Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Out of House & Home

I think that every set of parents, back to the stone ages, has uttered the following phrase:

"These kids are eating us out of house and home."

We're in a real tough position here at Camp Clifford because our hoodlums are really filling their fat freaking faces these days.

The whining started on Saturday night.

"There's nothing to eat around here."

Never mind that we have to hustle and tag-team to figure out something interesting to feed them every night because they expect a hot meal at dinner.

I know, I know...we should be making them dinner, but it sort of frosts your ass when you plan to cook something and they are putting chicken fingers in the microwave an hour before they expect us to serve them.

(I love that phrase: frosts my ass).

"What are you doing?" I asked the middle sized hoodlum as he bumped into me to get his appetizer out of the microwave - as I was starting on his dinner!

"Just having a snack before we eat," he said.

And it doesn't stop at dinner. A half an hour later I hear the freezer opening again. The beeping sound as it is left open too long signifies the start of the ice cream hour.

Ice cream sandwiches, nutty-buddy's, red freezies, blue freezies...push-ups, pop-ups, fudge bars....

What friggen ever!

That goes on until about an hour and a half after Dinner I until we start Dinner II.

Sam's after dinner meal is Chicken Noodle Soup.

Jake is partial to French bread pizza.

Matt likes the serving cups of macaroni and cheese. I bought a box of it once and it sat in the cupboard past expiration. They won't eat anything if it takes them time to prepare it.

Until Saturday night that is.

"There's nothing to eat!"

A half an hour later...at 11 p.m. - breakfast was in full swing.

Jake was eating pancakes.

Sam was eating home fries.

Matt scrambled a few eggs.

"Do you smell the maple syrup?" my beautiful wife asked me.

I didn't care. I was on my way to bed. I had to get up early on Sunday to make the grocery run.

That's when I said it.

"YOUR little bastards are eating us out of house and home," I said.

"They're your bastards too," Kathy answered.

Don't remind me.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Beat It

Beat It

Who knew that Michael Jackson was the normal one?

Have you read any of the news coming out of the Jackson camp during the past week?

Supposedly the mother went missing, and lost custody of The King of Pop’s children.

Evidently there was a screaming match between Janet and Prince or Blanket or Comforter, or whatever the hell they call him.

There are a number of items to comment on here.

First of all, can you imagine Janet Jackson shouting?

I haven’t heard her speak or even sing in anything more than a whisper. She didn’t even raise her voice when she was addressing what happened when we all saw her nip during the Super Bowl.

Secondly, what do we make of Grandma’s disappearance? Was she sick? Was she hiding from Joe? Was the money just too tight?

Those poor kids.

Ever since Michael gassed himself in an effort to get some rest they have had to struggle by on $70,000 a month and a couple of billion in the bank in the form of the Beatles catalogue.

Can you imagine the pressure?

Yet the money may be tight!

Jermaine, Tito, Hansel, Janet, Donner, Randy, Gretel, Blitzen and angry Joe all have to struggle by on that money.

I read a few of the accounts. The Jackson clan is hemorrhaging money. The biggest earner isn’t earning anything anymore, and no matter how hard he tries, Tito isn’t writing the next Thriller album.

Heck, Janet can’t even sell a song anymore.

It’s all kind of sad, isn’t it?

And what to make of Joe?

Every single article paints him as a cross between Charles Manson and Hannibal Lecter.

Paul McCartney must cry himself to sleep each night when he realizes that Prince and Blankie own the rights to Hey Jude and Let it Be.

Yep, Michael was the sane one.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Beautiful

How much beauty do you think you'd find at a kickball game on a dark summer day where rain is threatening?

Well, when you're in North Collins, New York, every year at the end of the July, there's beauty as far as the eye can see.

It's there in the older folk who are trying to kick a ball and run down to first base without falling on their face.

It's there in every dropped ball and every sip of Miller High Life.

You see, kickball is the game favored at the memorial benefit for a great friend of many. Cathy George passed away at a young age. Her friends and loved ones are having a hard time letting her go.

And that's a good thing!

A beautiful thing, actually.

I headed to the tournament this year, not as a player, but as a friend. I wanted to be let in on some of that wonderful grace. Of course, Cathy was a friend to everyone in town. Of course, her brother, mother and father are legendary friends to us all, but there's even more that brings us all together.

It's just about beauty.


You see, Cathy's friends are tireless in their efforts to make the event a great time. From the beer salute at 2:19 to the basket auction, to the hot dog van, to the kids smiling, to friends gathering.

Damn, it's just beautiful.

I spent a lot of my time there talking to friends who mean the world to me, but all the time I looked around and really listened.

What I heard more than anything else was laughter.

Pure, wonderful, unencumbered, BEAUTIFUL glee.

Certainly Cathy would be proud of her friends, but as I watched one of the games I wondered if her friends were also proud:

Of the beauty that they bring.

He's In the Details

A house literally exploded in a little town not far from Buffalo. A propane leak was the culprit.

It happened on a night when two of the children in the family were staying elsewhere but there were too many family members home regardless.

A young girl was killed in the explosion. It's a wonder they all weren't.

"Isn't that awful?" the woman ahead of me in line said as she watched my eyes dance across the horrible words.

I sort of grunted in affirmation. Of course it was horrible.

What did she expect me to say? That I actually thought it was sort of cute?

"They go to bed and boom, they wake up in the street. You tell me that there's a God."

I laughed.

"God doesn't cause propane leaks," I said.

The woman answered me, but I was sort of done listening to her. I was too busy imagining God in a long white gown sneaking into that house through a window, opening up the valve that controls the level of propane.

Our little encounter was over but I sort of listened into the story as it unfolded over the next few days.

As it turned out, we were both wrong. God didn't turn the valve leaking more of the gas into the home, but He was there in the moments following.

The people of the Town of Wilson went to the scene of the explosion. They carried heavy hearts as they sifted through the debris. They built a memorial to the young girl. They brought money and clothes and food.

They brought God with them and dumped Him at the feet of that family.

Yep, it's horrible. We all imagine the scene. We wonder how tragic it is to lose someone we love.

We've been there, and it makes our hearts ache.

Because God is there.

In the details.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Depressed? Who the Hell Isn't?

So you fired up about the Olympics?

Me neither.

Have you read about that actress that cheated on her boyfriend by making out in a car with the guy who directed the movie?

Must be an a ton of fun to be totally ashamed in front of the entire country.

He's better off.

Paterno's statue came down, huh?

I honestly felt real bad for his kids who are out there trying to salvage the respect that his father built through the years.

I believe that's a lost cause.

Helluva' lesson in there. All the good you do is quickly forgotten when you spend years being dumb. He was way too egotistical to be a legend.

Never mind a statue.

Jesus deserved a statue. He didn't get it. They hung him instead.

Yet the news that I was most drawn to this week was the New Yorker article about Bruce Springsteen.

It's a great, great article.

I know most of the story, of course. Bruce's Dad suffered from depression, and he made Bruce's early life a living hell. Bruce tried his best to return the favor by playing his guitar really loud and growing out his hair.

Bruce also hit it real big, against all odds, after his parents left him on the East Coast and moved out West.

But what got me about the article was the story of Bruce's depression.

After he hit it big.

Going to the concerts and listening to the songs and reading the lyrics I've always been so sure that Bruce was on top of the world. Yeah, he talks about a lot of heady things. Certainly his written words had drifted to the dark side, but he thought about suicide????

Say it isn't so.

"It's a surprising article," I said to my great sister-in-law Dana.

"Just proves that he's human," Dana said.

"Yeah, that's what's surprising," I answered.

But loneliness comes in all forms. As a writer I get a lot of feedback...in this blog, and through the books. A lot of people will ask me if I'm in a bad mood because I rant a little.

Others think I'm actually a happy-go-lucky guy.

The truth is somewhere in between.

I should not have been so surprised by Bruce's down moods.

"He never took a drug in his life," I told my beautiful wife. "He was afraid that he would sink into a depression he couldn't get out of."

"Isn't that crazy?"

"Not really," Kathy said. "There's little doubt that all writers are a little weird."

Oh really now!

As someone who does follow the news and feels for those who suffer and then tries to make sense of it, I can tell you one thing:

Kathy is absolutely right.

As usual.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Don't Pressure Me

Man, when the kids are born we hold them in our arms and our mind really sorts through the possibilities, right?

I can have a left-handed relief specialist sitting here.

Our children are born free into a wonderful (by most accounts) country. The possibilities are endless.

I hope he invites me to the Nobel Prize party when he wins it.

I don't know when that sort of starts to get away from us. Perhaps it's when they are tossed from their first kindergarten class for calling their teacher, at a Catholic school, mind you, "One ugly m-fer," because they saw the Alien movie with Arnold the maid-doer.

What do you want to be when you get out of school?

Jake now has a pat answer.

"A janitor."

And I suppose that they will eventually find their way. There isn't a relief pitcher in the bunch. We can also cross off astronaut, professional wrestler, police chief, football star, basketball star, and the 51st president of the United States.

And that's okay.

Recent horrific crimes have been committed by seemingly well put together professionals. We had the doctor who went nuts here in Buffalo, and that kid in Colorado did real well in school.

"Perhaps we shouldn't put much pressure on them," I said to my beautiful wife.

"We should put a little pressure on them," she answered.

And my kids really won't do much of anything if we don't mention something once in awhile. I didn't exactly sire any John Henry's here.

"I was reading the story about Bruce in the New Yorker," I also said to my beautiful wife. "When he was on the cover of Time and Newsweek at a young age he showed them to his father, and his father remarked: 'It must have been a slow news week.'"

"Yeah, that might be too much pressure," Kathy said.

But where do you draw the line?

We all want our kids to do well. We want them to find a profession that they love so perhaps they don't have to grind it out every single hour of every single day.

I guess, either way, as long as they are happy and healthy...

"I've dreamed of being a janitor since I was seven," Jake told me. "And what difference does it make now? When I was five I wanted to be a Pirate. Can you imagine introducing me at 35 as your son the freaking pirate?"

I guess he has a point.

I don't see any of them on the cover of Newsweek or Time either, though.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Has Society Changed?

I don't know why, but today I had a Beach Boys lyric in my head. I don't listen to the Beach Boys much. I don't have them on my I-pod. I probably haven't heard this song in twenty years.

Well she got her daddy's car
And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
Seems she forgot all about the library
Like she told her old man now
And with the radio blasting
Goes cruising just as fast as she can now

And she'll have fun fun fun
Til her daddy takes the t-bird away
(Fun fun fun til her daddy takes the t-bird away)


The reason why that song was in my head? I spent the other night watching The Honeymooners. Ralph pretended he was sick so he didn't have to visit Alice's mother. He went bowling instead and hurt his back. Laughter ensued when he got busted as he was prone to do.

The best line in the show was this exchange:

Ralph: Come on, you know I don't like to just eat and run.
Alice: Given the way you eat it's a wonder you can walk.

Simple jokes. Simple fun. No M-Fer's. Clean and Funny.

As I sang the Beach Boys song all day, feeling sad that the world we live in seems so unkind. I thought of a line from Charles Starkweather who went on a killing spree in the 50's. When he was asked why he did what he did he said:

Sir I guess there's just a meanness in this world.

Are we meaner now?

Has violent movies and filthy television done something to us?

Compare the above Beach Boys lyric with the lyrics of Emminem, who everyone seems to like.

No more games, I'ma change what you call rage
Tear this motherfucking roof off like 2 dogs caged
I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed
I've been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage
But I kept rhyming and stepped right into the next cypher
Best believe somebody's paying the pied piper
All the pain inside amplified by the fact
That I can't get by with my 9 to 5
And I can't provide the right type of life for my family
Cause man, these goddamn food stamps don't buy diapers
And it's no movie, there's no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life
And these times are so hard, and it's getting even harder
Trying to feed and water my seed, plus
Teeter totter caught up between being a father and a prima donna
Baby mama drama's screaming on and
Too much for me to wanna
Stay in one spot, another day of monotony
Has gotten me to the point, I'm like a snail
I've got to formulate a plot or I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only motherfucking option, failure's not
Mom, I love you, but this trailer's got to go
I cannot grow old in Salem's lot
So here I go it's my shot.
Feet fail me not, this may be the only opportunity that I got.


The message is positive...I think. There is so much more anger though.

Why is everyone so angry?

Wasn't it more fun, fun, fun?

Or is there just a meanness in this world?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Coyote Versus Roadrunner

I saw an old photo yesterday of Bill Clinton laughing while sharing something with George H. Bush.

Didn't they team up for a couple of rescue missions?

In any regard, the photo looked weird.

Like Superman and Lex Luther having tea.

Like a dog and a cat giving each other butterfly kisses.

Like the coyote and the roadrunner meeting at the time clock to laugh about the show they'd put on.

And it's weird to me.

Every single issue, no matter what it is, seems to draw hatred on one side or the other.

A madman tears up a movie and the end result is a group of Conservatives calling a group of Liberals cowards?

And vice-versa. It definitely goes both ways.

How is a mass murder a polarizing event?

How is fixing the healthcare system, that both sides agree is broken, a decade long argument?

How did we turn the 09/11 conflict into Rush and his gang against Bill Maher and the dancing liberals?

As Bob Dylan once said:

"We always did feel the same way, we just saw it from a different point-of-view."

The shooting in Denver isn't a conservative versus liberal argument. It turns that way because everyone involved is really pissed off at the loss of life, the pain, the screams of terror, the funerals, the shock and sadness.

So we turn it back at the one place we know we can vent:

At one another.

They say the people you really hurt are the ones closest to you.

Like a fight within a family...passions run high...but you still love the other person.

At least that's how I hope it goes.

The mindset should be one of a rescue mission. What can we do to make sure this doesn't happen again?

I'm sure that as those two men - Clinton and Bush - set out, they had to wonder what the hell they were doing together. You can bet your ass they didn't talk politics. But they had a grand plan in mind.

One where sides aren't chosen and lines aren't drawn.

America needs to follow that plan on this discussion.

No one really is for senseless violence, are they?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Mule

Having my nightly after dinner conversation with one of the two individuals that really listen to me:

"Paris," I said. "The mule is on his last legs, and there's still a bunch of people on his back."

Paris offered a look of utter confusion, but at least she was wagging her tail.

And I'm not alone. Lots of tired people running around. It seems that everyone I talk to is flat-out at work. 10, 12, 14 hours...really getting after it.

I, at least, have a job that gets me outside. The sites change too so no two days are ever alike. I can't imagine a guy on a line somewhere, or even someone who reports to an office each day.

They'd find the mule hanging from the rafters.

Yet on Monday, for the first time in my adult life, I paused...in fear. Let me set the scene.

I had climbed a ladder to a rooftop area. Going up isn't troublesome. It just takes a bit of time. Thankfully there weren't any young bastards around to say something cute like:

"Get up there old man."

At the top, I looked around. I traded insults with a group of people who are jealous of the 27-time World Champion Yankees, and I made a couple of suggestions. Then I turned around and was face-to-face...

...with the ladder.

I would have to turn on the wall, lower my bum leg onto the ladder first and then head down. I'd made the move a thousand times in the last hundred days, but suddenly I was scared. My hip was shaking with such a task late last week.

I looked down. 40 feet. The ground looked hard.

The guys in the crew were looking at me. I played it off. I grabbed my phone and held it to my ear. I walked to solid ground, finished my fake call, and then checked my email, my Facebook and the starting pitchers for the week.

What the hell is the matter with you? I asked myself.

Then I walked to the ladder, spun, caught the rungs and headed down.

"Hurry up, old man," one of the guys called from above.

I gave him the audible version of the finger.

And I suppose that is what prompted my confession to the dog.

"Suck it up," she just said.

"Suck it up and tough it out and do the best you can."

Stupid dog.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Other Side of the Coin

One of the drawbacks of opening your mouth is that you often get to hear from the other side.

Loudly.

The Colorado tragedy is polarizing and that in itself is crazy to me. So many people slaughtered and injured, and the main reason, to me, is crystal clear. That kid was allowed to assemble a war chest.

Legally.

Buying materials over the Internet, basically anonymous to those selling them to you. Buying assault weapons. Dreaming, plotting, planning and then executing.

Executing innocent people who wanted to watch a freaking movie.

And yet, there are people willing to defend his right to assemble such a cache of weapons.

We have that right because we will be unprepared to defend ourselves against our own government when that time comes.

A grand idea thought up by a group of people who were dealing with an unproven entity. We didn't know if the government that was being dreamed up was honestly going to work. We were leaving a situation where we had been oppressed and fearful.

When something is clearly awry it is irresponsible not to look at potential changes, is it not?

The liberal media is scaring people into believing that there is a real threat. More people die in car accidents than through gunshots.

WHAT?????

First off, I can argue that the liberal media isn't selling the thought that the government is going to suddenly turn on you and that you will need automatic weapons to defend your shack.

Secondly, there is a huge difference in being in a pile-up and being shot in the forehead by someone with mommy issues.

If one guy in that crowd had a gun he could have shot that guy before he shot those people.

Really? More guns is the way to end violence by guns. In a society where everyone is mentally healthy perhaps that may work. We ain't mentally healthy. More guns in more unstable hands will lead to more murders.

No one is going to take away my rights!!!!

There are people on that side of the argument who are taking away - permanently - the rights of innocent people. Can't there be a dialogue on how we can change that?

The subject is closed in your mind?

There's no way of figuring out that a man is collecting enough artillery and ammunition to take down a town? We have a database for everything these days. We can't see the red flags. That kid's mother told the police, "You have the right guy."

She saw it coming.

The guy who sold him things face-to-face must have had a thought.

I don't want to argue with you. You'll be one of the victims when it all goes down.

I don't want to argue either. In fact, I'll hold my breath and dream that the world can be peaceful. You're the dude who's scared.

Just don't shoot me as I'm out getting an ice cream.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Found Ten Bucks

A moment in the way back machine.

I was fanatic about sports stars as a kid. I collected autographs, called sports phones to find out the Yankee score mid-game (Got in a lot of trouble for that at $.49 a minute) and read the sports page as soon as the paper hit the box. I read every line in every box score.

We knew all that.

Yet I remember a Saturday morning at the tender age of 12. I was up early and hanging pictures on my bedroom wall. Reggie, Wilt, The French Connection, Joe Ferguson, Ernie D.

Just rip the tape and hang. Rip the tape, rip the tape.

I had no idea that my mother needed the tape for something later in the day. When she found me, she ripped me.

I remember a little of it. "It wasn't your tape." "You didn't ask." "Go to the store and get more tape."

My mother wasn't mean. She just wanted to teach me responsibility. I'd show her.

I gathered my change and headed for the store. It was about a mile hike through the woods. In those days kids could walk around without fear of being dragged away and raped and murdered. It might have happened then...we kept it quiet.

I was just finishing the walk and was making my turn into Avery's Market, hoping I had enough money for the tape. My head was down. I was still muttering.

The ten dollar bill was just sitting there in the grass.

"Holy crap!" I yelled.

Finders-keepers, I thought.

I remember getting home and tossing that Scotch-tape on the counter and showing my mother the candy bar I was eating - Butterfingers - and all the extra money I had. She hadn't even known that I left the house. She struggled for something to say, but it was my ten bucks.

I thought of all this because I saw a ten dollar bill in the street in Syracuse on Friday. I debated about performing the motion to bend down and pick it up. It had been a long week.

But I did. And my heart raced a little.

Finders-keepers, I thought.

Some 35 years had passed, but I reacted the same way.

I went into the nearest store and bought a Butterfingers candy bar.

Ten bucks.

I thought of all the money that passed through my hands since then. I thought of the cash that was flowing freely through the hands of my beautiful wife and her pack of hoodlums.

Found money has a way of staying with us.

I think we're out of tape.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shocked and Saddened

April 199 - 12 killed in a school in Colorado
July 1999 - 12 killed in a shooting in Atlanta, Georgia
September 1999 - 6 killed at a prayer service in Fort Worth Texas
October 2002 - 10 killed in sniper attacks in Washington, DC area
August 2003 - 6 killed at a workplace in Chicago
November 2004 - 6 killed by a hunter - Birchwood, Wisconsin
March 2005 - 7 killed at a church service in Brookfield, Wisconsin
October 2006 - 5 schoolgirls killed in Nickel Mines, PA.
April 2007 - 32 people slaughtered at Virginia Tech
December 2007 - 9 people killed at a shopping center in Omaha, Nebraska
December 2007 - 6 people killed on Christmas Eve in Carnation, Washington
February 2008 - 6 people killed in a clothing store in Chicago
September 2008 - 6 dead in Alger, Washington killed by a mental patient let loose.
December 2008 - 9 people dead - man dressed as Santa in Covina, California
March 2009 - 10 people died at the hands of a disgruntled worker in Alabama
April 2009 - 13 people died in Binghamton, NY
November 2009 - 13 people killed on a military base in Fort Hood Texas
January 2011 - 6 people killed and a congresswoman wounded in Tucson, Arizona


And that is not even counting 2012 - which has been a banner year.

You know what the leaders say after each of these events?

We are shocked and saddened by the senseless violence.

I'm more than that, folks. I'm fed the fuck up by inaction.

Here we go:

Want to buy a gun?

1). Provide information on your life. We want to know who you love, who you might not love, where you went to school, why you want the gun, how strong you are financially and whether or not you've ever been considered a little off.

2). We want references. Try and get good people too. We don't want the guy who sits next to you at Nazi camp to vouch for you.

3). You married? We want a letter from your wife telling us if she thinks you should handle a gun.

4). Once you have over 700 guns and two tons of ammunition we reserve the right to stop selling you more guns.

5). No job? No gun.

6). Assault weapon?

Uh, nope.

You need an assault weapon to shoot cans in the back yard or obliterate a dear?

And don't even tell me that guns don't kill people, people kill people.

I know that.

People with fucking guns.

Am I stomping on your rights as a gun owner?

I'm not doing it...the people shooting other people with guns...is what makes me mad. They are the ones who are going to cost everyone gun rights.

What will be done?

Nothing...same damn inaction that we put into action after the last mass murder, and the one before that and the one before that and the one before that.

And we prepare ourselves to be shocked and saddened by ignoring the murders in every single city, on every single night.

Every day of the damn year.

Shocked and Saddened my ass.

Do something.

Friday, July 20, 2012

National Felony League

They really shouldn't call it football anymore. They are more into the crime game each year. In fact, they should keep the stats during the off-season.

So far this week:

DWI for former Bill great Marshawn Lynch. This was his 3rd offense. He ran a girl down here in Buffalo. They shipped him out. No one told him that drunk-driving is also against the law in California.

But boy he can run.

Then there's Dez Bryant.

He beat up his mother.

Allegedly.

Said the bitch had it coming to her.

And yesterday I opened the paper to see Michael Vick talking about redemption.

You remember him, right?

He murdered dogs. Then said he didn't know such a thing was frowned upon.

The Eagles gave him 30 million.

He's a changed man.

Which is all just fine.

We love football, right?

The league...who's stadiums are taxpayer funded decided that the blackout rule was still basically fine. One of the people in management with the beloved Bills...who haven't sniffed the playoffs in 13 seasons...said that people who stay home and leech off the ones who go are not really fans.

Those are the same leeches who pay taxes for you to take the profits away from a dying community.

Anyway...

I'm just trying to piss off Pops...who loves football...how am I doing, buddy?

But it does gall me.

They should have a slogan:

THE NATIONAL FELONY LEAGUE! COME TO OUR GAMES!!

PAY A KING'S RANSOM!!! WE STILL SUCK!!!

MAYBE ONE OF OUR GUYS WILL RAPE YOU OR RUN YOU OVER AFTER THE GAME!!!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Saving Sir Phillip

Wednesday morning was a sad day for Howard Stern fans. Howard and Beth's bulldog Bianca died and fans of the show knew the secret.

Howard Stern really loves his pets.

Howard told us all about Bianca Romin Stamos...which was his bulldog's full name. Long-time fans remember the day he got her.

I felt bad for the guy. I know the pain of losing and the grief. Yeah, even with goofy dogs.

So, I listened to Howard try to hold it together as he talked of the loss. Then I walked down a Buffalo street and saw the following:


Do you see the doggy up on the roof?

Those two women in uniform were from animal rescue and as I got there they were trying to stand the ladder. I decided to help. I positioned the ladder and then offered to go up. (I wasn't allowed for liability reasons).

You see, they were called after the dog climbed out the upper floor window, through a broken screen, and was stuck on the roof.

I watched the daring rescue from the ground. The poor dog was scared and started to bark in fear as the two women went up the ladder that I was footing.

And yet, the three of us were a little nervous about the dog. Would he jump from the roof when cornered? Would he bite? Would the ladder give way?

Thankfully, there was a happy solution:


We were able to get Phillip safely to the ground.

Yeah, Phillip.

The dog was sort of grateful. He was more than a little friendly to his heroes.

I returned to the car and listened to the end of Howard's talk about his dog. The big bad Stern was trying hard not to cry.

"Give your dogs a kiss today," he wrote on Twitter.

And my family wonders why I sing to the Milkman and Pair-Pair.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So I Met This Guy

I had icy hot on this morning. I suppose that's not the best way to go to visit someone's office, particularly when you don't know the guy, but I'm trying to get by.

The man was in his mid-sixties and he surely sympathized with my aches and pains, but he also told me that they'd have to drag him out, kicking and screaming from his job.

That was the sentence before he told me that he had stage 4 cancer that was in every organ in his body.

What in the hell do you say to that?

"You look good," I said lamely.

"I don't know about that," he said, "but I'm gonna' keep battling."

I sort of wondered why he was still getting up early to go to work, but he answered my question by showing me around the grounds. He was a diligent guy. Very professional and courteous to the men who worked for him.

Somehow I mentioned one of my boys. His eyes lit up.

"I have three great kids," he said. "They all have good professional jobs. They're all happy."

I told him about my hoodlums.

"I wish my kids were home again every day," he said. "They call and they visit, but that every day hustle was fun."

"I don't know about fun," I said and we both laughed, but then I told him about watching baseball and arguing and laughing a little every day, no matter how aggravating it seems, at times.

"I spend a lot of my work day thinking back on things now," he said.

I imagined that he did.

"Sometimes I come in real tired because now I have to sleep sitting up. I got my own room away from my wife so I don't disturb her. I think a lot there too."

He said all of this without any trace of sadness. I was reviewing his place of work and making suggestions to him on how he could do things differently. Most of the time I don't pull any punches and I'm not big on complimenting people for doing what they're supposed to do.

But I complimented him.

"If there's anything you need," I said. "Or if you have any questions."

"Well, I should be okay," he answered as we shook hands, "but we're training the new guy."

Can you imagine training the new guy to take your position because you're REALLY REALLY leaving?

"If he does it just like you he'll do fine," I said.

I shook his hand a second time.

"I'm gonna' go kicking and screaming," he said.

So I met a guy today.

A good guy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some More Fazzolari's


What a world we live in, huh?

The above pictured clan is a group of Fazzolari's.

I don't know any of them.

I'm not even sure where they live. I remember something about South America.

All I do know is that a couple of years ago I received a friend request from Enzo Fazzolari (Who is the name of my sister's dog) and he told me about finding me through some sort of search site.

I accepted the friend request.

And we have not had a lot in the way of correspondence other than he posts something that I glance at from time-to-time and I'm sure it's the other way around too. We will most likely never "know" each other.

But we are Fazzolari's so there's a lot we most likely share.

I bet they eat pasta.

I bet there are a couple of loud people in the group.

They tan easy.

Passionate people?

Probably.

And what caught my eye today was the shot of all of them grouped together. The brown skin, the brown eyes.

How did they get everyone to shut up long enough to take the shot?

And it made me smile.

A whole bunch of Fazzolari's together for a photo.

Can't you feel the love?

The passion?

The rage bubbling below the surface?

The laughter just below or above that?

And I imagined the dinner they shared either before or after the shot was taken.

I hope they hadn't eaten before they all stood in one spot to pose for the photo because if it were our group, and it was after dinner...

...someone would have been holding their nose while someone else would have been laughing.

I like that photo.

I might drop Enzo a line.

It's time us Fuzzy's got to know one another better.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Can I Get Some Cervix?

Is it me or has the customer service in this country really sort of shit the bed?

I went to the bank yesterday. It's a new bank, mind you, because my old bank closed down and true to their nature they did not offer me a choice of banks in the change. I was simply sent to a new bank with a new card and a new set of instructions on how to do banking.

I'm not good with change, but I decided to put on my big boy pants. I'd act like a responsible customer.

So with Melky and Paris in tow we pulled up to the ATM and the option for depositing a check was there. I punched in the new number and was asked to deposit the check. I did.

"Would you like more time?" the screen asked.

"I deposited it!" I yelled at the screen.

No answer other than:

"Please place check in envelope provided and deposit in slot below."

Envelope? Provided? I didn't need an envelope at my old bank.

I glanced behind me. There were envelopes...provided...too late.

I canceled the transaction. The computer spit my card back at me. The check stayed lost.

I parked the car and went to the front of the bank. There was a sign on the door that said the bank was closed in order to switch accounts from the old bank to the new bank. I saw movement so I tried the door anyway. Locked.

"We're closed!" someone yelled.

Big boy pants?

I headed back to the car screaming the words that end in 'K' that scare my poor dogs.

Relax...serenity now...breathe deep.

I got home and found the 800 number.

The recorded voice offered 9 choices...none of them that said:

"Did you lose a check in the ATM, you moron?"

I finally got a human. Her name was Kenyishaquille. She definitely had a better language than English. With a song in my voice I told her my story.

"Just go into the bank," she said.

"It's closed," I said.

"Impossible," she answered. "Where is it located?"

I gave her the street.

"Spell that, please."

"M-C-K-I-N-L-E-Y."

"We don't have a bank on that street."

"Yes you do! I was just at it."

"It's not closed."

"I might be missing a signal," I said. "The door didn't open and there's a sign on it that says 'We're Closed.'"

"I'll call you back," Kenyishaquille said.

I seethed. More hard 'K's.' The dogs left me.

"Okay," she said when she called me back ten minutes later. "They aren't answering the phone, but they are definitely open today."

Where was I losing this clueless bitch?

"What do you suggest I do?" I asked.

She acted like I was completely incompetent.

"Go back down to the bank and go inside and explain your problem."

"Do you have a layout of the interior of the bank?" I asked.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm going to have to go in through the heating ducts because the f&*K*^G BANK IS CLOSED!"

"I can't help you, sir," Kenyishaquille said.

My beautiful wife got caught in the cross hairs.

"Problem?" she asked.

"Why can't I get reasonable cervix?" I asked.

"I beg your pardon?"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Masters Of War

Written by Bob Dylan in 1966. Man, he could write lyrics.

Come you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly.

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion'
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins.

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand over your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead.



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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stand Up

My boy Jake seems to be a real fan of stand-up comics. I even told him that I had tried it and loved it and that I'd been pretty dang good at it.

I really want to do it again, actually.

Anyway, Jake has found a bunch of new, young comics and he played a couple of them for me, and I laughed my ass off watching them. Yet I also wanted to play him a few of my favorites, so I of course, started him with a Carlin concert.

"That guy is a genius," Jake said a few minutes into it.

I told you that he could judge talent.

Well on Thursday night Jake took his turn.

"You ever see Louis C.K. do stand up?" he asked.

Of course I watch the show on FX, and somewhere along the line I'd seen an act or two, but not the particular one that Jake grabbed off of NetFlix.

I spent the next 40 minutes laughing until I was on the verge of tears. There were some really weird sounds coming from me as I pictured an adolescent Louis with cottage cheese and his dog.

And during it I thought about the very profession of being a stand-up comic. It really is something, isn't it?

Just a microphone and a bunch of stories...one story after another, designed to do nothing but make the audience laugh.

"Who was the best one ever?" Jake asked.

I thought of Buddy Hackett, who made me laugh hard. And Redd Foxx, and Eddie Murphy, and Richard Pryor, and Steve Martin.

"I'd still say Carlin," I said.

"Did you ever see him live?"

Sadly I didn't, but I did see Larry the Cable Guy, Seinfeld a couple of times, and Robin Williams.

They were all terrific.

"I have a few books Carlin wrote," I said.

"Of course you do," Jake answered.

Louis moved on to his observations about being married more than ten years. I was howling.

"I don't get it," Jake said at one point.

"You will someday," I said.

God it's good to laugh.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Let No Act Bring Us Shame

That's the Penn State motto.

As my kids might ask:

How'd that work out for you?

And far be it from me to try and kick dirt on Joe Paterno as he rests in eternal peace, but be fair and know that I kicked dirt at him when the scandal first broke.

What gets to me is that people are still defending him!

Give me a break.

All right, he might have cut his buddy and coach a break in 1998 when he first found out, but again in '01?

That was when he made a conscious decision that his reputation and legacy was worth more than those kids.

Kids! Who were in the hands of pure evil!

Again, how'd that decision work out for you?

Joe let Jerry keep his key to the school.

Joe let Jerry keep his seat in the suite for the big games. Joe even let Jerry bring kids in there with him. Joe knew Jerry was abusing those kids.

Sandusky was the dirty, filthy uncle who had them by the short hairs and they decided...made a conscious decision...to let him keep doing what he was doing because they didn't want to face the embarrassment of it getting out there and ruining their images.

You know what is even sadder to me?

That people still want to jump up and defend the leaders of that program...and I'm sorry, but Joe was one of the leaders.

Joe signed the papers. Joe sent the emails. Joe not only DID NOT ACT in the face of evil, what is more shameful is that JOE DID ACT.

Joe let it go.

Make no mistake. Joe had to work at it to let it go.

And Joe seemed like a helluva' guy. The sweaters, the wins, the grandfatherly walk, the man, the myth, the legend.

Problem being that he turned out to be a lot more myth and a lot less legend.

And how do you get to such a spot?

It wasn't a mistake, people. Joe considered it. Joe thought about it long and hard, and Joe took the low road because Joe was thinking about Joe.

How's that for not kicking dirt at Joe's legend?

I didn't do it.

Joe did.

Now take the statue down and throw it into the nearest river.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kansas City Sucks

I've never been to Kansas City and while I've always had nice thoughts about the place - George Brett was a great player - I've decided that I will never go there unless I do what I did up in Boston.


Not sure if you caught the All-Star Game Festivities.

My boy Robinson Cano was excited to be the captain of the American League Home Run Derby Team. As captain he got to choose 3 guys to play with him.

He decided to choose guys who are actually great players. Makes sense, right? Unfortunately, there aren't any great players on the Royals. Hasn't been one since Brett quit 20 years ago.

So the Royals fans got mad. They said that Cano promised them he'd pick Billy Butler. I saw that interview. He said he'd consider all the players and choose the ones who gave the AL the best chance to win. The 3 guys he picked finished 1, 2, and 3 in the event.

The KC fans booed Cano, who might be the best player in the league.

Fine, whatever. He's a Yankee. They get booed everywhere anyway because they keep baseball afloat in crappy cities that can't pay their own way...and 'cause they win.

But what those fans did to Cano was pitiful.

They booed him as he stood on the field alone...for a half an hour.

It was an exhibition.

Cano's father was throwing the ball to him for crying out loud.

Cano didn't have to be captain. He didn't have to participate. He could have been like the other pampered a-holes who fake injury to skip the whole damn event.

And I really don't care that they booed. It was funny for 30 seconds...but to keep doing it as Cano struggled. To keep doing it the next day as he walked into the stadium, to keep doing it as he was introduced, to do it again after he hit a single in the game.

Ridiculous.

It crossed a line. They were spewing hate. Cano was on the verge of tears. They screamed at his mother. His mother! for crying out loud!

They ruined the whole damn game for fans of the most successful franchise in the history of sports. Yeah he's a millionaire who makes his living with a ball, but at some point in time it should have dawned on a few of them that he is also human.

I don't get it.

Cano took the high road when one of the two idiot announces from Fox asked him about it. He even tried to laugh it off.

It would have been a different story if it had been me:

Announcer: Cliff, did the booing bother you?

Me: You know what? Kansas City sucks. I would have picked one of their players to participate but they haven't been to the playoffs in 27 years and they only won that World Series against the Cardinals because the ump blew a call, and St. Louis makes better ribs, and there wouldn't be anything to do in this damn town if there weren't tornadoes to chase, and the only thing that Kansas City players want is to be traded to the Yankees.

I would have said that. I'm serious.

Damn, I hope they let me captain the team next time the event is in that cow town.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

So You Wanna' Be Tom Cruise?

I’m thinking old Tommy Boy ain’t real stable.

Let’s backtrack, huh?

His first wife said that she had enough of him because he wanted to be celibate for his religion.

I can’t imagine what my beautiful wife might say if I told her that. I’m sure that I’d be pursuing my life as a monk, on my own.

“You don’t want to have sex?” My wife would say.

“What in the hell am I going to do with those three extra minutes every week?”

But there was still hope for Tom because he hooked up with a real power chick, Nicole Kidman.

Things didn’t go very well there, either, despite the fact that he must have wanted to give up his monk-chasing at least on the wedding night, right?

There were more moments of craziness as Tom talked of being a high priest or other such nonsense and since he was never hanging around with Nicole for photos, people started to whisper.

I don’t blame him for not wanting to be photographed next to her as she’s about a foot and a half taller, but Tom was back in the news just a few years after their expected divorce when he got taller by jumping on Oprah’s couch.

He was sooooooooooo in love, with Katie Holmes.

Now those of us who wanted to date Katie Holmes if something ever happened to our beautiful wives, God rest their souls, were a little disappointed with the whole deal.

Tom Cruise had it all. Money, fame, fortune, sex symbol and Katie Holmes.

It wasn’t fair!

Then the kid came along, and all the rumors seemed to be untrue. There was very little talk of flying aliens, or rumors of him of being gay.

He did get into a famous argument with Brooke Shields about something lame, but we were all sure that his love was true.

TomKat and Suri.

Happily ever after.

Uh, nope!

Just when we were sure that he was cool and we weren’t, Katie gave him the heave-ho, and all the weird crap came floating to the top.

He was actually better off dancing in his underwear to the Bob Seger song just before he opened the prostitution ring in Risky Business than he is now.

Where does Tom go from here?

Will he marry Travolta in a Scientology High Priest wedding officiated by a massage therapist?

Will he try and find love once again?

Perhaps this time he can marry Oprah.

Will we ever truly know if he’s quite as weird as he seems to be?

So many questions, but I have arrived at one answer:

I don’t wanna’ be Tom Cruise.

Not even for three minutes minutes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Breaking News: Buffalo Has the Best Weather in the Country

There's no doubt about it.

Have you ever been trapped in a wild fire? Or thought that the spread of the fire would engulf your home?

Think San Diego and Malibu.

Mud slides?

Again, California...where they also have earthquakes on a routine basis.

We don't have fires, or mud slides or earthquakes here in the weather capital of the world:

Buffalo, New York.

Are you ready for the hurricanes?

I'm talking to you, Florida, and Georgia and Carolina and Texas and Louisiana.

The only way we get water in our basements is if we overflow our portable pools while we enjoy our beautiful summers.

Yeah, beautiful summers... are you listening Maryland and Georgia and all the rest of the places where you burned your asses off this week.

We were mostly in the 80's and low 90's.

That's February in Arizona.

No threats of tsunami, no hurricanes, no rainy season, no mud slides, no tornadoes.

Do you hear that Nebraska and Kansas and all those other places where all you do for fun is chase cyclone cones.

And it's funny but as I travel I usually get a crinkled nose when I say I'm from Buffalo.

"Aren't you cold?" people ask.

"It didn't snow at all last year," I say.

But some things never die. Buffalo has a reputation. We are the armpit of the weather world, according to everyone else, but here in the hub of all things great, we know the real truth.

We're the best.

So what?

We lost four Super Bowls in a row.

Big deal!

We are the second worst in poverty stats.

It's 80 and sunny!

We have more days of sunshine per year than Miami, Florida.

Come on, everyone else, come on up to Buffalo for vacation!

We can go bowling and eat wings.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Let Me Tell You About It

The idea for the new book was conjured up over a couple of beers and a bit of food last summer in the beautiful city of Pittsburgh. Three "old" friends sitting around brainstorming. We wanted to just do it as a screenplay, but I am way more comfortable writing 300 pages than I am in writing 20.

So we talked, and then I drove home with my black notebook beside me. Pittsburgh to Buffalo is about three hours.

I had the entire outline done before I got home. I knew the beginning, the middle and the end. At that point I was still thinking it'd be a screenplay, but what the hell, why not fiddle around with it as a novel?

You'd think that writing a book is about a lot of long hours, and it is, but the hours when you're actually in front of the keyboard are minimal for me.

It's more about the black notebook.

Just scribbled thoughts. A lot of quotes. Nearly indecipherable notations that say things like this:

Chapter 12 - Fear - Rolando explodes

Just things that will jog me into place when I spend the two hours a week at the keyboard.

Most weeks it flows just fine. There are things that need to be done before the actual writing session, like:

No dishes in the sink, the house filled with food, all the things in my room in the perfect spot, no booze clouding my mind, not tired...feeling pretty good.

But even if those things aren't all checked off the list I can do it if my characters are strong.

And the characters come from inside.

I'm always a variation of the main guy. The villains are usually caricatures of people who've pissed me off in real life. The situations they get themselves into is a bit of exaggerated truth. You can bet some parts of each scene actually happened.

The funny lines?

They come from guys like Jim, Jeff and John, Sam, Jake and Matt and brilliant ladies like Corinne, Kathy and Carrie.

Just make 'em laugh.

Yet every once in awhile there is a weird thing at play. That's what happened to me on Saturday morning.

I figured I had at least two strong chapters left. Despite the fact that I wanted to get as much on paper as I could I honestly believed that 20 or 30 pages of material would take at least 3 hours on Saturday and a couple on Sunday. I knew where I wanted to go, but that's a lot to get done.

I sat down at roughly 8:00...set Knopfler on the I-pod and wrote the first sentence.

"On the way into the arena my cell phone buzzed."

A fairly innocent sentence. Just trying to set the scene.

And then it happened.

An absolute frenzy.

I glanced at the clock at ten minutes after eleven and my heart caught in my throat as I typed the last sentence.

"Because they understand."

And I knew I was done.

I'd written 32 pages.

Could it be?

I went over it.

Everything added up. Things I'd written in the last 32 pages had set up the scenes in pages 1 thru 220. The title of the second last chapter was the theme for what had been written and it matched perfectly. There were words there that I didn't even remember writing just minutes before.

"What the F&*k was that?" I asked.

Melky and Paris jumped from their positions of slumber.

"I'm done," I thought.

And there was no relief, no happiness. I'd done what I wanted to do, but there was a lot more to do.

And I felt a bit of dread because my five new friends would be leaving my mind. I'd put them in the perfect positions for nearly a year.

Now I just had to touch them up.

I headed downstairs for lunch after sending my sister an e-mail.

"I finished. God wrote the end."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What's Up With Bacon?

It's sort of funny that we have the first lady talking about an exercise program for kids, people speaking about healthcare, and the leaders explaning that we need to work to eat better, and then we have a sort of bacon explosion going on.

Have you tried a bacon sundae yet?

Me neither.

Supposedly that is a bowl of ice cream with a little chocolate sauce and bacon bits sprinkled over the top.

That's not enough, though.

Now there's a bacon burger coming out - it's being served in Southern California.

We've all had a burger with bacon on top, right?

This isn't the same thing. This is a burger made completely out of bacon. For good measure it is served with bacon on top.

I know people who call bacon "meat candy" (Hi Pops) and can eat it by the pound. You wouldn't know it to look at me, but I can honestly take it or leave it.

When I order eggs I have a side of sausage instead. Obviously it's not for health reasons. I'm just not bacon-obsessed.

Another reason why I don't eat it much is because one of my official duties around here is to make breakfast. Cooking a pound of bacon is a pain in the ass when you're also trying to do eggs, pancakes and make the toast while the deadbeats I live with it tap their forks off their plates as they wait to be served.

And I don't like it crispy and my beautiful wife does, so guess which way I have to prepare it?

Yeah, crispy.

So perhaps I will wait and try a bacon sundae. Or just a nice big ball of bacon covered in gravy and served over ice cream.

I've always said that if the chefs of the world could come up with deep-fried butter they'd have a billion dollar idea.

Imagine that meal.

"I'll have the deep fried butter as an appetizer, the bacon burger with double cheese, and a bacon sundae to follow."

"Will that be all?"

"Can I get a side of gravy? And a Diet Pepsi?"

I can just hear you getting fatter.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The God Particle

So it seems that there is breaking news on the God front. This week it was announced that after nearly 50 years of thinking about it we have confirmation of some sort of dancing atom that tells of God.

I can't pretend to understand anything other than a couple of guys spent about ten billion dollars to come up with the proof.

Try reading the explanation. It reminded me of being in Trigonometry all those years ago. Not a freaking clue about what the hell is being said.

I broke the news to my mother.

"They should have given you and me the money," she said. "We could have come up with an announcement a lot quicker than that."

Mom was a tad skeptical about the men and their reasoning.

Speaking of God, the whole TomKat divorce is shedding light on the scientology religion that Tom Cruise is so caught up in. He has been so enraptured that he had three brides who aren't real bad looking and he wanted to be celibate to become a monk in the whole volcano tale spun by the leader.

Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes and he wants to be celibate for L.Ron Hubbard?

Lock him up.

And now there is a lot of talk about Joe Paterno knowing a lot more about the Sandusky deal after the death and conviction.

That's shocking.

Who would've guessed that there was a cover-up?

And speaking of cover-up I responded to Lance Armstrong on Twitter the other day. He was putting out a line of shit about how the world is out to get him and I sent him a clever quip about being a man.

I anxiously await his response.

What a life, huh?

Hope you still have all your fingers after the celebration for the 4th.

Anyone wanna donate ten billion to my mother and me?

We're working on proving the existence of Satan.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Dogs on Main Street

All right...the cat's out of the bag.

Saturday, July 7, 2012 will be the day when I complete the first draft of the new book. I'm looking at a two-week edit and then off to the publisher to anxiously await word on whether or not I pulled it off.

I'm nervous.

Nah, I'm not.

I think it's right there with everything else I've done lately. I can tell you one thing for sure:

It's been fun.

I love writing fiction. It's so much better than examining the pain in my heart that non-fiction has required.

But what can I say about the new book?

It's funny.

It's sad.

It was an idea that was bandied about and we can do a screenplay with it.

There's a lot of Springsteen involved.

The main character has a bit of me in him. The rest of the characters have a bit of all people.

Together we tackle a lot of issues.

As with the rest of my books my favorite readers have had the chance to read along. No one has seen the last three chapters.

To Carrie, Dana, Pat, Cathy, Pops and almost Kim...you're gonna' like how it plays out.

Of course, the problem being that there will certainly be a let-down coming soon. No matter how hard I try I can't escape the sadness that comes with finishing a project.

But there's a few more things in the hopper...

...I hope.

Does anyone want to help with the rewrite?

Oh, and by the way, for all the people out there who want to write a book:

I'm right there with you. I pray that you have the time and patience to get it done, but one simple suggestion:

Do something else.

It's truly draining!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wandering Spirit

Gonna' let Mick Jagger write one:

When all the twelve apostles try to ring me on the phone
Take a message but I won't return the call
For I have no eyes to see him and I thought I lost my way
And I know I've lost the keys to your door.

And I climbed the highest mountain and I looked down on the sea
And I saw a ship a-sailin to the shore
I took a passage to the East and I journeyed to the West
I made love from Battambang to Baltimore

I said, 'Oh, am I running in a race?'
I said, 'Oh, am I getting any place?'
I said, 'Oh, can I make it?'

I'm a wandering spirit.
I'm a wandering spirit
Yes I am a restless soul
I'm a wandering spirit
There's no place I can call my own.

I was a glutton at the banquet and I spilled the finest wine
Trod the pyramids and ruins of Angkor
I kissed the Mona Lisa and I breakfast-ed with kings
And I touched the nerves of nature in the raw.

I said, 'Oh, am I running in a race?'
I said, 'Oh, take that smile off your face.'
I said, 'Oh, I can't make it.'

I'm a wandering spirit.
I'm a wandering spirit
No escape, no parole
I'm a wandering spirit
I'm a lost and lonely soul.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

236 Years Ago

It's pretty hard to consider the mindset of a bunch of people that lived so long ago. Yet whenever I think of Independence Day I consider that whoever is screaming for independence is doing so because they feel they are being unjustly treated.

The biggest believers of freedom are locked in a cage somewhere.

And freedom from the unjust is a lofty goal.

It makes me wonder.

What those who fought for our freedom would think of us now.

Would they be for or against locking others out who are seeking freedom?

Would they be for or against a healthcare program that is all-inclusive?

Would they want to take away our guns?

Would they oppress a group of people because of their religious beliefs? Or sexual orientation?

Would they be for or against wars in other countries who's citizens are oppressed?

Again, politics isn't my game, but let's all close our eyes for a moment and consider those who were figures in the revolution that granted us freedom.

Eyes closed?

What do you see?

I see a group of men dressed in funny vests with long white hair.

But I also see a passionate group of men who believed in something so much, and fought so hard for the common good. Just decent, law-abiding men who wanted to do right for the collective rather than just themselves.

Imagine the spirit?

Imagine the dedication?

All for one and one for all?

Nobody wins unless everybody wins.

On the 4th of July we celebrate with our cook-outs and our beer. The lucky among us get to golf and hang out in the sun.

We are free to celebrate. This is still the place to be in the world. It's still the promised land, isn't it?

It's strange but as a kid I had a real sense of being born lucky. I was born in the greatest country in the world to a set of people who loved me and wanted to feed me (overfeed me, actually) on a regular basis.

I was Born in the U.S.A.

And I think about Bruce writing that song and not really being in a good place when he did, but don't tell me it isn't patriotic.

He wasn't complaining.

He was thinking of the dedication, spirit, integrity and passion of those men in the white hair who didn't stop believing until they formed a union of people who wanted the same thing:

To be the greatest nation in the land.

It's hard to consider the mindset of people from 236 years ago, but be damn sure that they were proud to be American.

I am too.

Think about that as you scarf down a rack of ribs.

I hope we never truly lose the dignity that made us great.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Old-Timer

Man, Ricky Henderson could fly. Back in the 90's when he got to first you knew he'd aggravate the pitcher just enough to wind up on 3rd in about three minutes.

Yesterday he led off the 27-Time World Champion Yankees old-timers game. He hit a slow roller that found its way between short and the pitcher.

20 years ago he would have been in right field before the shortstop picked up that ball. Yesterday he was out by six steps.

He laughed.

My boys were playing basketball in the driveway yesterday.

"Give me a shot," I called.

Sam tossed me the ball. I thought of how cool it was when I tossed the ball to my Dad and he tried a hook shot.

I wound up and put it squarely off the back rim. The ball bounded back at me and I moved towards it. I limped heavily.

"All right, stop with the fake injury cause you missed it and give us the ball back," Sam said.

We all laughed. There's no faking the fact that we can't move quite as well as we used to.

And then I watched Sam play...he was everywhere on the court. Non-stop movement and energy. He was diving for the ball, running, jumping.

Bernie Williams was on the old-timers roster as was Paul O'Neill.

They won the series together over the hapless Mets in 2000.

"Could you still hit a 90 MPH pitch?" the announcer asked O'Neill.

"If you gave me a month to prepare I could hit one out of 100," he said.

I wonder if that is frustrating to old athletes.

Actually, I don't have to wonder.

"Give me another one," I said to Sam.

He threw me the ball.

I air-balled it and it rolled down the side of the house.

"Now I gotta' run after it!" He called out.

At least he can.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Obamacare

So we had the court battle and it seems that the healthcare that was proposed is going to go through after all, right?

Should we all take a few moments to debate this? There certainly doesn't seem to be enough misinformation out there about it now.

Can we agree on one thing?

That what we have had up to this point is pretty much a disaster?

I've been stuck in the medical vortex all year long. The doctor wants to treat you as he knows how, but he doesn't do it because he's afraid that the insurance company will shoot him down, and he is also half-assed afraid that if he makes a decision that somehow costs you even more, you'll sue his ass.

Then there is the cost of everything. A bottle of pills can cost thousands of dollars.

Explain that to me. They cost 8 bucks to make and they charge you a grand.

We will always have people who can't afford to pay their own way. That has and always will be a problem.

It's unsolvable. For hundreds of years now there has been about 8% of the population who want to live on the system. There are people out there who make a career out of wringing every single nickel out of a system that was designed to help those who actually do need help.

We can't stop it. We won't stop it. For every fraud case we find there will be four more behind it. No one can wiggle their nose and wish away the bad guys.

Yet what gets me about it, and what I imagine when my heart is really bleeding is a man who has a sick kid, no chance at health insurance, and no way to save the kid without robbing something.

The guy may not want the handout. He may have worked every single day of his life. He may have just been priced out of the game.

Should he not be able to save his kid?

I know precious little about the real workings of the plan that just was upheld. I've read the bullet points, of course. I've tried to listen to some of the arguments against, but sometimes I can't separate fact from fiction because of hidden agendas, and not so hidden agendas.

I understand that there will be change.

Yeah, change.

To a broken system.

I also understand that they've been trying to pass something since FDR...Republican and Democrat alike.

Nixon couldn't get it done. Clinton either. All the plans seemed flawed.

Millions believe the new plan is flawed too.

But so was the old way, wasn't it?

As long as I'm wiggling my nose maybe we can have intelligent discourse on it as it plays out and we see how it works or how it doesn't. Back and forth, hand in hand.

Yeah, like I've said.

I can't wiggle my nose and make wishes come true.

Perhaps it won't all work. Maybe millions more will have options. We might have to scrap the whole freaking thing somewhere down the line, but one thing raises hope in my heart.

We do seem to be trying.

At least I hope so.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

But Tom is An Element!

What the hell is wrong with Katie Holmes?

Didn't she see Tom Cruise bouncing on Oprah's couch like a weird lunatic?

Doesn't she know that he is a superstar who can beat up everyone in the movies?

Despite the fact that he's about 5'2"

Doesn't she know that Tom also sits at the right hand of L.Ron Hubbard who wrote his own nonsensical Bible?

He's the father of Siri, for crying out loud and she appears to be the voice that pops up on my I-phone whenever I hold it to my ear by mistake.

I don't get it?

My heart aches for poor Tom. He's had three beautiful wives. They've all cast him aside.

Don't they appreciate a little homosexuality (allegedly) in their husbands?

And of course, now we have the juicy details of the split.

Katie went straight for the throat. She wants full custody of Siri and $3 million dollars for every year that she was married to the god of fire or whatever the hell he is.

What a weird dude, huh?

Perhaps I'm wrong. Obviously I don't know the man.

This is what I do know and a few of my lingering questions:

1). I tried to read the L. Ron Hubbard book. I couldn't make heads or tails of it.

2). Same with that Vanilla movie that Tom made.

3). I thought Dustin Hoffman's character was the cool one in Rainman.

4). I never understood any of the Mission Impossible movies either.

5). The couch jump was really creepy.

6). Tom and Travolta share the same massage therapists?

7). Katie Holmes is cute.

8). Siri has never helped me and she always says, "I didn't get that."

9). Why do we care when celebrities get married?

10). Or divorced?

11). Who will he marry next to cover up the fact that he's a weird dude?

12). If I write a blog bashing Tom am I ruining my chances for eternal happiness in the afterlife of flying aliens?

I'm just so damn confused by this.

Extend the Netting!!

During the Wednesday afternoon Yankees game, Todd Frazier ripped a line drive into the crowd above the third base dugout. The ball, which ...