Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Day!

If 2012 is it, as legend has it, we should really pile on tonight, huh?

Chances are, I really won't. It hasn't been that kind of year, and I'm closing it out with a lot on the agenda, and when that happens, I sleep lousy, get antsy, and act like a douche.

So..Happy New Year!!!

But realistically, I feel a good year coming on. I don't expect it, but I will take it if it comes down the pike.

And once more, we use this forum to talk ourselves into dwelling on the beautiful in what can sometimes be an ugly life.

So no talk of Sandusky or Syracuse. No mention of Lohan or the Kardashians.

Let's go with the idea that the faith and love that we have is quite enough for now.

Like the belief that God is in heaven and that He will eventually show the way. Let it Be. There will be an answer. Let it Be.

Like the love of a beautiful wife and wonderful children. They drive me up the freaking wall, but they make me laugh a lot too. And I am amazed by them, every day.

Like the belief that the 27-time World Champion Yankees will be the 28-Time Champion Yankees as the world explodes at the end of next year. The young pitching better work out!

Like the great dogs I have. I tell Melky every day. She's the best dog in the whole, wide world. She likes that.

Like the love of my friends...my extended family...and all the new people who will come into my life. That's what keeps you going, right?

All you need is love.

(There are them damn Beatles again).

So, as we contemplate. Perhaps eat a lot and drink a little.

Remember...stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive, if you can...

...and meet me in the dream of this hard land.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

New England Book Festival


So, the book placed in the New England Book festival and despite the fact that the awards ceremony is dangerously close to where the Red Sux eat fried chicken and drink beer during games, I'm going!

When I received the email telling me that the book would get an award I immediately thought of my family. My Mom, my brothers and sisters, and all the wonderful people who sent me beautiful words about Jeff and the story. Like one I received earlier in the day.

Dear Cliff,

I sat down to start the book and never put it down until I was finished.

I cried my eyes out because I have felt that pain before. This was the first time anyone has ever been able to describe what I was feeling when my Grandma had a stroke and was in the hospital.

Although she was older, she was healthy and the head of our family. I would stay with her as much as I could and I hated to leave her in the hospital when I had to return to my "normal" life.

I remember all the glimpses of hope when she would say something or squeeze my hand. And I also questioned why God would do something like this to our family. You talked about the prayer to St. Jude and I would say that prayer to my Grandma every day while she laid there, hoping that she heard me.

Although it was an unbearable time for me, I am very thankful that I was given the time to say goodbye to her. I was able to tell her how much she meant to me and how much I loved her. Some people never have a chance to say goodbye. So that's what comforts me when I think of her. Thank you for writing such a beautiful book. You touched my life.

Amy


And once again, it dawned on me that such words are award enough.

And I thought of Cindy and Nicole and Megan at Sterlinghouse and how they made it the book it turned out to be and how their vision makes me so much better as a storyteller.

I thought of my friends and Jeff's friends. The very definition of friends. Each and every one.

But mostly, I thought of Jeff, and how he would tell me to clean myself up a little, try and hide the belly and the nipples and say something nice.

He would say, 'For God's sake, be funny at the ceremony, and let all them writer nerds know that guys like us can show them what's important.'

So that's what I'm going to do.

Thank you, Amy...and all who made this story an award-winning story of an amazing man.

What the Hell Should I Eat?

So, if the resolution is to get healthy, drop a little weight, and feel better, can someone please tell me what the hell to do?

Saw an article today that said drinking 80 ounces of water may not be good for you after all.

Raise your hand if you ever saw an article like that before.

I drink about 150 ounces of water a day, no lie.

Eggs?

Eat 'em? Don't eat 'em? Who the hell knows? Brown eggs? White eggs? Fried eggs? Egg whites? Scrambled?

No one has ever really painted a clear picture there.

Carbs are bad, right? Red meat...bad! Butter...horrible.

But don't eat too much fish because of the Mercury. Clams will kill you.

Pork? Chicken?

Become a vegan!

There it is, right?

Wrong. Not happening.

The other day we were talking about cutting back on carbs. A buddy of mine told me that perhaps it would be of benefit to eliminate one of two of my pasta days.

He isn't my buddy anymore.

I now eat a regular breakfast. I went from two sandwiches at lunch to one. I actually try to make it turkey.

Turkey sandwiches aren't cappicola, in case you haven't noticed.

No fast food. No soda. No beer. I ride a bike at the YMCA and walk the track. I'll run it soon if my leg ever goes back to normal.

And I still feel like crap.

Maybe I'm drinking too much water.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Need New Kicks?

So people are trampling one another for Michael Jordan's new sneakers that sell to inner city kids for $180 a pop.

Every kid needs them. Downtrodden parents are trying to decide between heat for the winter or new shoes for their kids. I saw one mother attempting to buy them one at a time on an installment plan.

This is something I really don't get. Of course, my friends know this about me. I usually kick it around in a pair of eight dollar Pro-Keds. I have never, on my own, bought shoes anywhere other than Pay Less.

In fact, about eight years back, I was invited to my company's Christmas Party. One of the big bosses led me towards his Cadillac in the parking lot. He wouldn't tell me where we were headed, and I was a little shocked when he asked me to follow him into a shoe store where he bought a pair of black dress shoes for me.

I've worn them twice since. But hey, I still got 'em.

And it goes much deeper than that. During my pre-teen years I was the only roller skating champ in North Collins who was actually wearing white, girl skates.

My cousin Carol handed them down.

I loved them.

My mother offered to buy me new skates a number of times, but I turned her down. I had good skates, why spend good money on new ones?

So I can't see the craze. The crowd looking for the Air Jordan's had to be pepper-sprayed to get under control.

And I don't even like Jordan. I read a story about him last week about the petition that his neighbors got together to get him thrown out of the neighborhood because of how poorly he maintains his home, how loud he is, and how he tosses his cigar butts wherever he pleases.

I always thought he was something of a jerk-off, but he's doing something right.

Everyone wants to wear his shoes.

Ain't no one lining up for my white skates or Pro-Keds.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Airing Dirty Laundry


I don't know about you but I really don't like advertising when I'm having a tough time in a relationship, and despite the fact that I write a blog every day, I honestly don't say a hell of a lot about things that are troublesome.

I was fascinated with the above sign that was posted in front of a real nice home not far from where I live. I don't really understand the message, I suppose, but I do get the angst and pain that went into what appears to be a 4 and a half year knockdown brawl.

Divorce appears to be a real pain in the ass. It also doesn't seem like much of a financial move, but I'm just above the poverty line in marriage while my wife is upper middle class, but hey, I don't air such grievances.

And you don't know whether or not to believe me anyway.

But it's true.

Anyhow...why advertise it? What is gained from such a sign? To embarass the other? Not a lot of respect there. Perhaps that's why the divorce happened.

Revenge is a powerful urge.

Also, last night at the hockey game a middle-aged man that sat directly behind us and commented on every play screamed out a harsh obscentity to a Washington player.

My wife and kids were there. There were a lot of wives and kids there. The guy may have been sipping beer. The guy he was screaming at most certainly didn't hear him.

Why scream out the mother of all words in such a situation? Who is he impressing?

I made a half-turn and Kathy caught my eye as if to tell me to let it go.

I did, but not before at least shaking my head in displeasure. It may have worked too because the guy cleaned it up as he continued his running commentary.

But it's Christmas-time people. Can't we respect each other even a little?

I really wonder about the man who rented this sign and the woman who is now free to chase diamonds elsewhere.

I bet it's a great story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I'm Only Gonna' Say This Once

Well, the house is getting there. I haven't taken the tree down yet. I may leave it until Saturday, but the clean-up went well, and there were a few surprises along the way.

I cooked yesterday. 12 pounds of turkey, 10 pounds of ham, a batch of sauce with 3 pounds of meatballs and about 5 pounds of sausage. The sauce was perfect. We also had five pounds of roast beef and I peeled over ten pounds of potatoes and mashed them. Tried Jeff's secret on the gravy, and it was good. Not there, but good.

And usually Kethy's family hardly puts a dent in that much food. They normally eat like birds compared to my side of the family who eats as if we are going to the chair right after dinner.

Well, surprise...they ate nearly everything. They drank a dozen bottles of wine, a bottle of Jamesons and a bottle of Patron.

All right, I helped a little. I pounded a pound of the pasta and tried a few shots.

I cleaned as I went and Kathy cleaned even more than me, but there were still a few stray items thrown about. We were putting them in their proper places so I could sit down in peace.

I was thinking about all the money spent and all the time and aggravation that went into a few hours of fun. It was fun.

Was it all worth it?

Sam waltzed in the room and stood between us.

"I'm only going to say this once," he said.

He paused for a long moment as though he were nervous.

"Me, Jake and Matt are lucky to have you two," he said.

He waited for a response. We were both stunned.

"Okay?" He asked. "All right?"

So cool. So worth it.

A lot of what you do as a parent...the day in, the day out. The getting up early and working late. All the meals. All the diaper changes.

All the freaking money.

He only said it once.

That's all he really had to say it, right?

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Rum-Pa-Pa-Pum


So there's Matt's favorite present. A pint of rum that you might see a homeless man sucking on as he sits up against a building in any city in the country.

Ahhhh, college.

I'm not sure just how the present came to be the first thing he opened, or why the hell Santa brought him such a thing, but he is the kid that would never have a drink. Heretofore he has been a responsible kid. I just needed a laugh as the presents were opened (mainly because gift-wrapping being strewn about is an attack to my OCD) and he provided it.

Once more, my beautiful wife did a tremendous job of buying and wrapping each present. The kids were appreciative, thanking her with each one.

"What am I wood?" I asked at one point.

"You just funded it," they said.

But we had a great couple of days of being together and feeling the love that accumulates here through the year.

One of my other favorite lines of the holiday came out, in church, of all places. I reached for Jake's hand to hold during the 'Our Father' at Christmas Eve Mass.

"Would you like to hold my hand?" I asked.

"I'd rather have cancer," he responded.

It's impossible not to think back during the holidays, and I must admit I suffered quite a bit as the holiday approached this year, but love is a nice thing to grab hold of.

Even if the hand is elusive.

It's easy to miss too, if you aren't looking for it.

Another year...

Secure...

Here in the Fazzolari household.

Let's break out the rum.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

All the Heaven We Got

On Christmas Day try and think of the ten thousand wonderful things in your life that allow you that glimpse into the eternal bliss that we are all seeking.

In my eyes this is all the heaven we got:

The exact moment when you arrive home and the dog jumps to greet you. There's a little bit of heaven in that undeniable jubilation that controls every muscle in that dog's body.

Hold onto that sunset or sunrise that sort of makes you go, 'Ahhh,'in awe of what you're seeing. I head East on a regular basis. A lot of time before the sun rises. Not many things more sure than the sunrise and if you happen to pay attention, it's awesome.

The touch of someone you love, and it is more than just a sexual thing. Just a rub of the neck, or a pat on the arm. When it seems like you've been swimming upstream all day, it feels good to have a bit of human touch.

Speaking of human touch...a song on the radio that catches you by surprise. Maybe something that you haven't heard for awhile, but you still remember all the words. Capture that moment when you sing like you're actually the singer, and your performance can win you the Grammy.

Think of the smell of the garlic and onions simmering in the pan on a Sunday morning when the bed was warm, Mom and Dad were watching over you, and all you had to do was rise, and be with the family. If that isn't enough, remember that the sauce was always drinkable.

Think of how you feel when an old friend reaches out, and you laugh hard at the glory days as you remember yourself as the 18-year-old that was going to turn the world on its ear. Pretend for a moment that its all stretched out before you again, and then remember that most of what you were wishing for then most likely happened at least a little.

Think of the kindness of a stranger. Maybe someone once let you out in traffic, or held the door for you so you could step through. Perhaps it was a short conversation about the weather or the news of the day that made you smile. And while you'll never see that person again, you feel better for having seen them once.

Think of how you feel the moment when it snows for the first time of the season. Even here in Buffalo that's a different kind of day. It's a day when you think, 'that's cool.' Six months later, when it's still snowing...not so much.

But the weather provides us so much comfort and beauty. Think of the stars filling the sky on a summer night, or the sun breaking through the clouds on what had been a completely gray day, or a cool breeze breaking through the humidity, or a cool rain taking away the stifling heat.

Think of your son coming by and telling you that he's dominating college, or your
4'8" son talking of ruling the NBA. Think of your boy seeing you sitting there and asking, 'What's up, Champ?'

Imagine them ten years down the line, out in the world, living life, enjoying their days, and building on what you built upon that was handed to you.

Think of sharing an old-time story with your Mom or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa and trying to imagine them as a child.

Doesn't it all seem to be in black-and-white?

Listen to the story and bring color into their memory with them. Not everything was better in the good old days, but not everything was worse either.

There is a treasure chest of memories there.

Think of the electric blanket and that moment when you first slip under the covers when you're tired from a long day, or that split-second when the warm water grabs you as you get into the hot tub. Finding the right parking spot. Taking pepperoni wrapped in cheese off the hot pizza, looking at the girls in their summer clothes.

There is so much heaven out there. We are actually living in shangri-la.

A long putt making it to the bottom of the hole. The laughter of a child. Writing the perfect sentence. Reading a wonderful book. Hearing someone say 'I love you', Thunder Road, catching a ball game.

As I reflected back on the year this morning I thought of my knee surgery. My dragging my leg and then the 2nd surgery and dragging my leg through to the end of the year.

And I must admit it was easy to think that it was a lost year, emotionally and spiritually.

But then I thought of all of those things.

And I thought of the benefit that Jeff's friends threw for him, and the love and the beautiful collection of people that gathered.

And it hit me.

There's a lot of heaven right here.

Our Shangri-la.

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Go Tell It on the Mountain!

Every once in awhile I get an email or a Facebook post sent to me that screams of the indignity that "they" are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas.

"They won't let the kids say God in the pledge."

"Government officials are not allowed to whisper the word Christ."

"They send out X-mas because they are trying to pretend Christ doesn't exist."

Relax people.

Just calm down.

First off, who's "they?"

Have you ever wished anyone a Merry Christmas and have them said, "Including Christ in your well-wishing offends me?"

I didn't think so.

Everyone in America is aware of the significance of Christmas and the presence of Christ in the conversation. Not everyone believes in a Tebow-esque manner, but the acknowledgement is certainly there.

I went to public school. They aren't standing at the door handing out stickers of Satan. They aren't trying to stifle the children in any matter, unless they are an idiotic, rogue teacher.

The country was built on religious freedom. We fled England for that reason, right?

We are free to Tebow in the shopping mall if we want. We can drop a rug and face East in the freeway.

That brings a question to mind in the Tebow-mania stuff. How would we feel if it were a prayer rug on the sidelines and he peppered his post-game stuff with 'Praise be Allah'?

I'm thinking it'd be fun.

But you know what?

It would certainly be tolerated and perhaps even admired.

On the surface it is a Christian-driven country. We plan around the holiday. We hand presents to idiot co-workers we don't even like in the name of Christmas.

So just relax...

...no one is oppressing your beliefs.

Not even that African-born Muslim in the White House, right?

(That's a joke).

Geez, will everyone just calm down.

Shout what you want from the nearest mountain top. We live in America. Land of the Free.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peace on Earth, Can it Be?

All righty then.

You can have anything you want for Christmas, what would it be?

1). A million dollars?

You'll piss your way through that.

2). A BB gun?

You'll shoot your eye out.

3). A new baby boy or girl?

The bastards grow up.

4). To be happy?

That's a beauty pageant answer. You ain't no beauty.

5). Peace on Earth?

All the bad guys are dropping like flies. There will be more to take their place.

6). Enough food on a routine basis?

Your cholesterol...gotta watch your cholesterol.

7). The Bills and Sabres to try to win?

Not happening. Come on over to the dark side. 27-time champions await your arrival.

8). A loving, understanding spouse?

Actually, I hope you find a good companion...can't even bust on that one, but there are limits as we all know on how understanding and loving we all are.

9). Patience and wisdom

This is the year, right? Everything is going to come together! There will be a true wave of knowledge overtaking all that you believe.

Uh, probably not.


10). Health

I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year.

Don't drink and drive.

Don't drink and fight.

Don't do something that follows you into 2012.

It is the last year, after all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lisa, It's Your Birthday, Happy Birthday, Lisa

Remember when Michael Jackson was on the Simpsons and he sang the Happy Birthday Lisa song?

My brother Jeff used to really bust my chops with that song because back in college my close friend Lisa was never too far from my thoughts because I was mainly a drunken, goofy mess, and Lisa was the voice of reason.

She was like a mother to me and my drunken cohorts and I wonder how that makes Lisa feel all these years later as she is the mother to her son and daughter, and most likely to her husband, Frank, a real good dude who knows nothing at all about sports.

And I say Happy Birthday to Lisa today because I don't see her very often anymore, but because her friendship still means the world to me, and when we chat it's like time stood still.

Quite a few years ago, for my birthday, Frank and Lisa joined Kathy and me for a Bills football game. It was Bills-Dolphins and Frank was rooting for Miami.

I told you he lacks sports knowledge.

Anyway, the long ago weekend is fresh in my mind because the Bills and Dolphins tangled this weekend. We could have had tickets, there were 30,000 empty seats.

Things change. We've introduced children to the world. Our families, the Fazzolari's and the Zocco's seem fairly well-adjusted. Lisa deserves some credit for both happenings.

I know that my beautiful wife is grateful for Lisa's presence because if college had gone differently then the Erie, PA. prison rolls may have been littered with the names Fuzzy, George, Fluffy and Rosie.

Happy Birthday.

Have Frank take you to a Yankee game.

Maybe you can talk some sense into him too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Real Story

The story of the Birth of Christ Jesus

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's hometown, for the census. As a decendant of David he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped Him in a blanket and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the hostel.

There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises: "Glory to God in the heavenly heights; Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him."

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the shepherds were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!" (Luke 2:1-20).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Ahh, Look At All the Boats!"

My first trip over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was memorable for a couple of reasons.

Let me set the scene:

Dad had been living in California for a few weeks. Mom and I left Buffalo just two weeks after I finished my senior year in high school. On the flight out, we drank pretty good. A ton of laughs between mother and son as we sat in first class sipping champagne, and downed a few during our layover in Chicago.

Dad was a tad aggravated when he picked us up at the airport, but we loaded the car with our luggage. Mom was visitng for a week. I would be staying on indefinitely.

With every turn of the head we took in a golden vision. The entire city should be on a postcard. We headed for the bridge in the Ford Galaxy, a huge car with a wide backseat. I was in the center of the backseat with Dad driving and Mom in the passenger seat. We started the drive across the bridge, I took a peek at Alcatraz.

Mom lowered her window and tossed her cigarette.

Into the backseat.

I was dancing around as the lit cigarette started some of the papers on the floor on fire. Mom was yelling...at me...Dad was swearing. I was stomping the flames.

I missed the whole trip over the bridge.

We were nearly on the other side. The excitement had died down. We were both a little pissed at Mom. Silence took hold.

"Ahh, Look at all the boats!" Mom yelled out, effectively scaring the living shit out of Dad.

I tell that story because last night, at about 3:30 a.m. I woke up laughing.

You see, I lived in California for eight months during that trip. Each day, Dad drove me across the bridge to work. He also took us back at the end of the work day.

Every single day, for those 8 months, he would shout it out:

"Ahh, look at all the boats!"

This week is Dad's birthday. Some may say that he isn't here.

I beg to differ.

He made me laugh at 3:30 in the morning.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Ghosts of Christmas' Past

Not really sure what it is, but I have very little Christmas spirit thus far. I have even less anticipation when it comes to New Year's Eve.

Perhaps it's because there isn't any snow, but I am not big on snow anyway so that can't be it. Maybe it's because I haven't stepped foot into a store this year because my beautiful wife told me not to buy her anything and she did all of the rest of the shopping, but I hate stores too, so that most likely isn't it.

The kids are older so the surprise element is gone. They get presents that make a stack only a few inches thick because all of the new electronics are small. They will open the presents quickly, and be on there way.

The week that just passed felt like a month, but a lot of weeks are like that. So, let's figure it out together and perhaps we can get a few moments of celebration out of the season.

Of course, there is the religious element to it. I was an altar boy for at least ten years at the Midnight Mass Celebrations, so it is hard to not think of the time logged in church. I will certainly dwell on God and I will Thank God for what is here, right?

And what was here.

My Mom was telling me about one of my aunts who faith has been shaken to the very core. This poor woman explained that she just didn't believe anymore because God has made her sad, sadder, and saddest over the past few years.

"What about all the love and moments of pure happiness she felt for all the previous years?" I asked. "If God ripped it all apart, He allowed for it to be there in the first place."

I was saying the words to make my Mom feel better, but after a good night of sleep, I woke thinking of that. Writing it down right now, makes me feel a stirring for Christmas.

And then there are the memories. The memories of all the perfect Christmas mornings. The presents, the laughs, the food, the beer, the food and the laughs and the food.

My sister and I traded stories this morning on Facebook.

I wrote of Jeff wrapping a bag of concrete for Mom on Christmas and how excited she was because it was so heavy. Carrie wrote of wrapping presents for my Dad to give to my Mom including wrapping the old, worn-out coat that my Dad had used to cover up the new stuff. The look on my mother's face was priceless when she tried to appear graceful.

We shared the story of beer pong and Grandma Schryver's fruit cake. The losing team had to eat a piece. We were literally gagging eating it, and Grandma caught us. We offened the hell out of that poor woman.

Ah, the love.

Glad we shared so much. Thrilled, actually.

And my boys will really get fired up as the week goes on. I read a story about an impoverished family today. There won't be so much as a Christmas Slim Jim in their home because of injury, loss of home, and bad freaking luck.

I'm sure God is taking his share of the blame.

Our tree is up. That Yankee tree with the 27 Championships noted is set by the door. We are planning the menu for the Christmas Day dinner.

Let's get fired up!

The snow will come.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Top Three - Week Two

Wow, in the week before Christmas we have plenty of stuff to choose from, don't we?

We can talk about how Tim Tebow appears to be the first Christian to ever play professional sports.

Or we can mention Kobe and the sad disintegration of his marriage despite the fact that he only allegedly raped one girl. That's a shame, right? After all, men have urges.

Perhaps Britney Spears and the fact that she is getting married for the 3rd time. I think I'll wait for the divorce to comment on that one.

I already mentioned Deidre Pujols and the slap-in-the-face-insult of being offered #130 mil. Poor lady.

The ever-evolving Syracuse and Penn State stories make me sick, so we will hold off there.

A school here in the Buffalo area was reprimanded for an ethnic chant that evidently went on for years. A former hockey player pleaded guilty of drunk-driving because his stupid wheel fell off; Ryan Braun got busted for steroids.

(By the way, why is it "pleaded" guilty instead of "pled" guilty? That one always frosts my ass).

Plenty...plenty to discuss at this happy, happy time of year. Yet none of them made the top three.

3). Yancy Gates. You never heard of him? He is a basketball player for Cincinnati. He was the main offender in an ugly brawl. I put him on the list for the simple reason that after he nailed a couple of guys he stood in front of their bench taunting them in his best Apollo Creed stance. His eyes were wild. There was froth on his mouth, and he was encouraging all comers. Scary shit.

2). Willy Vega. Another man you never heard of, right? He is a veteran school teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was up for his annual review with his vice-principal. He wasn't enamored with the constructive criticism. He punched HER in the face, knocking a few teeth loose, and effectively lowering his review score considerably. Look for Willy on the freeway with the sign and cup.

1). Sam Hurd. You may have heard of this dude. He's a football star. He's a member of the Chicago Bears. He ran afoul of the law this week. A trunk load of cocaine and a thousand pounds of marijuana were supposed to be delivered to his mailbox. He was busted instead.

And you wonder why people are dissatisfied with the postal service. The poor bastard placed his order, paid his money, and couldn't even get his package properly delivered. Hurd is saying that it is all a big misunderstanding and that he wasn't going to sell it. Evidently his recreational use of these products is a bit out of hand. There appears to be a jail cell in his immediate future.

But hey, he won first place in the Thoughts of a Common Man blog.

Good for him.

Congrats to all of our contestants. Next week is Christmas week. I'm sure we'll have some wonderful entries.

Is it still called Christmas, by the way, or have we officially changed it to Tebowmas?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

My brother called me yesterday and asked me what I wanted for Christmas as he had drawn my name. The question caught me off-guard because I really haven't thought about anything I want. The 27-Time World Champion Yankees aren't the 28-time World Champion Yankees so sadly I don't need a plaque for my front room.

The bottom line being, I have all the material things I need, so Santa baby, there really is no reason to be writing you a letter this year. Unless, that is, you can deliver a few of the things I really need, like:

1). A right leg that doesn't feel like a dead limb. I know we discussed this last Christmas and surgery seemed to be like the present you suggested, but I did that twice. I still feel lousy. Can you get the dim-witted elves on something?

2). A little patience? You got that in your big red bag? Evidently not, I've been asking for it since I wrote my first letter to you at about the age of 6. Every year I look for it: nothing.

3). A decent Bills team? I know you thought it was funny when you brought us four Super Bowl teams that lost each time, but how about one that can make the playoffs.

Is 12 years long enough?

You see, I don't really care, but since we have to pay hundreds of millions in taxes for their 7-game show (3 of which are blacked-out) how about a bonus game each year? There are a bunch of goofy, cold, die-hards who set their lives around these obese criminal bastards fighting for the ball.

4). How about a 70-degree January? Can you get that done? We haven't had a lot of snow yet, but there's quite a bit of time between now and June when I may be able to hit a golf ball without freezing my ass off. What do you say?

5). The new book finished? Can you work on that Santa? I did most of the leg work and I wrote nearly two hundred pages. Can you finish it? All you have to do is hit the sarcastic key a few thousand more times and it'll be ready to go to the publisher.

6). And here's the big one, Santa. It's the one gift I really freaking want this year. I was going to ask my brother for it, but even he can't pull it off. How about one full year free of going to a funeral home to say goodbye to a cherished family member?

Is that at all motherf&*%ing possible?

If not, skip this friggin' house, all right, you fat bastard?

The kids have what they need. The beautiful wife has all she ever dreamed for. The dogs live like kings, I have plenty of stuff to read.

Well, actually, I mentioned a Barnes & Noble gift card to my brother.

"Is that a do-it-yourself home improvement store?" he asked.

Perfect.

Sarcastic.

He might not have been kidding.

Thanks, Santa.

Love, Cliff

PS...Don't waste your valuable time looking for the cookies.

I ate 'em.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How Insulting!!!!

Deidre Pujols, the wife of Albert Pujols, the guy who just landed a $254 million contract for hitting a ball with a stick, was interviewed about the tormented state of mind that went into the horrific ordeal of free agency.

You see, over the course of the last ten years the Pujols family has had to skrimp and save to get by on the paltry salary of about $16 mil per year. Albert was the best player in baseball and by all acounts, he was due for a big raise.

So his team, the St. Louis Cardinals had the audacity to undercut him. They offered him $195 million over 9 years in spring training.

He declined and talked about respect.

The Cards came back with a shorter offer that would grant Albert the King of all payroll.

$130 million over 5 years.

And you know what Deidre said?

She said that the offer was an insult.

She said that free agency is hard and that she wouldn't wish it on anyone.

You know what's hard, Deidre?

Choosing between the electric bill and the gas bill. Wondering if the check is going to arrive so the kids can be fed.

One in 5 people in this country, the country where King Albert came to be paid a king's ransom...is under-nourished.

Most of the good people of this country, who work hard every single day, digging ditches, climbing ladders, working in healthcare, slaving in the services industries can't afford to send their children to college. They have double mortgages on homes that are breaking down, and those same kids are taking student loans that will take them twenty years to pay off.

And you are insulted!

Perhaps I don't know the context of how you suffered as four teams came at you with contracts in excess of $200 million freaking dollars!

Day after day there is a story that raises bile in me. This broad may have taken the cake.

And she can't even hit a straight fastball.

If I were Albert, and Thank God I'm not, after all the suffering he did during that tormented month, I'd tell my wife to shut her mouth.

But then again, I probably just don't understand.

Shut up, Deidre.

You moron.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh, Pretty Woman

There are some jewels on my I-pod, of course. The other afternoon, while typing work reports, Roy Orbison's Oh, Pretty Woman came on.

I can remember where I was the first time I ever heard the song. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was about 11 or 12 years old. Dad had a state-of-the-art record player that came out of the wall. We were encouraged not to ever touch it.

But this day, Dad was spinning a few records.

"Listen to this," he said.

And I did. Mostly because it was a song that was a story. The narrator (Orbison) was extremely interested in the pretty woman who was evidently just walking back and forth in front of him. She was taunting him with her walk.

That much is real plain to see.

I can remember getting antsy as my Dad sang along. I remember thinking the part where Orbison says, "Mercy!" was cool.

I still think that.

I must have drifted a bit because on that day long ago, Dad told me to pay attention to the conclusion of the song.

What do I see? Is she walking back to me?

How could you not be happy for Orbison?

The girl that he was pining for had noticed him and she turned around and headed back to make a connection that we assume, from the giddy sound of Roy's voice, that was all that he ever wanted or needed.

I remember making Dad play the song again.

36 years later it's on my I-pod.

I still feel good for old Roy when she turns around and heads back towards him.

Love's like that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We Do A Lot of Texting

All righty then...

I just finished reading an article about the actor from Lost, Doug Hutchinson, who is 51 years old. I never saw the show, didn't know who he was before reading the article, and had to write his name down before I forgot it.

But he's doing all right, I suppose.

You see, he's recently married...to 16-year old Courtney Stodden.

Yep. He's 51 and she's 16. And it's all legal as far as I can tell.

Can you imagine?

All right, boys, stop imagining.

Because it is a tad weird, me thinks.

First of all, I'd probably have to drive a spike through her head. The other night my beautiful wife suggested a movie and I said, and I quote:

"It's kinda' getting late."

She laughed and it hurt my feelings. "It's 8:22," she said.

And I'm four years younger than this guy.

Of course, I saw the photo of the young wife. She's about what you'd think. Long blond hair, big round....

You get it.

But here's where the story got really creepy. Whoever was doing the interviewing asked them about their sex life.

"He's a tiger," she said.

"I wish I'd remained a virgin until I met her," he said.

Uh, how were you going to do that? You were 35 when she was freaking born.

I just don't see it lasting long. There isn't anything about this story that makes me think this guy can hang in for the long haul. Did they think it through?

When she's 36 he'll be 71.

When she's my age he'll be eighty-freaking-two.

I guess that's the way I'll look at it for perspective. If I did it like him, on one hand the girl that I will eventually marry is now in 6th grade. On the other hand...looking ahead...the woman that I'd have to be with would be Betty White's age.

When they asked the two about the unique courtship the guy bitched a bit about all of the texting that he had to do to win her heart.

Most likely that is the least of his problems going forward.

To each his own, I suppose, but isn't that illegal somehow?

Ah, who the hell knows.

I bet she makes him start movies well after 8 o'clock.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Just Own Up To It

I don't know why I have a problem with Tim Tebow. Here's a guy who, by all accounts, is a really strong character guy. He leads with a prayer and invokes God name every thirty seconds.

Okay, so I know why I have a problem with him. It's just too much. Over and over he mentions things that I should be doing to lead a great life. Yeah, it's about faith, and I'm all for what he's saying, but the over and over as if I'm not quite where he's at...kind of bugs me.

I just haven't been blessed with the same level of understanding, I suppose. Or maybe, what I believe may not necessarily be what you believe, so I temper it a bit.

Anyway...I thought of Tebow and another player today because sports does teach life lessons if we watch. The other guy is the National League MVP Ryan Braun.

You see a few years ago, when A-Rod was trying to rid himself of the guilt of taking steroids Braun was very vocal. He explained that what A-Rod did was wrong and that he should man up and tell the world the entire truth instead of trying to run from what he did.

I thought that was a great thing for Braun to say.

Uh, then why is he hiding away now?

You see Braun failed a drug test. Steroids. He claims he's innocent. Actually, he has a nicely-worded denial in which he says he never intentionally did it.

His T-cells were 12 times the normal level. He didn't just drink whole milk when he wanted 2%. Something is rotten as they say.

So, I'm sure Braun, given his earlier condemnation of A-Rod would be a man about it, right?

Uh, no, of course not. He says that in due time he will be exonerated.

Perhaps. More likely, he will be apologizing. His cousin gave them to him. Someone dumped the cream on him and told him it was Vaseline. He tripped and sat on a needle that was stuck in the couch cushions. He thought it was a vitamin. He really, really wanted to win the MVP.

Tebow stands up at each press conference and testifies of his love of Jesus and God.

Everyone else stands there and lies through their teeth.

Can't we find a middle ground here somewhere?

People aren't perfect.

The distance from the high horse to the ground is considerable.

God helps us if we ever find out that Tebow once ate meat on a Friday during Lent.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Minutes to Memories

I run these lyrics every six months or so. Song popped onto my I-pod as I was working on the next story. Simply awesome. Every single person in the world should be exposed to these words instead of watching Jersey Shore.

Minutes to Memories by John Mellencamp

On a Greyhound thirty miles beyond Jamestown
he saw the sun set on the Tennessee line
He looked at the young man who was riding beside him
He said, "I'm old. Kind of worn out inside.
I worked my whole life in the steel mills of Gary
and like my father before me I helped build this land.
Now I'm 77 and with God as my witness,
I've earned every dollar that's passed through my hands.
My family and friends are the best things I've known
And through the eye of a needle I'll carry them home."

Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories
life sweeps away the dreams that we had planned
You are young and you are the future
so suck it up and tough it out and do the best you can.

The rain hit the old dog in the twighlight's last gleaming
He said, 'Son it sounds like rattling old bones,
this highway's long but I know some that are longer
By sunup tomorrow I guess I'll be home.'

Through the hills of Kentucky 'cross the Ohio River
the old man kept talking about his life and his times.
He fell asleep with his head against the window, said:
'An honest man's pillow is his peace of mind.
The world offers riches and riches will grow wings
I don't take stock in those uncertain things.'

Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories
life sweeps away the dreams that we had planned
You are young and you are the future
so suck it up and tough it out and do the best you can.

The old man had a vision but it was hard for me to follow
I do things my way and I pay a high price
But I think back on that old man and that bus ride
And now that I'm older I can see he was right.

Another hot one out on Highway eleven
this is my life
it's what I've chosen to do.
There's no free rides
no one said it'd be easy
The old man told me this, my son,
now I'm telling it to you.

Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories
life sweeps away the dreams that we had planned
You are young and you are the future
so suck it up and tough it out and do the best you can.

My buddy Mike introduced me to this song when we were in college. I know it means the world to him as well. It earned me a speeding ticket a few years back because I stepped on it during the 'Another hot one out on highway eleven' verse.

It's beautiful, simple, and all I wish for my boys.

Live hard, love strong, and take stock in the certain things.

Suck it up!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Top Three-Week of 12/4 to 12/10

A new weekly feature here!

We will be talking about the top three stories of each week. We will also have a bit of a lottery so feel free to bet.

Lottery: The top three numbers from 1 to 3.

Here we go: 3...1...2...

Check your tickets. Hope you won.

The Top Three Stories:

3). Cain drops out. So, we went from 9,9,9 to sexual harassment allegations to an alleged 13-year affair and the Godfather pizza mogul couldn't stand the heat so he had to get out of the kitchen.

Here's a scoop: I wouldn't have voted for him, but I'll miss the comedy.

2). King Albert Signs. $254 million dollars. Think of it. You have been working since you turned 15 or 16, right? Some years have been better than others. Some days you're the windshield and some days you're the bug.

Most likely, in all those years, including all the money you've earned in every possible scenario, you probably haven't yet approached earning a mil, certainly not more than a couple mil, right? 3 mil? 4 mil?

Can you imagine?

It's a real damn shame that I couldn't hit a fastball, couldn't run the bases without falling down, and usually cowered when a ground ball was hit sharply.

I was so close.

1). Sandusky Arrested. Of course, the top story is that this creep spent a whole night in jail before he was released on $250,000 bail.

How does that happen? Let's research some of those types of cases for the normal citizen-folk. What do you think the average bail was set at?

Yep...millions. You'd need Albert to bail you out if you weren't a celebrity of sorts. I really don't know what Penn State or the courts in that neighborhood are thinking here. How many more embarrassing moments are still ahead? And Sandusky's wife came to his defense. There was a story that she was upstairs listening to the screaming during one of the attacks, and she turned a deaf ear.

Lots of deaf ears in that there neighborhood. It still makes me physically ill. She should go to jail too, along with JoePa and the rest of those creepy bastards.

And our top 3 people of the week of December 04 through December 10?

3). My friend, Kim Kurek. Kim not only had her birthday this week, but she also continued to show considerable heart in sending a gift that will go directly to Jeff and Lynn's kids for Christmas. Her generosity of spirit is thrilling in a day and age when every single thing I read seems to be the result of horrific behavior.

Sorry, Kim...don't want to embarrass you, but when people live their lives wondering how they helped others, they have a fulfilling existence. The other two people on this week's list do it the same way.

2). My sister Corinne. Check her blog from 12/06. Happy Birthday. Said it all there for her. She is the Queen. How in the hell did she finish #2????

1). Walt Gier. The town where I grew up was an awful lot like Mayberry. We all know and love one another. We all hung out. We all had fun. There were fights and arguments, to be sure, but when one family suffers, we all suffer. Walt was a good man. A family man. A hardworking man. He passed away this week, and I stumbled out to the worst place in the world...the funeral home in North Collins...to say goodbye.

I feel better saying goodbye here. Rest, Walt, you earned it.

The weekly top 3 will run every Sunday morning.

Let me know of things that might be of interest.

I will read everything and compile the list.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Our Trip to Verizon

I could kill my buddy John. You see, he brought his I-phone by last weekend. I checked it out. It was better than my old Droid. The market had passed me by. It had been a long time since I upgraded.

I thought about it a bit after John's visit and the next day I stopped by the Verizon store to see if I was, in fact, due for a new phone.

As luck might have it.

At dinner I announced to the kids that we would do a telephone hands-me-down sort of thing. I would upgrade, my old phone would go to Jake and his old phone would go to Sam. We would all gain a little.

After dinner we stepped out to the store. I was in my pajamas.

I guess I have officially given up.

Jake was fired up. We stepped in front of a 20-something guy who was a virtual encyclopedia of telephones. He spoke so quickly that I had to have my translator there for me. Before long he and Kathy were in a full-fledged discussion of plans, mbs, gbs, and whatever the hell else came up. They were talking cell lines, land lines, data plans.

It sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher.

My phone was ordered.

I swiped my card.

"You need a support package," the kid said.

I turned to Kathy, and she nodded. Luckily the kid had the same exact phone as the one I ordered. He picked my support package for me.

I swiped my card.

I was informed that it would arrive in a couple of days by FedEx. I would have to keep the old phone until then. That broke Jake's heart. He wanted to leave the store with a Droid.

As luck might have it, he didn't want my old Droid anyway.

"Be patient," Kathy said. "We'll find a good deal on a new one and come back in a couple of days."

Now my kids don't ask for a lot. They really have gotten much better in that regard. Jake nodded, but I saw the look on his face.

And I was done.

"Which phone do you like?" I asked him.

He showed me.

"I can't believe I need to wait."

I took my credit card out. He had been sick and survived. He was a good kid. He really wanted it. All the bad parenting that was part of my decision didn't seem all that important to me.

I swiped the card again.

God help me when that bill comes due.

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's Not About the Money

Et tu Albert?

He loves the fans in St. Louis. They are the smartest fans and he wants nothing more than to be the next Stan Musial in the world's greatest baseball town. His family is there. He loves it there. Nothing he'd rather do than finish his career with one team.

I guess there are truly only a few really dedicated guys like Jeter, Ripken, and Gwynn. I really thought that Albert fit the description.

What is really going to drive me up the wall is when King Albert starts his Angels press conference by telling us that it's not about the money.

For the record, the Angels are paying him about $26 mil a year and the Cards came in at about $22 mil a year.

If it's not about the money than what is it about?

Wanting to settle the wild west?

I'm sure that before the press conference is over Albert will make reference to the fact that he felt as if St. Louis management had disrespected him.

How dare they insult him by making him such a paltry offer?

The other thing about it, of course, is the going amount for a slugging 1st baseman. Imagine what Mantle and DiMaggio might have commanded.

Albert is one of the larger corporations doing business in California these days, isn't he?

I heard a sportscaster discussing it yesterday and he put it in simple terms for all of us peons. If you're making fifty grand and the company down the street offers you eighty don't you just go?

Probably.

But when you are talking about more money than you can possibly spend in your lifetime, or your grand-childrens lifetimes doesn't that put a different spin on things?

"We make a lot of money, but we spend a lot of money," Patrick Ewing once famously said.

"I gots to feed my kids," Latrell Sprewell once said when he was arguing about the difference between a 50 and a 60 million dollar deal.

As a baseball fan, I wish the off-season movement wasn't about dollars and cents. I am not a hypocrite enough to say that I don't enjoy the trades and the free agent signings.

(The 27-time World Champion Yankees have dabbled in the market).

I just wish I didn't know anything about the dollars.

"It's not about the money," Albert will say. "I just always wanted to bring a championship to Southern California."

Spare me.

I ain't that dumb.

Break a leg, Albert.

Sherman T. Potter

We all loved Potter, right?

He was always sensible and the voice of reason in a difficult situation.

Wonder what he thought of all the crap during his last few days on Earth.

Like the Beastie Boys being elected into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Like Sandusky not being able to answer whether or not he is attracted to boys.

Like Bernie Fine's wife being as big a scumbag as her husband.

Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers being elected to the Rock& Roll Hall of Fame.

Like Newt Gingrich becoming a bona fide candidate.

Like no snow in Buffalo until after December 1st

Like the Miami Marlins spending 200 mil on free agents.

Like the Yankees not spending one thin dime yet.

Like the Colts being 0 and 12.

Like the Packers being 12 and 0.

Like Hawkeye and BJ not picking on Winchester.

Like Penn State accepting the bowl bid.

Like Paula and Simon on television together again.

Like New York State actually considering a tax cut for the middle class.

Like Klinger actually marrying Sun-Li.

Like the economy actually ticking upwards.

I can almost see why Sherman checked out after 96 long years.

He got tired.

Even he couldn't lend a voice to reason through all this crap.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Freeze My Head

We've been over this before as Ted Williams head was frozen upon his death so that he could come back later on and be a productive human being again. I doubt he'll ever hit .400 again or be better than DiMaggio, but you never know.

The subject has come up again because Larry King is now saying that he wants his entire body frozen upon his death until they can come up with a cure for whatever that finally kills him.

Does it work if he gets hit by a bus?

Yet the whole idea of it kind of scares me. Isn't the idea that we get a certain amount of time to do our thing, and then we go peacefully off into eternal rest?

Larry King is about a hundred years old now. He's been married a dozen times. He's earned millions of dollars for God knows why.

And now he wants more.

I really do believe that to everything there is a season. We don't get an infinite number of days for a reason. The world is filled with people. You can't even get out of a parking lot without a long delay on a Saturday afternoon and Wegmans is already packed.

If Larry King's idea of being frozen and coming back catches on then rich, pompous assholes will never die.

And that can't be a good thing.

Live each day. Laugh a little. Eat a lot. When it's your time to go try and do it with a little dignity.

The word on the street is that Ted Williams head rests on a tuna can in a freezer somewhere. There was a report that a few of the workers damaged it when they were horsing around.

Not for me.

They freeze my head after I'm gone and the wife and kids will be using it for a basketball on lazy summer days.

Maybe that ain't a bad idea for Larry. Five wives on each team. Make-it take-it. You gotta' win by two.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pops for Prez

Recently, upon hearing the sad news that Herman Cain had suspended his candidacy for president, I looked around at what was left and decided that I wanted to start a campaign to elect my buddy Jeff Popple.

First off, on Cain...he had those stubborn sexual harassment charges that kept coming up.

Pops is clear there. He treats women and children with respect.

Then there was that 13 year affair...allegedly that Cain supposedly had.

Pops hasn't had any affairs...he was lucky, lucky, lucky (like me) to capture a wife.

So Pops over Cain all day long.

Newt Gingrich?

Remember when he served his wife the divorce papers as she underwent treatment for the cancer that was killing her?

Pops would never do that. He might eat her meal from the hospital tray, but he'd wait until she was asleep.

Rick Perry?

Have you heard him mangle the English language?

Pops is literate in every way. He can read, write and speak. He would be able to answer every question posed, and there would be no side-stepping the issue at hand. He might throw in an F-bomb every now and then, but Cheney spoke that way and we all loved him, right?

So who does that leave? Romney from the GOP, right?

Shouldn't be much of a problem there. Just keep asking Romney what he thinks of abortion. Ask him...wait 3 minutes and ask him again...he'll eliminate himself.

So we have the GOP nod.

Now to beat Obama.

I say a driving contest...winner take all. Pops is one of the great Grape Apes. Obama is a skinny, big-eared basketball player.

I'm saying Pops goes about 320. Obama will be back with me around 210.

The presidency is his.

We will all be better off. People will work. Greed and stealing from the top will be controlled, and Springsteen will play at the inaguration and the 27-Time World Champion Yankees will have him throw out the first ball before next year's Game 1.

I will be nominated as king caddy.

By the way, the ball he hits against Obama doesn't have to land in the fairway.

Just saying.

Start practicing it now.

J-E-F-F. P-O-P-P-L-E!!!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Birthday Blog for Cort

My sister Corinne is a wonderful woman, full of laughter, sadness, expression and love. She is dedicated, loyal, strong, brilliant and celebratory. She loves the little things in life that other people routinely miss.

The little things she does mean the world to everyone she comes into contact with.

So there we are.

And there are so many stories that I could tell you. Stories that make me laugh out loud to myself as I consider all that went into forming the person she is today.

Like going to buy the shake and bake.

Like chasing us out of her rooms on Saturday mornings with a phrase that would make the anti-gay people in the world tremble in their pillowy slippers.

Like singing Mariah Carey in a falsetto voice that made my sister and me fall on the floor in laughter.

Like dancing with my boys in the parking lot at the Chinese Buffet in the dead of winter.

So many, many more.

But in the end its all about looking for, praying for and expecting guidance from your older sister.

And I don't have enough space in a daily blog to tell you all about that.

My siblings and I have shared so much, and we always counted on the love. When we were all together we laughed so much that others had to stare in wonder.

What the hell was in the sauce on Sundays that caused such lunacy?

Now that we are not together as much, we have had to struggle with our own feelings of grief and loss.

We've made it to the other side, probably closer, certainly sadder, but we can still laugh.

And laugh hard.

Because of our big sister. The larger than life example of strength...

...and love.

There were, at varied times a lot of other factors involved in the making of our family dynamic, but more than anything else, there was love in that sauce.

The sauce tastes different now that there is separation, but today on her 39th birthday I can say one thing:

Corinne is still the one with the spoon in her hand, stirring the sauce.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saturday Night is All Right for....Bevis?

What started in the summer as an opportunity to control chaos has sort of become a lifestyle change that I've really enjoyed.

You see, rather than tip a few on the weekends I decided to give it up for awhile. I haven't had more than a dozen drinks in ten months. It started out weird, but now I don't even consider ordering a drink.

I must admit that more than a few of my friends are a little perplexed, but I do feel better.

Whatever, this isn't an anti-drinking blog. Even I'm not enough of a hypocrite to say that drinking is evil. It isn't. It's fun.

But, what to do on a Saturday night?

I let my beautiful wife choose the movie. We sat through the same movie that we've seen about four hundred times.

Yep, a romantic comedy. Justin Timberlake and some dark, pretty, "damaged" girl.

First off, neither of these people, despite their angst would ever have a problem getting laid. We are supposed to suspend belief there. Then they hook up, have a misunderstanding, swear each other off as lost causes, have an awakening, a famous final scene, and head off into a life that we know will be filled with days of unending bliss after a long proclamation of dedication.

I glanced over at my Juliet. Sweatpants. Tired eyes. Sick of every one of my dopey jokes. I knew exactly what she would say:

"Ahhh, that's cute."

"Show them twenty years down the line," I said. "Ready to dig one anothers eyes out."

We laughed. Thankfully that isn't how our movie has played out thus far.

Then the boys came in. They wanted the big television. They wanted to chase two former party people up to their rooms at 8:30. Instead, we watched a basketball game. St. Bonaventure versus U.B. We listened to the announcers praise the brilliant student-athletes. They were working to build up guys who will never sniff the NBA.

After one long, drawn-out praise of a guy who made a shot, I turned to Jake.

"And his urine cures cancer!" I said.

The game ended. 9:15. Still not ready for bed.

"How about an episode of Bevis and Butthead?" Jake asked.

Kathy shrugged, so I did too.

Why not?

We are wild and crazy.

And you know what?

We laughed a lot. Sam and Jake laughed with us.

A great Saturday night! But there was more! We had 48 Hours Mystery.

One problem: It started late.

I never made it past the introduction. It was a mystery about whether or not a man killed his wife.

I bet he did it.

He wanted more than just spending quality time watching Bevis and Butthead on a Saturday night.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sometimes the Truth is Just Plain Weird

As per usual I was listening to a bit of talk radio as I drove this week. Hands down, the strangest item I heard was about a man in one of them there states where teeth are a luxury, and incest is an option, and where they vote straight Republican.

This guy may have taken it a bit far.

It seems his wife made a discovery. Allegedly the gentleman, whom she had shared her marriage bed with for 15 years, had drilled a hole from the interior of his garage, so that he could place a camera in there to monitor the activity of the interior of his bathroom.

The only images that his wife supposedly saw on the tape were those of her 57-year old mother as she took a pee.

There was a lot of footage of the activity.

Of course, Jay Thomas handled the subject with his usual dignity. (I love him).

"I am reserving judgement of the act until I see what the mother-in-law looks like," Jay said.

"That marriage might just be over." He added.

Yep, that one there is a deal-breaker, I'm sure.

How do you talk your way out of that?

"Sorry, honey, I was just making sure she had a good flow because I love her so much?"

Probably won't work.

"I was just thinking she was using way too much toilet paper and I wanted to catch her in the act."

That one won't fly either.

Evidently Thomas and the crew had a photo of the man. They were fairly adamant that he just looked like such a fella' might look.

I'm not real sure I want to see him.

How in the f&*%k did mankind get so creepy and weird?

I believe that it may have always been this way.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Friends in the 'Cuse

I have been going to Syracuse every couple of weeks since about 1991. I know the town inside and out, and like Buffalo the people who live there are hearty types. They work hard, they suffer through miserable winters and they try to grab something they can hang onto.

For most of the fine citizens there they identify with the Syracuse Orange and the football team, which isn't great, and the basketball team, which has been great.

They really identify with the head coach of the team, Jim Boeheim, who is from the Central New York area.

So none of them were ready for wise-cracking Cliffy who made a visit.

"Hey, now I know how you got those season tickets to the Orange games, Tom. How is Bernie by the way?"

"One way of getting a child through the shame of molestation is by having your wife do him when he gets old enough."

And none of it is a joking matter. Another real sick situation, and one that is even closer to home to me than the Penn State deal.

"They should fire Boeheim today," was one statement that I made in the office.

It was met with a bit of trepidation.

"Maybe he wasn't aware of it. He is just a coach, he doesn't meddle in his coach's personal lives."

But it was the same thing if you ask me. Those in the know, knew. They kept it quiet to not bring shame on their beloved program. They most likely did it at the risk of those boys.

The one difference being that the authorities haven't really had their say in this matter. Far be it from people to lie, but there is a bit of finger-pointing going on here and charges have not yet been brought.

I tried to bring a bit of levity to the situation yesterday, but it is far from a laughing matter, and those people, who had nothing to do with any of it, are a little ashamed.

I found it weird that the alleged horrific act of one man could do so much to lighten the mood in a good town.

Think on the bright side, Syracuse citizens:

Buffalo was where OJ was a star.

Tim McVeigh was raised here.

We even shot a president downtown somewhere.

And look how Buffalo thrives!

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Ten Pound Weight

You never know what you'll hear on Howard.

In the middle of a funny interview with another radio shock jock, Jason Ellis, Howard got to the bottom of Ellis' marital strife. Ellis actually uttered the great line.

"Even the strongest man in the world can't hold a ten pound weight over his head forever. Eventually, he will drop it."

Profound, right?

I know a lot of people who hold a weight over their own head, every day of their life, pretending that they can handle it forever and too afraid to just let it go. I have carried various weights, at various times, for varied durations.

Sometimes we need to ask others to help us hold the weight for a little while until we can get our grip back.

There are even more days when we should just give up hoisting it aloft.

The problem being, of course, that we don't want to appear weak. We don't want to ask for help, and sometimes when we get used to lugging the burden we sort of hang onto it like a crutch, afraid to let it go even though it's painful to hold it up.

I must admit that I've carried more than ten pounds over my head for the last few years. I am afraid to set the boulder down, knowing that I am going to have to let go, not only of that boulder but all the great memories that were attached with the boulder being hoisted on my back.

Don't you love the peaceful moments of clarity that life allows us to glimpse from time to time?

I remember us all driving home from my parent's home back when the kids were real young. It was a bright, clear summer night. The stars were high in the high sky. Two of three of the kids were sleeping in their car seats. Mark Knopfler was on the car stereo, and we returning from a good meal at Mom and Dad's. The entire family had been there.

My mind was at ease.

With everything.

"I wish I could bottle how relaxed I feel," I said to Kathy.

I couldn't.

It was one of those pure, innocent moments of clarity.

I do know some people...very few it turns out...who feel such a sense of peace nearly every day.

You know, writing about it has cleared my mind a little bit. I feel like I set the boulder down. I'll probably pick it up again first thing in the morning, but for right now, my shoulders feel light.

Wish I could bottle this.

But I can't.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's All Passing Me By All of a Sudden

Sam was singing a rap song the other day. I think it came on during a movie or a commercial or something. As he sang, I lurched for the remote.

"Hey!" he screamed as I muted it. "That's a good song."

"That's not a song. No instruments, no singing, nothing. It's hurting my ears."

Then it occurred to me that I have never seen any of the following shows:

Dancing with the Stars, America's Got Talent, Grey's Anatomy, Big Brother, or even American Idol for that matter.

I don't know anything about any of the following movies:

Harry Potter, or Twighlight.

The world has officially passed me by.

Last night I watched an episode of Bob Newhart followed by the Odd Couple. Newhart was from 1974. Oscar and Felix from 1972.

Tony Randall is dead. Newhart's wife is dead. Klugman and Newhart are barely hanging on.

I got aggravated watching football this week. One guy stepped on another guy's head. Every first down was cause for a Broadway Show by the guy who made it across the line, and touchdowns, forget it! Those were flat-out one-act plays.

"You gotta' get with the times," my buddy told me.

But perhaps I am just fine with this wave of crap passing me by.

Quick: name the number one rapper from 1999.

Hell: Name one from then who is still alive or out of prison.

Quick: Who won the last 3 Dancing with the Stars?

Hell: Who won the 2002 Super Bowl?

I know who won the 1969 Super Bowl...Namath was an entertainer. I never once saw him fake shoot himself in the leg.

Man, I used to get so mad at my Dad when he presented this argument. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe all of these people are wonderfully talented and I'm just a grumpy old bastard.

I've been wrong before.

But I really feel like the moral center is gone, and that there is little hope for mutual respect out there.

No one will ever write a great song again. (With the exception of the old guys still doing it).

We will never see another great new show.

Getting old?

I'm way freaking past that!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Love A Good Parable or Four

Time

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.

What would you do?

Draw out every cent, of course!

Each of us has such a bank.

Its name is TIME.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft.

Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow."

You must live in the present on today's deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success!

The clock is running.

Make the most of today. To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade. To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper. To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet. To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train. To realize the value of ONE-SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.

Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time. Remember that time waits for no one. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present!

Knowledge

A scientific convention was held at a lakeside resort. After the first days proceedings, a mathematician, a physicist, an astronomer and a molecular biologist hired a boatman to row them around on the lake. As they sat in the boat, they discussed string theory, bubble universes, the Gaea Hypothesis and other abstruse topics.

The biologist noticed the boatman looking at them from the corner of his eyes. He asked him:

"What do you think of these ideas?"

The boatman replied, "I didn't understand any of it."

The astronomer asked him how far he had studied. He told them he couldn't even read.

"I hate to say it," said the physicist, "but you seem to have wasted a good part of your life."

The boatman remained silent. By now they were out in the middle of the lake, far from shore. A sudden storm whipped up. The waves started churning and heaving. All of a sudden, the boat flipped over. The boatman started swimming for shore. The scientists cried out:

"Help! We can't swim!"

The boatman called back, "I hate to say it, but you seem to have wasted your whole lives."

Most Important Lesson

During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one:

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count towards our quiz grade.

"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello'." I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Happiness is an attitude.

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.

As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.

"I love it," she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

"Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room .... just wait."

"That doesn't have anything to do with it," she replied. "Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it ... It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away ... just for this time in my life."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Catch the Ball

The star wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, Stevie Johnson, is a Thoughts of a Common Man idiot.

Last year he dropped a pass and blamed God. He became a big star for writing something on his chest and showing the world after catching a touchdown pass. Everyone thought it was funny.

So yesterday, he caught a pass and pretended he was shooting himself in the leg to make fun of another player. Then he played a crashed Jet and received a penalty that cost his team 7 points.

All in good fun, right?

It's the basic problem in the world right now, if you ask me. Everyone wants to be a star. Everyone is disrespectful to the next guy. No one is accountable to anyone else. When all else fails, blame God.

Now I know it's just a football game and he isn't a Rhodes Scholar, but it aggravates me because my boys thought it was so cool.

"He made fun of the guy who shot himself!"

It's a vicious circle. The guy who shot himself took a gun into a nightclub because he wanted street cred and he wanted to be a big shot.

As if God were actually watching, Johnson dropped a pass later in the game that would have brought victory to his team.

He didn't perform a dance after dropping the ball.

When does it all end?

A woman pepper sprayed another woman who was reaching for the same sales item on Black Friday.

The Syracuse coach allegedly molested young boys, and in the craziest of all scenarios his wife admitted he had issues and just for good measure, she slept with the kid too.

I'm not blaming Stevie Johnson for all the worlds ills. He's a pass catcher in a dumb game. But the attention-grabbing, look-at-me-at-all-costs-and-consequences-be-damned mentality drives me crazy.

The coach didn't see it and doubted he would discipline Stevie. All in good fun.

My advice?

Do your job...whatever it is. Don't worry about being on television. Don't look for additional compensation for doing what you're supposed to do. God didn't do it to you.

Last year after being fined and ridiculed for his actions Johnson said he made a mistake and would learn from his actions.

He said the same thing yesterday.

He'll say the same thing next year.

Fortunately I am in my kid's ears to remind them.

When you point your finger cause your plan fell through, you got four more fingers pointing back at you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Just Another Roll of the Dice

The Buffalo News ran an article about a woman who gambled away the money raised for her sons fight against cancer. It's a really tragic story as they held a benefit, she took control of the cash, and then she played cards at casinos all across the area.

Evidently she isn't a very good card player.

The outrage is predictable. Letters to the editors explain that she should be put to death. Her son instantly forgave her. I must be getting old because I didn't really buy her story about being scared and lonely and that others in her position just might do the same thing.

She should have stopped it somewhere along the way. Loneliness isn't a valid excuse. Her son was on the verge of death. He needed the money. It was money donated by hardworking people.

Leave your ATM card at home if you can't stop yourself from withdrawing the money your kid needs to fight the disease that might kill him.

Of course, that's the lazy way of attacking the subject. Of course she was wrong. I don't feel much like kicking her at this point. The problem is bigger than that anyway.

I like the slot machines for the escape of it all. I'm also fairly lucky at it. There have been a couple of times where I lost more than I felt comfortable losing, and it made me sick. The real problem is that if you are equipped with the addictive gene, and you don't have the money to fill the emotional hole in your heart, you could be in trouble.

There are more casinos. There are more people embezzling. More fathers blowing their life savings. More robberies. More stealing.

The next spin will make it all right. The next card you turn over will be an ace. The dice will smile on you if you just lift another $200.

The woman had a telling comment when she said that it wasn't about winning or the money. If she won it just meant that she would be in the game longer.

Looking for a place where the world seems right.

When the cops came looking for her she was glad that it was over.

Her son is doing well. He may just have beaten the cancer even though the odds weren't in his favor.

Looks like she finally beat the house.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Working on a Dream

So we all gathered last night at my brother John's. The kids were running around, all of them...Jeff's kids were also there and Rocco, John and Farrah were leading the charge. We had pizza, chicken and a great batch of chili that Dana prepared the hell out of.

Springsteen's Working on a Dream was on low in the background, and the wounded adults were smiling, tossing a few insults out, and having a couple of beers.

I was drinking tea. My leg was great all day but stiffening up as the night moved on. The music was just loud enough for me to hear a few lines.

There's a pillar in the temple where I carved your name.

Johnny looks so much like Jeff when he was young. Rocco is so big and strong. Farrah is just beautiful.

All random thoughts running through my head.

But here the nights are long and the days are lonely. I think of you and I'm working on a dream. Working on a dream.

We also celebrated Mom's birthday some more. I had asked my son Jake to write something in the card for his Grandma. This is what he wrote:

"You're my dad's Mom so that makes you my grandma. Love Jake."

My mother laughed her ass off.

There's a wonderful world where all you desire and everything you've longed for is at your fingertips.

My brother Jim's favorite subject is the shape of my eyebrows. He spent about ten minutes calling me Uncle Leo from the Seinfeld show and laughing until there were tears in his eyes. There was even a half-hearted attempt by my nieces to fix them.

"It's hopeless," Andrea said.

Darlin' I can't stop the rain or turn your black skies blue, but let me show you what love can do.

I saw Rocco coming from a hundred feet away. His eyes wide, his smile huge. He ran straight for me and jumped towards my chest. I grabbed him and hugged him tightly as he giggled. A wonderful, perfect giggle.

"I love you buddy," I said.

"I know!!!" he giggled.

This life, this life and then the next, with you I have been blessed. What more can you expect?

"Can we go now," Jake asked. He was holding his phone out for inspection. "We can't get any reception here."

"A little while," I said.

I was sitting in the center of it all with my leg propped up, just watching the chaos that comes with all the kids running around.

"You can do the same thing at home," Jake said, pointing to my leg.

"No, I can't," I said. "Now relax a little while. I'm listening to the music too."

"Bruce sucks," Jake responded, as he walked away trying to get his phone to text.

With you I don't feel the minutes ticking by. I don't feel the hours as they fly. I don't see the summer as it wanes. Just a subtle change of light upon your face. Walk away, walk away, walk away. This is our kingdom of days.

Did I mention the chili was great?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Let's See What Comes Out

A whole bunch of random thoughts, I suppose. It's been another traumatic week. I don't know what to think, so this is an exercise of what pops into my head.

1). 69% of people can find something dirty in every sentence.

2). Newt Gingrich is a tad crazy.

3). Football is a group of lousy teams and Green Bay. Which means, of course, that one of those lousy teams will win the Super Bowl.

4). I can't think of a single thing I want for Christmas. I've given up on world peace.

5). The weather in Buffalo has been tremendous. Isn't it a shame that I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop?

6). My family is so punch drunk from horrific news that when the phone rings we all cringe.

7). I've done the hokey-pokey a thousand times at weddings and I still don't know what it's all about.

8). I wish John Lennon was still making music.

9). Bruce has a new tour coming. I can't wait for the new music and the excellent writing. He puts a stamp on what I'm thinking at any given time through the year. He just lost Clarence. Wonder what sort of spin he will put on grief. Could it help? The only sure bet in my life.

10). Studies show that if your parents don't have any children chances are you won't either.

11). When a dog throws up there's always a great build-up. It isn't enough time to get them out the door and off the carpet or comforter, but it's violent and scary. Guess feeding them a little turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving isn't really doing them a favor.

12). Still waiting for the 27-time Yankees to get me another starting pitcher. Did I say I didn't want anything for Christmas?

13). When I finished the eulogy for my Uncle Jim another uncle came to me and asked me if he could hire me to do his. I told him I didn't think anyone would be in the church to hear it. At least we both laughed.

14). Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

15). The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.

You see what happens in my mind in five minutes time?

It's not much fun.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Mommy

Today is my mother's birthday.

I've had enough of the rest of the bullshit holidays that are set on the yearly calender. She deserves a national day of honor.

If you are a follower of this blog and you have read the words of loss and despair over the last few years, you have to wonder, in awe, about the strength of a woman who has been smack dab in the middle of the heartbreak.

I know I do.

Mom has endured. She has not missed a single gathering. She has had her moments of sadness to be sure, but she hasn't dropped it any of our feet. No matter why we get together, she's right there in the center of it all, telling a joke, offering an opinion, cooking something that no one else will even bother to try cooking because she just blows everyone away.

Her eyes fill with tears at the mere mention of some of those we've lost, but she fights them back.

She's the strongest person I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

And I tell anyone that will listen. I have never had a fight with my Mom. We've never really disagreed to the point where we were even a little angry with one another.

That goes back 47 years.

And today is her day.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

I can't promise you won't feel the heartache today, but I do know one thing for sure, you'll battle it back...

...and lead the rest of us through the darkness.

Happy Black Friday?!!!!!

As has become a habit over the last three weeks, I flipped the television on before getting up the nerve to put my feet on the floor.

"Happy Black Friday!!!!" the announcer screamed.

My head almost hit the ceiling. He was actually screaming. What an idiot.

When did it become a holiday?

The announcer was absolutely giddy about the prospect of saving money through his exhaustive system of getting to the right store at precisely the right moment. They showed people camped out. They showed footage of long lines and they interviewed a couple of the "shoppers".

Everyone was so freaking excited.

I tried to figure out if there was anything I would lie in a parking lot to get.

Springsteen tickets in New Jersey?

Nope, not even those. I'd wait it out and then just call a scalper.

Then they showed the doors open at one of the Target stores. Men, women and children were busting through with their arms raised in a victory salute.

Are you freaking kidding me?

When the empire finishes crashing down at least we will have footage of the near end.

Happy Black Friday?!!!

Of course, I must admit that my wife is out there somewhere. She passed by me this morning muttering a question about helping me get things set up for the morning, but she had a mug of coffee and a few newspaper ads.

"I'm all set," I said.

Of course, I have a real busy morning planned.

I have to figure out how in the hell to appear interested after she tells me about running into an old lady, fighting with some jerk at Wal-Mart, and the $11 she saved on a video game that will end up being chewed by the dog.

I know it's good for the economy. I know that some people enjoy it.

That's not to say I have to understand it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You

All of the small words are the ones that mean the most. Yes, Please, God, Love, Thank You.

I don't know why the words 'Thank You' sometimes get caught in our throats. They are two very easy words to say, but that's the way it is sometimes. Have you ever received a compliment from someone and instead of simply saying thank you have offered up some other words, like, 'I told you' or 'Yeah, thank me! You can thank me!'

I personally use that one all the time when my beautiful wife says thank you.

Which is once in a blue moon.

But we should feel thankful every day. There are a lot of people who help us make our loves go. Thanks be to God. Thanks to your Mom and Dad. Thank you to your siblings, your spouse, your children, and your dogs.

Truth be told we can spend our entire day thanking others if we were so inclined.

There's a lot of garbage going on in America. A ton of unrest. The lower class sucks, the upper class blows, those of us caught toiling in the middle deserve better. Racism sucks. Poverty blows. Socialism is bad. Greed is horrible. Republicans are idiots. Democrats are bleeding hearts.

We all just need to say thank you now and again. Thank you that we live in a free land, with a chance to shoot off our misinformed mouths.

I will most likely eat a lot this year. The mood of the family is unbelievably shaken again.

But Mom made the stuffing, and Jim is hosting the party, and we will laugh and watch some football.

Mom's stuffing can't be over sold. It is flat-out greatness.

Thankful that we are still together through the hurricane winds that have blown through our lives.

Thankful that we still feel the love.

Even when we don't feel much like giving thanks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

For Uncle Jim

Very difficult words to say aloud. There is certainly another huge void.

I’m not sure that this is breaking news, but there are some members of the Fuzzy family that have some of the following qualities:

Obnoxious, Loud, Wild, Quick-tempered, emotional, boisterous, impatient, emotional and a tad confrontational.

But loving…always very loving.

I was speaking to one such member a long time ago when at the age of 12 I helped my Dad make the sauce. I was chopping up onions and garlic when I said to him:

“You know, Uncle Jim is a really good guy.”

Dad agreed, of course, he thought the world of his little brother.

And through the years I thought a lot about that moment.

How had my uncle, in the middle of the Fuzzy storm, figured it all out?

There are so many distractions along the way. There are way too many temptations in life that can throw you off your game.

Uncle Jim was always able to stay the course.

How’d he do it?

First off, he had a great love of family. He loved his wife, Aunt Sherry, through all of the years, through the thick and thin, and when the chips were down.

He loved his daughters, Jamie and Kristin with every ounce of strength he could muster, and that happened, in spite of the fact that one of them may or may not have had some of that stubborn Fuzzy blood coursing through her veins.

I’m not going to say which one. (Kristin).

He loved his grandchildren, Dom, AJ and Brandon and was a great grandpa. He turned his car into the swim mobile. He called them sucky-thumby- babies. He teased them about playing so much hockey, telling Dom to find two dead ants to play with him.

He loved them for every second of their lives.

Then there was his love of food: Tripe, calamari, pork chops, pasta and peas, pasta and beans, pork chops, marinara, pasta and broccoli, pork chops, linguine and clams

Are you catching a theme?

And Italian Sausage. Every three months or so Uncle Jim, Jim and Paulie would get the ball rolling and we would meet to make the sausage.

Every time we showed up the container that Uncle Jim brought to bring his share of the sausage home in, got bigger. This year he had about an 80-gallon cooler. We would work, eat, have a few beers and laugh.

And the love of family extended through the sadness. Over the last few years we have lost some extremely well loved members of this family. Jeff, Dad, Aunt Carolyn…and we’ve been reeling.

Uncle Jim was there for all of us. He called us with a quick joke or a message. He wanted us to keep smiling and keep moving forward, never forgetting the love. He sent me a note one day that said simply, “I miss my bro today.”

I called him on the phone and before long we were talking about food. Know, with all your heart that he wants every single person here to smile and laugh as much as you can with the time you have. I know he does. We talked about it.

Uncle Jim also used faith in God above to fashion his great personality. His personality traits should be studied at the greatest universities in the world and taught to the general public.

I was in church one time and Uncle Jim was working as an usher. He called himself Frank Barone from the Everybody Loves Raymond Show.

And there was more love.

Sometimes I referred to Uncle Jim as Uncle Billy Joel and he enjoyed that because he always told me that he ‘got his Christie Brinkley’.

And he really meant it. We should all love our spouses in such a manner.

And there was more family.

Every June the 2 was cause for celebration and happy phone calls were made all through the family. June the 2 should be a national holiday from here on out.

And Uncle Jim believed in heaven and heaven is a better place now. He knew that the way to get there was to work hard, have faith in God’s plan, and eat a good meal.

No more chicken!!! (Sorry, Aunt Sherry)

Uncle Jim battled through a lot of tough times. Certainly things weren’t always smooth, but he battled through, day after day and hour after hour.

He didn’t feel sorry for himself. He never put it on someone else.

Instead, he forged ahead and asked us to join him in love.

The sadness that we feel now is the price that we have to pay for spending so much time in Uncle Jim’s loving embrace.

We don’t have to feel the separation because he is with us. He always will be with us.

And back when I was 12 years old, I was completely wrong.

Uncle Jim wasn’t just a good guy.

He was a great man.

And we should all be honored that God allowed us to share his kingdom of days.

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