Wednesday, September 30, 2009

East Coast Tension

Through the years I've travelled all across this great country of ours and I've become convinced of one thing - people on the East coast are wound tighter than a golf ball.

The reason I've made this brilliant discovery is because everywhere I go people tell me that. My tour guide through Omaha was the latest to bring it up.

"You people are high-strung," he said. "We aren't quite as intense out here. We have a good work ethic, but man, we aren't so confrontational."

Perhaps it may have been me, but later I got to thinking about it. When I worked in California there were days when half the crew wouldn't come back from lunch because the sun was shining and the beer was cold. That wouldn't play so well out here.

When I visited North Carolina for work, it was hard for the labor force to even show up on any given day. I remember asking one guy about it and he said, "When I get up some mornings I don't know if I'm going fishing or going to work."

Yet it seems that the general feeling in this neck of the woods is that things need to be done - and now dammit!

During my stops in a new town I often wonder what it would be like to set up a life in such an area. Truth be told, everywhere else seems a little slow to me.

"I love it here," one of the secretaries said in Omaha. "I don't even mind tornado season."

"Tornado season?" I asked in disbelief.

"Yeah when we know one is coming we secure everything, put together a party, and then follow the storm. My husband likes to video tape it as it comes in."

My exact response was, "Boy you people need a bowling alley or something."

My internal response was that the lady and her friends were a little off.

Yet that is the gist of the blog - everyone else looks to the East and believes that our ways are a bit too regimented.

Perhaps - it's about 45 degrees today on the last day of September. Maybe we are all so bitter and mean because the weather does it to us. Perhaps it's the New York City energy that we feed off.

In any regard I'll take it over chasing a tornado with my camcorder.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It Never Fails

Every single time I fly, I come down with a cold. I spent the last couple of days flying to Omaha-freaking-Nebraska and back. Quick, close your eyes and what do you see when you think of Nebraska. Miles of endless nothing?

Well, actually, it isn't quite so bad - I asked a couple of the local guys what they did for fun and they said - "Work." They both said it at the same time. They didn't know anything about the husband-calling contests.

Yet there is steak. Great steak - nothing wrong with that. I said I'd start eating better - made myself a promise - and I sat down with the menu last night.

"We have a 10-ounce cut and a 16-ounce cut," the waitress said. "Most people go with the 10-ounce cut because they can't handle so much food."

When I was done with the 16-ounce, she laughed. "Probably no room for dessert," she said.

I didn't have the heart to tell her I could have handled the 10-ounce and the 16-ounce. It never fails, I always clean my plate.

Waking this morning, I passed by a guy in the hall. We were the only two people in the hallway and we were both on the way to grab a cup of coffee.

"Good morning," I said.

The guy didn't answer.

I walked a few steps in the other direction, turned and said, "I said, GOOD MORNING."

"Good morning to you," he finally replied.

"Great meeting you," I said as I moved away.

This past weekend I spent time with my brothers and sisters and I wondered about why we are all so high-strung. As a family we are the type of people who just can't let a little thing go. We'd have a more carefree life if we didn't sweat the small stuff, but it never fails, we have to say it.

So still working on the new me. I don't have to order the biggest steak. I don't have to embarrass the man who doesn't return a greeting. I don't have to get a cold when I travel. I don't need to right each wrong, or take it all to heart.

I'm working on acceptance. Perhaps it will define the latter part of the year.

More likely, the train will keep on rolling as it always has.

It never fails.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cliffooooorrd!

I stopped in a restaurant for lunch today. It was a decent enough place where they cook your food to order along an assembly line based on your desires. The downside of a place like this is that there is usually a line, but to pass time there were some old photos hanging on the walls.

Now I've always been interested in old news and I'm fascinated to watch how people lived years and years ago. I remember the time I found the newspapers my mother had saved recounting JFK's assassination. I sat on the floor reading every word in those yellowed papers. I've saved the papers for the lasy thirty years or so, hoping that one of my kids will be interested, but I suppose the Internet will devour such a thing.

So, I was fascinated with a photo of happy couples playing miniature golf in 1940. The photo showed the men dressed in suits and ties and the women wearing long evening gowns as they putted the greens. For a moment I was right there with them, regal as they spent a night on the town.

The next photo showed a listing of prizes at a carnival. The photo was also from 1940and first place in the three-legged race won you $5.00 in a gift certificate for the sponsoring drug store. The winner of the men's 100-yard dash won $15.00. I wouldn't run 100 millimeters for just $15.

Yet what really caught my attention was the prize for the "Husband-Calling contest". First place was worth three bucks.

"What's a husband calling contest?" I asked one of the other patrons.

He shrugged. "Could it be just what it sounds like?" He asked.

And I thought of my wife yelling out my name, "Clifooooorrd!" she calls making it sound almost comical. The kids usually laugh as she playfully calls for me.

Yet she wouldn't be even close to the $3 purse - there are many more frantic calls that would win such a contest. I think of my mother-in-law and her short, choppy, angst-ridden call of "Johnny!"

I think of my mother yelling, "Fuzzy! For Crying Out Loud."

And then there was my Grandma Fuzzy who called out Cah! Cah! as she chopped at an area below her waist when she grew aggravated with her own Johnny.

No doubt - Husband-Calling.

We could put it on television as a reality show.

Except the prize nowadays would be a million dollars.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puppy Power!


The dynamics of the house have surely changed. This was the first photo I could get of Paris because I finally got her to settle down enough to snap it. Truthfully though she's been a breath of fresh air. I'm not sure if Kathy will agree as it has cramped life on Farmville, but so far everyone has pitched in, and I'm kind of left just keeping Melky at bay. A puppy has a certain energy though and there certainly have been moments, but isn't she cute?

Some thoughts collected while wondering when Iran's nuclear program will be operational...

They busted a terror threat in NYC and once more sporting events are a potential target. The fear and horror of such threats isn't lost on any American. It's a changed world and I ain't really liking it.

Pope Benedict had a great quote in the news today. I read it quite a few times, "History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions."

Amen, Pope.

The Yanks need one more win or Boston loss to win the East. Repeat after me kids, "I was right and you were wrong."

Saw that a group of scholars spent the weekend studying the works of Springsteen. This is an annual event in which professors get together and break down the words and music. Kind of ironic, huh? Bruce learned more from a three-minute record then he ever learned in school and they're breaking down his art. (Listen to the words).

My fantasy baseball teams officially tanked this year, and I didn't even bother getting a football team. Fantasy sports is a billion dollar business and sad to say, I merely donated this year. I'll be keeping A-Rod and Jeter for next year though.

So where do we stand on health care now? Still a jumbled mess? I lost track.

Why do I know who the Kardashians are?

Tonight is the start of the new season of Family Guy. It's off-color, raunchy, and I defy you not to laugh. We quote Peter Griffin around these parts, and it's kind of shameful to do so. What was that the Pope said? When man descends...

All righty then, here comes the puppy - time to practice the speech: "No biting, no biting, no biting."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Loaded Places

Here's to your good looks, baby, here's to my health, here's to the loaded places that we take ourselves. When it comes to luck you make your own, tonight I got dirt on my hands but I'm building me a new home.

Yeah, yeah, listen to the words and I'm ashamed to say that I had one word wrong - I always thought Bruce was saying here's to the bloody places that we take ourselves. My sister Carrie set me straight by offering a toast last night.

And man, we toasted. Grey Goose, the Yankees trashing the Red Sucks (where's Frank Zocco, by the way, awful quiet this summer), and a bit of Bruce mixed in.

Yet it was a day and night that was trapped deep inside the whirling mix of confusion that has been 2009.

It's been a year that has left me wondering, for the first time, if mental help is seriously required, and a year in which everything has been turned upside down.

And I did a toast last night to the loaded places where I take myself, which is of course, a sentence that contains two distinct meanings and brings a semblance of clarity to an already clouded mind.

And that, my friends, has been the constant theme in this year of confusion. If '09 has taught me anything it's that there are no definitive answers where previously I was convinced that I had it all worked out.

So, we went to the goose, and the loaded place where we take ourselves.

Thanks, Carrie for the clarification on the line.

Now to get rid of this freaking headache.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Golf Cart

I enjoy mowing the lawn. Evidently my boys do not. Earlier in the week I made the mental note to tell Matthew to cut the lawn, but it slipped my mind, and there was precious little chance that he'd come to the conclusion on his own.

Yet I was sort of glad he never got around to it because I actually was looking forward to doing it this evening. I enjoy the scent of freshly cut grass, and I enjoy looking over how good the grass looks when its cut. The fresh air and the exercise is good too. We don't have a ton of lawn to mow, but it's a good 45 minutes with the hand mower.

So, the scene is set. I start the mower and make the first pass, honestly thinking of nothing other than cutting the grass, and that's when I see him.

There's an old man in our neighborhood - I'd put him at about 80 years old - who spends a lot of his day riding around on a golf cart. He is a nice enough guy who waves each time he passes by. Today he waved and I smiled and waved back, and then I thought of something that I wrote about 15 years ago in my book, In Real Life.

(In Real Life was a critically acclaimed, but wildly undersold novel about life and death. It can still be ordered through my publisher or amazon.com - it was also the most fun I ever had writing).

Anyhow, the character in that book faced the death of a loved one and he wondered about the randomness of it all - "Why was my best friend facing such a crisis at such a young age when there are people who live longer than they even want to? Why do some people have the final curtain drawn in one fell swoop while others suffer for years and years?"

And I felt real ashamed for looking at my neighbor in the golf cart and wondering why he was granted such a long, long life. Not that I was begrudging him his health, but it just wasn't fair!

"It's not fair," I mumbled, and my grand mood in mowing the lawn was shattered.

Some days that is all it takes.

I sort of rushed my way through the project - I couldn't have cared less about the scent of the grass. I wasn't proud of how good the grass looked after I cut it down. Instead, I wanted the task to be done with, and wondered why Matt couldn't have completed it.

And then the golf cart came around again.

And my neighbor lifted his hand high and smiled at me again. He pointed at the freshly cut grass and offered a thumbs up, and I smiled back.

The rest of the day slowed down, and instead of envying him his long life and full days, I sort of congratulated him on making it through the mess, and settling down with a slow golf cart and a raised hand.

I hope he lives another healthy and happy 50 years.

One Day a Time

There's another one of those shows where when you're watching it you wonder why the hell you're doing so. Valerie Bertinelli (Barbara) being in it was the only solid reason for doing so.

That is until McKenzie Phillips (the ugly sister Julie)explained to us that during those years she was having a consensual sexual relationship with her freaking father!

Are you kidding me? Bad enough the dude shot her up with heroin, but he was doing her to boot? How do you recover from that?

There was also info on Mick Jagger getting her when she was just a kid, but Mick got everyone didn't he? I remember reading about one of his divorces - Jerry Hall - I think and she said that Mick was a fine enough fellow, but that she couldn't trust him around anything that was breathing. She finally had enough when he did one of her best friends while she was asleep in another part of the house. Satisfaction indeed.

Yet One Day at a Time was a groundbreaking sitcom because it was one of the first shows to incorporate divorce into the mainstream entertainment. Well, look at us now. Every single sitcom on television has some sort of dysfunction as the focal point.

Everyone is either divorced or gay, or divorced and gay, and the men are usually portrayed as absolute buffoons with beautiful wives who put up with them because at heart they are good guys.

I was going to say that it hardly mirrored real life, but one look at my wife and I together tells you that sometimes the good-looking chick falls for the flawed buffoon.

Seriously though does every situation comedy have to be about stereotypical men trying hard not to be caught by an all-knowing wife?

I guess it's the game we play, right?

Better then sleeping with your freaking daughter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's All In Your Head

I read a long article about stress and burnout in the Buffalo News. The article explained that diet and exercise plays an important part in reducing stress levels, and keeping oneself on the straight and narrow.

It didn't say anything about the Yankees having to play on the West Coast, waking up a couple of hours before the alarm, a full work schedule, and a new puppy.

Through the years I've been pretty adept at working my way through stress, but through the years I've also been able to figure out ways to handle my problems. The difficulties presented this year don't seem to have any quick answers and must learned to be lived through. Yet short of breaking into song, there are a few fool-proof ways to get to my happy place, right?

Well, today is Bruce's 60th birthday - in and of itself Bruce's birthday was always a chance to raise a glass - "Did you have a beer for Bruce?" was the question I'd get every September 23rd. I most likely will today, but he's on the cover of AARP this month - as my niece Nicole so succinctly put it the other day - "He's older then dirt." Knowing that Bruce is now 60 is stressful in and of itself.

Yet music has always been one thing that I've used to bust myself out of a bad mood. Perhaps I can try that today. I'll leave the Nebraska album home.

Food is also a good way to break the bitter mood. Pasta and a little seafood on a Wednesday night might just do the trick.

People tell me that running is a way to battle through malaise, but that doesn't seem to be on the agenda in the coming months. The problem I have with simply running is that with each step I wonder: "Why the hell am I running?"

The article in the News explained that a number of different vitamins helped do the trick. All good advice, I suppose, but when the stress article is sandwiched between the health care debate, the sinking economy, the 12 murders of the day, the DWI, poor Donte Whitner (the Bills player) losing $400,000 worth of jewelry...ah what the hell can you do?

And $400,000 worth of jewelry?

Quick, what could the burglars steal of yours that would be worth $400,000. I'd have to return home to find the house, the cars, the garage, the lawn furniture, the computers, the X-Box, and my front teeth missing.

Whitner didn't deserve to be robbed, but if you have $400,000 in jewelry, you probably don't have the stress of waking up two hours before the dawn to trudge through construction sites to prepare written reports one after another after another after another.

Yet I digress. How to handle the stress?

The answer seems to be right here in front of me. In fact, I hear them stirring in other parts of the house as I type.

Soon enough there will be laughter from the rooms below as Sam chases Paris, or Jake tells a joke, or as Matt turns on Sports Center to gather information about how and why the Bills are the team to beat this year.

Oh, yeah, and cut down on the caffeine.

Happy Birthday, Boss.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Can't Explain

Well the summer is officially over - I like the Fall, but we're looking at about eight months of crap now, huh?

Some things that are bothering me - Khadafy getting Man of the Year treatment in New York? Where are the people who explained to me that we needed to get rid of Hussein because he was a bad guy? If that were the criteria we need to bomb the room in New Jersey where Khadafy is staying. I can't explain the VIP treatment that guy is getting.

I can't explain why the Yankees take three West Coast trips in August and September while Boston gets fat on a steady diet of Kansas City and Baltimore. Doesn't matter -they won't catch the Yanks this year anyway, but it happens every year. Sickening.

I can't explain why anyone watches How I Met Your Mother - that show sucks - I don't think I ever laughed during an episode and each week someone in the house is watching it and I walk by or I sit down and watch and ask why - no one knows.

I can't explain why I feel sorry for our Governor David Patterson - he's done an awful job, but to see him standing there fawning over Obama - who skipped on by as though he were the girl that Cliff was interested in taking to the prom, but didn't want anything to do with him, and was looking at other guys, while he tried so hard to show his love was true.....oh sorry - I can explain why I feel sorry for him.

I can't explain why I'm still reading about David Hasselhoff being drunk and blaming it on medications. We used to use all sorts of lines in college - over-medicated, over-served, there must have been something wrong with the chicken - none of it covers it up - own up to it, get some help, stay away from cameras when you're blotto.

I can't explain why the end of summer feels like a new beginning when there are days of frigid cold and mountains of snow coming.

Perhaps I need a winter sport to play, but I can't explain people who put skis on their feet and slide down a mountain either.

There are a zillion more things I can't explain, but the dogs are calling - Paris is driving us all crazy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hard Shoulder

About twenty-five years ago one of my good buddies, Terry, bought me a Christmas present - a book about Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. Not sure if everyone knows of the man or the music, but I've been loyal through the years.

I've purchased every note of music that Knopfler has produced. His weeping guitar and soft lyrics have accompanied me through many moods. Sometimes the expert-playing takes me to a level of thought that shows itself in some of the darker things I've ever written.

Through the years, Knopfler has been on in the background nearly every time I've sat down to write. He's on right now. A new album called Get Lucky. If you want to get lucky, buy yourself a copy - it's awesome again.

Why all of this comes up is because Friday night I was stuck in traffic on the Thruway. I had the car in park, so I picked up the Buffalo News and read the Gusto. There was an announcement saying Knopfler was coming to Buffalo.

Returning home, I told my wife that I had a Christmas gift in mind. Since she never knows what to get me, she was psyched. Yet I couldn't wait. Sure that it would sell out quickly, I sat at the computer, retrieved a pair of tickets, and promptly bought them. And I thought of my brothers and sisters and Terry, and how I'd love to share the night with any one of them, but something told me that this one was for me and my older brother, John.

He didn't answer my call, but immediately called me back.
"What're you doing?" I asked.

"Working out," he said...and get this..."Listening to Golden Heart from Knopfler."

I swear I'm not making that up.

"Well I just bought you a ticket to see him in concert. He's coming in April."

John is not the most excitable guy in the bunch, unless you get him mad, but I heard excitement in his voice, and it blew my mind that sometimes the will of the universe is so freaking powerful.

Man's broken down...Man's broken down on the slip road. Got a slipped load and it's a hard shoulder to cry on. Give me a minute we'll be going again. Sound as a pound and right as rain, right as rain. And it's a hard shoulder to cry on. To cry on.

And The Winner is....

I must admit that by the time the dog was named I was ready to string myself up in the garage. Each and every name that was tossed out there for consideration was shot down by someone else: Snoop-Dog, Chocolate (so we'd have Chocolate-Melky), Oprah, Britney, Frankie, Ricki, TO, Vick, Claire, Julia, Roxie, Peanut, Shadow II, Fuzzy, Swisher, CC, Rivera, and even OJ were considered and dismissed.

Finally, growing sick of it, I asked that we all put our favorite into a hat and pull them out. You want to know how ridiculous it got? Sam's entry for final consideration was Soap.

And I liked it! We almost named the dog, Soap.

Yet the winner is Paris. It was Kathy's pick and it was drawn from the hat - fair and square.

Paris is a black lab mix - we are certain of the black lab - what else is any one's guess. Melky started this morning by giving the three-pound dog a kiss. It's pissed on the floor about four times, but overall the transition is smooth.

Now the hard part. What the hell rhymes with Paris?

They are going to want a few songs fairly soon.

"Melky and Paris and Paris and Melky," has already been sung.

We shall see.

Yet the lesson learned though is one that has been hammered home at every turn this year. The dog is so small, so cute, so alive. So alive, and rescued. Turns out that the rescue service is actually the work of a woman and her daughter - they basically save the dogs for little monetary gain. They save the dogs and direct them to decent families for the simple love of life.

Anyone doing that type of service will have a special place reserved for them when they're through with what goes on here.

Simply drove home the thought that all life is precious and that every creation has a purpose.

Now to figure out what Paris' purpose is.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Rose is Still a Rose

You saw it coming, didn't you?

Yesterday, my wife, when we all thought she was playing Farmville, went on the Internet and found a dog. Of course, as has been the custom it is a dog that is in need of a rescue, but the main theme is that she found one, and she made the contact with the owner, and long story short, the dog will be swinging by tomorrow for our consideration.

Then she informed the kids at an emergency family meeting. She said that we had to make sure it is a good fit first, but in the end, we're getting a second dog. "Melky was just too sad," Kathy said.

Then the fun started as we considered the name of our potential new family member.

Of course there are a number of Yankee names up for consideration - Derek, CC, Tex, Damon, Swisher - they are all open for discussion.

I was leaning towards Chien-Ming-Wang, but I was vetoed right off the bat.

Matt instantly yelled out T.O. and I used my veto power on that. Jake went with Michael Vick, but that one doesn't feel right yet either.

First off, it's a female dog. Secondly, I wouldn't hamper a dog with such a name.

I forget what we're down to now - I like Frankie because I had a dog named Frank years ago, and Frankie can work for a female dog. I believe Sam's entry is Oprah, Matt likes Ishmail, Kathy is going for Cocco, and Jake is kicking around either just plain Dog, or Bitch, or.....

"You know what a good dog name is?"

"What's that?" I asked, tiring of the constant stream of names being tossed at me.

"Clifford," he said. "And after you get done feeding it we can call it Clifford the Big, Fat Dog."

"Go to bed," I said, stifling a grin.

I'll keep you posted on how it all works out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wanna' Go For a Ride?

Six or seven weeks back I made a mistake. On a Saturday morning I asked the question that all dogs want to hear:

"Wanna' go for a ride?"

Melky and Shadow jumped off the bed to meet me at the door.

Now, Saturday's start the same way - I answer e-mail, have a cup of coffee, and try desperately to fend off Melky who understands that it is time for that weekly ride to pick up the paper. Sadly, this week it is just Melky, Sam, Jake and me.

I've tried fooling Melky with the calendar by pointing at it and saying, "It's only Friday." But she'll have none of it. Right now, she's staring at me, waiting for the clicking to stop, hoping that I'll push back in the chair and reach for the doorknob.

Yet this is not simply a blog about dogs - I must admit that they are on my mind this week, but only because of the greater lessons they teach me about my life.

Melky is a mess. She misses Shadow so passionately that my heart aches for her. She actually took a dump in the house this week because she can't handle walking around the backyard alone. She hasn't figured out why - and God help me - I can't explain it to her. I tried telling her that we had to let, The broken hearts stand as the price we gotta' pay, but she can't stand Bruce's singing voice - or mine either for that matter. (Listen to the words), I said.

And then there is the anticipation of something so cool to take a little of the pain away. I tried to explain that the ride in the car, which is coming soon, will not take away the hurt - and neither will the shot of Jameson's, or the laughs on the golf course, or the Yankees winning, or the next Springsteen concert.

"Let's just go," she said.

So, we'll go and she'll wag her tail and leap into the car, and kiss me thankfully when we return home.

And later today, I'll see that lost look in her eyes, and I'll pat her head and tell her it'll be all right.

And she'll see that I'm just lying to her about it getting easier.

She'll wonder why life can't always be just about going for a ride, and I'll tell her that it just doesn't work that way.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Future Is Coming

When you're a kid I suppose that the question you here most is, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'

The first thirty or so years is all about what you're aspiring to be, and it seems as if there is a moment when you figure out that this is where you are and where you're going to be.

When I was a kid, I wanted to play for the Yankees, of course, but I figured out rather quickly that I was afraid of getting hit with the ball, so I went to the backup plan and considered writing about the team. I sort of stayed right there through the rest of my life. I answered the question about what I wanted to be by saying, 'A Writer.'

It all sort of lined up, I suppose. I do write a lot.

Yet all of this comes to mind because Matt was telling stories the other day. As he sat at the counter shoveling in pizza, he explained that he was going to be the general manager of the Bills or the Sabres, by the time he was twenty-six.

"You'll be sitting in the same chair ten years from now, eating my pizza," I joked.

"I'll be CEO of something by then," Matt answered.

Now I'm not sure what Matt's grand plan is, but I must caution him that the future is coming. I'm now one month shy of my 45th birthday. It seemed like ten minutes ago that I was 16 and dreaming of writing about the Yankees.

"What're you going to be when you grow up?" I asked Jake.

"A drug dealer," he answered.

"A drug dealer?" I asked. "Why would you want to do that?"

"I don't," Jake answered, "but if I do anything more than that, you'll be happy."

Good answer. There's plenty of time ahead when you're just 12 years old.

"How about you?" I asked Sam.

"NBA," he answered. "I'll be dunking the ball in no time."

I have a feeling that in about ten years we're going to have to order three pizzas instead of one because the dinner lineup might just be Kathy, Me, the CEO, the Power Forward and the Drug Dealer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stuffed in a Wall

I said I wasn't going to do it, but I can't help myself. I read the articles on that poor Yale Student who was brutally murdered and stuffed into a wall at the Medical Center where she worked. She was preparing to be married, but she was killed instead.

And it all came to light because this morning I was buying the newspaper and on the cover of the Buffalo News was a photo of a principal stealing money from the school safe - the woman was caught on camera and they showed the photos to further drive her into despair.

On the cover of the USA Today was the poor woman from Yale.

There was another woman standing on line as we waited for an old man who was cashing in 7000 lottery tickets, and was having trouble doing so.

I glanced at each paper - "Hard to be uplifted with this crap staring me in the face," I said.

"All murder, mayhem and corruption," the woman said. "Sooner or later, it seems we're all going to be stuffed into a wall somewhere."

So, you see, I had to read the article.

I had to put myself through more misery, and I thought of that poor woman's mother and father and groom-in-waiting, and brothers, and sisters and I considered the cowardly bastard that killed her.

And my damn mood was miserable all day long.

Geez, I wonder why.

The Fan

On Tuesday, Buffalo Bills player Leodis McKelvin returned to his home to find out it had been vandalized. There was garbage strewn across his lawn and a graphic drawing that sent him some sort of message, I suppose. It all happened because he fumbled the ball - twice - when he was supposed to hang onto it.

Years ago a soccer player was gunned down in another country after scoring an own goal - Americans were certainly up in arms against that one - but tragically, something like that is coming here. It just has to be.

People are looking for a place to hang their hats. They are misguided in their passion for the games and their identities are somehow tied to the teams that they're following. I don't quite get it, but then again...

I've followed the Yankees for years and I must admit that my mood is a little brighter on days following a win. I do cheer at the games, but to spew hatred? I'm not really sure if I've ever booed a player. I was at Yankee Stadium when fans were booing Jeter a few years ago, and I was horrified.

But there is anger now. The ticket prices are astronomical. In the case of the Bills and Sabres there has been little return on that investment in the last twenty years or so. Listen to the talk radio stations. Read what is written on the message boards. People who are searching for an existence are pissed about being classified as a city of losers, and there's nothing you can to do to control any of it.

I'm more aggravated with the owners of the teams who appear to be pulling the wool over the eyes of people who desperately want to believe...but that's another story.

It was supposedly a couple of kids who did the damage to McKelvin's lawn. A completely stupid act, but one that gives me pause. They are not the only ones who were hopping mad at McKelvin for fumbling.

In this day and age of outrageous acts, I have a feeling that sooner or later there's going to be a horrific one.

Come on, now, really?

They are playing with a ball. Everyone I know has bounced, thrown, shot, or swung at a ball at one time or another in their lives.

It never was a case of life and death was it?

Some people in this country appear poised to amuse themselves to death.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good Grief

Sam asked Kathy last night what would happen if he got to heaven and couldn't find Shadow and Max when he got there.

Kathy, of course, was a little unsure of how to answer such a question and it haunted me all day today. Kathy did her best to explain, but there really is no real explanation that suffices.

I ran into a co-worker on one of the job sites and explained Shadow's death and Sam's hurt.

"Can you imagine?" I asked. "How do you handle such a question from a young boy?"

The roofer I was talking with didn't miss a beat - "Tell him to whistle and call her name, the dog will come," he said.

Still I'm so tired of thinking about and trying to understand all of life's questions and for some reason today I thought of freaking Charlie Brown and the fact that they coupled the words 'good' and 'grief'.

I can see the grief written on my boy's faces and I can hear it in the cries of Melky as she tries to contemplate why Shadow is gone, and it seems like a well-orchestrated torture beseeched on me by someone who doesn't want me to work through my 'good grief'.

Yet children and dogs seem to have a window into how it all works. If Melky can feel the pain, and Sam can grasp much of the concept of heaven above, it gives me the hope to work through it all as well.

"Shadow and Max are together again," Sam said to me last night. "Can you imagine how happy Max is?"

"Yeah, and they're both healthy and they're probably running side-by-side like they used to."

"But they aren't running with Melky or me," Sam said. "And I really miss them."

Good-bleeping-grief

How do you answer these freaking questions?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Was Born in a Small Town

I drove from Buffalo to Plattsburgh and back in the past couple of days - I don't recommend the trip. The first time I was there I saw the signs for Vermont and wasn't aware that it was the State of Vermont that I was approaching.

Whatever...mile after mile...lots of time to think and plenty of scenery. New York State is actually quite beautiful, but there are a ton of small towns between here and there.

Most of the towns are set up in the usual way - there's a grocery store, a bar, a funeral parlor, and a gas station - all that is needed for life to thrive and prosper.

In between there are a lot of small, broken-down homes, trailer parks, and cars up on blocks. I often wonder what people who live out there do to pass the time.

I passed Bob's Bait and Tackle with a sign underneath, hand-written, that said - "Great Subs and Pizza."

I didn't stop there for lunch - I imagined one dirty-looking guy handing out bait with one hand and making me a sandwich with the other.

There was so much drifting through my mind - the loss of my dog, the miles that clicked on the odometer, wanting to be home, wondering WTF, and passing time...passing time.

I thought of growing up in a small town and knowing all of my neighbors and the neighbors miles and miles away - knowing everyone in our town.

I passed about fifty signs that told me that Jesus Saves or warned me of the 2nd Coming. I wondered what would make a man paint the side of his barn to warn others of God's Coming Wrath.

I passed a roadside flower memorial that told me of the loss of "Bubba" someone or other. I made the sign of the cross for Bubba and his family.

10 hours after I woke, I was home.

Not a wasted day by any means.

Just another day spent in my own head, and a few hours thinking back about the small town where I was born.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Knocked Down Again

I'm thinking of getting a petition together to complain to the God Above about what the hell has been going on - Shadow, my personal shadow, died today. She was a ten-year old black lab and yesterday on the way home from her weekend ride in the car she leaped a good few feet off the bricks and into the driveway - I laughed and commented to the boys that she still acted as though she were a puppy.

Yet time waits for no one...

Shadow came to us after Kathy, Matt and Jake begged me to get her. I was deadset against it, but of course, I relented. A black lab puppy is not to be under-estimated though and she was pure hell on wheels there for awhile - eating the insides out of the couch, crapping everywhere, and chewing up everything left on the floor. She also drove Max absolutely crazy, but slowly and surely, she figured out the rules of the house - and then she followed me from room to room for the next ten years. Shadow was surely my shadow.

As I write this I feel the tears welling in my eyes, but I cry more for the boys, and for Melky - who must feel as if she lost her right paw. If Shadow was my shadow, her shadow was cast on Melky - her ever-present buddy.

Yet I feel Blessed to have had Shadow in my life - and that is what I'm learning - the more I've lost, the more I've gained in the form of becoming a better person.

I wasn't ashamed to sing to Shadow every day of her life - and I swear I kissed that dog ten times a day.

Glad I did.

Love with all of your heart - you never know when you're going to have to recap it all in your mind.

Now does anyone want to sign my petition?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Things That Will Knock You Down...

...you won't even see coming.

One of my favorite weekends of the year is finishing up. Each year I golf with a group of co-workers and friends at a couple of great courses. This year I also brought one of my best buddies along and the weekend certainly didn't disappoint. We shared a few adult beverages, a ton of insults, a steak dinner, and too many golf strokes, but a couple of things happened along the way.

First off, Jeter was about to break the Yankees hit record. At the bar, I was watching the action on my Blackberry as the bar was inexplicably carrying the NASCAR race - of course, the Blackberry is a little behind the action, and as Jeter's 2nd at-bat played out, my cell phone rang - and my 8-year-old son Sam yelled out DEREK JETER!

"What happened?" I asked.
"Line single to right!" Sam said.

And I almost cried right there. Not because Jeter did it (which was a tad emotional, I must admit), but because Sam had hurled himself into a great void in my life - he was playing the part of my brother, by loving me enough to want to get my reaction right then and there.

I finished my talk with Sam and immediately found my buddy - "We need a shot of Jameson's," I said.

We raised the glass and that may have been the start of the downfall of the 2nd thing I didn't see coming that night.

As we walked back to the hotel to finish the night, I was lagging a bit behind the group. Out of the night, one of the guys in our group, deciding that he'd be funny, tossed a rock in my direction.

Judging by the mark on my forehead, 'tossed' might not be the right word.

I know have what looks like a 3rd eye, but the best part of it all came from my wife as I broke the news to her.

"Aren't you getting a little old for that sort of crap?" she asked.

Indeed.

Yet it's real hard to duck if you don't see it coming.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Don't Return Hatred

It's been eight long years since 9/11 and yesterday I became aware that something I wrote about the tragedy, that was published in the USA Today and a few other papers, is appearing in a book on communication and persuasion. (Pretty scary - people quoting me).

Eight years ago I wrote about not immediately returning the hatred of the attacks. It was an article I wrote in immediate response, but one that was something I believe to this day.

Our first instinct, of course, was to return the hate airmailed to us on that horrific day. Certainly it's a natural response - and the fact that we were attacked still makes my blood boil, but on 09/11/01 I thought that perhaps with the loss of humanity staring us in the face, we'd take a moment to think about it differently.

Boy was I wrong - when the article appeared in those newspapers I received anonymous telephone calls to my home telling me that my bleeding heart is the reason why we were sitting ducks for an attack.

For one caller, I tried to reason with him, saying he misunderstood the article - I never said we should not respond through warfare, I just said, before we do, let's examine what's right in our country, and not respond in a trigger-happy fashion. He called me an 'asshole' and hung up.

How did our trigger-happy response work out by the way? Bin Laden might be reading this - and that's downright sickening.

Okay, whatever, change isn't easy for some people.

Cut to a little while later - I received a letter from a Retired Army General living in California. He wrote that he applauded what I'd said - and asked if I could call him to discuss. I did, and we chatted for a long time - he explained that the hatred others feel for Americans in this vast world, will not be changed by our military actions, but rather through our own insight into our own souls.

Very profound. He said that I said this in my letter - go figure.

In any regard - I like millions of others have a heavy heart today and I still say hating someone is a little like burning down your house to get rid of a rat - the hatred inside hurts you more than it hurts them.

As the great writer Springsteen said - If a poison snake bites you, you're poison too. (Listen to the words).

I pray for the lost souls.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Lie!

Being that I was watching Jeter tie the record last night, I didn't see Obama and the health care debate. I did hear that someone in the crowd yelled out, "You lie!"

All politics aside, what would make someone scream something out when another man is giving a speech?

Isn't that just plain rude?

It's not a comedy act where you can go and heckle, is it? Hopefully it doesn't set a precedent. Perhaps next time he can take off his shoe and throw it.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter. I continue to talk about the country losing its moral center - and in a room filled with people, and the President of the United States talking - this guy wants to be the center of attention. They should have escorted him from the room and revoked all his privileges of lying, cheating and stealing from the American public that goes along with his job.

Whatever...

I just remember being a part of an audience at an Italian-American benefit that my father got invited to - it was a filled hall and we were served a prime rib dinner and had open bar to boot. The open bar may have been the problem.

Anyway, the speaker was telling a story about the Italian army being made up of a lot of the citizens of Sicily being involved in a battle and not doing very well. This is roughly how the speech went:

"The Sicilian Army went in and waged battle, but they were quickly beat-down, in fact, they were creamed."

The speaker paused for dramatic effect and my father jumped into the opening:

"Holy shit they were creamed Siciles," he said.

Now if you're going to interrupt a speech that is the way to do it.

Not only was the entire room laughing, the speaker raised his glass in a toast to my Pa.

DEREK JETER! DEREK JETER! DEREK JETER!

In a day and age when athletes don't really deserve our adulation there seems to be one guy who stands above the rest. No drug busts, no mention of steroids, you can't even really get a handle on what beautiful girl he's dating.

Day in and day out, playing hurt, and saying the right things. Last night, he tied Lou Gehrig for the all-time Yankee hit lead. Say it together like the crowd at the stadium:

DEREK JETER! DEREK JETER! DEREK JETER! DEREK JETER! DEREK JETER! DEREK JETER!

My plan had been to get to sleep early last night, but Jeter got base hits in two of his first three at-bats. I just knew he'd get another hit his next time up. And do you know how I knew?

Because I've watched him nearly every night for the past 13 years - and he has hardly ever let me down. He's dependable. He goes to the game ready to do his job.

Sure enough - a Jeterian single to right, and his family hugged in the box high above the field.

As he clapped his hands it occurred to me that I was thoroughly happy for a man who was making more money then everyone reading this combined, and that he was living the life of a pampered athlete who hasn't dealt with a 12-hour day of pouring concrete, or stripping a roof.

Yet I wasn't jealous of the adulation - I was happy for him and his parents, and sister - and you know why?

Because he's never once rubbed our faces in it. He's been very respectful of the game, his team, and mostly the fans.

After the game he said he was real uncomfortable with the standing ovation because the Rays were winning the game and he felt it was disrespectful to them to hold the game up.

I've watched him banter with the kids at the stadium, taking their caps off to rub their heads, signing bats and balls. I've heard him speak of coaches and managers, addressing them only as Mr. Torre, and Mr. Berra. I watched an interview with him where he was asked who he'd take with him into a bunker in wartime - He answered, "I'd have to take two people - my Mom and Dad."

I've watched him grow up - and now he's mentioned with Ruth and Gehrig and Mantle and DiMaggio.

Congrats to the Captain. Thanks for the memories.

Sure is better than running down bystanders at a streetlight, or choking your girlfriend, or getting a DWI, or hosting a reality show, or complaining about your contract, or euthanizing dogs.

PS: Won't I be obnoxious when they win the World Series this year?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let's See What Comes of This

Back-to-back real long days at work - you know the type of days - when you want to throw the freaking blackberry out the window just to see far how it will go.

It's interesting but isn't the United States the only country where we actually work ourselves to the nub like this? Don't they take siesta's in Mexico? Aren't they drinking wine by noon in Italy?

I suppose that it's a product of always wanting more and always trying to be productive for the freaking man. Yet I would love to meet the man who developed the five-day work week - I'd bash his head in with my lunch pail.

I definitely feel myself slowing down. For a lot of years there I did not bother to take off consecutive days - I'd get the holidays, the weekends and that was enough.

This year I've actually taken a couple of weeks of vacation and while it's been refreshing to a point, on days like today it doesn't seem to be near enough.

So, here I sit, waiting for some brilliant observation to show itself, but aware that it's 8:30 and I've had enough.

I don't even care about watching the end of the Yankee game or even the presidential address.

Nothing came of this.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Talking President

Man, I don't get the controversy about Obama wanting to talk in the schools. Shouldn't he be afforded that luxury as president of the United States?

Perhaps I'm looking at this wrong - I know we can't make mention of God in schools - but shouldn't the leader of the free world be allowed to tell the kids to stay in school?

I ran into a mother of two the other night and she was talking about keeping her kids out of schools because Obama had the speech ready. "That's like Hitler!" she said.

"Seriously?" my wife asked. "Don't you let your kids watch Family Guy and The Simpsons? Can't they listen to the president for a few minutes?"

The mother replied - and get this - "I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I heard someone else say that and it sounded good."

Yet it shouldn't be about Democrat or Republican. When I heard of the controversy I asked myself if I would be offended if George W sent out a message to the kids - and I wouldn't have. Wasn't he reading a book about a duck to school kids when 9/11 happened?

Educationally we have lagged behind. The moral center of the country appears to be lost. Do you really think Obama set it all up to plant subliminal messages in his speech to get the kids to harass their parents into becoming socialists?

The whole thing seems sort of absurd to me.

We wanted change, right? Isn't that what was voted in? Seems to me that some positive words that might even help one kid to stay straight is a pretty good idea.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong.

What's the general feeling on this one?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Death List

There is just so much garbage on the Internet, isn't there? I'm not sure that Al Gore, when he invented the Net, believed that it would come to this.

We have two computers in the house - the one in my office which is supposed to be used exclusively for work, and the one in the kid's room where all sorts of Fantasy Sports Leagues, Face book accounts, and PlayStation activities can be handled.

We worked the split this way because a couple of years back Matt downloaded Internet games that locked up the computer for a couple of days and threatened the money coming in.

A couple of days ago I entered my office to see my wife on the computer with a fake farm on the screen. Evidently there's a game where you build your farm.

"Why are you using that computer for games?" I asked gently.

"I'm not downloading anything," Kathy said.

I was just returning from work so I wasn't my usual Happy-Go-Lucky self.

"That's the work computer," I reminded, "and we need it to function for us to eat."

Kathy rolled her eyes, once more reminding me that I was being a little nit-picky.

"Unless of course the farm takes off, then we won't have to worry about it."

Yet Sam, Jake and Matt are normally just as busy playing games, going to sites, telling me the news before it even hits the television.

"Hey, you want to know when you're going to die?" Jake called out to me this afternoon.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"There's Death Site," Jake said. "You put your information in and it tells you how and when you're going to die."

"That's awful," I said.

Yet Jake punched in my date of birth, actually getting it wrong on the first two tries.

"Sam is going to die at age 61 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he takes out ten of his co-workers," Jake said.

"That sounds a bit right," I joked, even though I was horrified by all of it.

"You're going to die at the age of 86 from choking on a TV dinner," Jake announced. "No one will find your body for a week."

"I don't eat TV dinner's," I said. "Now get off of that site."

And for the life of me, I don't understand it. Is it a site that's supposed to be funny? How many people go to it on a daily basis?

"It might be right," Jake said as we walked away from the computer.

"If it's right then everyone who shares a birthday with me is going to choke on a TV dinner," I explained.

"Could happen," Jake replied.

I suppose, but I certainly wonder about the way of the world.

Now excuse me for a minute, I have to see how high the corn is on the farm.

The way this economy is going we may have to pull off an early harvest.

Dr. Seuss?

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Doing the usual writing dance this morning, I started my book-research by reading a little bit. I read a long story about a haunted house South of Buffalo, read the New York Times articles that interested me, caught a recap of a murder-suicide, and then moved onto a few motivational quotes.

I caught the above quote and couldn't believe that it was Dr. Seuss who had penned the line. The same guy who wrote Green Eggs and Ham?

Curious, I hit the button to bring up a few similar quotes.

You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

Be who are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

Yes, two more gems from Dr. Seuss.

With Mark Knopfler's expert guitar in the background, I was set to begin the writing experiment for the day.

Smile because it happened provided the perfect context in which to put one word down after another.

The words flowed. My heart was lifted by the positive tone of the words that I had read.

So glad that I skipped the recap of the man that murdered his two-year-old and instead concentrated on Dr. Seuss.

What's that they say - garbage in-garbage out?

Perhaps it's time to stop reading the garbage and break into the kid's books that are left for dust in the rec room downstairs.

Anyone have an extra copy of Horton Hears a Who?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

If You Know What I Know


God, I wish everyone in the world could meet my sister Corinne and my brother-in-law Chuck. As a writer often times I'm forced to comment on the negative side of the world.

Tonight, it's all about some real positive people.

As you will note in the photo attached, there were some awesome pepper creations shared by a group of phenomenal friends. Six or seven hours later and here I am.

Here I am thinking about family and friendship and love and life everlasting. Here I am thinking about my sister and my mother and my father and great friends. Here I am after laughing as my father told the same old jokes to my son that always made me laugh.

We held a stuffed pepper contest that was well-attended by a group of close friends. I won a prize, but it was my brother's recipe and he would have laughed at my lame attempt - he was the king of it all - and we knew that.

Yet there was my sister, at the forefront, making sure that we lived a little on a holiday weekend when life threatened our good mood. She was laughing hard, pouring out the Patron, and delivering dollar prizes to everyone who made an appearance.

And it occurred to me that if you know what I know, you'd be able to appreciate a little about life. If you felt what I felt, the love would shine through and the happiness would permeate the sadness. At least for a little while.

A couple of posts back I wrote about filling the empty spaces in our hearts - and filling them with love instead of pain - it was sort of a what-if type of post that I wished upon the world.

Yet there was Corinne and Chuck - making it real.

By the way, what do 12 stuffed peppers, a bowl of my wife's excellent chili, 4 shots of Patron Tequila, Pops Mexican dip, fourteen Swedish meatballs, and seven beers do for a golf game?

I'll tell you tomorrow.

In the meantime, do me a quick favor and dwell a little bit on what I know.

I know that life is filled by those around you. I know that love and happiness can be dealt without a cost. I know that there are certain moments when the world seems to be spinning at just the right speed, and I know that mixing Tequila and a shot called the Pucker is the worst thing ever.

Thanks to Corinne, Chuck and Pops for a great evening.

Toast Masters International-November 6th & 7th, 2009

I'm honored to have been asked and am truly looking forward to the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the Toastmasters International event to be held on November 6 & 7th at the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel in Niagara Falls.

Toastmasters is a truly wonderful organization that provides communication and leadership skills training to a wide audience.

I want to help make it an even wider audience!

Now through the years many people have had the chance to hear me speak about why I write, how I write, and what it means to be published in this day and age. I've told my story many times to different audiences and have been really happy to answer all sorts of questions about the publishing business, working with an editor and an agent.

Yet this time I'm thrilled with the chance to speak because I'm going to have a different forum, so to speak, and I'm going to be able to incorporate some new stories about communication and leadership.

You know writing has always been a solitary event. Many of the people I meet have no idea how the guy standing before them has written even one coherent sentence!

I don't do too much in the way of self-promoting the books - something that my great publisher hates - but the ability to speak in front of the Toastmasters International crowd offers me a special opportunity.

I am going to be able to speak of why I sit down in the room alone, with the dogs snoring beside me, in an effort to put something down on paper that means something to someone else.

Over the course of the last six months I have struggled with my motivations. I have wondered how and why I should even bother to continue to communicate. The ability to speak in front of the Toastmasters International gathering will answer some of those questions for me.

I plan on giving it my all and I'm well aware that there are going to be a number of awesome speakers on the panel.

Do yourself a favor - find out more about the event - and get there!

You can check it out at http://d65fallconference.wordpress.com/ or contact Melinda Schmidt at velvet@techsorcery.com.

I hope to see your smiling face in the audience. I have a lot to share!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hey, Ho! Rock and Roll Deliver Me From Nowhere!

Man, I drive a lot - thousands and thousands of miles per year. I normally can find enough to occupy my time - talking on the phone, texting, playing brickbreaker, eating, reading the paper.

Actually, I don't do those things - I put that in there to let my wife worry.

Most of the time it's the radio that keeps me company. For the long trips Howard Stern and the gang are perfect companions - this week his discussion about the Catholic church recommending that people pray before making love had me in stitches. He was recommending the prayer and the act that should follow it. Those that are offended by Howard - lighten up!

Yet this afternoon, I was sinking fast - Howard was off today, sports radio wasn't saying anything nice about the Yankees even though they are absolutely dominating, (Where are the haters? Awfully quiet!) and evidently some college kid punched another college kid in the jaw after a game last night - so booooring.

I went to the radio - Bruce was on of course, and I can't lie, I listened for a long while - heard Open All Night which provided me with the title line to the blog, but when Born in the USA came on, I actually switched the station - forgive me, Bruce.

I got lucky - Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al was on and I cranked it.

Great tune - with a number of great lines:

A man walks down the street, he says, 'Why am I soft in the middle now? Why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?

And:

A man walks down the street, he says, 'Why am I short of attention, got a short little span of attention, and wo my nights are so long.'


I was singing so loud that I was sure the people in the car beside me heard me even though everyone's windows were up.

The next couple hundred miles flew by as I ripped out the Paul Simon Greatest Hits and listened to every song.

Answer me one question:

Why do people know more about Kelly Clarkson, or Clay Aiken, or Reuben Stoddard than Paul Simon?

Me and Julio Down By the School Yard.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Man I'm Tired!

The boys got on the bus this morning and I wasn't there to see it because I had to leave early for work. I wish I would have had my father's brain.

Before I left this morning I saw the boys and told them I expected at least a 95 average this year.

"Won't happen," Jake said.

Like Jake, I left the Catholic school after 6th grade and I was a little nervous about entering a new school.

My father woke me early all those years ago. For some reason he shook me awake without rousing any of my brothers and sisters.

Being that I was nervous about my new adventure I put on my new clothes and headed down the stairs.

"I'm tired," I said, but my father set the milk and cereal before me. He was smiling at me but I didn't think much of it.

"Are you nervous?" Dad asked.

"No, but man, I'm tired."

I started eating and it dawned on me that everyone else had school too. Why was I the only one up?

I turned and looked at the clock - it was 3:25 in the morning!

"What's wrong with you?" I asked.

My father laughed. "I want a 95 average out of you this year. And some day you'll think this was funny."

I didn't get a 95 that year, but Dad was right about one thing - it was funny.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Long, Hard Winter

The Farmer's Almanac said that it's going to be cold this winter. Actually, that wouldn't be news, would it?

To break down exactly what they meant - 'It's going to suck - bad.'

Yet there is something about the change of seasons that I need as a human being. I have an internal switch that sort of clicks me into a different mindset on September 1st.

I'm limping to the conclusion of the golf season and actually looking forward to the 2-day event that normally ends my year. It's at the end of next week and I can almost see myself putting the clubs away in the back corner of the garage.

The kids are going back to school this week and there's only four dry eyes in the place - they belong to me and the wife. The battles over homework, the fights for earlier nights in bed, the 7 AM races for the front door as the bus waits. Ah, it's wonderful.

And then we'll be in the house. And I'll be looking at the blank computer screen, wondering if the words to something that doesn't seem trite to me will come.

I love a great snowstorm. One where everyone is home safe, and the windows are shaking with the fury of what's going on outside. I love the sounds of the plow and the idea that everything might be postponed tomorrow. I really love it if the Grey Goose supply is okay.

So, the announcement of the cold, hard winter didn't frighten me. Seasons change. The bright blue skies give way to the low-lying clouds, and the storms coming in off the lake.

Lord knows that my mind isn't right. Perhaps a horrible winter blast will shake everything up.

I may not leave the house for anything other than work until about May.

Extend the Netting!!

During the Wednesday afternoon Yankees game, Todd Frazier ripped a line drive into the crowd above the third base dugout. The ball, which ...