Thursday, September 30, 2010

Driving, Drenching, Soaking Rain

I left the house at 6 AM. It was still dark outside and there was a heavy rain coming down. I didn't bother to cover my head as I walked to the car - not really concerned about ruining the hair-do.

Still, I was trying to talk myself into being a little optimistic today. I had another long day ahead with a lot of miles on the old gray road. Where would the inspiration come from?

I should have known that my obsessive mind would beat in tune with the windshield wipers. I'd lost the charge on my phone and the car charger wasn't working well. For the phone to take a charge at all I had to hold the phone up in front of me, high above the steering wheel.

I also started to obsess about the rain and how its constant hammering of my windshield was going to cost me my plans of a day that I'd settled on about a week ago. If I'm to work, I want to be productive, being away from the family isn't worth it if I'm not doing something to further their development.

Drizzle, turned to a downpour that made me adjust the speed of the wipers. The car heater was too high as well, and I had to put the phone down because holding my hand in the same position was driving me crazy.

I don't mind the pain. Don't mind the driving rain. I know I will sustain. Because I believe in you, Bob Dylan wailed in the background.

I thought about my son Jake running cross-country nine years after his tumor had been removed. He got in the car last night and told me all about the latest meet, laughing his head off at the kid who came in last.

More rain, but a sudden smile. I pulled into Verizon Wireless and bought a new car charger for the phone. $16. Problem solved. Stop obsessing.

I heard Jake's laughter in my head.

I do mind the pain. I do mind the driving rain, but Mr. Dylan, I may sustain because I do believe.

Went out to dinner alone, reading about the two idiots running for governor bashing each other about the way they treated their wives. If life were fair, they'd be working for me and my friends, and they would know what a 12-hour day of true work actually felt like. Talking about yourself, or bashing others in a press conference setting isn't really work.

I left the restaurant and the rain was pounding the sidewalk all around me. It was dark outside again. There never had been any sunlight, had there?

'We should build an arc,' a stranger walking by said to me.

I headed off to my room to write a few reports. The words of Rod Stewart's 'Forever Young' was running through my mind

And whatever road you choose, I'll be behind you, win or lose. Forever Young.

Do like they do in Rome...let it rain.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vote For Nobody!

I really hate this time of year because it seems that every other commercial, and every other news story is about some new joke running for political office. The new guy's spin goes something like this:

Are you tired of the same old bullshit from your political leaders? Well, I'm a man of the people. Here look at my ugly wife and moronic kids. They love me. I love you. We all love the Bills and Sabres. We love Jesus and hate new taxes. We are going to get rid of the same old crap that has been ruining your life. Vote for me.

This commercial was approved by Joe Blow and was paid for by you mentally-deficient taxpayers.

Meanwhile, two minutes later, the other candidate - the old-time guy comes on:

I am a great political leader. I have fought for you at every turn - here's a shot of my ugly kids and my 2.5 idiotic kids. I voted against the guy who wanted to raise your taxes and that new guy who says I didn't is a freaking liar. I'm sick of his bullshit already and that's why you have to vote for me.

This commercial was approved by John Doe and was also paid for by you half-in-the-bag morons who don't vote.

The news story the next day covers both commericals:

We checked the facts of the ads run by the two men going for whatever the hell office they are going for and we found out one basic truth.

They are both idiotic liars who've been convicted of everything from drunk-driving to molesting their kid neighbor. Neither guy has a wife that loves him and their estimates on the number of kids they have is way the frig off.


Just thought you'd like to know before you go to the polls.

So, whatever. Get off my television screen, out of my newspaper, and for god's sake don't ask me to put one of your signs on my lawn.

I will most likely vote again because I want to have something to bitch about, and I love being called for jury duty, but I don't have a lot of faith any more in the process.

Run a good campaign, win the election, go off to the state capital and start stealing the money we try and earn.

It's the political system we now employ.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Well Ain't That A Bitch?

By now you may have heard the story about the self-made millionaire businessman who bought the Segway Company a couple of months ago, and then while trying out the new model of this scooter-type machine, drove it off a cliff at his mansion in England.

And died.

I'm certain that this guy, who worked hard every day, at the age of 62, probably never dreamed that this was how he was going to go. I'm also quite certain, being the smart businessman that he was that he considered the Segway to be a smart, safe, innovative product.

I wonder what he was thinking as he was plunging to his death on the damn thing.

It just goes back to the same old adage that has been beating at my brain for the better part of two years - you just never know.

The only thing guaranteed is that life can change on a dime.

One minute you're living off the interest in your bank account; the next you're catapulting over the handlebars of the G%#*damn Segway to the rocks below.

Horrible story. I'm certainly not buying one of those when it becomes to painful to hobble around on this bum knee.

Someone said as he was flying through the air he was yelling out, 'Well ain't that a bitch?'

Monday, September 27, 2010

Everything I Know - A Burning Frustration

It certainly seems that I've spent a lot of time throughout the years seething about this or that. It's been a lifelong battle to gain emotional control over all kinds of silly little things, and the burning frustration is sometimes undeniably blinding.

There are a few things that I absolutely know for sure.

1). There are people and situations that I need to learn to live with and no amount of resistance will allow for accomplishment.

2). I'm supposed to be practicing peaceful thinking, but every time I try it I think of the Seinfeld episode where George's father is screaming "Serenity Now!"

3). There are a lot of people out there who try and compensate for their own failings by tearing you down. They will be forever ready to pounce.

Of course, people pay thousands and thousands of dollars every year to try and get on top of their own emotions. That seems a little crazy to me, so I've learned to practice a bit of mind control.

Be very warned - it doesn't always work, but lately, the urge to choke some poor bastard who had the gall to block the right turning lane when I needed to turn is lessened.

How'd I accomplish this?

First off, learn to do all that you can do in a day. Stop. Do no more, and rest. We all want to be productive in all aspects of our lives. We want to compete to be the best we can be. Burning out doesn't allow that to happen. So rest a little.

Secondly, don't plot out the next day while you're trying to close your eyes. Read a little. Let the mind decompress. Ease out of the day. I have always had trouble sleeping and marvel at someone like my wife who closes her eyes and starts snoring all in the same motion.

"Don't you have a thought in your head?" I asked her one morning.
"Nope, I just go to sleep."

It works.

Lastly, I have a saying that I've been repeating over and over to myself - sort of my own 'Serenity Now!'

In your patience you shall possess your soul.

Nice, huh? It's worked a couple of times, so I've tried it.

Relax, lesson muscle tension, flush the mind through a period of quiet, and repeat my phrase. The mind is a capable of blocking out any annoyance. You just have to determine if you really want to block it out.

That's Everything I Know about handling frustration.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Look At Me! Making Memories



Every year I play 36 holes of golf in a 24 hour period with some of my closest 'work' friends. You can imagine what we do during the break in the two rounds. We make memories.

When I was growing up, my brothers, sisters and parents were always doing whatever we could to make the others laugh, and we had one hard and fast rule - look at me!

Well, my golf outing this year couldn't have worked out better for the making memories and look at me theories.

You see, on Friday I was in the group that teed off first, guaranteeing that we'd finish first and get to sit up on the top of the 18th green with beer in our hands and make fun of the other twenty people trying to finish their round.

And I birdied 18! Making a long, ridiculous chip from off the edge.

I told a few people about it.

Like the poor bastards that were trying to finish the hole.

Like the club attendant who I made snap my photo.

Like a man-and-wife team that couldn't get away fast enough.

Like a random guy in the parking lot who was nice enough to come back to our group and inquire about it in front of everyone.

"Hey, did somebody birdie 18?" That great guy asked.

And we laughed hard...for two days.

It was a great chip.

Just thought I'd let you know.

I knew you wanted to look at me.

(And yes, most of the guys in the photo were giving me the finger as I snapped the picture).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

OH BROTHER! - ALL POINTS BULLETIN


Do you have an event coming up? I want to be there.

Do you have a need for a ten-time published author to speak for you? At your office? School? Lions Club Meeting? Charitable dinner?

I want to be there. I won't eat, either so it won't cost much. I've won awards for writing and speaking. I will make you laugh.

I promise.

Come January, I want to be all over speaking about, laughing with you, and selling you the story of the greatest guy I've ever known.

Currently, I am working with my brilliant publisher Sterlinghouse in an effort to promote the story Oh Brother! The Life and Times of Jeff Fazzolari.

Now I've written books that were unbelievably important to me and those that they benefited, but this one is more than special.

This is a book that must be read, ingested and thought about for the rest of your life.

You think I'm kidding?

It's a story of love, grief, laughter, and undeniable dedication to living life the right way.

I have had very few people in my life who I've truly looked up to just for the simple way that they went about their business.

My brother, Jeff, was my hero - and his life was so well lived that you can't miss it.

So plan an event. Hell, plan it around this - and I will be there.

I have love and I will travel for the chance to tell this story.

The book can be ordered through comments to the blog, through Amazon.com, through Sterlinghousepublisher.com., on my Facebook account, or just by opening up your window and yelling that you need it.

I personally guarantee your satisfaction.

I had the greatest character in the world's story to tell.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ashes to Ashes, A Boy Named Sue, We All Fall Down

I was dreading the day as I had a long road trip planned, a big meeting, and then a long trip back home. I just knew that I was going to see a lot of gray today as the road stretched out before me.

Just in case I didn't have enough gray...it rained all the way.

I hate to think of a day as a throw away day. The 27-Time Defending World Champion Yankees were on at night, and there was pasta at home...but what else to occupy my mind?

For some reason, I kept thinking of the phrase Ashes to Ashes.

"Where the hell does that come from?" I wondered.

Then I remembered the next line - "We All Fall Down."

London Bridge?

I googled it - nope.

Ring around the freaking Rosie?

Bingo. I looked up the words. There are different words sung to the song in all different countries, and what the hell is a posie?

Still can't chase the phrase from my mind.

Then the I-Pod kicked me to Johnny Cash - "A Boy Named Sue."

I recalled my Dad playing it for me and laughing. I was about ten at the time. I loved the song - especially since Dad was singing and laughing too.

I came home and played it for my boy.

He laughed.

There are no throw away days.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You're Fired!

It was weird walking around Buffalo yesterday. Belief and faith are very often confused with downright stupidity.

The Bills haven't made the playoffs in this millennium. Their first two games were against teams who have a good shot at being great this year. The new unproven coaching staff had the same tired old players.

But still people wanted to believe.

"11 and 5," my boy Matt said. "Shock the world."

Apparently he wasn't alone because after Green Bay pounded the Bills Sunday 34-7, the mood on the streets was foul.

"They need to fire all of them and start over," a guy slopping drywall said. "Imagine if I worked like they did how long I'd last."

"I've seen you work," I told him. "You're third string at best."

Yet he has a point and a reason to be angry. The Bills represent us, and since the mid-90's the representation hasn't been very good.

"How much of our money have they put in their pockets since they last won?" Another guy asked. "200? 300 MILLION?"

Yeah about that.

"We don't have a pot to piss in...and we put up with that," the first guy chipped in.

Of course, I have been critical of the Bills over the last five years, and the Sabres too. It galls me when someone says it's all because the Yankees spend so much, but it really isn't about the money - it's just like the guy with the trowel - it's about doing your job right and being accountable.

"Trent Edwards has to go!" was the rallying cry by the end of our little meeting.

And yesterday, Trent Edwards was fired as the starting quarterback. Chances are the new guy - Ryan Fitzpatrick - should decline the offer - he stands to suffer the same fate.

There are no easy answers. Sometimes it takes a while to really dig out of the mess that you've made of things.

But I guess their marketing ploy is correct.

You still gotta' BILLieve.

We'll get 'em next year, two weeks in, is tiresome though.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Everything I Know Part 1 - You Gotta' Believe

One of the more disconcerting things in the world is to meet someone who has lost that faith or belief in themselves. You have to have faith in faith and you have to believe in belief.

It's often times easier said than done, though, because there are ill winds all around that corrode the soul and block the channels from which love and creativity flow.

I know.

I've spent some time in the abyss.

Yet through painful bouts of reasoning, and more than a few moments trying to get every last drop out of a bottle of chilled Grey Goose, I've kind of come to understand a few things lately:

1). You should never really settle for something less than who you want to be. It's easy to slip off the tracks and stay nestled in the weeds, instead of getting back on track.

No one ever aspires to "live in a van down by the river," as Chris Farley, once so eloquently put it in a Saturday Night Live sketch, but people end up there, and they stay there, because they lose faith in themselves.

2). You should rejoice in the achievements of others. This is a tricky one because a lot of times we look at others and think, "How'd that dumb bastard become so lucky?"

Channel the positive results achieved by others and put them to work for yourself. My father told me early on in life to compete only with myself. Great advice. Playing that game within your own mind will help you blow off all self-imposed limits.

3). Do you still believe that all things are possible?

I know a lot of people who get stuck in the muck and mire of not being able to do something because they believe (there's that word again) that they can not stay out of their own way.

There are really good people out there, who suffer bad event after bad event, because they can't figure how to rise above. The reason why is because they accept their fate as the best they can do, or be.

4). So how to move that rubber tree plant?

There are so many cliches, and you hear Dr. Phil and Oprah spouting about all of them, but there are things that work.

Like clearing your mind of negativity.

Or finding faith in a power that is larger than the little life you're leading - faith in God Above allows some of this to make sense, right?

And visualizing that success (in any endeavor) can be achieved.

And finally, by then doing your best through good old-fashioned hard work.

It's the only way.

You can buy the Mega Million ticket and dream that the numbers will change all that's wrong.

Or you can believe in yourself, and make some of the lesser (more important) dreams come true.

And that's Everything I Know about Belief.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Melky Day


My dog is used to waking up early. Good old Melky is looking at me now, as I type, wondering when his busy day is going to get started. I wonder what she's thinking as I peck away at the keys because her day will most likely be a mirror image of so many others.

1). Go outside. Together with her partner Paris, Melky has developed an exciting ritual when I open the back door into the fenced in yard. I yell, 'Go get him, he's out there!' and the two of them race through the yard, barking and chasing 'him.'

You'd think after a few hundred days of this they would've caught on.

2). After doing her business, Melk comes to the window and stares in. She knows what's next - food. Or a car ride. "Please, Cliff, please Cliff, please!!! Take me for a ride."

If I'm in a hurry she may not go right away. She will eat her food regardless,and then beg anyone who has a driver's license to take her to the store.

3). Eating. This task takes all of three minutes. The dog eats as if in a frenzy. I know the feeling.

4). That car ride. She sits in the front seat, and her first task is to lick my right arm, as if to say, 'Thanks, Dude. You have no idea how much I needed to get out of that freaking house.'

On the way into the driveway I always say, 'This is where Melky lives.' She's just as excited to get out of the car as she was to get in.

5). Melky immediately stops at the closet door where the rawhide chews are kept. Her partner Paris joins her at the door and they grab the chews and run up the stairs as though it were Christmas morning. Same excited state every day.

6). Three minutes later the rawhide chew is gone.

7). Five minutes after that Melky is back in bed. Snoring. Worn out. 'See you in the afternoon, old dude,' running through her mind.

8). We could learn a lot from dogs. If their life expectancy was longer I'd swap existences with them in a minute.

9). Okay, gotta' go. I just heard her jingling my car keys.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Can I quote you?

At least three times every day take a moment and ask yourself what is really important. Have the wisdom and the courage to build your life around the answer - Lee Jampolsky

Don't you wish that the things that come out of your mouth on a daily basis were quote worthy? Who the hell is Lee Jampolsky and how did his quote get into my Droid?

It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not - unknown.

They don't know who said it? Can I say I did?

The nearest way to glory is to strive to be what you wish to be thought to be - Socrates.

They taught me about Socrates. What the hell is he trying to say?

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time - Mark Twain.

Happy thought. Twain may have been drinking Grey Goose when he uttered that one.

No Man is a failure who is enjoying life - William Feather.

There, back on the beam, a little more uplifting, but the guy's name is really Feather?

No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again - Buddha.

I've been called Buddha belly, does that mean I can share his quote?

You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don't. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly - Rumi.

Don't know who Rumi is, but that's well said.

Have a nice day!- Cliff Fazzolari

Friday, September 17, 2010

Derek Cheater!

So the other night Derek Jeter made like he was hit by a pitch and awarded first base. The ball actually hit the bat, but Jeets jumped around in pain a little to sell it to the ump.

Big Deal! You'd have thought he shot the Pope. People are coming out of the woodwork to criticize this fine, upstanding citizen.

Yet baseball is always about trying to sell the call. Did you ever see an outfielder hold up a ball that skips off the turf to sell it as a catch?

Did you ever see the hidden ball trick? The phantom tag of second? Jumping out of the way of a curve ball that fooled you to try and buy a 'ball' call?

But this was Jeter. The five-time World Series Champion. If it were Wilson Betemit from the Royals it would have never made news. These things happen every day, but Jeter is supposed to be above trying to get on base?

Let me tell you, about twenty years ago I was playing softball - big game - a lot on the line - like free beer.

I was on 2nd when a ball was hit towards third. The third baseman fielded it and instead of touching the bag, reached out to me with the ball to tag me out. With the ump adequately shielded, I grabbed the ball, and flipped it into left field. The ump yelled safe, the 3rd baseman screamed, and I made it to the base.

"Come on, Cliff," the 3rd baseman yelled. "Tell him what you did!"

"Not a shot," I whispered.

One batter later, I scored a run.

Was I cheating?

Perhaps. I can't remember if we won or lost, but 20 years later the 3rd baseman and I laugh about it every time we see one another.

Gaylord Perry threw spitballs. Everyone and their brother took steroids. A Rod yelled "I got it!" as he ran by a pop-up.

That's why baseball is cool. It's still a game that doesn't hinge on refs throwing little yellow hankies. Sometimes you get the call, sometimes you don't. Don't mess with it.

Jeter had an interesting take on it after the game. He owned up to it and said that the ump sort of missed the call. He also explained that he tagged a guy out trying to steal the night before - the guy was out by ten feet, but yelled 'Safe!' and the ump called him safe. Was that guy cheating too?

When you're considering this moral problem, consider one other thing:

Derek Jeter is one of the greatest Yankees ever.

That gets him a lifetime pass.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

As Bad As It'll Be

Growing up I watched the Yankee games on WPIX out of New York. Of course, along with my father and my brothers, we watched every night and were always entertained by the announcers Bill White and Phil Rizzuto.

I remember one game when White turned to Rizzuto and said:

"You have a WW on your scorecard. What does that mean?"

"Wasn't Watching," Scotter replied.

And Scooter was absolutely the best at telling stories as the game was going on. He talked about everything but the action on the field and his stories were alternately funny and sad. He talked about life at every turn and then hustled home to beat the traffic, no matter what the score.

Last night I was watching the game and listening to Michael Kay, Al Leiter, and Ken Singleton do the game. They are all good announcers. My favorite these days is when Michael Kay is teamed with Paul O'Neill. Together they remind me of Scooter and White.

In the middle innings the camera focused on two young Rays fans - boys sitting with their Mom and Dad, dressed in Rays shirts - most likely around six and seven. A ball went into the stands and the older of the two boys grabbed it. As the camera showed he also had another ball.

Well, the other kid was left out. His brother had two and he had none. The camera went away for a second but when it came back the younger boy was sobbing, and the father was trying to talk the older boy into sharing.

It was honestly tough to watch because that kid was just so sad.

Cut back to the action for the next pitch and then back to the boys.

Yes, happy ending, the older boy handed over one of the balls. Perfect, right?

What was absolutely perfect was what Michael Kay deadpanned.

"Ahhhh, there you go! You see, life isn't as bad as it'll be."

Perfect line. Delivered as though he were Scooter himself.

Ken Singleton, who is also a good announcer, laughed and helped finish the thought. "It gets a lot worse from here."

I don't know why but the line stuck in my head all night. In the backdrop of watching Scooter and White for years - with my Dad and brothers and sisters - and thinking that Kay and O'Neill's voices will resonate in my own children's lives, I couldn't help but laugh out loud.

"Ahhhh, there you go! You see, life isn't as bad as it'll be."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Gotta' Like the Picture Today


So a reporter went into the Jets locker room and tried to interview a player - Mark Sanchez - shouldn't be a problem, right?

The above photo is the reporter. She felt uncomfortable being in the room around the 53 naked men because they were calling out to her.

They must have admired her intelligence.

Now I'm not saying that I would have kept my mouth shut when she entered the space, but I do remember a story from back in the day when women were first let into the men's locker rooms. One of my favorite Yankees of all-time (I won't mention his name) supposedly was in full uniform when the woman came in to interview him. During the course of the interview he proceeded to get naked just to see how she would respond.

I work around construction guys all week. The highlight of their day is seeing the coffee girl.

"How's the coffee girl?" is the most oft-repeated phrase in the early morning hours.

They aren't asking to see how she pours the coffee.

It kills me that there appears to be an outcry of shock and dismay here.

That girl is beautiful. She knew where she was going. Did she have to dress down? Of course not. Should she expect to be noticed? Come on. Guys will always whistle.

Maybe it isn't right.

Maybe there should be an outcry.

Then again, if she's interviewing me I might just do what good old Reggie did.

Uh, oh, did I spill the beans there?

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Suit of Meat

Having, on numerous occasions, worked hard to create something that would pose as art, I have mulled every word, every sentence, every paragraph to form what I felt was a perfect chapter.

Turns out all I had to do was dress in meat.

Lady Gaga, who I've yet to hear sing even a note, and wouldn't know if she hit me over the head with a pork chop, is all the rage today because she wore a meat suit to the MTV Awards Show.

Recently, I also heard Yoko Ono standing in an Art Museum in New York City, screaming at the top of her lungs.

I'm not kidding. She was just flat-out screaming. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

She sounded like my son, Jake, when he wanted a "ba-ba" of brown milk. He stopped screaming like that (for the most part) when he was about three. Yoko is doing it and calling it art. She's famous for it.

And then my least favorite of all - Emminem. I've tried. I really have. People tell me that he is a brilliant songwriter, and a really talented individual.

Uh, I'm missing something. What he sounds like to me is an angry man who really, really had some mommy issues. I can't get how or why he is so well accepted.

Then again, maybe it's me. I don't begrudge anyone for liking what they like, but I certainly can't understand it.

Wearing a meat suit? Screaming at the top of your lungs? Swearing, growling, and threatening violence at every turn in what can barely distinguished as a singing voice?

I'm going at it all wrong, but I have a new idea.

The hell with researching new ideas for the new book. Who cares about writing the perfect opening sentence, and the exact closing paragraph? Why study other writers, or go over editing in a precise manner?

I'm just going to bring my dogs over to Lady Gaga's house.

I'd have to make the front page for that type of art.

After all who wouldn't pay to see them rip her clothes off?

She'd probably scream like Yoko.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Breakfast Club

This morning, in a last minute sort of deal I joined 4 guys that I've known since we were about five years old for breakfast. Of course, we greeted one another with smiles and a couple of wise cracks, and then we settled in.

At the Cracker Barrel.

Now these are guys I've seen at Stones concerts, on the softball field, back at the campsite, with beers in their hands, with tears in their eyes, at the birth of their children, at their weddings...everywhere. We know everything about one another, and we all carefully fit into our places in the circle of the friendship.

"Do they have egg beaters?" Russ asked.

"I've been trying to lose weight," I said. "A fiber bar for breakfast, turkey sandwich for lunch...no between meal stuff."

We went straight from a discussion of diet to a talk about our various aches and pains. Bad shoulder, bum knee, sore hands from painting.

Then onto the kids. Who is saving what for college. What sort of music the kids are listening to.

"Emminem is awful," John said. "It scares you to even listen to it." (And they used to think the stones were bad-asses).

Our discussion on the Bills was restricted to how much money they cost the county. Our broaching the subject of the mosque was thoughtful but ended with a shrug because we all know, at this time, that perhaps we can't change the world.

And it was one of the most enjoyable mornings I've spent in a long time.

Because we ended up eating more than we should have, we laughed a lot at days gone by, and what we had coming up. Everyone was relaxed and comfortable in their own skin.

1978 was the first time we stepped on the softball field together as a team. 32 years had passed. We'd all faced death, a couple faced the end of marriages, we've all had children, laughed and cried.

"What day does Halloween fall on?" Russ asked as we were leaving.

"How the hell do we know?"

"Just trying to make plans to get together again. We can set up poker or dinner, or a few drinks out. Does anyone have anything planned for that Saturday?"

"The 48 Hours Mystery is probably new," I said and we all laughed.

A lifetime of memories served with grits (which are godawful, by the way) and the Cracker Barrel gravy over biscuits.

We stood in the parking lot, shaking hands. Remembering sure, but still looking forward to friendships that have lasted a lifetime and show little sign of slowing down. Even if we don't see each other much anymore.

Mad As Hell!

Yesterday my boys Jake and Matt decided that it was time to give me a bit of my own medicine. Every time they saw me throughout the course of the day they reminded me that the 27-time defending World Champion Yankees had lost the night before, and that Tampa had won, and that the 27-time defending World Champion Yankees have a high payroll.

"Best record in baseball," I kept chanting.

Yet there is a deeper seed of controversy at work here. In a ritual that drives my wife crazy I work hard at getting the boys into loud debates that are designed to make them think a situation through, but largely turn into loud, friendly, screaming match.

"They're doing it to you," Kathy said.

And that's okay. I can deal with it. Even when the 27-time defending World Champion Yankees lose and are eliminated from contention I can always just say "27" and end the discussion.

Yet reading the morning paper affords me the chance to see that arguing through an issue is not an exercise confined to sports.

I'm Mad As Hell Too, Carl signs are all over the neighborhood. Businessman Carl Paladino is running for Governor under that platform, and he has made significant strides.

"I'm voting for him," my brother-in-law told me last week.

"Why's that?"

"Great slogan."

We were at a party and I didn't want to get into one of the debates for the fun of it, but his answer drove me crazy. How does Carl feel about this or that? What is his background? Are we better served by being mad?

Yesterday protesters and demonstrators gathered near the potential mosque site at Ground Zero. It nearly got violent.

Screaming at the top of their lungs for peace. Burning pages out of Holy books. Threats. Hand gestures. Go back to where you came from. We have free speech. You're an a*%#hole! No, your mother is!

Good down-home debating, right?

Going through life 'Mad As Hell!' is a tough way to live. There really should be intelligent discourse that doesn't end in hurt feelings, ignorant statements, or even violence.

But what can you do? Human nature being what it is, I'm ready to get the ball rolling.

The kids like to sleep in on Sunday. The the 27-time defending World Champion Yankees lost again last night.

Perhaps I pull them out of their beds and make them do some things around the house. The more they chirp about the game last night, the more work they do.

Keep it quiet and I let them go back to bed.

Mad as hell! is a great slogan but it only truly works when you have the power.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Crystal Blue Skies

"And since in our passage through this world painful circumstances occur more frequently than pleasing ones, and since our sense of evil is, I fear more acute than our sense of good, we become the victim of our feelings, unless we can in some degree command them." - Ann Radcliffe - 1764.

Nine years ago today I remember marveling how clear the skies were. Crystal-clear blue. The skies around Buffalo, NY are similar this morning. After a week of pure grey, they are blue.

And it's impossible to see the calendar change to September 11 and not forget. The crystal-blue skies notwithstanding there's a fog of the heart.

Today will be a day of tribute to those lost and memorial wreaths and fancy speeches of unity will mark the tragedy, and they should. To not remember those in our heart who've passed along is the greatest of all sins I suppose, but the quote written above sort of blows my mind when I consider 9/11 in the backdrop of the perfectly clear skies today.

Since our sense of evil is, I fear, more acute than our sense of good, we become the victim of our feelings.

We have a keen sense of pure evil. If not, just think back 3285 days. Our clear sense of good is like searching through the thick clouds of earlier in the week.

There doesn't seem to have been a lot of progress since Ann Radcliffe uttered the above quote well over two hundred years ago. It's astounding to me that human beings have not evolved of mind in that time, but perhaps that is the way that we are built.

We become victims of our feelings unless we can in some degree command them.

It's hard to command your feelings in the midst of utter despair. It's even harder to move forward with the gray clouds bearing down, day after day, as you try and figure out the riddles that perplex your mind.

Never forget. Truly.

But move forward, one day at a time, slowly working to command the darkness.

There's something about a crystal clear day that takes a little of the pain away.

Feeling an acute sense of good today.

I hope the rain stays away.

Friday, September 10, 2010

To Burn Or Not To Burn

First off, that pastor from Florida strikes me as a real moron.

Secondly, why does the media make this guy's rant into a story? This whole ordeal could have died on the vine if they didn't give him the forum to spew his crap.

Thirdly, there might be people out there who believe that burning the Quran is a neat idea. After all, we were attacked, right? Bleep 'em...we can burn what we want, right?

How do you feel when the American Flag is burned?

How would it make you feel if some moron made a spectacle out of burning the Bible?

Censorship is wrong. Imposing your own ideas by shoving them down their throats is also wrong.

In the immortal words of Rodney King - Can't we all just get along?

Of course, I can answer that question in one word.

NO!

We can't get along. We will never be able to get along when people don't take the time to assess the situation and put a slant on it that was written about in the Bible and the Quran.

Why is there so much selfishness and stupidity concerned with religious beliefs that are supposed to be free of selfishness and uh, give me the word here...yeah...stupidness.

I don't want to see that pastor on the news anymore. I don't want to hear his ridiculous explanations.

The only thing that bugs me about this is that Sarah Palin and I have the same thoughts about it.

Ah hell, maybe I'm wrong.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Live Over The Top

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled into the local bookstore and asked the clerk at the front if she could point me in the direction of the Self-Help aisle. She grinned and said, "If I did that it would sort of defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?"

Okay, so that's not true.

Yet it is just over a month ago that I lost my father. On the day after his funeral, spurned by a remembrance that I hadn't handled grief very well, and buoyed by something a close friend said - "Use the gifts God gave to you" - I decided that I would handle loss differently this time around.

I began to read and write and eat better. I waited for the fog to lift all around. While it is still mostly cloudy with a 70% chance of rain, I've punched a few holes in the darkness.

In the month since Dad passed I've read about four books. I've gathered my thoughts in the trusty black notebook - this book may need a second notebook - and I've tried to take to heart some of the passages I've been reading.

What blows my mind is that in 1957 there was a book published by Norman Vincent Peale called Stay Alive All Your Life. It's a book that relies heavily on Christian values, and it is also a book that seems to be timeless in that the problems he speaks of are the same problems we all face on a daily basis.

One of the interesting aspects of the book is learning to control your mind. It's a book designed to uplift and by mind control Peale speaks a lot about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Replace weak thoughts with strong thoughts. Replace hateful thoughts with loving thoughts. Replace gloomy ideas with lifted flashes.

I certainly believe that a healthy mind does try and do this on a daily basis, but reading along I also believe that "normal" people can certainly be spun into the trap of beating themselves down.

Life is tough. It's easy to look down upon yourself and never give yourself the break you need.

One of the sentences that really caught me is Peale saying that people must practice living over the top of the things that break them down.

I like that idea. Hover over the top and move the pieces until you get them where they need to go.

Of course, you can't do it alone,right?

Now if only I could find that self-help section.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Clifford The Greek

Okay, predicition time:

Baseball first.

I see the American League winners as follows - Yankees, Twins, Rangers as title winners and Rays as the Wild Card.

The playoffs will go something like this: Twins over Rays and Yankees over Rangers in Round one.

Round two will have the Yankees beating the Twinkies.

In the National League I see the winners as Phillies, Reds, and Giants with the Braves taking the Wild Card.

The Reds will beat the Braves and the Phils will beat the Giants.

In Round two I like the Phils over the Reds.

In the World Series: You read it here first - same as last year - Yankees over Phillies. Girardi changes his number to 29 for next year.

In Football I like the division winners as Jets, Ravens, Colts, Chargers in the AFC with wild cards going to Pats, and Steelers.

In the NFC I envision the division winners as Green Bay, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta
with the Giants and Vikings as Wild Card Teams.

I see the two teams left standing as Green Bay versus the Ravens for the Super Bowl.

That pains me too because I don't love either team.

Give the Super Bowl to the Pack.

Stick that Favre.

As for the Bills?

4 and 12. Screw up chance for pick #1 by just being good enough. The fans line up to sell out all games for next season after they announce that Flutie might come back.

There you go. I've gone out on a limb here.

Yeah, and by the way, for my Pittsburgh fans:

Roethlispervert will be arrested for sleeping with a sheep.

He'll swear it was consensual.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nearly Nine Years


Every year I pass the field of American flags that marks the lives lost on September 11, 2001 and I feel a little sick in the remembrance of that day.

Today I snapped a photo of the flags as my heart sunk to its usual, thinking of 9/11 depths, and it occurred to me that my life has changed so much since that lousy morning.

There was just so much I didn't know about anything, and yet I walked around pretty cocksure that I understood how life was going to play out.

Reading a lot these days as I research materials for the story I want to finish called Everything I Know.

The real challenge of writing such a title is that I don't really know a hell of a lot when it all comes down to it.

What have you learned about foreign relations since that day 9 years ago? Going in, I had little idea of who Bin Laden was or even what a Taliban was. I was a voting American and I was in the blind for all that time.

What do you know about world relations now?

Korea? Iran? Afghanistan? Iraq?

Can the calm of a beautiful day once more be upset by the turmoil and chaos of a country that hates us?

Has the threat passed?

Will we even know what hit us?

Who the hell knows? Not me.

I just know how those flags lined up make me feel.

One flag for each life lost.

Conservatively 100 people affected by the loss of each person.

Never forget. You saw those signs all over the year following the attack. You don't see them much anymore, but I don't think it will ever be forgotten.

Nine years of living in a completely different world, right?

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Summary:

GREAT TRUTHS THAT LITTLE CHILDREN HAVE LEARNED:

1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats..
2) When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.
3) If your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person.
4) Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.
5) You can't trust dogs to watch your food..
6) Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair..
7) Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.
8) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
9) Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.
10) The best place to be when you're sad is Grandma's lap.

GREAT TRUTHS THAT ADULTS HAVE LEARNED:

1) Raising teenagers is like nailing jelly to a tree.
2) Wrinkles don't hurt.
3) Families are like fudge...mostly sweet, with a few nuts
4) Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground...
5) Laughing is good exercise. It's like jogging on the inside.
6) Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy..

GREAT TRUTHS ABOUT GROWING OLD

1) Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional...
2) Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get.
3) When you fall down, you wonder what else you can do while you're down there.
4) You're getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.
5) It's frustrating when you know all the answers but nobody bothers to ask you the questions...
6) Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician
7) Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.

THE FOUR STAGES OF LIFE:

1) You believe in Santa Claus.
2) You don't believe in Santa Claus.
3) You are Santa Claus..
4) You look like Santa Claus.


Always remember to forget the troubles that pass your way;
BUT NEVER forget the blessings that come each day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Waaaaay Too Early!

Chased around the golf ball this morning. The two Grape Ape's I golf with hit it pretty well, but the fourth guy just flat out quit on the 11th hole and then went along for the ride.

My poor brother-in-law, Chuck, just didn't want to bash a club over his cart. Simply picked up his ball and stopped. The mature way to handle a bad round.

Yet I didn't have a bad round - a couple of birdies, a couple of pars, too many three putts. What sucked though is that I did it all in a jacket - a 27-time Defending World Champion Yankee jacket that aggravated my cart partner - but there were actually two or three times when I had to blow into my hand for warmth.

It's the first week of September for crying out loud! The summer was another rough one for us, is it too much to ask for an extension of the good weather?

Because once the weather turns...it's a real long stretch here in good old Buffalo. We're talking crap from the first week of September until, what, the 3rd week in May?

If my math is correct that would be nearly nine months of sitting in the house, trying to avoid the next lousy romantic comedy.

(By the way, DON'T, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, let it cross your mind that the JLo movie - The Backup Plan might entertain you - HORRIBLE! Get a backup plan).

So, there it is. I'm officially complaining about the weather.

I'm begging for some more sunshine.

I have one more major golf event this year and it is scheduled for the end of the month. Back-to-back days on some good courses.

If this keeps up, I may be going in my 27-time Defending World Champion Yankee snowsuit.

I gotta' get one of those.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mickey D's

Tomorrow is a monumental day as Matt enters the wonderful working world. Yes, he had a pretty good run, having had to work only one day under the employment of others.

To be fair, he's a good kid who works hard enough around the house, doing what he is told, and doing a good job - he just never truly enjoyed it. In fact, his only other job, a six-hour shift at a pirogi factory led to this great line: "I ain't going back, they expect me to stay all day."

So, he avoided the call of work for quite awhile - tomorrow it will all change.

Matt was able to nail the interview and get a job at McDonald's. He will be flipping meat and doling out fries, and God help me, I hope and pray that he has to wear a hat because I fully intend to break my no fast-food rule by stepping in to watch him glide across the floor, filling orders, smiling at customers, and muttering under his breath.

He will be expected to stay through the end of his shift.

This of course was a point of contention early.

"Good thing I only have to work until six on Sunday," he said. "I have a fantasy football draft at seven. I would've hated to make up an excuse to leave early on the first day."

Okay, so he doesn't get it all yet. He doesn't understand that his priorities need to shift a bit.

"School, work, then whatever you do for fun, in that order," his mother explained.

"That's crazy," Matt responded.

Yeah,sometimes it does seem crazy, especially when an ill wind blows through your life and changes everything.

Years and years ago, I worked at the local grocery store. As part of an in-store promotion the owner of the store had me dress up as the Buffalo Bison mascot - whatever the hell his name was, Buster, I think. It was my very first day of work. I was thrilled with the assignment as it promised to be real fun.

I put on the filthy suit, and walked around the store pretending that I actually gave a shit about people. I especially paid attention to the little kids who seemed to be in awe of me...all except for one kid.

"You ain't Buster," he said.

"Sure I am!" My voice was muffled by the small breathing hole that was becoming covered with sweat and spit.

"Then how come you're wearing sneakers?" the kid asked.

No kidding, the kid brought his foot back and made direct contact with my left shin. I never saw it coming, of course, because the eye holes were merely slits.

I dropped to my knees, dressed like a freaking Buffalo, in the cereal aisle, as the kid wailed, his mother scolded him, and about fifty other people laughed.

Here's hoping that Matt has a better first day.

Please God, make him dress up like Ronald!

Friday, September 3, 2010

50 Years...100 Years...500 Years

Today was supposed to be my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Three weeks short. On the night when Dad died, Mom turned to me and said, "We didn't make it."

How's that for heartbreaking?

Yet, of course they made it. They set up a love that will span way more than 50 years, way more than 100. As I told her, it was a love that will last about 500 years.

And that is a remarkable story in this day and age.

In a time when marriages are treated as somewhat disposable, they endured. And for sure, there were moments when it was all about endurance. As a child I would remember arguments and fights that could rattle the walls from time-to-time. Two very intense people battling under the immense pressure of having to put up with six little Fuzzy creations.

Still, they hung in there.

And taught us what needed to be learned. It wasn't always teaching in the most conventional of ways, but learn we did.

Over the last severeal years we took to comparing Mom and Dad to the parents of George Costanza in the Seinfeld Show. Back and forth they would go, battling through mundane tasks in a now quiet house.

Over the last couple of months they drew even closer as Dad took Mom for radiation treatments and they stopped at different places for lunch.

I can't imagine the pain in my mother's heart today and it shatters my heart to even consider it.

"He made me so friggin' mad sometimes," Mom said to me just the other day. "But he was such a good man."

Amen.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.

50 down. 450 to go.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

American Terror

It seems as though we are subjected to a terrorist attack every day in this country. Gun-toting, knife-wielding citizens bust into a restaurant, a former place of employment, a television station, even a school and wipe out innocent people.

Perhaps if we treated them all as separate terrorist attacks we'd be able to get on top of the problem.

Yesterday, James Jay Lee, upset with the programming of the Discovery Channel, stormed the building and took a few hostages. The cops ended up taking the man down before anyone else was killed, but the event begs a few questions.

First off, why do they always get their middle names listed? Does it make them sound more cowboy-like? If I ever commit such an act will Clifford James make me sound more sinister? I just don't have the name for it.

Secondly, if he didn't like the programming on Discovery why didn't he change the channel? I hate the programming on almost all the networks - except for the Yankee Entertainment Station - use the freaking clicker, dude. The report said he hated the show Kate Plus 8. I imagine that I would hate it as well - that's why I never watched even a second of it.

Thirdly, I read a bunch of media accounts regarding this attempted rampage. The citizens who commented on it were the real culprits.

We're both mammals, why don't we do it like they do it on the Discovery channel? One informed reader wrote.

A second guy blamed the shooting on Al Gore saying that left-wing extremists are responsible for all the destruction in the country.

A third guy thanked James Jay Lee for bringing the world population down by one.

And my favorite...It had to be a head shot that killed him. Why don't they print that picture?

So, why won't we stop these mini terror attacks?

Because we seem to rather enjoy them. We read about them, sensationalize them, and then forget about them.

What was the name of the guy who wiped out people in Binghamton, NY last year? Or the guy who shot the Amish kids at church? The man at Virginia Tech? Hell, what were the names of the Columbine shooters?

In and out. Human nature. Forget about it.

That won't really fix the problem, will it?

As Sartre said, "Hell is other people."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Weekday Update

As Paul Harvey used to say, it's time for news.

1). So the Iraq war is over. The combat missions have drawn to a close. Should be good news, right? Mission Accomplished, as they say, six years after the mission was accomplished. But there will be 50,000 troops still deployed there. It's a shame, but so much of America closed the chapter on thinking about Iraq way before Obama made this announcement. So many lost. Hopefully it's about enduring freedom for years to come. High salute to the troops either way.

2). Speaking of troops it seems like we are going to need some here to fight the cigarette war on the Buffalo home front. You see, the state government wants tax money from those who head to the rez for a break off the $9 a pack tax that the state gets from a stop at 7/11. Why doesn't Patterson and company just go door-to-door across the state and demand that every person give them all the money they have. Period. It can go like this:

Patterson: Hi, taxpayer, how are you?
Joe Blow: Fine.
Patterson: How much money do you have?
Joe Blow: I managed to save nearly a hundred bucks over the last 15 years.
Patterson: Give it to me.

Then perhaps we can leave the Tribe nations alone to make their own way. Are we trying to get them to join our welfare system as well?

3). Saw Paris Hilton opened her purse in front of a cop and her blow fell out. I'm sure it's a great misunderstanding. I heard her lawyer ask America not to rush to judgement. First off, America doesn't give a snort. She's a talentless pig who never worked a day in her life. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. I did see one Internet video of her and an old boyfriend - she does have some minor talent in an off-beat way.

4). September 1 and the Yanks are in first in the major leagues. Didn't think we'd get through the news without sports. Wah! They spend too much money. Last night 46,000 at Yankee Stadium to watch them play the putrid Oakland A's. Tampa drew 7,000 to their ballpark the same night.

Tampa-St. Pete are not tiny cities are they? They should both be allowed to spend the same when one brings in money and the other waits for the Yanks to give them money.

"Small-Market" teams sound like New York State government crying about not getting enough free money. They classified Philadelphia as small-market until a couple of years ago. What a joke. Can't wait to hear Joe Buck and Tim McCarver whine about it as the Yanks line up #28.

5). And now the weather...it's been a terrific summer here in Buffalo, but I've sort of missed it. I didn't play as much golf as I wanted. I only swam in a pool once. Didn't attend barbeque's enough. Only had one driveway party.

And now I have about eight months of cold and crap to contend with. 30 more days and then its back to the Carhartt.

Doesn't seem quite fair.

Yeah, tell it to the Indians.

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