Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Carrot

This time of year it is easy to motivate the children. Not only is Christmas just around the corner, but the WWE is also coming to town and thanks to my sister, Corinne, and brother-in-law Chuck, we have great seats. "Clean your room if you want to go to wrestling," or "Let the dogs out if you really want whats on your Christmas list."

I have boys hopping around the house to get things done. And thankfully there is usually something that gets you up and out of bed on any given day. Kathy was looking forward to this weekend for shopping purposes - exhausted and full of shopping stories, she sat on the couch last night with eyes that were barely open -"Was it all that you imagined?" I asked.

Bruce's new album is out at the end of January. Pitchers and catchers report in February. The Yanks begin their 27th title search in April. There is always something there to attract our attention.

Yet what of the days when we are just doing what we do? Does it have to be absolute drudgery until we get to that moment we've been waiting for? What if that moment turns out to be something less? What if the wrestling matches are not as wild as what we imagined? What if that one present we were looking for isn't under the tree? What if the Yanks don't sign the pitching they need and they don't make the playoffs again? What if the Bruce album is disappointing?

Okay, so I got carried away with that last one - I apologize for even saying it!

Yet there are plenty of people who spend their days waiting for a moment - something that will carry them through the next set of 30 days or so - and the moment never truly comes.

I've lived long enough now to enjoy the journey. Sure Sam is going to talk non-stop for a couple of days on the weekend. Yeah, Jake is going to go absolutely ballistic about not winning a game on the X-box. Matt will certainly slam his fist in rage when the Bills or the Sabres inevitably lose. Certainly the house will get dirty again and the laundry will pile up. I guess I've mellowed right before my own eyes - because I don't get quite as amped up over the dangling carrot that I'm running behind.

And you know why?

Because the carrot that is actually in front of me is the life that I'm living. The house, the car, the tv, the warm bed, the plate of pasta coming on Sunday, the Bills games, a chance to go to work, book signings, writing something new and yes, doing the dishes, letting the dogs out, cleaning the friggen' storage room, shoveling snow, waking up tired, drinking a few martinis - it's all the carrot.

And when does the moment finally arrive?

I'm thinking it happens when you aren't really looking for it - it happens all at once, when you are finally able to sit back and say - there it is - I've been happy most of the time - and I've lived a life with a hundred good companions, and I've been sensible about things most of the time. It doesn't come when your team wins it all. It doesn't come when you survive being trampled by a Wal-Mart crowd, and although it's close, it doesn't even come when the new book or the new Springsteen album arrives.

I'm betting it comes late in life, if you're so blessed with the chance, to look back and say, 'Damn, I raised some good kids, I ate some great food, drank some fine wine, and laughed hard, and lived right.'

And yet there are lives interrupted before that moment of enlightenment comes, and that's why this post is all about not chasing that carrot every moment of your waking life, but understanding that the joy is in the journey and the successful life, no matter how long or short arrives when we understand that it was really all about the day-to-day excitement of being alive.

I was talking to a friend of mine who was asking me how to get through difficult times and it occurred to me that all of life may be a struggle if you allow it to be, but that there is also beauty in just living. That chasing that carrot that is just out of reach, is also part of the fun.

I hear the kids stirring in another part of the house. The cold winds are blowing mightily outside, but it's warm where I sit. There's breakfast to cook, things to clean up, dogs to go outside, laundry in the baskets, and work just 48 hours away.

It's all right. Today I'm just going to sit back and eat the carrots that I've already snagged.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Hometown

Kind of strange driving through the old hometown when there's nothing to think about but what you're seeing outside the window. The memories have a tendency to come in waves as you recall days gone by.

I left my cell phone at my parents home yesterday and being that everything must be just so, it was on my mind as I woke up this morning. I needed my phone - for what, I don't know, but I knew I wouldn't rest until I retrieved it.

So I headed off alone - we all know about the shopping, so Kathy was gone, but the boys were also still asleep, so I had a nice, quiet ride into town.

I passed by a house where a girl I had a high school crush on used to live. I thought about meeting her parents as a boy, scared that they'd tear my head off. I had a fleeting thought about how her life might have turned out, but it didn't matter much to me now.

I drove past the streetlight that we spent hours throwing rocks at on Halley Road. I remember that the kid who eventually broke it and sent glass flying had died in an accident just following his 16th birthday - nearly 30 years later, I thought of his excitement and how hard we laughed as we ran back to the campsite.

I drove past the houses of a hundred friends, and on by the Den and Speedy's where we drank hundreds of beers and dreamed about how our lives would turn out. I saw how the businesses had all changed hands again - not many of them where the same as when I was young. Where were The Lemon Tree, and Hoag's Dairy? Now there are dollar stores and pizzeria's in their place.

My hometown always seemed to be alive, but as I traveled today the streets were empty. I drove past the funeral home and the cemetery. I thought of friends gone too soon and how I used to serve as an altar boy at the funerals.

I passed the Town Park and remembered playing softball - Go Lions! - and the moment when we won the league championship for the first time. It all went by so quickly.

And five minutes after I picked up my phone, it rang and one of the boys asked me what we'd be doing for fun today. I thought about their childhood and how it was their time to build a hundred different memories, and it occurred to me that their memories would be shaped by how secure, and how happy I helped them to be, because the hometown, in the end isn't about the buildings that were there, or who lived where, but in the happiness felt in each day gone by.

I would think that it's nearly impossible to pass through your hometown on the day after Thanksgiving and not consider something more than what's on television that night.

Over the last couple of hours, I feel like I watched about ten hours of a home movie, and thankfully it's a movie that is still going strong.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank-You

Perhaps what drives us down is our inability to say Thank-You. I've always enjoyed Thanksgiving and not just because I can gorge myself with a clearer conscience then is allowed on the other 364 days of the year - when I am also over-eating. No, Thanksgiving is a day of thanks that always allows me to consider my family and friends.

I awoke to the news of the terrorist attack in India, and the headlines screaming that we need to spend some money to get the economy going again. I sort of sifted through the debris of what has happened and centered on a story about George W. pardoning a turkey. They actually made him pardon two turkeys saying that he will probably screw up the first pardon so they better be sure and make him pardon two. He still bungled the speech, but hey pretty soon he'll be back drinking in Texas, leaving us all to live free.

Yet I digress - what am I thankful for?

I'm thankful to be able to tell Bush jokes and to live in a land where free debate is still possible.

I'm thankful to be able to sit down today and over-eat and over-drink.

I'm thankful that my wife is currently reading ads so that she can make Christmas a wonderful over-indulgence for all. I'm also thankful for the peace and quiet that comes along with her reading and re-reading and re-reading and re-reading those same ads for the rest of the day. Hey I have golf and baseball and she fights crowds to get bargains on the day after Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for my boys and the excitement they bring day after day. I'm thankful that they are happy, healthy, and mostly obedient.

I'm thankful for my brothers, sisters, and parents. All of whom will take potshots at how much I'm eating today.

Most of all I'm thankful that I cut happy hour short yesterday so that I can put forward the brave effort of eating and drinking myself to pain today.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Working on a Dream

Downloaded the new Springsteen song yesterday and I have to fight myself to not listen to it so much, but I love the idea of working on a dream - climbing the ladder, swinging the hammer, and whistling while he works - all of it. Kind of thought I might find it listenable.

Which brings me around to the pre-winter clean-up. If I were pregnant, and some have speculated that I am, I might be doing what is considered as nesting. In any regard, I cleaned the 'fridge, cleaned the junk food cupboard, and finished up the laundry - just like Kevin in my previous post - as pointed out by my sister and brother - I enjoyed the tasks. I even went grocery shopping to re-stock the shelves that I cleaned.

Then I turned my attention to the room that is brought into the conversation each and every time Kathy and I have what could be considered an argument - the storage room.

As stated daily in this blog - I hate clutter and the storage room has always been cluttered. Over the course of our marriage the room has been cleaned about ten times - the rest of the time it becomes cluttered - and my wife would be the first to admit, she's the culprit.

The room holds boxes of old clothes for the kids, and she saves them like it's her religion. Whenever a new niece or nephew needs a sock, my wife will go into the room and tip over each and every box looking for that sock -and when she finds it - she shuts off the light and leaves the room in utter chaos.

I told her that I was going to install a camera so we can watch her go absolutely apeshit in the room.

Anyway, today it is clutter-free. Not clean, mind you, but picked up enough so that I don't consider hanging myself with one of the old onesies.

The dream is becoming clearer and less cluttered.

Just swinging the hammer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God Lives Under the Bed

Received this from a good friend in an e-mail today and really enjoyed the sentiment-especially during Holiday season when such things tend to be overlooked.

God Lives Under the Bed

I envy Kevin. My brother, Kevin, thinks God lives under his bed. At least that's what I heard him say one night.

He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, 'Are you there, God?' he said. 'Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed...'

I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.

He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he's 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult.

He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life?

Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed.

The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied.
He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work.

He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day's laundry chores.

And Saturdays - oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That's the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. 'That one's goin' to Chi-car-go! ' Kevin shouts as he claps his hands.

His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.
And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.
He doesn't know what it means to be discontent.
His life is simple.

He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.

His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working.. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it.

He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.

He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure.

He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue.

Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.

Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child.. Kevin seems to know God - to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an 'educated' person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith.

It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.

It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap.. I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances - they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God's care.

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.

Kevin won't be surprised at all!

When you receive this, say a prayer. That's all you have to do. There is nothing attached. This is powerful.


FRIENDS ARE ANGELS WHO LIFT US TO OUR FEET WHEN OUR WINGS HAVE TROUBLE REMEMBERING HOW TO FLY

Monday, November 24, 2008

Too Fat to Write a Best-Seller

I must admit that I listen to the Howard Stern Show every day. I feel that all of the characters are true friends and each day I thrill my wife with stories of their antics, but today, I was upset by something about the show, and it has to do with my writing career.

Sure, Howard Stern wrote a couple of best-selling books, but now, his sidekick, Artie Lange, has also hit number one on the New York Times Bestsellers list. He laughed when told the news and commented that there were most likely a lot of writers out there who were aggravated by the news.

I know of one! It occurs to me that the surest way to garner the number one spot at Amazon.com or the New York Times is to already be a celebrity. Whatever happened to the art of writing? What ever became of carefully creating a plot, establishing some viable characters, and entertaining millions with a structured story of mystery and suspense?

I’ve published five novels. I’ve tried my hand at non-fiction and wrote a couple of memoirs that have deeply affected doctors, nurses, and patients. I have stayed awake at night deciding when and where to place my characters, and Artie Lange (who I love as a comedian, by the way) hires a ghost writer, slaps a funny title on the book – Too Fat to Fish, and cops the number one spot on the list.

And it’s not just Artie. Madonna wrote a book about sex that did very well. OJ was featured in a story about how he would have committed murder if he were so inclined –and that debuted at number one even after they yanked it from the shelves.

Dr. Phil sells a hundred thousand books for every book I ever sold, and then there’s Dr. Laura, and Al Franken, and Bill O’Reilly.

I have a new rule – if you’re already a millionaire from doing something else – you can’t call yourself an author.

If you are selling books based solely on your name, you can’t be part of a list. If you haven’t put in the time to do a classic rewrite, and have never sat lonely at a book signing, you can’t even begin to think about cashing a royalty check.

Let the struggling writers have their own career. Artie Lange’s debut at number one on the bestsellers list is certainly an accomplishment, but he spent a little time jokingly referring to himself as Hemmingway.

The worst part about it is that he probably sold more books than Hemmingway!

It’s beginning to dawn on me – perhaps I’m just not well known enough to ever write a bestseller. Maybe the best thing to do would be to run down to the bookstore and grab a copy of Artie Lange’s book. Perhaps he can show me how it’s done.

I’m just too normal to succeed or too fat to write a bestseller.

The Vision

It's the same crap every year. It usually begins around Thanksgiving break and continues on through to the New Year. It's a list of promises made to myself so that I can run leaner and more stress-free through the next year. I'm 44 - it hasn't worked so far, but I can feel the itch beginning.

It starts with me cleaning up the closet and file cabinet of old paperwork that seemed important, but is no longer necessary. It stretches into me brainstorming about what I can do to chase away all the demons that threaten my existence on a daily basis - and I'm not talking about evil demons, just the nonsensical ones that cloud up my vision on what life should be like.

Anyway, as I considered taking stock in all things important this year I read a great quote about a football player, Kerry Collins, who is an alcoholic, but is doing well fighting off his own personal demons - If you want to love yourself, tell yourself the truth.

Man is that a great line - if we all lived by that standard we might just all find our way. Not that I lie to myself all the time, but as Collins stated, he couldn't get a grip on where he wanted to go until he was first honest with himself about what kind of guy he was.

I always think of the book, The Stand by Stephen King where one of his main characters tells himself over and over that he's a nice guy, when deep in his heart he knows that he's not.

What does this have to do with me cleaning crap out of my file cabinets? I don't know, honestly, but after suffering through year after year of trying to arrange my life so I don't have to be present, I'm hoping that I can be more accepting this year. I want to enjoy the holidays, listen to the never-ending stories about finding the perfect bargain, hang out with the kids, and not worry so much about the vision for the upcoming year.

Then again, perhaps I can run this ship more effectively if I just got rid of that excess paperwork.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Basically I have not left my house in about four weekends. I'd say I'm going stir-crazy, but I'm not sure what it is I should be doing. I've been on the road a bit during the work week and the thought of getting in the car and going somewhere is absolutely numbing. So, here I sit.

Yet there is always Sunday morning to look forward to. When I was a kid the scent of the onions garlic and olive oil always got me up and out of bed. There was usually a discussion of which Mass we'd be attending, and I took a long time reading the sports page.

This morning, I started the sauce, and read the paper. Sam was the first out of bed looking for the Las Vegas lines so he could pick the football games in a competition against Matt. It's a tradition handed down from my brother and I and it makes me laugh because I'm living with an 8-year-old bookie.

"How is San Diego giving up 2 and a half?" he asked me this morning. "They're just trying to make me pick the Colts. I think it's a sucker bet."

I stirred the sauce and laughed.

"I think I'll take the Chiefs today," he said. "The Bills have lost four in a row and their cornerbacks are injured. That sauce smells good."

I wonder if my father was ever stir-crazy as he prepared the sauce and spoke of homework, church, and whatever game was on that day.

"So, what do you want to do today?" I asked.

"Stay home," Sam said. "Are you kidding? Where would we go? The games are on and you're already making dinner."

So, here we are. Don't bother calling the cell phone - the house phone will work just fine - just remember that the office closes down after pasta. I feel the need for a nap coming on.

"The Bills are going to win today," Sam said after some deep thought.

There you have it - straight from the bookie's mouth. He thinks they'll cover the spread too, and he says bet the over.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blind Spot Review - Hamburg Sun - November 20, 2008

November 20, 2008 – The Hamburg Sun, by Sarah Reynolds

Local Author Hopes Book Will Somehow Help Readers Cope

Losing a child is a nightmare many parents do not want to think about, let alone live through. Parents welcome their children into the world, watch them grow and develop into adults, but when tragedy strikes, the world suddenly takes on a different meaning.

Author Cliff Fazzolari, a native of North Collins who now lives in Blasdell, takes on the task to show the tribulations and grief a married couple goes through in his book, Blind Spot.

The story begins with the main character, Scott, deciding to leave his wife Cheryl after 18 years of marriage, to embark on a cross-country trip in an effort to make sense of the loss of his child and his marriage. Scott’s journey coincides with the upcoming one-year anniversary of the death of his son, Joshua, who at the age of 17, was killed in an automobile accident.

Fazzolari decided to take on the task of writing this story after a lifelong friend approached him during a book signing for Counting on a Miracle. The man confided the story about the loss of his son due to a car accident and the story touched Fazzolari, who had written Counting on a Miracle about his own son overcoming a life-threatening illness. At the book signing, Fazzolari felt like he had to help his friend grieve, “I felt ill-equipped to answer anything,” recalls Fazzolari.

He embarked on the journey to find the answer on why many marriages do not survive the heartache of a child’s death.

“Compassion. I wrote out of compassion. How you cope with loss. How you cope with sadness defines you as a human being.”

Through Scott’s journey from Buffalo through the western landscapes of the United States, he begins to heal and is able to reconnect with his wife, Cheryl. Finally, they are both able to celebrate the life that their son lived.

Fazzolari got the inspiration of Cheryl from some of the strong women figures in his life such as his mother, Lynda Fazzolari, and wife Kathy. “To a certain extent, I have kind of had women on a pedestal and Cheryl was a strong, faithful person because that is what I’ve known all my life.”

The pain in the hearts of Scott and Cheryl is apparent from the opening line of the story. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a child or a loved one due to tragedy will relate to this story, and Fazzolari’s words help bring healing to life. Life always seems to have its blind spots, personal tragedies, and moments we wish we could all take back or erase. These blind spots make up who we are, no matter how painful.

The story is whimsical at times, and in the end, Scott is able to journey full circle to become a new man who does not give into the darkness of his son’s death, but rather faces the light of the life that Joshua lived.

Buffalo plays a strong backdrop in all of Fazzolari’s stories. “You’ll always see Buffalo, you’ll always see Gannon University, and you’ll always see Bruce Springsteen. This is where I live and where I like to be, and I always start my character’s journey in Buffalo.”

Fazzolari hopes that Blind Spot will help many people overcome their grief and step in the positive direction that his character, Scott, did toward the end of the story.

The book was released this month and is available at www.amazon.com or by calling 1-888-542-2665.
Blind Spot has potential to help set the healing process in motion for those who lost a loved one due to tragedy. Fazzolari said that he hopes that people may begin to find a little peace after reading the story.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Disturbing Thoughts

Did you ever notice that you can't re-tie just one shoe? If your lace comes loose and you re-tie, guaranteed you'll take two steps and have to re-tie the other one because it won't be as tight. Sometimes I purposely ignore the other one that wants to be re-tied. "You didn't say anything about it until I re-tied the other one," I'll say.

People walking by wonder why the hell I'm yelling at my shoelaces.

Disturbing story about a teen who killed himself over 12 hours of time by overdosing on medications. The people watching the suicide had a great debate over whether or not the 19-year old had taken a lethal dose. Turns out he did and everyone watched without calling the authorities. I've heard it said that if they publicly executed prisoners it would be the number one rated show on television. Without a doubt - hell, we'd probably fill a stadium watching people get torn limb from limb by lions.

I'm still waiting for the Yankees to sign their first free agent. What's taking so long to buy my next World Series? Let's go!

Stayed in a hotel last night and I had someone trying to unlock the door to my room at 3:14 AM. There are so many thoughts that go through your head when you wake up and hear someone trying to get in. I yelled out and heard the sound of feet running down the carpeted hall.

"You should have answered the door naked," one of the guys on the construction site said. "That would have cured anyone of ever coming to your door again."

Boy there's a lot of love for me out there. Answering the door naked is the one thought that truly never entered my mind.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sorry Silda

Well it seems that the hooker who did Spitzer is now a superstar. She was interviewed on national television and explained that she had nothing to be sorry about. She was only sorry when she saw the face of the woman who had been scorned by the ex-gov.

All right - prostitution is the world's oldest profession and Spitzer certainly deserves to be disgraced, but how is this woman in the national spotlight? Why do we applaud bad behavior? It is certainly my number one pet peeve, but this Dupre woman goes on national television and tries to strike a sympathetic pose? We're supposed to believe that in the middle of turning tricks she had an epiphany about the marriage that she supposedly wounded?

I didn't watch the interview. I wouldn't give her more than a passing moment of my time and only to condemn her words. I'd talk to my buddies about it, but they can't get beyond the fact that the woman is hot. Yeah, she's hot. Hot, stupid, and morally bankrupt, and now forever out of my mind.

Can you even fathom the eight-year-old who confessed to killing his father and friend. There was a story going around today that he confessed to shooting his father a 2nd time because he loved him and hated seeing him in pain over the initial gunshot.

Is it possible that the kid thought he was playing a game? Was it a story of abuse? Not sure what to make of any of it - just a simple case of are you kidding me?

So the automakers are in trouble, again. What to do? Throw more money at it? Let them go bankrupt?

I'm still looking for answers to the economic questions. C'mon, Rosie and Lisa and Frank - educate me, please! The Dow Jones is sinking. Gas might go back to a dollar a gallon - I don't get it!

And what of these pirates robbing ships on the high seas? It seems like a movie when they describe the heists in the newspapers - isn't it just plain terrorism?

Well, another day with a lot of questions and limited comprehension. I guess the only thing to say is - "Sorry, Silda - hope it all works out."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go to Bed!

I remember being young and never wanting to go to sleep. I see it now with the boys as we set their bedtime and they slowly nudge it back a bit. We are now through the first report cards of the year and although the boys did okay, there is a firm belief that they can do better.

I'm of the opinion,of course, that they work us a bit too much on that standard sleep time. I wish I had a dime for the number of times I've asked why they aren't in bed. So, last night, I re-established the rules.

"I want you in your beds at 9 - with lights off at 9:15 for Sam and lights off at 9:30 for Jake. Matt's lights should be off at 10:00. Does everyone understand?"

I got 3 nods of the head. "No, I forgot to brush my teeth. No, I need to drop flipper off at the harbour (you can guess what that means). No, I need to tell Mom something."

3 more nods of the head.

We finished prayers at 8:45. They immediately brushed their teeth - and I suffered through another 15 minutes of television before heading off to check on them. Jake was in bed - check. Matt was in bed - check. Sam was kneeling at the side of his bed doing math problems - uh, no check.

"What're you doing?" I asked.
"Practicing math," he said.
"What time is it?" I asked.

The poor kid glanced over his shoulder and saw it was 9:01 and he started crying.

"Why are you crying?" I asked, now horrified that I was the commander of a gestapo.
"I'm waiting for cough medicine," he said. "So I thought I'd practice my math."
"Yeah, but why are you crying?"
"Because I missed the time limit."

I kissed him and tickled him for being so silly. It wasn't that big of a deal!

I headed off to sleep and the gods of sleep tortured me - I was awake by 4:45 AM wondering why I couldn't sleep anymore.

Sam had got his revenge.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We'll Get 'Em Next Year

The city is in darkness this morning. There is a din of denial and a feeling of emptiness on each and every street. The Bills lost again last night. Four in a row after such a promising start. It seems that all hope is lost. The town will now suffer not only from four straight Super Bowl losses, but also the indignity of having the team with the longest playoff drought in the parity-driven NFL. (Arizona will break their string this year).

So what?

73,000 crazed fans filled the Ralph last night. The place was absolutely crazy for the start of the game. People without shirts, people with painted faces. Signs that proclaimed Buffalo as the number one NFL city.

As I watched the start of the game - I didn't even consider watching the whole thing -(I was gone by halftime) - I thought of the Super Bowl years and how proud I was to see the city represented to an entire world.

I guess now I worry more about hospitals, libraries and museums closing. Yet I'm not Bills bashing here- I'm trying real hard to be optimistic.

The writing appears to be on the wall. The team is in last place with about 6 teams ahead of them for the last playoff berth. They no longer look like world beaters, and yet, there is hope!

In January after the Giants, or the Cowboys, or the Patriots, or the Titans win the Super Bowl (okay my Pittsburgh audience) or the Steelers! - people will start talking about the draft. The Bills will pick in the top 15 and the debate will begin. Then there will be free agents, and the excitement of another training camp. Someone will mention that the team looks good and that the playoff drought is over.

And the games will start and the stadium will be full again. And we will continue to believe here in Buffalo. And it will go on that way until the greed of the league rips the team from us, or the entire city closes down for lack of work. Until then, just dream, baby dream - "We'll get 'em next year!"

Running Out of Water

Maybe it's the icy cold air, or the steel grey skies, or the fact that it seems to be daylight for only about 6 minutes. Perhaps it's hearing a sad story of a life ending way too early, but I have been battling the blues a little over the last couple of days. Not that it affects me all that much, but any little statement can drive me down. I sort of revel in being stuck in the darkness on the edge of town, so know that I'm okay - it makes me write more.

In any regard, I read a report today that said that there will be a major problem with drinking water by the year 2080, and it made me sad. Not because I will be here and be thirsty - I'd be 115 as the calender flips to that year and I did way too much damage to my body to possibly be kicking by then - but I felt bad because I won't be here!

Perhaps its about hearing about a date in the way too far future that makes you feel your own mortality, but damn, I was wiped out today knowing that somewhere off in the distance is the death of you and me. Scary and strange thoughts. Of course I thought of my children and hopefully they will all still be battling by then - I know it will be a problem for their grandchildren for sure.

Yet it's the fact that we are merely a blip on the screen in the history of all mankind that sort of brings me down. Give me until 116 - I'll do it! Tired and all. Sore back and all. I don't want to leave until I'm completely satisfied and given the appetite of my first 44 years, it may take me another 72 to get there.

So how do we fend off the depression that can be fueled by knowing this won't last forever? I suppose that the most comforting of thoughts is brought to us by our own beliefs - there better be eternal life out there, right? There better be rewards for doing the right thing here on earth! There better be a place where beer runs from an eternal tap, and pizza with everything is available at each and every turn. We better get to visit with every dog who left us behind, and our loved one's better be waiting at the gate.

At the very least, there better be a drinking fountain that provides cool, clear, constant tap water.

By 2080, I'll probably need to get to that tap.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thinking of You

When I started writing I had one goal - to write something that maybe meant something to someone other than myself. This is a lame attempt at that.

This weekend I heard of a friend of a friend, and a reader of mine, who suffered a tragic, life-changing loss. I can't even begin to explain the hurt that comes along with such an event and I suppose that for the first time ever, I'm speaking to just one particular reader - not sure if you are of the mind to even read such a condolence, but here goes...

There are a lot of people thinking of you and hurting for you. There are plenty of people praying for you, and grieving your loss with you. In the difficult hours, days, weeks and months ahead, there are people who will help see you through.

I was speaking with a person who is close to you, and there were so many questions and not even one good answer - other than that there is still hope, and faith, and love in your life.

"What do I say at a time like this?" that person asked me.

"Just let her know that you're thinking of her," I answered. "And praying for her."

Sometimes the right words don't come at the right time, and sometimes words just aren't enough - but in such a time of loss the best a friend can be is simply a friend.

We're thinking of you and praying for you and the children. Please believe that there is still love, faith and hope in your life and it will take you plenty of time, but your friends will be there when you're ready to smile again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Worst

The kids were discussing NFL quarterbacks this morning. Matt mentioned that one guy was the worst quarterback ever. I realize that kids have a tendency to exaggerate, and my mind did a quick flip through some of the worst quarterbacks I'd seen in my lifetime. Chances are the guys playing now don't fall into the category of the worst of all-time. All-time is a long time.

And it got me thinking... there was an article about George W. leaving the White House. He spoke of wondering about what he'll do with his time - after all his vacations to Camp David will be cut out, right? Yet I felt a twinge of compassion for him.

Seriously. I felt bad that he was going from being surrounded by security to relative anonymity in retirement. Old presidents usually walk around like privileged citizens with all the money they stole, er, earned tucked away. They write memoirs (I'm thinking a pop-up book) and establish libraries. Every once in awhile they are called out to be the face of this event or that event. Life certainly slows down, right?

And I got to thinking about people calling Bush the worst president ever. I am guilty of it too. Is he the worst? Truman left office with an approval rating of 22. That's even lower than W., yet history has treated Truman well. Reagan is considered a grand old gentleman now and he presided over the worst recession since the great depression. He also flat-out didn't know about Iran-Contra. Yet now, you'd think he was the greatest president ever.

And how about Clinton? He brought shame to the office - didn't know the meaning of is, and left with more detractors than supporters. We look wistfully back at the relative peace - at least economically, don't we?

LBJ? and JFK? Remember Viet Nam? 60,000 lost soldiers. Nixon had to resign. Carter sent Chuck Norris to free the hostages.

History is filled with failed presidents and crappy quarterbacks. Who knows? Maybe in a few hundred years people will look back at the presidency of George W. and believe that he did a bang-up job.

Rumor is that he is in the running to be the next commissioner of baseball. Given that the Yanks just offered CC Sabathia $140 for six years it's clear that economics hasn't touched the sport.

Wonder how long it'll take W. to bankrupt it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Path of Consequence

Listening to Jay Thomas yesterday on Sirius radio I was reminded of the website where one can go to cheat on their spouse, discreetly, for $49. For some reason the thought of it sort of blows me away. There are 4 million members of this club. With roughly 50 million marriages in this country and many more cheating without shelling out $49 - it is a sad commentary on the state of marriage in this country. And the gays want it? As the joke goes, let them share in the misery.

Yet there was a woman caller to the show who said that she started using the service because after health issues her husband was unable to perform in the matter she was accustomed to. She explained that "she wasn't doing anything wrong." She argued that it was a good service that provided the necessary goods to keep her happy in her marriage. One of the hosts asked if her husband knew she was a whore.

And it struck me as odd. I have no doubt that the woman felt justified in her discreet affair. No doubt countless others do too. Jay Thomas asked one caller to explain why he got married when he knew he couldn't stay committed to one person day after day. "What she don't know don't hurt her," the guy said.

I would argue the point that what she don't know hurts you. I suppose that we all struggle to justify our own behavior from time-to-time. But I would argue that our path of consequence is our very own - aside from an unsuspecting spouse, aside from our children, hell - even the dogs don't know when you act like an ass - although they seem to be able to sense it.

Think of that poor husband who has suffered with health issues, completely unaware that his loving, thoughtful wife, is getting some on the side with some strange man who's cheating on his unsuspecting wife. And everyone is walking around justifying it?

Yet it is not for me to judge, right? Live and let live. That is what I try to profess, but it's difficult to ignore. I think it was an old Billy Joel song where he said you can sleep, here and there and everywhere, but that sooner or later you wake up with yourself.

The owner of the website explained that he was out of the loop when it came to the bad behavior - he explained it away by saying that his members were going to cheat anyway - he just provided the vehicle to make it happen. He said that blaming him was akin to blaming the hotel bed for the affair.

Maybe he's right and I'm wrong. Maybe that cheating spouse is entitled to what he or she can get on the side.

Yet the nuns taught me, a long time ago, that we pay for our actions and misdeeds. Hell, maybe they were wrong.

Yet I certainly believe that I have my own path of consequence where I need to live up to expectations that I hold for myself.

It must be real lonely when you find out that the path is no longer beneath your feet.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Soothe the Savage Beast

I remember it as if it were yesterday. My mother treated me, my sister, and my brother to an album. I'm not sure what the occasion was, but I remember the music albums that we each received - Corinne chose Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty, John got Glass Houses by Billy Joel, and I picked Slow Train Coming by Bob Dylan.

So, I'm figuring the year was about 1980 or so. I can remember what the album looked like in my hands. I believe that I can still sing every song off of each album because we played them to death - you ain't lived until you've heard Dylan sing about the slow train coming around the bend.

In any regard I've always been a collector of albums, then tapes, and now CD's. I've replaced all of my favorites each time technology passed me by, but I'm kind of stuck in the buying the whole album trap. I don't know how to download songs. Instead, I read the paper and wait for my favorite artists to release their new "albums".

Of course, I always buy Springsteen, Mellencamp, the Stones, and Mark Knopfler without even hearing a single song. Van Morrison usually falls into the same category. Yet there is one person who releases an album every two years or so that sells at least one copy - Tracy Chapman.

Tracy Chapman is a black, folk singer with a voice that doesn't change much from one song to the next. She had a huge hit with Fast Car about twenty years ago - and I've purchased every album since. I recall being in a bar in New Haven, Connecticut twenty years ago. I was playing darts and drinking beer with my brother, John. I put a lot of money in the jukebox and played every song on the album. The bartender turned down the volume on me.

I purchased the new Tracy Chapman CD today - Our Bright Future - I don't play it for friends - it won't be at the next dart or Foosball party - but take my word for it - it's been a great day.

The first thing I did was sit down and read the lyrics. Now it is playing softly in the background as I write.

I think of my mother buying us those first albums - just one more gift she used to soothe the savage beast.

It's All Bad News

There are currently ten million people out of work. General Motors is on the verge of pulling the plug, California is burning, and some nutcase killed herself in front of Paula Abdul's house because she didn't make it on American Idol.

Recently the battle brewing around our house centers on the cartoon South Park - The boys are not allowed to watch it and they're not happy. The other night, Jake, trying to understand, wondered why he was allowed to watch other shows that are on when he is just as liable to hear garbage talk on them.

Matt and Jake must leave the room when 48 Hours Mystery and CSI are on also - there is just too much information for the kids out there.

"What about the news?" he asked. "All they talk about on there is people being murdered or getting arrested."

"You probably shouldn't watch that, either," I said.

"Even when I go on the Internet there are bad stories," Jake argued.

"You shouldn't read those either."

"What else is there?" he answered. "It's all bad news."

I suppose that he's right. I imagine that there is way too much information for young kids that is also readily available to them. From curse words in music to cartoons that border on obnoxious, to video games with prostitution in them, it's a full-time job to monitor the information. We aren't shoving re-showings of Balto down their throats, but recently we've tried to work harder to shield them.

"They say the world's going to end in 2012," Jake tried. "I read that on the Internet, why can't we have a good time now?"

"Because we said so," I finally answered, feeling a lot like my own parents.

And the conversation was over - whether its all bad news or not, because I said so still works.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big City Blues

My plane to Baltimore was scheduled to leave at 6 AM so I set the alarm for 4 and went to bed by 9:30. I was awake by 2:30 and was too worried about missing the alarm to go back to sleep. So off I went. I took a shuttle to the terminal, struggled to get my shoes off to get through security, waited 45 minutes to board, and was already exhausted by the time the plane left Buffalo. I arrived in Baltimore, but was scheduled to be onsite in Arlington, Virginia so I took a shuttle from the terminal to the Amtrak station. I took the Amtrak to the Subway and caught two trains to Arlington. I arrived at 8 AM - ready for a little nap.

We visited the site, took an elevator up on the side of the building, stayed for better than 3/4 of the day, took three subway rides to Fairfax where I got a cab to the hotel. All the while traffic buzzed all around with thousands and thousands of people hustling for space.

The next day it was more subway rides, another Amtrak trip, a traffic jam in front of the White House - I rode with a guy who voted for McCain - "Too bad the Obama's are going to paint it purple," he said.

I waved to W. and got back on the subway, then the Amtrak, then the shuttle bus, then the freaking airplane.

On the ground in Buffalo, I skipped all of the free rides and walked to my car. Traffic was light as I made the 18 mile drive home in about 15 minutes.

"I don't know how you people live here," the stewardess said as I waited to get off the plane. "It's cold out there."

I'll take the cold. I'll take the slow life - if I see another subway card I might vomit. I don't know how anyone keeps their sanity hustling around every single day to just get to where you're supposed to work.

Let's Go Buffalo! Bills win big this week - 31-14.

The Odd Couple

On November 13th Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife.

Every November 13th I think of that line and it's not because the Odd Couple was one of my favorite all-time shows - its also because I could feel the pain caused by being asked to remove yourself from your place of residence.

Lately there have been a ton of husband killing estranged wife murders in the news. There was an absolutely tragic story here in Niagara Falls of a man shooting his wife, holing himself up in a hotel room and two days later shooting himself.

Man - how does it get to that?

In the Odd Couple Felix was always proclaiming his love for his estranged wife. The conversations with Oscar usually centered around what he needed to do to become a better person so that Gloria would take him back. In the back of my mind, I knew that they belonged together and at the end of the long run, it happened for them, didn't it?

The inability of people to see the big picture is usually what dooms these couples, I suppose. It seems that the money gets tight, there is usually a history of drug or alcohol abuse and the request to remove oneself from the place of residence isn't quite as cute as the opening of the Odd Couple made it out to be.

Yet I do have advice for the estranged husband or wife - do what Felix does - get the hell out - find a friend like Oscar and play poker with Murray and the boys. Have a few beers, collect your thoughts, and do your best to make a graceful exit - that way you can end up on a comedy as fun as the Odd Couple and not on 48 Hours Mystery.

So another November 13th seems likely to pass without event in my life - my wife is not planning to ask me to leave my place of residence - which is great news all the way around.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sic 'Em Barney





Last week the big story was that the Bush dog snapped at a reporter. I imagine that George and Laura locked up the dog before having the Obama's over for a visit today.

Actually the turning over of the keys is a good photo opportunity for all. It's a chance for both parties to put aside their differences for a stroll through the rose garden. Yet if there were only hidden microphones!

We sometimes have to entertain guests that we don't want to stay too long. I can imagine George and Laura discussing it the night before the Obama's arrived:

George - "What time are they getting here and what time are they getting the hell out?"

Laura - "Come on, Georgie, be nice."

George - "We only get two more months in this mansion and they have to pop in for a visit. I mean, come on. What's he want? My body isn't even cold yet."

Laura - "Perhaps we can have Barney greet them."

George - (letting loose with an evil laugh) - "That's a good one. We'll tell Barney that he's a terrorist!"

Laura - "Oh George, you're so bad. Now go out there and play nice. Remember to walk like a cowboy and look mean for the camera."

George- "I can't wait for this crap to be over. Obama can have all these headaches. Daddy made me be president. I just wanted to run small companies into the ground."

Laura - "Always remember, you did a great job. You're going to go down in history as being the 43rd best president we ever had."

George - "Wow, really! I done good!"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Turnaround Toys

Every once in awhile people will do something that is surprisingly thoughtful. In a day and age when things are usually of the me-first variety, genuine compassion for our fellow man is certainly lacking.

My sister-in-law, Lynn, who is usually devoid of big ideas - and who is quite used to my teasing, by the way - has initiated a program where she accepts toys that have outgrown their usefulness in their current homes and turns them around to less fortunate children who might never have a chance at getting something nice.

It's a grand idea and one that deserves praise because she has worked hard to get the job done.

It is easy to be dismissive about those that are less fortunate - I can hear people crying all over this great nation that there are no free lunches and that we should be responsible for our own.

In short, I agree with that sentiment, but on a much grander scale there are families out there who can't get the job done and can't get their children the toys that are advertised ad nauseum on television.

My children have been blessed with parents who like to see them happy - most children fall into the same category - Lynn's big idea helps those who find it difficult to bring a smile to their children's faces. (Catch the video of Turnaround Toys on WGRZ-TV's website).

And that's an idea I can't even tease her about. Good job!

Now please do something with your hair before the next party.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Johnny Get Your Gun

Man there isn't anything in the world that will get people in more of an uproar than threatening to take away their guns. Ted Nugent and the NRA will be all over your ass if you even mutter that there are so many guns on the streets that something needs to be done. There are people right now quaking in their boots because Obama may be against having semi-automatics in the neighborhoods.

Common sense, must once again prevail. I don't think it will, but here goes - when they asked Sarah Palin about the right to bare arms - she said, "You betcha', I always wear short-sleeves."

When they explained they were talking about guns she quickly took control telling them all about the caribou she took down.

Which is okay with me - I have a lot of good friends who swear by hunting as a sport. Have at it - I golf and that too seems senseless sometimes. You want to shoot something, clean it, and eat it, be my guest - seems like a macho thing to do. I'll get my fresh turkey from Wegman's.

And I believe in your right to have a gun - I honestly do. Just do me a favor and be responsible with it. When you get mad at your wife, neighbor, mailman - count to ten instead of shooting them. If you're drunk, keep the gun in the cabinet. If the kids are around, make sure the cabinet is locked.

Hot off the press today is the story of an 8-year old who killed his father and his father's friend. 8 years old!!!! I have an 8-year old who occasionally puts his shirt on backwards. He can't open a Gatorade bottle without help.

Tonight three or four people will shoot each other in every city in the country. In a few weeks we'll hear a story about a guy putting one through his buddy in the woods. "Son-of-a-bitch looked just like a deer."

I suppose my father cured me of ever wanting to own a gun - when I was about eight years old. He went hunting with my grandfather, shot a deer, and hung the deer in the garage. I opened the door and looked right into the eyes of the hanging deer. I remember crying - and when I close my eyes 36 years later, I can still see that poor deer. I'm getting a little weepy even now.

Yet Obama won't take away gun rights. That's just a fear tactic of people who didn't want you to vote for him. The constitution gives us the right to own a gun for our safety - just be responsible - guns do kill people.

"Son, You're a Drunken Mess"

Football, of course, is a violent sport. The players smash into each other on every play. A buddy of mine once told me that the impact felt is kind of like starting at the end of your driveway and running as fast as you can into your closed garage door. The combatants are fired up and so are the fans. They say that the fans of the losing team of the Super Bowl are more apt to go home and beat their wives - statistically there were lots of beatings going on in Western New York homes in the early 90's.

And yet, it is almost acceptable behavior. People tailgate before the games, drink the $7 beers during the game and then drink some more waiting for the parking lot to clear. The drinking is fast and violent, the same way the game is played. You know how I know so much? I was there a ton of times in the '90's.

This past weekend there were better than 50 arrests at the game. There was a fatal accident attributed to a drunk driver. The names of the couple having sex in the bathroom were published in the Buffalo News. So were the names of everyone else arrested.

I caught a movie last night - The Good Life - a dark story about a kid who's life is falling apart as people around him celebrate Nebraska football. A deep, well-written story, by the way.

Anyway, the Bills went to the AFC Championship 4 times, of course. Three of those games were here in Buffalo. I went to 2 of them. Great times, full of partying and celebration. Yet it was a Miami playoff game that nearly got me into the papers.

The game was on Saturday and for breakfast I had a couple of shots and a beer. Before the game started I had at least four more of each. During the game I had a bunch more, and after the Bills romp, I high-fived strangers, and downed a couple of more beers. The guys I went with took off, finally, and I was left with a real dilemma. I had to get my car home.

I actually left the parking lot and drove about a quarter mile. Then I pulled over because I saw some lights and what I thought was a beer sign. I parked the car and walked right into the place and ordered another Michelob Light - problem was - I was at someones house.

Realizing my mistake, I went back to my car, returned to the Bills parking lot - got out of the car, threw my keys under the car, and climbed up on the hood for a quick rest. It started snowing - and it seemed as if it took way to long for the rest of the lot to clear out. Finally, as I battled sleep and the cold - I saw the saving lights of a police car. After a couple of passes, the cops stopped and shined a big light in my face.

"Having a problem?" the officer asked.
I sat up.
"Son, you're a drunken mess," the officer tried.
"Yeah, and I can't get my car home."

He asked me where my keys were and I told him I threw them under the car because I was in no condition to find them and I didn't want to be tempted to drive home.

The officer actually laughed and thanked me!

"Come on, we'll give you a ride."

It was the one and only time I've ever ridden in a police car.

"You know, you showed good judgement," the officer said.
"How about the judgement of drinking 83 beers?" I asked.

By the time Kathy picked me up at the station the cops and I were having a good old time reliving the game and my idiotic actions. It took Kathy and a friend quite sometime to locate my car and bring it safely home.

Looking back, the good feelings, the celebration, the shots and the beer could have led to something way worse. Do yourself a favor, go to the game and have fun, but win or lose remember that you need to go back to your life the next day.

Just try and make sure that your life is still intact. I just barely did it right, drunken mess and all.

Friday, November 7, 2008

How 'Bout this Weather?

A couple of weeks back I met a guy on a job site for the very first time. From the moment we shook hands until the moment we parted company he bitched and moaned about everything under the sun. He cried about how hard he was working, the lack of cooperation he was getting on the site, the color of his coffee after the waitress added cream, and the company that I was representing. Now usually I'm an easy enough guy to get along with, but slowly and surely, he got on my nerves.

"What'd you shit the bed this morning?" I finally asked him.
"Ah, don't mind me," he said. "I enjoy making myself miserable. Besides, who do you know that's happy?"

I talked to a few other people who met this man and they all said the same thing - he just hates being alive.

Well, it's 70 degrees here in Buffalo today. I saw a couple of people moving around in shorts. In the past week I've gone from the Carhartt to no coat at all. It's Friday; the dogs are happy; the kids are always moving around. What is there not to be happy about?

Yet it amazes me that there never seems to be enough good in life to please some of the people. Perhaps that is why we (as a race) drink too much, eat too much, do drugs, gamble, watch pornos, and (if we are a governor) chase hookers.

What are we trying to get into our lives? Chaos?

To be fair, I've done a few things on the above list, but besides shoveling pasta this weekend, I've decided that its time to stop and smell the roses - no small feat in November in Buffalo, NY.

Let that other guy bitch.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Client #9 Revisited

Did you ever not swear when the stapler runs out of staples? It's a colossal pain in the ass because I'm usually in a hurry and I normally just need one more staple and bam - nothing - then I have to search for the extra staples and load the damn gun - and whack the first pop never works and I have to reposition the staples. Ah hell, I told you I'm more relaxed these days.

Spitzer is not being charged for his happy hooker times. Let's get this straight - he hires a hooker in New York - pays for her to travel across state lines, launders the freaking money, does the crap about 3500 times that we know of - and he doesn't even get charged? I'd say what if that were me, but I'm not stupid enough, classless enough, or assholish enough to do such a thing. Assholish isn't a word? It should be.

Okay I'm already sick of Oprah Winfrey celebrating as if Jesus is here to run the country. Yes - like I've said - a heartwarming story that racism took a jolt - sure, Obama may have the vision to do the job - then again, maybe not. But what the hell did Oprah do? She voted for him like a lot of other people did - I don't see anyone else taking credit for the victory like she is. I've always considered her a little self-indulgent, but the show she did yesterday was downright embarrassing - if I'm Obama, I tell her to stop. No one can live up to those expectations. Just calm the hell down - it's like hitting the end zone - act like you've been there before.

What else? I'm on a roll today...

There are media reports that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent. Sam is standing next to me -

Me: Sam, is Africa a country or a continent?
Sam: Continent, I think.

I have a GOP VP candidate for 2012.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Free Post

I'm burnt out on the political talk. It's over for now and then the real fight begins.

So what to do now?

The Yanks are going to open the wallet in the next thirty days so I'm sure that will capture my interest.

Who knows if the Bills or Sabres will keep us interested around Buffalo.

I'm about to lose my wife as a conversationalist as for the next 40 days or so as daily, we're going to discuss the bargains she found to fill the ever-expanding Christmas wish list.

Jake just got braces and today is the seven year anniversary of his very successful surgery. It got me thinking.

What did I learn in 7 years?

First and foremost its about the people around me, stupid. For years I chased my own tail, writing the next story, earning the next dollar, waiting for the next Yankee banner, or the next Bruce concert.

Instead, I have spent time enjoying the journey. Listen to this - I actually feel invigorated finishing the laundry, or picking up the dog poop in the backyard. I love watching bad comedies with the boys, and calling out their names with stupid little rhymes. I particularly enjoy waking everyone up in the morning and taunting them with thoughts of the school day ahead.

I've also learned to fear what might happen, but certainly keep an eye on things that might cause harm to the one's I love. A respectful fear is good, I suppose, and there's a realization that life can turn on a dime.

Getting braces? Not a big deal.
A 40 on a French test? We'll get through it.
An 8-year-old that talks non-stop? Awesome.
Matt rooting for last place teams? Enjoy life.

A lot of rough things happen to a lot of people over the course of 7 years. Sitting back, in the land of opportunity, the day after a free election, I'm feeling pretty lucky. I certainly have moments when the old worries sneak in, but I'm making progress.

"It's raining, but there ain't a cloud in the sky."

America Has Spoken

I woke up this morning to those words. The election seemed to me a little like a baseball playoff game - it dragged on so long.

The second thing I saw? Jesse Jackson crying - not sure I needed that. Yet it is a story - a black man elected President - it does show the depth of America - racism is not over, but on that point we scored.

Yet the vote yells of a landslide victory - to be honest there were millions against the president-elect. Red states, blue states - it doesn't matter, because now, we need to see how it will work.

There were critics of President-Elect Obama who decried his lack of experience. Here comes the experience! Halfway through with everything seemingly tanking, I wondered why anyone would want the job.

Hope and change? Who knows? Better feelings about America throughout the world? Most likely - we can't go much further backwards.

Yet America has spoken not for a candidate, but for some sort of change. No matter who won -that was the rallying cry. A lot of the people who voted for W changed their thought process this time around - and it doesn't mean anything except that Obama has to do the job.

I remember running for office back in high school - I beat out the incumbent - a poor girl who held the office for 11 years. I took the position for the all-important 12th year - and did absolutely nothing! The girl had the presence of mind to swallow the defeat and still do the jobs of the office.

I hope Obama has more sense then I did.

It will take a long time to dig out. Hopefully, we do it together and don't start snipping over what a crap job everyone is doing. I honestly don't know if that can happen.

Yet the beauty of the leadership of this country is in the system that our forefathers developed. America has a voice and whether your voice is for or against, you are privileged enough to speak it - that's the real news worth crying for!

Even if you didn't agree with the voice this time around, you must admit that there has been a loud out crying of a need for change. Hopefully Obama is up for the job - if not - we'll voice our concerns again. A beautiful system - one we are fortunate to have.

Oprah is now on the news - if this election was about hope - it is my one hope that this isn't black or white or Democrat or Republican.

We can only hope and pray that America is once again considered the promised land.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Catching Up on the News

--- Five homeless people shot dead in their makeshift beds in Long Beach, California. It truly makes me want to vomit. People are not dispensable. Every creation has a purpose. As the text message goes - WTF?

--- The Bills have lost two in a row and 3 of 4 and now they are going to New England. I predicted them to lose and they did. I predicted them to win and they lost. I confused myself on what was bringing them luck. They are going to tie New England next week. 20-20 after overtime expires.

--- Its a shame that Obama's grandmother died two days before election. Win or lose, it would have been nice if she had the chance to see it through. Person to person, that's a heavy heart on a big night.

--- How about the kid who got shot on Halloween night with an AK-47. I don't begrudge anyone their right to own a gun to hunt and shoot cans - shooting trick-or-treaters is a moral dilemma for me, though. Having an AK-47 ready at the door is also a problem in judgement.

--- I see that Joaquin Phoenix made headlines by saying that he's not making any more movies. That does it for me too - I'm announcing my retirement from moving pictures too. You think the AP will pick up on that?

--- More gossip on the A-Rod-Madonna romance - they took helicopters to vacation at the Seinfeld's. Word is that her deep religious beliefs are making A-Rod a more well-rounded person. Hopefully there's something in that religion that teaches him to hit a fly ball with runners on first and third and just one out. The hard groundball to short in that situation was sickening at the end of the year.

--- How's the Dow Jones? I don't even know as I sit here today - that's a good thing, huh?

--- Have fun voting tomorrow. I'm going to have to find something new to lament about when all of the campaigning is over.

--- So who'd I vote for?

--- It doesn't matter... there's a village in Texas getting their idiot back.

I'm a Republican

The kids came home from school today excited by the fact that school is closed tomorrow due to the elections. Even more exciting was the fact that today they had the chance to vote.

"How'd it go?" I asked Sam.
"4 votes for McCain, and 11 votes for Obama," he said.
"And Jake?"
"We don't have a lot of Democrats," Jake said. "McCain won by three. My class is full of Republicans."
"Are you a Democrat or a Republican?" I asked.
"I have no idea."

Yet the neighbor kid was over just a little while later.
"I voted for McCain," he said proudly, "because I'm a Republican."
"What's a Republican?" I asked.
"I have no idea," he said. "I just hate Obama."

So, there we have it. Children from the ages of 8 thru 11 have spoken. It's a dead heat. The 8-year-olds are for Obama and the 11-year-olds are for McCain. Given the fact that there are more 8-year olds than 11 year olds, Obama wins a squeaker.

Yet, what have we learned?

Most of those polled don't have an idea what the difference is between a Republican and a Democrat.

Those who clearly are able to identify themselves as one or another, have no idea why.

There's hatred for one or the other of the candidates, and the schools are setting up the division early so that as they grow to be adults they will have a limited understanding of why they fall into one category or another.

It's great that the children are learning the process.

Perhaps its time to send some of the adults back to school on it.

GoBama!

I walked around a jobsite today with a black man who wanted to let his voice be heard - everywhere he went, and by everyone he saw - he said - GoBama!

"You should keep your political views to yourself," I said. "People don't want you stuffing your opinions down their throat."

"That hurts coming from you," he said.

Yet he asked me a few times who I was voting for - I offered only that I wasn't a big GW fan.

Yet it also occurred to me that this election - like no other - has become almost like a sporting event - I imagine that the returns tomorrow night will be viewed by millions. It's no different than any other big contest - and man, did we have some excitement in this race, huh?

From Palin-to-Biden-To-SNL-to the preacher-to-Hilliary-and on and on.

Yet there is so much at stake. My buddy stopped to visit a union pipe fitter. "GoBama!" he said.

"What the hell do you know?" the pipe fitter asked.
"GoBama!" my buddy answered.
"Sounds like a well-thought out argument," the pipe fitter said.
"Who you voting for?" my buddy asked.
"I was voting for Obama," the pipe fitter said, "But if that's who you're going for, I might have to re-think my vote."

We walked away - "You see," I said. "That's why you should keep your preferences to yourself."

"GoBama," he answered.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

We Are the People

To get into the election mood - what's really at stake here - it has to be a group effort - we're all riders on this train.

We Are the People - John Mellencamp

If you're feeling shut down, may my thoughts be with you.
If you're a black man being beat down and shoved all around,
may my thoughts be with you.

If your world is getting a little too tough,
you know our thoughts are with you.

We are the people and we live forever
We are the people and our future's written on the wind,
on the wind.

If you are one of the homeless may our thoughts be with you
If you are scared and alone
you know our thoughts are with you

If you are one of the fortunate ones
we all know its lonely up there
we understand that nobody's got it made
so our thoughts are with you.

We are the people and we live forever
We are the people and our future's written on the wind,
on the wind.

You see yourself as a leader, may my thoughts be with you
If you try to divide and conquer, we'll rise up against you
We know only the strong will survive, but the meek will inherit,
so if you got a coat of arms my friend, I suggest you wear it.

We are the people and we live forever
We are the people and our future's written on the wind,
on the wind.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

We Want Fuzzy!

It's certainly funny how your mind plays tricks on you. I took Sam to swim class today and waited for him in the school gymnasium. The basketball nets were down, the scoreboard was posted high above the front rim and the school's logo "Wildcats" was emblazoned on the floor.

As I walked through the center of the tip-off circle, I thought of playing high school basketball and all the fun I had. I remembered that we had a tip-off play where Chris would tap it to Joe while Al streaked to the basket and scored on a layup. It worked every time. 2-0 North Collins!

I thought of the bleachers filled with students and all the girls who we had crushes on watching us warm up. I was always afraid of raising my arms because I didn't have any armpit hair - I'd stand at the foul line and my coach would be screaming "Fuzzy -hands up!"

I didn't start a lot of games because I couldn't do anything but shoot the ball. Yet I became a fan favorite of sorts when I tossed in a three quarters length shot to end a first half. It was a straight, lucky heave, but my classmates never forgot it.

So, there I'd sit on the bench and watch as we played the first half and then it would begin. "We want Fuzzy!"

As I walked through the gym today and stood at the foul line, my mind tripped me back to those days almost thirty years ago. A small child and his father entered the gym and the kid just ran and ran and ran - from end of the gym to another. The father just laughed - "I wish I still had that energy," he said.

"Yeah, it goes away quickly," I said.

I wondering if he could hear the chant that was echoing inside my head.

"We want Fuzzy!"

"Get in there, before they lynch me," my coach said. "And get your hands up - I don't care if you haven't hit puberty yet. And shoot everytime you get the ball."

The last instruction was one he didn't really have to give me - they don't chant your name for passing the ball.

"He Wants to Hang 'Em All"

Every day there's something nasty. So sick of the nasty. Sometimes the nastiness is passed off as a joke. Other times it's locke...