Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We Get An Extra Day

It's funny, but I've always had the ability to really get down about something that happens in another part of the world to people I don't know. I've heard that compassion and empathy are good traits, but the older I get, the more I wonder.

That shooting near Cleveland really gets to me.

My heart sank when I saw the two words together - "School Shooting" - can there be two worse words in our modern language? And I say modern because it wasn't part of our language as we grew. The worst that might happen back in the day was a fight in the hall.

Kids grow up a lot quicker now, I guess, and they gun each other down.

They gun each other down!!!!!

On Tuesday the news kept trickling in...a second student died...there is no apparent motive...the kid was a loner...the kid was being bullied...a third student died...parents running to the school...kids racing down the hall...teachers with their lives on the line...no metal detectors at the school.

No metal detectors at the school?

A kid once brought in a firecracker when I was in the 8th grade. He blew up a toilet. The principal was horrified with the senseless act.

These administrators pray for little old firecrackers now.

I thought of my kids going off to school on a daily basis. We protect them so much here and in the car and when they are with friends. We send them off to school hoping that they learn and study and get it in order for years to come.

We don't think of them running down the hall in terror, being chased by a deranged classmate.

"Have a good day," I told both of my boys on Tuesday morning. When I said it, it crossed my mind that they are heading off into a very different world every day. It's funny but as they age I try to imagine what I thought of as important when I was their age.

In 9th grade I collected autographs, just started liking girls, and played JV basketball. Guns were something out of a detective show like Mannix or Kojak. Hell, I never even saw those guys carry one.

There was no way that the kid next to me might have one.

No possible way.

I guess I don't know the world my kids live in nowadays.

And that in itself is a scary thought.

If we have to live an extra day this year, here's praying that it's a peaceful one.

Something tells me it might not be, and that hurts my heart.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

But it's Possible!

Sports can really be a training lesson for the kids. You see, here in Buffalo we have a major push going on right now. The Sabres are trying real hard to secure the 8th spot in the NHL Playoffs. They were way back a little while ago, but they are playing better.

The trade deadline was also staring us in the face this weekend, so I opened up the discussion with my boys. Should the Sabres continue to try and win this year or pack it in, make a few trades, and go hard at it in 2013?

I tried to impart a bit of wisdom by letting them know that in the long history of the league no team has ever won the cup from below the top ten positions in the league. It's never happened.

"They still have a chance," Sam said.

This was my chance to discuss planning ahead with him. I wanted to let them know that by studying history we can make sound choices about planning what to do. Wishing something to happen without making it happen doesn't work. You want it? Work for it. Plan it out. Then with any luck, you'll be in the right position to make your dreams come true.

"Knowing that the chances are minimal and having knowledge that teams are built through the draft wouldn't it be smarter to shed some of the guys they have this year so they can draft better next year and be more prepared when the odds aren't so stacked against them?"

"But someone has to be the first one to do something," Jake said. "They could be the first team to do it from 8th place in the conference."

Another teaching moment:

"Just because you really, really, really want something to happen it probably won't if it doesn't make any sense. There's enough proof that this team isn't the best team this year. Sometimes you have to readjust. Sometimes you have to pack it in, accept the reality, and rework it."

"What about the guys who went to the moon," Sam said. "They were the first ones to do it. Just because it never had been done they didn't stop until Lance Armstrong walked on the moon."

"It wasn't Lance Armstrong," I said, laughing. "He's a douche on a bike. But you're right. Things are possible, but there has to be a plan. They went to the moon in a rocket ship that they worked on for years and years. They thought about it and built it properly. They didn't try and go in a go-kart."

"I'm still rooting for them!" Jake said.

"And that's fine," I said. "But some times you have to lessen your expectations and use your smarts to try again. They shouldn't stop trying, but maybe they should think about it differently."

"You're an idiot," Sam said.

That's usually our go-to line in the argument when we don't want to talk about it anymore. My beautiful wife gets so frustrated by the long-winded disagreements, but there are moments when I smile thinking about how my Dad used to goad me into discussions on a number of different subjects. Years later I would be surprised to learn that he felt differently than the way he'd argued the point when I was a kid. Once I called him out on it.

"I liked to argue," he said. "But I also tried to teach you how to think about things. Don't ever take anything at face value."

It was a good thing my Dad did that for me because now I'm equipped to present it all, in a different light, to my kids until they exclaim that I'm an idiot.

I used to think Dad was an idiot too, from time-to-time, but perhaps his greatest lesson to me was that all was possible, but it was never easy. You have to build the rocket ship first. There are no easy fixes. The Sabres spent the most money this year. They just forgot to work hard on the blueprint.

And I've been called an idiot plenty of times...right J.C.?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

All right, let's be optimistic and break the good news first:

All of the oil companies are going to post record profits in 2012. That's the good news.

The bad news?

It's going to cost us about $4.50 a gallon over the next few months.

Now excuse me for having a tiny little brain that cannot comprehend such sophisticated matters but as the kids might say: WTF?

It's never made sense to me. How do you post record profits and hand out unbelievable salaries and bonuses while also setting record high prices for your product?

I tried to read an article on it this morning. I quit halfway through. They speculated....how's that for a nice word on the subject...about the unrest in Iran. The speculated about people driving more in the summer months and that may drive up demands and because the refineries are old there may be problems there. They speculated that perhaps Americans should try and not drive so much.

A few questions.

Why are the refineries always broken down and in need of repair. Couldn't you just, for once, not take such huge profits and, I don't know, fix the freaking refineries?

Secondly, doesn't summer always come around? Don't people always drive more in the summer? Why is this a surprise to anyone anymore? After spring comes summer. Let's kind of balance budget it out, huh? Charge us $3.30 instead of $3.20 in the winter and then we can save a little in the summer that we know will come.

Unrest in Iran?

When the hell has there ever not been unrest over there? Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia...here's another little hint...they don't get along. Never have, never will. I know that we went over there and cleared up the unrest in Iraq at the cost of a few trillion that WE COULD HAVE USED FOR GAS MONEY!

Unrest...unreal.

And my favorite. People should try and drive less. Lessen the dependency on oil. I'm talking to you, you gas-hogging bastard.

They speak of restriction as if we can diet the problem away.

The kids need a ride home from basketball?

Here, take the little red wagon. See you in two days.

Off to work you go?

Take the bicycle. Make sure you wear your helmet.

It just pisses me off. It's going to piss me off even more when I'm standing out there pumping gas and for $70 I get to fill my tank.

Damn, I talked way too much about the bad news, didn't I?

I am really happy for BP and Exxon-Mobil and all the others. Their CEO's are going to be able to buy nice summer homes and big yachts.

Evidently that is something we can all stand up and cheer about.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Limbering Up...Or Not

Just to catch everyone up because I know you're anxious to hear about my struggles.

"You're a freaking mess," my therapist said as she laughed.

Let's go back...how did that statement come forth from her very professional point-of-view.

I went to therapy on Thursday...nothing major, move this, stretch that, hold the leg up for twenty seconds. Basically it was the sort of stretching that we used to do before we played three hours of basketball.

I was gone in a half an hour.

Through the rest of the day, and all through the next 48 hours, I felt like crying whenever I moved. It was as if I'd lifted weights for 6 hours.

So, I headed back in on Friday.

"How are you feeling?" my used-to-be-friend the therapist asked.

I just laughed. I told her the story of waking up at 3:30 in the morning because my back, neck, ass, leg, knee and shoulders hurt.

"Tell me what you did when you opened your eyes," she said. "Don't leave anything out."

"I stumbled out of bed, took a leak, ate a muscle relaxer, popped a chew in and watched a rerun of Married with Children."

She laughed.

"You told me not to leave anything out."

"What I want you to do when that happens is drop to the floor and do ten press ups, and then stand and stretch doing the back bend. That will alleviate the pain."

"The muscle relaxer did it too," I said, "And I got to watch Al Bundy and Christina
Applegate. That press up thing and the back bend at three a.m.? Let's be serious, it ain't gonna' happen."

I got a long lecture, and then we began our workout.

Let me tell you, people were coming over from other tables to watch because I am, absolutely, the most inflexible human being on the planet. I can't lift my leg three inches. I'm a good four feet away from actually touching my toes.

"When you hold your right leg up it shakes," my therapist noted.

"That's because I never finished rehabbing my knee."

"When you move your left leg, you moan!"

"That's the groin pull."

"You're a freaking mess," she said.

That's where we are.

I went for a therapeutic massage on Saturday. I get nappy-naps on Saturdays and Sundays. I keep the ladder-climbing to a minimum. By Monday I'll feel like a million bucks. By the time Tuesday's therapy rolls around, I'll be shot.

But I will still whip the Grape Apes and the Baltimorons in golf come May.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jose Can You See


Just got done reading the news article about the mother and grandmother that made the 3rd grade girl run until they told her to stop as punishment for eating candy without asking. The kid died after having seizures.

Mom and Grandma are up on murder charges.

There are always stories like this.

I remember the poor kid that lived with his abusive mother and father in the apartment below where I lived in New Haven, Connecticut. Jose was about seven years old in 1988. He's pushing 30 now if he made it. I hope he treats his kids better than his Dad treated him.

You see, Jose's Dad liked to get high and scream. I'll never forget the day he was screaming at Jose to help him out. This is a direct quote, so don't get mad at me.

"Hey you little fucking faggot, go in the house and get my joint out of the ashtray!"

Jose retrieved it for his Dad.

It was also about that time that I talked to Jose. He told me that he got afraid of his Dad when he 'drank too much.'

I did something that may have been a little crazy. I told Jose where I hid a key to my apartment. If his Dad got too crazy Jose could go to my place and hide.

I didn't own a lot of stuff in those days. I traveled real light, actually. I wasn't afraid of being robbed.

Jose did take advantage though.

The first time I knew he'd been in my apartment was when I found the empty cookie tray in my cupboard. I didn't care that he ate them.

In fact, I started buying stuff and left a note that said, "Jose's cupboard."

He loved licorice most of all.

I never once exchanged words with Jose's father. There were a lot of nights when the fighting got really bad as I tried to sleep and I'd pound on the floor until it stopped. I can't imagine how Jose felt living in the same three rooms.

I thought of Jose this morning when I read about the poor kid who was being punished for eating candy without asking.

It's a mean world.

I hope Jose is a good man.

(The title of this blog is in honor of my Dad who loved the 'Jose can you see' line.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just a Little Boy


Isn't it weird what you dream sometimes?

Last night I had a couple of strange ones. The first of which made my skin crawl in the real world.

About ten years ago I lost a friend of mine to brain cancer. She was actually the bartender at the bar where I grew up (sort of). She was a gruff, sarcastic, wonderful woman who got sick and never got better. I was crushed by her loss. A lot of why I grieved her was because of her two sons who were good guys, and her husband, who now had to go it alone.

I lost touch with all over the last year.

That's why last night's first dream was so profound. I saw her in good health, behind the bar, wearing a huge smile as she greeted me. It was as if she were outside the dream, though, and standing in my bedroom. She was at her sarcastic best.

In the morning, I texted her son. Here is the exchange. Now mind you, it's been at least a year since I spoke to him, and ten years since she passed.

Me: Yo, dude. How are you? I had a dream about your mother last night. She looked great! She busted my balls.

Him: Get the hell out of here! Do you know what today is?

Me: February 23rd????

Him: Yeah, her birthday! Wow!

After that first dream I got up and got a drink of water. Not sure what I ate for dinner, but the 2nd dream was also vivid.

It was a dream of me in my bed as a 47-year-old man but in the body of a little boy.

That one didn't provide much insight as I went through my next day, but I thought about it a bit.

We don't really change all that much as we age. Some of the very things I felt worried about as a child still worry me today. There is maturity, sure, but those core fears are still with us. Those core beliefs are only strengthened by time.

And I thought of my boys and how they are developing. How they've seen, as their example, a healthy relationship between a man and a woman. A set of parents who work hard, hold the abuses of themselves to a minimum, and cherish their own family.

I wondered if my boys had fears of separation and dreams of loss. As a Dad I wanted to stop it, of course, but I can't. They will carry burdens. They will face the fears as grown men. There will be days when they still feel like a defenseless child.I hope they have enough in reserve to beat back the demons of life.

Sometimes it doesn't even pay to go to sleep.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Time For Some Fun


Remember when you were young? There was always something to do for fun. I truly recall bouncing a ball off the garage at my parents home to see how many I could catch it in a row to set my all-time record.

Then there were the days of playing basketball, alone in the yard, being every single player from both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers when they met in the NBA Finals. (It was 1977, I believe).If I was Maurice Lucas I shot from mid-range. If I was Mo Cheeks it was firing them up from downtown.

I played a lot of ball on my own before my brothers joined in and turned it into the slug fest it became.

As I grew older, of course, the avenues for fun changed. We used to camp out a lot. We'd walk the railroad tracks drinking beer. Then we figured out that girls were kind of cool.

Between the beer and trying to get the girls the very definition of fun really changed. I didn't 'get' many.

Through the adult years there was a lot of fun to be had in the darkness on the edge of town.

Fast-forward to now.

I haven't drank much. I can't recover. I've been on pain meds and muscle relaxers. I need to be sharp as the weeks drag on.

I still write for fun.

I still read for fun.

Watching sports is still entertaining. Golfing looks like a long-shot right now.

Shooting hoops? Forget it!

So what to do for just a few hours of fun?

On Sunday I went to Bingo.

Yep...there were a lot of old people there. I didn't win. My sister, my mother, my brother-in-law all won. It was more fun for them.

You know what the funnest part was?

When an old man stood up and shouted out because the lady who just won the $300 game had spilled ink all over her boards and was granted new boards AFTER THE TIME TO GET NEW BOARDS HAD PASSED!!!

"I'M CALLING THE PRIEST!" He shouted. "THAT LADY SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO BUY BOARDS AFTER THE TIME EXPIRED!!! YOU'RE ALL A BUNCH OF CROOKS!!!!"

He was booed back to his seat. The woman calling balls was shaken, but she put him in his place. He sat down angrily and I could see him still chirping to his wife who was nodding in agreement.

It was a freaking blast!

My sister and I went back and forth. My mother joined in. Then my sister said something that I was thinking.

"That's going to be you in a few years."

She's right.

It is!

I'm almost there already.

I'm a seventy-two year-old 47-year-old.

"Bunch of crooks!"

It's been a long-ass time since I was shooting hoops alone following the 1977 season.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Class Warfare


Those who know me know that I'm not shy to state my opinion on things. To their credit, those same people usually just leave me alone and let me rant.

I'm finding that my rants are much less frequent as I get older. You can hardly get me going too often.

"That's because you're always right, right?" my beautiful wife will ask.

That's absolutely correct.

One of the things that I stopped bitching about was politics. The Obama-Bush election was enough to push me over the top there. Coming after the fraud of the Bush-Kerry election it was enough to make me sick.

So, I shut up.

At least around most people. Those who are blessed with the chance to live with me still hear it.

Yet no matter where you stand on any of that, you must admit that the middle class is in the real mess.

I bring it up for a couple of reasons. First off, I saw the 60 Minutes episode about those being crunched out by being unemployed and secondly, I am listening to Bruce sing about it, one song at a time on the new record.

Yeah, what does a billion dollar guitar player know about it?

Well, he lived it. He watched his father get beat down and die bitter. He drives through his hometown and sees the ruin. He writes about it.

He always has.

Anyway, there are those that believe the poor lazy people shouldn't be given hand-outs.

I have little tolerance for lazy, but those people have always been there. The problem being that there are more people falling into the class.

Not because they are lazy, but because they can't work. They are accepting the handouts begrudgingly because they need them to survive.

Then there is another group of people who believe that the real good stealing is done from the top. The big bonuses, the high salaries for administration. The no-show jobs, the made-up titles to draw the high-salaries. The cheating on your taxes when you're already a billionaire type of people.

I have even less tolerance for this.

Yet why does it matter where I stand on the issue?

Because my family, despite having two parents who get up and out of bed every morning, and work hard until the bell rings, has had to really think about how to go about it so that all the kids can have a chance at school.

That's our job.

And despite the fact that we've been gainfully employed, with good companies for years, we have to scramble a bit at tax time too.

How can this be?

Wages have been stagnant for people that I run with. Everything else has gone way the hell up.

College tuition was $6,000 a year for a private university when I went. It's $40,000 a year now. Even the public schools are up around $20 grand a year!

And wages are virtually the same.

Food, gas, taxes...entertainment...all have seen dramatic increases.

And wages are the same.

As a man, as a parent, it makes you wonder. How the hell can I make this work? Luckily, as I've said, I'm employed.

But when my back and neck were injured there were a few days there when I wondered...what if I can't get out of bed and go?

That handout?

We wouldn't have made it.

So, I am pushing through it. That's my job. If it takes ice and ibuprofen or even a cane, I have to keep going.

Because the system doesn't take care of our own these days.

It just doesn't.

Steal from the bottom. Pillage from the top. Let the others stumble through the work day, shackled and drawn.

Pretty heady stuff, but look around. The tea party wants change. Occupy your town wants change.

The guy in the middle needs change.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Change I Hate


I can remember where I was when I first heard Darkness on the Edge of Town. I was 13 years old and my buddy Doug played Badlands for me and our other buddy Digger. We had an album and Bruce's photo was huge on the cover.

My brother John and my buddy Tom were with me when the Born in the USA album came out. We bought cassettes...and listened to it on the car ride home. Even though we never heard a song from it...we were trying to sing along as we read the words printed in tiny letters.

I heard Brilliant Disguise from the Tunnel of Love record on a small radio in the garage of my parents home. It was hard to pick out the words because the station didn't tune in so well.

I remember buying the Human Touch and Lucky Town CD's in Niagara Falls. I ran into a record store (remember those) and purchased my copies three minutes after ten because I knew that was when the UPS truck would deliver them to the store.

I bought The Ghost of Tom Joad CD at three minutes after midnight when it was released. The stores were beating the rush. I'll never forget looking back three places in line and seeing my brother Jeff standing there. We sat in my car and listened to the title track before heading home.

"He's still got it," Jeff said.

And now?

Now the music is being leaked one song at a time!

I most likely will not lay my hands on the album or the CD or the 8-track or the cassette tape.

No, magically it will appear on my I-phone, my I-tunes, my I-pod overnight on March 5th or 6th.

There won't be any romance involved.

I won't recall where I was the moment the music downloaded.

That kinda' sucks.

I guess it's okay for people who never knew the difference. When I explain to my kids that I waited in line to buy the Live 1986 cassettes and that they sold out really fast and I had to go back the next day because there weren't enough available, they laugh.

How could the music not be available?

And so, here I sit, song by song the album is being released.

One thing that hasn't changed though...

...Bruce has still got it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Pursuit of #28


The 27-Time World Champion Yankees are at spring training as you read this. They are primed and ready for the run at #28. A.J. is gone. Jeter is back. Mariano is still the best pitcher in the world, and A-Rod is free of Cameron Diaz (I think).

Perhaps he'll see fit to join the chase this year.

We only have to wait about 50 more days. Then baseball will be back and all the rest of these crap sports can take a back seat.

We went out to dinner Saturday night. Now, I'm not talking a five-star joint. We went to TGI Fridays. I got the 3 for $16.99 special. It was kind of funny but as I was putting on my coat I noticed that my shirt was dirty. I was also in sweatpants.

Hey, at least I changed out of my pajama bottoms.

Yet what would it hurt? I had a dirty shirt. I was out among people who love me, right? Jake, Sam and Kathy would share my table.

Now lets go on record here: no one was dressed to the nines.

Yet as dinner came to a close, Jake opened up on me.

"So, who picked out your outfit?" he asked.

I was a tad taken back by his quick question.

"Look at him," he said to his two people audience. "Those three hairs on his forehead are standing straight up."

"You're funny," I said.

"I can just hear him singing to Melky as he got dressed. 'Oh, Melky-doo-dee-dum, I'm going to dinner! Where did I put my filthy shirt?'"

The waitress stopped by the table. I am pretty sure that she thought she'd have to administer CPR to Kathy who was laughing so hard that she was complaining of pain.

And little Don Rickles went on. Line after line. He spoke of my singing to the dogs. He went up and down my wardrobe.

And I took it all in stride, because it was funny, and because sitting there across from him I could hear any one of my brothers, at any time in their lives, dishing out the same sort of punishment.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Little bastard.

Just a little story to make your day.

Get studying up!

Baseball is starting!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

And Now the Hearse Pulls Up!!!!


I'm sorry. I just don't get the 24-hour, 7-day a week coverage of the Whitney Houston funeral.

She died. Let her rest in peace.

Nancy Grace was doing shows on it all week. I saw Aretha Franklin being interviewed. Whitney was lovely. Whitney was beautiful. It wasn't about demons. She never took drugs. Her voice belonged to God. She was an angel.

I'm not here to bash Whitney either. I said it earlier in the week. I really enjoyed her as a singer.

But don't try and revise it for me. I was here.

She had problems. She took a lot of drugs. People have been booing her performances for years now. She couldn't hit the high notes. She tried to save herself. She didn't.

It's the same thing with Michael and Elvis and Heath Ledger and River Phoenix and on and on and on.

Why not spend the time being productive in an effort to help stop the problem?

Educate people, thru Whitney's death about the perils of such a life. Talk about where and when and why you should get help.

Re-painting the picture ain't going to get it done.

Think about the ones that are following in her footsteps.

Put Lindsey Lohan in a straight-jacket right now.

Maybe it'll save her life.

Whitney's death is being glorified.

All I'm saying is that maybe it shouldn't be.

Perhaps it's me.

I don't want to watch a funeral. I don't want to consider what might have been and how and why or why not.

Just let her rest in peace.

Friday, February 17, 2012

New England Book Festival Review of Oh Brother!


This is the written review of OH BROTHER! THE LIFE & TIMES OF JEFF FAZZOLARI by the fine people at the New England Book Festival.

A little back-story here. I was driving home from Syracuse when I received the e-mail notification of the review on my phone. I pulled over to read it and my heart filled with appreciation of my brother and his life. As I finished it my I-Pod cooperated. Bruce's voice filled the car. It wasn't American Land that blasted through the speakers. That was Jeff's favorite song, but that would have been too weird. Instead, what came through was maybe even more fitting. The song that played?

Land of Hopes and Dreams.



OH BROTHER! THE LIFE & TIMES OF JEFF FAZZOLARI By Cliff Fazzolari

It’s strange that a story about death has so much to teach us about life. But that’s the lesson of Oh Brother! The Life & Times of Jeff Fazzolari, an autobiographical look at the author’s kid brother, who passed away much too young but left behind a poignant legacy of laughter and the celebration of life.

Everyone should have a Jeff Fazzolari in their life. A jokester with a love of cooking, Bruce Springsteen and his family, Oh Brother is the story of his childhood and young adulthood.

When an unexpected stroke fells him at age 38, leaving him incapacitated in the hospital for six weeks, the author intercuts scenes of that medical struggle with memories of happier times growing up: road trips and jaunts around town, head-shaving, watching Hank Aaron’s 714th home run, and pranks and stunts galore.

“How does he get away with this crap?” his brother asks a friend at one point.

“Everyone loves him,” the friend says. “How can you not?”

By interspersing those memories with the anguish of the family in the hospital, author Cliff Fazzolari paints a vivid picture of family love and unshakeable bonds.

It also contains a message to the audience on the real value of living every day with gusto and gratitude.

Although Jeff succumbs to his illness in the end, it does not extinguish all the light that he created in his short life.

As Cliff Fazzolari notes at the end of the book, “there is hope alive because of the love that surrounds our family.”

The book is an easy read and is tightly written, not an easy task considering the time jumps that occur frequently in the story line.

Author Fazzolari does an excellent job conveying the anger and anguish that occurs when an unexpected tragedy befalls a loved one, but never descends into the maudlin.

This is a clear-eyed account of a very moving moment, and the vivid descriptions are sure to stay with the reader for a long time.

More Times than Gerald


So, My Bruce tickets came in the mail for the Buffalo and Albany shows, so I have that going for me.

And I started rehab again. This time for the back. Never really got over the knee rehab the second time but perhaps I'll get back to that. The therapist, who was my therapist back in 1996 when I tore my Achillies is my therapist again. She was also my therapist back in '97 after my shoulder surgery.

So, we know one another. She says that when I get through the back therapy I will most likely need therapy for my neck. She also says that perhaps golfing in 2012 is a realistic goal if I listen to her.

I guess golf is out.

It all reminded me of an old David Letterman joke. He said that Chevy Chase was in and out of Betty Ford more times than Gerald.

Great joke.

I've been in and out of rehab more times than Gerald, I suppose.

The therapist explained that the trauma from the car accident caused this episode. She said that my spine is deranged.

Which is a good thing because now it's aligned with the rest of my brain.

She said that the groin pain (which is the worst of all of it because that body part is massive - was caused by the back pain).

In any regard. I am not to lift or bend much. I told her that I didn't intend to miss a day of work due to this, and I'm not sure she ever heard such a thing, but she gave me a few hints.

Therefore, I will try.

Bruce's album is a matter of just a couple of weeks away. The concert is a mere month after that. The second concert three days after the first.

Lots to do.

The Grape Apes (and the Baltimore hacks) better watch out because I may still be coming for them.

As long as I don't injure anything else along the way.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pat Conroy



"I cursed God's name for allowing people to become hopeless before graciously allowing them to die."

A buddy of mine turned me on to an author that he liked. Being a writer, I get asked a lot about who I like to read. My standard answer is always Steinbeck and then I go from there. I like John Irving and Stephen King. I hate James Patterson and Dan Brown. Steinbeck is still number one though. East of Eden is the greatest book ever written, in my humble opinion.

I read everything in between. Autobiographies of famous people are cool because then I feel like I know the guy. Steve Martin's, George Carlin's, Michael J. Fox and Keith Richards immediately come to mind.

Lately I have been reading books from Pat Conroy. I'm currently reading Beach Music after having finished The Water is Wide and South of Broad.

All great books. I feel as if my buddy gave me a gift, so that's why I bring it up. I handed my sister South of Broad, telling her it was in my top 5 ever, and she thought I was joking. She texted me the other night to say 'Thanks.'

Anyway, I bring all of this up because of the above quote from Beach Music. One of those sentences that you re-read a couple of times because it's just 16 words strung together that can be read a million different ways and really pounds home a point.

I've been thinking about it a lot ever since I put the following words in one of my character's mouths while writing the new book.

"Why is life so hard?"

I love doing that sort of writing.

If you were hanging with a friend and you heard him say such a thing wouldn't it make you further investigate the subject.

"What's wrong?" You might ask.

"What happened?"

Something along those lines.

I guess I'm just fascinated about the writer behind the written sentence. Sometimes I write something for a character looking for an answer to such a question.

"Why is life so hard?"

I asked the question through one character to see if another character in my made-up world could answer it for me.

Isn't that weird.

I'll let you know if I come up with the answer.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor. Grab a book by Pat Conroy. I don't even care which one. They are all filled with thoughtful questions and perfect words strung together.

That's my little gift to you today.

By the way, Conroy and I won the same honor at the New England Book Festival. Unfortunately we were a year apart and I didn't get to meet him.

I would have loved to know what made him write the line:

"I cursed God's name for allowing people to become hopeless before graciously allowing them to die."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day


A guy told me today that he spent $85 on flowers for his girlfriend.

"That's one of the differences between having a girlfriend and a wife," I told him. "If I spent $85 for flowers for my wife today she'd be pissed."

In fact, Valentine's Day is in the rearview mirror and all we exchanged on the deal were text messages.

Good enough.

The $85 could be spent better. Like on the freaking kids, right?

And I was never much of the old romantic type. I always cringe at the end of the romantic comedies when the guy makes the final grand gesture that will ensure eternal bliss with the woman who is his everything.

Cause life very rarely works out that way.

It takes more than the grand gesture to get things done.

I tell you the things I like:

Opening the dishwasher and seeing that someone emptied it before you had the chance.

Going down to switch the laundry and seeing it's already been done.

Hearing the dogs come charging up the stairs because someone let them in.

Having your electric blanket turned on for you an hour before bed.

None of those things cost $85 bucks.

There weren't any flowers delivered on Valentine's Day. No candy. No gold.

Just old-fashioned consideration exchanged as it is on a daily basis.

That's good enough for me.

In fact, some would say I got really, really lucky.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You're the Greatest


Whitney got caught up in the same thing that trapped and killed Elvis and a lot of others, huh?

It must be hell to have people around you who tell you that you're the greatest and that you can't do no wrong no matter how wrong you are.

I wouldn't know.

Thankfully for me all the people who surround me tell me how great I aren't.

And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Can you imagine someone just eternally kissing your ass? Or everyone doing it?

It's funny but now that Whitney is gone, allegedly at the hands of the the demon that she couldn't chase, people are coming out of the woodwork to say how much they loved her, cherished her, and tried to help her.

Look at last week's National Enguirer. There's a story about her bottoming out. The story is first page.

Where were all those people who wanted to help then?

Back quite a few years ago I was interviewed for my book Waldorf & Juli. I always think of my wife having this exchange with the Buffalo News reporter:

Reporter: Your husband has published six books now. You must be proud.

Kathy: I guess.

Reporter: He's very talented.

Kathy: Obviously you haven't slept with him.

You see, that was the kind of support that Whitney really needed in her life. I had been heightened by the reporter's praise.

My wife stripped me of it, immediately and emasculated me at the same time.

Exactly what I deserved.

There will be no head-swelling here.

(Just for the record...it was a joke! I am very talented in all facets!).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Let the Bashing Commence


Whitney Houston dying makes me really think of college. One college apartment, in particular. You see Fluffy, George and I used to hang around with Lisa, Lorraine and Krissy. We'd always go there with our Bruce tapes or records.

Yeah, tapes and records. No I-tunes. No computers. We typed on regular old typewriters. I can still hear Lisa yelling "Mint!" when she spelled a word wrong and had to use the white-out. You see, the girls used to type for us. Not sure what exactly we added to their lives, but they seemed to like us hanging around telling sad stories of debauchery.

Sometimes we weren't allowed to play straight Bruce.

"Put something else on!" When we were listening, Born in the USA couldn't be changed to the River. They got used to that joke.

So, they'd put on Whitney Houston.

Whitney was so beautiful. Her voice was angelic. We all complained when the switch was made, but I have a confession to make:

Sorry Fluff and George, but I really loved Whitney. (I bet you guys did too).

The woman could sing. A couple of those songs will always be associated with how I felt back then.

(The only thing that sucked was when Lisa and Lorraine would sing along).

Their voices weren't angelic.

It was with great dismay that I read the words Saturday night.

Whitney Houston is Dead.

How can it be?

We all saw the destruction of her life. It played out before us. The stories of drugs, the crazy interviews.

You can't stop such a spiral. People will do what they do no matter how much you love them. No one can give anyone else what they truly need. Life is cruel and lonely that way.

I waited for the jokes on Twitter. The Crack is Whack shit.

It only took about 15 minutes.

I'm sure that it will get a lot worse in the coming days. The tributes will be nice, as all will forget.

Whitney will surely be praised for the talent.

It's too bad we couldn't help her with the rest.

I know there are a couple of old cassettes laying around here somewhere. I secretly bought them once college was over.

RIP Whitney.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Just Horrible



I watched the Dateline show regarding the murder of two young boys. Their deaths coming after their mother went missing, and their father was questioned for the disappearance. The boys died at the hand of their father...Joshua Powell.

I've seen a lot of shows like Dateline. I hardly ever miss that or 48 Hours Mystery. I don't know exactly why I'm drawn to it, but I am. It's sort of like peering in at the wreckage of a car crash.

Bad news draws us.

I remember reading a long time ago, someone said of murder: For all the bitching people do about stopping murder, the masses are awfully entertained by it.

I felt sick last night watching the leather-faced guy interview Powell about the wife's disappearance. There was small comfort in knowing that Powell is now gone, killing himself in the explosion that claimed his boys.

During the question and answer period I kept thinking that Powell's soul checked out missing. His eyes were vacant as he lied about where his wife had gone. He had a look in his eye that was Manson-like, and scary, in retrospect.

Still, they didn't take those kids from him. The cops couldn't pin the wife's murder on him and while he lost custody of them he was still alone to take them for visits...to his home...where he blew them to smithereens with an explosive.

Last year there was a kid from Buffalo who received some press for marching to D.C. in protest of murder. He had looked it all up...16,000 a year here in the United States, and he wanted to raise awareness to see if we can do something about it.

The march didn't get enough notice if you ask me.

In January the Buffalo papers were alive with the idea that the murder rates had dropped. I'm not naive enough to think we can make them all go away, but I do believe that there is a certain level of acceptance that comes with it, as if a life is disposable.

"It's just gang members killing other gang members, or worse, just blacks killing blacks."

A shrug of the shoulder and on to the next section of the paper.

Dateline and 48 Hours cover the more sensational of the murders. Black on black would be way too boring. They go for the husband killing the wives.

As the show played out last night Kathy popped her head into the room.

"You watching this?" I asked.

"Sickening," she said. "I can't believe he killed his kids."

Her statement hung in the air.

"I mean killing your spouse is almost understandable," she said. "But not the kids."

She left my room, and I rooted for the show to just end.

Too much to handle.

As I shut out the light what Kathy said re-entered my brain.

Killing your spouse is almost understandable?

I slept with one eye open.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Can't Believe This Bikini Still Fits Me


With the Super Bowl in the books there are a few new commercials that have joined the rotation. Most of them weren't great, but here's hoping they get rid of a few that I hate.

Like the one mentioned in the title. The middle-aged woman stands up and says, "I can't believe this bikini still fits me."

The husband says something along the lines of "Me neither."

Fortunately for him a coconut falls out of the tree and hits the dingy broad on the head and she repeats her comment. This time he mentions that she looks great.

Hate it!

She shouldn't be in a bikini. He shouldn't be afraid of telling her what he thinks. And coconuts hitting you on the head don't make you repeat what you just said.

But there's one that galls me even more.

It's the black couple at a romantic dinner and he's watching the game on his phone.

She catches him and asks him if he's watching the game.

He says something along the lines of, "How am I supposed to summon information to my phone?"

She smiles and forgives him.

Where the hell has this lady been?

She has no clue that he can watch a game on the phone?

He can watch a game from 1923 on his phone if he wants to, and besides if there was such a big game on, what the hell is he doing taking her to dinner?

All he has to do, as a guy who's been married for years and years is say:

"Yankees-Red Sux tonight. You're on your own."

That's real marriage.

In fact, the first one falls into the same category. My beautiful wife and I are painfully honest with one another.

Me: I can't believe this thong still fits me.

Kathy: It doesn't. Half a ton of your ass is hanging out.

And then we laugh.

That's the real world.

Now don't get me started on the one about the dog that murdered the next door neighbor's cat and bribes his clueless master not to say anything by buying him off with doritos.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Work Up This Morning

Got out of bed, gingerly, singing the lyrics to Bruce's awesome song Two Steps Up:

Woke up this morning the house was cold, checked the furnace but she ain't burning. Went out and hopped in my old Ford, hit the engine but she ain't turnin'. Giving each other some hard lessons lately, that we ain't learning, the same sad story, that's a fact. One step up and two steps back.

I always feel this way in February. It's sort of a let-down month. There's the excitement of Christmas followed by the promise of the new year...stepping up, but waiting to step backwards.

It's usually snowing. It's always cold. The tax information is being gathered. Football is over. Baseball is still a long ways off.

The other two sports suck.

Bruce's song is not a uplifting one. It speaks of heartache and a desire to believe things are working out, but realizing that they aren't.

Bird on a wire outside my motel room, but she ain't singing.

The dogs don't even feel much like going outside. Melky sort of told me this morning that she'd rather stay on top of the electric blanket.

We both got up.

The weekend is coming. A time to rest a bit. A time to hang with the boys and have a few laughs.

The two steps back are rough, to be sure, but the one step up is really cool each day.

March 6th the new Bruce comes out.

April 2nd the 27-time Yankees open up.

April 13th Bruce is at the arena.

Come on, Melky, let's get a move on.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stand By Your Man


Gisele Bundchen is a pretty good-looking girl. Obviously, no Kathy Fazzolari, but she earns a hundred million or so, so she has that going for her. Evidently she also stands by her man.

After the Super Bowl loss a few Giants fans were chiding Gisele about her husband, Tom Brady, the slug of the family who only brings in about 20 mil a year.

"Brady is the Giants bitch!" the fans supposedly screamed.

"He can't throw it AND catch it!" Gisele yelled back. She also talked a bit before the game asking people to pray for Tom to be successful.

I imagine Tom would want her to stay quiet. After all he has to play with those guys again and I don't imagine that they enjoyed being called out by Tom's old lady.

A few years back Kathy yelled back at a group of guys who were making fun of the Yankees. I was wearing my Yankee ball boy outfit at the time, in the opposing teams stadium parking lot.

"Please be quiet," I said. "They aren't going to beat the hell out of you."

And I know that if my life played out on the world's stage, and people were dissing me, my wife would be telling all of them to piss off.

So, I don't see a lot wrong with it, actually. She was standing up for her poor downtrodden man.

Something tells me it will all work out just fine. They have probably worked it all in their million dollar mansion with their million dollar clothes as they eat their fancy meals and cry in their ten thousand dollar glass of wine.

Poor Tom.

Poor Gisele.

Maybe we should have a benefit for them or something.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Help!!!!


My biggest weakness may just be a total intolerance for talking on the phone with people I've never met who are asking me stupid questions, or not helping me quite as quickly as I might want them to.

I am banned from answering calls to the house because I have chastized and chided people who have tried to ask me simple questions about my political preferences or whether or not I wanted to try a different cable system.

(I used chided just for you, Kim).

Anyhow, my frustration is running very, very high in regard to this car accident. People are calling me, all day long, asking me questions that I do not want to answer.

"How do you feel?" the caring insurance agent asked.

She didn't understand when I gave my grandfather's standard response to the same question.

"With my hands," I said.

"No, how do you feel since the accident?"

"My neck, my back, my groin, my ass, and my knee hurt. How are you?" I responded.

She didn't know what to do with that much information.

"What doctor have you been seeing?"

"The tall, moderately good-looking black lady," I answered.

"Have you seen anyone else?"

"The short guy with the silver-rimmed glasses."

"Have you put in a claim?"

"I claimed the South of France for the United States of America but I don't think that worked."

So, you see how it's going.

Thankfully I am married to a wonderful, beautiful, understanding woman.

"Defer all calls to me," she said. "I'll take care of you like I take care of the kids."

That just might be the best course of action as this whole thing plays out.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

You Were Wrong...Doesn't that Suck?


The Super Bowl was good, huh? My kids really let me have it after the game because I had incorrectly chosen the Patriots as the NFL Champs for 2012.

Geez, give me a break. I made the choice before the season started!

They were bashing me, however, because I may have mentioned, 75 or 300 times that I'd correctly predicted the Packers the year before and that I was way smarter than everyone else. As Jake so eloquently put it as the Hail Mary dropped untouched.

"You were wrong, oh wise one, doesn't that suck?"

I love my kids.

Of course, I wasn't upset either way. I just enjoy the spectacle of the Super Bowl and it's well done, right down to the lip-syncing ex-sexpot.

I wasn't impressed with Madonna. It was too polished and she wasn't really singing. It was better than rap music, mind you, but not a lot. It was sort of boring.

At least Bruce and McCartney actually sang their way through their performances.

The commercials were also a little disappointing. I liked the Seinfeld and Ferris Bueller ones, but vampires getting vaporized by car headlights? The dog retrieving the beer is done every year and the freaking polar bears...God help me! I hate the polar bears and the happiness deal presented by Coke.

I don't drink a lot of pop, but I never thought of happiness when I did.

The Clint Eastwood commercial?

What the hell was that?

I lost my train of thought halfway through.

But all-in-all a good show. Brady was great, Manning was great...the game came down to the end...and most importantly...

...I won a square to cover all the squares that I bought for the kids that were busting my balls after the game.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Aching Back!


Looking up information about C6 & C& and L5 in regard to degenerative disc disease and possible treatments.

I wouldn't have been doing such things a week ago. I even had to turn down a couple of real enticing offers to watch the Super Bowl with great friends so that I could be within shouting distance of three ice packs.

One on the neck. One on low back. One on still freaking sore knee.

Still working though! God help me!

And I'm staying upbeat about it, believe it or not.

The accident was one of those throw-away things. I'd been in a number of them through the years. Most of them I caused. A couple were a result of others being inattentive.

There had never been real consequences other than bent plastic and metal.

So what's different?

Once again its all about how fragile everything is...especially the body that I've treated as a Temple...

...of doom

All these years.

I've certainly taken harder hits. I flipped a freaking car upside down once!

What hits hardest of all is that it just takes a second.

One second.

Not even your fault.

Are you ready for a life-changing event?

Is it even possible to deflect the hits that are coming your way?

Upbeat! That's the ticket.

There's so much more to be concerned about then being uncomfortable as you sleep, walk and drive. I'm just uncomfortable. That's all.

It'll pass, and if it don't, I'll learn to live with it.

Keep the eyes on the prize.

It can all change with a slip of the boot.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hooker Motels


Tom Brady is in trouble here in Buffalo because he said that there aren't any good hotels in the area.

Poor guy.

First off, Brady is public enemy number one around here anyway because he is married to a supermodel (she ain't no Kathy Fazzolari) and because he's a great quarterback who comes around regularly and beats the piss out of the home team.

I actually kind of like watching him play. He's so good its tough not to admire him a little. He's kind of right about the hotels too.

But he makes his living with a ball, people!

Who cares if he doesn't like our hotel rooms?

In any regard, I can certainly tell Tom about poor living conditions in hotel rooms. I stayed at a Comfort Inn in Syracuse on Thursday and the Internet didn't work, the toilet wouldn't flush, the comforter smelled like feet, and the bed was sloped so that no matter where I turned I felt like I was heading uphill.

A few years ago, in an unfamiliar town I stopped at a motel that had a Chinese Buffett attached. I had been sick of driving and how bad could the place be, right?

I should have known when I was charged just $39.00 for the room. The guy originally asked me how long I'd be staying.

"Through the night," I said.

He looked surprised.

It's pretty bad when you don't want to even enter the bathroom.

Even worse when you worry about the sheets and what you might catch.

I do hope that Brady had a good room for the week in Indy. If all things were equal I'd be rooting for the Giants in the big game, but since I picked the Pats at the beginning of the season it's impossible to back out now.

New England 38 Giants 35.

Brady wins it on the last drive.

Then he spends the summer in Buffalo learning that it's a pretty cool place to hang out.

Even if our teams suck.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read All About It


I've always loved newspapers. In fact, one of my father's main aggravations with me as I grew up was that I always took the paper before he had the chance to read it. I also remember him telling my mother that we didn't really connect because:

"All he wants to do is read."

Did you ever see the show The Middle? The youngest kid is always reading, and is always getting yelled at for it.

But read I do.

And the more newspapers the better. The Buffalo News, The New York Post and USA Today are three staples of every day life now. I also go with the New York Times and the Boston Herald like every other day or so.

And not the electronic versions if I can help it! Let me hold the paper, let me fold it to the story I want, let me scan it, fold it, and read it again later! Save our newspapers!!!!

And why bring all of this up today?

Well, my sister delivered me the 27-Time World Champion Yankees history via all of the old New York Times newspaper clippings.

She was excited to give me the gift because she knew how much I'd enjoy it.

She wasn't wrong.

Last night I read the newspaper account of Babe Ruth being sold to the Yankees on down to Jeter collecting his 3,000th hit last season.

So much cool stuff.

Like seeing how the writing had changed. Like reading about Ruth's outrageous salary demands; he wanted $20,000 per season.

Like seeing the price of shirts - 2 silk shirts for $1.15.

Like reliving the 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 winners. Seeing Reggie come aboard. Feeling what I felt when Mattingly went over 230 hits for the season.

Reading about how the Yanks blasted the overmatched, sort of pathetic Phillies of 2009.

It was all in there.

Read all about it, indeed.

And then there's the other thing:

As I read the news of the day and how important it all seemed to that writer, I was hit with the realization that it all passes.

One generation hands off to the next. Warts and all. Accolades and all. We are just mere specks of the universal horizon. Even Babe Ruth, or Mickey Mantle. There's a time to shine and a time to move out of the way for the next big guy coming through.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Colorful Language

Don't you just love it when someone turns a descriptive phrase?

The other day someone posted on Facebook that the girl was as 'ugly as a bag of smashed assholes' and I had to chuckle. Not at the poor girl, mind you, but at the image of it all.

Through the years my editor has harped on me to be a bit more descriptive when I write. Good old Megan explained that I'm a minimalist who doesn't allow the reader to actually see the color. It wasn't an out and out criticism as it is just my style, but I have tried, in my new book to be mindful and to describe more. After all, you can see it better if I say the heavy, blue bag instead of just...the bag.

I'm reading the autobiography of George Carlin. You want to talk about a guy who can turn a phrase! Carlin was the king. He's known as the guy with the 7 dirty words, but man he was so much more. A brilliant man who did all his convincing by describing

A bag of smashed assholes. Pretty good. It brings to my a conversation I once had with my brother. He was telling me a story of another 'ugly girl' and I tried to trip him up.

"How ugly was she," I asked, interrupting him.

He never missed a beat.

"God hit her with the ugly stick so many times that his friggin arm was tired," he said.

That's ugly.

Maybe not as ugly as a bag of smashed assholes, but I got the point.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Evidently something is wrong

Just when I got used to how to run my blog they decided to change it to make it easier.

I hate change.

The blog looks like shit when you try and make an entry.

I don't have a lot of time to figure it out.

Anyway, quick update:

I have damaged discs in my neck and back. I am going to a neurosurgeon. God help me, now because golf is mere months away.

Demi Moore smoked incense, or sniffed whipped cream, or snorted jelly beans.

Who the hell knows?

Thing is, she's suffering.

I can help if she neeeds it.

I'm sure my wife would understand if she moved in here for awhile.

Maybe not.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bah!

What the hell happened to my blog? Having technical difficulties. Will figure it out...or not.

A Colony on the Moon

Newt wants us to colonize the moon.

Sounds great.

Maybe he can send all of his ex-wives up there to get a jump on things.

Not getting political, but I never really got the moon and Mars crap. NASA is not sending up shuttles anymore, right?

Do we really need to head off and see what's going there?

So far all we've ever come back with is a few moon rocks and we found a cup of water on Mars, right?

And I know that I'm painfully ignorant on the subject, but it seems to me that we should try and colonize New Orleans and Savannah and the places here in the United States that we just don't bother with.

Would you even go to the moon if you could?

I wouldn't.

And if Newt and guys like Newt are going, I don't even want to look at the moon again. Can't we just ruin one celestial body at a time?

Couple that with the actress Fran Dresser announcing today that she had been abducted by visitors from another planet, and it kind of drives me batty.

We need to feed people here, people.

We need to get college tuition, crime, steroids and the Boston sports teams under control.

In other words, Newt, we have bigger problems.

Go back to swapping wives, serving divorce papers on your cancer-riddled wife, and then testifying against Clinton because of his low moral character.

Stay away from the moon.

But if you have to go, take Fran Dresser with you.

Her voice annoys the hell out of me.

Heather Heyer

She was a 32-year old woman who wanted to protest the white supremacists in her town. She got killed for her stance. And it's pretty...