morning I considered that American history was certainly changed on a crisp, beautiful day that quickly turned ugly. I switched on the radio news station filled with pride for how America has stood tall - and I was greeted with talk of the presidential election and the back and forth argument about whether or not Obama was talking about Sarah Palin when he mentioned putting lipstick on a pig.

There's just so much more to think about and so many important battles still to win. Is the name-calling helping anyone?

History will judge how far we have come since 09/11. Did it change how you see the world?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fall Back

The clouds hung low today and the temperature was down about ten or fifteen degrees. I am fighting a cold because one of my boys blows his nose and leaves the tissues all around the house. The garden is about shot, and the grass won't grow quite so fast now. It gets dark early and the big question is no longer about what we're doing, but what's on the tube. (People trying to fit through holes doesn't cut it).

Usually the Yankees get me through this time of year, but we all know how that's working out. So it looks as if I will be hibernating early this year.

About 20 years ago I lived in California through the fall months. Even though I came to tolerate the daily sunshine, there was something missing. It didn't rain the entire 8 months I lived in San Jose. I could have named the clouds and made them my friends because they never seemed to move. I played basketball outside in December in shorts. Try that here.

Yet I was missing something. I love the change of seasons and the comfort that it brings. The kids returning to school was the first signal. The Bills playing their first game was point number two. Now if we only had a pennant race.

The end of summer brings with it more time to relax, sit on the couch and hang out with the family. Unfortunately the state of tv these days is piss poor, but there are always Family Guy reruns. (The funniest show on tv, by the way).

So after this weekend the golf clubs go away for at least 6 months. The family gathers around and looks for new ways to aggravate one another, and unless we can teach a 15-year old how to discard of tissues, we'll kick this cold back and forth until the spring.

The Big Day

Can you believe that there's a show on TV showing people trying to run through odd shaped holes in a wall? You must be hurting if you need to spend a half-hour watching that.

Michael Jackson is selling his underwear. God help you if you have the winning bid - or if you bid at all.

Tom Brady is out for the season and I swear I heard glee in the voices of those on sports talk radio. Cheering someone's pain?

Today is a big day around our house. Jake and Sam are visiting the dentist - they would choose the dentist's chair as the worst place on earth - and my wife has the horrible task of calming them for the visit.

Yet today is a huge day in their world as a new wrestling game comes out. Last night I listened to a recap of all the great wrestlers who would be included in the game.

To hear Jake sum it up - "I need to go to the dentist and that won't be fun, but when I get out Mom's taking me for the new game."

He waited a long time. "It's going to be a good day and a bad day."

I tried to tell him that most days have a bit of both in them, but that he just needed to do the work to get the reward. He wasn't much buying it - "You know what would be better?"

"No dentist - just the new game?" I asked.

"Exactly!"

Here's hoping that the trip to the dentist is easy and the game is as awesome as he believes it to be.

Somethings look better when they are advertised on TV. The wrestling game may turn into a colossal disappointment, but it has to be better than watching fat people try to fit through a tiny wall opening.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Told You So

Isn't it great when you tell someone something and they disagree and your point actually comes true? Do you have to let them know that you told them so? I do.

Anyway, I told you that the Bills would be good this year. I knew they'd win at least 10 games and make the playoffs.

Actually, I was on the other end of the smack talk. I love getting under Matt and Sam's skin when it comes to the Sabres and the Bills. Jake, to tell you the truth, couldn't care less one way or another.

So, I have two discussion partners in the house in which to drive my wife crazy. Last night, I was fairly quiet. I tried to let the boys know that it was just one game and that the Bills could go belly up the rest of the year. This evening I will probably let them know that they beat the Pats 31-0 in the home opener in 2003 and not only didn't make the playoffs, but watched the Pats win the Super Bowl that year.

Yet for one evening, I let it play out - "They played well," I said, although I didn't watch the game other than perhaps 3 plays. I didn't want to admit that I was sick, but I ended up sleeping through the 1st half and wasn't into it - as the 4th place Yankees were starting - by the 2nd half.

I'm waiting for Matt to spring the Yankees poor season on me as a way of payback, but he needs to be careful, he's an Oakland A's fan.

In any regard - he told me so (with his smug look of defiance) this week - I'll get him back soon.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Let's Go Buffalo!

The Bills open the season today and my sons went through the schedule last night figuring out how many games they were going to win for sure - Matt said 14, Sam went with 12, Jake picked the more actual number - 7.

I figure 7 or 8. The best thing about it is that they can dream, right? None of the kids remember the 4 super bowl runs. One of them wasn't even born the last time the Bills were in the playoffs.

Kathy is solidly behind rooting for the home team, but I am undeniably cynical. I actually think we'd be better off if they moved to Toronto or LA or somewhere in between.

I can hear the boos - but we are ranked the 3rd poorest city in the country - we most certainly have a better chance at hitting #1 in that category than actuallywinning a super bowl as our owner cries about not having enough cash to compete.

Additionally a number of the guys I'm supposed to be rooting for are basically not great guys. Whatever, I suppose, but it galls me to read about their horrible conduct.

Seattle's up first - perhaps I'll go shopping at 1 PM - the stores will be empty as everyone roots, roots, roots!

Let's Go Buffalo!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

King of Pop

Got lost there for awhile, but today I decided to catch up on the news a bit.

The King of Pop turned 50 and decided to spend the happy day watching cartoons with his kids - well, at least they're his kids. I heard the song Beat It the other day and couldn't help but think back to being in a club, dancing (yes, you should see me dance) with a pretty girl who was looking over my head, waiting for her boyfriend to come in. The song finished and I Beat It to the front door. Her loss.

Anyway, the whole Michael Jackson story is just too freaking bizarre and of course it has been covered so many times, but the last time I saw him he looked like an old and frail, with every inch of his skin covered and an oxygen mask on his face.

My brother, John, came up with the line - "Only in America can a poor, black kid from the ghetto rise out of the ashes to become a successful white woman."

The hurricane season continues. They're saying Ike is troublesome. All I know is that I may never get to mow the lawn this weekend. What an inconvenience for me.

Anybody else sick of the presidential race yet? I know more about Sarah Palin than I do about some of my cousins. I really wish it wasn't a mud-slinging - "he sucks, I don't" argument, but I guess that's just how it goes. Can't catch a sound bite these days without one of the candidates telling you that the other one is lying - leads me to believe that they're all lying. Two men claim to be Jesus - one of 'em must be wrong. (A little Dire Straits there for the older crowd).

I spent the day hanging around the house with the wife and kids today. We laughed, there were a few minor disagreements, I wrestled with the boys, and caught another shitty love story movie.

Nowhere else I'd rather be.

The Worst Place in the World

Back in college a professor asked us to write about the worst place in the world. It was just a one-page writing assignment where we were supposed to write about sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. The idea was to be descriptive about why we hated visiting the place and why we never, ever wanted to go back there. I wrote about the dumps where as a child I would ride with my father as we got rid of the garbage for the week. I certainly could recall the rats, the odors, and the drive up there as we ditched the many bags of garbage generated by eight people in the course of the week. I think I did all right on the assignment, but I clearly missed the boat. The worst place in the world is the funeral home in my hometown. I hate that place.

When we would return from the dumps my dad would often coast home. There were enough hills on Shirley Road for him to just shut the car down and ride slowly to our driveway. I can even recall that he let me sit on his lap once and steer the car. He wasn't Britney Spears being irresponsible, he was just allowing me a chance not to hate the dumps so much.

Which brings me to the positive side of the other worst place in town. A gathering at the funeral home in town often brings me face-to-face with people that I love. In the gathering of ultimate sadness I often share hugs and sorrow with those people I grew up with, but through the time and circumstances involved with living, I don't see much anymore. That's the only possible silver lining.

My hands get clammy and I often feel as though I'm going to pass out. It always seems so hot in that funeral home, and the hushed words and muted cries make me feel dizzy. When I was a kid I would often grab a comb that was wrapped in plastic and handed out for anyone who forgot to comb their hair. I have little use for a new comb these days.

And then there is the dizzying walk to say a prayer for the lost loved one. The family stands there to greet you as you arrive at the foot of the casket, and the ability to speak is suddenly gone. I always feel like a complete babbling idiot as I attempt to say something, anything that will not embarrass me for the rest of my life. At my wake I want a full bar assembled where people are allowed to do a shot before viewing me. I have a few good buddies who'll stay for hours.

Yet I always remind myself that there is beauty in the ritual. It isn't about me and my difficulty in speaking. Rather it is about the love of a town and the unbelievably compassionate attempt to show love in the face of bitter sadness. The words that come out are so much less important than the effort to stand before loved ones and say "I'm sorry," and imply or even verbalize that love is filling your heart in the face of death.

I always, always think of Tom Joad's mother in that situation as I walk back away from the casket. "What are we going to do now?" Tom's father asks after Tom is forced to leave the family, knowing that he'd never see them again.

"We're going to go on," Tom's mother says. (And I'm paraphrasing) "Because we need to live and to love and to believe that God is there for us because without hope and belief, what else is there?"

Unfortunately, as we made our way back from the dumps all those years ago, in the back of my mind, I knew that there was more garbage to be delivered next week. I hardly ever thought about that - instead, I enjoyed the ride home and the touch of my father, or the laughter with my brothers and sisters.

It never occurred to me, but those trips to and from the dumps did a lot to prepare me for the truly worst place to visit.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Too Tough, Too Much

A lot of people seem to be reading this blog - some to catch up, some to listen to me rant, some to laugh as I compare myself to A-Rod, and the presidential candidates. For me, it's a release of pent-up energy, and random thoughts that haunt me on a daily basis - part therapy, part entertainment to be sure. When I'm writing, I'm making sense of all I hear, see, and feel. When I'm not, I sort of spin in a circle and believe that things can be tough, too tough, too sad, and too nonsensical. I tried not writing once, believing that a break would allow my mind to relax - about two weeks in, I asked my wife, "What do you people do?"

My new book - Blind Spot arrived in the mail yesterday. I had already seen the cover and layout. I had read the story about 15 times during the rewrite. My heart was still full of sadness because of the shit sandwich side of life - and I opened the book, glanced at some of the information gathered, and set it aside. Not proud, not happy, just done. I showed it to my boys who nodded and to my wife who said, "Nice."

It's been a long time since I grew excited about the process and that might be a shame. Yet the one thought that did fill my head was that I wrote Blind Spot about pain, heartbreak, and the what-happens-after-the shit-hits-the-fan. The book is solely about the hurt that comes with living and the sink-or swim puzzle that it brings. I love the story and am thankful for a tremendous effort on the part of those at Sterlinghouse. Yet I feel a little down about it - as I usually do - because besides the promotion and the fact that others will hopefully enjoy it, the journey is over for me, and here I sit - 9 books in - knowing that I still don't have any concrete answers other than I need to continue searching.

I hate when life brings too much at once, but as I mentioned about a million times in Blind Spot - it begs a response. A positive response, hopefully, but some sort of response nonetheless.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It Just Doesn't Make Any Sense

Yesterday afternoon I was riding on a subway from Dulles Airport to BWI Airport. The doors opened and a young man stepped through them. Behind him was a middle-aged woman struggling to get two suitcases through the closing door. I was a long ways away, but thought about running over to help - thankfully the young man reached behind him, and without much effort at all lifted both suitcases clear of the closing doors. The woman thanked him, saying, "The kindness of a stranger is certainly appreciated."

I was within earshot as the two began discussing their lives. She asked him if he was a college student - "yes" - and she inquired about his scholastic life up until that point. "I'm a junior the kid said, "but I may not be able to finish. I have lung cancer for some reason - never smoked a single cigarette. They are going to operate, but it's pretty advanced."

The woman was understandably shocked, but the kid waved her off.

"It doesn't make much sense, I know," he said. "But I handed it all off to God right when the doctor told me. It was a problem that was too big for me to handle."

Life certainly throws those high and tight fastballs to the chin. I continued to read about the loss of a 14-year-old kid in my hometown. I thought of the heartbreak that it brought and most of the day I walked around in a fog, wondering why. Just why?

It just doesn't make any sense to me at all. A healthy child suddenly getting cancer? A tragic loss of life in a matter of seconds. In times like these it just seems that life is - as Tony Soprano mentioned - just a shit sandwich.

Do me a favor, pray for my friends, and even for the kind stranger on the subway. Perhaps the best advice is to hand God that which we can't understand.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Heartbreaking

Born and raised in a small town is a wonderful bonus, but there is so much pain involved because there are so many friends, and when someone in the town is happy, everyone is happy - and when someone is heartbroken - everyone is heartbroken.

Returned from a road trip to the news that a young boy lost his life in an accident. Everyone in town knows everyone in the family. The grief will hang in the air and settle over my hometown, and together we will try and help the family through.

Heartbreaking...nothing more to say...simply tragic.

Am I Qualified?

Sarah Palin was a complete unknown to me and millions of others. This week, she leads the league in goggle searches and we are all slowly getting to know her likes, dislikes and family troubles.

As is customary, every skeleton is coming out of the closet - her husband's DWI from 22 years ago isn't really important to whether or not she can do the job. Her daughter's pregnancy? Irrelevant.

Yet I looked at the credentials and while I am not questioning her credentials, I'm wondering if I have enough to make a run at political office.

We both have a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was mayor of a small town. I've been successfully employed for 25 years. She sold ATV's and mini-bikes. I sold a few books. She likes fishing. I like to golf. She shoots shit for fun. I shoot the shit with my friends.

Yes she has been the governor for 20 months and she most likely dominates her household as my wife dominates mine. She's been a mother of five - no small feat in this day and age. I only have three, but you should get a load of them. My 3 are probably tougher than her 5.

What are the differences? She's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. She's a woman and I'm not.

Yet we are more alike then most people realize. She's 44 - I turn 44 this year. She's physically attractive (which also shouldn't be important) and I'm extremely physically attractive.

I don't know - sometimes it seems as if the bar is being lowered. Do we want common-type folk in the leadership positions? I remember a comedian complaining about George Bush being elected - I forgot the comedian, but remembered the joke - "The Leader of the Free World should be able to kick my ass in Scrabble."

Sometimes I feel that way too - I'm sure Palin is more qualified than I'll ever know. I really think she might do well communicating to the masses.

It simply begs a question: Would you vote for me?

Oh, the skeletons coming out of my closet would be entertaining - wouldn't they be college friends?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hurricane

Those poor friggen' people. That's the thought that entered my mind again today as I watched the coverage of the hurricane coming to land. Gustav was downgraded to a category 2 storm - and as I write this there is a lot of hope that it won't bring the devastation of Katrina.

Yet - those poor friggen' people.

I've never been to New Orleans - people tell me it's a lot of fun, but not so much lately. People mention that there is a different element alive in the streets since the time of the last storm. This morning the beautiful newscaster on Fox told me that New Orleans was on the dirty end of the hurricane - and she flashed images of men with guns drawn ready to fend off looters.

The drawn gun is what scares me most about the hurricane making landfall. Storms are storms - and contrary to what anyone thinks the Federal Government won't be able to stop them from coming, but all together we should be able to stop each other from stealing, shooting, and raping and pillaging just because a horrific storm comes through.

I don't know and can't pretend to know what I would do under threat of utter devastation, but I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't break a window at Circuit City to get myself a brand new TV.

A natural disaster is certainly one thing - last time we turned it into a national disaster. This time we seem intent on minimizing the devastation. God willing and the creek don't rise - we can get through this. McCain said that they need to put away the Republican hats and take out the American hats until the storm is over.

I'd do him one better- put all of those other hats away and get back to just the American hats - if we did that I know we'd be ready to weather all of the incoming storms.

What We Need

Sat around a family outing yesterday and the conversation went to the Presidential Election in November. As everyone in their right mind knows it just doesn't pay to talk politicis. People have a snippet of information here, an impression of something there, and just not enough true information to make a balanced judgement. Most people are cynical however, and invariably you'll hear the one sentence that declares a real argument dead- "They're all crooks - it doesn't matter who gets elected," usually ends any productive discussion.

Yet it breaks down to what we really need in our own lives. Secuirty - both on a national level and a local level (in these four walls), a decent chance to make an honest wage, enough left over to send the kids to college, and perhaps a little money for green fees. That's about it around here!

Why is it so complicated then? In our discussion we touched on everything from abortion-to capital punishment-to gay rights-to the hurricanes striking the coast-to I can't trust that guy his eyes are evil-to why Hilliary couldn't win-to what Clinton did with the intern-to George Bush and the overall failure of everything in the last eight years. We didn't solve a damn thing.

And that's the loneliest feeling in the world, I suppose. I have and always will believe in our system of government. The forefathers did an awesome job of trying to establish a set of rules that would allow us the guidelines to govern this land. To think of how ahead of its time those declarations were, but to also realize that perhaps we live in a world where some of them need to be ammended. Yet they didn't miss by much. We are the People. That should be it. Four simple words - We are the People who will make or break this land. Everything else should be thrown to the side. Yet the other amazing thing about this land is that we are a diversified people with different agendas. Sometimes it is difficult to mesh those agendas and satisfy everyone involved.

Yet we do have our voice. "I'm not voting," someone in our party said, "All four of the potential candidates suck."

Come on, now - don't lose faith. I agree that things seem a little rocky when there is so much work being done and it seems like the payback is getting smaller.

Yet listen to a voice of the common man. I don't need or want much - I always think of the U2 line where Bono sings "What you don't have, you don't need it now." Bono probably doesn't want for much, but there is some sense in his line - we don't need instant gratification - for generations we worked hard - real hard to get to a place where we could be comfortable. A kid shouldn't leave college and be granted a home, two cars, and in-ground pool, and a mortgage that can't ever be paid off. Work for it. Pare down what is truly needed - the common man just wants peace and security, both economically and in their hearts.

Study a bit and figure out which candidate can pay the highest dividends - and then say a prayer that who we entrust isn't just a crook.

The Week In Review

1). Geez, raise your hand if you haven't sexually assaulted someone. What kills me about it is: It's fine if the guy is R/D or i...