Sunday, May 31, 2009

A New 5-Year Deal

When we were first married I joked with my wife that we should renew our marriage in five-year increments. We'd go years 1 to 5 under the original contract and then we'd either re-up or back out.

(Actually it is a great idea, but Lord knows we can't mess with the idea of marriage being anything other than what it is - a life sentence).

Yet the first contract negotiations on the next leg of the marriage passed without even a 2nd thought - we skipped into years six through ten with no more than a few playful digs about how much fun we were having.

At year 10 - we both signed up for another five-year stint. There was never a question.

We are now two years into our third such contract and I'm willing to take it a step further - I want an early extension.

I don't need any more money. God knows that additional children are not part of any new deal. I don't need a different house, or a new car, or her to agree to anything else at all.

I'm sick of the 5-year deals. After 12 years there are things I know for sure.

We can go longer on the terms of a deal. I'm thinking a twenty year deal that sort of cements it all for me.

(God knows she'll tire of me first, right everyone?)

Happy Anniversary - the woman has soul.

All right, I lied - I need a new pair of tennis shoes to seal the deal.

Family Traditions

I have a confession to make. Ready? Here it comes...when I was ten years old, I wasn't a Yankee fan. I was an Atlanta Braves fan. I was a fan of Hank Aaron. I didn't care if the Yanks lost every game.

There, I said it.

Yet there was a force stronger than my love for the Hammer that pulled me over to the Evil Empire, and it was family.

You see, my grandfather was a Yankee fan, as was his father was before him. Maybe it was because they had Italians on the team back then. Maybe it was just because they were a proud franchise even 50 years ago. Whatever the reason, I began talking baseball with Grandpa Fuzzy. If we ever had a lull in conversation, I filled it with talk of DiMaggio or Mantle. I still feel the pain of the 1960's lost to the Pirates on the Mazeroski home run even though I was just a twinkle in the eye at that point.

My father carried the torch and passed it to my brothers and me. By the age of 14, I had two World Series Titles in the banks of my mind. 30 years later, I'm up to 6 titles and hours logged defending everything about my team.

And it's because I shared those titles with my family. I remember watching the end of the '96 series with my brothers, hugging when Girardi hit the triple - to bury the now-hated Atlanta Braves.

I bring all of this up because last night I was watching an old game on the MLB Network - the game was from 1980 and I not only could recall each batter, I remembered who I was sitting with when I watched that very game 30 years ago.

I'm a Yankee fan and always will be because of who I was sitting with then, and who I'm sitting with now.

I high-fived my sons and nephews yesterday because the Yanks made it back to first place - they always gravitate to first, you see. And for a moment...a brief moment...we smiled yesterday and the ghosts of Yankee pasts were smiling too.

Because as you see Grandpa never even heard of A-Rod or Jeter, but you can bet your ass, he's rooting for them.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why'd He Do That?

I recall a completely cynical conversation that I once had with my older sister.

"Don't expect anything out of anyone and you won't be disappointed," I said.

I remember that she was aghast with my summation, but I can't say that I'm wrong - watch the news and you'll shake your head at the people who shoot each other, or steal children, of embezzle money out of the school petty cash - and you'll wonder:

"Why? Why would someone do such a thing?"

In your personal life you'll be rocked to the core by someone who you expected to live the right way, doing something so horribly wrong:


Well, I suppose that it is because we spend some time projecting our own thoughts to the actions of others. Certainly, you wouldn't shoot someone so you can't fathom such a frame of mind.

You might see the petty cash sitting there in front of you, but you won't touch it - not for fear of getting caught, but for fear of finding yourself at the bottom of the morality pit.

Yet it is difficult to live your life always anticipating the worst of people. Madoff burned everyone because they were trusting. It is natural to trust those you love because you just don't expect bad behavior - but don't be surprised if the weak side of man, or woman, rears the ugly head of deception.

In other words - don't expect much - and you won't be shocked or disappointed.

How's that for an inspirational thought?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

If God Could Talk

Thinking about the woman who didn't want to provide chemo for her child. Also thinking about the people who have claimed to hear the voice of God or see the Virgin Mary's face in a potato chip. It not only makes me angry, it is downright irresponsible.

People believe what they want to believe when it makes no sense at all.

Dealing with a tragic loss leaves all of those left behind searching for answers. Yet those answers don't come in voices we pretend to hear, or force ourselves to believe.

Love can teach you joy and yes, love is God speaking to us, but voices? Private conversations?

Through the years I've run into people who want to preach to me and force me to believe what they are certain is right. Wars are fought in the name of religion. Get that - wars in the name of love. Doesn't make a bit of sense.

If God could talk would He tell us to not consider the feelings of the one's we love?

Would He allow us to make decisions that could cripple others?

Would He tell us to hurt one another in His name?

I don't know - perhaps I too am guilty of projecting my beliefs on others, but I imagine that if God could talk He'd simply reiterate that we should all try and love one another as we would want to be loved.

It's a simple command - but one that millions of people can't handle.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Superficial Thinking

--- Why am I still seeing Dick Cheney? Does anyone care what he thinks now?

--- Michael Vick to the Bills? I heard that rumor the other day and it made my blood boil - I'll be at One Bills Drive with my dogs every day to protest. 2nd chances? He murdered dogs - tough to cheer for someone who did that even once. And don't give me that cultural difference bullshit either - he had no idea that it was behavior that it is frowned upon?

--- Where are my Yankee haters now? Awful quiet out of all of you. Best team money can buy, right? Yanks make more $ for baseball than 7 other teams combined - you never hear Joe Buck and Tim McCarver bring that up.

--- Thank God that mother brought her son back for medical treatment. Yeah the medical community is a certified mess, but treating cancer at home is not much of an option.

--- How is Obama doing? I have no idea, really - lost some touch with that sort of thing lately.

--- Swung the clubs yesterday, back hurts today. We should feel better as we gain more knowledge, not the other way around. Oh well, still relatively healthy and that is a blessing.

--- Jose Canseco made $45 million playing baseball - two nights ago he was knocked out in a fight in less than two minutes - he was fighting cause he needed money. How in the world do you blow through $45 million? I have 23 bucks that I can make last 'till next Friday if I have to.

--- Coming up on 12 years of marriage this week - not bad for me - my previous best relationship length-wise was about 12 minutes. The credit goes to my beautiful wife- obviously.

--- Never got to face Matt in that one-on-one - the way my legs feel - it may be a while before I bring it up.

--- Have a good week.

Memorial Day Weekend

I planted the garden, as I do each and every year, and I enjoyed family, friends, and the great weather - it seems the long weekend is always filled with blue skies and the first real heat of the year.

I also played a round of golf and felt the ache in my legs as I started hacking it up on hole 16. Don't even ask me about the little par 3 on 17 where I finished with a generous 10. Shut-up Renaldo.

I had a few drinks,some good food - my wife set up the party and did all the cooking, and both sides of the family stopped by to acknowledge that Matt is 16 and wants to get his driving permit. God help us.

The Yanks won big. The dogs ran around in the backyard, and thoughts of the coming work days were way off in the distance.

Yet the pain was still there, lurking, waiting to drop the hammer with each and every idle moment. Waiting, sneaking up, and dropping down - oh how he would have enjoyed my misery as I hit ball after ball after ball out of bounds on 17.

And Kathy's cooking? It would have taken a royal beating no matter how good it was, and Matt being teased about possibly driving, forget about it - the kid might never have recovered.

And yet there was a moment with my father when I begged him to pick himself up off the ground and continue to walk with us. The journey is completely different, but the ultimate goals remain the same.

And I think of Memorial Day and all that it means to every free person in this country, and I decided that I needed to memorialize the fact that the train continues to roll, through the broken fields, and down the dirt rounds, and around the uneven corners - just chugging along - still on the tracks - and we're still on board - hanging out the windows, and holding on for dear life:

But still moving...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This Might Be the Last Year

Matt's birthday is coming up. Each and every year I play him in a one-on-one game. We go to 15, basket out, call your own fouls. Last year, the wife and kids sat at the sideline and loudly rooted for Matt to beat me.

He lost. 15-10 or so. But did he really lose? I basically couldn't walk for a week.

Earlier this year, he wanted to try me again. Granted, it was before the gout, but I beat him again. "You're too big," he said. "I can't muscle up."

And I believe that I will conquer again this weekend, and not because my skill sets are such that I can't be beat. No, this is all about Matt, and growing up, and facing fear, and believing he can do it.

He's still afraid of being hit in the paint. He hasn't yet figured out that he has to play without fear. He will cower, somewhere along the way and I will win. Yet he's getting there. He's starting to set a bit of a bolder course, and he continues to work hard - (at least at basketball and intermittently at school work).

I remember the exact moment when my brother Jeff beat me at hoops for the first time. We were working in California - he was 18 and I was 24. The week before, when he'd been playing on my team in a pick-up game, I'd told him to pump fake when he had his defender in the air.

During our game, he pump-faked and I went for it, jumping high in the air (I was at least four inches off the ground), my ankle hit the ground bent sideways, he scored and I spent the next twenty minutes writhing in pain.

Being the solid guy that he was, Jeff went to the apartment for help - he returned with a bottle of tanning lotion - "Here you go, looks like you'll be there for a while."

I tore ligaments that day long ago, but my brother took the lesson and beat me with it.

I have a lot of lessons to teach Matt - just hope I don't finish crumpled-up on the driveway to get my point across.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In Your Time

I stumbled across a Bob Seger song on a long drive. I listened to it about twenty times.

In Your Time - Bob Seger Copyright 1994 by Gear Publishing Co.

In your time the innocence will fall away
the mission bells will toll.
All along the corridors and river beds
there'll be signs in your time.

Towering waves will crash across your southern capes
Massive storms will reach your eastern shores
Fields of green will tumble through your summer days
By design, in your time.

Feel the wind and set yourself the bolder course
Keep your heart open as a shrine,
and you'll sail the perfect line.

And after all,
the dead ends and the lessons learned,
After all,
the stars have turned to stone,
there'll be peace,
across the great unbroken void
all benign.
In your time.
You'll be fine,
In your time.

Enough said. Enjoy the weekend.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Remember that Farrah Fawcett Poster

Close your eyes, I bet you can see it. The one with the perfect body, the beautiful teeth and hair and the swimsuit that would be considered modest in this day and age.

That is how I'd like to remember her. But now, I'm being forced to reconsider my images of her.

The media, Ryan O'Neal and Farrah herself are showing us documentaries and photos of her as she dies from the cancer that she's been battling.

If this were an episode of Charlie's Angels she'd get out of this someway, but it appears not to be - and it saddens me.

Death is certainly not anything that I'm interested in these days. I couldn't bring myself to do anything more than glance at the story and turn away in pain. There were many people who loved her, and now are forced to watch.

I don't know about all of this reality-television crap. We watch people lose weight, eat bugs, pick up women, sing, dance, play game shows, and now battle a terminal illness.

What the hell are we doing?

What makes us turn our necks at a car crash and watch people suffer?

Why do we need to see people get engaged, get married, buy a new home?

Seems to me like we're doing a lot of sitting around and watching.

Not me. I'll remember Farrah as she was back then - and every time I think of her, I'll see that poster, and remember how confused it made me back when I was 12 years old.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Come On! Please a Little Sense!

Last week two police officers jumped into a car that was on its way to Women and Children's Hospital and saved the life of a young boy. They performed CPR right there on the street and at least got the boy into the hospital.

At the hospital the doctors and nurses worked feverishly to try and save that boy - I know they did - because they once saved mine. Unfortunately, the child didn't make it, but that does not diminish those who made every effort to keep him alive.

And T freaking O got off a plane today and got the key to the city from our Mayor. Seriously? Really?

A team coming off about 11 straight crap seasons, signs the one player who has been booted out of every city he's ever been in because he's a me-first, egomaniac, and we give him the key to the city?

TO got off the bus and said he was going to be #81. When he was told that the number belonged to another player he said that it wasn't his problem and that the other guy could just go pound salt.

Good dude there. He has butchered every quarterback he's ever played with. He has held out for more money and more respect. He cries, pouts, and makes demands, and we reward that behavior before he even flips off his first teammate?

The key to the city?

I personally know about three thousand people who have lived, loved and promoted Buffalo at every turn. This guy won't make it until Thanksgiving with this team.

I certainly hope that key doesn't really open something down at City Hall.

Talk about being morally bankrupt.

What a shame.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

You Did What?

The Buffalo Bills fullback, Corey McIntyre, was arrested for allegedly exposing himself to a 59-year-old woman. The story goes that he was out for a bike ride, decided to stop by the woman's home, knocked on the door, and was allegedly touching himself when the poor woman opened the door to see what he wanted.

It was difficult to even write the description of what he supposedly did. Difficult because I'm horrified and embarrassed for him. Can you imagine telling your family and friends what you were arrested for? How do you even start that conversation?

Corey: "Hi Mom, I'm in jail?"
Mom: "What happened? Speeding? Drugs? DWI?"
Corey: "Uh, no. I went out for a bike ride and this feeling came over me so I knocked on this woman's door, and one thing led to another."

Or how about reporting to the team?

Jauron: "Hi Corey, how was the off-season? Anything unusual happen?"
Corey: "I got busted for masturbating in front of my neighbor, but other than that, same old, same old, coach."

I guess that there isn't a lot left that's shocking. I suppose that he's innocent until proven guilty, right? Perhaps he's a young man who needs a lot of help. Hopefully it's not a pre-cursor of even more strange behavior.

I'm betting he's probably more than a little ashamed, but then again, who knows? Engaging in such behavior probably leaves little room to be shamed by your actions.

Loved the quote by his lawyer that explained what a fine young man and a wonderful role model he is.

We all make mistakes, right?

That's a hell of a one to have on the old resume.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Boogaloo Bruce

I was dreading the road trip to Albany and the training session that I'd set up long ago. Still, I toughed it out. During the training session the owner asked if I could stick around Albany for a few extra hours to do some work. Dread turned to despair.

Yet, my wife called in the middle of the meeting and a funny thing happened on my way down, down, down.

"Do you know Bruce is in Albany tonight?" Kathy asked.

I honestly had no idea. Even hearing the news, believe it or not, I wasn't trying to figure out a way to go.

"You should go," Kathy said. "Do what you have to do and go. You need to."

I hung up the phone and started asking questions. I headed into Albany to check a job and as it turned out, it was about 400 feet from the Times-Union Center. Twenty minutes later, I had a ticket for ten rows back in the middle of the venue. A great seat for face value.

I continued to work. Even going so far as to write each report. 2 hours from showtime, I headed for the car, and that was when the wave of grief rolled over me. I was on my way to see Bruce, and I was as sad as I'd ever been in my life!

Bruce entered to the first note to Badlands and I cried. I turned my back to the man who I'd been chatting with, and I thought of the man who I wanted to be standing beside. Three songs into it, Bruce stopped to say hello to the crowd. "I'm here tonight to turn sadness into joy and happiness!" He screamed. "Tonight, that's what I aim to do. We can't change the world, but we can make you smile!"

I smiled for the next three hours. I wasn't alone - there were 17,000 other smiling faces, waving their fist right beside me. Of course, there were a few more moments of utter sadness, but Bruce and the band, did what they're paid to do. They worked hard, they asked for a renewal of faith.

During Land of Hopes and Dreams Bruce screamed - Faith will be rewarded, as he always does - fist raised - punching it out there and yelling it out loud and clear. I punched my fist in the air and a few more tears rolled down.

Yet it was an old, old song that got me in the solar plexus - during Born to Run, I glanced at the big screen as 26 years after I'd seen Bruce for the first time - he sang the line - I'll Love you with all the madness in my soul.

That was the moment. I loved you with all the madness in my soul, I cried as I looked up and tipped my new Bruce cap.

Yet my tears gave way again as Bruce asked Steven what time it was: "I think it's quitting time," Bruce said.

"No, it's Boogaloo Bruce time," Steven shouted.

And Bruce boogalooed across the stage in the funniest trot I'd ever seen.

A funny thing happened on the road to despair - my wife and the man who always sang for me - pulled me back in and forced me to smile.

And my boy was right there with me.

There's no way he let me see that alone.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mommy, Is That Where The Pilot Sits?

I was just nine years old when I flew for the first time. I remember thinking that it was pretty neat that such a huge vehicle could become airborne and deliver us to Florida in such a short time.

I remember getting a glimpse of the cockpit and asking my mother about the pilots. I also recall thinking that they were pretty smart to be able to get the craft off the ground. I was nervous just walking by the room.

I was thirty-nine when I drank with a group of pilots in a Long Beach, California bar. We had a ton of laughs that night and while I was still in awe of what they did, I understood that they were just people - with problems and flaws.

Everyone in the group was a lot younger than me too - good guys and gals for sure, but they could certainly put 'em down.

Cut to yesterday and reading about the horrific crash in Buffalo where 49 people died because of the inattention, inexperience, and fatigue of the pilots.

I felt physically ill reading the transcript, knowing that those left behind were suffering horribly as they considered that their loved ones didn't have to meet such an end.

And once more, childhood took a back seat to the grim realities of the real world.

The pilots aren't invincible. They aren't immune to the mistakes, misgivings and weaknesses of the rest of us. In a lot of cases they may have flaws that can be fatal. Yet, did you ever get on a plane and ask for the resume of the guy in charge of keeping you from crashing and burning?

Scary thoughts. God help those left behind.

It would have been a lot easier to stay a wonderous child, don't you think?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I Pissed In Your Rice

For years I've been eating Chinese food - whenever I open the fortune cookie I think of the old Gary Shandling show and his joke, in front of a large group of people. Reading his fortune, he said, "It says, 'I pissed in your rice,' and it's hand-written."

Yeah, I'm sick. I think of that every time and I use the joke whenever I open a fortune cookie with another person near me.

Tonight, I opened the cookie by myself. I pissed in your rice, I thought.

What I read instead was, Work hard to accept what you can't change and your life will be better.

Pretty powerful at this time in my life, I suppose. Another one of those coincidences, but I must tell Confucius or whoever penned it, that those wise words are certainly easier said than done.

I pissed in your rice would have been easier to take.

Yet there are people all around, holding me up, or at least trying. My friends in Pittsburgh at Sterlinghouse continue to check in, trying hard to help me find some peace. My buddies are always there. And God knows that my co-workers have tried to buoy me. My friends at the Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo are also holding me up.

And family, you ask? My brothers John and Jim are planning a Springsteen-Yankee trip that might just work. My sisters -fughedaboutit - they're the best. My parents? Jeff's family - there's love all around us. My wife and my kids are just plain solid as well.

But accept what I can't change? Not there. May never get there.

Still feeling as if someone pissed on everything.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Where's the Center?

Listening to Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez deny their steroid use has really made my head spin. It sounds like all the politicians denying their affairs, and the high and mighty executives trying to explain why they deserve their high-bonuses.

Seems to me that the world has become a world of catch-me-if-you-can and if you don't, I'll flaunt it and if you do, I'll deny it.

A few years ago, Jake threw his Game Boy through the living room window. I was two feet from him. When the glass crashed, he turned and said, "I didn't do it."

It gets me to thinking that we've lost our moral center a bit. Few people are shamed into good behavior these days. Perhaps its all because we are fed one negative story after another, and perhaps people would also rob you blind in days past, but doesn't everyone just seem a bit more brazen these days?

Also a few years ago I was in a golf tournament where they awarded a prize for closest to the pin. The prize was a set of woods - and if you were golfing with me in those days, you know how much I needed new woods. Well, I put it within 5' of the cup, and there was just one more foursome out after me. I watched the first two guys hit it way left of the green, and all but skipped into the clubhouse, knowing I won.

They announced the prize and my name wasn't called - one of those last two guys got up and claimed it. I stood and shook his hand, saying it must have been a hell of a shot. He thanked me.

Then his partner told me that the guy who claimed the prize never even got near the green with his tee shot. "He stole those woods from you."

What do you say to that?

Anyway, it's my point. Would I turn over a bag of money if I found it? Don't know. I do know that I don't steal and deny.

I suppose that's my moral center.

In this day and age that puts me way up on the chart towards sainthood.

Monday, May 11, 2009's a funny joke

A golfer is in trouble for saying that if Nancy Pelosi and Osama Bin Laden were stuck in an elevator with a US soldier who had only two bullets - that the soldier would shoot Pelosi twice and then try to strangle Bin Laden.

The guy is in trouble now, and he probably shouldn't have voiced it, but it is funny. That's the true story of it all, I suppose. People put their foot in their mouths and then have to apologize.

I'm right there with them - I'm horribly misquoted around here on a daily basis, but the truth of the matter is, the guy was just trying to be funny. I'm sure he doesn't want Pelosi actually shot twice.

Anyway, it got me thinking to some of the dumbest things ever said. The Jimmy the Greek, blacks are better athletes story comes to mind, as does Howard Cosell saying "Look at that monkey run."

The real shame in it is that there are recorders all over the place. People can do video on their blackberry's (don't worry about me finding how to work the video camera), but it is an instant society now.

If you're going to say something stupid, whether it's meant to be funny or not, you better be ready to face the music.

About ten years ago I worked with a man who I truly liked. He was a good guy, but he ran into some health problems. Being that I had to take his place whenever he called in sick, I was a little irritated with him. The very last time I spoke to him, I said, "We started a pool on what is going to finally take you out."

He laughed and said, "If I were a betting man, I'd take the liver as the final culprit."

I said (get this), "Oh good, that's what I have in the pool."

He died two days later (God Bless Him) of liver failure.

At the wake, I met his grieving wife and introducing myself, I said, "I'm Cliff, I was a friend of your husband."

She said, "Are you the guy who started the pool?"

I wished the floor had swallowed me up at that moment.

"He thought it was funny. He loved you," she said.

So, take it from me. Watch those jokes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

God Knows Everything

Sam completed his 1st Communion - our last 1st party - and the celebration was certainly subdued although the stuffed peppers were awesome. Ask me again tomorrow about those though.

Yet what stuck with me is the words of the priest during the sermon. As you can see by the title of the post, they are humbling words when you're just a mere human. God Knows Everything.

God knows the most sinister of thoughts that run through your mind. He knows when you're angry with him, down on life, unforgiving, and even hateful.

Yet I was comforted by the words, I suppose, because deep down I think I do okay and feel that if He indeed knows everything than He is most likely okay with how I've conducted myself so far. Hopefully He grades the college years on somewhat of a curve.

Still in all, Sam did great and hearing him say, 'Amen' was pretty special. Hopefully it will remain a faith-filled journey for him.

And we are propelled straight into Mother's Day and I've had the privilege of seeing two outstanding mothers. My own mother - who I've never truly had a cross word with -and my wife - who couldn't be more motherly to the three cowardly lions that we are raising.

Mother's deserve their day - and to all you mother's out there - I hope it's a good one.

Remember, of course, if God knows everything...mother's know nearly everything too.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Still Standing

For quite some time back about five years ago I spent some time considering what might be the true measure of a man. One of the things that concerned me was the lasting legacy of a life. I can remember believing that what was truly important was loving and being loved - a Hallmark answer, but one that defines what sort of life you're leading. The more people you have in the love column, the better life you've lived, right?

Of course another true indicator of character is standing and dealing with adversity. There are options available to all of us - one of the true downfalls of freedom, and we can either sink or swim. We honestly have that choice. Until very recently, I have always loved life. All of it, the full catastrophe of it, but there has been little bounce in the step lately. Joy has seemed well out of the question.

A-Rod homers on the first pitch he sees - no joy - yet the phone rings as soon as the ball settled in the seats. It's my brother, John, picking up a little of the slack. Moving forward. Making sure I feel some love at that moment. It brings tears to my eyes. "What can we do?" We ask each other.

Yet what I've been saying is that only love will teach us a little of the joy again. We have to work hard not to pile negatives upon negatives. We have to hold each other a little harder. We need to make the other guy smile even when we don't feel like smiling ourselves.

We have to stand there. The train comes crashing through and we need to be there on the tracks, taking the hit mid-section, showing those around us how to absorb the blow.

I have three children watching me. I have friends and other family members keeping an eye on me as I worry about them. There are plenty of opportunities to give into the pain, get blind drunk, and curse the moon. But that's not the way it should be. It may happen yet, but it will be recognized as a weak moment, and not something that can help me through.

Sam is making his First Communion today. As an extended family we will stand together and push him to a world of faith. And then we'll eat too much, drink a little, dry some tears and celebrate...with thoughts of celebration barely comprehensible.

And that's because we're still standing here. A lot less strong, but in deep understanding that the temporary circumstances of this life force us to change.

I stuffed a lot of peppers thought in mind... Jeff had forwarded his secret recipe...begging me to wash my hands before I touched a pepper.

I washed my hands (twice)and stuffed each pepper...doing it with love threatening to explode my heart...and doing it because I'm still here...trying to show a little character.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Want To Feel Stupid?

I've always resisted any kind of change. I want it the way I want it, and I get a little anxious when it ain't that way. I suppose 2009 has been a lesson because I can't always have it the way I want it.

Anyway, I felt completely inadequate yesterday and that's because I finally broke down and got myself a Blackberry. It's a complicated son-of-a-bitch!

I was excited to get my first call on it - so I called home and asked my wife to call me right back. She did, it rang, and I answered it! How cool is that? Then I waited and when it didn't ring again for over a half-an-hour, I sort of panicked because I thought it was broke and I had no idea how to light up the screen, let alone fix it.

My plan was to hand it to Matt and let him set it up - I needed Springsteen ring tones of course, and a Yankee banner was also on my wish list. So in my best - "I need it now," voice, I commanded Matt to get to work.

The best laid plans - Matt wasn't sticking around long enough to help - so Kathy took it and set to work. A couple of hours later, no Springsteen ring tones, a completely irritated wife on the home phone with Verizon, and me anxiously awaiting on the couch.

Finally there was success - Kathy was able to download two ring tones, but she let me know how hard it was - Matt already returning from his hoop game - grabbed the phone, mocked his mother, and downloaded two more in less than three minutes.

Ah, technology - the kids are kicking our asses.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ah, A Palin Story

I read through an account of Bristol Palin preaching abstinence. Yes, she's the 18-year old with the six month old child, and I feel bad about bringing her name up as she's just a kid, but she appeared on Good Morning America, as a sexpert, so she's fair game.

I don't mind the message, I suppose. I'm all for educating the youth of today, but she is talking abstinence when she has a kid already? Imagine that kid about 15 years from now watching a tape of the interview where his mother talks about the painful regret of having him. That would kind of suck,right?

And how do you become an expert on a matter after screwing up your chance to handle a situation correctly? It would be kind of like Michael Vick becoming a spokesman for Gravy Train.

I just love the Palin's and all they stand for. Free snowmobiles for everyone!

On a totally unrelated subject, I saw a photo of Bob Seger the other day and with his long gray hair and gray beard he looked like the sheepdog from that old cartoon.

I thought about not being allowed to see his Against the Wind Tour in Buffalo about a hundred years ago because my mother and father believed that being 14 wasn't old enough to go to a concert.

I can remember hearing about the show the next day at school and thinking that Seger was the coolest guy on the planet. I still love his music - Down on Main Street - is one of my all-time favorites, but now he looks like a Grandpa. Not sure if he even tours anymore, but if I saw him now, I doubt anyone under 40 would think I'm cool.

Hell, I bet Bristol Palin never even heard of Seger.

Actually, she may have heard of Night Moves.

I knew I'd find a way to tie them together.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Tried Thinking But Nothing Happened

The other day Howard Stern was playing a clip of Curly from the Three Stooges saying - "I tried thinking, but nothing happened."

It struck me as funny and I couldn't help but laugh and then think of it throughout the day. There are so many times in life when we try to think and nothing truly happens. We might fool ourselves into believing that we have something figured out, but in the end, just like poor Curly, nothing happens.

The word of today has been distracted - I moved around from job to job, feeling as though I were getting plenty done, but there, lurking in the dark corners of my mind was the feeling that I was just trying to distract myself from thinking about what I didn't want to be thinking about.

Yet when I tried to think of it...right...nothing happened. No laughter, no tears, no mind-numbing quakes...not even last night when for the first time in a long while I slept the sleep of a bear.

And I kept thinking about that drunken fool at the wrestling match. The 50-year-old man so angry because The Big Show was beating his beloved John Cena and I just couldn't get a handle on it. I couldn't figure why that moron of a man was able to walk this Earth, and poison his child, and scream obscenities, and probably get behind the wheel, annihilated and drive home so he could catch the Friday Night Smack down and scream some more.

I tried to think of what is fair and what isn't fair.

I tried to figure out how the hell the lottery of life works.

I tried to watch the Yankees and actually care that they're floundering.

Perhaps I can think again tomorrow.

Today, nothing happened.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Run Bitch Run!

I've met thousands of people from all walks of life. I've been in situations where people have acted inappropriately, and I have also spent a morning or two apologizing for bad behavior, but last night's wrestling match at the HSBC Arena had me and the boys sitting smack dab in the middle of a storm.

We had great seats. A perfect view of the ring and a quick walk to the bathroom. Everything was going great, until the matches began.

"John Ceeeeeeeeeeeeeena!" A voice cried out behind me. I quickly put together that it was a man screaming out for John Cena as though he were a Beatle, or Springsteen!

"You're the man, Ceeeeeeeeeeena!!!!"

Now I turned around and looked straight into the eyes of a man standing at 5'5" 167lbs (he announced his height and weight later in the match to us), who was dressed in a KISS t-shirt, and was holding one of the big beers. He was frothing at the mouth too and following the action as though he were seeing Ali-Frazier in Manila.

Yet it didn't stop there. The man screamed throughout the night, very often yelling obscenities at the wrestlers. He was willing to fight anyone who entered the ring who dared challenge his favorites.

Being amused at his actions faded quickly when he yelled that Big Show was nothing but a fat bastard with huge *@*s - bigger than his ex-wife's.

My boys laughed, but I started growing slightly uncomfortable. Soon enough, the usher got wind, and for about a match and a half, the man disappeared. Yet he returned just before the close.

"He's back!" Sam said, "And he has another beer."

I turned around to watch the man as he offered to fight Randy Orton for $20. Next to the man was a kid of about fourteen who was on the verge of tears.

"Come up here and fight a real man!" the guy screamed out. When Orton jumped from the ring and raced away from his opponent the man screamed, "Yeah, run bitch run."

On the way home, Sam and Jake couldn't contain their laughter - they hardly mentioned even one match - "Dad, what was wrong with that guy?" Sam asked.

"That's what happens when a woman marries her brother and then has a child," Uncle Chuck offered as way of explanation.

I've never seen anything like it - a man in his fifties,drunk beyond belief, screaming at the scripted wrestling matches as though he were watching Game 7 of the World Series.

Makes me wonder about his ex-wife. Thank God she ran bitch ran.

Monday, May 4, 2009

WWE Presents Monday Night RAW

The Yankees play the Red Sox tonight. I won't be watching and I'm finding it hard to find a person to phone me with exact updates. The reason I won't be watching, of course, is because WWE is back in town.

This will be the second consecutive appearance at the matches for me, Jake, Sam and Uncle Chuck. I'm predicting mayhem, with Chuck and I waiting on the diva match.

The main problem with the event is that it is made for television so it doesn't really get started until 9 PM. I struggle to make it through Family Guy these days, so a midnight bedtime is going to be rough.

Of course, it will be worth it - just to see the boys smiling if their favorite wrestler wins - and it will give Sam enough to talk about for the next thirty days or so when it's time to politic for the next pay-per-view event.

Yet these are the times to remember, right? Hopefully, twenty or thirty years from now I'll look back on these type of nights and remember that I tried to spend some quality time with the boys instead of sitting in front of the tube hoping that Big Fat Ortiz swings and misses.

Now if I can just summon up the energy to stay up past ten o'clock.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Without Limit, Regardless of Cost

I was stopped for speeding one time a few years ago. The brother that was riding with me thoroughly enjoyed the moment and while the cop was writing the ticket, my brother said, "I bet you say thank-you to him after he gives you the ticket."

I was beside myself with anger - "I'm not thanking him!" I said.

The cop returned, handed me the ticket, explained the charge, very politely went over the procedure and told me to have a good day and be careful.

"Thank you," I said, and my brother howled.

That was about how I felt going back to church today - almost as if I were thanking the cop. I do know that having that thought is another example of my inability to understand, but I recalled the story just the same.

Yet I had returned - sans children - for just a chance to think things through. Normally one thing or another catches my ear and sticks with me through the week.

"Do you really love?" the pastor asked during his sermon. "How many people, in your life, do you love without limit and regardless of cost?"

I was able to answer him positively even after he explained how difficult it were to do that. It isn't easy to be forgiving, or unconditional in our love. It's not easy to say thank-you to someone you love after you feel they have slighted you.

I started doing the count in my head - wife, kids, brothers, sisters, parents, close friends, nieces, nephews, and on and on and on. I could honestly say that the costs could never be too high, and I would certainly go to the ends of the Earth to prove that love.

And a strange thing happened during the Mass- I thought of the words: "Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again." And I heard them for the first time, focusing in on the last four words - "Christ will come again."

And He will come back into my life again...and again...and again...and again. In the eyes of my own children and my nieces and nephews; in the loving action of my sisters; in a hug from my parents... no matter how many times I need Him to, He'll come back to me.

And I walked out of that church, looked skyward, and remembered thanking that cop from so long ago...and I Thanked God.

For showing me love and reminding me of it today.


Jerry Seinfeld was in Buffalo the other night and he spoke about marriage, saying that there are moments when you absolutely can't stand the sight of your spouse, but that you can't voice that directly. "You can't say, I hate your guts, but you can say, why don't we ever have enough toilet paper in this damn house? What's wrong with you?"

I would say that there is a battle for control early on in a marriage. A push here, a tug there, an all-out roundhouse swing for movement that doesn't connect. Yet there comes a moment, I suppose, when you realize that resistance is futile, and that the grand changes aren't going to come. The conversations that start with "You know what you should do..." can easily be tuned out, by either party. Perhaps they should be tuned out.

Life has always been about controlling things for me - I figured out a long time ago that it is the very reason I write fiction - I create a world where I'm in charge, and everything I say goes - it's actually pretty freeing, but it certainly doesn't work in real life.

Understanding my complete lack of control in Earthly things has also been difficult in the last few months. I find myself daydreaming that if this would have went that way, and that would have went this way, things might have been different. Yet surrendering control is a difficult chore - see above description of marriage and know that a lot of them crumbled over the inability to control.

My lovely wife has always been great about understanding the moments when control appears to be just out of my grasp. She handles these ultimate moments of frustration with a simple look, or laugh, or suggestion I go write something. I usually storm off and amuse my self with Italian curse words until some semblance of mental health takes over.

Control? I don't have it. My suggestions in the control of real important things seems to be acknowledged and dismissed at times, by a higher love. Perhaps I'll understand some day.

Control around the house? Ask the kids - who's in charge around here. The answer is unanimous - "Mom," says Matt. "Mom," says Jake, "Mom," says Sam, "Mom," says Mom.

That's all right, because every once in awhile my ideas are considered before they are dismissed.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


One of the worst parts of travelling is that you're always looking for some place to eat. If you don't know the town, you drive around aimlessly, wondering what might be good. Usually, I'm with a couple of other guys and I just go along and eat whatever -

"Never saw him not finish everything on his plate," one of my traveling companions said of me.

This time out however one of the guys seemed to be rushing through the meal. "What's up?" I asked.

"Idol is on," he answered.

I may have looked at him kind of funny because he got a tad defensive. (Okay, I laughed at him).

"I watch it with my wife," he said.
"Does it make you closer?" I mocked. (I can't print his answer).

The next morning, I was ready - "How was Idol?" I cooed.
"I slept through it," he answered.

I laughed again. "I've known you for 15 years," I said. "You went from being a hard-drinking, party man to a man who now sleeps through American Idol, and will probably get in trouble for it because it threatens your relationship with your wife."

Again, I can not print his answer.

So, who's left? Who are you pulling for in the grand karaoke contest? It must be good, right, millions of people can't be wrong.

Enjoy, please and know that my only problem with the fascination behind the show is that I'd probably enjoy seeing someone like Paul Simon sing a Paul Simon song, or Barbara Streisand singing a Barbara Streisand song.

"Doesn't it sound good?" my wife asked when the one guy was doing a decent pass at a great Billy Joel song.

"It would be great if Billy Joel were singing it," I answered.

You get the point. I don't rush dinner for anyone - let alone Simon and Paula.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hey Lady, Please Shut-up!

Sat in the seat on the plane, buckled my seat belt, opened the sports page, and decided that I'd read a little before closing my eyes for the hour flight. Two women, who could've sat anywhere on the plane plopped down in the seats directly in front of me, and the dialogue began.

We have real issues with this account and we need to start thinking out of the box on this. I'm thinking of running some things up the flag pole to see who salutes and hopefully we can knock this one out of the park.

It became real apparent to me that the one lady was the "boss" and she was educating the other lady, who if I were her, would have dug my own eyes out to get away.

Every sentence was a cliche. Every word a grating, high-drama excursion that interrupted my scanning of the box scores.

Okay, perhaps it would only last as long as it took for the plane to get air bound.

We headed for the sky. I closed the paper and shut my eyes.

We need to become more streamlined. The interface between the two offices exposes all of us to events that can shape the future of the company and our viability to perform in this marketplace.

Shut-up! I cried in my head.

I've certainly tried time and again to reach the ear of management, but you know how difficult it is in this day and age to reach out.

I was hoping I could pop out my window and go sit on the wing.

Talk, talk, talk,talk, talk and nothing being said.

So, I did it. "Don't you ever stop for a breath?" I asked. "It's like listening to the radio back here."

They laughed three rows back, but motormouth never stopped talking.

We landed, picked up our bags, waited to file off, and the news was still being broadcasted out of the mouth of the single-most annoying person on the planet.

She glanced at me as I brushed by her.

"It was great meeting you," I said. "Good luck with your issues and complications."

As if the swine flu weren't enough to worry about on a cramped flight.


I was ordering lunch on the road and one of the choices was a meatball sub. I wanted to eat something a little healthier than that, but I as...