Friday, February 28, 2014

Ryan Miller Is Tired

Sometimes things catch you the wrong way.

Tuesday night was one of those times. I read a few accounts on Twitter about what a brave, hearty, courageous soul Ryan Miller, the Sabres goalie, was for playing in the game Tuesday night just a mere 24 hours after returning from the Olympics in Russia.

Oh the humanity!

What a cruel thing to do to a man!!

Make him play a game after such a grueling trip where he played 60 minutes in two weeks while heroically representing the country as they got bounced and didn't even get a medal?

So, I made mention of it in a response to a Buffalo sportswriter.

"Boo-hoo," was my wording.

The reporter responded by telling me that I was clueless and ignorant because jet lag is a tiring thing.

I just don't get it, folks.

Ryan Miller is a 33-year-old professional athlete who is paid about $5 million a year as he stands in front of a net and deflects frozen rubber away.

What the hell are we doing?

He's a hero because he can play after a grueling plane trip?

I have been walking on pain sticks for the last few months.

My wife is a nurse and she works her ass off.

People get up each and every day at 5 in the morning and toil at jobs where they will be lucky, really lucky to earn, in a year's time, what Miller will be paid to block rubber in a week's worth of games.

I get it.

They are entertainers.

We pay to watch them do their job.

Earn all the money you want. People are willing to pay to watch, but don't you dare tell me how wonderful he is because he can go to work tired.

How many people out there do their job tired some days?

How many people get their asses kissed at every turn by some awestruck reporter who just wants to kiss ass?

Big freaking deal.

He's tired. He didn't fly the plane home. He didn't cure cancer out on the wing. He was most likely massaged every twenty minutes and fed seafood.

I know a guy who gets up in the middle of the night to go to work and then sleeps a few hours every day.

Boo-freaking hoo.

Kissing the asses of these athletes is ignorant and clueless.

And someday, somehow we need to realize that.

We're amusing ourselves to death.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fatherly Advice

So, Matt survived the weekend of bringing a girl around to meet his family.

It was touch and go there for awhile...we thought Sam would be a thorn in their side.

Turns out Matt should have been more worried about me.

"Hi, I'm Leah," she said to me as I entered the house after a long road trip.

"Hi, you're in my seat," I said.

The poor girl jumped off the couch as if she were shot out of a cannon.

Yet the real highlight of the weekend was when my beautiful wife and I did our comedy sketch for her about how wonderful it is to be in a long-term committed relationship.

"Get used to the sweatpants look," I told Matt, "because the getting all dolled up to come by and watch a movie doesn't last very long.

Leah simply smiled along with my wife.

"It's all false advertising," I said. "My wife has executed years and years of what can only be considered absolute fraud. The bait and switch."

Kathy was laughing as well because truth be told she knows it's true. She spoke a little about how much I've lost through the years but that simply isn't accurate.

I'm still dashing.

Yet Matt sort of breathed a heavy sigh when his hosting hours were over.

"It's a lot of work," he said. "You have to worry about whether you're entertaining them enough."

Matt looked to me for advice.

"Don't worry about it," I said. "Just buy her an I-pad, get used to the sweatpants, give her every single dime you make, and shut your freaking mouth, and you'll be all right."

Matt laughed.

Kathy laughed.

Jake laughed.

Sam laughed.

Everyone was laughing except for little old me.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Saturday Night!

Matt was home for the weekend from college.

Of course that meant heading out for fun.

I remember being his age, of course, and thinking:

"When I get older I'm still gonna' go out and have a great time!"

I also remember asking my Dad to go to the movies with us one weekend.

"I'm not going to sit in some theater. I work hard all week. I'm sitting right here on the couch."

That wasn't going to happen to me!

On Saturday night my beautiful wife returned from work at about 7:30. She grabbed her dinner and sat on the couch across from where I was already seated. Sam was jumping around watching the college basketball game between Duke-Syracuse and I was watching along too.

"Are we gonna' do something?" Kathy asked.

"You wanna' go out dancing?" I replied.

"No. Are we watching something?"

We have been watching the Kevin Bacon show, The Following. It's entertaining enough.

"Perhaps," I said.

"Can you watch two of them tonight?" Kathy asked.

I wasn't quite sure.

"That would require you to stay up until 11 o'clock or so."

Tall order.

I thought of Matt out with his friends on Saturday night. By 11 o'clock it would all be getting started. They'd be laughing, and drinking and finding something greasy to eat in the middle of the night.

"11:00 is tough," I said. "But what the hell! It's Saturday!!"

We watched two very tense episodes. Kevin Bacon was drinking, running through the streets, shooting people, making out with hot women.

"When does this guy sleep?" I asked.

"He's not a hundred years old, like you," my wife said.

"Yeah, but still. He's gotta' get tired."

I was asleep by 11:06.

There'd be hell to pay on Sunday.

At least a two hour nap.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dogs On Main Street Release


The work is almost done.

Let it be known that Chris Colantino just flat-out nailed the book cover. They say a book can't be judged by the cover, but I hope this one is.

I had a feeling...and it paid off.

Chris read the draft copy and found the spirit of the title. He jumped right in and got to work. He learned a little about deadlines and making sure it was just right...and then about letting go.

And we are almost there.

I'm happy too.

You see, there was a great impulse to finish the book writing career after ten books. That's a nice number. I didn't need any more. I had sat in a room where they passed out writing awards and I'd finally felt comfortable there.

I'd done what I set out to do. I wrote books, got a few laughs, earned some money that I promptly gave away, and signed some autographs.

All high aspirations, but I'd done it.

And I'd had enough.

But then my buddy, Jeff Popple, sent me a quick message:

"Write me something, bitch."

And it instantly made me want to again.

Because of the readers.

So this one is strictly for all of you. It was sitting in the finished pile. I loved doing it.

I'm under-selling that.

I honestly loved doing it. As much as I had loved it during book one. I was writing fiction. I was creating my own world. I made myself laugh. I made myself think. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with each and every character who was a product of my imagination but was also a compilation of people I'd met in my life.

And I was writing about a life-long love affair with Springsteen's music and concerts and the vibe that I enjoyed on 32 of the greatest nights of my life when I'd spent time with him as he played his creations.

So I created.

And I don't have any preconceived notions.

I don't care if the book makes a single dime.

I really don't.

I only care that you enjoy it because it's a gift to you as a reader.

And now I have 11 published books.

I can't stop there, right?

It's a weird number.

Gotta' try and get to 20 now.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

CJM Is 50


You see the guy in the photo?

He's tough to see because the girl is so beautiful and hard not to look at, but that's him.

The man, the myth, the legend.

Christopher J. Miller is 50 years old today.

A few truths about my friendship with CJM:

1). I tried to strangle him one day. He was the first guest over at a birthday party where I had cooked for 40 people, cleaned the yard, and vacuumed the house. He started in about my weight, or my bald head, or the fact that I was overworked and tired, and I tried to strangle him.

He laughed.

2). I hated him in high school because he was a good athlete on our rival team and he was an arrogant douche.

The only thing that's changed is that he's not an athlete anymore.

3). Our first day in college we flipped each other the bird. We meant it.

Since those days...

...we've shared everything.

4). He picked up a 7-iron and played six holes of golf against my buddies and me. He beat us by ten strokes, easy.

5). I saw him hit a golf ball 360 yards. He then chipped over the green and into the water hazard and I beat him on the 390 yard hole. On the way home from the course he got us lost in a city we didn't know. He finally stopped at a gas station, to get directions (I assumed) but instead came out holding 2 40-ounce beers in a paper bag. It took us 3 hours to get home.

6). I love his Mom and Dad and Eddie and his beautiful children and obviously lovely wife. We've shared the highs and lows of life.

All of 'em.

Every single moment.

7). And now he's 50 years old.

It's hard to believe, actually.

Unless you see a photo of us now.

The hair is gone.

The bellies are bigger.

There won't be any more pick-up basketball games where he lowers the shoulder and breaks my breastbone for me, and then laughs.

But we'll keep laughing.

Happy Birthday, buddy.

You're still an arrogant douche.

But I got used to it.

Love you, CJM.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Grab It All

I've had a bunch of long work days in a row and was set up to go to Syracuse and back on Friday morning. I made a conscious decision to listen to music all the way.

Some thoughts gathered:

1). I really enjoy the way Keith Richards plays the guitar and sometimes I forget that. His riffs are legendary though and take me back in time. Way back in some instances.

2). Natalie Maines has a beautiful voice.

3). It's easy to forget the fun things in life. As I drove listening to Bruce belt out This Is Your Sword from the new record, I thought of the kids and how much I want to protect them forever. I just want to grab them and hold them close and tell them these things:

Love with all your heart.

Grieve with everything you have.

Enjoy your days.

Laugh a lot.

Find a good companion.

4). Air Supply came on. I have one song by that band. Come What May. It's a song that makes me think of a great friend in my life. Lisa was the girl at college who started me thinking about living life the right way. She broke through the drunken haze and shook my mind a little.

I appreciated that and thought of her and hoped she was doing fine.

5). Not to be outdone Loose Change by Springsteen followed.

It's a song about a guy who's lost along the way, finds someone who he initially dismisses as loose change in his pocket and then realizes 'trouble sure was looking fine'. It's a tremendous song and one that makes me appreciate my beautiful wife every single day. It makes me realize that I was able to grab the brass ring and that she knew it all way before I did.

6). John Mellencamp did two in a row and I screamed the words to the interior of the truck. Minutes to Memories was the perfect song at the perfect time.

It always is.

7). I thought of God a little bit when I heard Have I Told You Lately by Van Morrison. The song is an absolute prayer and one that I sing to my Dad each time.

Grieve hard, kids.

Love your Dad every single day and missing him won't seem so bad because you'll know he grabbed every second of it and held it close. He knew how much he was loved. When they know, you don't have to tell them lately.

They know it every minute.

8). Neil Young did Harvest Moon and the wonderful melody made me think of being completely free in my thoughts. It's a slow, comfortable song with perfect lyrics. When we were strangers, I watched you from afar. When we were lovers, I loved you with all my heart.

All your heart, kids.

9). Barbara Streisand made an appearance and I didn't hear a single word she sang because all the while she sang it I thought of how beautiful and talented she sounded. How does one even make such a noise.

Like an angel.

10). Shangri-La by Mark Knopfler was the next song that hit me straight in the solar plexus.

All the heaven we got is right here where we are.

Grab it.

Every single day.

Hold it tightly.

Love with all your soul.

What a great day.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Nickels For Your Pity

I've had a problem lately because the ashtray in my car is overfilled with change. I usually dump the extra change in there after buying a water or lunch.

You know. We all do that.

So, I've been buying the morning paper with nickels in an effort to get enough room so I can drop more change in there and be comfortable.

It has to do with some of my compulsions. No pennies either. I can't look at the copper mixing with the silver.

So, I bought the paper with a handful of nickels and then pulled over to fill my gas tank. I swiped the credit card and began filling the tank, watching the numbers flip up towards fifty.

So expensive.

As I was doing this a man, who I instantly labeled as homeless, began rifling through the garbage a lane over from me. He plucked out a couple of plastic pop bottles.

He nodded at me.

I couldn't help but gauge the fact that he was filthy.

He was also interested in watching the numbers flip on my gas order, and I know that he wanted to look in the garbage cans right beside me.

He also appeared working up the nerve to ask me a question or two.

My mind did a quick scan.

He was about the same age as me.

He appeared to be suffering from health problems, mental difficulties and perhaps a substance abuse problem or two.

I stepped aside and he got to the can next to me. He shifted some fast-food wrappers out of the way and dug his arm down a bit.

He came up empty.

He nodded at me again.

The gas pump clicked off.

$48.74 was the damage.

The man glanced at the numbers and back at me.

He finally worked up the nerve.

"If you have any change," he said, and his shaky voice faltered.

I reached into my car and grabbed a handful of my loose change.

It was at least $5 worth.

He held out two gloved hands and cupped them in front of him. I dropped the "extra" coins in his hands and he lifted his eyes to meet my gaze.

His eyes were dark, nearly black. They seemed to smile at me as he quickly figured his good fortune.

"Bless you," he said.

"Have a good day," I answered.

He scurried away. There was a definite limp to his step. He seemed to be eager to head off somewhere.

Poor man, I thought.

I wondered where he'd get his next drink from. I considered where he might sleep tonight.

I didn't even worry about how much the gasoline had cost me.

I now had a little room in my over-filled ashtray.

I'd sleep better tonight.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Am I Unpatriotic?

I have not watched even a minute of Olympic coverage.

Is that wrong?

I do love sports, but not quite as much as I used to...but I never really got into the Olympic games.

Especially the winter Olympics, I suppose.

And it's not that I don't have a little interest in the hockey tournament, but I just haven't been available to see the USA play. Perhaps I will watch the game against Canada tomorrow, but then again, maybe not.

And the amateur athletes that are competing in these games probably do deserve more of our attention than the pro sports teams, but a gold medal for curling?

Wasn't one of the participants in the curling match in past games pregnant?

Isn't it a game where the best sweepers win?

And I just don't get the other sports where the judges make the decision on who wins. I suppose that I'd rather see it all play out and the clear winner and loser gets to be declared.

Yet I have kept up with how the USA is doing and only because I get alerts on my phone each time someone wins a medal.

Who's the big star of this Olympic season?

What has captured your attention?

I hear that it's the USA against Canada.

Can we declare that the loser has to keep Justin Bieber?

Will the pros from Canada be better than the pros from the USA?

In the end I guess it has lost some of it's shine.

The 1980's win of the gold in the hockey tourney was special because we didn't know any of those kids. They weren't professionals. They were playing a Russian team that was built for that competition and they won anyway, and it's
still one of the greatest sports stories of all-time.

I remember where I was:

The game was tape-delayed. It was tied at two.

They went to a commercial break and the goofy news announcer from Buffalo said:

"The USA beats Russia!"

I can remember how mad I was because he had spoiled it.

But I had watched anyway.

Now I don't really care.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Speak English!

There have been changes to the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, it's a safety standard that says those who work with chemicals in the workplace have the right to know how that can affect their health.

Simple enough.

Good law.

Except they're changing it a bit to make it more of a global law.

Now, chemicals will have pictures on the labels so that those who do not speak the language can also identify the hazards.

Simple again.

Should be easy to convey.

Except it's not.

"Why don't these people learn how to speak English?" Someone yelled angrily from the back row of one of my training classes.

"Why should they if they live in China?" I asked.

"But if they're here!" He yelled out. "They should speak English!"

"It's global," I said, rather calmly. "That means around the world. Do you remember the globe?"

Of course, that pissed off half of the attendees.

"But don't you think we should throw out everyone who doesn't speak English?" Another guy asked. "Shouldn't we throw them out of our country?"

I wasn't about to get into a debate about immigration, but it sort of caught me off-guard.

There was one non-white guy in the room.

"Yeah! Get 'em all out of here!!" Someone else yelled from the other back corner.

I chuckled.

"They haven't granted me the power to toss out all of the people who don't look like you guys," I said. "I'm just here to tell you about the changes to this specific law."

"It's more political correct bullshit," someone else mumbled.

I thought about the many trips I've taken to New York City where races of people ride the same subway car and walk the same streets. Every single country appears to be represented. There are many different languages being spoken. There doesn't seem to be such blind rage.

I went back into the mode of explaining the law. We went through the pictures one by one.

"My own country and I have to be asked if I want to be spoken to in English or Spanish," some guy said to me at the break.

"Don't you think that's wrong?"

It was a one-on-one conversation.

It was a direct question.

"You should press the button for English and pretend no one else exists," I said.

I had smiled as I attacked his short-sighted view of the world and you know what happened?

He laughed.

"That's what I do," he said. "That's exactly what I do."

Good for him.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Please Stop It

Sunday's Buffalo News front page headline was about the research being done to decide what to do about the Buffalo Bills new stadium problem.

Can we please vote on this?

Straight up.

Should the Bills spend eight hundred million to one billion dollars to build a stadium?

I think we should get the vote.

After all the article spoke about the people who would need to sacrifice to make this happen. The citizens of the county are expected to foot the bill.

I don't want to.

I'd vote a million times NO!

Why?

1). They stink.

2). The NFL is a cash cow. They don't pay taxes. And we're supposed to sacrifice?

3). Their commissioner just pulled down $44 million a year. And we fight about raising minimum wage a nickel?

4). They stink again. Nary a playoff game in 15 years.

5). Their players make millions no matter how bad they stink.

6). 7 dates in a $800 million dollar home?

7). The NFL might be fixed.

8). They blackout games if they don't sell every single seat even though they are guaranteed billions so people can watch on television.

9). Scott Norwide.

10). They stink.

If they have a task force on why they should get a brand new home I'm going to start a task force on why the hell they need to get the hell out of here.

Go Bills!

Take the Sabres with you!!

$800 million dollars can feed a few thousand families in the 3rd poorest city in the nation.

We're done feeding millionaires and billionaires.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The M & M Boys


Thinking a lot about baseball these days.

Sadly I'm considering retired Yankees.

Jeter is going after Rivera, Andy and Jorge have gone recently. O'Neill left after 2001 and that one is still tough. As was Bernie leaving and Donnie Baseball before that.

All tough to watch the sport after each of them left.

And in my mind's eye I still see them as they were on the field. Big, fast, strong and able to handle the 95 MPH heater.

Nice shot of Mantle and Maris, huh? That photo was from 1961.

I wasn't even here yet, but I remember those days because I've read about them, watched movies and listened to stories.

Everyone liked Mantle better.

Yet I think Maris is a real figure in the history of baseball.

He was a Yankee power who was being rooted against in his own park. People were okay with Mantle breaking Ruth's record, but Maris wasn't considered worthy.

He did it anyway.

And then the commish put the kabash on it saying that they'd add an asterisk because he did it in 8 more games.

Maris was never really the same. His cigarette habit killed him. The Yanks sort of dumped him.

And then the ultimate slap in the face was when stupid Mark McGwire and Big Dope Sammy Sosa attacked his record. The fact that McGwire stood with his family and accepted the congratulations is still the lowest point of the steroid problem to me.

Yeah...even lower than A-Rod.

And then big-headed Bonds broke it too.

It should still be Roger's record.

Put the asterisk on those cheating bastards marks.

The thing about the photo is that Maris has hit the homer and Mantle is shaking his hand. They said they didn't shake hands much. They were friends, but they didn't showboat.

Maris also has his head down. He was always sort of ashamed of what he was doing.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The single-season Home Run Leader...

...Maris, 61.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hands A Little Clammy

Was listening to Opie and Anthony the other day and they were talking about being a sap for a girl. Given that we were coming up on Valentine's Day there was a lot of discussion about being young and liking a girl and being nervous about trying to reach out to her.

We've all been there, right?

I was a true sap for years and years.

I'd get real nervous about asking a girl her name even.

One Valentine's Day a college buddy stood with me at the mall and we handed out roses to every pretty girl that passed.

That didn't work.

And we all remember the excitement of buying a present for a crush and wondering what she thinks as she takes a look at it.

"I can't accept this," is not a great response.

And, of course, I've landed the beautiful Kathy Fazzolari so I must have had some charm, right?

She doesn't think so, of course, but it's difficult for her to tell me how lame I was, am, or will be because, after all, she did marry me.

So I must have had something going on.

I can almost hear her rebuttal now:

"I was drunk."

But the thing is whenever you think about those old days of being nervous about talking to a girl the same weird feelings come back.

I recall being in college. My roommate and I had a great idea to take two girls we had crushes on to an expensive dinner complete with drinks.

I'll never forget how I felt, playing gin rummy with my date, as he made out with his date a room away.

I recall thinking:

"Damn, I'm a loser."

And here we are all these years later.

My beautiful wife scored two Bruce tickets in Pittsburgh for Valentine's Day.

Who's laughing now, bitches!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Patience Is A Virtue...

...and homicide is a crime.

How do you feel when the person in front of you in line at a convenience store, a bank line, or a pharmacy is lost, dazed and confused about going about their business?

It's a tad irritating, isn't it?

I stood behind an elderly man on line at the pharmacy the other day.

Let me tell you, this dude had nothing going on the rest of the day.

I honestly considered smashing him over the head with something. This was his exchange:

Man: I need to pick up my scripts.

Clerk: Your name?

Man: What?

Clerk: The name on the prescription.

Man: Tom

Clerk: Full name?

Man: (Laughing) Oh yeah, sorry. Guess that would help!

Clerk: (Waiting)

Me: (Seething)

Man: Jones

Clerk: I'll be right back.

Man: I may have two here.

Clerk: Same name

Man: What?

Clerk: Are they both for Tom Jones?

Man: Both what? (Laughs again) Oh yeah!

Clerk: I'll be right back.

She walks away. The man turns to me and says hi. I nod. He picks up a eye glass repair kit.

Man: What do you suppose this is for?

Me: To repair broken glasses.

Man: I'll be damned.

The clerk returns and asks him if he has any questions about how to take his medicine.

Man: What?

Me: Holy shit! (under my breath).

Of course the instruction exchange went for a good three minutes.

Clerk: Sign on the electronic pad.

Man: The what?

Clerk shows the man where to sign.

Man just doesn't understand.

Clerk comes around the counter.

They laugh.

Man: I'll be damned.

He signs his name...slowly....he drops his wallet.

I bend and get it for him.

Man: Thank you.

Clerk: Will that be all?

Man: Can you tell me how this glasses repair kit works?

The clerk glances over the man's head to me. I may have been putting off a vibe of some sorts.

Man: I'm sorry! I'm taking up a lot of time. The thing is, this is my big event for the day! Once I get home I'm home alone until God knows when.

The man sort of nods at the clerk and to me.

You'd think my stance would soften a bit, but GOD HELP ME! I JUST WANT TO GET TO MY NEXT APPOINTMENT!!

The clerk takes a couple of minutes to explain the glasses repair kit to the man. She smiles at me as she does so and I smile back. The man asks about the price and is a little surprised when she says it's a little less than five bucks.

Man: (Looks at me) You think that's a good deal?

Me: If your glasses are broke it is.

Man: (Laughing).

He holds the package for a good 30 seconds contemplating whether or not to buy it.

I imagine buying the kit and taking out the tiny screwdriver and piercing his neck artery with it. He notices my Yankee shirt.

Man: I'm gonna' really miss Jeter.

Me: Me too.

Cut to the exterior of the store.

I stand talking to the man about Tanaka, Jeter, Cano and the teams from the 90's.

Man: It was nice meeting you.

Me: You too.

We shake hands and part.

Patience is a virtue, folks.

It truly is.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Derek Jeter Is Retiring???????

Say it isn't so.

I have the ESPN Alert on my phone and I was writing a report when the familiar tone rang. I saw the first two words:

Derek Jeter

And my heart sunk. I thought about his ankle. Did he rip it again?

Nope.

It was worse.

The kid is setting up this as his last year.

So much ran through my mind.

--- Thinking about 1996 and asking my brother, Jeff - "They're going to try and win with a rookie shortstop?"

They did.

--- The 2000 World Series against the Mets was tied at 1. The Mets had Leiter going against El Duque, at home in Game 3. It was a match-up that favored the Mets. For the first time all year Torre batted Jeter first.

"Why is he batting first?" I yelled.

Jeter homered on the first pitch Leiter threw.

Game over.

--- The 2001 Playoffs against the A's when he caught the relay throw at the dugout and tossed it back-handed to Jorge to get the runner scoring from third.

It's still the greatest play I've ever seen.

--- Watching him hang with the fans. He took Matt's hat off and rubbed his head.

Matt's eyes almost popped out of his head.

--- The fact that he has never once slipped up.

Always respectful.

Always gracious.

But I grew sad for one simple reason.

That's it.

All of my sports heroes are gone after this year.

The new players just don't do it for me.

So...I will be 50 years old when Derek finishes up.

My childhood will officially...finally...end.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Don't Care

Michael Sam is a gay football player. He is heading out of college and into the pro's if he's drafted. He had to announce his sexual orientation for the world to consider.

I get all of that.

It's sort of a non-story for me because I don't care.

Not that I don't care about him or his rights. I think it's pretty short-sighted of non-gay people to judge gay people, but I am also mindful that gay people make up 4% of the population.

You wouldn't really know that by how many gay people appear in the sitcom world.

Again, it is not for me to judge, and that's my official proclamation, but when I heard the news about it, I also considered that the world has become a truly different place.

I thought about my boys.

Jake is usually up and moving around real early as well. The best mornings are when we have a couple of moments to chat about the sports story of the day before we leave.

The other morning he popped into the room as the Sam story was getting it's full hour on Sports Center.

(That station can really beat a story to death, by the way).

I was curious.

"What do you think about that story?" I asked.

"I don't care," he said. "Why would it matter if he can play? They let you play if you do drugs, shoot people, kill dogs...who cares if he has a boyfriend?"

I smiled.

That's just about, word-for-word the same answer I'd give if someone asked me that question.

"A lot of people are going to really hate him," I said.

"They hated Jackie Robinson too."

Just as Jake said it ESPN said it.

We watched some of the footage. The network was talking about where the player may be slotted in the next draft.

"But what if he doesn't get drafted," I said.

Jake was sort of through with considering the story, but he threw out one more bit of wisdom:

"That's when it's really gonna' get ugly."

And it will for that kid, somewhere along the way. If he deserves to play in the league based on his abilities does it matter who he does or doesn't love?

"What if the Bills drafted him?" I asked.

Jake said it one more time.

"I really don't care."

Bob Dylan's song "These times are a changin'" came out 50 years ago.

They could have played it beneath this story as well.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Invisible Game

February is sort of a month of drudgery for me.

Yeah...the stupid weather.

So tired of getting dressed for the cold. So tired of walking out in the cold to start the car. So tired of scraping the ice off and then listening to the weatherman tell me that in three or four days it's gonna' get up to a balmy 15.

Then the news guy says: "Get out the beach chairs!"

And they laugh and laugh and laugh.

(Idiots).

I also do a lot of driving around and then standing in front of rooms of people to do training. I've been doing it for a lot of years so the course material comes to me quickly...and I try to have fun with it.

"You can work on your stand-up," one buddy said.

I definitely do that.

Yet with the driving and the nights in the hotels, I also do a lot of considering.

Always considering things.

My favorite song off the Bruce record is 'Hunter of Invisible Game.'

It seems like Bruce always writes a song or two about being down in the dumps, and trying so hard to overcome it.

Bruce's battle with depression has received notice in the last few years (didn't really surprise many of his long-time fans) but it also speaks to a lot of what happens in the world.

Daily.

The song resonates with me because I also spend time 'hunting invisible game.'

Everybody does.

We worry about so many things that don't even wind up happening.

We stress about moments that seem to be 'end of the world' type things...and it may even play out the way he dreaded...and then it's not a big deal anyway.

The real big deal turns out to be the stress we put on ourselves.

The huge prize we were hunting skips off into the imaginary woods, never to be heard from again.

Yet without the sun, the dread continues. That's certainly why I hate February.

It's like it'll never get warm again.

But it will.

Just endure.

In the song the narrator finds comfort in the touch of his partner. More than just the physical touch, the narrator feels the mental connection.

That is essentially the answer for so many of the problems in any of our lives.

Feel the closeness when it seems like everything is so far away.

Remember the warmth when the world seems way too freaking cold.

Stop chasing around the imaginary foes.

Get out the beach chairs...

...and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Yellow Stinky Sock

So it's been 50 years since the Beatles came over to America.

One of the coolest things now is to listen back and to imagine those days. Howard Stern has a lot of the old rock stars on now and they talk about it all...every single romp and drug-fueled song.

I still think The Beatles would go to number one if they debuted today. Their music struck a chord with the people. The melodies were simple a lot of the time. Love was the word. They were out of the ordinary.

Donovan was the latest old rock guy on Howard last week. He told a story about walking through a room and coming across McCartney. He asked Sir Paul what he had.

"Just this," McCartney said, and he began strumming the guitar for "Yellow Submarine."

And my mind played a trick.

I thought of my sister Corinne singing the chorus as perhaps a ten-year-old. She had changed up the words.

"We all live in a yellow stinky sock, a yellow stinky sock, a yellow stinky sock."

And we had laughed back then.

Problem being...now...I can get the song out of my head.

That's the way Beatles songs worked. They just sort of hung there to be sung over and over.

Except I have Corinne's words stuck...not Paul's.

"We all live in a yellow stinky sock, a yellow stinky sock, a yellow stinky sock."

I've been a fan of The Beatles, of course. Not a rabid fan like I am with the Stones or Bruce, but I love to hear the process behind their writing.

"They wrote, played and recorded 'A Day in the Life' all in about 5 days," Donovan explained. "John was sitting there reading the newspaper looking for words that he could use as lyrics and he just said:

"I read the news today, oh boy."

And that in particular is one song that I think, if released today, would still go to Number 1.

Love that lyric.

So simple.

These days I wonder a lot about Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and how they feel about doing what they did. They changed the world with their songs.

Did they know they were doing that?

Paul plays it all off, of course. They were just musicians who got lucky. He laughed, saying that they sang songs about Yellow Submarines.

(Which was a metaphor about being sunk away from the rest of the world as fame isolated them a bit).

Paul is just lucky Corinne wasn't involved.

"We all live in a yellow stinky sock, a yellow stinky sock, a yellow stinky sock."

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Sauce

Stumbled across a post that my beautiful niece, Andrea wrote about trying to make a batch of homemade sauce for a few of her friends.

It made me smile.

I immediately started to answer, telling her that I could help her make perfect sauce each time...like her Grandpa used to make...but then it occurred to me that she most likely had a conversation or two about it with my brother.

Now I swear that all of my brothers and sisters would say the same thing:

'Dad's voice is ringing in our ears as we start the sauce.'

The couple of sentences that I think of each and every time are like mantras:

"Cut the onion up real small."

and

"Don't burn the garlic as it simmers in the pan with the olive oil."

And, of course, the simmering garlic and onion in the good olive oil is the best aroma in the world.

The other big for certain is pork.

"Pork gives it the best flavor," Dad had said.

And then the right tomatoes.

Fresh tomatoes are the best, of course, but that sauce takes a tremendous amount of time. The next best thing comes in a pretty good sized can and I can only find those kinds of tomatoes at one store.

I buy a case monthly.

I thought of John sharing the making of the sauce with Andrea. Same sort of tutorial that goes on all around. Sam has watched me make the sauce a few times. So far none of the kids seem much more interested than heating up chicken patties, but they'll get there.

They will be trying to impress a girl down the line:

"Dad, how do I make...

A few hours after the original post there were a few more answers on the thread.

"The sauce was terrific!" One of the party-goers wrote.

Of course it was.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Maybe Not

I had a real comical conversation with the massage therapist who has had to work with me through the hip problems, knew of the surgery, and had wondered how it all worked out.

I finally went back there because truth be told, I'm really not ready for prime-time. My legs feel like slabs of marble after a week of work.

"So when can you go back to work?" She asked.

"12 weeks after the surgery," I said.

"So end of February," she said.

"Yeah, except I went back the first week in January."

She laughed.

"And how's the physical therapy going?"

"It went well," I said.

"Let me guess, until the first week in January."

I smiled.

Yet there's not a lot that can be done in the situation. At least I don't see the way out. People need to go back to work.

The world doesn't stop until you're back to 100%.

"An injury like you had takes at least a year to come back from," the therapist said.

"So they say."

"But you've eased back into it, right?"

I laughed.

"You're not climbing ladders, right?"

I could finally answer one positively. I have not made the trek up ladders yet. I can do most of the work from the ground or by using the stairs.

"But I'm on my feet a lot."

I waited to feel some of the blood flowing back in my stupid tired legs.

"I've wanted to chop off my feet," I said.

"I don't recommend you do that. Your calf muscles are like stone. You need to be stretching more."

There was a long pause in the conversation.

"You don't think I'm handling the recovery very well, do you?" I asked.

"Maybe not," she said.

"Maybe not."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Henry Aaron is 80

There were a couple of baseball stories making the rounds this week.

They were on polar opposite ends of the spectrum for me.

A little known fact is that for three years there...1973, 74, 75, I was primarily an Atlanta Braves fan.

(Yeah, Larry...it's true...but I had no love for them at all when the Yankees were beating the piss out of them in those World Series in the 90's).

I had the Yankees whispering in my ear, of course (Dad and Grandpa) but it was all about Hammerin' Hank then...and Ralph Garr, and Dusty Baker, and Davey Johnson.

Loved those teams.

Hank is 80 years old.

What a classy dude.

He was lambasted because he was black and chasing a white man's record. He was called every name in the book. There were death threats.

You ever hear a bad word ever attributed to him?

I know his whole story. He grew up in Mobile, Alabama. He was raised by his Mom...who he cherished. He held the bat wrong. He just kept hitting.

Hit his way out of poverty.

A day later the story came down that A-Rod was dropping all his lawsuits because he was cheating and they caught him and he didn't like that.

Classless.

His Yankee days are over. There will be a buy-out. No one will ever hire him to hit a baseball again.

He blew everything.

And I thought of some poor kid who may have idolized A-Rod as I had idolized Aaron.

That kid is just plain confused now.

You see, Aaron did it all right. He helped me build my love for the sport. He was part of the reason why I sort of imagined that those who came after him could also hit homers in bunches.

Hall of Fame players existed in my little kid's mind.

I wonder if they exist for the kids now.

Chris Davis of the Orioles hit a lot of homers last year.

"He's juicing," my son said.

I told my boy that I doubted it. Good players came still come along, without help.

I didn't want my boy to lose faith.

Two men.

Look at their legacies.

Happy Birthday, Henry.

Go away Alex.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Super Bowl Review

It's a little late in coming because I had to wait for my heart to settle down after the exciting game.

Joe Namath getting picked off on the coin toss was the best play of the game.

But let's review.

Queen Latifah and the opera chick sang the hell out of the opening songs.

Peyton Manning had the ball snapped over his head.

Peyton threw a pick.

Seattle ran back a kickoff.

A receiver fumbled.

Peyton threw another one.

There was a glimmer of hope as the Broncos down 22-0 were driving just before the half. If they scored a touchdown and got the 2-point conversion I would win $3,000.

Didn't happen.

Then Bruno Mars came out and sang the one song I know by him.

Is his real name Bruno Mars?

Then a half dozen white guys without shirts busted in and started playing guitars that weren't plugged in and screaming something.

That went on for quite sometime.

"What the hell is this?" I asked my beautiful wife.

There was a little excitement in the 3rd quarter after Denver finally scored. One of my squares was next to the winning square so I got my entry fee back.

I quit the whole scene early in the 3rd quarter.

What a great sport!

San Francisco should've won it all. They got robbed the game before.

But over 100 million people watched that epic slop.

Hey, did I tell you...the NFL doesn't pay taxes.

"See ya' next year, suckers," should be their marketing slogan.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Stars Fade

Not sure why I still get rattled by the death of a Hollywood star, but it always seems shocking to me that someone at the top of their field, being paid boatloads of money, suffers the same sort of fate that the working class slobs do.

I guess in hindsight the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman isn't all that shocking. He was a fine actor, to be sure, but brilliance in a single phase certainly doesn't grant you power over things such as addiction.

To die on the bathroom floor, in your underwear, with a needle sticking out of your arm sort of takes away from the shine of the brilliance, however.

Yet isolation comes in many forms, and to people in all walks of life.

It killed Elvis.

And Michael Jackson.

And Whitney Houston.

And Heath Ledger.

And Marilyn Monroe.

And on and on and on.

Yet those of us who watch from afar think all sorts of things like:

"Dude had it made! Why would he piss it all away?"

'Cause it ain't any different for any of us.

Hoffman had a whole bunch of great interviews and like a lot of other people it's sort of time to read them back and look for clues. I'm not sure why there is such a fascination to do so, but in the context of how he spent his last day, they are telling.

Hoffman spoke in one interview about self-love and why that is such a struggle for so many people. He let on that he felt it was a huge struggle that consumed much of his time.

And it killed him.

His longtime girlfriend spoke of the fact that he was painfully shy and that was what isolated him to not speak of his internal demons and struggles.

She thinks that killed him.

Yet Hollywood has been producing stars and watching them die for a lot of years now.

The next one will be shocking as well.

I suppose there's finally peace for Hoffman now.

Tough way to find it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Responsibility

Often times I run across some interesting people in my line of work. There are plenty of really hardworking guys who are just trying to make their way. There are some bums, for sure, and those types are really easy to spot.

I think a lot about something my Dad said to me as I graduated from college all those years ago.

"You're gonna' meet a lot of people out there. You'll be smarter than a lot of them. Stay away from the other ones."

Dad was joking, of course, but there's some truth to it.

There's a real intellectual who is an oversight to a few of my clients. He's just a smart guy, but he also has a sense of humor. He's sort of enjoyed watching my act. Yet, he also deserves watching.

He's really bright.

The guy was visiting recently and he handed me a poker chip that said:

"Responsibility: I accept it."

"I enjoy giving those to people," he said. "Responsible people."

I set the chip aside and nodded.

"You're not giving it enough time to sink in," he said.

I picked up the green chip again and turned it over. The other side said:

"I give you autonomy."

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

He laughed.

"Think about it," he said. "Wouldn't the world be a better place if those who were granted responsibility accepted it totally?"

He was one of the guys my Dad had warned me about.

"You accepted responsibility in your job. You do that well. You accepted responsibility as a husband. Do you own up to that?"

I nodded.

"And as a Dad?"

"Of course," I said.

He sat back and seemed to be pleased with himself.

"And how many people don't do that in their simple every day tasks?"

I held the chip and flipped it over again.

"I have hundreds of those chips," he said. "I hand them out to the people who work with me. I gave one to my son when he left for college. I gave one to my wife."

"How'd that work out?" I asked.

"She threw it back at me," he said, with a laugh.

Responsibility.

It's a simple concept.

But my friend is right.

There are so many people out there who start doing things without really accepting the responsibility of the task at hand.

I was going to leave the chip on the table between us, but he pushed it back in my direction.

I now carry it around with me.

To remember and accept all the freaking responsibility!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Woody Allen

I've always been a fan of Woody Allen's movies.

Each year my beautiful wife will mix in the latest Allen effort, sprinkling it in among the romantic comedies where Jennifer Aniston or JLo or Katherine Heigel struggles to find a man who wants her.

And Allen hardly ever disappoints. His movies are smart, funny, and filled with great actors who just want to work with him, for free.

In other words, Hollywood loves him.

Recently he received one of those lifetime achievement awards and during the presentation one of his kids sent a tweet asking if he was also being honored for sexually molesting one of the kids he was a step-father too.

Yeah. We all know the story about Woody Allen's now wife.

She used to be his step-daughter.

And that is very creepy, but in one of those shrug-your-shoulders types of deals, Allen was sort of forgiven for his misdeed.

(Think Ortiz' steroid use).

Yet there is a real charge out there that sort of has also fallen by the wayside.

Dylan Farrow, the child of Allen's long-term love (before he married his daughter) is claiming that when she was 7 years old, Woody sexually molested her on a number of occasions.

That's beyond creepy, folks.

What's more, Farrow, who is not the biological daughter of Woody, or Frank Sinatra (who also dabbled in the Mia pool)is further claiming that Allen did this a whole lot of times and was careful to make it seem like real daddy-daughter love.

Geez...you need a scorecard to jot down the depravity and deception.

Sort of like a plot to an Allen movie.

But it's not a movie, folks.

I recently watched Blue Jasmine.

It's the latest Allen effort.

It's good. It's been nominated for 3 Academy Awards. Alec Baldwin was great in it. So was Dice Clay (believe it or not).

But you know what it will be known for around these parts?

It's the last Allen movie I want to see.

Unless he's open about his sick, twisted life and comes clean about some of these charges, I'm done.

If what that kid is saying is true.

Woody Allen doesn't just come across as a weird little man...

...he is one.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Fecal IV Drip

Whenever you think the ceiling on horrible behavior has been reached...

Did you see the story about the woman in Phoenix, Arizona who allegedly tried to inject fecal matter and human waste into the IV of her recovering husband?

Allegedly, Rosemary Vogel was in the room with her husband as he struggled to regain strength after his heart surgery. The woman must have had a bit of nursing training herself, but she wasn't quick enough. She was busted trying to inject the fecal waste into the saline drip.

Why, writing that, did I feel as if I were suddenly getting a slight glimpse into my future?

(I said it before Pops did).

One of the healthcare professionals actually said that it's a first for the hospital as no one else has ever tried to off their spouse in such a manner.

Really?

That's a first?

And what does the husband do now?

Forgive and forget?

"Remember when, after my open heart surgery, you tried to fill my IV with shit? Wasn't that funny?"

The hospital allegedly found three separate vials of waste in the woman's purse. She is denying attempting to kill her poor husband, but it's sort of difficult to explain the vials of poopy, isn't it?

"Oh this? I was saving that for later...in case I wanted to recreate the scent of our bathroom when we stepped out."

WTF?

So, it got me wondering about that poor bastard. The article went on to say that the man is expected to survive both the heart surgery and the shit storm.

I imagine that the marriage is truly over.

But the poor bastard.

To my beautiful wife:

I know you know how to work an IV.

I beg you:

Don't inject my own waste back into me.

Just smother me with a pillow if you have to.


That's it.

That's all.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Pick

So despite all the griping that I've done about the NFL in the past few months I have to watch the Super Bowl, right?

I have a whole bunch of squares!

And a friend of mine posted about the city of the losing team being so damn heartbroken on Sunday night and Monday morning.

Interesting that someone from Buffalo would commiserate rather than think of the great feelings of the winning city, huh?

Yeah...we know the feeling of dread that comes with the Monday loss following the Super Bowl. Of course, we have eased the pain in the past 15 years by just skipping the playoffs altogether, but that's another story.

Thank God they accepted our tax donation this year and are sticking around!

But this is strictly about the game.

I really don't wanna' root for Seattle.

I'm not a big Marshawn Lynch fan.

You see he went beast mode on the field here, but he was also a beast out in public. I think he has a DUI, a gun charge, a hit-and-run, and a swiping of money off a restaurant table charge on his resume. He's made news this year because he won't attend the media sessions or talk with the reporters.

Good guy.

Misunderstood.

Then there's the lovely Richard Sherman.

He was also misunderstood.

A bright guy who talked trash immediately following the last game because he found the cure for cancer while falling on his back in the end zone and knocking the ball away from another guy who was right there to catch it.

What?

He didn't cure cancer?

Oh well...he's still a brilliant player...or so they say.

My niece can knock a ball out of the air.

Anywhoha...

Can you tell I'm excited?

And we got Bruno Mars!!

Whoever the hell that is.

Yet the game is important to a lot of people.

There will be beer flowing, pizza eaten, refs cheating, commercials flopping...it's a damn holiday.

Seattle 28 Denver 19.

Weird score, I know.

I need the numbers for my pool.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Fluff & Fold

My O.C.D. is a rather effective tool to get the laundry done around the house.

There's no such thing as starting the laundry and letting it carry over to the next day.

No way.

We get it started and finished all on the same day, and we get it done, brought back to the rooms and in my case, put back in the dresser drawers before the day is done.

When I talk "We" I mean my partner Sam and me.

And as I thought about the laundry on Friday evening as I was folding it, I also thought about the fact that I got away relatively laundry free for the first twenty years of my life.

My Mom was a machine.

She'd wash clothes just as soon as we got them off our backs, and perhaps that's why I'm so effective at it now. Poor Mom was washing eight people's clothes...the damn machine must never have gone off. And she did it all as well. She folded it an put it all away.

Mom had one interesting laundry rule too. If money was left in the pants pocket and it came free during the drying cycle...it was hers to keep.

We used to be sure to clean out the pockets.

When I went to college the laundry problem was now mine, but my freshman year my roommate Rosie found a deal for us. There was a kid who lived in the dorm. He'd come to our room, gather our clothes, and bring them back fluffed and folded for a small fee. I honestly think that kid washed our clothes for about five bucks.

I don't think I ever knew the kids name, but he was exceptional. We used to call him the laundry geek.

"Laundry geek is sniffing our underwear," Rosie used to say.

Who cared?

Now it's a bit more of a hassle.

Except I have an ally.

Sam is a good worker.

He gathers the clothes and usually gets it all started for me. He'll get that first load out of the dryer and bring me the basket to fold.

Together we get it all done in record time.

Of course, my beautiful wife, and Jake benefit from having a couple of O.C.D. Fuzzy's in the stable.

"What time is the dryer done?" I'll ask Sam from across the room.

"8:23," he'll say.

By 8:24 I'm folding it.

And Jake just laughs along with my wife.

"Someday you're gonna' have to learn to do laundry," Sam told Jake the other day.

"I'll never do it," Jake said. "And I mean never."

Here's hoping he finds himself a nice little laundry geek to save him from the task.

Cause God knows the two that are living here aren't going to follow him around.

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