Monday, November 30, 2009

Antidote

I saw the kick coming from more than three feet away and I was quite aware that it was going to make contact with the back of my head, but I just wasn't quite sure how forceful it would be.

The foot made contact and I felt instantly dizzy, wondering how big the knot on the back of my head would be, but I had little time to recover as my assailant was gearing up for another roundhouse kick.

Luckily, I grabbed his leg and twisted him to the couch sofa.

No, I didn't finally take a beating due to my big mouth - I was fighting off no fewer than 3 of my nephews with two of my sons also in on the attack.

You see, it started with Rocco, James jumped in, and Johnny actually threw the roundhouse kicks. Sam and Jake were also on my back.

Despite being knocked woozy, I was laughing harder than I've laughed in the entire year of '09.

Thankfully, my wife saved me from further assault by calling an end to the beating, but you know, I would have suffered for another hour or so before I got tired of it.

"Yeah, get your wife to save you, tough guy," James cried.

And it dawned on me through the dizzy haze of being knocked for a loop that the kids surely have the antidote for pain and it's their graceful, unfiltered ability to turn any moment of any day into a kick-ass party.

And it's a party free of intoxicants, peer pressure, or aggravation.

When I woke up this morning my hand instinctively went to the spot where John's right foot made contact and although it was tender at best, I smiled.

They should bottle the antidote and sell it at every mall.

The kids have cornered the market.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One Keystroke At a Time

I've always enjoyed the writing process. The idea that you can begin with a blank slate and just create something is simply the most exhilarating thought that I can possibly have. That, of course, was born of a love that I had for reading as a child, and the simple thought that someday I might be able to do that very thing - create something out of nothing - that meant something to someone.

The best thing about all of it, too, is that you really can never become perfect at it. That is wonderful for my eat-the-whole-bag-of-food personality - which deserves a side story by way of explanation.

Years and years ago my father's cousin, Marian Fricano, the former professional baseball player, went away on vacation. He asked his teenage son to make sure the dog was fed while they were gone. Not wanting to handle the task each day, his son simply opened up the bag of food for the dog, who proceeded to nearly eat to death. I remember the story and how angry Marian was as he relayed the particulars to my father. I often think of that dog as I consider my own to excess personality quirks.

Anywho...I'm writing again, but not enjoying the process even one tiny bit. Things are going well, and I promise you that I will capture the spirit of my brother and make you laugh as hard as you've ever laughed when considering a life, but there is one other thing going on.

For the first time ever, I'm telling a story that I don't want anything to do with, and it is completely tearing a hole in other parts of my life. For years and years I've been able to leave the story aside as I've walked away from the computer. Sure it sits in your head and percolates as you do other things, but it doesn't rule the day.

Not this time. The chaos of every day life is gnawing at me. The idea that everything has to be in the perfect place before I can write is eating me alive. A misplaced shoe, a leaf in the back hall, a penny in my silver tray. It's all hammering, hammering, hammering away.

My wife knows. I know she does. I also know she understands that I'm getting there and she's supporting it, standing by it, and living through it.

Now only if I can!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Et Tu Tiger

If you could get the genie wishes from the lamp you might go for being the most respected top man in your profession - ever.

You might instead go for the million square foot mansion with the marble driveway.

More money than you can ever possibly spend might end up in the conversation too.

Or how about the beautiful blond, model wife who seems more than Barbie Doll perfect?

Is it fame you want? How about being more famous than the Pope?

So, yesterday's minor car crash involving Tiger Woods was a bit of a surprise, and the reports coming out about the possible cause are even more hair-raising.

Was Tiger having an affair?

Did his wife scratch his famous face and then chase him down the driveway wielding a golf club?

Can something be askew in the fairy tale life?

I suppose the short answer is that we should have seen it coming, but who really knows for sure?

Perhaps he was just fiddling with the radio trying to get E Street radio on the Sirius receiver. Maybe he was just trying to find a penny that had rolled under the seats.

In any event, I suppose that there is a bit of trouble in the Garden of Eden that masquerades as Tiger's life.

Maybe he should have wished for peace of mind when he was rubbing that lamp.

That'll be my first wish, for sure.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday After a Clear Thanksgiving


Funny how life works but the ringing alarm clock stirred me awake from one of the first sound sleeps that I've had in months. The problem being the freaking clock was set for 4:15 AM and it wasn't my alarm clock!

It was my wife's, but there was also another problem - she wasn't there to silence it having left the house at midnight instead because of all of the deals. How that clock didn't end up sailing down the street is tough to figure.

Yet I was all right with it because even though I was up a little earlier than anticipated, my mood was good, and the photo above kind of tells you why.

The holiday was all about the kids, and family, and togetherness. Of course, about seven pounds of my mother's unbelievable stuffing didn't hurt, but on a year when the holidays were becoming something of a dreaded thought, a light shined through.

My nieces and nephews were all there and while it is a pleasure to see each and every one of them, there was a huge part of me waiting to see Rocco's reaction when he saw me.

My wife was holding him when I walked in the door, but literally 3 seconds after our eyes locked he was in my arms, and all of the dread was absolutely gone.

The hugs were tighter, the laughs were even more pronounced, the food was awesome, and everyone helped clean up. The kids played an extended game of chase each other through the house, and the massive wrestling match seemed to go on all night.

That's what is supposed to happen, right?

So, you see, the ringing alarm clock didn't wind up sailing down the street.

Rocco's big hug saved that clocks life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

These are the words of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation.


"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven;
we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity;
we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States...to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”


In case we forget what it is all about, I suppose.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Hat is in the Ring

I'm officially declaring that I am fully interested in coaching the Buffalo Bills for the next three or so years.

Before you scoff at my candidacy let's examine my football background:

I played one year of Little Loop (I believe I was ten years old).

I wanted to be a running back, but when the coaches noticed that I ran like a wounded animal they switched me to defense where I proceeded to spend the first eight games on the bench.

The only cool thing about the games were the orange slices at halftime. I'd eat about eleven oranges before the starters even made it off the field.

Then I got into a game - and this is no lie - I picked off the first pass they threw in my direction.

As I caught the ball I thought about how I'd make those bastard coaches pay for not playing me at running back - I was moving like Larry Brown through the field when I was hit.

I fumbled.

The other team scooped it up.

And returned it for a touchdown.

I never played again.

Seems like I'm perfect head coaching material for that weak organization.

And I'll do it for $49 million less than Shanahan wants.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lambert Versus Como

Flipped on the computer today to see a shot of Adam Lambert kissing another man during his recent appearance somewhere. Then read a note that his act was kicked off of Good Morning America because it's too risky.

Lambert is now singing the blues because he feels as if he's being singled out and that the gays are being wrongly persecuted.

Now, I don't know even one song by this guy - people say he can sing. Not my kind of music, but whatever, right? If he has fans that's good for him.

Yet wrongly persecuted for being gay?

I don't care if he's gay, but I don't know why I have to open the computer to see him kissing some guy, and I certainly don't know if it is particularly smart to see his dancer pretending to perform oral sex on him as he sings.

What's the song about? Does the guy on his knees add to the performance?

Years and years ago I went to a concert that I'll never forget - Perry Como.

Yeah, somehow I ended up at a concert where Perry Como who was about 80 at the time sang songs and told stories on a stage that spun. I believe he sat on a stool for a lot of the show, but even standing there, it was all about the singing.

The voice, the presentation of the song, and connecting with the audience.

Of course, I'm coming off the Bruce show, which was all about connecting to the audience, and now I'm reading about this as performance art?

I'm sure that a ton of gay rights and gay protesters are going to be facing off in front of the Good Morning America studios tomorrow, and Lambert probably garnered plenty of attention for himself.

Can't he get the attention the good old-fashioned way? By earning it?

I don't know I'm always contradicting myself - I listen to Howard Stern every morning and am wildly entertained. Perhaps that kiss and the little simulation was entertaining to someone.

I'll stick with Perry Como.

Not that there's anything wrong with it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Are Anyone's Ears Ringing?

Some thirteen hours after the concert and my ears are still ringing.

I've seen the future of Rock and Roll and it's still Springsteen. The show was absolutely incredible for anyone who was there to witness it, and the pre-show party was also fairly epic - Fuzzy-style. Plenty of food, drink, laughter, sadness, and mayhem.

I'm just glad that Bruce is taking a break because I certainly need one.

Yet what is really mind-boggling is that he performed 33 songs - without so much as a single break - I saw him play nearly 30 years ago and yesterday's show was every bit as energetic as that one.

Still the beauty of Bruce is that he has a way of connecting with each member of the audience.

When Jake was sick nearly ten years ago, I continually played the song "My Love Will Not Let You Down."

The song is not a hit, had rarely been played on this tour and had very little business being in this set, but on a night when he just kept going and going and going, he was able to fit it in for Kathy and I to sing along.

Which if you never heard us sing a duet, is a real treat for everyone around us.

And to those who think it's over...

32 songs in - the lights on the verge of coming up, the crowd in a frenzy and the energy level high, Bruce made an announcement...

"We ain't done yet."

He played one more song, but I think he meant it to quiet those who are thinking they're retiring.

They ain't done yet.

Jeff Miers of the Buffalo News said it best in his review - they were playing as if their very future depended on it.

Awesome. Greatest performer ever.

My ringing ears attest to that much.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sha-Poopie, Hot Shower & the Big Man

Damn that Family Guy - we caught the episode last night where Peter plays for New England, scores a touchdown and sings the Sha-poopie song. Now I can't get it out of my head.

Now as those who know me know, I'm very-challenged when it comes to doing anything around the house in a maintenance-type of a way. There's still a broken lamp in my hall from when I tried to change a light bulb - dropped the damn cover.

Well, for a few weeks, Matthew and I suffered in the early morning as the shower was fairly cold and never truly warmed up. We complained to maintenance, but the second job of maintaining the farm is time-consuming.

After complaining that we were tired of living in third-world country conditions, our maintenance-woman came through. It might have been easy too - simple turn of a switch I'm guessing - I would never go near those confusing tanks - but Sha-Poopie - we had hot water!

I may stick around now.

Anyway, big day today - perhaps the last time that Bruce and Clarence share a stage -the Big Man is nearly 70 - what a wonderful run it has been. Fitting for me that they close-up shop in Buffalo.

One of the best parts of Clarence's book is the mantra that he delivers prior to taking the stage every night - He simply asks God that he is able to play well enough to bring joy to at least one person that night.

Can't wait for him to start playing either - he'll bring me joy tonight if he can get the damn Sha-Poopie lyric out of my head.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Order the Good Wine

A few months ago I got my ticket for the Bruce concert for tomorrow night. Of course, my brothers, my sister, my sister-in-law, and a couple of close friends also grabbed tickets and began to count the days down to the event.

As the concert date got closer we worked on formalizing our plans. Of course pasta is on the menu as it is a Sunday and Sundays were made for sauce.

Yet as the day drew nearer a few more things weighed heavily on my mind. The event will most certainly be a cause to shed some tears as we feel the void in the time and space that was occupied by our remarkable friend and brother.

When Bruce hits the stage, once more it will be about more than what is in front of us. It will be about what we shared and lost. It will be about what we love and hold dear. It will be about living, laughing and loving. Bruce has that way of bringing that full circle.

And it's not that I'm putting too much thought into all of this - it is about as guaranteed as anything in life can be because it is all so circular in our hearts.

Those of us who will share in the day tomorrow understand that it is all connected in an ethereal way that can not be coherently described.

The balance of our lives has certainly been reshaped by what has happened to us over the course of the last year, but we will somehow stand together, and cheer.

We will be cheering even though we know that time waits for none of us. Somewhere out in the distance we will all face the end of our days here, and there will be a profound sadness for what is lost if a life has been lived right.

Yet death is nothing to screw with and once you're gone, there is only one way back and that is in the hearts and minds of those that are still here, pulling the cart.

So tomorrow, I'm celebrating a life - again - and I'm going to do it every day that I have the strength to pull it off.

The only way that someone can still share in an event of this world is to still be connected - to still be the absolute heartbeat of a gathering that no longer has you as an attendant.

There are so many moments in my life when I live as a man of pure caution, always wondering about the impression made, never actually letting loose and just relaxing.

"You need to stop trying to understand life and just enjoy it," Jeff said.

He was right.

Tomorrow I'm ordering the good wine.

Life is too fucking short.

Shroud of Turin and the Big Bang

Couple of items in the news today. A woman is claiming that the Shroud of Turin has markings on it that prove it was not a forgery and really was the burial cloth of Jesus.

Meanwhile in Europe they are staring up the big bang machine and circulating protons around in an effort to be scientific.

I suppose that if I were forced to choose I'm more religious than scientific mostly because I was sent to a Catholic school where religious teachings were delivered as truths and the nuns frankly didn't know much about science. They were good English teachers though.

Yet I'm wondering...should we be messing around with this stuff?

Sure if the show The Big Bang Theory is any sort of barometer the scientists are smarter than me (and where else would I be getting my science knowledge from these days).

And don't even get me started on Penny (she's always been a favorite of mine).

But when we start swinging protons around and smashing atoms, and doing whatever else we're doing, aren't we sort of messing with the natural order of things, whatever that may be?

And to doubt the Shroud of Turin? Sister Ambrosete would hammer you with the ruler if you even thought that.

As usual there is so much out there that can get you confused and I'm sure that little bits of proof will send the conspiracy theorists into a tizzy.

That is of course, until Leonard and Sheldon blow the whole freaking thing skyhigh.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

Bah! I travel a little so I usually get the room upgrade with the points. At the particular chain I stay with their best room is the jacuzzi suite and it is certainly not an upgrade.

First off, I'm not of the mind to set my own jacuzzi bath - I've always had a fundamental problem of washing with the water my ass is in.

Secondly, these rooms are not supposed to be for solo acts - because there are freaking mirrors everywhere. Being that I've become nearly fully nocturnal for the first time since I was an infant, I have spent a lot of awake time catching glimpses of myself moving around the big room.

Let me tell you - I've seen some things. Things that no man should ever see and things that billions of women would turn away from - and have!

There's a mirror in the freaking tub. I won't even enter that area until it fogs over. There's a huge mirror above the sink, one on the wall just outside the bathroom door, and God help me, one on the back of the bathroom door so that if you close the freaking door you can see yourself near, or on the toilet.

I came real close to scratching my eyes out this morning.

As I type this there is a mirror directly above the desk and I'm noticing the bags under my eyes, but the real problem is the eyebrows.

What the hell are those?

Did anyone other than my wife, who is not real shying about expressing her opinion, ever look at my eyebrows and wonder WTF?

Mirror, mirror on the wall - leave me the frig alone, please!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Up Before the Dawn

It was an early morning yesterday and I was up before the dawn.

That's a Supertramp lyric I do believe. It kept ringing in my head this morning. I was wide awake by 4 this morning and it isn't because Bruce will be ringing through town on Sunday. I've seen him enough to be able to hold back the excitement.

And it isn't because I was dreaming about the 27-TIME WORLD CHAMPION YANKEES - they've also won enough for me to get used to it.

I wasn't worried about the next Bills coach - I'm quite aware they'll bungle that.

Thanksgiving worries? or Christmas shopping? Nah - what happens happens.

No, it was simply the feeling that I'd slept enough.

Yet there isn't a lot to do this early. I read for a bit, plotted the day ahead, and considered everything from Sarah Palin to the swine flu and figured they were both plagues we can do little about.

The prevailing thought was that it was simply a shame that I used to get in at four and was rested when I got up two hours later, but that was about twenty-five years ago. It's strange what happens to your body and mind in that span of time.

I recall being in college and being a bit loud as I returned home from a party with a group of friends at about ten PM - an "old" guy stood on his porch yelling at us because we were being loud in the middle of the night.

I remember laughing at the guy and wondering why he was so uptight, and why he thought ten o'clock was the middle of the night.

Ah well, I wouldn't change much about how I lived back then, but knowing what I know now I may not have laughed at the "old" guy. Ten o'clock is a prime sleeping hour.

Now I feel like going back to bed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Around and Around We Go

Yesterday was a tough day for my boy Jake. Not only did his report card show up, but he also had basketball after school, and he didn't get the game he wanted from Block Buster. (The report card was okay, but okay doesn't always work with me - I didn't get on him - just my standard - you can do better).

Of course I knew he was a bit glum when he sat down to watch television with me at about 7:30, his face a mask of despair.

Still, since I'm the happiness-maker, I tried to just fake him through it.

"Hey buddy, what's going on?" I asked.

Jake shook me off and looked at the ice cream cone he was holding.

"You can tell me," I said.

"Well," he said, choosing his words carefully, "I've just been disappointed by some things lately."

It was such an innocent statement - one that can only be truly spoken by children that it kind of tore a hole through me as he said it. I wasn't right there with my "suck it up and tough it out speech" instead, I was speechless.

No one ever wants to hear one of their children ever say they are disappointed, right? Not even if it seems to be a bit trivial.

Yet Jake couldn't even finish his thought because he was too upset. He just left it hanging there.

"I've just been disappointed by some things lately."

There were so many things I could have said to help him talk his way through it.

I debated telling him that life is a shit sandwich and that you're better off just eating the bread.

I could have explained that this too shall pass,and that the sun will come up tomorrow.

I could have jumped off the couch and tried to solve his problems one at a time for him.

Instead, I let it stand.

Yeah, life is disappointing sometimes. There isn't any getting around it. Sometimes there are moments when the disappointments come one after another.

Yet, about an hour later, we were all laughing hard at Sam's response to a couple of questions on his reading comprehension test. (Sam got a 91 on the test, but he completely butchered two answers and it was quite comical).

I'm sure that Jake was still feeling a little disappointed, but the hard laugh brought him around and gave him the reason to believe that things could go better for him perhaps tomorrow.

I certainly hope he has a perfect day today.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thank God for Sarah

Every time I get down in the dumps a little Sarah Palin comes to the forefront spouting her agenda and I laugh, and laugh, and laugh...

Today she is quoted as saying that Obama is at about 4 out of 10 in his job performance. When asked to expand on it she said, "I can see Russia from my house."

Are we really serious about her running for the highest office in the land? She makes W look like a Rhodes Scholar.

She makes me look like Albert Einstein.

I can't help it - I'm not pushing any agenda here, she just makes me laugh with the snowmobile races, the moose hunting, the crazy kids, her son-in-law in Playgirl, the talk of a reality show, the red dress, the traveling around the country, the youbetcha, the Katie Couric interview, a complete lack of knowledge, seven colleges to complete her bachelor's.

I can't wait for Tina Fey to come back and make fun of her.

Yet this time, I needed Sarah to come back to the forefront. I was feeling a little down and she made me laugh again. I'm sure Obama is trying hard to figure out how he can raise his grade to a five or so.

Perhaps I'll read her book to further my good mood. I've always wanted to know what it's like to gut a deer.

Please - go back to Alaska.

Better yet, tell us about your agenda to save America.

That'll be side-splittingly funny.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Lonely Bar Run

I went to college with an ex-marine, Hiram, who could have snapped me in two without much effort. Fortunately we were friends.

Yet for a little while there we were both pursuing the same girl. It was a good thing we were friends because he saw me doing what I call "dancing" with her one night.

Of course, he got the girl.

I was dismayed,but as I've said - we were buddies.

So he grabbed me one night, put me in a semi-headlock and told me that he was sorry I didn't get the girl. He also explained that the best way to handle disappointment is to do a "lonely bar run".

"No friends - no excess drinking - no feeling sorry for yourself. Just sit down, have a couple of beers and concentrate on getting your shit together."

I had forgotten Hiram's advice until late in the day today.

After work, I remembered Hiram, the girl, and the only other time I'd ever done a lonely bar run and I recalled that it had worked.

So I sat down, had a beer and a shot of Jameson's. Actually, I had one for Jeff and one for myself, and in my mind, I told him the Bruce, Clarence and Matsui story.

I didn't go to excess.

I didn't feel sorry for myself.

I did it alone.

Thanks, Hiram. I felt better.

Wonder whatever happened to that girl?

Who cares? Mine is better.

Bruce, Clarence and Matsui

Man, I tell you, this grief is a violently nasty thing to deal with - even eight months later.

Yesterday afternoon I settled in to watch the Bills - quickly lost interest, thought about a nap, and instead grabbed the new autobiography by Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band. For the next ten minutes or so I was thoroughly entertained by a story that happened during the '08 tour.

To know the complete story you might have to read Clarence's book or call me to ask about it, but the short version had Bruce, Clarence and Hideki Matsui sharing a ride from Boston to New York.

It was a funny tale about three of my heroes, so naturally, I wanted to share it...

And I tried to share it - I told it to my brother Jim. I relayed it to my wife. I tried to call my sister...

And it dawned on me that I wasn't going to get the reaction I was looking for. I wouldn't be able to get the one reaction that I clearly needed - that of Jeff.

And it crippled me - it is still crippling me right now.

My first impulse is to drink. Anyone want to help with that?

My second impulse is to suck it up and tough it out. Need help there too.

I went back to the Bills game and watched TO throw a fit because he can't get the ball. I wanted to tell him something about life and acting like a human being. I shut it down. Spoiled bastards.

So here I sit.

Still trying hard to get through this little episode, but just know that if Bruce, Clarence and Matsui end up ordering a pizza from you, you'll get one hell of a tip.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

City of Ruins

The television show Extreme Makeover was in town this week and they certainly, through the use of volunteers, did a wonderful job of re-doing a home in a battered part of town. Kudos.

The grim reality of it being, of course, is that most of the city is in the same sort of shape. It's shocking to drive on the east side of Buffalo and see the boarded up homes, the unmowed lawns, and the broken glass. It's disheartening to travel to the west side too, or to the Black Rock district, or downtown.

Last week I walked Main Street in the middle of a beautiful afternoon. Storefront after empty storefront, I was expecting to see a tumbleweed roll down the center of the track. A ghost town like the old west.

And yet every once in awhile people step up and help out. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there to greet the new family as they looked at their rebuilt home.

I'm sure that most people went down in an effort to get on television, but why they pitched in isn't all that important. They fixed up one home and it's a start.

Unfortunately, like most every city in America the team from Extreme Makeover can save a lot of money on transportation costs by just moving down the street, one house at a time, and every house doesn't have to become a castle.

A few coats of paint, a working lawnmower, someone to take down the boards and fix up the windows, or better yet, perhaps the makeover can be about respecting property, and taking pride in ownership.

That is the makeover we really need.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Confidence

There are no sure ways to raise kids are there?

Some people believe that children should be coddled, hidden from the evil of the world, and sheltered from seeing anything other than what is wonderful, and natural and beautiful.

There are other children who grow to adults having already seen and done it all. In this day and age some of the true horrors of life are just a few mouse clicks away.

As a parent there is plenty to get you confused, and in the back of your mind there is always fear.

Are we doing this right?

I'll tell you one thing I know for sure - there has never been a Fazzolari kid born who lacked confidence.

I relay all of this after having watched Sam and Jake answer questions posed to them on Facebook. Sam was asked if he could date someone who would they be most like - and he answered, 'Me.'

Perfect.

And the kids run around here so cocksure of everything that comes out of their mouths. They know they're funny, and smart, and happy and that life is theirs for the taking.

And in the end the greatest gift we've been able to provide is confidence.

Confidence in the fact that they are loved. Confidence in the fact that they are able to grow at their own pace, and confidence in the fact that we have their back if they need it.

Pretty funny though actually to think of one sentence that will never be spoken:

"Meet ---- Fazzolari. S/He's pretty shy."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

My son Jake was born on a Friday the 13th so I don't get real excited about the terror of the day anymore although maybe I should.

The movie 2012 is about to be released and it talks about the end of the world in one fell swoop. There are actually people out there who've sold everything they owned in preparation for such a day. They seem to be idiots to me.

Yet we are just a couple of weeks past Halloween too and this morning I read a story about John Wetteland, the relief pitcher from the 1996 27-TIME WORLD CHAMPION NEW YORK YANKEES, and he had to be rushed to the hospital. A quote in the story said that Wetteland had always battled demons.

And that's the sort of thing that caught my eye.

Who isn't battling demons of sorts?

Aren't we all sort of in that fight on a day-to-day basis? Whether they are demons that result from reliving a prior tragedy, or demons that show themselves through the face of addiction, or just demons that come as the part of the original sin package, there are certainly demons that exist in our own mind that need to be battled back.

Isn't that the eternal struggle? Doesn't it all boil down to good versus evil?

I'm fond of saying that no one gets through unscathed, but to blame it all on demons seems as silly to me as saying that we are not in control of our own destiny. Obviously we don't have ultimate control, but action is required, right?

I've heard of people who speak of giving up complete control in their lives and make decisions on what they believe God tells them to do. I'm thinking of those who do not believe in treating illness because God will provide.

That won't quite work, right?

I'm not trying to get too philisophical this morning, but saying that you were captured by demons feels to be a cop-out of sorts. Just as saying that God will provide when you don't sort of force the action in one way or another.

I knew a woman a few years ago who owed me rent money but was a few hundred dollars shy. She softly told me that she was flat broke with no chance of earning anything more that month. She was sitting on the couch eating a take-out breakfast that she had delivered, and when I pressed her a bit she pointed to the crucifix hanging high on her wall.

"He will provide an answer," she said as she blessed herself with pieces of egg rolling down her chin.

"Yeah, well where is His checkbook?" I asked, "because I need the money you owe me."

She laughed and shook me off as though I were completely in the dark.

"He is in control," she whispered.

I never did get that money.

Now that's not to say that there is no guiding hand in all of this, but believing that every day living will be handled by a higher power without you so much as getting off the couch is crazy talk. So is blaming your problems on demons.

I'm just saying.

Friday the 13th is all just a bunch of crap, right?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Learning to Rise Above

Every month I head into Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, either to attend the parent advisory meeting for Family-Centered Care or to greet new nurses on their way in to let them know that parents should have a voice in the care of their children.(Yeah, yeah, it's tough greeting the new nurses, but someone has to do it).

I've been proud to be on the Advisory Board since it started back about five or six years ago and it pains me when I can't attend one of the meetings. I've told the story about Jake's care - before he arrived at the hospital, while he was there, and since - about 300 times - and walking through those doors each and every time brings back a ton of the fear that I felt eight years ago.

Yet before me at every meeting are parents and nurses who seem so much stronger than me. There are mothers who have special needs children (twenty-four hour a day care), there are parents who have lost their children, and there are nurses and doctors who have seen so much pain. Way too much pain.

And attending the meetings always feels the same to me - I dread it heading through the doors, I grow invigorated when I realize that I can help impact change, and I'm in awe as I leave, wondering how some of the people involved find the strength every day.

We all have jobs to do. Most of our jobs don't mean the difference of life and death. They do not test our reserve for compassion day after day, hour after hour.

Yet I'm not naive enough to believe that every one in every hospital all across the country does their very best every moment of every day.

I'm sure that there are people who cut corners. I know that a lot of mistakes are made - there are human beings at work there.

Yet the visits certainly give me a charge and it allows me to see the very best of people who really, really care.

The meetings, of course, are not very well-attended by people who are just punching the clock and putting in their time, but I'm not ready to talk about them today.

I'm just thankful for the people who try to rise above the mess of life.

It does my heart good to hang around with those types of souls.

Buy the Book

Saw a Stephen King Press Conference on the release of his new book...

I like Stephen King even though he's a Red Sux fan. I loved that he would read between innings of the World Series games. I would read too if I had to cheer for those lowlifes.

Yet I also enjoy that he promotes reading. There is still nothing better than reading a good book. It's always better than the movie and a hundred times better than the audio books. There is something special about just being lost in a story and thinking along with the author.

Of course, I might be biased here. I learned to write because of a love for reading. I've actually kind of set a record lately, reading just one book after another, kind of trying to escape into a place where things can be controlled and make a little sense.

There is a lot of talk these days that books will go to the wayside because of the freaking Internet and Facebook and Twitter and stupid, self-serving blogs.

Oops, I do most of those things.

Yet I like King believe that there will always be a place for bound thoughts and I still believe that ten bucks for a book to hold and save and slap a fly with is the greatest of bargains.

Through the years I've signed a lot of books and it pains me to see them on E-Bay,or know that they are in the bottom of some one's book cabinet, collecting dust. Each one is a child of sorts, and you want everyone who ever plucks down the money for them to appreciate what you were thinking.

I'll most likely buy the new Stephen King book. He may be a Red Sux fan while I am a fan of the 27-TIME WORLD CHAMPION NEW YORK YANKEES - but we will be forever linked on the Internet as we both wrote and published a book called Desperation.

It always thrills me to enter Desperation into Google and see our names side-by-side.

Bad news for Stephen King.

Like our baseball teams - my version of Desperation was better.

His sold more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Used to Care

I see they put the sniper to death this morning. In years and days past that would have annoyed me to all hell. I was always so vehemently opposed to the death penalty.

Today...I didn't care.

Not that I have changed all of my bleeding heart ways, but what the hell can be done?

I've always argued that curbing violence by committing violence doesn't make a lot of sense.

That's kind of like telling your kids not to play with the oven or you're going to burn their fingers off.

Then I would compare it to baling water out of an overflowing sink - you can't cure the problem until you get rid of the clog, right?

Then I used to moan and this is the big one - that those put to death are the ones that can't afford to defend themselves.

That one still bugs me now that I think of it - Capital Punishment is the only law on the books that is given only to the poor and it isn't right.

So, how did I react this morning when Howard Stern's crew commented on the sniper's death?

I didn't cheer like Artie and Howard, but I didn't feel disgusted either.

I couldn't help but think of the loved ones of all the people that those two idiots murdered. I know the pain and I can't imagine the anger in such a situation as that.

So, he's gone - I didn't release the gas that killed him - or however the hell he met his end - but I can't say as I'll miss him either.

I'm too tired to worry about it anymore.

I used to care...now I don't.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FACEBOOK

Well, I broke down and started looking at it every once in awhile. My wonderful sister established it for me and even though I didn't really need another site to go to, I decided to check in one day...

...and now I have another avenue to talk with old friends that I haven't seen in awhile and I'm starting to come around to the idea, I suppose.

Yet I still don't get it completely.

Why do people post what they're having for dinner? Or that they just brushed their teeth? And what's up with all of these damn games?

I can't keep up!

Also every morning I get to read someone else's horoscope - why would I care?

The cool thing about it is that I'm friends with my boys and just the other day I received an e-mail that said "Kathy and Cliff Fazzolari are now friends!"

That was refreshing.

Anyway, I don't know where all of this is headed. We are all sharing our thoughts, days, and actions - one big community, I suppose, and it doesn't seem to hurt anyone, right?

Until someone steals all of our identities and signs us up for the War in Iraq.

Ah, well, why worry about it?

Now what the hell is Twitter?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Need Advice?

During lunch, with no more baseball to read about, I was reading Ann Landers or Dear Abby or whatever the hell it was and I scanned a letter from a man who was so torn up with a potential problem.

Seems that his wife was getting on him a bit because in the morning he shares the bathroom with their teenage daughter - he shaves while she's in the shower and they talk the entire time. He wanted to know if it was inappropriate that it went down like this because his wife was giving him grief.

Listen... I don't know everything, and I don't have any teenage daughters, but do you really have to sit down and write a letter to a newspaper to get a handle on whether or not you should be in the bathroom with your naked daughter?

Most of those letters are usually of that variety, but Ann Landers and Dr. Abby seem to be very important in handling the crisis' of the day. I love the ones that try to talk you into their side of the story.

For instance:

"I'm a battered wife who works three jobs to support my deadbeat husband who drinks himself to oblivion every day. Yet after the daily beat-down he is usually so sweet and a couple of weeks ago he brought me flowers that he hand-picked from behind the trailer after he went there to take a piss. Should I leave him or just tough it out?"

And then they sign it with some neat moniker - the above lady used something like -Still Hopelessly in Love in LA.

Even better are the ones that say something like:

"My husband always puts the toothpaste on the wrong side of the medicine cabinet after he's done using it. How can I make him put it where I want him to put it?"

First off - if that's your biggest problem, you're doing all right.

Secondly - if you were my wife you'd be about halfway through that letter before I had you hauled away and sent to the loony bin. You have to ask Ann Landers that?

...just my gripe for the day...it's like that old cartoon strip Blondie...I used to be halfway through it when I'd ask myself...why the hell am I reading this?

Perhaps I need to write Ann Landers a letter. Here goes:

"Every day my eyes are drawn to the senseless questions your dimwitted readers write to you and your lame brain answers. How do I stop reading your useless drivel?" Signed - Mentally Deficient in Buffalo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chow Down, Wide Load

In the early evening, after scrapping plans to have a few drinks to celebrate the Yanks, I headed outside to drop off the garbage. From the garage I heard the shouts of Matt, Jake and Sam as they played ping-pong and laughed.

I had a serious flashback to my youth and playing with my brothers - we were a walking two-on-two game ready to happen - in every sport. The teams were always John and Jeff against Jim and me. We usually lost - first off because if we won John would kick the shit out of us, and secondly because Jeff was better than us - being the youngest didn't stop him - his hands were just quicker.

So, I headed to the garage. Jake was sitting out as Sam was playing Matt - obviously a distinct disadvantage for Sam, but you would have never known it from the chirping he was doing - "You suck!" he cried out just as I entered the garage.

"Let's go, two-on-two," I said. "Me and Jake."

The reason I chose Jake as a teammate was because I wanted to be able to control his emotions if we somehow fell behind - Jake is a lot like I was as kid - hating to lose - ever!

We started the game and I hit a slow serve to Sam, believing that just volleying a little would make it an enjoyable time for all of us - well, the little bastard ripped it back like a Chinese table top champion.

"One to nothing - get that crap out of here!" Sam yelled.

"Holy cripe," I said.

Matt laughed - "He has an unbelievable forehand."

For two games we lobbied back and forth with Sam ripping forehand after forehand just an inch over the net. If you don't know Sam, you have to picture it - he's nine years old and small for his age - skinny, short, and unbelievably active. It was shocking to see his hands move so quickly as he flicked the ball over the net.

The biggest thing on him is his mouth.

Thankfully we beat them, but only because Sam and Matt were having such a good time playing that they never really cared about the score.

As I walked from the garage, Sam was chirping at me.

"Yeah, keep walking," he called. "You don't want no more of this."

All that was missing was him calling out:

"Chow down, wide load," as his uncle may have said during a beer pong game.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Smoke Clears

Oh God I love naps. It seems that I became addicted to weekend naps when the boys were young and now, like Grandpa Fuzzy, the office closes from 1 to 3 PM.

Now I'm up and ready for something, I suppose. What has been happening since the Yankee World Series run? I scan the news on the Net and nearly puke.

Massacre in Fort Hood - awful, awful story. Doesn't your heart just ache when you see that kind of rampage? I don't ever want to get used to reading about that!

Serial killer burying people on the property in Ohio - see above - and the neighbors said the same things - quiet guy - never saw it coming.

I think there was another murder in the Orlando area - day after day. Horrible.

To have just one shot at life and bungle it so badly as to end up walking in on your co-workers with an automatic weapon, or to feel the need to capture people and torture them, or to even get to the point where you shoot someone in your own family.

When the smoke finally clears, and we are to assess such catastrophes doen't it seem that we need to do something different?

I believe that it was last year at this time that there was a rash of such rampages and the condemnations of society doesn't really seem to have done the trick.

Yet what is the answer? Aren't there warning signs?

What was it? Thirteen dead at Fort Hood?

Think of all the people affected by the mental instability of one man. Hundreds and hundreds are in mourning.

I just don't know what it is going to take.

When is enough,enough?

You talk about making it tougher to get a gun and people scream that their rights are being taken away.

Everyone has the same rights, right? Even if they are so unstable that they have no value whatsoever for a life?

Perhaps it can't be regulated, but somehow the guns have to be taken from the hands of those that aren't all there. Someone isn't doing their job.

I don't know anything other than it seems that we've grown used to it happening and that is when there really is suffering.

My heart aches - I miss baseball season already.

I'm going back to bed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

We Did It, Dad!


Taken from the Web - Thanks for Sharing - Carrie - Great Take on winning!NEW YORK — The throng of media members around the makeshift stage seemed impenetrable, but Harlan Chamberlain motored his way through all of the cameras and notepads anyway. Reaching a blue barrier, he stopped his scooter, strained to look over a crowd of world champion Yankee ballplayers and tried to get a glimpse of his son. When that proved useless, he simply resorted to his considerable vocal chords.

"Jaaaaaaahba!" he yelled. "Jaaaaaaaaaahba!"

Harlan said his son's name a few more times, then spied A.J. Burnett(notes) in the crowd.

"Burnett!" he said. "Can you get my son!"

Burnett could and a few moments later, Joba Chamberlain(notes) put down the giant blue Yankee flag he had been waving up on stage. The big Yankees pitcher hopped off the stage, disappeared from the view of the Fox cameras and quickly made a beeline for his father. When they came together, they wrapped each other in a huge rocking bearhug.

It wasn't long before both were crying.

They said the same thing over and over.

"We did it, dad," Joba said.

"We did it," Harlan said.

"We did it," Joba said.

"We did it," Harlan said.

And on and on. They held tight for almost a minute. Their eyes were red when they let go.

You see the Yankees' $200+ million payroll and it's easy to get cynical. Same goes for their $1.5 billion new stadium, the seats that cost more than the average mortgage payment, the steroid controversies involving some of their team members and all the endless hype and hooey about mystique, aura and all the Yankee legends and ghosts.

But then you see this very simple and very real scene of a 24-year-old pitcher sharing the hug of a lifetime with his dad and you remember that those father-son relationships — one of the only things that really matter — are at the very heart of this great game that we love.

The same dynamic was on display everywhere at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night. Way up in the upper deck, a dad tossed his little son into the air whenever Hideki Matsui(notes) came through (which was often). A mid-20s hipster sitting next to them made sure to ask one of my co-workers to snap a photo of him and his pops with his grainy cell phone camera. CC Sabathia(notes) did his postgame interviews with his little son on his shoulders the whole time.

And while all of those tiny little snapshots meant the world to those pictured in them, none of them seemed quite as remarkable to outsiders as the one taken by the Chamberlains.

Their story has been told often since Joba became a pitcher with the Yankees. Harlan was stricken with polio as a child and his health problems have confined him to the trademark scooter that gets him recognized by Yankee fans everywhere. Despite his limitations, he raised both Joba and his sister in Nebraska and provided for them while working in a prison. The sad story of Joba's mother is sadly well-known — she's facing 20 years in jail for a drug charge — but he's always had the love and support from an extraordinary father. They call each other their best friends. It's impossible for them to be any closer.

I caught up with Harlan later on Wednesday night and asked him what it was like to see his son pitch a scoreless inning in a World Series clincher. Then I asked him what it was like to have the hug on the field with him afterward. His eyes were still teary as he talked.

"I told my son for years that he would do this, we would talk about getting to the World Series all the time" said Harlan while stopped near home plate of Yankee Stadium. "We just shared that moment while realizing that he did it. I pinched myself a few times. It's pretty awesome.

"We love each very much. This whole adventure in life is about family and in our case, it's about father and son."

In the days ahead, we're sure to see a lot of scenes from the Yankees 27th championship. Some we'll be bound to remember. Some we'll be bound to forget.

It's not hard to tell which category the Chamberlains' special moment will fall under, because it rarely gets much better than that

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twenty-Seven!!!!!!!!!!

It kind of got ridiculous there for awhile, didn't it?

Everyone who ever met my brother Jeff knew that he wasn't Matsui's biggest fan. Although he thought Hideki was okay, he wondered why they called him Godzilla.

Now we know.

The thing about it was that Sam, who owns a jersey of every single Yankee player wore Matsui on his back tonight.

And Lynn called just before Matsui came to bat to tell me that Matsui sucks...

And I was just so emotional- waiting and hoping!

"Why'd you pick Matsui?" I asked Sam before the game started.

"I just grabbed it," Sam said, shrugging.

But I knew why I wrote, on Facebook, that Matsui would homer tonight.

It was a tribute.

When Matsui clubbed three foul balls, hard, in the second inning, I turned to my wife - "He's going to do it now," I said.

The next pitch was high into the upper deck.

And something different happened.

In all the years and through all the pitches thrown that were hit or missed, and with all the feelings that the Yankees should never lose... and with six championships already in my pocket, I did something I never did before...

...I cried!

Reggie's three home runs didn't matter anymore. Beating the Mets in 2000 wasn't that big of a deal. The 125 win team in 1998 - no comparison!

When the ball left, I cried. In my heart, I cried. In my mind, I cried. And for ever more. Amen.

Yet, there was more - a two-run double!

By...Matsui

And then...

A two run double...

By ... Matsui

And alright, dude...I'm getting the message.

You're there.

MVP - Matsui!

Great to share another championship with you!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hard to Kiss Them

This one was taken from the wire...not funny, but brought to mind a joke that my brother John loved to tell.

"The worst part about having sex with an animal is that you have to jump down off the stool and run around the front to kiss them."


"A South Carolina man caught on video having sex with a horse was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison after pleading guilty for the second time in two years to abusing the creature.

Rodell Vereen was also ordered never to go near the stable where the horse's owner caught him and held him for authorities at shotgun point over the summer. He apologized to the woman and to himself after admitting to buggery at the Horry County courthouse.

"I'm sorry about what I've done. I didn't mean to do it. It's my fault. I'm sorry for what I've done to myself," Vereen said during Wednesday's court hearing.

Vereen was arrested in July after Barbara Kenley caught him entering the barn at Lazy B Stables in Longs, about 20 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach. She had been staking out the stable for more than a week after setting up a surveillance camera and videotaping Vereen's assault on her 21-year-old horse named Sugar.

Kenley said she became suspicious because her horse was acting strange and getting infections, and she noticed things were moved around the barn and dirt was piled up near the horse's stall.

It wasn't the first time she'd caught Vereen. In late 2007, Kenley found him asleep in the hay after assaulting her horse. For that offense, he also pleaded guilty to buggery, received probation and had to register as a sex offender.

On Wednesday, the judge sentenced Vereen to five years in prison, but he will only have to serve three years behind bars as long as he successfully completes two years of probation. Vereen also was ordered to undergo additional mental treatment after he gets out of prison and was told to stay away from Kenley's stable.

Kenley told The Sun News of Myrtle Beach she was mostly happy with the verdict, but wished Vereen had got more prison time.

"I've been through hell for the last year and it's caused a lot of hardship," Kenley told the newspaper. "There's a lot of ridicule and jokes going around about this thing. And a person can only take so much."

I'll Give You the Hour Back

My sleep rhythms are all off. I'm thinking it all started with the damn hour of extra sleep we got on Saturday night.

Let's retrace - No Yanks on Friday, up late anyway. Woke at regular time on Saturday, which is roughly 6 AM - solid six hours, need a nap, good nap, lucky too because there's game on tonight.

Saturday - Beer is hand-delivered by a buddy. We drink most of what he brought before the rain delay ended. Get more beer. Game keeps going. Bed late. Up early.

Did I change the clock in my room? I can't remember. I glance at the cell phone that should change automatically and it matches the clock radio.

Head downstairs - all other clocks are off an hour - change them. Find out that downstairs clocks had already been changed and that I never actually changed the clock in my room and that my cell phone clock didn't change either.

WHAT THE HELL TIME IS IT? I ask.

Get it straightened away. Sunday night...'nother game...up early Monday. Work through the day, looking for a nap after dinner. Could that work?

Nope...Game 5...Utley's hair...can't sleep...can Andy go on three day's rest? Not if he's resting like me.

Work Tuesday, but dream of bed. Tylenol PM. Finally, back in rythm. Wake up feeling refreshed for the first time all week. I glance at the clock:

3:42 AM!

Bah!

Another game tonight.

Thank God this is going to be the last one.

Please!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Want I Want...I Need, I Need

Woke up this morning a little disappointed and a tad perplexed...

First off, I'm perplexed by the stuff in Chase Utley's hair. It makes me think of what happened to the Cameron Diaz character in Something About Mary. Could it be?

And disappointed because the Yanks didn't close it out last night. If Jeter would've got the big hit last night they may have bronzed him right there, but he didn't, which brings me to the lesson learned.

The game was something that I had no control over. I will have just as much control over tomorrow's game. Yet I couldn't help but fret the outcome. There are so many things like that in life.

And if someone would've explained that the Yanks would've took two of three in Philly - I would've taken it in a heartbeat. Yet after winning the first two - I wanted more.

Again, a life's lesson - no matter how good it is - we want more - greed gets in the way and despite the fact that two in Philly was enough - I'm disappointed it wasn't three.

The "I want, I need," aspect of life isn't for me anymore. I hate chasing things around - things I can't control - and things that would be good enough if I didn't desire something more.

Yet it's human nature, isn't it? Especially in the materialistic world we live in.

That being said - there are still two things I want desperately:

Of course...one more win...

And...

Please tell me what that is in Utley's hair?

Steroid cream perhaps?

Bring me my Jameson's Gag.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Baseball gods

I'm not saying that I deserve one more Yankee victory tonight to close out what has been a good World Series, but...

1). My kids need to see that a team they root for doesn't have to miss the playoffs every year, cry about not selling enough tickets (when every game is a sell-out) and make excuses about why they failed. Up until now Sam and Jake have only heard the stories - this would be a first for them. (Matt will forever suffer because his wagon is tied to the losers).

Give it to them baseball gods.

2). I've stayed up late on back-to-back nights and tonight will be night three in a row. I know there are Philly fans staying awake too, but damn, I'm tired. Don't make me stay up again on Weds.

3). I rooted for the Yankees during the down, dark years of this decade when they had the gall to lose two World Series' and only won 8 of 9 American League East Titles - it's been way too long between championships.

4). It's been a long, shitty year! Never in my life did I believe that I'd be celebrating a championship without my brother at my side, but this year some people have truly sucked it up so that I ain't alone in this.

Those of you still hating - thank you - it makes me smile.

Those of you who attempted to pretend to like the Yanks - if they win you can go back to hating again next year.

Those true Yankee fans that text late into the night and make fun of Buck-hole and McIdiot - you know how much fun it is.

Yet, we may all be ahead of ourselves a bit. There's still one more win to get!

Get it tonight please so I can get to sleep early and so I don't hear Joe Buck in my nightmares.

How much money did CC sign for? (He only mentioned that 55 times) Jealous moron!

After all, Uncle George and Cousins Hank and Hal have to get ready to sign more free agents!

Twenty-Seven? Seven in my lifetime!

Can't you almost touch it?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Buffalo News Article-11/01/09

Speaker to Deliver a Toast to Writing

By Louise Continelli
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
November 01, 2009

NIAGARA FALLS—Award-winning author Clifford Fazzolari, who may be on the Joyce Carol Oates track if for sheer output alone, delivers the Saturday morning keynote talk during next weekend’s Toastmasters Communication and Leadership Conference, hosted by Toastmasters International in the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.

Fazzolari, 45, has published nine books, fiction as well as nonfiction, with readers from around the world.

During the public conference, he and others will talk about how to add humor to your message and make it more memorable; how to stay motivated and keep your message alive and strong; how to make sure you and your life partner share the same message; how to find just the right opening for your message to hook your audience’s attention; and how to stand out as a leader by sharing your message.

Fazzolari’s an expert at all of the above, and more. He teams up with another keynote speaker, lawyer Michael Notaro, second vice president of Toastmasters International.

Fazzolari said he’s “thrilled” that Jill Kelly, co-founder of the Hunter’s Hope Foundation, is receiving the 2009 Communication and Leadership Award from Toastmasters District 65.

“She deserves it,” said the writer, whose book House of Miracles featured a foreword by Kelly.

You may have spotted Fazzolari, who lives in Blasdell, in Niagara County, where he wears his other hat—a white hard hat—during his “day job” as an insurance safety inspector. That’s what he was doing on a recent morning right before Q& A interviewed him:

Q. First, tell us about your “fallback” career?

A. I inspect construction sites in and around the Niagara Falls area.

I participated in the construction process during the erection of the Seneca Hotel. It’s always interesting to go back to visit the places when the construction is complete, sort of like putting a book together.

I once worked at one of the power plants in the Falls. My brother and I used to eat lunch every day in a park near the Falls, and we never got tired of looking at it.

Q. What will you be speaking about at the Toastmasters Conference?

A. Communication through the written and spoken word. I’m going to speak on why I sit down in a 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’ve struggled with my motivations. I’ve wondered how and why I continue to communicate. The ability to speak in front of the Toastmasters International gathering answered some of those questions for me. I plan on giving it my all. I have a lot to share.

I’m real honored to be the keynote speaker at the breakfast. And one thing’s for certain —nothing makes me prouder than being in The Buffalo News.

Q. Why Toastmasters?

A. 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.

Q. What about addressing a conference?

A. It’s interesting, years ago I was asked to speak at a writers’ conference in Buffalo, and I followed a speaker who was sort of dry. I’d also written a dry speech but scrapped everything at the last minute in an attempt to get the audience to laugh.

I ended up doing about a half-hour of stand-up comedy on how difficult it is to get something published, how, at my first book-signing, I was all excited about being a “star,” but received only one inquiry, and that was from a young man, who, after picking up my book and reading the back page, promptly asked, “Do you know where the bathroom is, dude?”

My story’s always the same —that I live in a great part of the country where writing can flourish, and we can all make a difference in our own little way.

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 for Toastmasters, I’m thrilled with the chance to speak because I’m going to have a different forum, and I’m going to be able to incorporate some new stories about communication and leadership.

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

Q. Who’s your favorite author?

A. John Steinbeck.

Q. Favorite movie?

A. What else—The Grapes of Wrath.

Q. Your favorite Italian restaurant?

A. The Como.

Q. Tell us about your new book published this year, Blind Spot?

A. It’s a book written in honor of a friend of mine who had lost his child to a tragic accident.

Q. Is it true you’ve had your own brush with tragedy this year?

A. I lost my brother and best friend, Jeff, early in the year. He suffered a stroke at the age of 38, leaving a wife and three children behind.

Q. How was your birthday?

A. My 45th birthday [last month was] special. My wife and kids presented me with a gold chain that now holds an “Italian horn” that my brother wore around his neck for a lot of years. I don’t wear any jewelry whatsoever. I’ve never really even owned a watch, but I’m wearing a gold chain now— and for the rest of my life.


Registration for workshops for the conference costs $25, or $100 for the full conference, including meals. To register online, visit http://d65conference.eventbrite. com or call Melinda Schmidt at 825-4739.

Fun While It Lasted

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