Friday, April 30, 2010

Sad, Sad, Sad


The Stones have a great upbeat song called - you guessed it - Sad, Sad, Sad. I was listening to it this morning when it occurred to me that sadness is something I never really did very well. Obsessive Compulsive? Certainly. Anger? Got that down. Happy? Spent most every day really happy with life. Silly? Sure. Depressed? once in awhile, but I never really had to deal with sad for an extended length of time.

So, there I was, in the parking lot at Wilson Farms, thinking of getting a coffee, listening to Mick, and wondering why I never was able to handle being sad.

I thought it through - considered that it was okay to be sad, but that it was okay to be happy too.

Send me a sign that I'm thinking the right way, I thought.

The song ended. I dug around for loose change for the coffee, and the van beside me moved, leaving me with the above glimpse of happiness.

Don't need to tell you who loved Heineken Light now, do I?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Get Lucky

The University @ Buffalo Center for the Arts is an unbelievable place to see a concert. I didn't know that until last night.

My love affair with all music performed by Mark Knopfler has continued for the past 35 years or so. It started with Dire Straits, continued on through every single one of his great solo albums. It peaked last night.

For one reason or another I felt weird entering the hall last night. Knopfler was the last act that I really wanted to see in concert, but on a Wednesday night, feeling beat down, with a crowd of people who all had grey in their hair? How good could it be? Well, as Knopfler himself might say you get lucky now and then.

The first song that ever captured me as a fan of Dire Straits was Romeo & Juliet. Knopfler, sitting on a stool, because he can barely move after a motorcycle accident of a few years ago, sang it out.

And I can't do the talks, like they talk on the tv
And I can't do the love songs like the way their meant to be
I can't do everything, but I'll do anything for you
I can't do anything except be in love with you.


"Holy shit," my brother John said as Knopfler's guitar wailed.

Effortless. Masterful. Fantastic.

And the longer I sat there listening, the longer I wanted the concert to go. I honestly would have sat there through the night listening to the music.

"Play every song you ever wrote!" I wanted to yell out.

And during the show, I thought of all things lost and gained in the 30+ years of listening to the music that defines my life. I thought of watching it with my brother and lamented the fact that I wasn't watching it with every single person I've ever loved.

And now the sun's gone to hell
and the moon's riding high


Knopfler sang in Brothers in Arms and I nearly cried because I've spent 14months believing the sun has gone to hell.

But I only slept a few hours last night because I can't help but know I was in the presence of pure brilliance in that theatre.

Yeah, his voice cracks, and he can't move around. Sure we all have grey hair, and a bigger belly, but man, I tell you, if there are better guitar players in the world, I haven't heard them yet.

You get lucky now and then.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Larry King

Howard Stern is playing a recent interview conducted by Larry King. Seems the old man was interviewing a woman who was raped and her story went like this:

"We stopped at a fast-food place and grabbed some food, and we were in the car, eating it when he slammed my face off the dashboard, and then violently raped me."

The woman was crying and gasping as she told the story.

Know what Larry King asked?

This is priceless.

"What happened to the food?"

I can't even look at the man now without laughing. I've also heard him interview Paul and Ringo and get their names wrong. How many people don't know Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney?

Yet that's not even the best part. The man is on his seventh marriage. Seven! Don't you figure you'd eventually quit?

Why in the hell would you break back into Shawshank that many times?

And the 7th marriage is in trouble. Seems his wife has been sleeping with their kids little league coach, while he has been stepping out with his wife's sister!

But there is talk of reconciliation.

They attended an event together last night and are trying to work things out.

Ah, I love a good romance, but sleeping with your wife's sister should pretty much end things, wouldn't you think?

Especially when you're 80-friggen-something-years-old?

I don't know. I'd love to just sit down with Larry for one short interview. And you know what the first question would be, don't you?

It would just have to be: "What happened to the food?"

It's About the Money, Stupid

On a day when Ryan Howard of the Phillies signed a $125 million contract to hit a ball for the next five years; and the Boston Red Sox gave $5 to a Cuban defector; the Yankees visited the White House to celebrate last year's championship; and the Sabres were eliminated from the playoffs for the 41st time - much to the chagrin of a passionate fan base.

George Steinbrenner once said that there are two kinds of owners in professional sports - those who want to win and those who want to make money.

Unfortunately in Buffalo the owners of the sports teams are about mind-control and money-grabbing. And people wonder why I've become cynical about the march of our teams.

Think of it - here in Buffalo, a hard-working town, the Sabres and Bills have sold nearly every seat to every event for the past twenty or so years. There has never been a championship. Yet each year the fan base does the 'little train that could dance' and complains about money spent by others.

"We spent to the cap," someone argued the other day.

Well, there are ways around the cap - ever hear the expression - 'it doesn't count against the cap?'

The San Francisco 49ers won a couple of Super Bowls because they had the best accountant. How do the Indianapolis Colts give Peyton Manning enough money to render his own cap and still sign 55 other players. The Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Marlins (twice), and countless other teams have won league championships by throwing all their chips in - one time - for the chance to bring home the hardware.

Follow the green.

The Sabres had a nice year. They always have representative years - they have a good coach and a young talent base, but 3/4ths of the way through the year everyone knew they just weren't good enough. To be better they would have to bring in a couple of reinforcements. Spend a little money. Go for it.

They didn't.

The media sold the blue-collar, us against the world act, and people lined up for tickets and even lined up to stand outside the place where the game was being played.

"You gotta' believe!" Signs were waved all around town.

Sitting back, I was cynical. I aggravated everyone in the world on FaceBook. I didn't believe. I know an owner that goes for it, against all reason, to make a fan base happy, and whether you're playing with a little money or a lot of money that is something that has to be there for you to have the chance to win.

Now, I'm not just a fan-waving Yankee fan. I realize they have distinct advantages, but they also give back as well - that's a whole 'nother argument.

What they do have - in the end - is someone who makes an assessment with 90 games left to upgrade the pitching no matter what the budget is, no matter who doesn't like it.

The owners of the Bills and Sabres play the pauper card and sell it to a passionate public.

These guys are billionaires, people.

Because they just want to make money.

Off of you.

Little train that could.

Seriously.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Stand Corrected

My wife is doing dat, der learning thing, and as she learns, she educates us along the way. It is actually quite interesting, but never one to let things pass quietly, I thought I would share some of my knowledge too.

"Did you know that America is the only country where they have tornadoes?" I asked.

My statement was greeted with looks of skepticism by Kathy and the smarty-pants principal that were listening.

"It's true. I read about it while ago."

At the golf course, the guy collecting the money started talking about Cliff Clavin from Cheers for some reason. Perhaps due to my name, I'm thinking.

"Did you know that America is the only country where they have tornadoes?" I asked.

Another buddy looked shocked.

"That is true," the old man behind the counter said. "Only in the United States."

Feeling pretty good about things and ready to shock the world with my tidbit of knowledge, I settled in front of the television as my wife prepared for a Monday test.

"Ask me a few questions," she said.

I glanced at the paper as she spouted off information regarding connective tissue and ligaments, and a whole bunch of other stuff that was foreign to me. In the middle of it all, as I marveled at how much she'd learned, and wondered if my learning days were done, my cell phone beeped to show that I had an e-mail.

"I was skeptical," it said. "So you don't lose a bar bet."

My heart sank. The smarty pants principal had gone and looked it up. Turns out that tornadoes have been spotted on every continent except for Antarctica.

The one piece of knowledge that I had over everyone else - shot to hell.

Now I know how Clavin felt.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Baby Fever

My wife invited a visitor over for a sleepover and at just about seven o'clock on Friday night our newborn great niece, Layla, was dropped by the house with a bag filled with extra diapers. Despite the fact that she was there and I was there she had a better chance of changing my diaper than I did hers.

Not that I'm not happy for my niece and nephew, who now have two small children, and need a night of peace every now and then, but I've officially closed the door on all things baby.

"Oh, I want one," Kathy cooed as she held the baby out for my inspection. "Isn't she beautiful? Can we have another one? Do you want to hold her?"

"First of all, she's beautiful; secondly, you're spade, we can't have another one, thirdly if by some miracle you did become pregnant, I'd be in the garage looking for a low-hanging beam; and lastly, I don't want to hold her because babies scare me."

Together with my buddy John we began a discussion of an old Nicholsan-Streep movie where Nicholsan becomes homeless after losing his senses after dropping his own child. Sam helped figure out that the movie was Ironweed.

"Can you imagine anyone ever hurting a baby?" Kathy asked. She held the baby up for my inspection once more.

"All babies look like Winston Churchill," I said. (Thanks for the line John)."But no, I can't imagine anyone ever hurting a baby."

But it happens every day. Last night they discovered the remains of a baby tossed from a bridge in the New York area. It's mind-blowing, actually.

So, how'd it all work out?

I woke nice and early again on Saturday, but was confined to my room as Kathy was discovered sleeping on the couch, near enough to hear the baby sleeping in the next room. By eight o'clock she shared the experience.

"I don't want another baby," she said. "Layla was up at ten to five. I slept about four hours last night."

"So the fever's cured?" I asked.

"Yeah, but babies are just so beautiful," she answered.

I didn't say it, but they are even more beautiful when they're waking up a couple of other people in the middle of the night.

Our babies are now wrapped in snuggies eating twelve meals a day. We've done the time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What to do? What to do?

There's no mistaking the fact that I've been at a crossroads for a long time now, trying to figure out which direction I'd like to run off in. I've done the lions share of the work on the next book, and have been sort of holding off jumping into the one after that, sure that I don't want to go through it again.

Yet the thing is: a department head with the local police asked if I would help tell the story about officers who lost their lives in the line of duty - it would be a sort of House of Miracles type non-fiction book that could really help the families of the victims. Right in the wheelhouse so to speak, and a story that could really get me moving forward again.

But the work involved! Do I really want to work more again?

I've had a job since I was 14. Started on a farm, graduated to a grocery store, spent four years at drink camp at Gannon University, got a job, and have not had a longer than 5 day stretch off since, fitting in the ten books in between. (Not to mention my time in the NBA and in Viet Nam).

I realized that I've been blessed to have such opportuntites in my life, but lately there's been a lot of looking around, thinking, 'Man, what the hell happened?'

I'm 45 and despite my Olympic-like care of my body, I'm tired. The back aches, there's shoulder pain, I sleep like I never learned how to master that, and the 'What's next?' doesn't seem that much of a burning question.

Yet I also look at my kids and realize that it will be different for them. They most likely will not work as a mason helper, or a carpenters helper. They probably won't pour concrete, or dig a ditch. 'Cause things are just different now. They don't want to do that.

Yet the longer I shuffle my feet about jumping into the next thing the more I feel that uncomfortable pang that I'm just being lazy. Never wanted to just be lazy. Always wanted to do a little more.

But I'm tired.

The other morning I headed down for coffee to see Matt wrapped in his snuggie, sipping a coffee, and watching SportsCenter. I used one of Jeff's lines on him:

"You know, you're going to make something of yourself someday when you get rid of those bed sores."

Now I have no complaints at all with my kids - they get the job done - it just takes time to point them in the direction of the job.

"And you're going to make something of yourself when you learn how to relax a little," Matt said.

He pulled his blue snuggie tighter, and turned his attention back to watching other people do things.

Why do I still think that we won't be switching places anytime soon?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Roethlispervert

I don't know quite what to make of the Steelers QB. I'm thinking he may not be the brightest of bulbs.

First he has the motorcycle accident and a lot of people tried to coach him on how he has too much to lose by driving around without a helmet. Now being that I don't have a motorcycle, couldn't possibly keep one balanced, and have no desire to do so, I wonder about his motivations. No helmet? That important to be seen? That invigorating to have your hair blowing in the wind?

(Been awhile since my hair was blowing all over the place).

Okay, just a kid on a bike - no big deal - hold your breath and hope he doesn't kill himself.

Then there's a rape allegation. She said...he said...blah, blah, rich and famous, she's a gold digger. A lot about nothing or another warning? He wins another Super Bowl, gets more accolades, no worries.

Yet the new allegations seem a little more disturbing. I'm sure everyone has heard all of the sordid details. I even know what he had in his hand when he greeted her at the bathroom. It is all a little graphic. More denial. Now suspension. Were there even more allegations? How does the great Rooney family handle this?

I guess the reason why I haven't figured out what to think about this moron is because I honestly don't care anymore.

Suspend him.
Fine him.
Kick him out of the league.
Let the girl's father have a few minutes alone with him.

It don't really matter to me.

I just find it appalling that a guy has it all sitting there for him and he can't find it within his own heart to act like a man.

It's a shame really, but just another dim bulb, huh?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Too Funny

These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place..
______________________________
ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.
______________________________ ______________
ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?
______________________________ _____________
ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
ATTORNEY: Voodoo?
WITNESS: We do.
ATTORNEY: You do?
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.
______________________________ ______________
ATTORNEY: Now doctor, "isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?"
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?
______________________________ ______
ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He's twenty, much like your IQ.
______________________________ _____________
ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you shitting me?
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: Getting laid
______________________________ ______________
ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
WITNESS: None.
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS: Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney.
Can I get a new attorney?
______________________________ ______________
ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.
______________________________ ______________
ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about 20, medium height, and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
WITNESS: Unless the Circus was in town I'm going with male.
______________________________ _______
ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK?
What school did you go to?
WITNESS: Oral.
______________________________ ___________
ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And, Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.
______________________________ ______________
ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?
______________________________ ________
And the best for last:
ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
WITNESS: No .
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.
--------------------
And that my friends is a good example why, most politicians in our government and courts are lawyers and our nation is so screwed up.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Hogs Ate Him

Growing up there are so many expressions...so many words that my father used to say that have annoyingly become part of the language around my house.

Of course, the classic - "Bah!" - whenever my father was exasperated - which was often - has become standard lingo around all of the Fazzolari households and has also crept into the homes of our close friends.

Then there are the Italian swear words. You could tell how angry my father was by how many of the words were strung together - and unfortunately, I am handing those same words down to my kids. I don't even really know what they mean! Yet I heard my nephew Rocco say them on his last visit, so they are words that stick with you for quite awhile. Sam laughs every time I let loose with the string, which is good, I suppose, because we didn't laugh when my father let go. We ran.

There is also a classic story out there of a college friend, Fluffy, who after hanging out with me for years, approached an Italian woman (right off the boat) at a wedding (he was a little tipsy) and tried to impress her with his knowledge of the language. He shared my father's famous string of words and she slapped him across the face.

Yet the other day I answered Matt in another of my father's famous expressions.

"Where'd Jake go?" Matt asked.

Without even thinking, I answered: "He went to crap and the hogs ate him."

Matt just stared at me.

"My father used to say that all the time," I said.

Matt hesitated for a long moment. Finally he just tossed his palms out flat.

"But why?" he asked.

"Bah! I have no idea."

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Didn't Think it Was Possible



But I miss George W.

He was funny.

Now these politicians don't even mess up the language.

Ah well, Sarah Palin is still out there.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Communicating in the 21st Century

The goal of every writer should be to write something that means something to somebody else. It's always been the driving force behind all the words I've written.

Of course there is a narcissistic force there as well as I try to figure out where I'm supposed to stand on this cosmic stage of ridiculousness called life. (See, I like that sentence).

Yet there is also a strange element to it all now. I can write something down, have it out there for all the world to see in a matter of how long it takes to hit the post button, and who knows who might read it. It's a scary deal, but hopefully I am only using my powers for good. Narcissism, gotta' love it.

Lately I've been receiving a lot of comments from a Chinese base, and it is really quite interesting to me, although I can't read the comments. Just seeing the language there with exclamation points, and those nice little pictures. Flat out cool, and they may even be telling me to stop jamming up their hard drive with my useless drivel. Who knows? I'm pretending that I strike a chord.

And it makes me laugh to think of how all the information is shared. A click of a couple of buttons and I have the baseball scores at the ready. I can watch a pitch being thrown and hit for a home run a full country away. I knew Ichiro was three for three last night (needed him on my fantasy team for stolen bases) before the ball landed in the outfield grass.

"I never knew the Yankee score until the next morning," I told the kids.

"Why didn't you watch it on television?" they asked.

"They were only on every couple of weeks."

"Why didn't you check ESPN?"

"There wasn't ESPN," I replied.

"The Internet?"

"Didn't exist."

"Wow, you lived in the stone ages," they answered.

And I suppose we did. And "I used to walk seven miles to school, in a snowstorm, up hill all the way, and right after I got back from the war..."

Once I mention the war they don't know what to believe. Despite my protests they understand that I was only 10 when Viet Nam ended.

And they can look it up, and share that fact with those living a whole world away.

So,to my Chinese readers - nice to have you along for the ride. What's the symbol for "shut-the-hell-up" in Chinese?

I think I recognized that one in the last comment section.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Only Love

In late 1986 while living in Mountain View, California news broke that Springsteen was showing up at the Bridge Benefit Concert that was being organized by Neil Young. Seems Young's kid suffered with autism and the concert was for all children suffering with the affliction.

The tickets were sold through a lottery and although we tried, my brother Jim and I were unsuccessful in our bid. Still, Bruce was just a couple of miles away!

"We'll drive down there and scalp tickets," Jim said. "Come on,you got cash."

Unfortunately, Jim had no cash. It was all on me. Still, we had to try, right?

We drove to the outdoor amphitheatre. I had $200 with me. The first guy we spotted holding tickets in the air sold them to us for $50 apiece. He was a middle-aged guy who appeared nervous to be getting rid of tickets in such a manner.

"I probably could've gotten more, right?" he asked me.
"Too late now," I said.

Neil Young opened the show. It was a benefit for his kid. He sat down on a stool looking as if he had just crawled out from underneath his car. I'm talking filthy. Weird Neil looked as if he hadn't washed in three weeks. He opened the show with Only Love Can Break Your Heart.

Nearly twenty-four years later, in a grey goose induced haze I heard the song again. And weird, filthy Neil is right. Don't invest and you'll be fine. Only love.

Now back to the concert...

After Neil Nils Lofgren played a set, followed by Don Henley with Glenn Frey, followed by Robin Williams who was hysterical for about twenty minutes, followed by Crosby, Stills & Nash (Young joined them), followed by Tom Petty who drank a bottle of Jack Daniels, followed by Springsteen who was supposed to remain on his stool and play for 45 minutes.

The stool was an early casualty as Bruce went on for better than three hours, asking all to join him for the final three songs. Nearly six hours later, we filed out.

"Can you believe that Neil Young didn't take a shower before the show?" Jim asked as we got to the car.

"Something wrong with him," I said. "But he's good."

"Great!" Jim agreed. "Only love can break your heart."

We put it on the radio as we drove away from the show...

...and it's probably the last time I heard that song until last night when it mysteriously popped up on my I-pod.

It means something more these days, I suppose.

I wonder if Neil has showered since.

Wish he were still turning out songs on a regular basis.

Friday, April 16, 2010

To My Wife - Thank you

You get up early, with a day of work on your mind. You do your best to make it through each and every little battle. Never giving up, never giving in.

I thought of this today as I left with a new day dawning. Travelling west, the sun a big beach ball in the sky, making me move the visor left and right, right and left and back again. I'm so damn tired because I can't sleep because I remember...

What do I want to do today? Who do I want to think about? Thoughts of my wife and kids - man, too much love to comprehend - sip of coffee and remember...remember.

Remember when Jagger came out with this song? Remember how we laughed about how goofy he is. Remember how much we loved his falsetto voice?

And the Bruce line about having debts that no honest man can pay and how you told that to a banker and he gave you a month or two of grace...

Remember...

And still there's the voice inside saying come on boy, stand on it, and rise above it and make it all happen... and still... there will be a new day dawning...and I will face it without my best buddy... so

Stand on it...there's a new sun rising in a brilliant morning sky and I come across a horrific traffic accident.

Lanes closed in each direction. Two semi tractor trailers hammered in opposite lanes - no way either driver survived. What are their ages? Who lives in their families? How much pain there? Both dead?

Who the hell knows, I'm just passing through - listening to the next song on my I-pod, missing my best friend, wondering if the next guy along the chain is going to miss his best buddy and dreaming about God...

....and does God give a flying f&*%K about who misses who and why? There is this about that... and wondering if I don't make it home how that how bullshit cermeony is going to go...

... and wondering about the new day dawning and how I need to make it there just to make it all secure for those that are waiting on me...stand on it...

... and knowing...knowing that it all matters...one more day...one more 24-hour period of the sun coming up and going down...made it...one more day...

... hanging on.

And my wonderful wife asking - "Do you need someone to talk to?"

And "No, there's you," and really meaning it.

"I don't need anyone other than you. There's you. And thank you. I miss my best buddy, but thank you."

And her saying that there might be someone else that can help...

...but all the love I need is free inside of me...

...stand on it...Ready and willing with a heart filled with love...

Thnak God for the reprieve...

...and what's wrong with that?

.... Let love give what it gives...

... For god's sake...

...what it gives....

... to all I've loved..................................................

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Equality in the NBA

Opened the USA Today Sports section to once more read about discrimination in baseball. Pleeeeeeease!

It seems that only 10% of all MLB players are black. And while I find that curious, I'm not real sure that there's a movement afoot to keep the black ballplayer out of the sport. Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Sheffield, Sabathia...they aren't exactly oppressed.

What about us poor white folk?

We have just one token white guy on each NBA team. Where's our equality? Why didn't I get my chance to make it in the NBA?

It's simple - talent and desire. There are only a handful of black ice hockey players. Why not scream discrimination there?

Actually, it is a complex problem. Baseball takes organization and a lot of players to play. The equipment is expensive for inner city kids and there isn't a waiting ballpark. There's the inequality, I suppose, but it isn't a discriminatory thing. I seriously doubt that white owners are conspiring to keep the blacks out of the sport.

We have to be beyond that, right?

The thing that bothers me most about it is that I don't often think of it until someone cries discrimination. There isn't always something to blame and an inaccurate accusation of discrimination hurts the cause more than anything else.

Would I care if Jim Rice were black and was on the Yankees back in the 70's? Hell no, the man could flat out hit. As a kid, Reggie was my favorite player. I wore number 44 on all my uniform even though I hit more like Jesse Jackson than Reggie Jackson.

Whatever. I am just going to get behind a movement to get at least 50% of all NBA rosters filled with white folk.

Can you imagine?

LeBron and Kobe would average 100 a game.

Fresh Cut Grass

There are three mostly capable boys living here, but I must confess I'm a little reluctant to give them the grass-cutting duties, and not because I think they're incapable, and not because I live in fear as their mother does that somehow they will cut off one of their appendages, but frankly because I like to cut the grass.

The smell of freshly cut grass is the best - my sister referenced it in one of her recent blogs and talked about it being fresh and I suppose that is the smell - one of freshness. Besides I love looking behind the mower and seeing what has been done and looking in front of it to see what is left to do, and then checking it out when its done, knowing that I actually did something, and that there's a fresh start. There's that word again - fresh.

I also think a lot about growing up and cutting the grass at the big house on the hill - five acres of freshness, brothers helping out - my father screaming that we were all going too fast, getting stuck in the area near the septic tank, trying to stay upright as we mowed along the ditch, finishing it up, having a beer and jumping in the pool. It all comes back when I cut the grass here.

And there was the morning I tried to cut the grass when Jake was in the hospital and we wanted to have a party for Matt so he didn't feel left out and I actually ran behind the push mower as I cut the grass at seven in the morning. I didn't feel fresh that day. Didn't enjoy the smell either as I mowed it without picking up the dog crap first.

There are actually a couple of new variables in cutting the grass this year - first off - I have the I-pod - nothing like cutting the grass with Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell blasting in your ears. That man can flat out sing.

And then there's Paris. Our new dog had no idea what the hell to make of the mower. She ran hard, got close, and ran away, only to repeat it all seven thousand times. I laughed each time, but had to sort of ease up - can't really explain mowing the dog to the kids, but her sense of wonder was catching.

So much to wonder about. So much time to just think. Fresh smell. Bat Out of Hell. The dog going nuts.

Just out cutting the grass.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Can't Get the Door Closed

There's a rogue candidate for governor who has started his campaign here in Buffalo. He's sort of touting that we need to clean up Albany and start over, calling out all the elected officials for their hypocritical leadership. He wants to get the ball rolling on a campaign that will be controversial.

Be careful what you wish for, right?

Since Carl Paladino announced his candidacy he's become fodder for the political machine that chews people up and spits them out. Seems he passed borderline racist, sexist, and every other kind of ist e-mails to close friends in the form of humor.

That ain't gonna work.

The media eats people alive for fun. The skeletons that jam up the closet are all sure to come out. Spit on a girl in the 2nd grade? Someone knows. Told an off-color joke at a bar? No way to keep it quiet.

"We need a good candidate," someone mentioned to me via text.

"Maybe I'll run," I said.

"No skeletons?" was the question that came in reply.

Well if that is what is known as a skeleton - forwarding off-color jokes, making fun of people, making rude comments, drinking too much, swearing on the golf course, hell even spitting around girls in 2nd grade - well, I guess I'm out.

And that don't even count my college friends.

They won't ever speak up.

I have way too much information that will ruin their candidacies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Caught Between A Rock And A ....Rock

Everyone has to have those mornings when you wake up feeling as though you never really slept. You been there, right? In and out of fitful dreams that you can barely remember and that seemed so important while you were dreaming it, but kind of sort of took away from the rest.

I woke up that way this morning. Already tired. Already aggravated. Already to go back to bed, but a busy day awaited.

So, off I went, snarling at everyone as the day progressed. Texting a buddy long enough to watch the early morning hours pass. Turning down a potential golf date because I'm still not sure I can trust the back and besides there's too much to do.

All the while thinking of going back to bed.

Yankee home opener - no way to see a television. No one to call me when the score changes. Nothing on the freaking radio - hey wifey can't I get that on Sirius? Help me with that, would you?

Watching it on the Blackberry - not missing a single pitch as I talked in front of twenty people.

Still stuck between that rock...and a rock. Still tired.

Trying to smile. Writing things on Facebook that I don't even mean just to rile up some of my friends.

I wonder what my bed is doing now.

Lady beeps at me in the grocery store parking lot. I think about beating her up. Smile and wave instead. She gives me the finger. Sorry I didn't beat her up. Doesn't she know I'm tired?

Home at last. Mariano saved the game. The dog is happy to see me. The wife and kids are in a good mood.

"How can I help?" my wonderful wife asks.

The rock is moving. I smile my answer.

I smiled!

Full bottle of Tylenol PM waiting for me. More back exercises. I'll be swinging a club soon. Probably too many times, too.

Hope I don't hit a rock.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Big Ben to the Bishops to Yemen

Wow, looks like Ben Roethlisberger got away with it again - congrats to all the Steelers fans out there - seems like nothing sticks to the MVP QB. Can't be that all of his accusers are wrong can it?

After reading about Ben, I read a story about the death of a thirteen-year old bride in Yemen. Even Ben would cringe at this one. The young girl died after trauma suffered during her first sexual experience with her arranged husband.

Her brother set her up with one of his friends and the family got behind the marriage. The friend was 19, I believe, and it was, of course, his right to have his way with his new bride, right?

Well, the trauma and the force generated during their "lovemaking" caused a rupture and eventually his new bride's death. Story goes that she was tied to the bedposts during the honeymoon.

You know what made me the most sick about reading the article?

The quote from the bride's mother - who said something along the lines of - "I told her to practice with her father so she could get used to the act."

And now the Vatican releases a statement telling the bishops to report the sex abuse. Thank God they did that right? The dang bishops had no idea that they were to report such stuff.

If the Vatican would have mentioned it earlier, perhaps while they were allowing people to eat corned beef on St. Patrick's Day on Fridays during lent, we may have been able to avoid all of the bad press.

From Cheetah Woods, to Big Ben, to the Pope, to Jesse James to that pig in Yemen.

Here's an idea: try not sticking that thing in places where it don't belong.

Maybe we can write a commandment about it. Oh, there already is one?

Maybe we need to call a press conference and repeat it over and over again.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Last Carnival

Sundown, sundown, they're taking all the tents down. Where have you gone, my darling Billy?

Through the years there have been a lot of people who've come to me at book signings and announced that before they die, they are going to write a book. I try to be encouraging, but a lot of times, I just chuckle to myself and think, 'Good luck.'

Not that I think I am above anyone, but it is an agonizing process and the off-the-cuff thought that you can do it, makes me somewhat doubtful. In fact, the process is so difficult that there are at least ten or fifteen times along the way when you really, really, really want to quit. It's like being on a treadmill and saying that you're going to do ten miles - three miles into it, you start saying - "That's good enough."

Fortunately for me, I work with a publishing house - Sterlinghouse out of Pittsburgh - where just enough isn't enough. I can hear Cindy Sterling saying, 'Keep running, you're getting there.' And when I get to ten miles - she makes me do 12.

I finished the third edit on the book yesterday and packed it up in a box and shipped it off. It's Sterlinghouse's turn to make it even better - I dare you!

Suffice to say it is a very different book than the first shot at it. Know that what I had in mind at the start was what I think I finally delivered, but I didn't do it alone - at all - a publishing house full of people hid the key to the treadmill until I was done.

And I'm still not done...I will read it a few more times, and in the end, I will be so disgusted with it, convincing myself that it isn't any good, until the reader steps forward to tell me that it touched them somehow. And that will be enough.

But with this work there may be divine influence. People are fond of telling me there are no coincidences, right?

On the day of Jeff's funeral, I played a song as I drove away from the cemetary - Bruce's Last Carnival, a song he wrote about the passing of his bandmate Danny Federici. Through thirteen months, I never listened to the song again.

But I did load my I-pod, remember - 2,000 plus songs.

I was reading the last chapter for the tenth time to make sure there weren't any mistakes.

The I-pod went quiet as the Seger song ended. Was the book good enough? Did I totally capture Jeff's spirit? Would the new ending hammer home all I needed to say? Would the most important thing I'd ever written hit the mark for years and years to come?

The Last Carnival played.

We'll be riding the train without you tonight, the train that keeps on movin', its black smoke scorching the evening sky, a million stars shining above us like every soul living and dead has been gathered together by a God to sing a hymn...

No coincidences.

Write a book.

I dare you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Meat, Meat, Meat

The freezer is full. I'm not talking full as in "there's still room to put a loaf of bread". I'm talking, "I hope the door closes" full.

As per usual, the side of beef was ordered, butchered, and this year it was even delivered. I split the cow with my buddy Mike, and he made the long drive through the South towns, picked it up and dropped it right at my door. The price was a little shocking as we each got more of the cow. We used to split it three ways with Jeff. Heavy sadness unloading, but Jeff was watching me load the freezer from his spot high above me.

"I don't know if we can eat all of this," I said as I took tray after tray of T-bones, cubed steaks and hamburger off of Mike's truck.

"Dude, who you kidding?" Mike asked. "You'll eat about thirty pounds of it tonight."

It's great to have friends who speak so nicely to me. (Jeff would've said the same thing).

We don't have thirty pounds out for dinner, but it's close. You see, my boys like steak as much as I do, and thankfully they don't need it cooked until all the juice is gone. I have yet to make Jake a steak he couldn't finish. He's a good candidate to eat a 72-ouncer somewhere down the line.

Yet the prospect of a great dinner isn't what has me thoroughly excited. It's the full freezer that is doing it for me.

When we were growing up our parents had the freezer chock full. I swear visiting the basement was like going to a grocery store -and its still that way although just Mom and Dad are sharing the big house.

Anyway, its comforting to know that should the shit really hit the fan it would take me about nine months to go through the food we have stockpiled.

I feel sorry for the vegans out there - they'll never know how good it feels to have a freezer full of the finest cuts of meat.

And it's mine! All mine!

Except for the fact that there are three growing boys here who will do their very best to empty that freezer in record time.

There's one other problem.

"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today," just kept running through my mind.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Disposable Lives

Went to a job site on Thursday, on the east side of Buffalo and the guys in the work crew were talking about the day before.

"A dude got shot in the head and was dead on the street about a block from here," one guy said.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Two black guys got in a fight I guess," the guy said. "Nine-thirty in the morning, bam, bam, dead."

The guy seemed to be enjoying himself as he told the story. Perhaps, actually hopefully, it was just his way of dealing with it.

"The dead guy's mother was out there too, she didn't seem surprised in the least. She probably knew he'd end up dead."

"That's horrible," I said.

"The life they lead," the guy summarized.

Unfortunately I didn't think too much about it and I guess that's the way it is. Some people do live lives that lead to violence. Who knows what the particulars were - drug-related? gang-related? Walking on the wrong side of the street?

This morning I opened the paper to see that three more people died in one incident on the east side. I wondered if it were related to the murder the day before. The police seemed to be asking for help. Will those murders ever be solved?

I don't have an answer for any of it. The murder count will go up as the weather gets better. Strange but it happens every year. My problem with it is that we seem to just shrug it off.

Bad people killing bad people. Hopefully it will stay out of our neighborhood.

It's a shame that seem people seem to live disposable lives.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why Are They Cheering?

So, I know exactly the moment when Cheetah Woods tees-off today: 1:42. I hope he pulls a Popple and hits it 375 yards, and hard to the left into the trees.

I hope his ball gets wedged between a rock and the tree trunk and he Renaldo's four chips to get back to the green.

I hope he Cliff's five or six putts and takes a 14 for the hole telling everyone, "I stopped counting after the third putt, just give me a fourteen."

But that isn't what is going to happen.

The crowd at the Master's will cheer him wildly. He'll tip his cap, tell us all how sorry he is, and how much he needed to get back on the course so he can feed his kids and solidify his relationship with his wonderful wife. Then he'll birdie the freaking hole as everyone goes wild.

Why would anyone cheer for him?

I get the 2nd chance deal, and the fact that we are quick to forgive any sportsman who shows even a hint of sorrow.

I understand that he really needs to golf because it's his job and he needs to feed his poor kids. He has the right to earn a living, after all, how can we expect his kids to live off the first billion he made?

I can comprehend that his sins were of the me-first variety, but as one of my buddies said, "You'd do the same thing if girls were lining up to throw themselves at you."

Well, first of all, do you honestly think that there haven't been hot women lined up all these years for a chance to hang with the Big Red Dog?

(All right, so I couldn't even pull that joke off).

Regardless, even if there isn't a harem for me, I'm sure I couldn't behave as he had, no matter how great I thought I was.

But cheer?

What are they cheering exactly?

His strength of character? Nope.
His amazing wit? Not at all.
His winning smile and lovely personality? Absolutely not.
His love of his fans? Before this he wouldn't even spit on your shoes.
His courage for standing up to his wife? Last I heard she was clubbing him with a 9 iron.

Ah well, I'll never understand the masses.

In a perfect world, at 1:43 Cheetah's ears would be ringing from the boos as he heads up the fairway asking anyone who will listen:

"Have you seen my ball?"

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Take Time

Read it...liked it...thought I'd share it...

1. Take time to dream -- it hitches your soul to the start.

2. Take time to work -- it is the price of success.

3. Take time to think -- it is the source of power.

4. Take time to play -- it is the secret of youth.

5. Take time to read -- it is the foundation of knowledge.

6. Take time to meditate -- it washes the dust of earth from your eyes.

7. Take time to help and enjoy friends -- it is the source of happiness.

8. Take time to love -- it is the joy of life.

9. Take time to laugh -- it helps with life's loads.

10. Take time for beauty -- it is everywhere you choose to find it.

11. Take time for health -- it is the true treasure of life.

12. Take time to plan -- it is the key to creating time for the first eleven things.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Oh to Be Young


My niece and nephews were around all day today, playing with their cousins, eating a couple of gallons of ice cream, and sitting on our laps, laughing for hours. The photo shows them shooting hoops, riding the bike, and just playing.

Now about the kid on the bike - 3-year-old Rocco - yes, three years old! Riding the bike like Lance Armstrong - I had to tell him to sit down as he rode, and at one point he raced down the road causing my heart to really speed up.

"Turn around! Slow down!" I yelled, and it made me laugh to think that I'm telling a 3-year-old to slow down while riding a bike.

Now a few things here:

One: My kids didn't master riding a bike until they were about eight.

Two: I can't handle being a parent of small kids anymore. I was as nervous as an old lady walking on a sheet of ice. "Slow down! Behave! Quiet! Eat your food! Are you all right?" I was petrified.

Three: There just isn't anything as wonderful as family. Seeing my brothers kids for a long time didn't bring sadness - it brought happiness - the grace, innocence, and laughter of the children carried me through any down moments. Just beautiful - and it happens whenever I see any of my siblings children or the children of my wife's siblings. Smiles all around.

Four: I found the cure of the sore back - hanging around those kids. I watched Rocco fall four times while riding his bike. He jumped right up although a couple of the spills looked like the were painful.

"Down goes Frazier," he said the last time down, echoing something that I'd taught him on his last trip. We both laughed.

Five: It was a great day and for the first time in quite a few months I didn't feel my age. I felt about, oh three years old.

And He Has To Wear That Hat

I read a recap of the Pope's Easter Mass and I truly felt sorry for the 83-year old man. It seems as if there is a movement afoot to blame the Pope for turning a blind eye to some of the, ahem, indiscretions of the Catholic priests. It's sort of like striking out and then blaming the ball, isn't it?

Who knows? Maybe the Catholic church is behind the times as they say. Perhaps it isn't normal for men and women to remain celibate for a lifetime and not go bonkers. (I know I can't hardly make it through a long weekend.)Maybe, as some say, the ones who are bonkers are the one's who join the priesthood.

Let's see what I know about this, huh?

First off, I knew plenty of priests through the years. I went to a Catholic grammar school and a private, Catholic university. I met a couple of priests who's motives seemed shaky. I was never pressured into anything untoward, but I swear one of the priests had a crush on a college buddy. I believe we worked it into a night of free beer.

I'm certain that the priest who ran the parish where I grew up was a good man - a little cranky from time-to-time, but a solid man of God. Who wouldn't be cranky given that celibacy thing? (Even a short weekend is difficult.)

Yet there were a lot of girls and boys - mere children - who were affected by the whirlwind of deceit allegedly calculated by the men and women of the cloth who couldn't keep it in their robes.

Frankly, there is no worse sort of crime. Preying on children is a sick act no matter how it is sold. Disgusting. Vile. Sinful. Worse than a plague. There should be an investigation, and those responsible should be held to task - no doubt about it. Open and shut case.

The Pope is an 83-year old man who has to wear a goofy hat and rule on all things good or evil. Did he really know all of it? Did he purposely cover things up? Or was he just trying to save face in the belly of the evil?

I guess I don't know much, other than that the original idea of organized religion that was sold to me as a child, seems a tad off somehow.

I'm not sure that my eternal salvation is tied to the size of my weekly gift. I don't really believe that my attendance in Mass is all that keeps me from entering the gates of heaven, and I know for damn sure that a bologna sandwich on a Friday during Lent isn't what will send me to hell. (There may be other things tied to that trip.)

But I felt bad for the Pope on Sunday. Easter is like the Daytona 500 of his season, and he was left answering questions about degenerates.

What is the answer? (Certainly not celibacy, huh?)

All I know is that for the first time in my life I think someone actually did piss off the Pope.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Sun Was Shining

The weekend was exciting for a number of reasons - most of all because the sun was shining. Three days of temperatures near 80, a chance to do yard work early, believing that the long (although mild) winter was behind us.

On Friday we held our white trash driveway party - lots of laughs, the kids shooting hoops, the ice bucket filled with beer, everyone telling me that my I-pod is depressing, and a few long conversations with good friends. No airs, no drama, just relax and smile.

Saturday brought a visit to family, more laughs, Johnny, Farrah and Rocco starring in the show. The sorrow hard to come by when the kids are making you laugh.

Sunday brings thoughts of eternal life and rising, and ham and turkey and chocolate and the start of the baseball season - which we don't want to discuss - suffice to say the Yanks lost their opener last year too.

And waking up today, knowing that a return to work was on the horizon and knowing that the back is still barking, hoping that the sun stays up high in the sky, and the light moments continue.

As I drove from one job to another today, just listening to thee radio, calm, not stressed, I wondered if it were possible to bottle the mood. There are people who are at peace all the time, right?

How do you get to be one of those people?

I'm not sure, but I think nice weather has something to do with it, right?

They're calling for rain tomorrow.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Still Looking

When I was a kid I always felt bad for Easter - it was like supposed to be this huge holiday, but it never quite lived up to Christmas, did it?

I used to wonder why Santa Claus was able to deliver all those presents while the bunny could only carry chocolate, and in my mind's eye, seeing that rabbit hopping down the bunny trail seemed sort of ridiculous, right?

And what was the deal with the eggs? Being raised Catholic I couldn't figure out how Jesus rising from the dead could be captured by a chocolate-toting, egg-coloring bunny that was hippity-hopping - whatever the hell that meant. And where the hell was the bunny trail? And why'd the bastard hide the baskets? Couldn't he just set them down on the table and hop his ass back out the door?

Which brings me to the crux of the matter. My basket was always well-hidden, and my mother carried the tradition on way too long. Coming home from college for Easter dinner I was told: "You need to find your basket."

I never quite felt as stupid as I did during those mornings as I moved around the house looking behind the couch, in the washing machine, under the tables...

To make matters worse, I lived with a bunch of real jackasses in those days. Brothers who would start looking, not to find their own baskets, but to find mine, so they could re-hide it.

"Find your basket?" my mother would ask four hours later.

"I'm still looking," I'd say from my spot on the couch.

Eventually Mom would feel bad for me and together we'd go to the spot where she left the basket - and it wouldn't be there, and then Mom would laugh along with her co-conspirators who would rather be water boarded than tell me where they put it.

I once found melted chocolate all over the outside of the basket four days after Easter: they had hid it in the attic.

Yet now that I'm older those Easter memories come back to me, and I put them into some sort of context with my religious beliefs. Of course, I'm still looking, but I have kids who've officially passed the age of believing that there's an egg-carrying rabbit.

"There's no Easter bunny, right?" Sam asked.

"No, there's no tooth fairy either," Kathy answered. She stopped short of letting all the cats out of the bag.

I felt like telling him: "The NBA dream is dead too; and the Bills and Sabres will never win; and most people you meet aren't as cool as you think they might be; and you'll struggle for money, love and peace, and most days you'll be so confused, you'll wish you were just looking for a basket of chocolate instead of banging your head against the wall trying to get ahead."

But I didn't tell him. He needs to search it all out for himself, and unfortunately, most days, I don't come across the basket filled with treats, either, but I'll continue the search.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Opening Day!

Sunday marks the opening day of baseball season - a day I've looked forward to every year since I've had teeth - and yes, I still have them all.

So, what can I say about the coming year? The Boston, Philly and Mets fans have been awful quiet this winter. I wonder why that might be.

Oh yeah, the YANKEES WON THEIR 27TH CHAMPIONSHIP JUST A FEW MONTHS AGO!!!!!!!

Not to say we need another immediate return on the dollars they've spent this year. I really don't feel the urgent need for the Yanks to repeat, but unfortunately, for all you haters out there - they just might.

Damon is gone. Matsui is gone. Hell they even traded Melky which thoroughly pissed off his namesake, my dog. There are new guys to cheer for, but now that they are in pinstripes, we'll give them a go.

The Yanks open on Sunday night against the Red Sux. Nothing like getting my stomach turning right off the top. Puke Youk and steroid-cheat Ortiz and stupid Papelbon, and dumb Varitek, and moronic Lowell, and idiot Francona and those clueless Boston fans.

Which of course, gets me going already - study the schedule for a minute - The Yanks play 10 of their first 16 on the road with a West Coast trip in there for good measure.

The Red Sux are home for nearly all of their first 16. Good teams win 2/3rds at home and split on the road-so with that the Yanks should expect to start around 9 and 7.

The Red Sux should be better than that - please don't hit me with the what's wrong with the Yanks spiel. The schedule-makers design it this way to keep those Northeasterners happy and interested. Starts and ends the same way every year.

We know who'll be standing in October again.

Get ready haters!

On the way to 28!

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